Handling the vision Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Michael B. Romano realizes it’s not enough to simply know where you’re heading in business.

As president and CEO of Associated Material Handling Industries Inc., he’s learned that everyone working under him also needs to know that direction because if everyone understands the ultimate goals, then they can work collectively to achieve them. He equates it to a basketball team where everyone plays a different position, but if everyone plays their position well, then the team wins.

To ensure equal playing time for his employees, he works with members of his management team to create a vision for the organization and then allows them to develop ways to achieve it. He says that if he mandated everything, nobody would care about those things. But by creating solutions themselves, employees are more inclined to get things done at the material handling storage company, which posted 2007 revenue of $117 million.

Smart Business spoke with Romano about how to effectively create a vision for your organization and get everyone playing on the same page.

Create a vision. You first have to look at what is the purpose of your organization. The vision should answer, ‘What is the need an organization is trying to address? How is your organization differentiated? What makes it unique?’ Then you should consider and address, ‘Who are the beneficiaries of what you do?’

There should be a purpose statement, which basically says what the organization seeks to accomplish, why does it exist, and then there should be an activity description — what exactly is the business? Many companies get sidetracked and get involved in unproductive activities because they’re working outside their core competencies because they haven’t truly defined what their business activity is.

Then, beyond that, the mission and vision should include and consider the cultural values that you find important and that you would like the organization to hold in common and endeavor to practice. That would begin to establish your culture.

The vision can be categorized in those three areas — the purpose, the business and the values. If someone thinks in terms of those three areas and answers some questions in those three areas, that’s when they start getting their hands around their future vision.

Revisit that vision. I and our organization must embrace our strategic planning process. It starts with setting a vision and mission for the organization. It then goes through evaluating the environment in which we operate, both internally and externally.

We do this every year, and then, based on opportunities that we feel we have in the marketplace or possible shortcomings, we develop initiatives that drive individual departments to develop their own goals and strategies to fulfill those.

Visit that every year and challenge it. We may tweak our mission statement based on things that we’re trying to stress. That’s actually done at the beginning of our planning process because we want to make sure that the plans we then develop the following year are allowing us to constantly work toward that vision that we’ve established.

Get buy-in. It’s not only my vision but the vision of executive management, and, if we’ve done it right, the vision shared by all employees.

The key is to make sure that everyone in the organization, from technician to general manager, are in the process, so they’re bought in to the process, they feel they have contributed to the development of the plan, and they fully understand their role in the execution and the success of the plan. That is fundamental to the whole empowerment.

We bring the planning process all the way down to the individual through the performance review process. The employee is reviewed every year on how they perform relative to their contribution to their department’s plan.

Every employee within a department knows not only the department plan but their role in it. At the end of the year, that’s ultimately how they’re judged.

It goes back to the buy-in. These are not top-driven. The vision is top-driven, but the rest of the plan, all the way down to the department level, is developed by those people, so that’s the key — their involvement.

Review employees. The employee performance review is simply an embodiment of that department’s goals and strategies, so when an employee looks at their review form, they see their department’s goals and strategies.

A manager is supposed to review all of those with them and agree as to what areas they’re going to be involved in. What is their role? Those areas are then marked as applicable, and that’s what the employee gets reviewed on the following year.

That employee review process is what creates the employee traction with the planning process because it forces the manager to review the goals and strategies for their department and to make sure the employee knows their role in the execution of the plan. You then let a good employee, who has the basic skills and capabilities, go out and do the job and make decisions and receive coaching and mentoring when they need it. ...

If they understand what they do [and] ... what their department contributes to the overall organization, all of a sudden, they feel a part of this. That’s what it’s all about — creating that inclusion-ary environment.

HOW TO REACH: Associated Material Handling Industries Inc., www.associated-allied.net or (877) 628-9705.