IN MY OPINION: Chartered Management Institute companion Alan Jones, MD of TNT Express, shows how to infuse a sense of purpose throughout a firm

IN MY OPINION: Chartered Management Institute companion Alan Jones, MD of TNT Express, shows how to infuse a sense of purpose throughout a firm - Making any business operate with a clear sense of purpose and a uniform approach can be an organisational min

by ALAN JONES, MD, TNT Express
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Making any business operate with a clear sense of purpose and a uniform approach can be an organisational minefield. The requirement to instil a common vision and establish consistent processes everywhere is particularly relevant for TNT Express, as we can only be as strong as the weakest link in a chain of multi-faceted processes.

Our worldwide business is highly complex, requiring us to meet extremely tight door-to-door delivery deadlines using large numbers of company-owned vehicles and aeroplanes. We must therefore put a clear structure into that environment to ensure that the processes run smoothly so that our 40,000 staff, who work round the clock, often overcoming numerous obstacles, can keep the promises made to our customers. This is a huge challenge for any business, and I believe that success can only be accomplished if everyone shares the vision of the organisation.

Leadership is behaviour that creates constancy and unity of purpose together with an environment where people and the organisation can excel. Accordingly, a company has to have an enduring vision that unifies everyone working in that organisation behind a common purpose. In our case, the company has a simple vision: it is to be the fastest and most reliable express carrier. The vision needs to be clear so that everyone knows what is required and can identify personally with the objectives of the company.

It is the job of management to make sure that people have challenging workloads, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed or demotivated.

A blame culture must be avoided and we need to create a climate where people feel valued. Employees have to know that if they do well their efforts will be recognised with promotion opportunities based on merit.

Companies need an environment where managers go out of their way to identify good performances and to thank their people for making it happen.

An environment that allows people to excel is always orderly and well organised. At TNT Express we have a diverse workforce employed at numerous sites in most countries of the world and we need everyone to be working towards common goals. Processes provide the systematic framework to make this happen and give everyone the opportunity to cut across traditional functional boundaries by focusing on achieving what customers ask of the company. Processes do not have to be unique but must be agreed, documented, implemented and owned by employees.

A proven framework of systematic approaches is the excellence model of the European Foundation for Quality Management. An important element of this model involves the identification and definition of processes. This has become ingrained in our thinking and has been adopted in all parts of the business. Our goals linked to each process are achievable and understood by everyone in the company. The excellence model may not sound like the most radical business philosophy, but I feel it is still one of the great hidden secrets of management and certainly a key to our success.

Throughout 2001, we applied seven key processes uniformly across the global business, and the effect has been tremendous. The seven processes are interdependent and address all the areas that we need to focus on to achieve success. These are: win and keep profitable customers; deliver on time and in perfect condition; issue clean invoices and get paid; recruit, equip, develop and empower people; ensure safe and secure workplaces; create and strengthen competitive edge; and make money. The seventh process is the outcome of the other six and we want every one of our employees to feel responsible for making money for the business, which in turn helps them benefit from our success.

Processes must be continuously improved to help people do their jobs.

One of the vital elements is that good ideas are shared and two-way communications are encouraged, with an open management style. Experienced managers have learnt over the years that service failures and indeed most other problems occur through poor communications. Knowledge has to be shared and everyone in the company needs to think about who can benefit from the vital information in their hands.

Good companies are made up of lots of little things done well. As an example, worldwide recognition of the company as an Investor in People has enabled us to equip all employees around the globe to deliver customer satisfaction by aligning individual training needs with overall business objectives.

The final part of the mix is to provide opportunities for all employees to be part of the vision and to reward them for their achievements. One of the biggest challenges is to create enough career progression opportunities and to show that we care about people as individuals. Promoting extensively from within ensures that everyone in the organisation can fulfil his or her potential. As managers, our job is to improve the value of the company and make a profit for the shareholders. We succeed by valuing, recognising and rewarding the outstanding contributions of the many dedicated people who make it happen for our customers.

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