September 2008

Lesson to learn: Share the vision

By Gregory Hale, InTech, Editor

We have all been through the same scenario before. Our chief executive stands before a gathering and talks about how well the company is doing. Revenues are up. Profits continue to rise, and next quarter looks good. Stockholders are happy, so that means everyone else should be happy.

"What about the future?" a question comes from the audience. "Where do we go from here?" "Any new business opportunities?"

The answer comes in more nebulous business-speak than a Dilbert cartoon. In short, there is no vision, only platitudes about keeping our nose to the grindstone and continuing to work hard so we can have a profitable next quarter. Leadership in three-month spurts.

Then there are companies that are the exact opposite. Take Austin, Tex.-based National Instruments. Co-founder, President, and Chief Executive Dr. James Truchard knows the path to success is not in the fast lane going 90 miles per hour, but truly figuring out what the problem is and then finding a solution. He stood before a packed auditorium at NIWeek08 last month and said the company is on a mission: He said he feels his company needs to focus on keeping the environment clean.

"The key to green engineering is understanding the very complex issues we see around the globe," Truchard said, sporting a symbolic green shirt during his keynote address. "The second part is fixing it. We can measure, acquire, analyze, and present-and then fix it in terms of design and deploy. We can find out what the problem is and then solve it by the design process.

"Fundamentally," Truchard said, "we see this as an opportunity to make a difference in the work you are doing."

He has a vision.

Green engineering is a very popular subject right now. Thanks to a heavy push from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the topic is top-of-mind across the globe. Do not think for one moment, though, NI will allow thinking green to go away when some other fad becomes popular. Truchard is in it for the long haul. "There are lots of little steps toward success in this process. With the technology we have, we can make a difference," he said.

Green engineering is not just an altruistic move on NI's part. It plans on using that message to increase its revenues, as any smart company would do.

This is just one case of having a vision, understanding what to do, communicating the message, and taking a stand. You can most likely go up to anyone at NI and ask him or her about green engineering, and they will be able to tell you what it is all about.

Does your company share its vision with everyone? If it does, then consider yourself lucky.

It seems pretty basic. How can any company succeed without its leader sharing a vision, goals, or what the organization stands for with everyone so they all know what direction the ship is headed? Most would call that complete buy-in.

This is the age of information and communication. Why not start with sharing the company's vision and plan for the future.

Talk to me:ghale@isa.orgor (919) 990-9275.