One of the great benefits about my role as a strategy consultant is the opportunity to learn lessons from different industries, different business models and indeed different sized organisations.
One of the key learnings I am taking out of all of my engagements is that any organisation irrespective of size, business model or global reach needs focus. There are 4 critical factors that need particular attention, but can be ‘overgrown’ by other priorities.
1. Your Demand
Understanding your customers. Unless you understand what your customer truly values (by parting with their hard earned, now and in the near future) then you are not going to stay in business for long. This may sound obvious, but it is surprising the number of organisations who lack the knowledge of what their customers want or need to make their lives better, what’s impacting on their customers and what their customers want to achieve in their lives. Often the relationship is driven from a product or inside out perspective – how can we sell more stuff to our customers rather than building around making the experience of finding, buying and using your product or service an outstanding one for THEM (Outside in).
2. Your Capability
Understanding your own value chain. This is the game changer for any organisation that has survived the growth pains of being a start-up. Whether you are a small to medium sized technology company or a global mining company, knowing how value flows (aka how you can make or lose money) through your organisation is vital as it allows you to make informed decisions on what you need to do to improve productivity or reduce costs. Fundamentally, you need to understand what is involved in delivering your products and services to market: what are the regulatory requirements of your business, what are the key processes, who does what, when, what skills are required, where are the bottlenecks. Having a good understanding will then allow you to make ‘fact based’ decisions that will deliver you most business value or reduce most business risk. Otherwise you are either just guessing (gut feel) or responding to the ‘squeakiest wheel’.
3. The Force
Creating the right culture. What are the prevailing environmental forces that shape the way your organisational community thinks, feels and acts when interacting with and within your business. Is the culture you have the one you have inherited or ‘just have’ or is it the result of careful planning and shaping by you and your leaders?
What is the right culture to sustainably grow your business? Sometimes when you are battling for survival you may feel you need to tighten control such as reducing delegated authority to get spending under control, or being directive in getting critical work done. This may save your organisation in the short term; it won’t create the right culture to sustainably grow your organisation.
Again irrespective of size, if you get the culture right, the rest can often work itself out. While every organisation believes itself to be unique, there are common elements:
1. Building a shared vision and belief in that vision
2. Creating a simple strategy or strategies that people understand and can engage with
3. Creating the sense of team that can achieve that vision
4. Establishing a ‘safe to fail’ environment of trust and innovation throughout your organisation
5. Transparency of decision-making
6. Embracing diversity and inclusion
4. Your Drive
Leadership (the not so secret sauce). It would also come as no surprise that positive visible leadership is a common thread in all successful organisations big and small, public or private. It’s both the fuel and vehicle to get things done. Whatever the flavour of leadership is within your organisation, my observation after nearly 35 years in leadership roles is if you want a self managing, innovative team who understand your business and are able and willing to take proactive decisions and actions to further your organisation then a rigid top down authoritarian leadership style just won’t work.
What does work, is an engaging collaborative leadership approach that empowers and holds people accountable at all levels. This is not ‘soft and fuzzy’ this is working with people, agreeing on the highest priority strategies and actions and holding them accountable for execution. This is far more likely to engender a clear sense of purpose, trust and open dialogue so necessary to understand and engage with your customers, build the right value chain delivery and the right culture to sustainably grow your business.
There is no coincidence that these 4 Factors are socially oriented. Successful organisations are made up of people after all. Understanding these factors, how they are matured and leveraged holds the key to sustainable success particularly in times when disciplined, precise execution is required.
How does your organisation shape up against each of these areas? If you’d like to explore how you could harness these factors in your organisation I’d be happy to help.