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"What’s the Big Idea?”: Bring Your Guiding Rules Into Everyday Organizational Life

by Dr. Karen Otazo
 

Excerpted from “The Truth About Being A Leader... and Nothing but the Truth.”

Our word strategy comes from the Greek strategos, meaning military general. This suggests that strategy is something that takes place at a high level. Although that may traditionally be the case, in recent years the military, along with other organizations, has increasingly placed emphasis on empowering people at all levels to take ownership of the organization’s core values and strategy – its “big ideas” – and to make decisions based upon these on a day-to-day basis. 

If you want your staff to live by the “big ideas” of your organization, it’s vital that you empower them to do so. You do this by communicating those ideas clearly, and by working out with them the practical ways in which those ideas can be lived out on an everyday basis so that they are fully part of your and their work. Don’t just hand your employees a piece of paper to guide them; your core strategies need to be established within their consciousness.

It’s one thing having a sense yourself and where you want the organization to go; it’s another putting those ideas into a form that others can share and identify with. What you need to do is express two principles in particular in clear simple language, to which others can refer in the course of their daily work. These are the How of how you run this business – the guiding principles or rules of engagement that everyone needs to follow – and the Where of where you want the organization to go. For example, do you want your organization to have a higher profile in its market, to increase its customer base or to increase profits by cutting expenses?

What kind of day-to-day tactics can you use to accomplish these overall strategies? Let’s look at an example of how the leader of one unusual organization – the Atlanta Braves – approached the challenge of being guided by its big ideas every day. The team’s overall strategy is to develop and nurture a culture of winning. That’s a bit like the goal of increasing shareholder value or making an organizational profitable. It’s a wonderful end point to strive towards.

The Braves’ general manager established three big ideas to guide day-to-day decisions. Everything the team has done for fifteen years of winning has been shaped by these.

Big Idea 1: Everyone needs to be an “A” player.
Strategy: Move players in constantly and develop them; cull those who have lost the winning spark.
Everyday tactics:

(1) Hire talent scouts to find the right players, construct and run player-development programs and look at prospective players’ abilities through tests and profiles.

(2) Establish and hone athletic and mental skills needed e.g. game toughness, confronting challenges, adaptability and coachability.

Big Idea 2: Communicate with people about how they are doing.
Strategy:
Show them respect, gratitude and trust in their work all the time.
Everyday tactics:

(1) Communicate to team they are good and they will produce

(2) Use your leadership confidence to bolster the team’s confidence

Big Idea 3: Use real-world evidence for real-time feedback.
Everyday tactics:

(1) Use statistics to decide which players to bring in, consistently adjust people’s judgment and leverage their development, and to help everyone adapt to changes in their tactics in real time.

Work with your team to find the right big ideas right for your organization by using the Atlanta Braves’ work as a jumping off point. Although they’ve never paid for a number one draft choice they consistently bring along their players through development and move out the players who have peaked. Can you match that? 

 
 

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