Think for a moment of the one business or departmental challenge you faced in a prior role that, despite your best intentions, you never figured out a way to prioritize and solve.
If you are a VP of Sales, for instance, you may still be lamenting the fact that after rolling out a new customer relationship management system, you never got 100 percent buy-in… let alone 50 percent! If you lead finance, it may be that one of your financial processes could be characterized as “death by spreadsheets,” despite your knowing that there was a way to automate the process.
As a business owner for more than two decades, the “issue-I-should-have-addressed” is something I think about every single day. I will use my most recent company, Atrion, as an example. As many of you know, Atrion was a Rhode Island-based IT services firm that grew from a two-man, spare-bedroom operation to a $160-million, 260-plus employee organization before I sold in October of 2016. I love the legacy we created at Atrion and the way we lived out our purpose—to have a positive impact on the lives of others. But even to this day, I can’t help but think of the five to 10 things that had I invested in fixing back then could have made that legacy even stronger.
In business, we can often pinpoint the exact process and systems bottlenecks standing in the way of our desired transformation, yet we do little to tackle these challenges. Sometimes we think we have good reason:
- Our client’s needs must come before our business’ needs
- We have gotten by thus far; what’s another few months?
- The timing is not right to invest in this area
But, at the end of the day, these are just excuses… excuses that stand in the way of an organization’s ability to reach workplace excellence.
What is Workplace Excellence?
Here at Trilix, we are fascinated by the point at which operations and culture fuse together. Our belief is that typically organizations favor one over the other, often at the expense of another. For instance, an organization may be so focused on a technology rollout that it fails to account for the importance of user adoption. Conversely, a business may be racing to develop a custom application that will provide a heightened level of differentiation, but isn’t pausing to consider how an iterative, documented process will move that innovation along.
We believe organizations are poised to reach a heightened level of workplace excellence when they successfully marry operations and culture together. To us, organizations that center on workplace excellence:
Uniquely understand the powerful way people, processes and technologies fuse together to move an organization toward its desired future state. It’s about approaching and making every business decision—whether strategic, philosophical, tactical, technological, etc.—against that excellence model.
Organizations that reach this X-factor level of excellence do so because they:
- Unwaveringly commit to continuous improvement. Every choice the organization makes must stand up against the question of: “Does it add value to the business?”
- Healthily obsess over the point of intersection. These organizations understand that operations and culture do not sit in silos. Rather, workplace excellence is about how collectively an organization’s operations and culture come together to move the business towards its desired end state.
- Embrace a growth, versus, fixed mindset. These are the companies that challenge something because they recognize that everything needs to be challenged for a business to remain competitive and differentiated.
- Hold themselves accountable. By relying on both quantitative and qualitative feedback, these companies constantly gauge how successfully they are moving the needle forward.
- Excitedly consider what could be. Exhilarated and inspired by the thought of potential, these organizations are on a never-ending quest for utopia.
Organizations that subscribe to excellence subscribe to a mindset, a determination to execute their business like a fine-tooted comb and nourish their voracious appetite for change. Organizations with this disposition enjoy many gains—from reduced inefficiencies to improved employee loyalty. These are the companies that also end up building unbreakable client relationships because they are continually reinventing in their people, processes and technologies to better serve their external audience. In many ways, the term “workplace excellence” is synonymous with “innovative,” “transformative,” “revolutionary” and “differentiated.”
So if workplace excellence is the desired endgame, what happens if a business fails to reach it? Let’s take a look…
The Cost of Not Reaching Excellence
Companies that fail to reach excellence encounter steep repercussions that can fall into any of the following categories:
- Financial: When your organization becomes rife with waste, bottlenecks and redundancies, the speed at which you hemorrhage money increases exponentially. In fact, a recent study by IDC Market Research found that companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies. What’s more, businesses that operate in this type of an environment end up failing to maximize the full value of technology investments; wedging legacy technology into broken processes; and distracting and frustrating their top talent because of process and system stopgaps.
- Loyalty: Market research evidences that employees are growing increasingly frustrated with their employers’ lack of focus on innovation and commitment to excellence. One such report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting shows that 63 percent of executives and managers feel the pace of technological change in their workplaces is too slow. Other reports point to a disengaged workforce, largely driven by business leaders’ lack of focus on equipping their employees with the tools and processes needed to reach a desired state of excellence. Disloyal, disengaged and inactive employees lead to weakened client relationships and, potentially, diminished public perception.
- Stagnation: Organizations not centered on continuous improvement quickly reach a point of stagnation, or become stilted. In so doing, the status quo becomes the accepted norm. Stagnation can take on many forms—like a technology rollout that never moves into the adoption stage or two systems that remain siloed for years. And when organizations get stuck in a state of stagnation, they take several steps away from transformation.
What’s Tomorrow’s Regret?
Think back to that one business challenge I asked you to identify at the beginning of this post. Remember it? Now think of one that is present in your current business environment. Write that down.
Realistically, if you don’t prioritize workplace excellence, the business challenge you just wrote down will become the first obstacle you thought of—both falling into the category of “I wish I tackled this at the time.”
So… what’s one step you can take today to make sure that item doesn’t become tomorrow’s regret?