Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hard /Simple/Easy

Over the past few years I have talked with many CEOs, Marketing Directors and HR Directors regarding their greatest assets and challenge, their people. In each instance, I am told that all the process redesign, organizational transformations and technology innovations that were planned in the new millennium are nearly completed. But despite the monetary investments and the ensuing internal chaos created, the anticipated payoffs are not having the large payout everyone expected.

When their plans worked successfully, it was because their people, not software or technology that implemented the innovations, and embraced the change. People are making the difference.

They cite the critical factors to be:

  • An effective understanding what the change is all about
  • Communicating a relevant message explaining how employees should adjust their behavior
  • Introducing new fresh experiential communication ideas for gaining their attention and buy-in

Sage advice; "Hard/Simple/Easy" - Paul Hingham, the retired CMO of Wal-Mart Stores once spoke at our regular Inward Breakfast Forum in Boston. In his talk to over 75 senior business executives from notable companies throughout New England, he said something very profound that has stayed with me ever since. He conveyed an idea he called "Hard/Simple/Easy."

He explained that Wal-Mart executives realized early on that they had to work "hard" to make complex concepts "simple" so that employees throughout the organization could understand what was expected of them and change their attitudes and behaviors accordingly to support an idea. He said getting processes to be simple may be very difficult at first and may take a long time. However, when they do get to where it becomes "Simple", everything gets "Easy". "People understand "Easy" a lot more than "hard"", Hingham says. "When it becomes "Easy", its like cheating!" Everything falls in place. The employees, the company and customers, through the employees, know what is expected of them and what to expect from others. Work happens faster. People know how they will be judged. Employees are happier and customers are more satisfied. Quality improves. Profits go up. It becomes a repeatable cycle that revolves and gains internal momentum with each turn.

Business executives have a responsibility to improve enterprise efficiency and effectiveness and grow revenue while reducing costs. (Sounds hard, right?) The complexity of attaining this goal can be extremely difficult for even the "best of the best" executive. All of us need to work "Hard" to make complex processes "Simple" so that all our efforts become "Easy". The first step in this formula is recognizing the importance and power of employees as important assets who need to get on board and support the strategy just as much as you do.

If you want the productivity and growth investments you have made to pay off, you need to combine the idea of recognizing the importance of your people as assets with the notion of Hard/Simple /Easy. Sometimes getting through the first step is also hard if you have never done it before and therefore many companies need help. If this is something you would like to learn more about, drop me a line and I'd be happy chat with you on how to get started.