A woman rushed up to famed violinist Fritz Kreisler after a concert and cried, “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do.” Kreisler replied, “I did.”

There’s commitment and then there’s commitment. Here’s a scale of the wide range of executive commitment we often encounter:

  1. Permission – allows managers or staff support people to proceed as long as it doesn’t cost too much and disrupt the “real business.”
  2. Lip Service – gives speeches and writes memos exhorting everyone to improve. Some budgets and resources are allocated to a piecemeal series of programs. There is no strategic improvement plan, the process is not part of operational management’s responsibilities, and the executive is not personally involved in education or training.
  3. Passionate Lip Service – the executive attends an abbreviated overview of the program being given to everyone else. Some elements of an implementation plan are shakily in place. Passionate Stump Speeches urge everyone to “get going.”
  4. Involved Leadership – the executive attends all training first in its entirety, then gets trained to deliver sessions to others. The improvement process is the first item on all meeting agendas and priority lists. Managers are held accountable and rewarded for their contributions to the efforts. The executive group is actively leading the way.
  5. Integration – day-to-day operating decisions have been delegated to increasingly autonomous frontline teams. The majority of senior management’s time is spent with customers, suppliers, teams, and supervisors, gathering input, long-term direction, and managing the organization’s Focus and Context by providing meaning through the vision, values, and purpose.

The degree of commitment builds and accumulates from #1 through to #5. The effectiveness and lasting impact of your improvement effort is exponentially increased the closer you and your executive team are to point #5.

I hope this generalized advice is useful. On our web site, you can find a major section with about 10 articles on Reward and Recognition.