Get on the Bus… That is, the Bus from Speed

February 18, 2016 Appirio

By Tony Alvizu

At some point in your career, you may have read Good to Great by Jim Collins (as a consultant, it is required reading). In the book, Collins uses the metaphor of getting on or off the bus — the “bus” being the company and “getting on” being the commitment to it. Mr. Collins goes on to say, “In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline — first the people, then the direction — no matter how dire the circumstances.”

But what if your bus is the bus from the movie Speed? Moving at a high velocity through heavy traffic and populous areas, unable to slow down for fear of destruction. (Actually, not a terrible metaphor for how companies need to act at certain points in their journeys.) Sure the bus started out normal and in control, but external circumstances turned normal into dire — requiring people to spring into action.

Now that you are on the bus, who are you?

Are you the bus driver, calmly leading the journey and deciding who gets on or has to get off? (Thankfully for him, he let Annie, Sandra Bullock’s character, on the bus.) Are you Annie, enjoying the ride until thrust into a leadership role? Or are you Jack, Keanu Reeves’s character, jumping on mid-crisis to offer assistance? (Sounds like a consultant to me!) Perhaps you are the construction worker, quietly standing by, ready to help with your set of tools. Or finally, are you the whiney passenger, complaining about the journey’s trials and tribulations? Of course, there are other passengers, ranging from those sitting quietly and observing to those jumping up to offer suggestions. Every company has employees who reflect these roles. In this scenario, who are you? More to the point, who do you want to be?

Collins talks about the leader finding and securing the right people. To do this, the leader needs to provide the environment that both retains the right people and pushes those “in the doorway” fully onto the bus. Having the right people is critical to pushing the flywheel, which takes the effort of the entire company, led by visionary leadership navigating the company’s strategy and execution. Not all employees have voices in corporate strategy and direction, but they need to buy into it, trust leadership, and be successful in their role. A large part of this success is happiness in their role. (It has been documented: happy employees equal happy customers.)

Going from good to great takes years, not months

By 2020, an estimated 75 percent of the workforce will be millennials; millennials stay with one company for an average of 3 years. That flywheel, as Collins calls it, could lose momentum from sheer employee turnover. To stay ahead of this, companies need to provide an exceptional Worker Experience. Here is 3-pronged approach to do this:

  • Bring consumer-grade experiences to the enterprise, knowing your workers and what they expect from technology.
  • Adapt to the new ways people work and apply new workforce models, allowing for modern, flexible styles of working.
  • Use systems that eliminate barriers between workers and the information they need, delivering proactive insights and empowering decision-makers.

Building a great company means executing on the strategic and the tactical. Providing an exceptional Worker Experience keeps people on the bus and empowers them to spring into action. A positive Worker Experience encourages employees to bring their tools and contribute, creates the opportunities for employees to be thrust confidently into leadership roles, and allows everyone to drive the company through typical times and dire times. Not everyone gets to defuse the bomb, but it is important to have the tools and empowerment critical to doing so.


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