strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 52

Despite his other leadership limitations, Steve Jobs had not only the necessary clarity and focus but also the ability to communicate it crisply down the line. lightened leaders do have the self-awareness to discover, and the courage to admit, that they are getting in the way—and to take corrective action. Consider the case of Ralph Stayer, the CEO and cofounder of Johnson-ville Foods. Stayer recognized that he had hindered the ability of employees to take on responsibilities and hold themselves accountable for positive performance. Of both his own transformation and that of Johnsonville Foods, Stayer wrote in First Person: Tales of Manage-ment Courage and Tenacity (Harvard Business School Press, 1996), “If I was going to fix what I had made, I would have to start by fixing myself.” Stayer knew that changing company results would require a change in the way he led. Instead of simply declaring a new strategic direction, he sought more up-front engagement and accountability from those involved in the work of implementing those plans. Stra-tegic intent was clearly communicated throughout the organization. He cut the layers of hierarchy from six to three, which helped ensure a shared understanding of the real organizational capacity required to deliver re-sults. Revenues, margins, productivity, and quality all improved significantly. Stayer admitted that he had been blinded by the earlier success and growth of Johnsonville; he believed success was the biggest obstacle to personal and orga-nizational change. He realized that the control he had over the organization was misdirected and that he had become too removed from day-to-day realities as the structure of the organization had evolved. Toward Clarity of Purpose 52 The second step in escaping the hindrance trap is to clarify leaders’ intent. If you are the CEO, then the solu-tion focuses on you. If you are a leader somewhere in the middle of the organization, the solution focuses on both you and others. You need to seek clarity as much as deliver it. Consider again the BP example, in which people at all levels of the organization struggled to make sense of two conflicting imperatives. Assumptions and com-peting objectives discounted the safety ethic in favor of making the numbers. On the flip side, look at Apple. In Steve Jobs’s sec-ond term as CEO, Apple benefited hugely from his abundant clarity with respect to design, form, and func-tionality. During Jobs’s absence, the company had lost its focus, and along with it the true sense of what made Apple great. In his book Steve Jobs , biographer Walter Isaacson described how Jobs led his first product strate-gy review meeting by asking the assembled team a series of simple questions about what products he should rec-ommend to his friends and what aspects of Apple’s his-tory were evident in the designs the teams were working on. When clear answers were not forthcoming, Isaac-son wrote (based on the recollections of one person at the meeting), “He grabbed a magic marker, padded to a whiteboard, and drew a horizontal and vertical line to make a four-squared chart.... Atop the two columns he wrote ‘Consumer’ and ‘Pro’; he labeled the two rows ‘Desktop’ and ‘Portable.’ Their job, he said, was to make four great products, one for each quadrant.... The room was in dumb silence.” Jobs’s product development philosophy was the central engine that drove the company during its glory years. His almost unreasonable demands for design per-fection have now become the stuff of legend. In retro-spect, despite his other leadership limitations (some of strategy+business issue 73 feature organizations & people

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