Choosing Company Focus Priorities and Measuring Culture and Priorities

Anytime you optimize a process for a particular outcome (or metric) you are specifically choosing to NOT optimize for other outcomes (or metrics).  It is useful to form a context by considering pairs of related concepts, as they pertain to your company.  A keyword strategy helps to focus this effort of choosing a focus.

First think outloud (group brainstorming with facilitator and representation across departments), use synonyms

1. Creativity vs. Innovation

2. Cost reduction vs. Expense reduction

3. Control vs. Predictability (or forecast ability)

4. Coordination vs. Collaboration

5. Customer focus vs. Market focus

Once a diversity of input, opinion, clarification and decision is apparent from these sessions, codify the results in the simplest possible form: A Ranked list, with your own company’s “personal” definition of what that means and how and why it helps your company compete.  Compete relative to your own companies historical results; as well as against the current crop of actual competitors, as well as against established norms, traditions and assumptions of your current potential market (target customers).

Second, in a separate meeting with a facilitator, do a similar brainstorming session, this time using pairs of concept words you select which are antonyms, ie opposite ends of the spectrum, for your chosen priorities.  Consider two factors: What are the “theoretical limits” (which are probably not practical) for each scale metric?   Where are you today on that continuum?  And where do your competitors lie on that continuum

1. Inward focus on company and organizational issues vs. External Customer Focus?

2. Optimizing cost and cycle time for existing products and services vs. Innnovating new ones?

3. Independent personal charter and control vs Teamwork (with collaboration)

4. Command and control (centrality) vs. Democratization (decentralization).

5. Exploration of new tools and technology vs. Reduction in tools and technology in use

6. Use of external partners, service providers, agencies vs. bring more functions in house.

7. Employee empowerment for enhanced work / life experience vs. Rationalization, downsizing, stricter enforcement and less benefits.

Third, encode these outcomes as “scale plot measurements” on a psychographic plots with each number representing a dimension, and consider showing the results as “here is where we think we are”.  Consider your own additional measurement axes to add and ignore ones mentioned above which you believe do not apply to you.

Fourth, review these with upper management in different functional areas of the company, HR, Communications, Finance, Production, Engineering, R&D, Service, Support, Sales, Marketing.  Hopefully earlier input from brainstorming and facilitated meetings is properly encoded in the representation scheme.  Points of view may differ markedly across teams, departments or divisions; especially as company size and complexity grows.  Eg. Walmart is large and simple in structure, GE is large and complex in structure…..

Fifth, form a coalition on “what to do about it”; the process of change management.

1. What is the cost, effort, and timeline to affect change?

2. How is change helped or impeded by current policy, practice, culture, style and workforce composition?

3. What data do we need to measure our progress?

4. What are meaningful and measurable and reasonable milestones?

5. What is it “worth” to accomplish that mission?

6. Who has the leadership clout and mindshare to drive the change across organizational boundaries?

7. Do they have the commitment, attention and priority to make this happen through the course of the initiative?