By Kevin Meyer
My wife and I are currently in Marrakech, Morocco, on one of our increasingly frequent trips to explore new locales. Truly a remarkable place, and with the tall snowcapped Atlas Mountains only an hour away in one direction, and the ocean in another, I'm convinced it's destined to become another mecca for sports enthusiasts similar to Queenstown, New Zealand. The people are exceptionally friendly – just three weeks ago CNN ranked it the third most welcoming country to visitors, coincidentally right after New Zealand. The craziness of the souks in the medina provide an interesting diversion.
One of the reasons my wife and I enjoy traveling so much is because we've become convinced of the importance of first trying to understand differences before making judgments. I guess we're sort of going to the gemba on our worldview. One example from right here in Morocco is how Islam is practiced as a positive, inclusive, compassionate religion – and they are appalled at how it has been corrupted to the contrary by the fringe fundamentalists. Gee, sounds familiar. As a side note, I've found the djellaba robe to be exceptionally comfortable, and I even bought one. Not sure I'll wear it to Walmart when I get home though.
The influence of Islam is pervasive, and one way it's readily apparent is through the Adhan, the "call to prayer" that you hear the Muezzins chant five times a day, usually via loudspeakers high on the minaret in every mosque. You might think that's a bit annoying, but aside from issues resulting from poor amplification, it's actually quite beautiful. Here's a YouTube version with English subtitles.
But think about this from a leadership perspective (yes, I finally got around to that…). Five times a day Muslims are reminded of their faith and are asked to reflect on it. And practicing Muslims will, whenever possible. Upon hearing the call at one point yesterday, our tour guide asked for a moment, found a corner in a private room, and performed the ritual. It only took a couple minutes. Five times a day the distraction of daily chaos (especially in a place like Marrakech!) is realigned to a larger ideal and purpose.
Leadership can be tough. Lean transformation and hence lean leadership even more so. One of the greatest difficulties is keeping both the leader and the team focused on what can be counterintuitive goals. Moving forward while grenades and distractions are being lobbed from all sides, trying to pull you back into a short-term mindset.
Take the time to discover and define the true purpose of the organization. Translate that into a long-term strategy with short- and intermediate-term objectives. Then communicate and reinforce that purpose, strategy, and thinking… over and over and over.
At least five times a day.