But what does it really mean?
The short answer is that everyone has a job to do.
The long answer requires some background.
In 2001 I worked for a company that was part of a worldwide group of companies. Although my workplace was in Nevada, the headquarters of the group is in Sweden. This often caused some disconnect, not only because of time zones, but also because of cultural differences.
Case in point: Corporate decided the group would sponsor a yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race. My immediate coworkers were baffled. Why would we care about some boat race, when we have NASCAR and football right here? Who watches boats?
It was going to be a hard sell, but fortunately, the president of our company, Bob Cook, was up to the task.
Bob started out by explaining that Corporate wanted to encourage unity throughout the group. Lofty goals, considering the group consisted of dozens of companies spread over every continent on the globe. Tens of thousands of employees from all backgrounds and nationalities.
Then he broke it down further.
"What do you do here?" he asked one of the production team. "I make electromagnetic locks."
"What do you do here?" he asked one of the techs. "I answer customer questions and troubleshoot problems."
"What do you do here?" he asked me. "I design ads, catalogs, packaging, and write articles."
"Not any more. What you all do here now is one thing. The same thing. You make the boat go faster."
You could almost see the question marks pop up over confused brows.
Bob explained that when Rich answered the client's questions, Les didn't have to, which allowed Les to do his job. When Les did his job, Mike could do his, and so on up and over and around until we got to "And when Josh on the shore team does HIS job, then Mark Rudiger can do his job of navigating, and our boat will go faster. Oh, by the way, did you know that Mark Rudiger is from Reno, Nevada? And that the sails used on our boat are made in Minden, Nevada?"
That day I realized that no matter what I actually DO at a job, the reason I'm there is to make the boat go faster.
Years later, I held the position of Administrative Assistant in the Facilities Department at the University of Kansas. During a staff roundtable, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Tim Caboni asked a few of us what we did. When he got to me, I said "I help educate students." (in my head, I still said "I make the boat go faster.")
People that knew me scratched their heads, I didn't interact at all with students in that position. But Chancellor Caboni smiled. "And how do you do that?" "I make sure they have functioning classrooms, well-lit building spaces, clean restrooms, and working equipment. You might say that I am actually the most important person on campus."
That brought a laugh, but it was true- my job description included sending technicians to fix what was broken, clean what was messy, and maintain what was working. Without me, the students would not be able to learn as well. I was an important part of what made the University of Kansas run.
No matter what you do at your job, make sure you're making the boat go faster. Find your company's core goal and make sure that everything you do makes that goal happen.
I'm proud to say that because of my efforts, my VOR team came from behind to clinch second place. Just think of what I could do to make YOUR boat go faster!