Leaders build or strengthen their organizational glue—purpose/mission/culture—while launching enterprise-wide change initiatives, which require disciplined execution—the grease. [Effective leaders work from a perspective where] glue and grease exist in parallel. ~Douglas A. Ready and Emily Truelove
This is not necessarily a new concept, but authors Ready and Truelove may have presented it in a new analogy – the glue and the grease – which connotes some interesting visual images.
The organizational glue should remind people why they come to work every day. I’ve seen a number of organizations where the vast majority of employees can recite the mission statement or purpose, but stating a mission doesn’t make it glue. Author and visiting professor at London Business School, Gary Hamel, might suggest that the stronger an organization’s mission, the less need for layers of management because employees are driven more by the mission than by their manager. It should also be noted that a strong mission is intended to mean how sticky the glue is or well the glue bonds; not how firm or aggressive the mission’s language. The glue will create a unified culture that’s prepared for disciplined execution.
The grease drives productive change. In practical terms, the grease is a methodical plan, detailed in a series of work initiatives that are aligned with the organization’s purpose. Another word for methodical could be disciplined; it’s a plan that’s not only well thought out; it’s executed with an almost regimented series of targets and milestones.
Many organizations have a very worthy mission, but many leaders stop there; consequently, so does the organization. Mission alone does not create a sustainable future. It’s an organization of all glue and no grease. Whether an organization’s mission is to make as much money has humanly possibly or to obliterate poverty, both require a methodical plan that’s aligned with the organization’s purpose in order to achieve their mission. They both need disciplined execution.
There are a number of young leaders who are changing how organizations “execute” or grease the skids. Leaders like Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS; Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos; Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook; and even music sensation Taylor Swift who serves as her own manager and clearly does it quite well. All of these young leaders have something in common – disciplined execution. They not only move very deliberately toward a specific mission, they do it with unwavering discipline.
Glue and grease; it’s kind of like oil and water, yin and yang, right and left, and north and south. They are polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces that are interconnected and interdependent; and they give rise to each other in turn.
Balancing glue and grease is something effective leaders artfully manipulate every day.