You can’t put your finger on it, but something isn’t quite right. Your company is performing well, but it doesn’t seem to have the ability to scale up. You can’t find a way to increase the revenue your team brings in without hiring more people, which you can’t afford to do until you have increased revenue. It’s a vicious cycle, and you’re not really sure where things aren’t meshing in your company.
When you step back to look at your departments, they all seem to be working well. Engineering is doing a great job at engineering your product, accounting is tallying up numbers the way they should, and production is keeping things rolling out on schedule. Even management is doing great at reporting results. So what’s wrong?
Your first clue is the complacency with which your departments are working. Sales is doing sales things, engineering is doing engineering things, and so on. What is the goal of each department?
Don’t just ask for the pep-talk, the branded mantra that your department heads know they should say when you ask what their department’s goal is. Look at the questions your managers are asking, the problems they seek to address.
Does engineering only focus on design or the moving parts, ensuring the buttons click just right while making your software capable of 30 different functions? Do your other teams focus on things exclusively related to their departments?
The issue isn’t necessarily with your individual departments doing these things, or with doing them well. The issue is with why they do these things. What is the overall purpose?
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You can address this issue of company misalignment—and unsatisfactory sales performance as its symptom—by refocusing on why your company exists. Your company started for a reason—to provide a new type of value to customers. Companies tend to drift from that starting point over time. Departments can get so focused on the day-to-day that they lose focus of the bigger goal.
When you align every department (not just sales) to focus on the single objective of bringing value to the customer, it becomes much easier to see what is preventing you from scaling up. It’s because you’re wasting resources on activities that don’t produce value for the Buyer.
Your sales organization is in the unique position to confirm or question everything your company believes about what value it delivers. Sales sees first-hand whether or not your end product or service is really providing value to the Buyer. They know the questions Buyers ask, and a great sales team is also familiar with the exact pain points of their Buyers. Successful salespeople know what they require to sell well. Is your company giving them the tools and support for them to do that?
Lean Thinking is not just about delivering things faster or more efficiently. It also addresses the problem of siloed departments. Lean is about how your company works as a team to improve the lives of its customers.
Does your company exhibit the behaviors discussed above? You can keep working the way you currently do, but you may find it difficult to scale up. In that case, your revenue won’t increase the way you want it to, your departments will stay comfortably isolated, and your company may be unable to adapt to important market changes or issues that arise.
You company can accomplish something extraordinary by shifting the collective mindset towards Lean Thinking. The starting point of this is to realign the company and every department toward the goal of improving the total value the Buyer gains from your company’s activities.