Every business has two essential tasks—making sure it satisfies or exceeds the expectations of its customers, and making sure that it aligns its structure and priorities to make a “quality” product in an efficient manner that will allow it to remain competitive over the long haul. Governments and non-profit organizations have, at their core, very similar challenges.
In the case of government, the trend in both the Republican and Democratic primaries is telling. The message is clear—voters are sending their disapproval of the establishment. When I look at our two-party system and the effectiveness of our federal government, I can’t help but think of the saying, “It does not work to mate two dinosaurs in an effort to produce a herd of gazelles.” As long as both parties are more focused on maintaining and gaining power than responding to voters, little will change. But a party that can align its results with voters’ desires would revolutionize and re-create the political landscape.
Our cattle organizations have similar interests. Almost all these organizations are operating in a totally different environment from the one they were created in. Several of these organizations have radically changed and incorporated different aspects or functions to their business model, but they are tethered to the structure they began with. They are transformed organizations and yet their organizational structure has evolved very little.
From an individual business perspective, the key management task seems to making sure that we are working on the things that create value and sustainability. How can we build a structure where we are not only doing the important but also the “urgent?” Do we have the right mix of talent and skills, and the right plan to reach our objectives?
An allied industry business leader remarked to me that we are always striving to do better, but we rarely take the time to determine whether or not we are doing the right things. Business author John Maxwell warns about the pursuit of perfection in that it tends to lead to “polishing yesterday’s apples.”
In our own enterprise, we started from scratch and the primary goal has been survival; that has been plenty of incentive in and of itself. We finally have reached the point where survival is not the primary goal, and are now focused on growing rapidly enough to give employees and our children the opportunities they desire.
One wouldn’t think that would be a drastic change, but it is a monumental shift. Our mission has not changed, but virtually everything we are doing and everything we are considering is being approached from a different perspective. In our case, the decision to invoke radical change was not difficult because we could not get where we are heading with the old model.
Larger entities have even more adherence to the status quo, and change is deemed risky. In our small enterprise, the management team is small and our survival is linked to the survival of the entity. In bigger organizations, the assessment of risk and the need for change is more subtle. It is often easier or at least safer to do things as they have always been done. Do we take the time to ask if our structure is aligned with our goals and values and designed to deliver the results we desire? Far too often, we don’t.