We at 4Views are often asked how organizational effectiveness — the focus of our practice — differs from the more commonly known organizational development. The primary distinction is that OE starts at “the end”: looking at desired final outcomes. Then various activities within the company including operations, administration, IT, marketing and customer relations are evaluated and enhanced to better support progress towards those goals.
In today’s brisk business environment, effectiveness is most often measured by productivity and cash flow. Yet many organizations only open their books to a select few while still expecting staff to make good decisions and set the right priorities. A certain amount of financial information needs to be shared and understood at all levels so that everyone knows at a minimum what makes money and what costs money.
A flush bottom line shouldn’t be the only criterion of effectiveness. A top grossing salesperson might not be your model asset if he’s aggressive and overbearing and you manufacture plush toys for newborns. Knowing what to prioritize in your hiring function can make the difference between building a successful team and assembling a revolving door. Sometimes even small gestures need to be carefully weighed in the bright light of brand identity. You might rethink that complimentary plastic keychain if your company supports environmental responsibility and the dang things keep winding up in the trashcan in the lobby.
Marketing and promotions are obvious areas to evaluate for organizational effectiveness. Advertising, press and appearances are common vehicles for introducing your company to prospects. But even your home office and help desk need to effectively represent you. How would it look if Disneyland, the “Happiest Place on Earth,” had quick tempered gate attendants?
One of our first clients was a start-up that was at the forefront of conducting real time focus group research using a scientifically accurate sampling. They had developed hardware and software that bridged the digital divide at time when only about 60% of households had internet access. Their desired target audience was manufacturers of consumer goods. But many of their sales materials trumpeted “unique technology,” “superior platform” and software with an odd acronym; not exactly selling points to those who make toothpaste and cola. In their case, priority one to achieving organizational effectiveness was aligning communication with reaching those manufacturers. We made sure there was emphasis on their service’s superior predictive results of consumer attitudes and buying behavior. Consumer-friendly language ultimately dominated not just the marketing materials, but every customer touch point from the receptionists and messengers to the CXOs.
In recent years, the power of organizational effectiveness has been co-opted by the nonprofit world. In that realm, measurements towards goals are essential in order to secure funding. But the practice of evaluating and aligning functions to support company goals can help any organization achieve measurable and sustainable success. We hope you will share your experiences of OE with our 4views community.