Your business isn’t a machine – it’s an ecosystem. Everything connects to everything else, directly or indirectly.
Not actively recognising this causes many businesses to fall prey to inefficiencies, to silos…and to leaving significant amounts of money on the table.
A few years ago I was running a workshop with a large corporate and, in order to visualise where each person in the room sat in relation to everyone else, I carried out a simple exercise.
Everyone wrote their names on the wall (one with one of those washable surfaces, obviously – I’m not one to encourage vandalism)
They then proceeded to draw a line between their own name and anyone else on whom their role had an impact, thicker lines for directly and thinner ones for indirectly.
Next, I asked them to draw more lines, connecting their name with anyone who had an impact on them or their role, and to add in the names of other departments that weren’t represented here in the group, and add yet more connecting lines.
Unsurprisingly, the result was a complete mess – it looked like an army of toddlers had been let loose in a crayon factory.
What it did, though, was allow everyone to see how they connected to everyone else in the room…and beyond.
And to see the ongoing connections that that person had with someone else.
And to see who was impacted upon by their own work – something many of them hadn’t really considered in any great depth.
Suddenly, everyone became aware of their significance in the business ecosystem: if they dropped the ball, it DID matter. Someone else would have to pick up the pieces. Their contribution was important to the overall.
Understanding connections is crucial to seeing the business ecosystem as a whole.
It’s Everyone’s Responsibility
That particular workshop was around managing gross margins: the company in question had an extremely capable finance department, but the wider issue was that EVERYONE has a role to play in managing overall company profits. Everyone.
And this is what the workshop was setting out to do – make people aware of their own personal impact on the bottom line.
If finance isn’t seen as everyone’s responsibility at some level, it becomes a silo, and its inhabitants seen as bean counters (or worse). It’s not helpful. It costs money.
People management is also everyone’s responsibility. My heart sinks when I’m talking about something people related and I get the reply “we’ve got an HR manager”.
If HR becomes a silo, people start to call it ‘Human Remains’(don’t pretend you’ve never heard THAT one) and belittle the function’s vital contribution to business growth. And it’s hot helpful. It costs money.
Maintaining the brand is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of the marketing department: it’s going to be difficult to keep pushing out positive messages of reliability if staff members are cheating the system at customers’ expense…as a well known car manufacturer found out. It’s not helpful. It costs money.
Collective responsibility is part of what makes the business ecosystem work efficiently…or not.
Communications is the Glue
The business ecosystem relies on communication… and perhaps this is where it so often goes awry.
I was speaking recently to a friend who works for a well know retailer: apparently the buyers don’t really communicate with the sales team, and vice versa.
How much money, I wonder, is being left on the table because the sales team don’t have the requisite product knowledge, or because the buying team don’t have qualitative information about the customer from the coal face?
One can only guess.
Or there’s the marketing consultant who, having analysed current demands and developed a strategy for growth, decided on and advised the purchase a CRM system… without at any point consulting the sales team who would be using it.
I wonder how that worked out….
Or, the energy company who made massive assumptions about what local stakeholders wanted instead of asking them directly… only to have it backfire as campaigners delayed the building of a new facility by several years.
A small oversight became a major problem.
The business ecosystem, then: connection, collective responsibility, communication.
It’s the difference between merely surviving…and thriving.
(from my article originally posted on Linked In)