The previous chapter described the leadership role that Stephen played at LargeCo. He changed the company in positive ways by improving the organizational design of the engineering division and the entire company through a focus on value-add work in support of both internal and external customers. This led the company to develop a systemic change process beyond the engineering division – one that further enhanced the organization's functioning competence. As a result, the SBU and company measures of inancial success improved over an extended period.
In the engineering division leadership team meetings, Stephen and his people were excited about the results they were getting. But there was always an underlying theme at these meetings: “We can do even better.” Some people shared ideas they had gleaned from their family life; others talked about the positive energy they generated doing work for a Rotary Club or a youth sports team. Everyone realized that this sort of energy did not exist in LargeCo – that there was a lack of spirit within the company. Each engineer talked about the level of spirit in each of their SBUs. Many sensed a lack of spirit and positive energy but some disagreed and saw the opposite, a great work environment. A common theme emerged: in the SBUs where the leader created an environment where all people were treated as real human beings rather than “tools” for getting work done, there was positive energy and a positive working-together environment. One of these engineers was Ed, who had been at LargeCo for many years. In his attempt to explain the energy in his SBU, he quoted Henry Ford, one of his engineering idols: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
Ed said that the people in the company needed to work together to serve one another as well as they had learned to serve customers. He pointed out
that the SBUs were functioning as separate islands and that while each was getting good results, the company as a whole had no identity. Everyone identiied with an SBU or a function; no one identiied with the company.
The engineering division's leaders came to believe that their division, the SBUs, and the other functional units needed to come together if they were to work effectively, and that this would entail yet another organizational change.
In effect, Stephen and his engineering division had concluded that an important element when discussing high-performance work systems is vitality. The word as used here refers to life – that is, the life of the organization. In a business organization that enjoys an abundance of vitality, the people are competent, conident, energetic, and spirited. They work together to move the company towards its targeted future state and goals.
Positive change is enormously enhanced when all people work effectively together, having committed themselves to positive change.
People want to work; they want to do useful work; they want to see and sense that their personal inluence and efforts are having positive effects and outcomes. People, in sum, yearn to create high-performance work systems for themselves and others. But for them to do that, their leaders need to encourage and support their efforts. Role model leaders can make the difference between a spirited organization and one that is not.
This chapter discusses a variety of work processes as well as the leadership capabilities that are important when developing high levels of vitality in an organization:
• Creating harmony among the employees
• Working effectively in teams
• Developing a high-performance culture