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Chapter 3: The Roots of Engagement

instantly. All our bureaucracies melted. It didn’t matter what department you worked in, somebody was always ready to pitch in and do whatever it took to get the job done. It was a real journey of pride to pay back the government that had shown such faith in us. We had a shared direction and we were all totally involved in it.”

in the quest, they don’t have to be coerced to be engaged. The presence of “good and evil” in the story motivates them to try to win.

4. People want to know that their contributions make a significant impact or difference.

Then he said something surprising. “I can tell you the month, the week, the day, heck, the minute that we paid back the last dollar we owed to the government,” he said. “It was like somebody had taken a hammer and smashed this place. The adventure was over, and there wasn’t a new one to take its place in the hearts of the people here at Chrysler. This was the sad beginning of a significant decline in the performance of our business. In my mind, that absence of a compelling adventure was what kept people from creating a better company that could sustain itself over time. It was all about a purpose, a challenge to prove that we were worthy, that the trust extended to us was well placed.”

As we know, Chrysler went through several years of trying to regain its reputation for excellence, and then was sold and resold. Nothing to date has reclaimed that sense of adventure that propelled it during those tough years.

In simple terms, a strategy is an adventure. And a meaningful strategy captures a sense of purpose, of doing something together that is worth the effort. It creates incredible energy and a formidable challenge, and it unites people in the pursuit of outstanding achievement. This sense of adventure with purpose is a far cry from the jargonized rhetoric frequently heard in the strategy presentations that have become a mainstay in many organizations. Time after time, people we’ve worked with don’t know the score of the game or the status of the adventure. They really don’t realize what they’re up against, where they stand, and what they’re trying to accomplish as a business. When they understand the real challenges they face

People want to be written into the story, to know that what they do really makes a difference, especially in the lives of other people. This applies to all other areas of life as well as to business. If I’m there, I’m part of the story. It’s different because of me. In Chapter 2, we noted that when people dress up in tropical clothes and sing “Margaritaville,” they feel that they’re making the concert a greater experience for everyone, that what they’re doing is connected to the outcome of the event. And in the same way, that little old lady watching a game on TV with her baseball cap on backwards really believes she’s helping a rookie hit a home run.

If you’ve ever seen the midday parade down Main Street at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, you may have witnessed some of Disney’s senior leadership disguised as Donald Duck or Captain Hook. Whenever new executives join the staff at the Magic Kingdom, they’re required to participate in the parade. The reason: to see firsthand how what they do is reflected in the eyes of children. At a recent meeting, a senior leader at Disney told me that the organization wants to impress upon new executives that there is a direct connection between their daily work and the magic they create for people. He said, “You can’t take off that costume without feeling awe, wonder, amazement, and knowing that you made a difference in the lives of others.”

Engaged people feel that whatever they’re doing is unquestionably connected to making a difference in the lives of other people. If he’s engaged, the librarian who repairs books believes that he’s saving history for future generations. The hotel employee who sets up the breakfast bar believes that she’s helping the businessperson prepare for a successful day.

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