Align for Success

Originally posted on Huffington Post Business 1/25/12.

Do you remember the popular book, Dress for Success? It sold millions of copies based on a simple concept:  If you want to get ahead you need to look the part. And that starts with what you wear. Wardrobes were updated everywhere.

Dress for Success was itself a resounding success because it nailed the fundamentals. Its basic premise made sense — appearances matter. And, it was easy to execute.

So, the individual had a playbook, albeit one book in the broader scheme of things, on how to increase their odds of success. Cool.

What about the organization? Is there an equivalent playbook for driving success for the organization as a whole? Is there something fundamental that can be executed across the organization that would also accelerate momentum, value and sustainable success? I would argue, yes, but it’s not what graces most reading lists.

Certainly, there is good thinking about the effectiveness of culture, the importance of community, and the benefits of branding. There are also new ideas about more efficient organizational  structures and models. All are worth investigating and deploying.

But, none of this work gets to the root cause of why organizations are not as successful as they can be. Organizations are not achieving their full potential because organizations do not align for success. For all the talk of one corporate culture, one community, and one brand, we continue to see departments operating within their own agendas, goals and motivations. And while some success is being achieved as a result of innovative products, smart selling, and brilliant marketing, an organization will not be as successful as it can be without integrating all three of those fundamental behaviors.

So, how can organizations align for success?

  1. Integrate the three most important operating departments — product, sales/service and marketing — around a powerful and compelling positioning platform
  2. Construct a roadmap that shows your customers the way to create and capture value in your market space
  3. Align the company behind the value roadmap. Everyone should be trained on its content. A value roadmap is thought leadership at its best, especially for an industry space that is forming or shifting. Customers at all levels will value the thinking
  4. Equally, align the company behind the competencies needed to realize those value-creation paths either through its own IP, products and services or with the addition of partnerships that complete the portfolio
  5. Manage your people, process and technology to support what you’re telling your customers they need to be competent at. The competency part of value roadmap can serve as the blueprint for what your company needs to be good at and a framework for decision making
  6. Publish and promote the heck out of the value roadmap. When you own the customer path to value you become the de facto industry leader

Sure, this kind of work is a lot more difficult that simply replacing your wardrobe, but I’d argue many companies don’t do much more than that anyway. What exactly is a new marketing campaign, product demo or a sales person, but a new suit anyway?

My next post will go into greater depth on value roadmaps.

Addendum: If this topic piques your interest, you might want to check out two earlier posts.

1) This post is about which department should lead the integration/transformation effort. Read Making Transformation Happen.

2) This post is a case study on a company that leveraged a value roadmap as the foundation of its transformation to lead a new category. Read Noise.

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  1. What is Transformation? | - [...] believe in and practice. It works best when it’s a CEO-led agenda that requires the alignment of the entire organization, especially the cornerstone …

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