Part 2 of a series on Mastering Management Competencies. For the full list of management competencies, go here.

“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal” – Nietzsche

If you’re not growing, then you’re wilting. That’s the stark reality of business today. There was a time, many years ago, when a business could grow to a certain size and stay that way. The owner proabaly found a nice niche, got the business to a size that suited them personally, and stayed that way for a long time. That’s no longer the case. Globalization, increasing competitiveness, lowering of barriers to entry, new technology and improved access to capital have all played a vital role in creating a business environment that thrives on, and demands constant growth. It seems that growth is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.

The good news is that organizations now have access to the tools and the expertise to engage in planned growth. And the planning they engage in looks a lot different from previous planning models. For one, the new approaches place an equal value on planning and execution. The idea that the senior leadership team could go away for a weekend and come back with “the plan”, drop it into the laps of the middle managers and walk away is an illusion and no longer credible.

In it’s place is a more robust, collaborative approach to planning and execution, which involves all the key stakeholders. How they are involved, and the degree of involment will differ between stakeholders. But involved they are, ranging from key suppliers to key customers/clients and key staff. And the planning starts with some key questions, such as:

  1. Who do we serve?
  2. Who else could we serve?
  3. What are their wants, needs and expectations?
  4. How well are those wants, needs and expectations being met, by us and by others?
  5. Where are the gaps between 3 and 4 above, and how can we fill those gaps?
  6. What new ideas and innovations can we introduce, that the customer/client may even be unaware of, that would place us in a leadership position in their eyes?
  7. Given all of the above, what changes do we need to introduce to position us as a leader in the eyes of our customers/clients? These changes might address areas such as products/services, marketing/sales, HR/talent management, teamwork, cross-functional collaboration, customer service, core processes, financial management, and more.

Getting Everyone Onboard

Many studies have shown that the biggest impediment to change is getting everyone onboard with the changes. In other words organizational alignment. While a lot of emphasis has been placed on organizational alignment, the real key is to view your organization as a system that produces value for the customer/client. Viewed this way, cross-functional alignment carries as much if not more weight as top down vertical alignment. Those who serve the external customer/client need to be the ones who take the lead in the planning/execution process, and they need to fully involve all the support functions from the outset.

Everyone serves a customer. The old saying “if you’re not serving the customer, then you’re serving someone who is” is still true. Yet many organizations still place more emphasis on top down vertical alignment, almost completely ignoring the systems nature of their organization. In the vertical alignment model, you serve your boss, and the only growth that occurs is in the hierarchy. In the horizontal alignment model, you serve your customer/client – and that’s where value gets created and business growth occurs.

Which one do you work in?