“We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes, while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes.” - Cho, Toyota Motor
A large multinational public company client first introduced us to what they called the Business Superhero Solution about five years ago. Our client spoke of the Company’s desire to solve difficult organizational performance problems by simply hiring the perfect person who knew the right answers. Because very few people are that good, of course, this new hire strategy often didn’t work out as well as leadership hoped and a pattern of frustration built up over time. We have encountered this phenomenon in other organizations as well and when we point it out to new clients they often see themselves in this familiar story.
Why hire the Business Superhero?
We find that when leadership doesn’t know how to solve a difficult organization problem, a common solution is to hire someone they believe is the answer; enter the Superhero. Leadership hopes that if the organization can find just the right person, the problem will get resolved. So what are the common traits of this Superhero?
- Subject matter experts from within the industry
- Possesses the “take no prisoners” stance toward achievement
- Desires to “shake up” the culture, disregarding the way things were done before
- Looks to replace current staff with colleagues from the outside
- Is accountable to produce now
- And therefore shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to get immediate results
What are the Business Superhero risks?
Of course, some Superheroes deliver great success. By hiring the Superhero, leadership signals that things are to be different. A new base of power has arrived with a different operating paradigm, often causing abrupt organization change to occur. This approach does come with risk, however, including the following potential issues.
- Conflict within the organization
- Staff turnover
- Upheaval of current practices
- Burn out from long hours
- Uncertainty introduced by a different set of rules governing what’s important
- Frustration eventually causing the Superhero to move on within 12 – 18 months
- And the cycle begins again for the next Superhero
What is the difficult problem facing most Superheroes?
Not all Superheroes fall into the burnout category. By studying the underlying cause of performance shortfalls, effective Superheroes find the same opportunity that we find in most new clients.
The majority of business processes are broken. Clients have taught us that over 70% of all organization opportunities lie directly in business process deficiencies. Business processes are usually not defined; too complex, inconsistent, missing subject matter expertise and information, not consistently followed, not measured, not owned and not aligned to strategy. When we query new client executives to better understand this deficiency, we find,
- Less than 20% can correctly identify the business processes within their area of responsibility.
- Less than 10% can name the correct customers of their business system or the customers of the business processes contained within their business system.
- Less than 5% know the volumes of work flowing through their business processes and measure any type of process performance.
Of course, we don’t advocate hiring mediocre staff. But what we have learned is this. Superheroes alone will not get the job done. When you put Superheroes in place without fixing broken business processes, you can bet that performance will continue to suffer.
Like quality production equipment to deliver products or a quality facility to accommodate staff, strong business processes must be in place to deliver leadership’s intention and, collectively, it is those business processes that power the engine that drives an organization to competitive advantage.
What does a long-term solution look like?
The key organization strategy to building a competitive advantage is to engage staff to define, build and deploy strong business processes that create customer value and deliver repeatable outcomes. Superior business processes provide a long-term foundation for improved organization performance that delivers substantial and sustainable performance improvement.
With strong business processes, leadership, including Superheroes, builds a model of excellence that grows and consistently improves over time. An investment and commitment in strong business processes provides ongoing significant tangible benefits, including focused accountability, greater customer value, cost savings, increased productivity, revenue growth, cycle time reduction, improved quality, and alignment to strategy.
Hiring a Business Superhero can be the answer.
But, deploy those Superhero skills to build strong and valuable business processes that offer a superior customer experience, create sustainable organization capability and deliver competitive advantage.
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