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Actions: louder than vision statements

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

The most visionary leaders spend the least time committing their visions to paper and the most time living them, says leadership trainer Jim Collins.

The problem:  “Vision” is one of the most overused and least understood terms in business. Collins says it combines three elements:

     1. A reason for being, beyond making money.

     2. Timeless, unchanging core values.

     3. Ambitious but achievable goals.

Most organizations start with core values. The best of them create mechanisms that set those values into action. Two examples:
  • 3M lets scientists spend 15 percent of their time working on whatever they want. That beats saying, “We support innovation.”
  • Small construction materials outfit Granite Rock Co. tells customers that if they don’t like something about an order, they don’t pay for it. That beats saying, “We care about customer satisfaction.”
Collins recommends asking all employees to identify something in their daily work that’s inconsistent with the organization’s values. Randomly sort the employees into groups of three to six and ask each group to come up with the three most significant value misalignments. Guess what? Typically, each group identifies the same clashes between what your organization preaches and what it practices.

Lastly, change your process for creating a values statement. The average organization spends 5 percent of the time identifying core values, 90 percent or more of the time drafting statements and 5 percent of the time aligning those values with actions. Instead, plan to spend up to 20 percent of your time identifying values, 5 percent or less writing them and up to 90 percent walking the talk.

— Adapted from “Aligning Action and Values,” Jim Collins, Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Drucker Foundation), http://leadertoleader.org.

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