Friday, August 1, 2014

Clear Vision and Focus for Success

Vision and focus are key elements of success. We all know this, but few are able to follow. It takes a lot to remain focused on what we agree to remain focused on. In a recent post Bill Troy, CEO of ASQ, wrote about the clarity of Volvo’s vision. You can read the full post here.

Having worked with the Malcolm Baldrige performance excellence criteria for over 15 years now I am a firm believer in the power of a clear vision. 100s of Baldrige companies have shown that unless we start with a clear idea of where we are going, getting there is impossible.

What is a vision? My Guru, Suresh Lulla, taught me that Vision is of a Visionary. Vision is picture, a snapshot, of the future.  It should be ambitious and have stretch. It is important to have a date to the vision – by when do we want it to come true. For Volvo it’s Vision 2020.

I have been lucky to have worked in a few organizations where there was clarity of vision and focus followed. Here are two of those stories for you:

650+ Baldrige scores for all Units: While managing a large internal Baldrige deployment, the only goal of the program was – all key business units to get a score of 650 plus in an external assessment. All action plans resulted from this single minded vision/goal. It took three years but the organization did not move off the chosen goal. I tried mighty hard, aligned all actions to the goal, trained key staff, launched initiatives to support the goal, managed assessments, and did what it took to achieve the vision. What looked impossible when we started became possible with Vision and Focus. Result – All units achieved the target 1 year ahead of plan.

15% efficiency goal and nothing else: In another company our leadership was aghast when the Head of Operations challenged us saying a 15% improvement in efficiency is the least he will settle for. We tried to debate first, then argued, but he did not budge. He showed us the numbers and indicated it was possible. We then wanted to continue the meeting to set goals for operations, quality, human resources, finance, etc. Mike stalled any effort to do this and said the goal is only ONE and clear. 15% improvement in efficiency. All our department goals have to align to this. What is not aligned need not be done. Result – in 6 months we had achieved 18% improvement.

Polio eradication in India: Another very successful Vision and Focus story is that of Polio Eradication in India. We have all grown up cursing our respective governments. This is even more common and well deserved in developing countries. The Indian government urged by a doctor who was dabbling in politics – Dr Harshvardhan (he is now the new Union Health Minister) launched a massive Polio eradication program over 15 years ago. When launched Polio was considered impossible to eradicate. With single minded focus and clever use of celebrities, developing domestic vaccines, and a massive government staff India final is Polio free. Here is more on the results.


While it is difficult to remain focused on a key goal and align everything else to it, it is clear that there is no better path to success. 

1 comment:

Ashok Kurup said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your article reiterates the one critical need of the hour - Focus.
I would like to refine your definition of Vision. In addition to providing a snapshot of the future, Vision should have 2 key ingredients viz. Inspiration and Common Good. Vision should inspire and should benefit the society/community. These two ingredients provide much needed “life” to the Vision since it drives passion – an emotion that is the difference between failure and success.
In the absence of these ingredients, Visions are more long term goals.