When in a sales meeting, look around and listen for information valuable to managers in your organization. Plan to report what you see that might help Marketing, Product Development, Customer Service, Finance, Executive Management, Human Resources, or others. What are people reading? What do they say about competitive products? Are they pleased with Customer Service? What about pricing and competitive bidding? Are they hiring or laying off people? A sales rep is the eyes and ears of the organization out on the front line with access to the most current, accurate, and complete information available. Look and listen and report. From all such diverse reports from as many people as possible comes a composite and true picture of what is going on out there, what our decisions should be, and how to take proper action.
One of the major constraints to innovation and creativity is delay, procrastination, waiting, and otherwise not engaging in the intellectual work of a new task at the very beginning. “Front-end loading” is the term in project management literature that speaks to the need for a team to engage intellectually in a task as quickly and energetically as possible – as near the initial thinking and planning stage as possible. Engineering planning identifies this step as FEL (front end loading) and has three definite steps the team is to perform at this time. Design for Six Sigma is a shift of this work to the beginning of a project rather than to the end. Edwards Deming realized and taught that a team to win has to get “out of the crisis” at the back end of a project by moving serious creative and innovative thinking to the front. The faster and the earlier and the more energetically a team STARTs the thinking process, the better everything will work out at the end.
“Manage the evidence” is one of the great principles of good leadership from the Harvard Business Review. Just as the mint on the pillow and the folded towels tell you when you walk into a hotel room that the room has been serviced, so too do thoughtful and timely messages to coworkers or staff tell them what has been done, what is going on, who is doing what, and what everyone can expect. This kind of awareness of others shows respect, is considerate, and dignifies relationships – “Manage the evidence”! Good leaders make keeping others informed a regular part of their leadership practice.