Deming’s first of his 14 Points for Management reads: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
The phrase, “Constancy of Purpose” strikes me as perhaps the best way I’ve heard to describe that intangible but palpable drive that propels the most effective individuals and the most successful organizations.
Instead of being singularly focused in pursuit of our goals, most professionals that I know struggle to find even a shred of time to work on the most important priorities. It’s not that they don’t have the time, but rather, they allow the noise in the environment to keep them from focusing.
Other individuals fail to recognize their true priorities, or at least they fail to understand how to connect their priorities to the firm’s priorities, and as a result, they work on what they want to, or they do little or nothing at all. This is as much a leadership failure as it is the failure of the individual.
I marvel at top executives that talk about “empowered employees” and hold round-tables and town-hall meetings in an effort to create the illusion of focus and connectedness, but that fail to figure out how to light the fuse that creates the constancy of purpose in the minds and hearts of every single individual in the organization. These leaders understand that they are supposed to do something, and as a result, they drive a lot of activities but don’t necessarily create a constancy of purpose in the organization. In military parlance, they are “all action and no vector.”
Organizations and individuals march forward when they have a clear goal and sight and are driven by some deep collective conviction that when successful, the world will be a better place, that they will be better professionals and that their positions and as a result, their families will be secure. The earlier that a leader understands that creating “constancy of purpose” is a core task, the faster they are on their way to truly fulfilling their obligation and responsibility as a leader.
Creating Constancy of Purpose on Your Team:
- Don’t assume that everyone around or under you understands why they are there and what their priorities are. It is up to you as leader to provide this critical context.
- Constantly focus on connecting your team’s output and activities to the organization’s big picture.
- In the absence of a broad organization “constancy of purpose” (most environments), it is up to you as leader to manufacture one for your team. Better yet, engage your team in creating their own overarching purpose. Just remember that you still need to plug it into the organization’s pursuit of success, however success is defined.
- The best ideas often reside in the minds of the quietest people. Create opportunities for the silent but brilliant individuals to contribute.
- Everyone drifts from the true north of their priorities—you need to allow an appropriate amount of drift for individuals and teams and no when and how to help them reorient.
- If you are at the top of the food chain, you do own mission, vision and values, and they need to be much more than posters on the wall in conference rooms and lobbies. You cannot spend enough time thinking about and working on making the mission, vision and values come alive for the organization. It’s not a campaign or a one-off meeting…your goal is to make these often trivial and trivialized words serve as the rallying cry and standards for performance and behavior.
The Bottom Line for Now:
Leadership is profession and leading is a true privilege. This most difficult of all human endeavors—leading, motivating and guiding teams to achieve can be done by seeking compliance or providing inspiration. I’ll place my bet on the leader that fuels the collective and individual passions of a firm’s employees. What’s your firm's Constancy of Purpose?