Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Art of Winning Commitment, and, Manager's Guide to Strategy

book review for the personnel management association of the philippines (pmap) newsletter, march 2005 issue.

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Individual member (Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation)

THE ART OF WINNING COMMITMENT: 10 ways leaders can engage minds, hearts and spirits
By Dick Richards

By Roger Formisano
(McGraw-Hill Companies)

Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre of Ontario, Canada, enables children with disabilities and special needs to achieve their best. The vision is a heart stopper, “Defy Disability.” Dick Richards writes: “That’s all of it: two words. It suggests a world in which disability is met head on and challenged with resolve and dignity. More importantly it suggests that the leaders at Bloorview MacMillan care about something other than themselves. And it implies that the rest of them ought to do the same. The leadership of Bloorview MacMillan has crafted a declaration that is both a vision and a call to action."

‘Defy disability!’ addresses the reasons that leaders at the children center do what they do, and why followers ought to do the same, beyond their self-interest. Heather Roseveare, director of family and community relations at Bloorview MacMillan, said, “Our vision captures the heart of what we do—defy disability—but also how we do it, and why we do it.”

Author Richards continues: “Visions can be placed on a continuum from those that are self-referent at one end to those that are noble at the other. Self-referent visions are about what the organization and its people wish to become. Noble visions are about the contribution the organization’s leaders wish to make to some group of people.”

A vision that is self-referent casts doubt on an organization’s commitment. “For example, if an organization’s leaders state that they are committed to customer service, yet their vision is entirely self-referent, an onlooker might legitimately conclude that the commitment to customer service is merely political. In other words, customer service is not valued in and of itself, but as a means to an end—the organization’s own achievement. This political commitment to service is the likely source of contradictory messages to customers, such as, ‘Your call is important to us. All our representatives are currently busy helping other customers. Your call will be answered in twenty-two minutes.’ If the call truly was important, if the organization’s commitment was truly to customer service rather than to its own achievement, then the call would be answered immediately.“

Richards quotes Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center CEO Bill Strickland saying that part of a leader’s job is to make sure that the stockholders are cool. “The other part is to improve the planet, make a contribution, raise some decent kids, support your fellow man, help struggling social institutions in your community. You have many jobs, one of which happens to be making money. Strickland says of a noble vision, ‘it opens up the conversation and introduces a much broader agenda of items that are considered as part of our work life. We are going to lose our planet if leadership doesn’t start opening up this conversation to consider more than ‘me first’.”

Along with insight, storytelling and mobilizing, coming up with an inspiring vision is one of ways to win intellectual commitment of human energy. Dick Richards says that leaders can not lead without the commitment of others and understanding commitments in its various forms is central to t heir purposes. The four forms of commitment are political (commitment to something in order to gain something else), intellectual (commitment of the mind to a good idea), emotional (commitment that arises out of strong feelings), and spiritual (commitment to a higher purpose).

In fact all four commitments must be explicit or implicit in your vision in order for it to inspire. As analytical psychology founder Carl Gustav Jung theorized, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart and soul.”

A vision serves as a statement about how a leader intends to create concrete reality out of her insight. Visions that have a noble rather than a self-referent quality are far more likely to win the commitment of others and to provide followers with a noble sense of who they are and who they are becoming.

To start you off on your strategic conversations, Richard suggests these questions.

ü Who, in your life experience, was practiced at vision?
ü To what degree are you practiced at vision?
ü What is it about vision that rings true for your current leadership role?
ü How important is vision to your further development as a leader?

According to leadership expert Burt Nanus, a vision is where tomorrow begins, for it expresses what you and others who share the vision will be working hard to create. Since most people don’t take the time to think systematically about the future, those who do—and who base strategies and actions on their vision—have inordinate power to shape the future.

Writer Elie Wiesel reminds us that “one must wager on the future. To save the life of a single child, no effort is superfluous. To make a tired old man smile is to perform an essential task. To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.”

Roger Formisano says a powerful vision requires three things:

ü Goals: long-term objectives that will concentrate the efforts of every person in the company
ü Purpose or Mission statement: a compelling reason for the company to be in business
ü Values: principles that will guide the company as it fulfills its purpose and progresses toward its goals

Author Formisano says much of the negative perception about vision/mission statements revolves around the reality that for many organizations vision statements remain just that: statements, some words on a page. “But successful organizations make their concept of the future of the organization real, by testing every decision against the achievement of the vision goals and creating an environment in which strategy is more clearly understood and implemented throughout the organization.

“In recent studies, firms with formalized, articulated visions earned twice the return on equity as those firms without documented approaches. Such studies imply that there can be real shareholder value in creating structured vision.”

Formisano cited Starbucks’ lofty and bold goal and overriding objective--To establish Starbucks as the most recognized and respected brand in the world-- to explain why Starbucks stores are everywhere and reaping success. “Notice that the company wants to achieve both brand recognition and respect, globally. So Starbucks wants to be known, but more importantly, it wants to be known for a certain set of operating principles that leads to respect.”

“Starbucks vision does not end with its objective, however. The ‘picture’ of the Starbucks organization is clarified by its mission statement and guiding principles:

Mission: Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.


1. Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.
2. Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.
3. Apply the highest standards of excellence to purchasing, roasting, and fresh delivery of our coffee.
4. Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.
5. Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.
6. Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.

Now, Formisano suggest that we look at Starbucks. “Write down the Starbucks vision and then visit a couple of Starbucks stores. Stay a little while and look around. Can you see the vision in action? Do you see a diversity, a commitment to customer satisfaction, and community development? Make notes on each of the components of the vision package and observe what elements of the strategy become apparent. For example, what happens if a customer’s order is prepared incorrectly or takes longer than it should? Is it consistent between stores?

“After your visits, ask yourself what Starbucks management might be doing to implement the strategy to achieve the corporate vision. Try to put yourself in their shoes: it will give you good ideas for implementing your own strategy.”

Do this for your own company. Check your vision/mission/values statement against what you see, hear, think, feel and do; against your policies and procedures; against your leadership styles. Check your postings in your bulleting boards. Check the reactions of your customers to your products and services. Is there congruence there?

The organization’s vision is the collective aspirations of everybody involved in the organization. It starts with individual personal visions. You don’t want to be seventy-year-old later thinking like a thirty-five year old asking, “What happened?” You want to make wonderful things happen, not only for yourself, but for all humanity.

Happy Easter!


DOES IT MATTER? Information Technology and the corrosion of competitive advantage
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(Harvard Business School Press)

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