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 part one of this series on what makes a successful company, we discussed the first five factors that drive organizational strength: the foundational asset of Efficiency, along with the intangible assets of Trust, Accountability, Quality, and Communication. Last week, we explored the foundational asset of Speed, along with the intangible assets of Awareness, Customer Focus, Execution, and Flexibility.
In this week’s final installment, we’ll tackle the final five factors—every bit as important as the first 10—that drive organizational strength: the foundational asset of Innovation, along with the intangible assets of Collaboration, Leadership, Talent, and Organizational Commitment.
While innovation has many wide-ranging definitions in many different contexts, from a standpoint of driving organizational effectiveness, innovation stands for the power of ideas to shape us both internally with each other, as well as with our customers and the marketplace.
The mark of a powerful organization is that it routinely generates new ideas and goes beyond the status quo, recognizing the need for new or modified approaches in the marketplace. Not only do strong organizations actively seek out and identify new opportunities to develop and offer new products and services, they also stay abreast of government, business, industry, and market information—the readily available sources that may reveal opportunities for innovative products and services.
From an internal perspective, the most powerful organizations strive for cross-functional collaboration, fueled by an openness to the ideas of others in the company, as the solution framework for most, if not all challenges it faces. In order to drive these collaborations to their greatest potential, leaders in these organizations are deliberate in their initiation of actions that may involve risk to achieve a recognized benefit or advantage for the group.
To shape their companies into cultures of continuous innovation, the best leaders bring together different perspectives and approaches, creatively combining the diversity within their organizations in different ways specifically tailored to the problems or challenges on the company’s horizon.
The cornerstone of a powerful, innovation-based corporate culture is collaboration. In order to spark sustainable collaboration, companies must evoke participation and creativity from everyone and strive for group consensus to effectively solve problems and deliver results.
Does your organization encourage and reward cooperation by individuals and teams? This encouragement and rewarding creates a culture based on open dialogue, where participants constructively resolve the conflicts and disagreements that inevitably arise around the pursuit of great ideas by energetic, passionate people. The goal here is not to have constant harmony—that’s rather impossible among human beings—but to create a place where these inevitable disagreements are not ignored, suppressed, or denied.
For collaborative culture-building, we must not only focus on openness but also on group dynamics and individual thoughts and emotions. We make sure that the group relationships are working well, and that everyone feels good about the tasks at hand. Unfortunately, many organizations believe they have a collaborative environment because they implement some kind of team-building exercise, like sending teams out zip-lining in the woods together. Having fun and creating a friendly competitive environment is healthy, but real collaboration revolves around constructive conflict.
If we say we’re going to utilize collaboration to solve problems and make our organization better, then we need to push for results and actual, impactful decisions from cross-functional activities. The continuous team-building aspect to operating in a collaborative way is quite valuable and certainly not to be discounted in any way, but let’s not take our eyes off the prize here—let’s drive for collaboration as a cornerstone of accomplishment within our companies.
The most powerful organizations place a heavy emphasis on leadership, and they look at leadership from multiple perspectives. First, they measure their own effectiveness by how well they build leaders to sustain the organization’s excellence, both in the present and in the future.
Resources, even among the fastest-growing organizations, always have finite limits. The best organizations recognize this fact of business life, and they also recognize the leaders among them who foster new ways to use limited resources and devote time to building future resources.
As you ponder the leadership perspective of your own organization, ask yourself if the leaders have enough of an internal focus—do the leaders in your company help employees develop a clear understanding of what they will need to do to contribute to the success of the team and organization? Leadership isn’t just about optimizing resources such as time and money to advance the goals of the organization—there’s a reservoir of human capital in every organization, and its effectiveness has a very direct corollary with how well leaders summon this human capital to overcome challenges in the market.
The hallmark of effective organizations’ leadership groups is an infectious optimism. Does your company have leaders that optimistically talk about the future and possibilities for the organization, and then help you and others translate vision into action? If so, great—if not, this among the very first corrective steps for companies not achieving their full potential.
Finally, companies that have reached the top echelons of organizational effectiveness must be strong at identifying and developing future leaders. As evidence of this strength, they should be able to point to a burgeoning internal pipeline of leaders and the appropriate bench strength for all key positions.
While innovation, collaboration, and leadership help to define the culture of a powerful organization, talent is the true foundation for success. Companies can look at their historic achievements, current performance, and model for the future based on how well they acquire, build, and leverage talent.
The most effective organizations are “employers of choice,” in that they not only have the right talent in the right jobs to compete in today’s and tomorrow’s marketplace, but also demonstrate an ongoing ability to attract and retain top talent across their platforms. They do this through continuous investment in the talent they already have—it’s evident to those outside the company—plowing significant time and resources to develop both leaders and employees.
Employers of choice reap significant benefits from their time and resource investments. They find themselves adequately staffed with engaged people to execute operational and strategic plans—there’s nothing like having the right people to not only achieve this year’s goals but also drive a company head-long into the future. Engaged employees reciprocate the investment with an intense desire to be a member of the organization, fueling the retention of the company’s greatest wealth of talent.
All of these factors that drive organizational effectiveness, from innovation in products and services to the ongoing development of talent, culminate in organizational commitment.
Committed organizations stand as shining examples of places where people take pride in their work and expend discretionary effort to achieve goals. They exhibit high levels of energy and enthusiasm, with a strong desire to achieve today’s results and move on to tomorrow’s challenges. And they define success throughout the process of achieving goals, not just at the end of a sales campaign or new product development initiative.
Having a committed organization results in fewer people “going off-the-grid,” chasing their own personal ambitions without regard to the organization’s larger goals. We think of this in terms of alignment—people demonstrate their daily needs in terms that are aligned with the organization’s culture and goals, with a strong desire to see personal success, along with success for other team members, managers, and executives. In short, committed people only see success when they can see it permeate the organization as a whole.
Organizational commitment ultimately manifests itself by way of support—no matter the position—executive, manager, or employee—people support each other and achieve together.
To summarize, we believe that companies draw their ultimate strength from many areas. Three foundational assets—Efficiency, Speed, and Innovation—are the foundation of the most successful organizations in any marketplace. The best companies focus on maximizing their return on each effort, executing quickly, so that they can change with market dynamics and customer needs.
After these foundational assets, the highest-performing organizations also exhibit superior levels of Trust, Accountability, Quality, Communication, Awareness, Customer Focus, Execution, Flexibility, Collaboration, Leadership, Talent, and Organizational Commitment.
Do you have questions about the level of your organization’s strength heading into 2013? Start getting the answers today with the Organizational Strength Assessment, a TM Solutions business diagnostic available at the HR Store.