“We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent”, said Barack Obama.
Our lives run at a great speed these days. Be it decision making, implementation of ideas or delivering results. Every task that we carry out is expected to take us a step higher towards the goal. Gone are the days where business leaders ran enterprises with a set of overarching principles and a long-term intent to do something good. These days, most organizations and teams therein run with specific, measurable and time-bound goals. Markets are competitive and free; consumers have choices for most things they buy; investors want their returns to be the best-in-class and benchmark their expectations along global standards. Hence, nothing but the best talent needs to be recruited and they have to be given the best environment to perform. That is where the HR team needs to live excellence each day!
Several models of excellence
Over the years, several models have been designed to practise excellence in any field of work. At the core of each model, basic principles governing excellence remain the same. Firstly, it is the undying spirit of realising the potential to the fullest that drives the leaders to practise continuous improvement. Secondly, it is their belief that excellence is an outcome of an arduous journey of execution rigour that has to be traversed steadfastly. This journey starts with a clear intent of the leadership team and their vision. They build a unique culture in the organization based on these values and beliefs. They drive their team from the front towards the vision using a set of processes. They keep focus on the market and customers, monitor the business by a hawk’s eye on process performances. They keep making changes to the processes based on the business outcomes – financial results as well as the voice of their customers, employees and all other stakeholders. This is hard work that calls for discipline, focus and consistency.
Develop the strategy in sync with business
Driving HR excellence is no different. The HR leader needs to have a vision for the function based on the context of the organization. The situation of driving profitability is very different from achieving growth; there are unique situations such as market volatility, regulatory uncertainty, technological changes, hyper competition, and supply chain challenges and so on. HR strategy of an organization needs to have components to address the scenario specific to its reality. It has to be aligned with the other parts of the organization. This is easier said than done. Most organizations face a challenge in aligning the strategic priorities of all teams. Unless there is total alignment, the action plans do not drive the ship forward in unison.
Plan and Execute
Action plans need to be developed to actualize the vision. The team has to be structured in a way that addresses the strategic priorities of the organization and is geared to deliver the results. For example, the organization is facing regulatory challenges and associated uncertainties. So, there is a huge need of internal communication as well as communicating to the talent market. Hence, the HR team has to include someone dedicated and skilled to drive this communication.
Work processes have to be defined, the metrics have to be clear to all, the benchmarks or targets to measure success need to be decided upfront. If the execution does not produce desired results, the leader has to dive deep into the issue and develop action plans to improve results. The right people have to be in place, they are to be continuously developed and challenged to perform at their peak.
Execution has another important component – cost vs quality. Business enterprises work in highly competitive environments and hence, value for money is an important factor for them. However, they make investments for the long term without bothering for returns in the short term. The leader has to pick some areas and people for such strategic investments keeping the potential benefits in mind. Not all investments turn out to be gold, but the approach of excellence calls for rational decision making, consistent action of identifying such areas, investing on them with predetermined milestones, evaluating actual results vis-à-vis the plan and making course-corrections.
It is the leader who brings in the difference on the ground by channelizing the energies of the troops in the right direction and creating an environment that aids performance and positive momentum.