Sometimes in the search for new we stray from what we know to be classic. Classic is distinguished from fads or trends by the timeless nature of its practical relevance and enduring appeal. Think music or literature. Both arenas have produced artists and authors that have captivated one generation after another.
Consider, as well, the disciplines of organizational behavior (in general) and leadership development (in particular). I would suggest the contributions of Peter Drucker define classic. Leadership icons like Frances Hesselbein and Marshall Goldsmith would emphatically agree.
In a field where many have opted to take relatively simple things and make them complicated, Drucker demonstrated the ability (on a recurring basis) to reduce highly complicated dynamics to crystalized language everybody could understand and (more importantly) sequential steps everybody could follow. For example, leaders in organizations of any size, in any industry, doing business in any geographic sector of the planet have the potential to improve their competitive standing by diligently answering Drucker’s famous “five questions”:
- WHAT IS YOUR MISSION?
- Why does your organization exist? What problem do you solve? What service do you provide? At the end of the day, why do you matter? What sense of meaning or purpose would people find if they worked with you? Drucker’s famous advice for the formulation of a mission was indeed sage (“It needs to fit on a t-shirt.”). One of the best examples of a mission that met his criteria was (and still is) Girl Scouts: Help every girl reach her full potential!
- WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
- Who benefits if you fulfill your mission? Do you have different categorizations or sectors of customers (e.g., Girl Scouts’ primary customers are girls; secondary customers are parents, families, communities)
- WHAT DO YOUR CUSTOMERS VALUE?
- What is important to them? With the ever-increasing number of competing responses there are in the world why would your customers take time to listen to your value proposition? What would get their attention, make their life better/easier or have increased meaning?
- WHAT ARE YOUR RESULTS?
- Objectively, how are you doing? Not, “How hard are you trying?” or, “How busy do you have a tendency to be?” but given your full potential as an organization, how well are you doing and how could you improve?
- WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?
- Based on the answers to the first four questions, what are your strategic goals (“big rocks”)? Team/department goals? Individual objectives? If all goes as planned (which it won’t, of course), will the people in your organization be happy and find meaning by effectively executing their role in the established plan? What is the “shelf life” of the plan (i.e., under what circumstances will the plan be revisited, updated, etc.)? Can each employee in your organization connect their day-to-day activities to results that matter for customers they care about in service of a mission they believe in?
The ability of leaders to not only accurately answer these questions but also to execute in accordance with the path the answers establish is, has been and will always be the keys to competitive advantage. In a word: classic!
With a focus on your organization/department/team ask and answer Drucker’s five questions.