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Eliminating the Gap

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I spent the end of last week near the beautiful Oregon coast.  It is an amazing part of the country.  Being there again reminded me of an experience I had just a couple of weeks ago.  I was there teaching a Destination Thinking for Leaders seminar to the strong and engaged leaders of TriQuint Semiconductor.  It was very rewarding experience.

A few months before this Destination Thinking seminar, that included TriQuint’s senior staff and their direct reports (53 people in all), I worked with TriQuint’s CEO, Ralph Quinsey, to create a “destination vision.” The process began by articulating a description of what TriQuint would look like in Q4 2013.

A lot of us are familiar with vision statements and the reasons we use them.  However, in my work with companies all over the country, I point out that there is a big difference between a vision statement and a Vision. A vision statement by itself has marginal value.  Sometimes, inadvertently, it can even lead to less unity because of what I call “cargo phrases.”  A cargo phrase is a phrase that encapsulates a “boat-load” of meaning for the author but may convey a different definition to the reader.  A good example might be phrases like, “high customer satisfaction” or “improve the quality of our product.”  If team members differ in their respective definitions of the cargo phrases, everyone thinks they are on the same page, but they are not.  The net result is unintended disunity.

The crux of Destination Thinking is to stand in the future and look back.  From that place in the future we can then ask several key questions about how we got there, and what specific things had to happen in order for us to reach this new destination.  It is a powerful way to accelerate progress because it helps leaders see exactly what needs to occur in order to create the desired future state.

Once the initial description was defined, I posed a series of questions to Ralph, to open up the cargo phrases so that his intent was clear and specific.  As we worked together, the cargo phrases were clarified and a lofty, achievable destination—one that could actually be visualized—started to emerge.

About half-way into this process, Ralph sent the newly emerging vision to his direct reports to get their feedback and insights.  Their suggests were woven and blended into the description.  By the time the final draft was ready, the entire Senior Staff had its fingerprints on it, and there was a solid unity and buy-in.

The end result:  TriQuint’s 2013 Destination Vision — a detailed, narrative description of exactly where TriQuint will be in three years.

But, what about the gap between the then and now?

At Quma Learning, we have developed a highly successful model for closing those elusive gaps.  The Destination Thinking Model works on personal gaps, team gaps, and company gaps.  During the seminar, I led TriQuint’s leaders in an exercise so they could experience the power of the model.  After selecting a specific problem they had been wrestling with in some aspect of their lives, personal to professional, each leader applied the model to their problem. They were amazed and impressed by the insights they received!  And they were ready and eager to use it to close the gap between TriQuint’s 2013 Destination Vision and TriQuint’s immediate reality.

By the end of that day, they knew what their company would look like in three years coupled with a very good idea of what had to happen on a company level, on a team level, and on an individual level in order to bring that vision into working reality.

And I have no doubt that they will do it.

My confidence in this team stems from previous experience.  Back in 2005, I was invited to present a seminar on destination thinking at an earlier vintage of TriQuint’s current Leadership Forum.  The focus then was on the creation of a rather lofty five-year vision for 2010 — a significant stretch from the then current state.  At last month’s meeting, TriQuint was celebrating the full realization of that very goal!  Laughingly, I told them I didn’t want to take all of the credit, and then in genuine acknowledgment of them, I offered my sincerest congratulations.

At the end of the day, TriQuint held an awards banquet and celebrated the accomplishments of their team, and they also presented me with an award: “Best Story-Teller Award.”

It was a humorous and kind gesture to symbolize the synergy we had felt that day. But in every way, I am also very honored to be TriQuint’s “best storyteller.”  Especially because their current success and future accomplishments are not fiction.  They are the true story of a group of people dedicated to their vision, to each other, and to turning their Destination Thinking into a reality.

I am interested in your thoughts.

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