Service as a Focus for Change
Service as a Focus for Change
Burning Bridge focuses have been used to trigger urgent actions in organisations for many years. They have helped many organisations change behaviours to avert imminent or possible disaster. Many leaders know that if they want things to change, quickly, and there isn’t an existing burning bridge, one thing they can do to create the required action is to create one. And it works very well, but only at what it is designed for; that is creating rapid movement away from a negative situation and urgent action to fix what is causing it. However it does not work as well at creating the positive actions necessary to replace what is awful or bad with what would be good or great. That’s because removing a negative does not create a positive. So when you stop being bad you don’t become good, you just become not bad. And good or great are very different from not bad.
So Burning bridges will cause people to ‘run away’ from them and perhaps then do what is needed to put out the fires and the causes of them. But fires can cause people to run in any direction to get away from them. And putting out fires and eliminating the causes of them does not build new, better bridges. To do that requires something different. It requires people to focus on what they do want, not what they don’t want. So something else is usually needed to create the actions necessary to build the new bridges.
I suggest that what’s needed is a clear view of what is wanted; something that will provide a stark contrast with the awful past or present that isn’t wanted. For these I like to use the expression ‘Blazing Beacons’. These are things in the foreseeable distance that attract people to the better future they promise. My specialisation is service strategy. So as an example, for service to make a worthwhile difference, the ‘Blazing beacon’ needs to be a detailed ‘blueprint’ (often called a Vivid Description) of the level and style of service the organisation could and will offer that will be both different and attractive enough to customers to create differentiation, customer loyalty and sustainable competitive advantage. I believe it should also be something that will make those who created it proud to know they played their part in its creation.
There are two phrases that have haunted me ever since I heard and understood it. Those phrases are –
‘What you think about, you bring about’.
‘What you focus your attention on, you get more of’.
They means that whatever to focus your thoughts on, whether it be negative or positive, what you do want or what you don’t want, you attract that to yourself and make more of it happen. In my experience, this is true and it means that you should always focus your thoughts on the positive things you do want, never the negative things you don’t want.
And I’ve learned this applies in business too; the way you think about and approach situations can make more or less of it happen. It all depends on the approach you adopt. So you need to think hard about how you describe all the initiatives, projects and programmes you initiate. For example –
• Instead of cutting costs; focus on having less waste.
• Instead of reducing errors; focus on improving right first time events.
• Instead of minimising labour content; focus on improving efficiency.
Cynics may say this is just playing with words; and they would be partly right. But this is not playing. Words are powerful and the way they are used has a big influence on people’s beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours. As leaders we owe it to those we lead to always use the right words, in the right way, to have the best chance of getting the right behaviours leading to the right results. So always choose your focus and the words you use carefully, they can be powerful if well-chosen but may be dangerous if not.
I have found that in most situations both Bridges and Beacons are needed to create the required actions and outcomes. Burning Bridges act as a repellent and drive people away from what’s not wanted; Blazing Beacons act as an attractant to draw people to what is wanted. All that’s needed then is a series of initiatives or projects to link the two and chart out the journey and logical stages from one to the other.
I also believe that each new position creates a new perspective. So as the goals in each Beacon are achieved and what was an ambition becomes a reality, that makes it possible to realise what the next, new goals could be and new Beacons can then be created. This results in continuous improvement, and if you can do then this with a pace no competitor can match, you must, inevitably become the winner.
© copyright Chris Daffy
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