Improving Your Organization's Performance

 

Many organizations spend most of their time focusing on day-to-day issues and outcomes and putting out bush fires.  Among the many issues facing CEOs is the need to develop an appropriate organization culture.  Whilst this is a focus of many companies there is an escalating challenge from the increasing pace of change and related technological advances.  Other operational issues include:  human performance; financial control; marketing strategies; innovation; public image/positioning; state of the economy; productivity crises; legal compliance; quality of work life; costs associated with human resources; and dissatisfaction in the work place.

This preoccupation with production, distribution, sales, accounting supervision and generally fighting bush fires can prevent the organization from being re-created and moving to its next level of performance.  Rarely do organizations invest time in identifying which direction they want to go, where they are now and how they are going to get there.  There is obviously a tension between doing the urgent and focusing on the important longer term developmental activities

Of course there are many reasons for this including:  lack of resources to put to this activity; lack of skills to manage the process; resistance to change; pre-occupation with the tyranny of the urgent and being activity junkies; the total lack of awareness of the need to change; and the general weariness caused by high pace and level of activity.  So the organization stumbles on from day-to-day, experiencing success often by accident as the market forces were right for that product or organization at that time.

Alternatively, the CEO as an entrepreneur may have a gift and creative flare for developing quality products and marketing them imaginatively.  The business may have been located in an expanding section of the economy with its own market niche or diversified into areas with little or no competition.

However, even organizations that have been successful in the past, may flounder in the future unless there is a well-defined competitive advantage.  The reality is there is little to differentiate companies today in the same business sector.  The critical question is, “What is their competitive advantage?”  They all claim to give the same level of service; they have similar facilities; their locations may be comparable; and they may have similar technology, staff and products – so what is the answer?

In the long term, a competitive advantage may accrue from those organizations that have internalized, systematized and facilitated an on-going process of change.  This change process will not be reactive but proactive, anticipating environmental forces and needs.  These changes will have as their focus the needs of both current and future customers and the unique business competence that the organization can offer to an ever-changing dynamic business environment.

So businesses will need to set up a process of change to revitalize and continually improve in an ongoing way.  This will produce a healthy organization through a process of four stages as follows:

  • What directions do we want to go in as an organization?
  • Where are we currently?
  • What steps do we need to take to change?
  • What resources will we need to achieve this process?
  • How will we know when we have been successful?

1.            Define the Vision

The first part of the process is to write the organization’s vision of the future – to define in qualitative terms where the organization wants to be in five or so years.  It’s really a vision of the future.  As someone wrote long ago, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.  The same is true for organizations.  Unless there is a clear focus and reason for being, an organization will not survive long term.  This clarity of vision is essential but in my experience it is one of the most difficult things to communicate throughout an organization so that staff “own” the vision.

2.            Diagnose the Organization

The next stage is to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the organization – to take a snapshot of its issues, opportunities and challenges.  This aspect of the process will identify all the areas which need improving in all parts of the organization.  A good analysis will uncover the root causes, contradictions and barriers preventing the organization’s vision from being achieved.  An effective diagnosis will provide the list of problems to attack in priority order and help determine the most strategic actions to take to change the organization.  It will provide a detailed synopsis of the big picture at the macro level.  Undoubtedly many managers focus on problem-solving on a day-to-day basis but rarely does this cover the totality of the organization and its problem.  Often people are dealing with symptoms but not the real underlying root causes.  The diagnosis stage will cover the total organization including its customers, suppliers, advisers and financiers.

3.            Plan to Implement the Solutions

This part of the process will involve the development of a detailed plan to translate the qualitative vision of the company into quantitative realities, involving also the review of solutions to overcome the problem identified.  Be aware that this may also involve corrections to the plan on an ongoing basis.  It is essential that implementation must be focused at various levels including 3 years, 1 year and 90 days.

4.            Obtain Necessary Resources

In order for the organization to move forward in the above three areas, it must have certain processes and resources in place to focus on and facilitate the change process.

The most important resource will be the change team – a team of top managers whose only purpose is to focus on the future of the company and not the ongoing operations.  This team may serve as a catalyst and set up similar teams at all levels to cascade the changes down throughout the organization.

It will also be necessary for members of these teams to be trained in problem solving, team leadership and facilitation skills to enable the appropriate change processes to be set up and evaluated by an external facilitator.

 

In conclusion, these processes will need to be established long term and maintained with a lot of energy to keep the change processes alive.  This will require commitment, patience, endurance, and skill to take the organization into its next stage of change and renewal to ensure long-term success and profitability.