How Does Systems Thinking Improve Organizational Agility?

Systems Thinking offers simplicity, and therefore the possibility for agility both in the development and the implementation of strategies. Looking at an organization as a group of systems within a series of external systems is clearly a good start for creating agile strategies.

Further, applying a practiced evaluation of the organization by identifying INPUTS-THROUGHPUTS-OUTPUTS with a FEEDBACK LOOP, we can speed up the process of strategy development, and the creation of specific actions to implement the strategies.

Developing strategies and implementing them has been a focus of businesses for many decades and improving the processes is an ongoing conversation. In recent years, applying Agile concepts and techniques is getting more and more attention. It has even been questioned as to whether applying Agile techniques is even worthwhile. This has even been discussed on forums on startups with divergent conclusions on how effective this might be.

Using Agile techniques means that those strategies are more likely to be able to be adjusted quickly and effectively through their implementation. Systems Thinking brings a simple, reliable and repeatable rigor to strategy creation and implementation thereby offering a higher level of agility, admittedly a desirable attribute for reaching an organization’s desired outcomes more quickly and completely.

If Agility means getting things done faster, being more flexible in adjusting to changes, then Systems Thinking can help make these things occur. “Begin with the end in mind” as Stephen Covey said, is one key element both in Systems Thinking and in ensuring we are more easily able to keep focused on the long term while we adjust to the short term. This simple concept makes a huge difference to ensure we actually reach our objectives.

Fleshing out how Systems Thinking increases an organization’s strategic agility, we can consider the external environment, a natural factor in any system. The value of conducting a rigorous scan of the FUTURE environment of the organization lies largely in the relatively quick and easy identification of Opportunities and Threats. This effort results in intelligence that greatly enhances an organizations anticipation of what to capitalize on and what to prepare to overcome. Being more prepared certainly improves the organization’s Agility.

Agile Strategic Thinking Template

Using Systems Thinking, this template improves agile strategy creation and implementation

A tool we use for creating strategies is the framework “Agile Strategic Thinking Template” adapted from the Haines Centre for Strategic Management’s Systems Thinking Template  http://bit.ly/2aySbMD.

Managing the structures and processes created by the strategic initiatives is a challenge that grows in correlation to the size of the organization. Larger firms will naturally seek software to help with this and there are some out there.

Another tool we use for implementing and managing strategic initiatives is the Agile Strategy Manager SaaS at https://www.agilestrategymanager.com/strategy-framework.html .

Please share your thoughts and reasoning about why and how Systems Thinking improves the Agility of organizations in developing and executing strategic initiatives. Also, will you share with us any Systems Thinking tools you use that make organizations more Agile?

Applying lean agile techniques

The growing popularity in Lean Agile techniques compel us to reassess how we can use the various tools presented by these relatively recent additions to our “management toolboxes.”

In today’s world of nearly “instant” everything, we tend to drive decisions based on “gut feelings”, or simply in reaction to requests or directives. Too often we are forced to do this due to external forces we don’t control, regardless of the impact those decisions may have.

This approach can derail our intentions to reach longer-term strategic objectives.

Use lean agile techniques to drive sprint decisionsFor example, the Agile Strategy Execution Framework presented by ASM.com mentions two key processes that help drive more “agility” into achieving strategic success. Those are “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives”.

Both of these processes utilize the collaboration of cross-functional groups in achieving their respective goals.

Systems Thinking supports lean agile techniques

It is valuable to note that ensuring the right type of “thinking” needs to be practiced throughout the framework model, and that means using “Systems Thinking”.  This “systemic”, or “holistic”, approach to applying this framework is part of the “secret sauce” to being effective and successful in reaching your strategic objectives.

If the term “Systems Thinking” sounds new to you, be assured it is not. Peter Drucker’s mentors in Vienna, Austria are considered to have shepherded Systems Thinking from the physical sciences into business management. Drucker then refined and articulated its applications. Many of the greatest organizations and businesses of today have been practicing Systems Thinking and teaching it for decades. For a brief overview, click here for an article about it.

Both the “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives” outlined by ASM.com can benefit from the organization and facilitation techniques drawn from General Electric’s “Work Out” concepts. Whether teams are working on problems in design, process, operational, behavioral or cultural issues, their solutions will be more clearly articulated, more effectively measured and adjusted to with greater agility.

By working out issues in the collaborative, cross-functional teams, both deep dive activities and small bets can produce solutions that are better aligned with longer term objectives and create greater value for the customer and the business.

A lean agile techniques we use is what we call “Sprint Workouts.” These cross-functional team meetings are half to one or two full days in length. The meetings are focused on specific outcomes and support at least one strategic initiative whose results can be measured and communicated quickly and effectively. The stakeholders are clearly identified prior to the meeting and informed of the intent of the Sprint Workout. This produces buy-in and stay-in for quick solutions.

Systems thinking could yield different outcomes

Let’s talk about justifying the recent Baltimore looting and violence.  I pose the following example of not using Systems Thinking, and invite your remarks.

While listening to the news about the Baltimore looting, I caught a piece where an African-American man was interviewed about the looting. This situation was triggered by the suspicious death of a young man who appeared to have been injured while incarcerated.

The gentleman being interviewed was vocal about the looting “being perhaps not the best way to express frustration, but still justified”. He was referring to an Asian-owned store that was seriously vandalized during the recent rioting. The Asian-owned store was across the street from another establishment owned by African-Americans. That store, after having their glass front broken down, was defended by other African-Americans from further looting and vandalizing. The Asian-owned store was not similarly defended. Once the glass front was breached, the store suffered complete destruction of its contents. None of the neighborhood residents defended the store as they had the African American-owned store across the street.

The African-American interviewee shared a recent experience with the reporter. The Asian store owner turned him down when he requested one week’s credit to pay for a shirt he needed for a job he had just landed. He had made a case to the Asian store owner that he was a regular patron at the store, and that the store owner regularly saw him around the neighborhood because he lived there. But his request was refused. Because of that, the African-American man said he felt the vandalism the Asian store owner suffered was, and I paraphrase from memory, “somewhat justified”.

There are arguably moral arguments to discuss on both sides, particularly if we look at the situation strictly from an analytical standpoint as opposed to a systemic standpoint. Also, we don’t know any details of the neighbors’ relationships which could color this further.

systems Thinking might have produced different results

However, if we consider a Systems Thinking approach to this matter, there is one thing that stands out for me. If the Asian store owner had looked at the larger picture, he might have considered that his potential loss by granting his customer credit for a shirt might be less than $20.00. On the other hand, the goodwill and relationship-building that might have occurred could have actually produced a much different outcome for the Asian-owned store. And that is assuming the African-American gentleman reneged on his promise to pay later that same week. I expect he would have been true to his word, as he told the reporter.

Neighborhoods everywhere thrive or suffer on the relationships of their residents. People are naturally helpful and generous. We see this time and time again, in close-knit neighborhoods and in far flung relationships. An example is the global support for Nepal as it recovers from a devastating earthquake.

Simple understanding of the broader effects of relationships can help prevent most of the negative actions that too many people suffer from daily.

If the Asian store owner had taken a step back to consider all the angles and possible outcomes, he might have come to a different conclusion. Quite possibly, his store might have been equally defended by the neighborhood residents. Down the road, he might have also seen an increase in store sales because of the actions he took to “help” a frequent customer. And he might have solidified his relationships with neighborhood residents as a result, becoming more a part of the fabric of the neighborhood. But we’ll never know.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts.

Leadership and Systems Thinking – Tips, Tricks and Traps

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 2-20-2-13

Takeaways:  Leadership and systems thinking go hand in hand. Start by seeing the larger picture and creating a common vision and common goals before taking action. Be disciplined about keeping things simple rather than making them complicated. Help your stakeholders understand the outcomes for themselves as well as the business.

Leadership and Systems Thinking go hand in hand. This may not be the first place you have heard about this but think about it. Leaders are invariably charged with seeing the whole picture – which must naturally be a systemic exercise – and then executing or causing action on a tactical or analytic level. Seeing the whole picture, while not that simple, can be simplified into recognizing the various systems that are nested within the over-reaching system the leader is dealing with.

Tips, Tricks and Traps

Let’s explore some tips, tricks and traps around this business of Leadership and Systems Thinking.

  1. One combined tip and trap that comes to mind is to define the system for which you are solving an issue.  Say you want to launch an initiative around professional dress in your business. The first tip is to be sure to define the over-reaching system you are addressing. Does it encompass and affect everyone in the organization and/or does it extend outside the organization? In other words, be clear that the intended outcomes are defined both within and outside the organization. The first trapis to not dig deeply enough to answer such a question. Who is affected by the initiative – just your employees? Does this have desired outcomes with your customer AND with your suppliers? 
  2. The second tip is to ensure you are measuring the desired effects of the initiative on the business. Do you have some metrics you can put in place to measure SOFT results, such as how employees, customers and suppliers respond to the initiative? One trick is to make sure you measure both positive and negative reactions to the initiative even before it is launched, in an open and candid fashion. Yes, this takes more time and work, but the flip side is the trap. The trapis that if you don’t gauge reactions to this type of initiative, you may face the law of unintended consequences. This is where one or more groups of stakeholders literally and figuratively stop your initiative. Any investment in time and money you have made at that point may in fact have been wasted. 
  3. A third tip is to have the discipline to use no more than one sheet of paper to articulate what the initiative is all about. This will help make it easier for your stakeholders to read, understand, refer to and follow the initiative’s processes. Using bullets is a good tip to accomplish this. The trick lies in working hard at making it all fit onto one sheet of paper. The trap is to presume your stakeholders will simply follow an edict. Don’t forget the always present WIIFM factor (what’ s in it for me?). Your stakeholders will more eagerly embrace your initiative if you help them understand the outcomes for themselves and for the business.7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As usual, Systems Thinking as a discipline relies on structures and processes to be used effectively. Understanding this precept is key to using Systems Thinking in Leadership activities.  If you “begin with the end in mind,” as stated in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, your leadership effectiveness will be greatly enhanced.

If you would like to know more about building your leadership skills or Systems Thinking please contact me or visit our website.

Parallel Involvement in Our Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  4-8-2012 
Warehouse Planning

Parallel involvement in the warehouse

Part C – PLAN
Now, as we begin to plan what we’re going to do about deploying our tablet initiative in our warehouse, let’s keep our parallel involvement process going to mitigate any other potential unintended consequences. This is a key Systems Thinking tool.  A good step at this point is what can be called plan to plan. This means lay out a road map that outlines what needs to be done to have a solid plan. For instance, listing and engaging the various stakeholders in the planning process to ensure their input is both present and relevant. We should also ensure we have the financial and human resources to carryout our project. Well-facilitated meetings with stakeholders that interrelate are a high priority. The stage must be set to exclude personal and political agendas. This is a content issue that can help immensely to avoid time lost due to unnecessary and distracting conflicts. Having absolute clarity on the desired outcomes, “how this impacts the customer” is a really good way to avoid distracting agendas. Everyone can more easily focus on those over-reaching goals.

During this planning phase it would be a good idea for us to conduct some internal and external assessments that will help us flesh out some key strategies and alternatives that will keep us on track to our desired outcomes.  We can preempt some of the pains we will encounter and will have identified some key enablers to a successful project.

Bring Stakeholders Together
Let us then plan on scheduling meetings to bring those stakeholders together. Must they be in person or is everyone comfortable with online meetings? Does it make sense to engage an external facilitator to avoid that person “having a dog in the hunt” and therefore a potentially counterproductive bias? Do we have good in-house facilitators for meetings we can also use? We are looking at making a potential large investment in time, money and changes in how we do things, so we must weigh the value of applying the best inquisitive inquiry techniques and processes as possible at this point.

Now let us explore our list of stakeholders without too much detail. We need the warehouse managers and floor-staff to help us flesh out specs like tablet size, battery life and content of the data to be managed by our tablets. Our IT department has to look at that content too but also platform compatibility such as operating system, possible custom app development and support and IT vendor relationships.

Our IT and tablet vendors should be consulted on the impact on wireless bandwidth requirements, support issues (like that pesky automatic update Waste Management experienced), intended tablet life-cycles (new, improved product releases for example), in-tablet or cloud-based apps and to evaluate their capacity to participate long term.

Our sales and purchasing departments, supply chain managers, HR department and attorneys should all have some input on the content. Sales, purchasing, supply chain and process specialists need to look at customer value issues. HR and our attorneys should address things like what do tablets have a native ability to do that maybe are inappropriate on the job, like using the cameras most tablets have. It’s possible that in a warehouse environment, this could be a real plus. Consider a warehouse worker, taking a picture or video of a pallet of product just unloaded showing potential damage and immediately emailing the images to the buyer in purchasing asking if it’s acceptable or should it be returned. That’s a great example of just-in-time response and empowering the people who have the information to resolve problems with high efficiency.

A counterpoint to that, also cited in Information Week, is that if the tablet users are in a position to abuse the cameras, on some tablets the cameras cannot be disabled! This type of instant sharing of information also needs the input from legal counsel to help establish rules and policies for ensuring security of the data. This includes confidentiality of the data and its misuse, intentional or otherwise of the various native features of the tablets.

Consider Product Life Cycles
Purchasing and asset management should chime in on product life cycles. For example, to determine if the tablets replace other equipment and the financial impact of these issues. The strategic management office can support the effort by coaching the leaders on best practices on planning, perhaps facilitating meetings and helping to integrate the project into the company’s overall strategic plan. The process specialists can contribute to the content and hardware selection by ensuring right-sized tablet s and accessories are selected and related company processes are all aligned.

The HR department should help determine any training required and changes in personnel to support the new tablets. Not just the end users are to be considered here but possibly hardware and software technicians for custom apps and to customize the units. Information Week cites that Avnet disabled a number of features on the iPads they deployed in their warehouses thereby increasing times between charging to up to three days, since the iPads were only using those features necessary for the job. The others, like iTunes, were disabled.  Last on the list but not least are the PR people, who may be able to leverage improvements in customer value as a result of the initiative. Involving all the key stakeholders in the organization and getting their input on this project are part of using a systems thinking approach for this initiative.

But wait, there’s more! What if this tablet initiative provides better real-time inventory data that the sales force can use? Now our warehouse tablet initiative can further improve customer value where we are actually are in contact with the client! So we are compelled to now consider deploying tablets to our sales force. But that’s another project.

Systems Thinking Best Practices in Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  4-8-2012

Part B – THINK

As we move into the THINKING stage of this exercise, let’s consider what the thought styles should be. How you think is really important in achieving results. We are engaged in a project that is intended to have a lasting effect on the enterprise and thus must include strategic, or systems, thinking. Systems Thinking best practices show us the importance of defining the content of the project, the thinking processes such as facilitated meetings, and the structures, such as clear rules for meetings and engaging cross-functional groups in meetings to have more timely information exchanges.

This should include working hard on defining the various desired outcomes, for each stakeholder (yes, each is asking “What is in it for me?”). We should carefully consider who those stakeholders are: warehouse managers and floor staff, our IT department, our IT warehouse planning outcomesvendors, our prospective tablet vendors, our sales and purchasing departments, our supply chain managers, our asset management office, our strategic management office, our marketing firm, our process specialists, our HR department, our attorneys and our PR firm. This list is offered as an example and will vary depending on your firm and your products, so we’ll flesh this out in more detail later.

Unintended consequences can occur

Let’s dive in to what can happen if we don’t include some of these stakeholders in the process to recognize the value of this level of diligence. Waste Management is cited in Information Week as having deployed a pilot program of tablets to 20 of its trucks. The day before the pilot program went live, their telecom carrier sent one of those now normal automatic updates to the mobile devices modifying the operating system.  The update caused “the on-board (I presume on-board the trucks) charging system to no longer work with the tablets, so they would run out of power on the road”. 

Can you now see the unintended consequence of having hundreds or thousands of tablets working incorrectly due to an automatic update from any of the vendors involved in the tablet? You may have in-house custom apps, third party apps, the OS vendor, the hardware/firmware vendor and accessory vendors (charging systems!) that need to be considered and included in planning and executing the project.

Ignoring them can be detrimental to your tablet initiative project.

A Tablet Project Using Systems Thinking

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 4-8-2012

Table PCPart A – LEAD
Join me as we touch on all four stages of Lead, Think, Plan, Act in a tour of the now very hot  tablet market. What I’m talking about are those book or folder-sized computers that include the ubiquitous iPad and Kindle variations and a whole bunch of mostly Windows-based computers, and now Android-based ones, we all call tablets.

Their legitimacy in the business world is literally on the pace of a Southern California firestorm. Today we are going to explore some Systems Thinking techniques that can be applied to the deployment of tablets in the workplace. Mind you, many topics we’ll cover actually apply generically to mobile computing devices in general (e.g.: smartphones), so please keep your mind open, yes, like an open system, as you take this journey with me today. I will use the Lead, Think, Plan, Act  framework to illustrate how Systems Thinking can be applied to a project involving these tablets.

LEAD
You might first think this is about early adopters and you are correct, but that’s not really the point. Discovering new ground is risky but the payoff can be great and exciting, and the risk can be mitigated enough to justify the effort. The point is THINKING systemically about how to lead your organization into the adoption of tablets in the workplace. Stephen R. Covey says “begin with the end in mind” and that applies here in spades as it does in any planning.

I propose we consider deploying a tablet solution in a warehouse setting. Let’s first ask the REALLY important question: “How is this going to impact our customer?” That is our “end in mind”, isn’t it?  If our actions do not support delivering a better product, faster and less expensively to our customer, then why are we doing it?

Because tablets are cool? That kind of thinking will eventually get you fired or your project will fail. Where does leadership fall into this process? Simply having the discipline to recognize that LEAD is the first step in considering our project is a great start!  Now our job is to gather the other leading stakeholders in the project and rally them around creating some structures and processes to follow. One suggested structure is this framework of Lead, Think, Plan, Act, essentially the motto of the Association for Strategic Planning.

Ensuring each stakeholder has a clear role in the process is a key element to support sustainable outcomes, so leading this project requires defining those roles for the stakeholders and gaining their buy-in for those roles. Some roles will be functional and others will be cross-functional. Having clarity on each of these elements will create the stay-in necessary to support the implementation of the project. The project leader should manage the interpersonal relationships involved and facilitate the creation of communication resources to support effective communications among the stakeholders.

Another part of our jobs as leaders is to facilitate gaining the consensus of the stakeholders to pursue a task. In this case the task is to explore the feasibility, costs, ROI, value to the customer and, yes, the unintended consequences of deploying tablets in our warehouse. I am not proposing a brain-storming session here folks. My research tells me those sessions rarely pay off compared to disciplined, well-facilitated processes. As leaders we may have to inform and engage stakeholders such as executives outside our direct reporting lines, vendors, customers and perhaps outside counsel, legal and PR, depending on the products we handle.

Using Systems Thinking to Shift Culture

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International    11-18-2011

Takeaways: Systems Thinking is an excellent tool to stay ahead of changes in the world around us. Understanding and applying it in organizations improves communication, reduces unintended consequences, and changes the internal culture.

What is Systems Thinking and why should it be important to ALL business people? The easy answer is that it’s the way the natural world works. The more difficult answer is that it means looking at organizations as living systems existing within a universe of nested systems. In the USA we have deliberately been educating ourselves and others to focus almost exclusively on analytic or tactical thinking. This has been to the detriment of using or building our abilities to think strategically, which is, in fact, thinking systemically.

The answer to WHY it should be important to any of us is that in our environment of increasingly rapid change, we absolutely must have long-term strategies that keep us focused on long-term outcomes and that also permit and support us in making the tactical adjustments to stay on track.  In essence, this means managing a business with strategic intent and operational flexibility. Sounds straightforward right? It really is, but it does take some skill, and more importantly some discipline, in applying strategic and tactical thinking correctly to address and solve problems.

This does not mean we have to change how we think about everything all the time. It means we need to learn and practice thinking strategically and systemically, and know how and when to do so.

Having formed or altered our culture to make it unimportant to think strategically, we have only begun to learn how to think this way to enhance our business management over the past 60 years or so. Management thought leaders agree that only during the last 20 years has Systems Thinking begun to be acknowledged as one of the most important skills that managers and leaders at all levels of an organization must master. Not as a panacea, nor to replace analytic thinking, but to know when to use each type of thinking and how to leverage them in the workplace.

This may sound like a high-level, academic topic that is overkill for small businesses or workgroup teams, but I’m going to illustrate how and why the opposite is true. The skill-set to practice Systems Thinking in the workplace is relatively simple, and the learning curve quite short. The key to making it pay off is the more difficult piece of clearly understanding that it implies a culture shift in your organization at the individual level to accommodate this type of thinking.

Natural Sciences Led Systems thinking Development

Let’s first take a look at where this discipline comes from. The natural sciences essentially led the development of applying Systems Thinking to solving their work problems. In human medicine, a few centuries ago, people began to recognize that all of our bodily systems are interconnected. When one system is affected, most or all the others are also somehow affected.

This is simply common sense to us today, but even this was largely misunderstood until the mid 1900’s. Recognition that organizations are also living systems made up of people who are living systems, and that they are also subject to the natural laws of life and therefore should be dealt with in that context, actually began in the mid-1900’s.

Today, associations around the world are devoted to the science of systems thinking. Educational institutions are embracing the skill sets from this discipline for the purpose of improving management techniques of all types of organizations. Of greater significance to business people, is that major corporations, non-profits and governmental entities have proven the worth of Systems Thinking in management. Moreover, they have enjoyed impressive success as a result of embracing Systems Thinking skill sets, generally outperforming their counterparts. Want some examples? General Electric is one. WD-40 is another much smaller company. Southwest Airlines is another. Sundt Construction of Arizona is another. The National City Police Department in California is another, notably a small city’s governmental department. I mention these to illustrate that Systems Thinking can be applied by any type or size organization.

So what? So this! Every business faces the common challenge of having not just good, but really great, communication among and between all levels of management. If you run a small auto shop, a 30-person professional services business, a medium size retail operation, lead a team of bankers, are a superintendent of a school district or lead a global manufacturing firm, you surely have to ensure your staff, teams and managers are constantly and clearly communicating with each other and with you to be confident your customers receive consistent high value. How will Systems Thinking skills help make this happen?

A Little Bit of Theory

With an understanding of just a little bit of the theory behind Systems Thinking and some brief instruction on skill-building, owners, managers and employees can gain a clearer understanding of how they can easily and much more effectively communicate problems and solutions within the organization. What you get is much faster decision-making that is also more likely to be better decision-making.  A key element of Systems Thinking skills is that everyone in your organization can more clearly see his or her contribution to keeping the customer happy and coming back for more business.

Let’s get back to the how. If your firm has managers meeting regularly with top executives, not only do stronger personal relationships occur, but their ability to more comfortably and clearly communicate problems and discuss solutions is improved. If you add to this a common understanding of the various systems in the organization and those surrounding the organization, the wealth of intellect driving decision making is enhanced exponentially.

This can be accomplished by either having external facilitators conduct periodic scans of the internal and external systems of the organization or having an internal facilitator do the same. There are pluses and minuses to external and internal facilitators but that’s a topic for another article. This is an application of Systems Thinking that can be simply and easily practiced in the workplace at a low cost. No theory, just do it, and do it regularly. You might be astonished at the results you get.

For a more in-depth understanding of applying Systems Thinking in the workplace you might like to take a stab at the MIT Beer Game Exercise (http://supplychain.mit.edu/games/beer-game). It is commented on by Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline (pp 47-54), if you wish to understand its significance in how easy it is to overlook external factors affecting our businesses.

For simple tools to assist you in practicing the fundamentals of Systems Thinking in managing a business of any size, visit our website or contact me at your convenience. I can be reached at eric[at]dennergroup.com.

Building a World Class Organization

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 4-12-2011

Takeaways: Both passion and purpose are needed for building a world class organization. It’s important to know the difference between passion and purpose.

I’ve been reading Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Mastery to see how his recommendations dovetail with Cathedralsystems thinking. He is, after all, a systems thinker, and an intentional dreamer, looking at business as a whole system made up of many systems or parts. Frequently, the parts don’t work fluidly together because we get so mired in the day-to-day activities, we lose sight of the end goal….the reason we started the business in the first place. His book, E-Myth Mastery is about building a world class organization regardless of size.

E-Myth Mastery goes beyond his first book, The E-Myth, which is all about systems and planning, to help the entrepreneur get back in touch with the passion, the vision, the dream….the reason for being an entrepreneur. Then he applies what he calls “The Seven Essential Disciplines” to the entrepreneurial planning and management process, which become a road map for building a world class organization.

According to the author, “Building a World Class Company is a commitment to the integration of passion, purpose and practice.”

Develop Clarity of purpose first

In our practice, we go a step further by including a review of the external world outside your business as one of the steps in a total strategic management system. The first step in a holistic approach to your business is developing clarity of purpose and connecting with your passion. This is perhaps the hardest part of the process.

You started your business because you thought you could produce a better product or deliver a better service to your customers. Perhaps it’s because you got tired of having someone else call the shots, telling you when, what and where to do your work. That was the passion that got you started.

Now, you’re mired in all the day-to-day emergencies of meeting payroll, solving customer or production problems, handling employee issues, and any number of other things that keep you from doing what you love, yet have to be done in order for the business to operate. Now, instead of a boss telling you what to do, it’s your employees, your customers, and the very business itself, demanding more and more of your time, and leaving you frustrated and exhausted. You’ve lot the passion for the business. What happened?

According to Gerber, this is a common problem among entrepreneurs. Even those who have followed his E-Myth systems, found themselves so mired in running the systems and tracking their progress, they feel like gerbils running on a circular treadmill. Everything demands their attention, and none of it is fun anymore. They can hardly imagine building a world class business when they are busy putting out fires every day.

Now is the time to take a step back, take a deep breath, get away from the business for a little while, and give yourself time to THINK. Yes, that ugly five-letter word, THINK. We’re so busy doing, we don’t take time to just sit and think. Think about why you started the business. What is it really that you set out to do? Is it just to repair shoes or was there a grander passion behind opening up that shoe repair business? Was it to repair other people’s clothes or to clothe the world with designs that flatter any body? Was it to repair computers because you have a knack for understanding how they work? Or was it grander like Microsoft’s, to envision a PC on every desktop? What was the spoken or unspoken vision you had when you started your business?

What was the dream you set out to create?

The difference between passion and purpose

The key to getting back in touch with your passion is to understand the difference between passion and purpose. Passion is what calls you to action. It’s the vision you have for the future you want to create. The tingly feelings you get when you think about this grand idea. Purpose is HOW you put that vision into action. It’s the WHAT that you do everyday. Vision is the WHY.

Have you heard the story of the three men who are laying bricks? When asked what they are doing, the first man says he’s laying bricks. The second says he is building a wall. The third man answers, I’m building a cathedral. Now that’s a vision!

What are you building in your business…..are you just laying bricks or are you building a cathedral?