I was sitting the other day reading through some different business magazines and newspapers, concerning both public and private business, and the challenges that exist.
A common denominator that I see in many businesses is that they are unclear. The lack of clarity also means that it is difficult to keep things running smoothly.
To increase clarity, there is a series of questions to which you need to have crystal clear answers:
- Why and for whom do you exist?
- What does this “who” need and want?
- What do you need to do to meet these needs and desires?
- How will you do this work?
- What tools do we need to do this work?
- What skills are needed to do this work?
Why and for whom do you exist?
It may seem that everyone should have the answer to these questions as a matter of course. But unfortunately, that’s not the case at all. From the beginning, when the business was set up, it was probably obvious. But over time, too many people have lost sight of why they exist.
Just as the series of questions above makes clear, you need the answer to the first one in order to move on to the second, and so on in the series.
If you then lose the answer to question one over time, then a lot of what happens in the following questions also falls away. You can’t clearly answer question five, about what tools you need, if you’re unsure about all the questions leading up to that question.
Unfortunately, as a business grows, it inevitably starts to self-generate things that it sees needing to be done. You make up things that seem necessary at the time, but don’t add any value to the person you’re really there for.
It doesn’t matter if it’s private or public sector. It has more to do with the size of the business. Big business has the same self-generation of stupid things, as a large public enterprise.
When you are small, you naturally live close to the person you are there for, the customer, whatever you call them, and always have their needs and desires in mind. You may have heard the radio commercial where Marcus in customer reception passes it on to Marcus in delivery, who passes it on to Marcus in finance. It is only Marcus who works there, and thus acts in all roles.
As the business grows, you get further away from the customer and start creating things that are not customer-related. And it’s always easy to add more things to do, than it is to take them away. With a larger organisation, the opportunity to “make things up” grows, as customers are constantly “chasing you”. As the organisation grows, so does the opportunity to “make up” even more stuff.
It is somehow built into us and driven by many reasons. One is that we want to feel important and want to be in control. It’s also nicer to manage and work in a slightly larger department than a smaller one. The salary is usually related to how many people you are responsible for.
It is described in the book Parkinson’s Law written by C. Northcote Parkinson.
Outside-in or inside-out?
Over time, we lose focus and soon shift to an inside-out perspective. This means that we in the business make decisions and do things based on what we think and what is good for us, before what is good for our customers.
Instead, it’s crucial to maintain an outside-in focus, which means we look at everything we do from the customer’s perspective.
Having an outside-in focus does not in any way prevent you from doing things that are needed for yourself. It’s just that with that focus, you’re going to look first and foremost at what’s good for customers. And then the things that are “internal” will also be influenced by the fact that they will directly or indirectly create value for your customers.
In order to maintain a true outside-in perspective, you need to be able to answer the question; Why and for whom do you exist?
With a clear answer to that question, we can move on to the next question. But we’ll wait until next week.