Leading Blog






10.22.18

Clarity First

Clarity First

T
O BE CLEAR, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. In most cases, it is all man-made, but it is our reality. To be clearer, while our environment may be ambiguous, our organizations should never be. Ambiguity will always be with us and must be dealt with constructively.

Ambiguity can create forward momentum, or it can stop us in our tracks unable to move at all. If ambiguity is pervasive throughout an organization, it will fail.

Great leaders work with it and use it to their advantage. And the advantages are many. Ambiguity is a part of leadership. It’s where the risks are and where the future lies. Like stress, some is good.

The trick is to know what you must bring clarity to. Disorganization is not ambiguity. Confusion is not ambiguity. They are created by a lack of clarity. A lack of clarity is death to an organization.

While author Karen Martin would not seem to agree with what I just said, it is precisely because we live in a VUCA world that her book Clarity First becomes so essential. It is the fact of ambiguity that makes clarity so important.
When clarity exists as a value, individuals and the organizations they work for operate in a way that places a premium on clarity and rewards the people who seek it. In that environment leaders and team members pursue clarity in their daily activities, and cultivate an expectation of clarity throughout the organization.

Ambiguity may exist in the world around us, but we should never be ambiguous about our purpose, our priorities, our process, our performance, our problems, or our communication. In each of these areas, we must be clear. Beginning in chapter 2, Martin delves into a practical discussion on how to bring clarity to each.

Purpose
This is the foundation of all organization (and personal) clarity. Purpose is knowing why you do what you do. As Maritn puts it, “What problem does your product solve?” She takes you three steps to discover your purpose: What do you do? What problem are you solving by doing it? and Why do you do it? A clear purpose makes clarity around priorities, processes, performance, decision-making, and communication possible and enables everyone in the organization in the how of their work.

Priorities
We all think we have priorities, but we probably have too many priorities. Martin divides priorities into two types. First are those priorities relating to the work we do every day. The second type refers to issues that are outside of the normal course of business—special projects, rollouts, strategic initiatives. The key here is that “priorities included on a strategy deployment plan are framed in problem terms—as gaps to be closed—not a predetermined solution…. Most companies frame priorities as actions to be taken, things to be done, changes to be made, and so on. A problem orientation injects clarity into the process, because everyone can see for each priority what the starting point is and where the organization wants to go. There is no room for pet projects or fuzzy ‘solutions’ unconnected to a corresponding problem.”

Process
Many organizations “limp along with ambiguous, undocumented, wasteful, and poorly managed processes.” She adds, “Ambiguity about the specific steps needed to deliver outstanding value is the largest contributor to poor customer experience, runaway costs, and potentially dangerous mistakes.” Internal relationships, job descriptions, and decision-making authority should be clear.

Performance
To effectively run an organization you need to know where you are. You need data of some kind. The first step of course is to define what you need to know and then determine where you can find it. Once collected and understood, “make sure that what you measure does not move leaders and teams to take actions that work against the broader interests of the organization.”

Problem-Solving
A problem occurs when we discover that we are not where we want to be. There is a gap that needs to be closed. Clarity requires that we know exactly what that gap is. Problems don’t go away unless you are fixing the real problem. Too often we jump in before we have taken the time to understand what we are dealing with. Martin provides a question-based process called CLEAR problem solving to help you to dig deeper into the issue you are facing. When your purpose is clear, problem-solving becomes much easier—at all levels.

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Of Related Interest:
  The Clarity Principle
  8 Reasons to Seek Out Ambiguity
  Leading Clarity

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:07 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business



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