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Effective Leadership - Step 3: Logistics

To paraphrase Tom Peters from a recent issue of Fast Company magazine, vision is important and so is strategy.  But when you are making things happen it is superior logistics that wins the day.  Logistics: The management of the details of the organization.  Wonderful visions and strategies are worthless if the plan is not managed and executed properly and effectively.  While this issue will not talk about the nitty-gritty of logistics per se, it is vital to understand how vision, strategy and logistics relate to one another and why they comprise the heart of leadership.

Remember in Step #1 (two issues ago) we stated that the three key elements of effective leadership (vision, strategy and logistics) exist at all levels of management, but in different doses.  When thinking about the role of logistics is where this becomes most obvious.  Middle managers are the queens and kings of logistics.  They live at the contact point of the rubber and the road.  They are the ones who are expected to make it all happen.  The most compelling vision supported by dynamic and creative strategies are worthless unless we have people who can convert these ideas into action.

Beware, however, that these queens and kings of logistics can quickly turn into robots if they are not fully engaged in and living out the vision in the context of the strategy.  Without embracing the vision and having a clear, working knowledge of the strategy, they are blindly following orders, not leading.

And where do they lead from?  Not from orders issued by their boss detailing their every movement and action.  Rather they lead from, first, their values.  The corporate vision (using our vision model from two issues ago) sets forth key corporate values.  The managers start from here.  While this is necessary, it is not sufficient.  Really great managers develop a vision for their department, using the same elements as the company (purpose, values, vivid description, and BHAG).  Certainly the department vision must be consistent with the corporate vision, but it need not be identical.  In fact, it probably shouldn’t be.  After all, the purpose of a hospital as a whole is different than that of the Plant Operations Department or the Pharmacy Department.

The keys to leadership are the core values, both the corporate values and the values espoused at the department level.  Who we are, as defined by our values, guides our conduct and behavior.  So a department with mutual respect as a core value sees tardiness not as a policy violation to be dealt with in a punitive manner, but a breakdown in mutual respect.

And when the senior executives enroll the middle managers in a new strategy, it is imperative for these managers to understand, first, the foundation upon which this new strategy is built (the vision).  Second, they must fully understand the components of the strategy (where we are today, where we want to be (strategic objective), what must shift and change, what steps will be taken to effect this change, and what resources are being brought to bear so this gap can be bridged) and their particular role in that strategy.  Third, they must take their assignment and develop their own strategy for accomplishing it.  This strategy, of course, need to be built on a foundation of their own that speaks to the role and purpose of their department in the organization.  It is this language, the language of the role and importance one’s department plays in the larger scope of things, which truly speaks to employees.  This is the source of the inspired action of others.

Managing in the middle, where the rubber meets the road…call it what you will.  Our middle managers need to be visionary, develop strategy, and be the ultimate logistician.  Are you and your managers fully prepared to do so?  Developing a departmental or organization vision can be a challenging task.  Coaching managers and executives through this exercise is an effective means of meeting that challenge.  Let us know if we can support you in that effort.

For the quotation in the block in the center of the newsletter –

Are you fully prepared?

Leadership is the wise use of power.  Power is the capacity
to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” 

- Warren Bennis

Copyright 2008 by Richard B. Maxwell III

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1012 Embassy Row Way • Seabrook Island, SC 29455-6005 • Voice 843-768-2227 • Fax 843-768-2170 •

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