To achieve world-class status, an organization must stimulate creative thinking, encourage dialogue and introspection and promote understanding and new actions. Most important, it must give people - inside and outside the organization - something to care about. When people think of "world-class" organizations, chances are widely admired companies such as General Electric, Microsoft, British Airways, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola and Disney spring to mind. Yet what elevates these and other companies from merely "successful" to the more desired status of "world-class?" A closer look at the "best of the best" reveals several shared characteristics. Besides being the premier organization in their industries, world-class companies have talented people, the latest technology, the best products and services, consistent high-quality, a high stock price, and a truckload of awards and accolades acknowledging their greatness. Dig deeper and you'll also find that communication is practiced as a strategic process within these companies that's woven into their business planning, decision-making and organization-wide priorities. It defines their cultures by encouraging dialogue, feedback, interpretation and understanding. The Secret Behind World Class
Something else also distinguishes world-class companies from all the others. World-class companies give people - their customers, employees, suppliers, even the people in the communities in which they operate - something to care about. While it may sound simple, a closer look at some of the world's most respected and most successful companies indicates it's true. Look at Disney, for example. Beginning with CEO Michael Eisner, everyone at Disney gives people a reason to care about the company because everyone there takes great pains to make their "guests" believe in make-believe. All new hires at Disney experience a multi-step training program where they quickly learn the language: Employees are "cast members," customers are "guests," a crowd is an "audience," a work shift is a "performance," a job is a "part," a job description is a "script," a uniform is a "costume," the personnel department is "casting," being on duty is being "on stage," and being off duty is "backstage." The special language along with the complete immersion into the company's history and mythology, reinforces the Disney frame of mind, starting with its new employees. All this acts to strengthen the sense of purpose and cult-like unity, ultimately intensifying the underlying ideology: To make people happy. These things, including unity of purpose and preservation of image and ideology, work together to make Disney world-class. GE is another example of a world-class company that goes to great lengths to make people care by manufacturing high-performance products that consumers don't need to worry about. GE has invested millions of dollars in turning customer responses into business opportunities. The company's Answer Center, located in Louisville, Ky., receives customer inquiries 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and handles 15,000 calls a day from people considering the purchase of a GE product. Their computerized database contains more than 650,000 responses to a variety of inquiries, which allows customer representatives to provide knowledgeable answers at the touch of a button. GE sees its investment in managing customer inquiries as just as important as investments in production capacity, technology and personnel. From a communication standpoint, Jack Welch challenges managers to turn complex business initiatives into simple concepts so employees and customers can understand and contribute to their successful implementation. Finally, there's FedEx. CEO Fred Smith gave people a reason to care about FedEx because it took the unusual step of providing a guarantee in an uncertain world. FedEx has become synonymous with overnight delivery, much like Xerox is for copiers and Kleenex is for tissues. The company is built...
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