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What’s really supposed to happen at work?

Sometimes there’s a simple solution to the conflict and systemic failures that can arise at work. We just need alignment between management roles and company processes.

Every process has to have an owner, and everything that’s supposed to happen has to have a process. This can seem like a massive undertaking, but the following can all be summarized on a single whiteboard for any size of company.

This can create alignment in an hour or two by leapfrogging all the tactical decisions and ensuring the big-picture strategy gets into everyones’ minds.

Conflict and politics

Nothing holds a company back like conflict fed by office politics. A major source of rampant politics in organizations today is poor role clarity and focus.

Managers’ job descriptions often have litle bearing on the things they’re really needed for, while their departments have processes lacking in clear ownershp. As a result, performance reviews for managers tend to be very subjective. Leaders feel compelled to balance looking busy and being nice with real results. This leads to management by policy, so that nice people don’t have to make the same decision over and over.

Of course, policies become outdated. Politics take over as people try to figure out what’s really important (which may not be documented anywhere) and to whom.

The bottom line is, everyone needs to know what they’re really needed for, so that time isn’t wasted figuring that out.

What’s really supposed to be happening?

The company has to have a long-term goal and a person accountable to acheive it, before anyhting else. Next, goals must be established in the medium term – 6 to 12 months at the most – for each of the business areas. These can be called by various names but they come down to Product Development, Marketing, Sales, Operations and Administration.

If the shareholders have never made this growth plan, you as an interested party must document your assumption, plan accordingly, and present it later for adjustment. Here’s the format you will use: “we plan to go from $X million to $Y million in five years; here’s how we think we can do that”.

The person who owns this plan should have no more than six accountabilities, designed to facilitate achieving the long-term goal. That is, one for each area of business plus a plan for ensuring their direct reports execute their own accountabilities in turn.

Success comes from the top

This starts at the top of the company. The CEO’s accountabilities need to be articualted first.

Each area of business than requires a strategy that will meet the top-level accountabilities. That in turn must be turned into clear outputs for the next level down.

What’s your vision for each of these areas? Without excelling on all five, no company will beat the competition sustainably. On the other hand, the right strategy being executed in each area can turn into incredibly fast growth and profitability.

Product Development:

We must provide value for someone that they will pay for

Marketing:

We must catch the right peoples’ attention and collect expressions of interest

Sales:

We must develop relationships and follow up to convert interest into transactions

Operations:

We must deliver value in exchange for currency

Administration:

We must ensure all of the above occurs rhythmically, profitably and sustainably

Work is the output of a process

Once the strategy has been built for each area, processes must be created for everything that is supposed to happen. The well-known SIPOC format can be used (the Internet can explain if needed) but basically, we need to answer a few questions:

  • what output would show that this accountability is done?
  • what steps do we use to create that output?
  • who is accountable to perform those steps?

Clarity brings focus; which brings hope; which creates energy

Without question, a focused, enthusistic team gets results. That energy and enthusiasm is born when people start to believe they can achieve their goals. This belief comes from having goals that are attainable.

That, in turn, comes from having the confidence that a sharply-focused, attainable goal is the right one to pursue. Once a company establishes beyond a doubt where they’re going and deliberately creates a framework to get there, people can make an incredible amount of progress in a very short time.

Everything that is supposed to happen needs a process, and every process needs an owner. Managers’ job descriptions must simply capture that.