Creating a Compelling Ambition

In my last article I explored ways in which businesses can be more productive and engaged if they minimised their bureaucracy. Expanding on this theme, it’s interesting to note the effects of what happens when organisations have so much bureaucracy it begins to suffocate everything else.

Recently I have been working with a large corporate who was in this position some years ago, they were at a point where the amount of policies and procedures, form filling, box ticking etc reached a peak where it was becoming an issue, frustrating to employees at the least, and stopping effective progress, at it’s worst.

Then along came the pandemic and lockdown and the sudden switch to remote working and the bureaucracy fell away. It provided a unique insight for the organisation to see the difference to it’s operations at all different levels when there was a lot less rules and procedures to follow. Without all the processes and procedures, people were able to get stuff done, much more efficiently than before. They were more productive and arguably happier being able to work at their own speed and keep things moving along without the stop-start effect of bureaucracy. 

Now with this particular business transitioning their staff back to the office with the policies and procedures inevitably creeping back to the same levels as before, the leadership team are keen to explore how they can plug into the levels of productivity and minimal bureaucracy without turning their backs on compliance and processes completely.

The answer lies in the idea that a compelling ambition will get the team to form. This is a new approach, as previously it was widely believed and practiced that you really need to perfect the culture of an organisation before you can get the performance standards you want. 

Having a Compelling Ambition is key to an increase in performance

When the pandemic hit and there was a sudden switch to remote work, there was also a compelling ambition; we need to help our customers through the pandemic, for example. This compelling shared goal offered motivation and engagement to get the job done, in an environment where there was a massive drop off in the usual bureaucracy. 

Can you, as a leader come up with a compelling ambition? Having a compelling ambition and introducing strategies and ways of working that allow people to work without too much bureaucracy, gives people a focus and purpose bigger than themselves and the day to day grind. When we get it right, a compelling ambition generates an engaged, positive response from employees. They buy in to the goal and want to achieve it with enthusiasm. They are committed to it and it elevates their motivation and refreshes their level of engagement. 

However, when leaders get it wrong, it can generate a negative response; ‘we already have so much work’, ‘how are we going to fit this in’, it becomes clear there the idea is not met with enthusiasm. 

Here are a couple of criteria for leaders wanting to choose a compelling ambition that generates a positive response; 

  1. It should already be part of the existing KPIs (don’t choose something completely new).  
  2. It needs to ideally be customer-focussed, ambitious and bigger than any of us. For example, when leaders communicate a goal of increasing sales by a few percent each year, several years in a row, people become overwhelmed and disengaged. Instead of saying ‘we had 20% sale conversions this year we want 25% next year’ (which is interpreted as asking them to work 5% harder) try to completely reframe your goal to encourage a total shift in thinking; “we want to go from 20% to 50%” – this huge jump works to break people out of their mould and way of thinking and doing things and makes them rethink. It’s only when we re-think our current ways of doing things that we really get breakthrough. 
  3. It needs to be outcome based rather than solution based. For example, instead of making your goal ‘let’s introduce AI’, shift your focus to the outcome; we want to improve the efficiency of our team, introducing AI may be one of the strategies/ solutions. Creating an outcome-based goal will be more compelling and give the team a greater sense of purpose, of working towards something big. 

Breaking free of crippling bureaucracy is possible and vital for businesses who want to have a high performing team. It’s great to see businesses reflect on what worked for them in a remote work environment – what is something that you found benefited your business during the pandemic that you wish you could bottle and implement now and into the future? I’d love to hear from you. If your leadership team could do with my help get in touch today,

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