Does Your Business Have One Blue Shoe?

Okay, confess, you’ve left the house wearing one black shoe and one blue (or brown) shoe.  You didn’t realize your shoes didn’t match until you arrived at your destination and/or stepped into better lighting.   When you made the realization, you had a few choices:

A.  Go home and change
B.  Run into a shoe store and buy a new pair of shoes
C.  Ignore it and hope no one notices (or mentions it)
D.  Hope everyone is colorblind
E.  Point it out yourself and laugh about it
F.  Go home and call it a day

Many businesses operate with one blue shoe.  The business selects a new strategic direction and sets organizational goals (black shoes).  The business leadership team expects the organization to execute based upon those defined parameters.  The organization continues to operate based upon the organizational infrastructure that is in place (blue shoes). As the organization moves ahead, instead of having a matching pair of shoes – either both black or both blue – the organization has a mismatched pair, one black, one blue.

Arguably, the shoes are both worn simultaneously and function as shoes are intended to function enabling the business to take progressive steps forward. The problem is that, while the differences may appear to be cosmetic and unimportant, the reality is that the color is the visible difference – it is what you can see.  There may be differences that extend beyond the color – each pair of shoes was designed to match up black to black and blue to blue.  They were also meant to complement (complete) each other – a seamless team.  While the mismatched shoes may get you to your destination, how much more comfortable would you be not worrying about someone noticing the mismatched shoes?

Mismatched infrastructure and strategy is often viewed as surface or cosmetic, much like the difference in the color of your shoes.  The impact on the business dealing with the discrepancy can and does have far reaching impact on performance.

When infrastructure doesn’t align with strategy and objectives in a business, things are just out of synch.  The organization must worry about and pay attention to how to handle all of the different ways to address the discrepancies. When the organization is trying to decide what actions to take, they are unable to deploy resources efficiently and effectively.  The organization must make tactical decisions equivalent to your response to dealing with mismatched shoes.  For the organization those tactical decisions include:

1.   Initiate an organizational restructure or redesign (go home and get the matching shoe)
2.   Implement a new business management system (buy a new pair)
3.   Keep the existing infrastructure and deal with the inconsistencies, breakdowns, and priority conflicts as they occur (hope no one notices)
4.   Ignore the problems and push the organization to achieve the desired results regardless of the fact you haven’t given them the tools and resources (hope everyone is colorblind)
5.   Point out to the organization that things don’t match and act like it doesn’t matter (Point it out and laugh it off)
6.   Look for another job, close down the business, or settle for what you can get (Go home and call it a day!)

Look around your organization.  Have you recently decided to pursue new opportunities or expand operations?  Have you added new products, territories, or technology?  Are your sales people highly successful and you are blessed with extreme revenue growth?

What have you done to change your organization – its systems, skill sets, and capacity – to recognize these changes in direction?  Are you still wearing one of your old shoes and one new shoe?  Is one shoe black and the other one blue?  Is your organization every so slightly out of synch? Are you handicapping your organization by not making sure the shoes not only fit but also match?

The importance of ensuring that your organization’s vision, mission, strategy, infrastructure, goals, and people are all aligned can’t be overstated.  The degree of business success is significantly impacted by the ability to use all resources efficiently and effectively.

The business which is able to focus its resources toward specific outcomes is able to maximize its return on investment.  The maximum return on investment is about deploying resources to achieve results and returns.  Spreading resources too thin, across too many projects, often results in under funded and under resourced projects – none of the projects are able to get the full degree of success because of the limitations and constraints.

A business is ultimately a group of resources and projects, each of which must be managed to ensure that those with the best potential (and most likely to what?) get a chance to succeed.  Each step that the organization takes needs to be synchronized.  It is important that each step taken consistent in both its visibility and the manner in which it is integrated into the business as a whole.

Having one blue shoe that doesn’t match when you get dressed and go out the door may be embarrassing or distracting.  It is unlikely that it will lead to serious consequences.  For organizations, having one blue shoe may be a sign of more serious issues and a lack of coordinated effort within the organization.

Here are some events and activities that may lead to one blue shoe:

•    Rapid growth in sales
•    Expanding product or service offerings beyond the organization’s “core” competency
•    Transitioning from research and development into commercial activities (selling your product, technology, or service, manufacturing, etc.)
•    Change in senior management and leaders
•    Merger or acquisition with another entity

Keep in mind that in tight markets where competition is fierce, the advantage goes to the organization which wastes the least resources in obtaining customers.  In price sensitive industries and commoditized products and services, how well your internal operations work and the degree of consistency between your internal reality and the perception of the market translates to top-line revenues and bottom-line profits.

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