A vise or vice (American and British English spelling differences) is a mechanical screw apparatus used for holding or clamping a work piece to allow work to be performed on it with tools. Vises usually have one fixed jaw and another, parallel, jaw which is moved towards or away from the fixed jaw by the screw.
My father was a cabinet-maker for most of his life, even though his official occupation was Yolo County Superintendent of Schools. He would often spend evenings and weekends in his shop building things for our house, or later in his life as gifts for others. He was remarkably patient when it came to woodworking. Not so patient when it came to trying to manage 5 kids (4 boys and a girl)!
Not having the patience nor manual dexterity for woodworking (in complete contrast to my younger brother Jim who is a pure artist when it comes to woodworking and cabinet making), I found another vise that comes in very handy. A Fly Tying Vise, used to hold a bare hook at any required angle so I can tie on various bits of feathers, hair and yarn to create an artificial fly for fishing. It’s a great thrill to catch a wily trout or explosive steelhead on a fly made with my own hands.
As my teams and I work with CEO’s and senior executives during turnarounds and “next level” business growth opportunities, we often use an approach we call “The Vise”.
The “Vise” approach is based on two fundamental organisation principles:
- Organizations are shadows of their leaders: which is to say that employees at all levels tend to watch the behaviour of the senior team and senior managers for clues on what are “accepted” ways of working and behaving. While this is mostly an unconscious process, it is still very powerful and new employees, who are eager to fit in, quickly begin to get acculturated. It’s a top-down effect and a large part of what makes up the corporate culture. For example, if two senior executives don’t get along and openly argue and badmouth each other, teamwork and cooperation between their two functions won’t be very strong, no matter how much teamwork training is done. By aligning the senior team around strategic business objectives and clear metrics, along with discipline, focus and governance, a new leadership shadow will emerge.
- Business process improvements at the “coal face”: Most business executives don’t fully appreciate the fact that business processes tends to drive employee behaviour (which in turn drives results and is a major factor in determining the corporate culture). By working to streamline and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of such business processes as the supply chain from order to delivery, the customer satisfaction process from order to delivery, and various human resource, administration, hiring and performance review processes, employee behavior will change. New business processes require different behaviours to be effective.
These are the two major parts of the “Vise” that when applied with diligence and understanding as to the outcomes desired, are highly effective in bringing about cultural and business performance changes. Profitability is improved. Growth is focused and targeted. Culture is shifted to match the required business environment. Leadership is better aligned and more focused. Middle management is more disciplined at delivery and follow through.
Is your business being squeezed, or are you using the vise as an improvement tool?
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress