Chronicle: Investing in people creates quality

Anna Iwarsson 23 October 2015

We want more customers. We want to do better business. We want to be number 1.

I often find myself in roles like lecturer or strategic advisor in organizations who want to find out why they failed to realize their quantitative growth goals. I engage with small, large and gigantic organizations who all, during a period of several years, have had a goal of growing or improving their businesses. However, it cannot be said that any of them have succeeded fully in achieving these goals, perhaps marginally via moving in the right direction in terms of growth yet not in the magnitude of what they had hoped for.   

Executive boards and leadership determine what growth increase percentages are expected via tangible and clearly defined quantitative goals, effectively spurring a culture of growth amongst the staff. Naturally, the board also then stipulates WHAT they are to achieve, thereafter they will show their faith and confidence in the team throughout the organization to decide HOW their goal can be achieved. Trusting that this will automatically lead to everyone being onboard and being motivated to succeed.

I can understand why they engage me. The journey of change that Friskis&Svettis experienced during my time there as secretary general was fantastic. From 200 000 members to 550 000 members. I can reveal that it wasn’t the clearly defined frameworks and quantitative goals that were behind the growth. When I started there were a number of quantitative growth targets identified by the national board of directors, one of them was that within a few years we would achieve a membership growth from 200 000 to 400 000.  Back then, in 2000, I realized, after seeing everyone’s apathetic reactions when these figures were mentioned, that there was something fundamentally wrong with this approach. We therefore decided to scrap the target choosing to work and focus more intensely on internal organizational factors like culture, values and our own identity. For a significant period of time, we concentrated our focus and efforts on diversity, how different people expressed their willingness to develop these ideas.   

It’s fair to say that I am doubtful. It’s not always clearly defined frameworks and quantitative growth targets that inspire and challenge. Significant changes often start with the smaller finer details, like leadership. By investing in people you get quality, then, more often than not, positive things start to happen with quantity.

Anna Iwarsson, is an Authour and Opionion maker in value based leadership. She will be a guest speaker at MultiMind’s breakfast seminar on November 12th and will speak about her new book, Ram & kram (Frame and Cuddle) – the importance of leadership for organisational culture.