What You Don’t Know Can Destroy Your Organization


Many variables present a challenge to proactivity

The “new economy” is changing the way we think about business and its evolving relationships. Kouze and Posner state that the abilities of today’s leaders to stay on top of these factors are increasingly challenged by:

  • Heightened uncertainty
  • More focus on people versus profit
  • Staying closely connected via technology
  • Utilizing social capital to create highly productive teams
  • Competing in the global market economy
  • Sharing information at greater speeds
  • Changing workforce demand for higher utilization of talent, trust, and independence
  • Making more complete and involved decisions while intensely searching for meaning and purpose

These changes force us to look harder and faster at what we know and what we don’t know, and to make decisions on both long- and short-term horizons within the context of our new, faster yet service-based economy.

With challenges comes opportunity - you just have to look for it.

Challenges bring with them an inherent opportunity to engage in more unique and creative working relationships with customers, vendors, and employees.

Our experience shows that leaders are overwhelmed when considering where to begin in developing a business model. They feel more vulnerable and less certain about where the future leads. Many lack supporting information structures to proactively monitor their environments in meaningful ways. Although many management magazines advocate the use of continual feedback loops and red-flag systems, most businesses simply collect historical data - not information regarding future customer and employee needs or satisfaction, morale, and productivity measures.

What do organizations think they know about their business? What do they really know?

It’s tempting to make assumptions based on past performance. Remember, though, that in today’s economy the past will have less to do with the future as our context continues to evolve.

The Organic Structure of Organizations

To understand what information is important for your organization growth requires that you understand the organic structure of organizational information. Rather than thinking of structures in terms of linear or sequential models, consider this more realistic application in which each piece is dependent on the others.

The ultimate direction of the organization begins with its DNA, which includes its mission, vision, values, and basic philosophy. Your organization’s DNA is unique and is the foundation for understanding and developing your unique business model that differentiates you from the competition. If you don’t do the analysis, you won’t know how to prove and build on what makes you unique.

Overcoming Common Research Pitfalls

In human relationships we have a natural tendency to self-sabotage our growth without realizing it. Emotions and emotional perceptions form an undercurrent throughout the awareness and learning process; emotions tend to trump facts and therefore serve as potential pitfalls of the learning curve.

Remain conscious of and honest about what you know and don’t know. Based on your orientation there are different methods in both qualitative and quantitative forms that will get you the information you need to build successful business strategies.

Purpose and Types of Research

At Insight, we believe that the best application of organizational research is to have a person or process assess the state of connections between the moving pieces of an organization, to understand what tends to go wrong, and to provide leadership with more and better information for strategic thinking and decision making.

The three types of research:

  • Inside research: culture audits, employee morale/management audits, productivity audits, hiring practices audits, training program assessments, and so on
  • Outside research: customer audits that assess customer service, product perception, customer priorities, vendor audits, and so on
  • Around research: competitor brand message analysis, industry analysis, literature reviews, macro trends and so on

Deciding which type of research is best for your business requires you to ask the right questions, which you can do by properly identifying areas of misalignment between you and others and by identifying where you (and others) think you are in the learning/change/growth process as part of the strategic process.

Information Supports the Strategic Process

Research about your organization only works if you have a structure to grow it by. One of the most dangerous things an organization can do is to gather information for the sake of having it without having the intent to use it. Collecting information you don’t use wastes time, deflates morale, and kills a sense of value and trust.

Set the context for the research you need

Before you begin to research, engage a strategic process to set scenarios. goals and strategies for the general direction you want to go. This sets the context for the research you need.

We suggest the following process to guide your research priorities:

  1. Get ready by engaging leadership. Make sure that everyone is on the same page about key knowledge about the organization.
    • Assess core competencies and organizational strengths
    • Distill vision, goals, values, culture, and leadership styles
    • Identify conflicts and bottlenecks
    • Clarify level of readiness for change
    • Learn about unique abilities of individuals and team dynamics
  2. Set productivity by aligning strategy with talent. Get your priorities and resources in line.
    • Develop a strategic roadmap (e.g. scenarios that feed objectives, strategies, and action plans that differentiate)
    • Research the unknowns of current conditions
    • Develop roles and responsibilities
  3. Set intended outcomes, performance expectations, and measurements
    • Intend outcomes via execution and performance measurement
    • Allocate resources for action plans (e.g. time, people, and money)
    • Communicate plans, roles, and intended outcomes
    • Set individual goals for team members
    • Monitor progress and outcomes during execution
    • Conduct performance evaluations
    • Modify and refine action plan as needed

To build a strong business model information must mobilize meaningful strategies

Proactive businesses today go beyond historical data and gather the types of information discussed above to support innovative decision making and to build the knowledge and trust among their customers and employees. They understand the value of regular data collection to set baselines for crucial measurements. They then share results to reward excellence and to encourage improvement; they aren’t waiting for annual performance reviews.

Now is the time to find out how many of your business and leadership challenges lead to specific areas of “not knowing.”

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