Today's two letters are P and Q and are by far the most important things I find any leader can focus on today in building a successful organization. Pace and quality are key to growth and building the right momentum at the right time. Two examples come to mind.
The "Green" Race
Silly me. I opted to give the Green 6.2 run a second try. After this race ran out of water last year and failed to put out enough hydration stations, I really thought I was done. If you're going to run six miles in the Houston heat, it's important to stay well hydrated, period. That second try this year was met with more of the same. The race organizers ran out of water on course and cups. I witnessed poor souls leveraging trashed cups on the ground to use to share water on the course. Sadly I did see an ambulance take away an older gentleman who passed out on the course. While it's not uncommon in a race for people to experience problems, generally you want to make sure you safeguard against such by controlling and mitigating risks before something does happen.
You know... like having adequate water and cups.
I'm all for a "green" run but this is just downright unacceptable. After five years of existence and plenty of feedback, I would think this race would have learned its lessons but it's proven it hasn't done anything more than grow it's numbers and fees.
I've been a member of a professional organization for seven years. Back then it was a great way to connect over lunch and learn something new and maybe meet a new person or two. In its 20 years of existence, it's grown tremendously, expanding chapters nationwide, quadrupling it's lunch presence and adding an executive component so that I may connect with other like-minded leaders for a premium fee.
In its quest to grow, the organization is getting too big too fast and unsustainable. The people model is too complicated, leadership turns quickly and burns through an untrained volunteer base leveraging high worth working professionals (with real leadership jobs) to run its operations. Instead of offering a clear a value proposition and stopping the unnecessary things now needed to grow later, the organization continues to invest on non value added activities.
It's choosing to walk the high wire in heels and not marathon shoes.
Sound a little bit like the "green" race?
Could I have a little bit of water? I'm thirsty for leadership.
The status quo is unacceptable. This insanity of chasing visibility versus focusing on the basics is what puts people, organizations and events on the high wire. To get ahead leaders have to not only get the basics right but also make tough choices. That starts first at looking in the mirror. It means taking the feedback and doing something with it, rather than doing more to add to it. Growth needs to be managed carefully. That requires focus, cutting, strategic capital fundraising, and restructuring your people model to put execution on the right path. It's less about growing the numbers of runners or members or perceived visibility, and more about putting a quality factor on the product or service.
These two stories remind me a lot of the organizations and leaders I've worked with in turnaround.
What do they have in common?
- Both lack the ability to pace growth and get quality right. When you grow too fast, don't measure pace or put a focus on quality, you put yourself on a path to self-destruction. When you say YES to everything, aren't mindful and exercise NO, you get an unstable mess.
- The organization's leadership inconsistently collect feedback from supporters but don't put it into measurable and visible action. A good example of what can happen to a good brand gone bad, is Sears. They grew, didn't reinvent, lacked quality, and didn't have a systematic way to listen to and respond to customer feedback. That's put them on the path to extinction.
The path to sustainability
Sustainability is hard and rare. The best enterprises, organizations, events, races, and leaders value and put the following at the core of everything they do.
- Great leadership. Do you have the right leaders guiding the path? Are they supported by a diverse set of actively engaged advisors? Are you developing the right pipeline of talent to groom up?
- Customer and market focus. Do your people have the discipline to focus? Do you care about your customers? Do you ask your customers, sponsors, and supporters consistently for feedback? And once you have collected it, do you put it into measurable visible plans so that you can demonstrate a willingness to improve?
- Culture = Reputation. How you build the inside is how you are viewed on the outside. Get your house in order first and start with the top of the house. What image are you projecting versus what you want to be or ought to be demonstrating?
Bottom line. Parched runners and organizations that run their resources dry eventually pass out or die.
What are you doing to stay hydrated, to keep your people healthy, your mission alive and your race on the path to long term success?
This post is a part of the ABC series.