Q: How do I keep my business aligned as it grows?
A: You have designed your business with a structure, operating processes and culture that make sense to you. As you grow, you realize that aspects of your business will start to change. For example, should you use the same strategy to deliver value to customers?
There are eight aspects of how you run your business that must stay in alignment as your business changes. When these factors fall out of sync, things won’t work as smoothly as they did previously. The eight factors are:
1. How you deliver value to your customers
2. Your leadership style
3. Your organization capabilities — those things you do really well
4. The organization’s culture
5. The competencies possessed by your workforce
6. The practices used to manage your workforce
7. Your business processes
8. The structure that holds the business together.
The way you align these factors must be unique to you.
Really successful businesses create an alignment that sets them apart. Trying to imitate other successful organizations will seldom yield the performance and customer interaction that you are trying to deliver. This is one reason why benchmarking doesn’t always produce a positive outcome: you are looking at how other companies are successful, at their secret sauce, not your own.
The simple hiring of more employees at your site, adding new departments and executives, opening up branch offices, starting a new product or service line, bringing in new information technology and customer interaction technology, among others, will alter daily life.
To deal with these changes, discuss the alignment of the eight factors with your team quarterly. Start with your customer value strategy. Are your customers’ tastes or buying habits changing, thus forcing you to change your value strategy and leading to changes in the other seven factors?
When you spot a potential out-of-sync situation, ask what overt changes must be made in the other factors to preserve an aligned organization and then act to redress the balance. Your vigilance will be needed over time to maintain alignment and a smooth-running organization.
Michael Sheppeck is an associate professor of management at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.