In the US Navy, a fouled anchor chain symbolizes the rank of a Chief Petty Officer. An anchor, including the attached chain, provides stability to the ship and is a useful tool when not holding the ship at anchorage. A fouled anchor chain is usually deemed not repairable and is cut loose and replaced. The anchor chain becomes fouled through ocean debris, twists in the chain, marine life, etc. Inherent in every business is a “steady as she goes” mentality, a “don’t rock the boat” culture, compounded by an “if it works, don’t fix it” managerial belief. These beliefs are the fouled anchor chain in your business and can be fixed for increased success and improvement.
If your business has not and is not doing an 18-month periodicity review of all business processes, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business. If you have a process review, does it automatically launch upon new technology adoption? If not, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business. If your managers are comfortable with the status quo a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business. If your front office is frustrated and disconnected from the back office, a fouled anchor chain is dragging your business. Dare I go on?
The future is very hopeful and the anchor chain does not need to be abandoned and can be fixed with these five easy suggestions, following the KISS Principles (Keeping It Supremely Simple), to unfoul that anchor chain.
- Before improving external customer focus, be sure your internal customers, e.g., employees, are enthused, communicating, and thinking. This means the leadership team needs to listen. Sit down with a new person for a few minutes each day, listen to what works and what doesn’t work, act, then follow-up.
- Select a manager. Put that one manager in charge of one process, provide that manager with proper resources, and hold him or her accountable for that process. Repeat until all your managers have a process assignment for which they are directly accountable and responsible. Processes and work procedures cannot be generated in a vacuum nor can they be improved in a committee.
- Internal customers, e.g., employees, are the main source for success or failure for your organization. Address the ‘FUN’ feature. FUN means allowing creativity in workspaces, flexibility in completing work, and promoting ingenuity. I cannot tell you, nor would I dare try, what FUN means for your organization, but your internal customers can. Remember to listen, ask, listen, act, listen, follow-up, and listen some more.
- Accept change, promote change, but keep a thought in mind; change just to change is not effective. This means very simply that change must have a purpose, which can be easily and efficiently communicated. Change on the organizational scale should include everyone. When only one business unit changes and the business leaders “hope” the change will “catch on” for the rest of the organization, a fouled anchor chain develops, and useless, mind-numbing, resource-sucking change initiatives that go nowhere fast occur!
- Stop “servicing” customers! Earn their loyalty and trust. Cars are mechanical and therefore serviced; people are human and therefore respond. Cars have interchangeable parts and anyone can “service” them. People are not interchangeable, and if they are to be accommodated, the emotional connection must be made to win their loyalty and trust. Many authors have discussed this principle since mid-1990. Internal customers are your first focus; external customers will be attainable only if internal customers are assisted to be proficient and effective in their jobs.
Often managers use linguistic gymnastics to avoid change that drains intellectual improvement from your organization. That must be addressed and stopped. Managers are not leaders; leaders never manage but are innovative problem solvers; therefore managers must become leaders as referenced in (2) above or eliminated. The bureaucracy of administration at every level can and should to be eliminated or transformed into working accountability, responsibility, and innovation, and your anchor chain will continue to be useful and your organization will be better.
© 2015 M. Dave Salisbury
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