MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHORS
this article we wrap up our discussion of the building blocks
for vital organizations.
always, your feedback and comments on this newsletter are
welcome at email@example.com.
Last Prescription for the Vital Organization: Communicate!
How is information (of all kinds) generated and disseminated
throughout your organization? Who decides if there should
be a meeting tomorrow? How is the word spread to the relevant
people? How do they decide who those relevant people are?
Where would someone go if they wanted to find out, say, how
much revenue a given client generates in one year? If you’re
a manufacturer, how would your head of marketing find out
how much product was sold through one delivery channel versus
another? Would that person run into a “roadblock”
in the form of an employee who wasn’t sure that the
information could be shared? Would they know whom to ask for
“When it comes to vitality, the point is not whether
the company continually hits home-runs in the market.
The point is that it’s willing to step up to the
this example of how any fuzziness around these processes can
cause problems, even with the best of intentions. At one small
company, the organization was relatively “flat”
– at least that was the line from top management. The
vice presidents were constantly told, in formal and informal
settings, that their views were important – and sought
after – even on the most critical decisions regarding
market strategy. And yet, with unfailing regularity, the President
called the Senior Vice Presidents into his office for a consult
behind closed doors. Some of the Senior Vice Presidents told
their troops what went on in those meetings, while others
were quite silent on the topic. One senior manager, in fact,
told his troops that “the line really had to be drawn
somewhere,” and “you just can’t expect to
be included in everything as if you were at the uppermost
level of the company.”
Here’s just one way to strengthen this building block
of vitality in your organization. Try tapping a rotating list
of senior managers to staff a designated “Ask the Senior
Managers” email box. The idea is that anyone in the
company can email a question in to the senior managers and
receive a personal reply within 24 hours. Questions that are
particularly interesting are posted monthly (anonymously,
along with the answers) on bulletin boards in each department.
Another technique? Have employees submit questions (anonymously,
if they so choose) in writing in advance of a monthly or bi-monthly
all-staff meeting. Devote 10 to 15 minutes at each meeting
to answering those questions.
wraps up our series of articles on vital organizations. We
started with Is
Your Organization Vital?, then covered the building blocks
of a vital organization:
see signs of vitality on a daily basis, in organizations that
are outperforming expectations, and also in organizations
that are not doing well at all. More kudos to those companies
that are having rough times, and still sustaining an invigorating
What does that vitality look like from the outside? It looks
as though the company is engaged in animated conversation
with its customers, and with the marketplace at large. It
looks as though the company is willing to turn in new directions,
get its feet wet in new products and new markets, stay attuned
to the external environment.
Heinz, for example, introducing a line of organic ketchup.
The buzz, for a long time, was that large, mainstream corporations
would never get into the “niche” organic market
– but Heinz took the plunge. “We hear you; we’ll
try it,” was the message.
point is not whether the company continually hits home-runs
in the market. The point is that it’s willing to step
up to the plate. The vital organization tests the water, sends
questions out to the marketplace, and stands ready to react
when it gets answers.
If you have something to say about organizational vitality
let us know.
forward this newsletter to your colleagues and friends who
are interested in organizational and leadership issues. Your
feedback is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2005 Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau All
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