What do a tree, basketball and Uno have in common?

I was in a meeting earlier this week when we were asked to participate in an interesting exercise. We were asked to each draw a tree. Everybody’s respective tree was very similar: it had a trunk with a cloud like shape at the top. Then the question was asked, “What is the purpose of a tree?” To which everyone’s response was different. Everyone understood what a tree was however our perspectives on its purpose was very different. Someone said Oxygen, another said Timber and another said “my five-year-old thinks they are for climbing on!”

Now, imagine we were in the business of trees and those three people were on the same Executive Team trying to drive business towards high performance. If the Customer Support Team thinks we are here to cut it down, but the IT Team thinks we are here to keep them alive we are going to have some issues. Same WHAT, different WHY.rainbow_tree_by_annmariebone-d5tdbe5

I heard this recently:

 “ You can have a team full of high performing athletes on the basketball court however, if five of them think they are playing Rugby League, you have a problem”

How many Professional athletes DON’T know what is expected of them? How many DON’T know the rules of the game? How many DON’T know what success looks like for themselves? Not many.

Same WHAT, different HOW.

I love UNO. Uno just might be my favourite all- time game alongside Scategories and Pictionary. However have you noticed that depending on what family you grew up in, there are different versions of the rules? In my house, we have a “you can’t draw cards then put them down straight away” rule (which is a point of contention when we get together with the in-laws). Everyone understands the game and what constitutes a winner, but the perspectives on HOW to win often differs. So what ARE the rules?? Everyone has been doing things a certain way for a long time. But is that reason enough to ignore the rules? Sometime it is. It OK to change the rules but everyone needs to know HOW and (like me) WHY so they can have the choice whether to participate or not.

I want you to ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Why does this organisation exist?
  2. Where are we going?
  3. What do we produce?
  4. What do we value?
  5. What is the ideal situation?
  6. How will we measure our progress?

The mistake we see a lot of organisations making is focusing a lot on question number 6. They spend time on the measuring through KPI’s, Performance Management Frameworks and Rewards and Recognition plans etc. but what is this all for without understanding WHAT we are measuring against and WHY? What are we here for? What are we trying to achieve?

Deanna Keating – Senior Consultant

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