For Corporate Leaders, it’s never enough to consider the “big picture”, while letting impactful daily needs slip by.


I was meeting with one of the top execs at one of Western Australia’s larger organisations recently. This organisation is in the middle of a months-long strategic consideration of being acquired, or at the least, significantly restructured due to changing needs and conditions.

The problem is: they’re letting the ship sink while they consider their long-term buyout and growth options.

While considering the acquisition proposals, the board and the executive has been controlling decisions to push continuous improvement initiatives down from Head Office to their Operations Centres, putting a halt to these initiatives and, presumably, to substantive improvements.

They are also “happy” with the leadership development they have undertaken at senior levels and don’t see the necessity of development in their managerial workforce, despite the fact that senior leadership are clearly not pushing down improvement off their own bat.

Therefore, both CI at Ops level and Leadership Development can wait for a further 7-9 months – well into the next financial year.

There are 2, no 3, immediately glaring errors in their corporate strategy:

1. A focus on office ‘continuous improvement’ without focusing on operations is an existential fallacy

It assumes that the CI program has substantial organisational impact, when clearly it does not. Operations is where the production, the real customer service and the profit of the company is made. Head office CI may reduce overheads, but if it is not integrated with operational improvements, it is fiddling around the edges (that’s why so many government departments end up being ineffectual).

It doesn’t matter if you use lean six sigma, kaizen, or fat pi delta kappa – your company and your people should always be focused on improving product, delivery, service & profitability.

And, yes, even the latest buzzword of “innovation” should always be happening.

2. Your leadership development isn’t worth anything if it hasn’t created a focus on improvement

This is what happens when people receive “trainings” (not a real word), without actually taking the time to develop accountability and focus on relevant tangible business outcomes. Leadership Development is Continuous Improvement and should be happening at all times.

If your leaders are stagnant and self-satisfied, so is your company. Peter McLean Click To Tweet

There should always be a push for growth and for doing things better.

3. HR is not delivering

If CI, Leadership, Productivity programs, etc. are all being delivered through HR, they’re going through the wrong route. When the HR team (by their own admission), are unable to articulate the business impact of any of their proposals and initiatives, why would you consider that they are qualified to develop leadership and CI that creates significant or relevant business outcomes?

It’s time to relegate them to the back rooms and hire external, objective experts that can create the focus on real-time innovation and performance that you need.

Where To Focus?

Any organisation that lets a focus on one or the other slip for 9-10 months is putting itself in a dangerous position.

The decision-making exemplified by this company’s executive management is the equivalent of letting a sloop speed pass them by on the ocean, while they build a new, more powerful engine for the Titanic – post-impact. The fact that they have buy-out offers that publicly advocate streamlining and efficiency drives indicates a long lag in their organisation’s growth.

Leadership, improvement, continuous improvement, operational effectiveness, productivity, profitability – they all go hand in hand.

Innovation, CI, Service enhancement, Product Development – they should all be driven through the leadership. That’s where Corporate Leaders should focus their energies – on developing the people who will deliver the results. And hand-balling that focus to a limited HR initiative is not skilful play – it’s dropping the ball with seconds to go on the final buzzer.

To win, Corporate Leaders must focus on using great talent to deliver fantastic results every day. Peter McLean Click To Tweet
Question: What’s most important to you in maintaining focus in your business? Leave a comment below.

© 2016 Peter J. McLean. Web: ,  Blog:

If you want to work with me or discuss having me speak to your organisation or event, contact me here.

When Corporate Leaders Lose Focus

I'd love to hear your comments...

%d bloggers like this: