How’s your organisation running? Do you only shell out when you’re desperate?
What’s your philosophy on running your car? Do you pride yourself on how smoothly it runs and the perfection of its paintwork and appearance, taking it to the garage at the first hint of a little bump, or a window switch not working properly?
Or do you run it until bits start falling off and it runs so roughly that there’s no avoiding it any more and you reluctantly shell out to have it restored at least to legality, if not to pristine beauty?
Now think about your company. Which school of thought do you fall into here? We meet both ends of the spectrum and some who fall somewhere in between.
Take Maureen for example. For her, it’s not good enough to run an organisation that merely delivers the goods and broadly keeps the clients and the regulatory authorities happy – though her company does this very well indeed. Her picture of doing the job properly is to keep exploring which bits of her organisation could work even better than they do already. She’s never going to stop until everyone loves coming to work, underperformance is never tolerated, everybody is personally excited about where the company is going and each individual feels acknowledged and appreciated for their part in taking it there.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Paul. His organisation still broadly keeps the customers happy, and he hardly ever falls foul of the law – he’s learned the hard way that you don’t survive unless you keep up these basic standards. But he knows his employees complain about each other, company systems and ‘the management’ – and he doesn’t really care. “They can go if they want”, he says. “There are plenty more people out there who’d like the work.” And mostly, there are. They don’t stay very long, or do a very good job, once they realise no-one cares, and they don’t help Paul’s company earn anything like the results it’s really capable of. But Paul’s OK with it, and he doesn’t really know any other way of doing things.
For organisation development consultants like ourselves, there’s often no need for us to help the companies like Maureen’s; she’s making a great job of developing and keeping an eye on the health of her organisation herself. She’s the sort who has her car serviced regularly to schedule and always gets the little chips and bumps repaired before they start to rust.
Equally, we don’t end up with much work from the Pauls of this world. They’re happy to keep running the company until it grinds to a halt, or they finally retire and leave it to the children. Their organisation is an old banger and they’re happy with it that way, unless it suddenly stops – and usually that’s not the right time for the likes of us to be able to help, other than picking up the pieces.
But there are a whole lot of business owners and leaders in the middle of the spectrum, like Patrick, for example, who really cares that he runs a business which produces an outstanding product or service, does a good job for its clients, and more than stays the right side of the law. He’s interested in winning awards, in high safety standards, and in running a workplace which people would love to work in.
However, he’s got his work cut out. There’s a lot of work involved in achieving all of this – and his aptitudes and skills are really more on the product side, in client relationships and sales, and in running a tight financial operation. Very few of our clients really have a natural aptitude for running the complex dynamics of a growing organisation and motivating and managing larger teams and groups of people.
So you’d think the obvious answer would be to take the vehicle for a regular service, wouldn’t you? Or at least read the manual! But where do you go to find a manual on what constitutes an excellently-run organisation: one which not only produces great products and services, but also has a sound future and is one which people not only want to come and work for, but want to take it into that future and grow with it.
Well, if you’d like a sneak peek at how your organisation is doing, download this Quick Organisation Survey and score yourself against 15 characteristics of world-class organisations. And if you’d like further help, come to people like us: we service organisations! We can help you diagnose where the cracks, bumps and rattles are in your organisation, and work with you to repair them and oil the machine so it’s fit for the road.