Ray Attiyah, founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Definity Partners, a training, process, and leadership improvement firm, recently spoke to one of my Key Executive Peer Advisory Groups.
Do you want to grow your business and develop new markets or products? According to Ray Attiyah, there is best way to grow your company: Liberate the leaders to discover new opportunities outside of the business by creating a fearless front line to own a simpler operation on the inside. Here are key points from his presentation:
As companies grow, they create clutter and complexity. Where complicated systems reign, nearly everyone has his hands in the daily details of producing the products or delivering the services. Managers and frontline employees (and top executives and sometimes even the CEO) are tangled up in handling the day-to-day aspects of the business, or the “Run”.
These frontline activities are so unpredictable, unreliable, and complicated, and the systems surrounding them are so often superfluous, that managers can’t seem to pull themselves away. (As you can imagine, this situation frustrates managers and employees alike.) Time and energy are consumed by urgent, but unimportant, tasks rather than activities that produce sustained personal and organizational growth. Managers and employees have difficulty forgetting bad situations, and their inability to let go shakes their confidence in their front line team and its activities.
To compensate for their lack of confidence in the “Run”, managers become conditioned to over-manage and under-lead. When the “Run” doesn’t operate consistently at peak performance, we compensate by adding “clutter”, layers of systems and processes such as:
- Extra meetings
- Check-up e-mails
- Unnecessary conference calls
- Detailed Reports
- Useless measurements and data collection
- E-mail distribution lists
- Repeated e-mail chains
- Emergency phone calls
- Sign-off requirements
- Approval restrictions
- Additional systems, procedures and processes
While Managers and Executives are stuck on the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.
How do you escape from this cycle? The key is to liberate the top.
Ray shared his Run-Improve-Grow model, a continuously moving system that stimulates a culture of consistent relevancy, new growth and constant innovation.
“Run” is the series of day-to-day operations necessary to produce your product or deliver your service. These include securing orders from existing customers in existing markets and in existing geographies. When done well, it focuses on excellence and empowers the front line to take true ownership of their critical role.
“Improve” involves initiating improvements to support growth and ensure reliable day-to-day performance. Management systems, leadership styles, and the entire mind-set of the organization are all transformed in the “Improve”. It capitalizes on the momentum created by the fearless front line to liberate the organization’s leaders.
“Grow” requires positioning the business for sustainable growth and to proactively outperform competitors. With a fearless front line, simplified management system and new organizational attitude, the Executives of your organization can spend the majority of their time outlining what the business needs in order to pursue strategic innovations and new opportunities.
This system has top leaders focusing on finding avenues for new growth, while middle managers implement proactive improvements. The front line, meanwhile, owns, manages and leads the daily operations of the company.
A time allocation of the best organizations was developed from Ray and Definity Partners’ collective experiences. The time required from each level of the organization to achieve excellence and maximize performance is summarized in this diagram:
The precondition for liberating managers is having a front line that can operate reliably, excellently, and independently, day in and day out, every day of every week of every year. The “Run” needs to be rock solid— perpetually. It’s the foundation of the entire organization. Yet, at the same time that the “Run” needs to be solid, it can’t be rigid. It needs to evolve and transform as the company innovates and grows. A “Run” like that requires getting the entire company, and particularly the front line, to be fearless.
The front line needs to feel powerful, not powerless. It needs to be freed from worrying about senseless initiatives, ridiculous mandates, and unnecessary meetings and e-mails. It needs to be trusted, encouraged, and accountable to itself. It needs to be emboldened.
Surmounting the impediments to creating a fearless culture in the “Run” isn’t as difficult as you might be thinking. There are three very practical ways to shape the leadership culture you want to pervade the “Run”:
You have two options for the operation of your business. Which one of these would you choose:
Do you want to learn more about Ray Attiyah’s program? I invite you to read his book, The Fearless Front Line: The Key to Liberating Leaders to Grow and Improve Their Business.