By Juan Antonio Pizarro, CEO Periplia
The current employment contracts eternalize work as a function, when in today’s world it should be seen, and performed, as a strategy. Only breaking this mold can people see their work as an active ingredient of the business, perceive the value they generate and recognize the other areas or departments of the company as partners and teammates.
Work as a function is something people perform in order to earn their pay. Work as a strategy is something you do because it makes sense, adds value and allows the progress of the company and its different stakeholders: employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, etc.
As a function, work does not foster creativity, innovation or accountability for the results of the company. The latter generates a gap between work and results with dangerous outcomes: ignorance of the actual state of corporate finance, loss of sense of urgency, excessive demands when there are unions, poor customer service, waste of resources, corruption, etc.
Functional work tends to become routine, repetitive and tiresome, that people perform without soul, without passion, not making it the object of their creativity and innovation. The strategic work instead requires and entices innovation. A large number of companies err when they limit strategic work to certain jobs or positions, when all jobs can and should be strategic. The definition of what is the strategy of the company may be made by a few, but its successful implementation is everyone’s responsibility.
To exemplify the above, in the case of a financial company that has a clear strategy based on great customer care, the role and attitude of those who welcome the clients to the company’s premises are strategic as they are the first point of contact with all visitors. That first impression is key and predisposes for what the visitor will encounter inside the company. A couple of years ago when I was peddling my pension, I had the opportunity to meet the security guard of one of ING Pensiones offices in Bogota. The man gave a warm welcome to visitors, asking them what their business was, handling their turn and directing them to the right office. Besides a great attitude, he had the memory to remember you on your next visit. After such a reception the patrons were more likely to take calmly the long waits and the not so cordial handling of the counselors, supposedly better trained and certainly better paid than our man.
The most strategic position in Starbucks, at least initially, was the barista. It is their attitude and behavior, and not that of the company executives that few see or know, which make the customers come back again and again to their coffee shops. The second strategic position is (or was) that of those responsible for locating and leasing the buildings where their stores operate, because the success of Starbucks rests directly on the level of service and ease of access to its shops.
Neither the baristas nor the property managers design Starbucks’ strategy, but the success of the strategy lies heavily on their shoulders.