I have a whistle that has four notes, obtained in Chattanooga in the United States of America. There is nothing particularly special about these four different notes and they are almost weak-sounding, even when you blow on them individually with some force. When you blow them together, however, they produce the sound of the steam locomotive whistle, a beautiful sound that evokes memories and recreates childhood pictures of wonder and awe as you looked at a train, perhaps with your dad, in years gone by. The sound representing the steam locomotive whistle can never be produced when only one or two notes are blown – only when all four are operating together is one able to produce the well-loved sound.

In organisations, to be able to operate seamlessly at the highest level of potential requires the combined energy and focus from everyone involved, just like the whistle. For this to be achieved, the following is essential:

  • A shared vision that captures the hearts and minds of all employees. This vision should be easily understandable, well communicated and have elements of real stretch embedded (in other words, all will have to think out of the box and exert extra effort in order to be able to achieve it)
  • Relational authenticity. The building of trust across all levels in the organisation cannot be over-emphasised.
  • An environment of creativity and exploration. This context represents the expectation of individual contribution and assumes that any one person doesn’t have all the answers – it encourages new ideas and allows for mistakes as long as they were made in striving for excellence.
  • Communication depth. Communication must flow in all directions in the organisation. This should be transparent, effective and inclusive.
  • Recognition must be bestowed. Appropriate recognition for discretionary effort and usable good ideas should be given to employees.
  • Control must be delegated. Levels of authority, responsibility and accountability need to be appropriately passed down the levels in the organisation. People need some form of control over their respective areas of work.
  • Cooperation emphasised. Inter-departmental competition will inevitably lead to suspicion and withholding information. Cooperation should be encouraged.

Reaching the highest point of potential for the organisation needs everyone blowing their respective notes of the whistle; it requires everyone’s effort and contribution. Using the diversity and uniqueness of each person could generate new and different ideas, all of which when placed in the crucible of exploration and creativity, could produce meaningful results for the organisation.  All departments and individuals need to work together to achieve this.

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