Gone are the days of consistency, predictability, stability, or maintaining the status quo defining organizational strength. Instead, an organization’s very survival is dependent on its ability to embrace volatility and change in the marketplace. Organizations that can demonstrate adaptability can survive and have some short-term success. However, short-term success does not define an organization’s real strength. For organizations to have long-term, sustained success, they not only need to adapt to change, they must demonstrate the ability to do more with less, respond quickly to change, and to create change. Organizations that can do this effectively will not only survive, but thrive.
Organizational strength is not measured by what you build, what you sell, or how you are structured. Today, organizational strength is measured by three foundational assets – Efficiency, Speed, and Innovation, along with 12 intangible assets. These 15 assets make up the body that covers the engine that drives companies to success. Assessment of these 15 assets of the business provide leaders with the tools they need to make better decisions and engage the organization in more purposeful strategic planning.
In today’s first piece of a three-part series, we’ll introduce the first foundational asset – Efficiency, along with four intangible assets: Trust, Accountability, Quality, and Communication.
Companies that define and excel at their core business processes consistently maximize customer value and profitability. With these dual goals in mind, organizations are able to have a long-term mindset focused on sustainability that keeps customers coming back while providing a great return for all stakeholders, whether they are owners, managers, or employees.
A culture of efficiency should permeate an organization from top to bottom and all the way across. Each individual and each team should have a mentality of being as resourceful as possible in terms of how they spend their time, how many people they utilize to complete a project, and, of course, how much money they expend to achieve results.
In order to maintain the highest levels of efficiency, organizations should be prepared to redefine their standards from time to time. Leaders must continuously encourage others to question established work processes and systems. Companies should encourage an open-door environment where employees can challenge the current company orthodoxy, with no business practices off limits or politically untouchable.
Organizations, by their very definition, are collections of people striving together in a unified purpose or mission. And collections of people build their interpersonal relationships on a foundation of trust.
There are several widely held misconceptions about trust that impact organizational strength. The first is people do not automatically trust you because you have a title or position of authority. And the second is you can’t expect people to trust you by simply asking for it—“Trust me.” We build trust with others by demonstrating consistency between our words and our actions. When we make realistic promises and keep them, people learn that they can count on us. Of equal importance to keeping our word is keeping their confidence. It’s quite natural for people to have concerns that they need to share, and they deserve respect, openness, and an ability to keep their confidence in these moments where they need reassurance or a sounding board to clear the air.
We can’t simply rely on being trustworthy when times are good or things are easy. Many people turn constructive behaviors into destructive behaviors when they face difficult challenges or their performance is called into question. We can’t react to these challenges or questions with anything but forthrightness and honesty. Again, earning trust is about being consistent in our principles, values and actions, no matter the situation, positive or negative.
Finally, both leaders and employees need to step forward to address difficult issues and be counted on when times are tough. We all need to be in-tune with our behaviors consistently to what we know is right—the organization’s defined values, and, just as important, we must be courageous and disapprove of others when their behaviors aren’t aligned with the organization’s values.
Accountability describes a mentality where we take charge of our environment and take ownership for our actions. Basically, we need to take a combination of courage, initiative and responsibility.
People who strive for the highest levels of accountability lead courageously. They take responsibility for their own mistakes, never blaming others or making excuses. They don’t fear the consequences of taking responsibility, because they take the initiative to control their destinies. The most accountable among us take initiative because they have a low tolerance for mediocrity. If they see something that isn’t right, they step forward to make it right.
For effective organizations, accountability is balanced throughout individual, team, and company-wide performance to achieve expected results. These organizations keep everyone involved and informed of progress, issues, and potential problems or obstacles that will impede the company in its quest to succeed.
Accountability is also about timeliness and having a sense of urgency. It’s not just about stepping up at the end of a project or campaign, but rather through a set of opportunities throughout the life and work of a company where people deal timely and effectively with their own performance issues. Successful people do this because they see performance issues or mistakes as a new way to learn and grow, becoming a better individual, team, and organization as a whole with each hurdle cleared along the way.
If we can’t say we’re striving to be the very best at what we do, we may as well pack up and go home. Quality, as a driver of organizational effectiveness, means that we must deliver our very best products and services and strive for continuous improvement in everything we do.
To continuously improve in the area of quality, we must identify areas of weakness that may affect organizational performance. In order to properly identify our weaknesses, we must create an environment that actively seeks and welcomes constructive feedback regarding customer, product, or process issues.
Strong companies create awareness of quality principles throughout their organizational footprints and talent processes. They are relentless in their evaluation and improvement of end-user valued processes in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and adaptability. And they not only show openness to suggestions for improvement, they also don’t place limitations on what they need to do to right the ship when necessary, even if it means re-engineering entire processes from scratch to meet customer needs.
A fourth intangible asset that drives organizational strength is effective communication. The communications within strong organizations have several hallmarks. First, companies are timely in their delivery of need-to-know information that people require both in order to do their jobs and also feel good about being a member of the organization. Companies’ commitment to openness and timeliness thus fuels performance, motivation, and commitment among managers and team members.
Effective organizations also foster open, honest, and sincere communication practices, the kinds of behaviors that build trust and drive powerful interpersonal relationships, the key ingredients of successful teams. These companies also recognize that being timely and forthcoming in delivering critical information, as opposed to keeping their cards close to their chests for political or power-related reasons, enables people to make more accurate decisions in their work.
Tune in next week, as we’ll introduce a second foundational asset—Speed—and another four intangible assets that drive organizational strength.