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Now What? – Don’t Confuse the Menu for the Meal

| June 11, 2024

by Mike Sullivan

Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Mike Sullivan, MOR Associates Program Leader and Leadership Coach.  Mike may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

When you choose between a couple of Raman restaurants, is it the menu that matters to you, or is it the meal?

Asking “So What?” gets us focused on what matters – the results we need to deliver. Sustaining that focus is often challenged by the cultural practices and processes we’ve developed over the years and that we put in place with the good intention of ‘producing better results.’ Consider these the ‘menu’ items.

As you experience with your development, practice leads to habit, which leads to behavioral change, which leads to results.  Developing practices that lead to new habits supporting your objectives is fundamental to your leadership development. The practice of delegation is a good example. When you practice delegation, it becomes a habit, resulting in the development of your staff and an increased focus on strategically impactful results.

This same principle applies to organizations. Organizational practices create habits that drive behaviors that produce results. Consider organizational practices that encourage focus on the meal (results) rather than getting stuck on the menu (processes). Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where is my group on a scale of 1 – 5 on organizational habits that produce results?
  2. What practices do we currently have in place that support my rating?
  3. What practices could I implement that would increase my rating?
  4. Who are some other people I could collaborate with to help implement these new practices more broadly in our organization?

Here are some organizational practices that could encourage focusing on the meal (results) rather than getting stuck on the menu (processes):

  1. Flatten hierarchies and empower teams. Minimize bureaucratic layers and give teams autonomy to make decisions closer to the work.
  2. Align around strategic outcomes. Define and rally teams around key outcomes tied to customer value creation.
  3. Emphasize lean governance. Streamline checkpoints and approvals, and only document what’s essential to enable better flow.
  4. Embed process flexibility. Treat methodologies as flexible frameworks to pragmatically adapt, not dogmatic rules to follow blindly.
  5. Foster experimentation and learning. Create a safe environment for teams to experiment, fail fast, and continuously evolve processes.
  6. Implement disciplined change management. Implement processes to properly evaluate, prioritize, and control changes to scope based on outcomes.
  7. Promote enterprise-wide goal alignment. Establish mechanisms (objectives and key results, incentives, etc.) that encourage systems thinking over localized optimization.
  8. Break down silos and role rigidity. Encourage collaborative teaming, knowledge sharing, and role fluidity based on work needs.
  9. Reward output quality over effort. Recognize teams based on delivering high-quality outcomes efficiently rather than heroics.
  10. Optimize meetings and reporting. Minimize low-value meetings/status updates and shift time to actual progress on priority outcomes.

The idea is to create an organizational culture and set of practices that relentlessly focus teams on continually delivering tangible customer/stakeholder value, using processes to enable this rather than get in the way.

NOW WHAT? Don’t confuse the menu for the meal.

Where is my group on a scale of 1 – 5 on organizational habits that produce results?

Last week we asked which strategy could best help you know your strengths and maximize your impact:

  • 30% said get on the balcony
  • 27% said practice and refinement
  • 23% said identify and acknowledge strengths
  • 20% said grow but don’t overuse

One way to have the greatest impact with our strengths is to get on the balcony and think strategically about how to best use them, whether in professional or personal settings. Before we can do that, we need to practice and refine those strengths so that we can leverage them to their fullest potential. And before that comes identifying our strengths, including understanding the ways overusing them could be detrimental. Recognize those around you may be on different phases of their own strengths journey, from identifying, to refining, to leveraging. What can you do to build the strengths of your team this week relative to where they are in their own strengths journey?