Life in the business world is complicated and we can’t change that.  People are unpredictable and events are uncertain.  Yet, we can navigate through the chaos by simplifying the way we think and cooperate to deliver value despite the pitfalls.

It starts with Clarity of Vision.  At InSource, we are here to serve others well so that our needs can be provided in return.  At all levels, internally and externally, we do not want to shift that into reverse.  We are striving to build an enduring company.  Our Vision states, “Our customers consider us essential and their most responsive supplier.”

Then there’s the Foundation.  At InSource, our guiding principles embrace stewardship, virtue, customers, quality, integrity, dignity, innovation, growth, community, privately-held, and sharing.  These principles are especially applicable to chaotic and stressful situations and conditions as they are to all of life.

The following questions help us at InSource focusing on serving others well.  Perhaps they could have a broader application.

Are we Alert and Aware?  We need to know our customers’ requirements, applications, business conditions, preferences, and ways of doing business.  We need to know supply chain capabilities and what our suppliers have to offer and what they can do to help us serve others.  We need to know what competitors are offering as we know our customers have a choice.  We need to know our capabilities and the opportunities we have to improve them.  We need the vigilance to look for evidence that the game is changing.  The fruit of awareness is knowledge, experience, data, and most importantly, contacts.

What is pertinent and what is clutter?  An important way to simplify is to distinguish between pertinent and clutter and discard clutter.  We need to know what is time wasting or wheel spinning and quit doing it.  If we are alert and aware, we will uncover some clutter and we need to be careful not to discard the pertinent in the process.  First, is it within our clarity of vision (Serve others well?  Provide for our needs in return?  Build an enduring company?)? Second, is it building a worthy structure on our foundation?  Third, is it supported by the team?

Analyzing the pertinent knowledge, experience, and data turns up opportunities and threats, and leads to better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses.  It also becomes feedback for existing capabilities, fodder for improving them, and the substance of plans, strategies, and action items.

 What to do and When to do It?  The foundation is an annual business plan.  This includes an income/expense budget, a balance sheet, and goals and strategies to achieve the plan.  The budget has monthly projections and separate budgets for business sectors or departments sufficient to guide optimum performance.  Typically this takes about 8 weeks from mid-September to mid-November and is approved by the board of directors.  The Long Range Plan projects income/expense budgets and balance sheets out five years with longer range goals and strategies.  It is typically done every 2 years. 

On an individual or team and task level, a plan or action item is formulated based on the information, identified options, costs, and priority.  The degree of formality depends on the scope and task.  Tasks, tools, and responsibilities are assigned, and timelines are put in place.  Communication, Cooperation, Coordination, and Focus are key to successful teams.

How is it going?  No matter how convinced we are that our plans, strategies, or action plans are right, we need to verify that they are effective.  We need measurements and check points.  We need to communicate with our internal and external customers to be sure they are satisfied.  We need to improve what is working and change what is not.  We need to value tough times and fear complacency. 

Are we learning and innovating?  We are passionate about learning, innovating, and problem solving.  We are passionate about filling needs and creating value for our customers.  We place a high value on learning.  We apply creativity and teamwork and seek new capabilities to provide growth opportunities.  We work on products that are useful to mankind.  We are willing to teach others, to learn from others who teach us, and to have open discussions so that all can learn.  We seek to glean the lessons of life and to apply those lessons for the betterment of all.

Is our heart in it?  When we view work as a chore or a drag or a necessary way to earn a paycheck, life seems more complicated and the challenges more daunting or severe.  We can’t change the complexity of the business world.  Nay, we expect it to move at an even faster pace.  We simplify by how we prepare for and deal with the complicated things.  Simplification starts in the mind.  If we put our heart in our work and have genuine regard for whom we work for and with, it becomes exciting rather than a chore.  If we can’t wait to come to work at the beginning of the work day and to return home at the end of the work day, then we have a good balance in life.  We become willing to exercise discipline to provide better quality, service, and value.  We value humility because it takes us out of self so that we can look up and out in devotion and service to others.  We would like others to do these things for us.  A German lady living in Chicago said “How you call into the forest is how it echoes in return!”  How true that is in all our relationships.

Life in the business world is complicated and we can’t change that.  People are unpredictable and events are uncertain.  Yet, we can navigate through the chaos by simplifying the way we think and cooperate to deliver value despite the pitfalls.  We are here to serve others well so that our needs can be provided in return.  And, we can have a rich experience in life along the way.