Saturday, February 23, 2013

4 Signs of Progressive Organizations

Signs inform. They guide. They even persuade.

Signs limit. They protect. They even prevent.

When you see a sign, what opinions form in your mind? Do you see the sign as an enabler or disabler? A deeper question to ask is when people enter your organization do they see signs that invite them in or ask them to leave? Do members within the organization see signs that inhibit growth or facilitate creativity?  Even better, are members within your organization signs that encourage or discourage progress toward your vision.

Courtesy of Martin Davis

Here are 4 signs that your organization is progressive

Signs of Location

In every town in the world, there is a sign that announces its name and location. Progressive organizations go beyond emphasizing the school name and the school motto and know that every person in the building serves as a sign that describes the location of the organization and what it stands for. The work displayed and the commitment that each person possesses tells whether the organization is or is not who and where they say they are.

When you enter you building, it is easy to tell if people are focused on serving others or themselves. These signs are clear and understandable by everyone inside and outside of the organization. More importantly, the current location of the organization is not determined by the leader but by the each individual within the organization, and it is defined and redefined through daily interactions.

Signs of Direction

On every street there are arrows directing people where to go to find their destination. Organizations on the move must have signs, both structural and cultural, that announce where the organization is headed on its journey of success. In addition, every member of the organization carries their proverbial sign that directs the campus to or from its intended destination. So often there is a disconnect between where the signs of structure say the organization is headed and where the culture of the organization is actually going. Transformational leaders avoid temptations to paint a rosy picture that all is great and take specific steps to remove signs that are in conflict with the vision of where the organization expects to head.

Signs of Caution

Signs warn of danger ahead. Organizations have communication systems that warn one another if there's a problem that is about to begin. In traditional systems of hierarchy, the leadership mandates what to be cautious of and what not to do, but the reasons often lack clarity and justification. The more transformational the organization is, the more involved all staff are in identifying the potential hazards for others, and the more compelled each member is in warning others.  Progress will move at a faster pace if more people are watching for potential pitfalls and sharing them throughout the building.

Signs of Persuasion and Motivation

There isn't a highway in America without a billboard enticing us to buy something. Transformational organizations have billboards of celebration to spotlight amazing work from staff and students in an effort to illustrate the desired work needed from everyone. This type of sign serves to persuade resistant members to turn around and head in the right direction, and they remind all members that each individual's journey is vital to the success of the group as a whole.

Here's your Sign

At your organization, everyone wears a sign that defines who they are and how their role affects the organization. Some people's signs detract from the focus of the mission by making it all about the importance of the individual. Some signs serve beyond their potential by consistently serving others and promoting the mission of why the organization exists in the first place.

What does your sign say?

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