Organizational Effectiveness – Definitely An Inside Job
Mark J. Komen
This is a companion article to Organizational Performance – Getting Beyond the Financials that I published in 2008. With all the emphasis these days on “the numbers” and “results,” I believe it’s crucial to understand the mechanisms an organization has in place that ultimately produce these metrics. My comments below are not aimed at any specific industry or sector. I believe all organizations that deliver products or services fall under the umbrella discussion below whether they be for-profit, not for profit or government. Also, my remarks here are primarily “inward facing” meaning that my focus is on internal infrastructure issues vs. “outward facing” (customer engagement, supply chain management, etc.) although the outward facing items are informed by these inward items.
I like to approach this from the following 4 perspectives or categories:
Guiding Principles, Planning and Goal Setting
I use the term, “Guiding Principles” when I am referring to an organization’s vision, mission and core values. Having a compelling vision of the future coupled with a clearly defined mission/purpose and authentic stated values gives messages to the staff, customers and vendors about what the organization holds in high esteem. In principle, these items done well give rise to the engagement and commitment of those constituencies. Leader values and their attitudes about doing business, taking risks, access to capital, etc. will ultimately drive the goals, strategies, objectives and go-to-market approaches an organization will use. These days, even government entities need to consider these concepts as they serve their purpose in the community.
The deal breaker in all this, however, is organizational culture. Key questions to ask are:
- Do we have the culture we need to achieve the vision and carry out the business plan?
- Which aspects of our culture enable us to succeed and how do we build on these strengths?
- Which aspects of our culture get in our way and what do we do about our cultural stumbling blocks?
Understanding and managing culture, as it needs to be inherently coupled with the guiding principles, is crucial to organizational effectiveness.
Having a systematic and effective planning process which involves gathering and considering staff input as well as input from the supporting organizations in from the supply/value chain is also a component for achieving high levels of effectiveness. Another set of organizational structures involves tracking systems to monitor progress against the plan and mechanisms to adapt to changing priorities, new threats or unforeseen business conditions.
Roles and Accountabilities
The next category to look at is concerned with who does what and how accountability is managed. First of all, work needs to be organized to support the group’s functions and activities. Activities need to be accountable to the overall business/strategic plans so that all efforts are linked. Each task needs a Responsible Individual (owner) assigned and everyone needs to know how their work fits into the group’s efforts. In addition, all roles, relationships and accountabilities need to be clear to everyone so that staff knows who to go to with questions and minimize the ball being dropped because no one knew whose job something was (role ambiguity) or arguing over who does what (role conflict).
Lastly, staff members need to be technically qualified to perform their jobs or have plans for acquiring the needed knowledge and skill(s). The old adage, “Hire for attitude, train for skill” only goes so far if the basic skill levels to execute the work aren’t there. There is an expectation that any investment in training and skill-building be returned to the organization as higher levels of ability and performance so the ROI and time to achieve this is not infinite.
Group Operating Processes
This category addresses the processes and procedures used to manage the group’s work and support both its task and maintenance needs.
- Task needs refer to activities required to accomplish work objectives. This involves how jobs/tasks are designed as well as identifying/implementing needed interfaces, tools, support items and resources.
- Maintenance needs are those human needs for recognition, participation, appreciation and general quality of group life
Group operating processes also include items such as problem-solving, decision-making, managing conflict and meeting management approaches. In essence, these are the human processes involved in completing tasks and getting things done effectively where multiple people are involved.
Closely related to the previous category, this final category is concerned with the relationships between people in the group. First of all, interpersonal relations must be of high quality (reciprocal, honest, accountable, and respectful for instance). Group members need to be able to interact well with others. This is critical as people have different skills when it comes to this topic. Poor social dynamics in a group will disable group efforts in a short time. Since trust is required to solve problems effectively, constructive social dynamics is a must-have. Finally, group members achieving a high level of work satisfaction is a worthy goal and outcome. And with that comes confidence and pride in the quality of output from the group/team or organization as a whole.
In summary, this overview provides leaders with criteria they can address to improve or optimize effectiveness in their organizations.
©2016. Mark J. Komen. All rights reserved world-wide