Welcome to the August 2008 issue of Alignment Solutions! Last month’s theme of organizational clutter seemed to resonate with readers, so we’re approaching it from a different angle this month. To acknowledge the 2008 Summer Olympics that are taking place in China this month, we offer a sports analogy as a tool to help you align people, programs, and processes with organizational goals.
In the Feature Article, Optimizing Results by Defining Your Playing Field, we provide a sports analogy to help you establish clear boundaries so you can distinguish easily between factors that should be in play and those that are out of bounds (i.e., organizational clutter and other obstacles to success).
In How to Define Your Playing Field, the Business Solutions section suggests a simple tool to aid in cutting through the clutter and focusing on what really matters.
In the Personal Solutions section, Clearing the “Mind Clutter” describes a technique that helps you banish distracting and irrelevant thoughts on a day-to-day basis so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!
Optimizing Results by Defining Your Playing Field
To optimize business results, you first must define clearly what those expected outcomes are AND, importantly, what they are not. In my experience, while most executives can say what the desired results are, far fewer are able to say with any precision what they are NOT. Articulating both these concepts is critical: when organizations waste resources on activities that do not support their desired outcomes, they cannot optimize their results.
An analogy that I have found very useful in making this point is that of a sports playing field, such as that used by football or soccer players.* You can see the concept clearly if you draw a rectangle on a piece of paper. Everything inside the rectangle represents the playing field; everything outside does not. During a football or soccer game, only those actions that take place entirely inside the boundaries count toward making goals. Things that occur outside the boundaries do not count, and in fact, are penalized by giving possession of the ball to the opposing team. Similarly, in a business context, only activities that occur inside the organization’s playing field are effective in helping achieve its business goals; those outside the boundaries incur penalties that range from sub-optimal results to providing an advantage to competitors.
Here are a few of the benefits your organization can realize by defining the boundaries of its playing field:
Have you defined clearly your organization’s playing field? If not, I encourage you to sit down with your staff, draw a rectangle, and list clearly those things that are inside your organization’s playing field and those that are outside. Your list may include activities, values, behaviors, decisions, and/or results. That “picture” then becomes a visual representation that lets employees know which actions, behaviors, and results are in bounds and which are out of bounds. Similarly, managers can tell easily which programs and processes support organizational goals and which do not.
The ability of employees at all levels to make the distinction between what is in play and what is not is a critical success factor in optimizing results. Have you provided the tools necessary for employees to support your organization’s success?
* I give Alan Weiss credit for this analogy. It appears in several of his books, including The Great Big Book of Process Visuals (2003).
Please see the complete article Optimizing Results by Defining Your Playing Field on my web site.