An ear to the ground… (or ground up?)
How does your business improvement process “stack up” against your competition…?
In technology, the “stack” refers to the operating components that ride on top of and then depend on the lower layer for their own functionality. In business that “stack” may be the hierarchical model often depicted in org charts (as if that inversely-stacked allegiance is really honored in actual business relationships). But that said, there is certainly an interdependence and certain components do support and empower the successive ones – as stated here:
“Values should underpin Vision, which dictates Mission, which determines Strategy, which surfaces Goals, that frame Objectives, which in turn drives the Tactics that tell an organization what Resources, Infrastructure and Processes are needed to support a certainty of execution.“ – (Mike Myatt 1988)
Having the right framework, foundation, and functionality can make all the difference. That is what has been studied and proven over the years, regardless of whatever name is given to the current business theology. Designing for change is one of those concepts offered by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management. Each theory echoes some similar constructs and suggests at least the following practical considerations.
The overall environment in which a company operates can define it – and enhance or limit its ultimate impact. It turns out that it is not just the course of action that is planned and executed but also the ability to change course in route to the intended destination, dynamically. All the work put into a business plan to sail toward success will only be as effective as the response of those who make dynamic adjustments as circumstances demand. That is why published plans are more likely to fail than online tools that provide a ‘live-in’ framework in which to “adjust the sails as the wind changes, and reach the shore, safely”.
There are only two things that stop a company in its tracks on the path toward success: People and People. The people that want (pull) whatever it is that you intend to provide are the primary foundation of your business. Until one person wants and buys your offering, there is no business, only a theory about the demand. The people that provide what you offer (push) are the other half of the foundation to your enterprise. That supply chain must be integrated to respond appropriately in terms of timing, quantity, and quality. If there are any broken links, those other people (customers) can and will go elsewhere to meet their needs, needs that change daily!
Defining a value proposition that meets the need of THOSE people (customers) and implementing the processes undertaken by YOUR people (suppliers) to meet those needs is done within the framework of your operations. Putting the entire chain together and making sure it doesn’t break is accomplished within the framework of the whole market dynamic. But that is often not what is carried out – or done well – and that integrated ‘dynamic’ (pull-push) often results in broken ‘links’.
The only things that can interfere with successfully creating that value chain are two things: people and people. If THOSE people who want something decide that they want something else (that you don’t or won’t offer) then your offer is immediately unacceptable. The only thing you need to know is what they want – today and tomorrow (not yesterday).
The only thing that keeps YOUR people from providing what is requested is the process by which your people respond to that request – along that supply chain (process), immediately!
So, the most important question about your approach comes down to this –
“Is it immediate?”
Imagine filling your gas tank as you take a cross-county trip by only using the miles-per gallon report from an earlier trip. You would likely find yourself out of gas somewhere along the interstate. Yet that is similar to how we use actuarial evidence of past performance, even if it is done within what-if analysis or other business ‘projections’. Imagine driving in a manner or at a rate of speed based on the average air pressure in your tires last year. A small nail in the road can alter your course or bring you to a complete stop, immediately.
Neither of these analogies is likely true in your business, right? That being said, what are you doing that is NOT based on feedback from the entire chain – IMMEDIATELY?
How long is the delay before you hear from THOSE people – or YOUR people?
Perhaps more importantly, what do you hear from them and how much ‘filtering’ occurs before you hear it? Is whatever you hear filtered by:
- timing (out of date or after the impact)
- relevance (lacking in broader or related details)
- politics (flavored by vested interest or self-preservation)
You can forget what the competition is planning – if you don’t find out what your customers want. You can forget what mid-managers report after ‘sanitizing’ it if you don’t get in direct touch with everyone that touches your supply process. Your success depends on the unbroken and effective linkage of these PEOPLE, and knowing what they know about you and your business.
Very likely you are not immediately aware of what is REALLY happening
with THOSE people – or with YOUR people.
The only way a business can respond and improve and survive is by using a real-time ‘dashboard‘. You need to know how all components are re-ACTING. You need
- an integrated view of the entire framework of your market environment
- as heard from the voices of Those people and Your people who are the foundation
- for adjusting the current functionality that you use to keep the entire chain intact
and you need it dynamically – immediately and continuously.
If your business plan is published, it is also out of date, immediately. If you aren’t hearing from everyone in YOUR organization, be assured that some recruiter or placement firm is. If you aren’t hearing from THOSE people, be assured that your competition already has.
And don’t overlook what has become ‘the last mile’ in that chain. THEY are also already connected and discussing you and your business information around the globe/24/7/365. Even if you choose not to actively participate in ‘social networking’, you are already being (mis?)represented there. Your challenge is to keep an ear to the ground and gain equitable representation and equitable remuneration within this new relationship economy.
If your business results aren’t stacking up to suit you (or to suit your customers), that ‘information’ is already putting you and your company at risk of being “ground up” in the continuous process of competition, improvement, and survival – and immediately.
Written by gsbigger
January 27, 2010 at 9:52 am
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