What Is Your Company’s Purpose?

Why and How To Become A Purpose-Driven Company

One of the first questions I ask small business owners when I begin working with them is “What is your company’s purpose?”

Shockingly, more often than not they look at me like a deer caught in the headlights and say “Huh?”

Why am I shocked? Purpose speaks to the soul of the business. It is the foundation on which a company is built, survives, and grows. Research is compelling in showing that businesses that state, live and breathe their purpose:

  1. Have higher employee engagement,
  2. Attract a broader fan base of customers, and
  3. Grow exponentially faster.

In Bob’s Case…

Consider your local ice cream shop “Bob’s Creamery.” Bob tells his employees “Our purpose is to put a smile on everyone’s face. I want you to be very creative about how you put a smile on each person’s face that comes to buy ice cream. That means little Johnny and Molly, Mom and Pop, Grandma and Grandpa, and Aunt Myrtle. I mean everyone!”

Bob unleashes his employees to come up with creative ways to put a smile on each person’s face that they serve. If they don’t, they get to talk about it together and brainstorm what they could do if Grumpy Greg, Sad Sarah or Angry Andy comes back for ice cream.

Here’s the thing. It’s pretty easy to put a smile on people’s faces when they are buying ice cream, right? Bob takes nothing for granted. He wants Bob’s Creamery to be:

  1. Crowded every day and every night with happy people who can’t wait to come back,
  2. Who tell their friends to meet up at Bob’s for ice cream, and
  3. Who decided it’s such a great experience to go to Bob’s that they don’t even consider going to Slab Creamery down the street.

Bob’s simple purpose to “put a smile on everyone’s face” is compelling because it is how they create roaring fans, not just customers, and bring together the community. That is how they grow themselves AND the business. Here’s why it works:

  1. It rallies the team, gives them meaning and focus, and brings them together to get better and better and better at it.
  2. They learn to make purposeful decisions.
  3. They are empowered to be innovative and creative in making sure that their customers have a great experience.
  4. They are working on purpose in each action and interaction.

But We Are Engineers

For most of my career, I have worked with engineers, and I can hear them now. “We’re engineering. We don’t need a purpose. That’s good for an ice cream shop, but we do BIG things.” With a chuckle, my comeback is “You’re so focused on your purpose you can’t even see it. Obviously, your purpose is to do BIG things, and honestly, you seem pretty motivated to do just that.”

Yesterday, I asked yet another business owner the purpose of his IT services company, and I got the same typical response. “We don’t need to craft a purpose statement. We’re all about Service First. We’re gaining customers for life.” Right out of his mouth he said he didn’t have a “purpose statement” and then told me what it was. “Service First” sets a clear priority and focus for his team to make decisions to ensure they serve customer needs.

Just to drive the point home, the purpose is so foundational to running the company that it sits at the soul of the company. It’s what you’re all about. It’s why you and your people enjoy coming to work every day.

If you suffer from low employee engagement or missed performance targets, you may be lacking in purpose. When people don’t have a unified purpose, they begin to lose meaning and worse, they begin to believe that what they’re doing has no real value.

What Experts Say

In the book, Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster and Cheaper Than Yours (and What To Do About It), (2014), Diversion Publishing, author Salim Ismail and his colleagues share their research of multi-billion dollar organizations that grew exponentially during the last decade. They discovered that those organizations that grow exponentially start with a Massive Transformative Purpose because they think BIG to “pursue a business strategy to achieve rapid growth.”

They found that the organizations with exponential growth use aspirational statements “to capture the hearts and minds, imaginations and ambitions, of those both inside and (especially) outside the organization.” Their purpose statements have a “radical transformative power” and “inspire people at large” (inside and outside the company) to participate.

The higher the purpose, the more attractive it is to employees and consumers. Consider Seventh Generation, a household goods company. Its purpose is “to inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations.

In Verne Harnish’s book, Scaling Up: How A Few Companies Make It…And Why The Rest Don’t, (2014), Gazelles East Pte. Ltd, he suggests, “A powerful purpose tends to revolve around a single word or idea,” and cites the following:

  • 3M: Innovation
  • Disney: Happiness
  • Wal-Mart: Robin Hood
  • Starbucks: A Third Place

Purpose Statements

Notice that the purpose for Bob’s Creamery is not “serve people ice cream” or “serve people ice cream with excellence” or “serve 100s of people ice cream tonight.” “Put a smile on everyone’s face” speaks to the experience Bob wants for his customers. That extends the purpose from the soul of the company in and through each employee who serves, and in and through each person who is served. It brings everyone together in a great experience. It is aspirational and motivational.

Ironically, this purpose statement says nothing about serving ice cream.

Here are some other great purpose statements:

  • Bluegreen Vacations: “Share happiness.”
  • USAA: “Legendary service.”
  • TED: “Ideas worth spreading.”
  • Natural Grocers: “Empower people with health.”
  • John Kenagy, MD: “Ideal patient care.

To sum up: A well-stated purpose statement makes it clear why the business exists, and better yet, what experience you want to offer your customers.

Your Turn

I hope you see the power of purpose in business. I strongly encourage you to state your business purpose, if you haven’t already done so. It will help you and your company to make the difference that it is destined to make no matter how large or small it is. The key is not that you impact millions, but that you consistently, positively impact each person you serve.

3 Steps To Become A Purpose-Driven Business

1. State your business purpose

Here are some helpful questions to lead you in stating your business purpose:

  1. Why does our company exist?
  2. What contribution do we make to the community and to society?
  3. Why does what we do matter? Why do this work?
  4. What difference are we making in the world and for generations to come?
  5. Would people miss us if we weren’t around?
  6. What single word or idea captures your purpose?

2. Vet the purpose

Evaluate your purpose against these success criteria:

  1. Speaks the truth of who we are and what we’re about;
  2. Describes to the experience we want to give to our customers;
  3. Motivating to our people;
  4. Simple and easy for everyone to remember;
  5. Sets a clear focus on our decisions, actions, and interactions; and
  6. It’s evergreen – it will always be our purpose.

Share the purpose with your leaders and employees to gain their feedback. People will likely fall into various categories of early adopters, slow adopters, laggards, and naysayers. Don’t let naysayers and laggards stop you. Use the feedback to tighten up the purpose statement and affirm your conviction to pursue purpose in your company.

3. Promote the purpose

As a leader, you “walk the purpose”. In the example of Bob’s Creamery, Bob is the first person who engages in “putting a smile on everyone’s face.” He shows people how to do it, how to be persistent at it, and how to hold himself and others accountable in fulfilling it.

He keeps the purpose as his main focus when he’s interacting with his employees, his suppliers, his customers and his public. He focuses his employees on doing the same by guiding them, chiding them, and encouraging them.

Technology offers many ways to promote the purpose in a large company or one with dispersed employees. Use daily videos, podcasts, and/or blogs to talk about your purpose and how it needs to show up every day. Feature people with stories that portray the essence of your purpose in their daily actions and interactions. Give regular feedback to people and hold them accountable in fulfilling the purpose in small and large ways.

Promote your purpose far and wide, and it will promote your company.

So I ask you, “What is your company’s purpose? Do you and your people work to fulfill it every day?”


The Truth Behind The Power of CSuite

Why join the Csuite


As social creatures, much of our learning happens in a social context. We learn most of what we know from other people. While experience may be our best teacher, having others to give us the benefit of their experiences and wisdom helps us to make our experiences more fulfilling and with better outcomes than if we tackled everything solo.

In many ways, we can liken the CSuite For Women to the long standing apprentice model, where experienced leaders who are experts in their own fields share their wisdom based on their own wins and losses so you can learn faster and make better decisions in your course of actions. Hearing what others do and have done spurs your own insights and ideas in ways that benefit you and your company.

The CSuite For Women offers a totally confidential, safe environment where anything said in the room stays in the room. You get a perfectly safe space to tackle your greatest business challenges and your lofty aspirations, and know that you can trust everyone in the room to give you unbiased, truthful advice because they have your best interest at heart.

Engaging with CSuite For Women sets you on a trajectory that grows you personally and professionally faster than any other option you have available to you. In the CSuite, you will:

  1. Gain confidence in the things you struggle with,
  2. Fulfill your goals, and
  3. Achieve prosperity.

How It Works

Gain confidence with your very own Life-enhancing Learning Team

Your peers in the CSuite For Women represent your very own learning team, not so different from any team working together on a mission. The mission for everyone in your CSuite is to help each other enhance their business and their lives.

  1. You are colleagues, not competitors – you share common challenges and aspirations, and you work together on solutions;
  2. You share the power of dialogue – you have the opportunity for true dialogue, rather than debate or discussion, which leads to richer and more meaningful conversations, where you and your peers really listen to one another and respond accordingly;
  3. You have a skillful guide – your professional facilitator acts as both your guide and your equal at the table to help maintain the focus of the dialogue so the group can flourish;
  4. You experience abundance – leaders in the CSuite come to realize that no matter how much they contribute to the group, they always walk away with more in return and the group and each member grow stronger and stronger over time;
  5. You develop lifelong friendships – the individuals in the CSuite grow deep bonds and become lifelong friends, an intangible and immeasurable benefit.

Fulfill your goals through unparalleled personal and professional growth

The CSuite allows you to discuss your current business challenges and aspirations and get feedback from a diverse set of leaders who share their own experiences. This in turn has five benefits for you as an owner:

  1. Enhances your decision making leading to more successful results
    • Peers provide you with practical advice to real world problems by sharing their wins and losses
  2. Helps you clarify the best direction forward
    • Peers act as a sounding board to help you think about the best course for your business direction
  3. Holds you accountable to your goals
    • At the meetings, leaders set a course of action towards their goals, and must account for their results at the next meeting. Peer accountability is the best way to make rapid progress.
  4. Reduces isolation you may feel, while increasing your confidence in tackling the things you struggle with
    • Without a group of peers to support and encourage you in your growth, it can be very isolating which can lead to second-guessing yourself or not acting on your instincts. This is a huge benefit to not feel so isolated and gain encouragement and support you need to take action. In addition, you gain confidence in your ability to tackle those things that you struggle with.
  5. Balances out your personal and professional life
    • The fastest path to improving your personal life is to improve your business life. Making better decisions and taking actions that gain successful results frees up time in your life to spend with family and take care of your own personal needs.

Achieve prosperity with this tremendous marketing tool

Marketing is about gaining visibility for your brand and developing trusted relationships with others to do business together. Achieving prosperity requires growing your customer base and your profit margins.

  1. As you come to know the other leaders in the CSuite For Women, you accomplish these objectives.
  2. The best businesses grow from referrals and your peers in the CSuite become advocates for your business and refer business to you.
  3. By being held accountable to your business goals, especially marketing and sales, you accomplish them faster.
  4. By making wise decisions in regard to your hiring, financing, planning, executing, marketing, purchasing, and selling, you use your resources more wisely which grows your profit margins. With a more efficient operation, you serve your clients and customers at a higher quality level, which grows your customers as your greatest fans and loyal followers, enhancing word of mouth marketing and long-term customer growth.

Why would you join CSuite for Women? Why wouldn’t you?

The Golden Rule Never Goes Out Of Style

Befriend Yourself, Befriend Others

Best Friend

If you ask anyone what the Golden Rule is, they’ll likely tell you “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” or some version of this.

When you ask anyone where the phrase comes from, they’ll likely respond based on their religion. If they are Christian, they’ll say it’s from Jesus “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If they are any other religion, they’ll  site their own religious texts. What is true about the Golden Rule is that it is given in all religions of the world, and dates back thousands of years. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule).

There must be something universally true about the Golden Rule to transcend time, religions, peoples and places. If it’s universally true, it must bring something of value, to each of us.

If I ask you, “How do you want to be treated?” what would you say? I would say, “I want to be treated well, with respect. I want to be loved.” I actually have never heard anyone say, “I want to be treated poorly, disrespected. I want no love.” We want to “receive” what the Golden Rule is saying to “give.” We want to be treated on par with the way any persons treat themself.

A hot topic in daily conversations is how someone has been mistreated or disrespected. When people are treated poorly, it’s pretty upsetting. The Golden Rule is a rule of reciprocity. Treating others well leads to being treated well. When someone strikes out against you or calls you names, it’s human nature to either retaliate in kind or to withdraw and ignore – “Fight or flight.” The Golden Rule asks us to suppress our human reaction and to pull from within our humanity to respond in love, regardless.

The Golden Rule works when you first treat yourself well. My 89-year-old mother spoke a truth today to the audiologist who had just fixed her 30 year-old hearing aid. The audiologist said, “You have treated your hearing aid well, like you have treated yourself.” Mother responded, “I love myself.” This is where the Golden Rule stated as “Love your neighbor as yourself” is truly wise. Loving yourself is the place to start. You can only love others and receive love from others to the extent you love yourself. To live out the Golden Rule in thought, word and deed starts with loving yourself, and treating yourself well. Think about it, “Would you want you as your best friend?”

Treat yourself as your own best friend. Treat others as your best friends. It leads to only good. And that never goes out of style.

Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things

As team leader do you tell your team what the problem is, the solution you are looking for, and how you intend to get there? How’s that working for you and your team?

Some of you remember the preparations for the year 2000. There was a great deal of concern around the world that all businesses would shut down at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000.
I was one of the leads on a five-member team at a multi-billion dollar electric utility. The mission of our team was to figure out how to engage our thousands of employees and management teams across the four states we served to communicate to our customers that the utility was prepared, all systems were go, and that power would continue to be generated and delivered through the New Year and beyond. We decided that we should empower, equip, and reward every employee to help communicate to their friends, families, clubs, churches, sport teams, etc. that they need not worry about electric power. We held town halls in many different towns across our service area to answer customer questions. We became recognized by Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest association of engineers, as the “Go To” company for Year 2000 preparedness. That got us invited to Sweden to share our plans. Five people reached “synergy”, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – five people impacting thousands became known around the world.

We were deliberate at making our preparation a collaborative, all-inclusive effort. We viewed all employees in the company as our partners in communicating our readiness so we could build trust and goodwill with our customers, our commissions, our suppliers, and our regulators.

Do you want to build synergy on your team or in your company?
Start an open dialogue by clarifying your purpose, desired outcomes, intent and concerns.
Examine and state your commitment to reaching mutual agreement.
Ask each person to share what is most important to him/her, allowing all parties to experience a “win.” (This is not the same as looking for a solution!)
Jointly brainstorm possible solutions, then evaluate the options and identify a solution that best meet the needs of all those affected, as well as the company.
Agree upon the actions to be taken by each team member.
Meet frequently to assess the value of the actions and what needs to be improved, eliminated or added to achieve the desired outcomes.

In the project I described, we created a shared pool of understanding through dialogue and recognizing everyone’s strengths. By building on that, a true effort towards collaboration, teamwork, and synergy was achieved. We accomplished more than the work of five people when we aligned on mission and pooled all of our talents. It’s a great experience when a team reaches synergy. Everyone wins.

What’s Your Style?

A person whose style is high on advocacy and high on empathy will dialogue with those involved in seeking the best outcome for everyone involved.

In the chart, notice the minus sign (low) in the lower left corner. Follow the horizontal line and the vertical line and you will see a plus sign (high). Depending on a person’s style, four outcomes are possible.

A person low on advocacy and low on empathy will avoid a situation or a conflict, and they will take themselves out of the game. They disappear.
A person high on advocacy and low on empathy will dominate a situation. They will do all the talking, all the decision making, ignore input from others, and create a very dysfunctional team.
A person low on advocacy and high on empathy will accommodate everyone. They will go along with the group. They won’t express their opinion. Accommodation is not bad per se, and in some situations it is the best you can get. The fall-out is that those who accommodated often will not support the decision made.
A person who is high on advocacy and high on empathy will dialogue with those involved to achieve the best outcome for everyone.

I have a client in the healthcare field who just took over a company. There had been a leadership gap for years with a revolving door of CEOs. The culture had totally degraded. He had a demoralized staff and a great deal of gossiping and blaming. So instead of being the CEO and outwardly focused, he has been busy turning the culture around as COO. He is internally focused and developing his leaders to move the company forward. As a leader, his aim is to pursue dialogue. To do that he must:

Establish a foundation of unity, mutual respect, and goodwill.
Build a pool of shared understanding from each person’s point of view.
Achieve synergy so that everyone wins.

That should be your style.

Win or Lose?

Does your team win big or lose big at the important stuff?

The foundation of a team committed to win/win outcomes is one of trust, goodwill, and unity. The essential ingredient is collaboration. Remember the preparations for the year 2000? The world was concerned that all business would shut down at the stroke of midnight on January 1. I worked at a multi-billion dollar electric utility that was making sure all systems were go and that power would continue to be generated and delivered through the New Year and beyond. I led a team of five that built a highly collaborative plan to engage the employees and management teams across four states. They would in turn empower and equip every employee who communicated with customers that they need not worry about electric power. We held town halls throughout all four states to answer customer questions and offer assurance.

Our program received international acclaim and met NERC filing dates for Y2K preparedness plans. You see, we were very deliberate at making our preparation a collaborative, all-inclusive effort. We viewed all employees in the company as our partners in communicating our readiness so we could build trust and goodwill with our customers, our commissions, our suppliers, and our regulators.

On the flip side of the coin is the team where each person relates to another with mistrust and alienation. People gather data to prove themselves “right” and the other person “wrong.” Such collusion breeds mistrust, alienation, and division and results in win/lose scenarios.

Back to the Y2k story: Before leaving work one day, the CIO of another multi-billion dollar electric utility called me. He wanted to know how we pulled off such an impressive feat.

After I told him, he admitted that they did not get all their reporting into NERC on time. They had customers who were complaining, commissions that were asking them to explain their preparedness, and they were getting bad press.

Why was their outcome so different from ours? They were collusive. They kept their plans secret; they did not talk to employees and prepare them for what to say; they did not hold town halls all over their service areas to answer customer questions; they did not initiate meetings with their regulators to fill them in on their plans.

Collaboration is essential to building a win/win team environment with:

goodwill, and

Collusion creates a win/lose team environment with:

alienation, and

How would your team describe the environment? Collaborative or Collusive? The answer will determine your next win.

How is Your Emotional Bank Account?

Think of the circle of trust as an emotional bank account – banking good will. Every time we experience mistrust or alienation, if left uncorrected, the goodwill is replaced with bad. The result is wasted energy and growing problems. You now have a circle of mistrust.

Feeding a team’s emotional bank account with goodwill
raises the quality of interaction as well as results.

Trust is relational and is built when you become involved with others. In every interaction, and I stress EVERY INTERACTION, the way you act will build the circle of trust leading to collaboration or the circle of mistrust leading to collusion.

A few years ago, I met a woman who, like me, owned her own business. We decided to pair up and develop accounts together. I opened an account, set the first appointment, and brought her in to the first presentation. By the third meeting, we had to talk to a different director who, after the second meeting with him, began to direct all comments to my colleague. Later she told me that the director had asked her to cut me out entirely and that he would work only with her. I asked her how she would feel if the tables were turned. She understood so together we gave a proposal; he asked for a new price; we came back with a final proposal and a higher price. He was irritated so we ended the deal.

Why did I jinx the deal? He was testing us and was given to collusive behavior. Based on how he treated us and others in business, the changing scenarios of what they wanted every time we met, and issues in his personal life it was clear he was not to be trusted. My emotional bank account was zero because he left me with no goodwill, no trust and no unity.

To build the circle of trust
be trustworthy
see others as allies
engage in dialogue
commit to win/win outcomes

To build the circle of mistrust
fail to be trustworthy
see others as adversaries
engage in collusion
default to win/lose outcomes

In my story, the director treated me as his adversary when he went behind my back to talk to my colleague. He tried to collude with her. He moved the deal in the direction of win/lose.

Look around you. Where do you need to eliminate collusive behaviors such as gossip, back-stabbing, blame, incompetence, disregard, disrespect, win/lose behavior?
All of these things create a poor working environment and zap productivity and energy. As a result you will see lots of stress, hurt feelings, wasted effort, wasted time, and poor results.

In order to build high performance teams and high performance organizations,
a leader’s key aim is to build trust and optimism in the environment.

Do Others See You As Trustworthy?


If you were to ask five people in your life to rate your trustworthiness on a scale of 1-10, where would it fall? If you were to rate your own trustworthiness, how would you do? To be a trusted leader, you must first be trustworthy.

It is impossible to build trust with others, unless you are personally trustworthy.

I was working with the leader of a non-profit organization. She knew there were trust issues in her team so she brought them together for a session on trust. Her staff told her that her habit of always being late to staff meetings showed a lack of respect for them and their time. She had never considered the impact she had on their trust and respect for her as a leader. It was quite an eye opener for her to realize that she was part of the problem.

Trust and Trustworthiness are based on three core elements:

1. Integrity

• act from a well-defined set of guiding principles or values
• be consistent and predictable in behavior
• keep commitments; do what you say you will do

Have you ever felt your integrity was compromised? I have. A manager once asked me how we could change the data in the historical accounting records. “We can’t,” I answered. I wanted no part of cooking the books. Integrity breeds trust, while compromising your integrity grows the circle of mistrust.

2. Compassion

• show that you genuinely care about others
• seek to understand the point of view of others
• seek win/win outcomes in transactions with others

Do you know when people have your best interest at heart? I was in a situation where I worked from home to care for my husband when he was very ill. When, after nine months, I told my manager we had just received more bad news, her response was, “Well, you know you have to travel.” Where was the compassion? Is that what you would have said?  Showing your compassion for others breeds trust, while a lack of compassion breeds mistrust.

3. Competence

• show you are capable of producing agreed upon results
• fulfill requirements of your role on a consistent basis
• be dependable in meeting or exceeding expectations and agreements

Have you ever fallen short and not delivered something when you said you would? I was working with a client in a holding company who had a programmer who was consistently late in turning in his work and had serious bugs in the code.  I coached the manager to explain to the programmer that the team, as well as the internal accounting client, had lost trust in him. He was given 90 days to improve. Interestingly, the programmer did improve his performance, but the internal client no longer trusted him. The breach of trust was too severe to repair.  Once trust is lost, it is difficult to regain. Fulfilling your role consistently and dependably breeds trust.

Decades of research studies show that organizations that perform better and achieve better results are organizations built on a foundation of trust. Organizations rely on trusted leaders to deliver better results. If you are a person of integrity, who genuinely cares about others and who is dependable in delivering to expectations, you are banking good will and showing you are trustworthy.  Is that how others see you?

Are You A Trusted Leader?

Have you ever worked with a boss who used intimidating tactics to “motivate” their employees? I witnessed such a situation in a company that had always had a stellar reputation for its 100 years in business. When this one leader took charge of a 500-employee group, he caused massive turmoil inside of a year. Customer complaints skyrocketed; community goodwill tanked and employee morale hit record lows. He thought that the best way to get everything he wanted was to threaten the jobs of people, yell and berate them in meetings and tell customers there was a new way of doing things. This was a huge breach of community, customer and employee trust.

At some point in our career we will all have a boss or witness a boss who breaks trust with devastating results. The first priority in relationships with others, particularly as leaders, is to build and sustain trust.

Here are the things that have worked for me to gain trust on the hundreds of teams I have led and the thousands of people I have worked with.

The five disciplines of a trusted leader:

  1. Be Trustworthy:
  2. Involve Others:
  3. Collaborate:
  4. Dialogue:
  5. Synergize Efforts:

Decades of research studies show that organizations that perform better and achieve better results are organizations built on a foundation of trust. Trust must begin at the top and then extend throughout the company building strong collaborative business relationships among leaders, teams, employees, customers, stakeholders and the community.

Are you trustworthy?

Trust is more than integrity. You must care about your employees

and you must fulfill your role consistently.

In every interaction, the way you act will either build a circle of trust that leads to collaboration, or it will build a circle of mistrust that leads to collusion.

Think of the circle of trust as an emotional bank account

– we always want to be banking good will.

Look at yourself and then look around you. Where do you need to go to work to eliminate collusive behaviors such as gossip, back-stabbing, blame, incompetence, disregard, disrespect? All of these things create a poor working environment and zap productivity and energy.

In dialogue with your peers and your teams, your ultimate aim is to create a pool of shared understanding in an atmosphere of respect and goodwill. By balancing advocating your position with asking others’ for theirs, you will reach the best outcome for everyone involved.

Synergy – When people operate together in an atmosphere of mutual respect,

they are at the highest level of their ability. 

Steps to Becoming a High Trust Leader

  • Clarify your desired outcome, intent and concerns
  • State your commitment to mutual respect
  • Ask each party to share what is most important to him/her
  • Brainstorm possible solutions and evaluate those options that best meet the needs of all parties
  • Agree upon the actions to be taken by each party

Don’t Let Small Things Become Big Things

It seems most of us have a habit of focusing on the important things in our lives, both at home and at work, and letting the little things slide.

For instance, someone bangs their car door into your car, breaks through the paint but it’s only a pinpoint. “Shoot, why pay for that now – it’s so small. I don’t have the time or money to put it in the shop. And besides, it’s too small for any rust damage to really become a problem.” Roll forward through ice storms, rainstorms, hail storms, excessive heat and what happens? That little ding has morphed into a sizeable rust spot. The cost will be double.

Or what about things at work? There seems to be no end to all the little problems at work, mostly dealing with things like:

  1. The lack of supplies available when needed, like copy paper;
  2. Things not being where they are supposed to be like the stapler by the copier;
  3. Someone making a little accounting error like placing the decimal in the wrong place;
  4. An innocent spelling error like the customer’s first name;
  5. You get the picture.

We all deal with these problems, but let’s face it; they are quite trivial – right. We have much bigger problems to deal with. Or at least that seems to be the prevailing thought.

What happens when all these little problems add up? How much time is wasted every day, how much frustration do we put up with, how many work-arounds do we use to just get through the day and get the “real” work done?

What if we take a different tact? What if when we encountered a problem – no matter how small it is, we took the Toyota Production System (TPS) approach and “stopped the line?” At Toyota, no problem is too small to solve, once and for all. The expectation is that all problems are solvable when they surface, because people, when given the right direction and training, have the knowledge to solve all problems.

John Kenagy, MD, MPA, ScD, FACS picked up on this approach as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard studying the Toyota Production System across three years and subsequently developed Adaptive Design ®. Dr. Kenagy has applied Adaptive Design in hospitals and clinics across twelve years. His work consistently confirms what Toyota has long known. Problems should be solved by those doing the work where and when they occur. Every problem, no matter how trivial or how big, is an opportunity to move towards Ideal Patient Care.

Adaptive Design is a Registered Trademark of John Kenagy.

One perfect example of this point occurred with a hospital using Adaptive Design1. An RN knew her hospital relied on proper accounting in order to be reimbursed for their expenditures for patients who had no insurance and could not pay. Yet the device that she was using for a patient had no way to record it properly. This had been that way for a long time, but everyone assumed since the device was very low cost, that it did not matter. This RN, having been trained in Adaptive Design, knew this was a problem to be solved and got with the proper departments to solve it. The small team quickly (within days) put in place a remedy. As they investigated the problem further, in one month they saved $625,000 for the hospital just by ensuring that all supplies had proper coding and that everyone knew what to do. Small problem solved reducing a BIG EXPENSE for the hospital.

Adaptive Design helps organizations become continuous learning organizations, putting the power of problem solving in the hands of those encountering the problems. Continuous learning organizations work through problems, not around them, where and when they arise. Let the savings begin.