Back to Basics

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I was thinking about my business partners this morning and what they do when not coaching business executives, implementing successful and sustainable change, and improving company communications by getting people on the same page. (more…)

Mission and Vision

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Two essential elements of your organization’s foundation are its mission and vision statements.  I get a lot of questions about these statements but the question I most often hear is,”What’s the difference?”  Here are my definitions.

Mission statement: the purpose for your organization’s existence.  For example, PDS Group’s mission is: We equip organizations and their people to achieve their full potential.  How?  By diagnosing alignment challenges, evaluating competencies, designing learning experiences, administering practical performance guides, teaching evidence based coaching and offering executive coaching.

Vision statement: the ultimate result of fulfilling your organization’s purpose.  For example, PDS Group’s vision is: We want to become the thought leader and resource of choice for addressing organization alignment challenges.  How?  By building an extensive database of expectations between individuals across the widest range of strategic and tactical challenges, organizations, and industries.

A clear mission statement will define the individual or collective need your organization serves, and drive your business plan, budget, and daily operations.  A vision statement will define the expected result of serving that need, and will provide focus for long range planning and a yardstick for measuring progress.

Within an industry many organizations could have virtually identical mission statements.  But each organization should have a unique view of what it will ultimately achieve by delivering on its mission.

Think about the business that produces injection molded plastic parts.  Its purpose may be to fill a need for superior quality long lasting plastic components in durable goods.  There may be many injection molding companies that have the same purpose.  So what distinguishes this particular company?

Its vision will distinguish it from its competition.  This company’s goal may be to be the preferred supplier of household appliance parts in the Upper Midwest United States.  It may want to be the biggest injection molding company in North America, or perhaps in Europe.  It may want to be the sole supplier of certain automotive components for General Motors (perhaps not the wisest vision).  It may want to become a philanthropic leader in its community, county or state.

Think of the vision statement as defining the goal or setting the bar for organizational achievement.  The mission; this is what we do.  The vision; this is what we hope to achieve.  Try those definitions on for size, do they work for you?

A Firm Foundation for Your Business

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

I’ve spent some time sharing with you a philosophy that I believe can lay the foundation for success in any organization, from large for-profit corporations and non-profit charities, to the small or home-based business.  That philosophy is based on my experiences with public and private organizations large and small.  It recognizes that there is more to an organization than strategy, systems, and structure.  Those components are essential drivers of performance, but two other components are also essential; culture, and people.  That philosophy becomes part of the culture, the conceptual foundation or cornerstone of your business and it edifies people, the capstone of your business.

Before you start writing or rewriting your business plan and strategy, mold the cornerstone of your business.  Document your purpose, both mission and vision.  Define your guiding values, principles, and philosophy.  List your core competencies, those that you have, and those that you need so you can deliver on your purpose.  Include your gifts, talents, passions, and experiences; those resident not just in you, but in your partners, employees, and leaders.

Your objective with framing this cornerstone is buy-in, mindshare, perhaps even a bit (maybe a lot) of faith.  Think about this as more than a business, think of it as something you are called to do.  Think of it as a personal or collective ministry revolving around the purpose you are defining.  Think of it as an investment not only of your body and mind, but also your heart and soul.  You want this business to be something that will stand the test of time, something that you want to be doing even if you’re exhausted, wiped out, something that your partners, leaders, and employees can identify with, something to which they can give their best.

This foundation document describes not only what you want to do with the organization, but what you believe in.  If you describe it well, you’ll demonstrate your own commitment, and invite other people to join you.  It will become their mission and vision, it will mesh with their values and principles, it will motivate and inspire them to perform up to their potential, helping you and your organization achieve its full potential.

Do a good job on this foundation; build it on rock, not sand.  It’s one of the most important “better business basics”.

Why Should Your Organization Be Environmentally Responsible?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Why should your organization be a good steward of the environment; because its good for business and it’s the only planet we have.  Now before you label me an environmentalist wacko, please read what I think is a practical philosophy about the environment.  My belief is that we should minimize our use of non-renewable resources, optimize our use of renewable resources, and put things back the way we found them.  In other words, let’s be good stewards of our environment so we protect it for our children and their children.

So what does that mean for business?  If we need oil, use it very sparingly; if nuclear power provides a cost effective alternative, use it with reasonable safeguards.  If we need wood, use cultivated growth and replant.  If we need water, clean up what we use before returning it to the supply.  And if we need to mine off a mountaintop because there is no other option (although there usually is), then create a new park with its own beauty to replace what we’ve taken.

If there exists natural beauty that we believe is irreplaceable, perhaps the aforementioned mountaintop, then let us, the public, buy it, take it off the market and place it in the public trust.  The Nature Conservancy is great at doing exactly that sort of thing in cooperation with federal, state, and local governments.  If I’m a farmer, rancher, or business owner who invested in my land, don’t just tell me I can’t use it because it’s home to an endangered species, compensate me for the loss of use.  Responsible resource use and management; that’s my platform and I’m sticking with it.

Based on my experience I believe being a responsible steward of the environment can help keep production costs down, resulting in a more affordable product or service.  It can help focus on reducing waste and rework.  It can trigger investigation into more affordable and renewable resources and alternative production methods.  And it can prevent or limit degradation of your surroundings and loss of scarce resources that could ultimately impact your ability to maintain peak performance.  In short, being a good steward of your environment can enhance your sustainability over the long haul.  (Yes, sustainability is one of the few new business buzzwords that I like.)

So why should your organization be environmentally responsible; because responsible resource use and management is good for business.  It will help control costs, preserve resources, generate new customers, and build your reputation and integrity in the marketplace.  Try it, market it, and measure the results (The Balanced Scorecard, Kaplan and Norton).

Why Should Your Organization Be Community Friendly?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Why should your organization be community friendly; because being community friendly builds business!  Think about it.  If your business has a good reputation for community service and being a good neighbor, it stands to reason that more people will be willing to try your product or service and perhaps become loyal customers.  Who doesn’t want to do business with a good friend and neighbor rather than the local bully with the worst looking property?

Make being a good neighbor part of your marketing program and measure the results (The Balanced Scorecard, Kaplan and Norton).  See if it produces more customers than the program costs.

Being community friendly doesn’t need to be expensive.  Join your local chamber of commerce; keep your property looking nice; participate in and sponsor community events; and keep the community informed about what your organization is doing.  Meanwhile, continue treating your customers right, providing good value, living out your principles and values, and keeping your promises.  It isn’t a very complicated formula.

If you’re a large organization looking for tax breaks to keep your costs down, look at what you can do to sweeten the pot.  Maybe in addition to meeting the requirements for that tax break you can help rebuild the intersection that will bear the increased traffic to your business.  Maybe you can sponsor training programs to enable people to apply for the new jobs you’re committing to create.  Maybe your new facility can spare some space for a vest-pocket community park.  Perhaps the construction budget could include landscaping funds to present an attractive view from the street, or the parking lot can be set back off the street and wider landscaped sidewalks or bike paths provided in the public right of way.  Perhaps you can limit visual pollution by designing minimal but attractive and effective signage for your business.  Maybe the nature of your organization would allow for a community room to be made available for public use.

Your investment in your community can be small or large.  What’s important is that it can build your business as well as your reputation and your integrity.  It’s another significant part of “how” you do “what” you do, and strengthens your standing as a people centered organization.

Last up on the business philosophy platform, why your organization should be a good steward of the environment.