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Welcome to the January 2009 issue of Alignment Solutions! With several exciting projects underway, we expect 2009 to be an exhilarating year! To keep you up to date with what Business Alignment Strategies is doing, we will use this newly re-named section of the newsletter to announce changes or additions to our business. Check here each month to see how we can help contribute to your success!

We are pleased to announce the launch a new article series called Research News You Can Use. Each month in this section you will find the name of the topic, a brief comment about it, and a link to the article on the Business Alignment Strategies web site. While researchers study topics that have important implications for organizational success, their work often is overlooked because of the theoretical or academic language in which they report their findings. Drawing on our unique experience in both the corporate world and in academia, we select timely topics and show you how to apply relevant research findings in practical ways to create immediate results in your organization.

January Topic: The High Cost of Laissez-faire Leadership

Premise: Organizations whose leaders refuse to engage in important
leadership behaviors suffer significant negative outcomes.

This month's theme is "the big picture." A major mistake I continue to see executives and business owners make is not identifying and communicating clearly the organization's "big picture" - i.e., the value it provides to its customers. Without knowing what the intended outcome is, employees cannot successfully support it. When customers do not see the value of your products or services, you cannot optimize business results.

The Feature Article, "What's YOUR Business?," highlights the significant disparities between a customer-focused (value-based) approach and an organization-focused (activity-based) approach by providing examples of each perspective. Your answers to the questions we pose may cause you to re-think the way you define your business.

In "How to Ensure Customers and Employees Recognize Your Organization's Value," the Business Solutions section offers specific suggestions about how to obtain valuable information about whether your customers and employees recognize the value your organization provides. The results can be eye-opening.

In the Personal Solutions section, "What's Your Personal 'Big Picture'?" makes the case for the importance of knowing your own big picture and suggests a resource that will help you create or re-visit one.

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!

 

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What's YOUR Business?

What do you say when asked what your organization does? Do you respond by telling people what products or services you provide, or by describing the organization? Or do you tell them what you can do for them? How do your employees reply to inquiries about your organization?

Before they can optimize business results, executives and employees need to recognize the significance of the value that their organization provides its customers. This requires them to see the "big picture" - i.e., the organization's ultimate purpose. My observation, however, is that many executives and business owners either have not clearly defined the value they provide to customers, or they have failed to communicate that value to their employees. Instead, people at every level focus on what the organization does or is rather than what value it provides. The difference is more than semantics: how an organization defines itself communicates its value to potential customers. Further, this definition shapes the way employees approach their jobs, and ultimately, it affects the company's potential for success.

To illustrate the significant disparities that result from viewing an organization in terms of what it is or what its employees do, versus the value it provides, consider the following examples. First, assume someone asks you or your employees the question, "What is your business?" Then consider the following possible responses, which are based on information found on each organization's website:

A major international airline:
"We are a full-service global airline that provides service from centrally located airports." (What it is and does)
"We offer customers an effortless journey." (Value it supplies)

A hair salon education consulting company:
"We are an education-based company in the hairstyling industry that teaches hair salon owners how to run their businesses." (What it is and does)
"We allow stylists the freedom of artistic expression." (Value it supplies)

The fundraising division of a charitable organization
"We are the first, best, and largest charity sports training program that offers a full complement of exciting sports training options." (What it is and does)
"We save lives one mile at a time." (Value it supplies)

Now answer these questions:

– As a customer, which of the two perspectives grabs your attention immediately?
– As an employee, which perspective would inspire you?
– How does each perspective affect the way employees approach their work?
– Which perspective allows the organization to optimize its business results?

As the answers to these questions indicate, defining and communicating clearly the value your organization provides are critical success factors to optimizing business results. Are those factors present in your organization?

For tips on how to determine whether your customers and employees fully understand the value your organization provides, please see the Business Solutions section of this newsletter.

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How To Ensure Customers and Employees Recognize Your Organization's Value

Organizations cannot optimize their business results unless their customers and their employees clearly recognize the significant value they provide. How can you discover whether these two important groups really see this value? Ask them.

To discover whether your customers perceive the value your organization provides, have a third party call them and ask a few open-ended questions. For example (assuming your organization is called OUR Company):

  1. What impact did OUR Company's products/ services have on your organization? Consider both tangible and intangible changes.

  2. What results did you experience personally as a result of using OUR Company's products/services?

  3. Sum up the value that OUR Company offers its customers.

Let your customers know in advance that a third party will be calling on your behalf to ask for this information. Another way to increase the response rate is to let your customers know how long the interview will take. Keep the interviews short (i.e., 15 minutes maximum) by asking only a few questions. I recommend including a "catch-all" final question such as, "What else would you like to tell me about your experience with OUR Company?"

The survey results are likely to be instructive and insightful. If customers cite products or services but no value, your organization is not realizing its potential. If customers identify specific value, keep up the good work! You may even discover a potential side benefit of conducting the survey: learning that your customers experience value that even you have overlooked.

My favorite question to determine whether employees recognize the value their organization provides (the "big picture") and the contribution they make is, "What is your job?" Employees who respond by citing the value their organization provides (e.g., peace of mind, the experience of a lifetime, an effortless journey) understand that value, as well as how they personally support its delivery to customers. Those whose answers include their job titles and/or a list of the tasks for which they are responsible neither see the value nor appreciate their contribution to the organization's success.

It is critical to assess employees' perspectives because their views influence their workplace behaviors. To illustrate, I like to tell my favorite "big picture" story, which is about a custodian at NASA in the late 1960s. When asked by a visitor what his job was, he responded, "My job is to help put a man on the moon." Imagine the difference in motivation between someone who goes to work every day knowing that he is helping put a man on the moon, and someone who goes to work contemplating how many bathrooms there are to clean, trash cans to empty, and floors to sweep.

When the ability to achieve optimal business results is at stake, can you afford to guess whether your customers and employees recognize your organization's value?

 

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What's Your Personal "Big Picture?"

In an earlier article, "Creating Balance in Your Personal Life: What's in Your Personal Scorecard?" I suggested using a scorecard approach to help develop and maintain balance in all four aspects of one's personal life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In order for that tool to be most effective, however, we need to have a clear sense of the outcome we are trying to achieve - i.e., our personal "big picture." It is impossible to align these four components without first understanding our own value and the contributions we wish to make in our lives.

When I ask people what they would like to achieve in life, they generally answer by talking about the "how" (i.e., tasks or activities) rather than the "what" (i.e., the big picture). Though the "how" is important, making it the focus of attention is a mistake many people make. They don't realize that by directing their attention to tasks and activities, they easily can get so caught up in the details that they lose sight of the big picture.

Have you ever had the experience of undertaking a pleasurable hobby, only to find that it becomes a chore or a burden - or even an obsession? That happens when we lose sight of the big picture. Similarly, when married couples end up fighting all the time, it's often because they've gotten so caught up in the minutiae of sharing life with another person that they forget the big picture - why they got married in the first place (which surely wasn't about finances or housework or the many other issues over which people argue).

There are many ways to define, or recapture, our personal big picture. For an example of one technique, please see my article "Goals and the Wisdom of a Two-Year Old Child." Regardless of the method you choose, the critical point is that you focus on the outcome rather than on the activities required to achieve it. I guarantee that focusing consistently on your own big picture and using it daily to keep yourself aligned with its achievement will have a dramatic impact on the quality of your life.

 

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Date of Publication: January, 2009
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch