How do you persuade people (and organisations) to embrace a change-management concept like Excellence?
Murat Aydin and Christian Forstner invited me to their third edition of Excellence Talks to discuss this (see the video below). Both know a thing or two about selling Excellence. Christian is one of the world’s leading experts in the field and Murat has led his company’s (GC Europe’s) journey to winning the EFQM’s Global Excellence Award last year. EFQM is the European Foundation for Quality Management.
Okay, but what does Excellence actually mean?
When Christian and Murat explained this to me, they used a powerful communication device (one out of three tips I mention in the video below).
Keep ’em happy
Murat and Christian say: “You can apply Excellence to your family.”
If you do, you have one goal: make all stakeholders happy. The stakeholders are the members of your family – in my case my wife, my daughter, my my son and myself.
To keep all stakeholders happy, we have to deal with two realities:
- What makes my son or daughter happy is not necessarily what makes my wife happy. And what makes my wife happy is not necessarily what makes me happy. What makes me happy is not necessarily…you get the gist. As a family, we have to balance our happinesses. Or better said: we have to bring them into harmony.
- Achieving this harmony is not a one-time job. Every day is different, challenges change, needs change. Everything is in flux. We constantly have to readjust the harmony.
What a great example: I understand the concept in an instant!
Now Christian and Murat tell us: “It is no different in a company. When you introduce Excellence to your company, you have to keep the family happy.”
Now the example becomes a metaphor. More accurately, it has become an analogy or running metaphor. A running metaphor is when it becomes a theme that you develop, play with and continuously come back to.
For a running metaphor to be a powerful change-management tool, it has to achieve two things:
It has to be relatable.
We have to relate to the metaphor. It explains we don’t know so well (the concept of Excellence) with something that we know very well (the family).
Simplicity meets complexity: a good metaphor captures a complex reality
Secondly, and this is really important, it has to capture a complex reality. Introducing excellence to a company is certainly nothing simple. It involves new processes and habits. The family metaphor has to capture that complexity (and I think it does).
Another metaphor that captures complex realities very well is the metaphor of a journey. Look at all the ways in which a complex reality can be like a journey:
- you may know your destination but not exactly how to get there.
- you take this journey for the first time and so do the people who are traveling with you.
- you and your fellow travelers have to agree on where you want to go.
- you may use a map to guide you but it can turn out faulty. You may have to refine it or find a better one.
- you will meet unforeseen obstacles.
- you will make unsuspected but wonderful discoveries on the way.
- you can encounter unexpected forks in the road: will you go left or right and how do you decide?
- you may take a wrong turn
- you could even decide in the midst of your journey to change the destination
As simple as it is, the journey metaphor can certainly capture complex realities.
It turns out that Murat and GC Europe use the journey metaphor as countless organisations have. So, to use a much-used metaphor, you may not have to re-invent the wheel. Why not go with the journey-metaphor? Or the family metaphor? That is not an invitation to choose the metaphor lightly. On the contrary. You may of course find a metaphor that fits your needs better. Christian gives a great example in the talk.