Of all the leadership lessons I’ve learned in my career, one that has resonated strongly has been ensuring “line of sight” for every individual in an organization.
What do I mean by “line of sight”?
It’s the direct connection from each person’s job to the organization’s mission and strategy. I believe it’s the leader’s responsibility to enable every member of an organization to have a line of sight — to understand, appreciate, and act on the connections between their daily work and the organization’s mission and strategy.
I tend to think in threes, so here are a few key reasons why I think line of sight is so important:
- Line of sight is crucial to effective and efficient decision making. The only real purpose of having an articulated strategy is to facilitate decision making. And staff members at every level need to make important decisions every day. It’s inefficient and ineffective to have every decision made by a small cadre of senior leaders. Ensuring that everyone has clear line of sight to the strategy and the mission is the best way to ensure they make the best decisions as often as possible.
- Line of sight creates connection to purpose and joy in work. Staff are unlikely to be engaged in their work unless they can see how and why what they’re doing each day links to strategy and contributes to the mission. At IHI, we believe — and the evidence shows — that finding joy in work reduces burnout, reduces turnover, and improves teamwork. And we know that the true driver of joy in work is connection to purpose. So line of sight is hugely important in that it helps boost engagement in work, connection to purpose, and joy in work.
- Finally, when you don’t have line of sight, you instead see a lot of low-value tinkering. I like to call it “faffing about” — a Scottish expression for wasting time or procrastinating. I’ve heard many times from staff that, “if they only understood the connections to the organization’s higher-level aims, they wouldn’t have wasted time doing this or that.” Staff need to know the “why.” We have a “no faffing about” policy here at IHI, and my job as a leader is to help everyone avoid faffing about by making it easy to see how their work connects to our strategy and mission.
Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series from IHI President and CEO Derek Feeley (@derekfeeleyIHI). Look for more of Derek’s posts on leadership, innovation, and improvement in health care in the “Line of Sight” series.
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