On Thanksgiving day, the Spirit of Martin Luther King (MLK) arrived in the ecosystem of every zipcode in Viable Vision Land, as originally articulated in the “I Have a Dream” speech. This was a special homecoming for the Spirit of MLK and he was both fascinated and curious to explore what was working and what was still an uphill struggle in Viable Vision Land. There was a yawning chasm between Wall Street and Main Street. In the horizon of the Viable Vision Land, there was an attention deficit, financial deficit, an empathy deficit, a dignity deficit, and rising income inequality. The mood in Viable Vision Land was grim with a widening gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Moreover, there was a leadership vacuum in Viable Vision Land.
The Spirit of MLK was seeing up close that attention had become an orphan child in Viable Vision Land. A couple of decades ago, Steven Covey had evangelized the seven habits of highly effective people and invited leaders to consider not just focusing on production but also allocating time consciously to “sharpen the saw” to develop their production capacity.
As the Internet economy became mainstream in Viable Vision Land, the obsession with technology (state of technotrance) caused people’s attention to drift and gravitate into the echo chamber of tweets, social media, noisy rhetoric, and other distractions.
In this new normal, hyped as the digital disruption, multi-tasking, using PowerPoint slidedecks to skim over the “thinking process”, putting out “fires” (poor planning) , emails and tweets becoming runaway projects, and other scenarios trumped over the mantra of (leading and) managing by walking around on the shop floor, which was a “high touch, low tech” practice in a bygone era (being closer to the operational reality of “how we do things around here”).
The current reality tree (CRT) illustrates the attention deficit spiraling out of control while the volume of unfinished business was spanning beyond my lifetime. I concurred with the Spirit of MLK that ignoring the unfinished business would be grossly unfair and “ungenerous to the next generation.”
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While grieving the dissonance between (flawed) actions (to date) and the strategic intent (“I Have a Dream”), the Spirit of MLK remained calm and composed yet appearing pragmatic and tenacious to energize the rest of us to surge momentum and make the Dream come true.
Invoking the “inherent simplicity” of the thinking process, the Spirit of MLK imagined the future reality tree (FRT) for making “I Have a Dream” tangible, as viewed within the context of turning around a distressed business on Main Street in Viable Vision Land. Such a frame of reference symbolized a powerful moment of truth for leading by example and, if successful, could become a legend for the current and future generations. The Spirit of MLK ignored the conventional wisdom of the balance sheet view of the firm and avoided falling into the trap of mining its deficits and denominator-based management (arbitrary corporate downsizing). By employing a reframed lens that “corporations are [made up of] people” and a business is a portfolio of projects, the Spirit of MLK creatively explored how to revitalize the distressed asset by nurturing its body and soul and increasing employee engagement and accelerate value creation. The Spirit of MLK clearly understood that inside every distressed asset is a diamond in the rough (I.e., increase throughput, decrease inventory, decrease operating expenses). The Spirit of MLK brainstormed using the following questions:
- What is the Viable Vision of the business?
- Is everyone in the “I Have a Dream” team aware of the job to be done in this distressed business and the unfinished business to “mine the diamond in the rough?”
- Where is the constraint? What should be done with the constraint? How do we implement the change?
- Is there a project plan for the “I Have a Dream” project? Is it realistic and believable?
- Why is the current status of “I Have a Dream” project flaming red (not trending yellow or green)? How long has it been red?
- Is there a risk management plan? What is the go-green plan? Is it actionable?
- What may be causing the wounds of division amongst some team members?
- Is the coordination optimal in order to maximize project throughput?
- Is there a dialogue holding environment for “I Have a Dream” community conversation?
- Who is the owner’s rep for “I Have a Dream” project infrastructure?
- How long have the project teams been in the forming or storming stages of team evolution?
- What are the factors that may be causing inertia and inducing a culture of scarcity thinking?
- What is the turnaround plan for managing the attention of everyone in the project team?
- What is the (individual and team) game plan for sharpening the saw?
Guided by the expert facilitation and coaching of the Spirit of MLK, the business stakeholders let go of their fear of failure and scarcity thinking and started to embrace a growth mindset and developed a turnaround management plan for the distressed business on Main Street.
A LEADER (who stretches to serve and play the role) as COACH (LaC) displays abundance thinking by encouraging and helping the coachee to realize one’s potential and become the best version of oneself.
Walking the leadership talk is never easy. Artificial conversations to “practice leadership” in an echo chamber (e.g., during “happy hour” or a corporate offsite) are not valuable or insightful. A LaC partners with the coachee to shape a clearinghouse for growth and help the coachee discover her (his) mojo.
Leadership is a rigorous practice that requires determination, disciplined imagination, and commitment. The endeavor is really about Managing the Business of Attention (MBA) and sowing the seeds of developmental transformation to become future ready. All the stakeholders in the distressed business committed to self-regulate their attention because they realized that the flawless execution of the turnaround plan required all the project teams to operate in a flying formation, like the Blue Angels, and nurture a culture of excellence.
Proposition: Walking the talk of the Theory of Constraints (ToC) is a force multiplier for Managing the Business of Attention and, in the process, always “doing the right things and doing things right.” This uncommon insight, despite its “inherent simplicity,” can be leveraged by every leader who has a passion for solution focused coaching.
As John Covington remarked, it is the intentionality of “putting the right thing in your head on an ongoing basis.” “Cows don’t stay milked.” The operating system for this intentionality may be installed by engaging in deeper forms of consciousness (detached from going to a state of technotrance).
The Spirit of MLK experienced an Aha! moment that the secret sauce for incrementally excavating “I have a Dream” was in the “inherent simplicity” of the thinking process underlying “Walking the ToC.” The Spirit of MLK wondered if every church in Viable Vision Land could perhaps play a role to spread the wisdom in “Cows don’t stay milked” and juxtapose the management of attention and sharpening the saw every weekend and (re-)organize for resilience. Both MBA and sharpening the saw require an ounce of TLC (tender loving care) and the space and time that the weekend affords an individual can be very productive for personal introspection and self-discovery to “carve out the space for the 1st, 15th and 43rd thought.”
The urgency to walk the ToC is here and now because the future is already here arriving in small daily doses. As a collective we need to recognize both the time value of money and the money value of time — this requires undivided attention. Which brings up an interesting question — should we permanently #RepealandReplace inertia with the five focusing steps in ToC (which mandates “status quo” to be out of scope) and inject a dose of the Amazon leadership model? That choice is perhaps personal and left to the reader to ponder.
The “inherent simplicity” of the thinking process provides a scaffolding for bridge builders to work together across communities and “bind the wounds of division” in Viable Vision Land with a sense of urgency and, as the Spirit of MLK would echo, into a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” and an unspoken understanding of each other that builds mutual trust.
Whether it is at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the day, you are your own Chief Operating Officer (COO) and cultivating the habit of “first things first” and the other seven habits of highly effective people can be nurtured by MBA and sharpening the saw. As every maestro would agree in unison, the tango of MBA and sharpening the saw is the performance of a lifetime for every growth leader.
By “leaning in” to walk the ToC, every leader will be in a state of readiness to board the bus to turnaround the economy of Viable Vision Land.
The presence of the Spirit of MLK unleashed a breath of fresh air and created a clearinghouse for growth for the people in Viable Vision Land. There seemed to be a glimmer of hope and people were invited to choose and embrace compassion, humility and humanity. This is a “road less taken” to co-create an ecosystem for Option B leadership and reduce CAGE distances (cultural, administrative, geographic, economic) between people and across regions in a world of differences.
The Thanksgiving wish going into 2018 and beyond is that, as we are guided by the pioneering Spirit of MLK, “I Have a Dream” will continue to stay alive, visceral, real and vibrant in Viable Vision Land — both in the real-world and online.