Leading an Organization to Mastery

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Whether you have taken on Operational Excellence or Lean Six Sigma or Execution Competency or any other worthy endeavor in your organization, it makes sense to have mastery as your destination. You are always going to need to get better at it anyway – your competition will keep improving and so you have to as well. This means there never will be a time when you will not need to manage your costs, there never will be a time when you can stop innovating, there never will be a time when you will be able to be lax on delivery or quality or, in particular, safety.

What is mastery? George Leonard, an educator turned aikido master and author of the best book on the topic, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, says:.

At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.”

Practice.  If you are on the journey to mastery of Operational Excellence, you get to practice every minute of every day at work.  What a joy (right?)!  You not only get to perfect your capability, but you get paid for it, too!  Is it a burden for you, or a joy? When you review the results at the end of the year, are the conversations you have in the context of where your practice has taken you so far, and how you can best forward your momentum toward that ultimate and never-ending goal of mastery?


Leading an Organization Miles Kierson

If you are on the journey to mastery of Operational Excellence, you get to practice every minute of every day at work.

I am being a little tongue-in-cheek, but listen, you are a leader in your company, and you need to have a compelling vision of the future, because that’s what a leader does, she/he points to a future where people could want to go and inspires people to keep on the path.  Does this vision of the future include that the organization is on a journey to mastery of Operational Excellence (or some other worthy discipline)? If it doesn’t, who else is going to help people see this possibility and the benefits of it personally and organizationally, and who is going to demonstrate being on this path and guide them as they move along it?

In brief, leading an organization on a journey to mastery requires, then, an aligned leadership that:

  1. Passionately and frequently paints the picture of where the enterprise is going, of being on the journey to mastery and what that means.
  2. Demonstrates being on that journey himself.  Nobody will get or stay on the train if you don’t.
  3. Helps the employees to define their own goals and responsibilities and is their partner in the fulfillment of those.
  4. Knows that the journey never ends.

This is not an easy path to take.  But what are the options?  To be mediocre?  To “do your best under the current conditions?”  To plod along, paying homage to the gods of stagnation and being underwhelming?  Or even, just to be pretty good?  You already know this:  none of these paths are any easier.


Additional Reading

Staffing for Operational Excellence

How Top Facilitators of Organizational Transformaiton Create Change (Second Segment)


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