Slogans can do much to rally a team or help you remember a concept. They can also be code words for a greater initiative or objective such as, Safety First, Quality is Number One or On time, Every time.
Dr. Deming, often called the “Father of the third wave of the industrial revolution”, hated slogans. He felt that actions always spoke louder than words. (Your actions are speaking so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying…) Therefore, hanging a banner with a few trite words could destroy a culture shift of embracing the changes needed in the processes to achieve the vision.
Not to disagree with Dr. D, I’d like to think that there is probably some middle ground between having slogans and not having any. Words can rally the team but only as far as the leader’s actions support the words. Once the team senses hollowness of the words due to a lack of authenticity, the words lose their luster. And as BB King says, the thrill is gone and the team can lose its motivation to be better.
What actions, as leaders, are we taking day-to-day to support the words we say and the slogans we use? Before creating the next great slogan, ask yourself, what “Safety First” looks like in your culture. From correct posture at the computer to wearing your hearing protection on the floor. Walk your office. Walk your floor. What is your goal? How does the slogan support the actual work?
In our complex world and in our complex businesses, it is difficult to ensure all words are understood. It is difficult to ensure all actions hit the mark. However, it all starts with ensuring that our motives are aligned: That we care about our actions more than our words. And that is the middle ground.