Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Accomplishing Your Impossible Mission

Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it…

These words kicked off one of the best action TV shows ever produced.  Each week, Jim Phelps, leader of the Impossible Missions Force, somehow found a way to accomplish what so many around him thought was impossible.  You know, it says a lot about what people consider to be “impossible” when some people routinely find a way to accomplish the mission while others are content to say it just can’t be done.

We face the same issue today in the utilities industry.  We have a seemingly impossible mission ahead of us today.  Run a successful utility operation in the face of ever expanding regulations, a troubled economy that has dramatically cut our revenues, increasing maintenance cost on an aging infrastructure, a disengaged workforce, a customer base not receptive to rate increases…it certainly looks impossible.  Yet, somehow, there are utility managers that find a way to accomplish this mission while others satisfy themselves by saying it can’t be done.  How do they do it and, more importantly, how can we all learn from their example?

Mission: Impossible was certainly an entertaining show but it was so much more than that.  It actually contains a wealth of management lessons that can be applied equally well to accomplishing our impossible missions we face here in the utility industry.  Let’s look at a few of these lessons over the next few weeks:

First, every mission started out the same way:  Jim Phelps finding out his team’s mission from some sort of recording device hidden all over the city.  One of the first questions put to him was this one, “Your mission, should you decide to accept it…”   Did Jim Phelps have a choice whether to accept the mission or not?  Of course he did!  He could have said, “No”…but could he have done so and still been the leader of the IMF? Not at all!  This is a key concept not only for you but for everyone on your team.  We all have choices, but what we choose opens and closes doors.  As IMF team Leader, Jim Phelps did not have to accept the mission…but he could not be the IMF leader unless he did.
As utility managers, you don’t have to make the tough choices that come with management… but you can’t be a manager unless you do.  As utility workers, you don’t have to be drug free or care about our customers…but you cannot work for our utility unless you make the right choice.  Instilling these lessons into your people is what will set you apart as a success in this or any business. 
Are YOU ready to accept your mission?