Eating the elephant
Worthy visions such as zero waste or zero infections may express an aspiration and capture the imagination. But the reality is that these are elephant-sized tasks that only the brave (or mad) will take on as serious and achievable goals. This is the story of how one organisation set themselves an incredibly ambitious goal and their herculean efforts to achieve it.
How do I tackle the really difficult issues?
This story is about how leaders go about tackling their toughest challenges – the mission-critical, ‘elephant-sized’ issues with no precedents or ready-made answers. Today there are plenty of them in business and in our wider society: from achieving zero waste, Zero Harm, zero infection, zero damage to the environment, through to tackling obesity, worklessness and child poverty. At the start, an elephant-sized issue seems impossible – and it will be, unless you can use the equivalent of the whole village to wrestle it to the ground.
From working closely with leaders tackling these issues, we know that breakthroughs require a different approach. You have to be curious, with a strong sense of purpose, and determined to do something bold and different – and you have to be brave, to stick with it when others question what you’re doing.
We’ve learned that it can’t be solved in a strategy session or by leaders thinking up the answers. Leaders who achieve results that no-one could have predicted involve the wider organisation and people
beyond its boundaries – the people who will be at the sharp end of making the strategy work. They’re also conscious of the organisational culture which shapes and can limit thinking. So they make good use of external ideas and perspectives to help break habits of leadership and culture.