Think your organization needs revamping? Take this advice first.

Think your organization needs revamping? Take this advice first.

Despite all of the publications I’ve researched regarding strategy, I have not come across any that ignore value proposition and how an organization can be outfitted to optimize it. Some authors push value through branding, some through management best practices, and some through redefining market boundaries altogether. These books get read because so many people are looking for an edge or a solution to an outstanding problem, but at the end of the day, what every business leader should know is that you need a clear plan you can communicate and defend. Sometimes strategy involves looking inward, outside of the marketplace, to find ways to improve. I would warn most to be careful here though, and maybe consider taking these two pieces of advice before venturing out on a grand plan of organizational reinvention.

1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

One mistake I’ve witnessed from upper management revolves around solutions to modernize back office technologies that aren’t needed. Sometimes it’s a worthy project, perhaps cost becomes an issue, maybe your software is no longer being supported, but most times if it’s working, leave it alone. I have seen organizations pour millions into failed projects involving platform standardization with the vague goal of making the organization more agile. I mean, if everyone’s using the same software, we shouldn’t have any problems right? Unfortunately, this grand vision often means expensive consultants, efficiencies that never materialize, business processes that change before implementation can take place, and big budget overages.

My advice: if your current technology array on the back end is not a barrier to your business execution then leave it alone

2. Culture is top down

In my experience, a lot of companies profess a type of culture that can be at odds with reality. I have seen highly hierarchical organizations claim to be flat with distributed decision making. I have seen some of the “slow to hire/quick to fire” type companies demand top tier candidates but make below average salary offers. I have also seen organizations with a great culture that was better than what management even realized they had on their hands. Those were the best.

I have seen many organizations in my career either as an employee or a consultant, and the best ones always had some kind of dynamic leader people could model their own behavior against. They made it possible for their associates to take on new challenges, collaborate with others, and feel that their contribution was appreciated. All of this came from the top down and radiated out. If you want to right the ship from a toxic or ineffective culture, then you need to start modeling what you want to others as quickly as possible.

My advice: make sure the messaging about culture comes from leadership and more importantly, is demonstrated through action

3. Make sure your strategy makes sense to others

There was once a firm (that I’ll leave nameless) that realized they couldn’t compete with others on price for one of their product segments, but could market an accompanying technology that allowed their customer to use less of the resource. They thought this idea so good that they shifted a good deal of the company’s capital into supporting the business venture. Net/net, they reasoned, the customer would save money. However, the technology was not proprietary (anyone could get a better version of it at Home Depot) and the pitch to customers hid the noncompetitive rates because they were so off putting. This ultimately caused authenticity issues with the customer and an ensuing backlash.

Nobody at the mid management level was on board with the change in approach, it caused huge ramifications in a restructuring done to accommodate the business venture, and ultimately caused the president his job. The reason for his termination? The answer given by the CEO was “murky strategy.”

My advice: if it doesn’t make sense to the customer, it’s not going to make sense to your organization

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