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Organize your organization

Posted: September 9, 2008 8:24 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Vacations and long weekends are behind us, the economy remains a challenge and now is an excellent time to get refocused and reenergized, regardless of company size, industry or success to date.

"Having lost sight of the objective, we redoubled our efforts" is a quote from Pogo, the cartoon character. This is, unfortunately, what too many organizations are doing these days. Working harder is great, but to what end?

The late Peter Drucker, in conjunction with best-selling authors Jim Collins, Jack Welch and Rick Warren have co-authored "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization."

My recommendation is that their five questions will be the basis for an hour long meeting of the senior managers in your organization.

Allocate just 12 minutes per question and in an hour, not only will considerable discussion ensue, but the resulting decisions will energize and motivate the entire company to move forward with clarity and focus.

The first question is "Who is our customer?" What a simple question! The answer may be more complicated because too many companies struggle to make sure that every possible type or variation of potential customer is included in the definition. In fact, eliminating possible customer types makes the job of selling, producing, servicing and delivering that much easier.

Getting crystal clear about whom the organization's customer is can improve focus, but for more reasons than immediately come to mind.

The second question is "What does the customer value?" It is the rare company that knows.

Those organizations that understand what the customer values and then provide what is asked for will flourish. Those that don't know will remain at a competitive disadvantage until they find out what is wanted, needed and sought after by their customer.

The easiest way to identify what it is that the customer seeks in terms of value is to spend time with them. While time is at a premium, customers will invest time with suppliers that have a track record of performance.

Taking time to learn what your best customers want is a rare and valuable commodity and the information gathered can be used to secure more customers.

The third question is "What is our mission?" Many companies have a mission statement, which answers some critical questions such as "what do we do here and why are we doing it?" but many do not. Developing a mission statement is critical for focus and decision making and provides tremendous clarity for every employee.

If you want engagement and buy in, first develop a company mission statement and then take the time to create one for each department.

The fourth question is "What is our plan?" Do we have a strategy? Do we have goals? Can those goals be measured? Who will be responsible for executing each portion of the plan? When will this be done? What do we need to execute the plan? What do the financials look like?

One of the biggest problems that surface in companies without a plan is that they almost always have too many people on the payroll.

Instead of working to execute a well thought-out plan focused on results and performance, the organization focuses on effort. So, when someone needs more work done, they head to the boss to request another person to be hired. No mind is paid to what the person will accomplish as it relates to and fits into the plan, because there is no plan.

By the way, effort is never measured, because everyone thinks they are working hard; ask any employee if you doubt my word!

This leads to the final question, "What are our results?" This is a tough question to answer if goals aren't set as part of the planning process.

Most organizations do a pretty good job at setting sales or revenue goals. It's what happens below that line where things are murky. And that is where the cost of those extra people appears on the profit and loss statement. Since they can't be tied to any particular result, they tend to stay on the payroll, to be joined by others over time.

This week I am asking you to take these five questions and one hour and invest it in becoming a more successful organization. I guarantee that no one on your team will be captured or killed during the hour and there will be no reason for anyone to disavow your existence.

I do guarantee that your organization will be better off for having invested in addressing these questions, whether it be for validation or for changing how and who you do business with.

Kenneth W. Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums in Valencia. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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