How To Build A Great Organization

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In my last blog I discussed what high performing individuals do when encountering constraints. The questions asked in that blog, Constraints Define The Boundaries… Not What Is Done Within Those Boundaries were,

“How do I hire those types of people? How do I create that platform?”

The answer is not straightforward; but here is a hint, building a great organization will draw talent. Great organizations become magnets for talent; therefore build great organizations. 

The keys to building great organizations require both cultural and structural reflections. Cultural foundations are why we do; they are the essence of our shared values and vision. Structural foundations enable how and what we do; they are the reactions to our constrained circumstances. Remember constraints from the last blog?

Cultural Foundations

These are your organization’s shared values; that is a common set of operating values that develop individual behaviors and by extension your company’s behaviors. Needing a set of shared values is required for any organization moving in concert and together delivering your organization’s vision. Consider one group of people in your organization acting inconsistent with your company’s stated values. What messages will that send to your customers? The fallout creates many bad outcomes for your organization; your brand becomes fuzzy to your customers and the market, your customers start to distrust your company’s purpose and motives to mention a few.

The results can be catastrophic; currently Volkswagen is realizing the cost associated with bad behaviors related to the diesel engine emissions scandal. Will they endure? If they do survive how many years or decades before their customers return? I would suggest Volkswagen was focused on becoming the largest automotive company in the world which they achieved, but where is the customer in that goal? Goals achieved but at what cost and what cultural values were compromised in attainment? This story is still unfolding and will be a case study for years so stay tuned for those answers.

Linking your company’s cultural foundation to your company’s vision and goals are essential. Those values are translated into attitudes and become behavioral, they become your organization’s brand, they embody everyone’s purpose and become inspirational if the organization truly associates and acts in unison.

Structural Foundations

These are the reactions to our constrained circumstances. Those constraints are the friction that drives innovation through the A-players in your organization. The B-players and below only see constraints as limits on what can be achieved. The how and what we do within the constraints are where the opportunities exist. We choose our attitude. What we choose to do is highly dependent on our company’s shared values and vision. Inspirational leadership will draw the best from those conceptions and operating parameters; it will also provide direction and guidance to all within their organization.

Figure: Structure without culture looks and feels empty

Image Credits:

Anyone can build structure; building the cultural aspects and actually connecting them to that structure in meaningful ways is where the magic materializes. Organizations that can tap into those connections will provide significant positive experiences for their staff and customers.

What to do? Principal activities are driven by core values connected to your company’s vision not meaningless goals. Servant leaders inspire and get out of the way. They put employees and customers first and second while focusing on the correct things, they:

  • Create purpose not goals.
  • Build trust not fear.
  • Focus on value not outcomes.

Create purpose not goals and your organization will be creating deep engagement with their employees. Engaged employees are gaining a sense of that purpose, shared purpose which transforms into great output and happy customers. Said another way; when you have purpose, goals will line up with that purpose. Purpose gives people an apparatus by which they make decisions that support the goals, which are resultant from the company’s values and vision.

Build trust not fear is providing staff the ability to solve their own problems and having a safe place to land when things do not turn out as intended. This will open up the potential in all employees in your organization. It also has the ability to take the blame game and negative spirals a dysfunctional organization finds itself in away.

Focus on value[1] not outcomes forces great results for our customers because that is where the value is realized. This is how your organization will build partnerships not transactions with customers. Customers do not care how hard you work, they do care what value you provide.

Last but not least, in the absence of a clear company wide adoption of shared values, clear vision and structural foundations, true leaders will develop and build those attributes within their part of the organization. The results are contiguous and a bottom up shift in alignment will occur simply because the results cannot be ignored. So here we are at the beginning – build great organizations and you will attract great people into your company.

Please feel free to share your success stories here, I would love to here about your accomplishments.

[1] Value in this context is related to business value not cultural values as discussed above.

Image Credits:

– Tim Bertheau


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