Obliterating brownian motion to improve results

How to turn unfocused energy into powerful laser beams

Brownian motion is the random moves that gas molecules do. There is more of it if pressure and temperature increases. As the engineers would put it: Pressure x Volume = n x R x Temperature. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_gas_law and do not get me started on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_der_Waals_equation since the basic thing is what I need).

Within a given volume, just add some pressure and temperature will follow suit. Heat a bit and pressure will rise accordingly. And molecules will move more and more like crazy. And bump against each other more and more.

Well, this looks like what lots of people do when the pressure do get higher in organizations: they start moving at random more and more, at frenetic speed! Maybe a better idea would be to reach a higher volume and use the push to grow. Because not doing so will just lead to the dissipation of energy over time. In business terms, this means burning cash and goodwill for nothing.

Internally focused energy is bad for the organization

When market conditions do change, reacting by performing navel gazing and keeping the same volume is not going to prove very successful.

As a lot of people mistake movement with results, there is a huge tendency to confront change by reorganizing. A typical way to focus on tasks and not on outcome. I can't remember who, but it was a roman general that observed that organizations deal with change by reorganizing, usually bringing no added value. Brownian motion can also be likened to increasing bureaucracy, meaning focusing on means and not ends. All of that is bad, very bad.

So, look outside. Check on your target market, do not try to beat competition but focus on helping customers reach their goals. Do not become scattered and disorganized, do not become an ivory tower of jaded people waiting for the ship to sink while being in denial.

Ensure that the perception of the organization services provided to customers are not different than what you think they are from the inside. You may think you do great but in fact are not when it comes to the customers.

Use the push

In hard times, there is distress and people are ready to listen. There is energy to be harnessed. The gravepine is at a all time high. Vocal people may just be your best heralds if harnessed with the right message. I can testify that the most cynical people are usually deceived optimists that once had the faith. Make it clear that these are times to be agile. Acknowledge that it indeed requires courage to become part of the new landscape that is being shaped. Also, choose to be one of the successful organizations of the time. Give hope and perspective. People are not bugged, they can function okay if given the chance. So, they may be afraid to move, not unable to.

Use strategic decisions to decide on where to aim

Having people looking to the outside and full of aligned energy is all good and nice but is not sufficient.

An important component is to have a strategy so that there is clear guidance as to where to aim before firing the torpedoes.

First of all, strategy is not planning. Furthermore, in hard times, the time horizon is quite reduced. In extreme cases, this may even mean next week! So, what beacon to use?

Let's define strategy as the set of decisions that are shaping the business outcome. Opportunistic decisions are not what is best, as they are just unfocused energy again. The hardest point is not to add more opportunities to the mix but rather to decide what to leave out! So, what is the business outcome of the organization? What decisions are shaping it? Which market are you in? Which products do you want to represent? What about the way to orient product development? What about your views on customer service? How are you going to be different from your competition in the eyes of your target market?

Overall a strategy targets a goal. And the purpose of having a goal is what it makes of us, what it makes us become as people.

Making strategic decisions is the most important thing to do. To help, know that there are no mistakes, there are only consequences. So, making strategic decisions help feeling in control because you decide to not let the vagaries of fate decide for you. Strategic decisions help in knowing what to focus on, what to do when something happens, and also puts meaning on events.

Obviously, nobody has a crystal ball but even if you are not sure of where you are going, it is of utmost importance to perpare for the journey everyday!

Find your champions

As far as I can tell from my experience, there are always groups of people that do have great ideas and the ability to execute. But the corporate politics are not their forte and they mostly do get overrun by more politically skilled individuals defending some turf. Make no mistake, these groups of doers have a good network of believers. So, to get employees aligned on the strategy with proper energy, you do need champions. These groups happen to be your best chance. But to make that approach work, you must become an exemplar of the expected behavior. That is needed to avoid pessimism showing up. "Pessismism is a straight line to depression" says Martin Seligman. And as such, we do not need more victimologists around Making miserable people less miserable is not too powerful. We want to leverage high talent here. This is the force that will drive people out of the morass.

Get focused

Looking outside: okay. Taking advantage of the pressure: okay. Having a defined strategy: okay. Champions ready: okay. Good. But not enough.

One last factor is to focus the energy. Unfocused energy dissipates while focused energy, like the sun rays, burns!

So, focus on outcomes, not tasks. Performing tasks like a nice little soldier is not getting the organization anywhere. Achieving goals and delivering on outcomes that count is what to focus on. The more focused the effort, the more dramatic the result!

And also, keep focused over time! Hey, I didn't said becoming myopic right?

Parting words

Obtaining alignment from top to bottom gives coherence and focus, along with lots of energy and motivation.

This is much needed in today's marketplace and focusing random energies on key identified desired outcomes will lead to dramatically enhanced results. Dissipating heat and hence money is not the best way to reach for the skies indeed.

What are you focusing on today?

© Philippe Back 2009 - All Rights Reserved