Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Are You Using These 4 Steps For Organizational Success?

With the month of September now underway, there’s an unmistakable feeling of renewed energy and determination in the air. As children return back to their school routines and the summer break now nothing more than a fond memory, perhaps it’s only natural that there’s this collective drive to take on the challenges before us with spirited enthusiasm.

Of course, how organizations view challenges – either as an outcome of being in competition with others or as an opportunity to push themselves further in order to move one step closer to reaching their full potential – plays a key role in how they approach not only overcoming these obstacles, but the level of creativity and innovation they foster within their workforce.

With this in mind, here are four steps leaders can use to ensure their organizations are not simply reacting to what challenges come their way, but that they have a clear understanding of what their organization needs to do to succeed:

1. Set clear goals independent of what your competition is doing
When it comes to the ability to consistently surprise, delight, and transform customers into loyal advocates, there are few companies that succeed at this as well as Zappos and Apple. Their ability to “deliver happiness” and release unexpected ‘must-have’ technologies respectively, are clearly not mere responses to the challenges they incur from their competition. Instead, these measures are a result of addressing what goals they have for their organization, of what they wanted to create or accomplish that would make them stand out and succeed in their respective fields.

Take Apple, for instance. Can anyone say the iPod, iPhone and iPad were created in response to something their competition was doing? Or were they more in response to the goals they had created within their company, of creating devices no one had yet wanted but after their introduction into the marketplace people would feel the need to have?

If there’s one fault that can be ascribed to Apple’s competition, it’s not their lack of innovation or creativity. Instead, it’s their inability to shift their focus toward creating clear goals for what they want to accomplish irrespective of what others in their field are trying to do.

2. Define plans that fit your organization instead of going the one-size-fits-all route
One of the reasons why Zappos has attained so much praise is not simply because of their clearly stated goal of “delivering happiness” to their customers; rather, it’s because of the fact that they’ve found a way to consistently deliver such a qualitative experience to their customers.

The reason why they were able to be successful in “delivering happiness” was because those in charge realized that they had to define for everyone on their team what it takes to deliver happiness not just to their customers, but to everyone they interact with. This methodology has lead to many books and discussions about how Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his team went about creating their organization’s culture and with it, their rules of conduct.

Of course, while these might serve as the best practices for this particular organization, it doesn’t mean that they can be simply cut and pasted into another. After all, it’s important that we recognize that these approaches were developed in situ; measures that were implemented to allow the organization to reach their shared goals while taking into consideration such variables as internal/external forces, scope of talent/creativity within their organization, and their organization’s cultural norms and attitudes.

Zappos’ success and reputation is not simply because they were the first. Instead, it’s because they created and followed a plan to reach their goals that fit the culture and needs of their people.

3. Don’t let external factors shift your focus from your objectives
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we’re easily distracted. And by the looks of things, it seems that we’re getting worse by the day. However, one thing that successful companies like Zappos and Apple share is a laser-like focus on achieving their objectives. While they might make adjustments to respond to various internal or external issues, these adjustments are always done in the light of staying on track with their goals.

Consider, for example, the release of the first iPod by Apple back in October 2001. Back then, we were enduring the first recession of this century, as well as the after effects of the “dot-com bubble” burst. On all fronts, this seemed to be the worst time to introduce a new consumer technology product given how people were not only watching their budgets, but were understandably wary of new technology in general.

Had they followed the lead of every other organization in their industry, Apple would have shelved their plans to launch such a game-changing approach to consuming music until ‘the right conditions’ arrived. The fact that Apple went ahead with releasing a new form of consumer technology during an economic downturn does not simply reflect their drive toward being a technology game-changer; it also demonstrates the committed focus they had on reaching their objectives.

4. Communicate/review work progress often to keep everyone on track
While this should be a given, the reality is that departmental/team silos are still the norm in many organizations today. If you want your organization to succeed, it’s critical that you work to break down these silos to make it easier for employees to point out potential problems/issues, as well as encouraging those in senior level positions to be more forthcoming about possible changes being discussed to address new realities/conditions in the market.

A recent example where we see a clear failure to employ this step is HP’s recent decision to shelve their tablet, the HP TouchPad, a mere seven weeks after its release. If HP’s senior management had little faith in the profitability of the TouchPad tablet, it’s clear they didn’t discuss it with those they assigned to develop and market this new product line.

What’s more, the fact that their company’s website had issues dealing with the surge in customers wanting to buy their tablets at “fire sale” prices showed a lack of clear communication between those in charge and those in the front lines about the risk of a server overload (an interesting dilemma for a company that wants to shift to more enterprise-related services like IT adaptive infrastructures).

Although no one can anticipate every possible negative outcome, the mess surrounding the discontinuation of the HP TouchPad product line is a clear example of what happens when various levels within an organization fail to keep the lines of communication open and moving both ways.

While competition can certainly be a healthy thing, by employing the four steps described above, organizations can ensure they approach such challenges with a focus of not simply trying to beat the competition, but on implementing measures which allow them to tap into the full potential of their employees.

In so doing, organizations stand a far better chance of not only reaching their shared goals but of joining the ranks of those who consistently exemplify models of organizational success.

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  1. On September 6th, 2011 at 12:07 PM Leadershipwatch - Aad Boot said:

    Like your list, Tanveer!
    Especially point 4, many companies and leaders seem to struggle with keeping focus once the plan is defined. Certainly in these days of accelerated change leaders need not only to be able to create vision and direction, but also to keep everybody focused and committed to the right track.
    Take care,

  2. On September 6th, 2011 at 1:21 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Aad. It's interesting to note how much time and effort organizations put into developing strategies or plans for what they want to accomplish in the next quarter or over the next year, and yet with just the slightest setback or distraction, they find themselves veering off-course and consequently having to develop a whole new plan. This is why I think strategic planning gets such a bad rap, not simply because some end up using it to hide from actually taking any initiatives (preferring instead the comfort and safety of the planning stages), but because organizations lose their long-term focus so easily that they end up not owning up to the goals they committed to in the first place.

    Thanks again, Aad, for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  3. On September 7th, 2011 at 2:43 PM Sam said:

    Point 1 hits a note with me. Setting goals and sticking to them is the most important factor IMO. I used to get easily distracted and sidetracked but now realise how important it is to stay on course and complete what you plan. Nice post

  4. On September 7th, 2011 at 3:54 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sam. It's a problem I've discussed with a few of my clients who admitted they didn't appreciate recognizing that just because something is marked urgent doesn't mean it's important or relevant to their achieving their goals. It's a subtle shift but it makes a world of difference to what you focus on and how well you able to stay on course.

  5. On September 8th, 2011 at 10:14 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Priya, I'm glad you enjoyed this piece and the examples I used to illustrate these 4 key steps for organizational success. While they should be inituitive, the fact is not enough organizations are actually employing them. By using real-world examples, hopefully the message becomes clearer and more leaders will take the time to reflect how they manage their workforce and lead their teams.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this piece, Priya, and welcome to my blog.

  6. On September 8th, 2011 at 10:21 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Micah. There is a lot of catching up to the competition being done in a number of organizations and industries and understandably, part of the reason for this is fear. Fear of going too far out on the limb by trying to be innovative that you fall flat on your feet. But this is where we need to recognize that being innovative is not always about being the first; instead, it's about delivering something that creates value for both those within the organization and those your organization wants to serve. Again, let's look at Zappos – what they do is in and of itself not innovative, but if we look at how it delivers value not just to the consumer, but to those who work for the company, that's where we can see how the magic is made.

    We have to remember that the first customer for any product or service are the people who are helping to create it and so if they can't appreciate the value, how we can expect those on the outside to? Once we develop this understanding, that fear of climbing too far out on the limb dissipates because we appreciate that all we're really doing is staying true to our organizational roots.

  7. On September 8th, 2011 at 11:13 PM Noemi said:

    Hello Tanveer,

    Your 3rd step is really important for me. Knowing all the different distractions that surrounds us it is really hard to focus on our goals. great example as well, Apple technology definitely proves that they are leaders in technology advancement.

  8. On September 9th, 2011 at 9:44 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Distractions are definitely becoming a greater problem both for maintaining productivity as well as staying on target. But as these examples show, it's not an insurmoutable problem. Rather, all that's required is the development of a focus that allows you to tune out these distractions, earmarking them to deal with at a later time, so you can focus not just on what's urgent but on what's important for your team and organization.

  9. On September 9th, 2011 at 1:44 AM Tammy said:

    I agree with you that never letting other factors affect your goal should be a priority because sometimes distractions tend to dilute your mind thus resulting to alteration of goals. Good point you have in there.

  10. On September 9th, 2011 at 9:44 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Tammy; glad you enjoyed this piece.

  11. On September 9th, 2011 at 9:47 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks, glad to hear it. I hope your employees and the rest of your workforce will appreciate the benefits this will help you derive for your organization.

  12. On September 10th, 2011 at 1:05 PM Jim Matorin said:

    Why are there so many silos? It takes great leadership to make sure everyone is focused and stays on track.

  13. On September 12th, 2011 at 10:31 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Jim,

    Good question, one that would require a blog post on its own to answer. To give you the short answer, one key reason silos prop up is out of response to how organizations and their leaders respond to failure or mistakes. If they respond to these situations with blame and reprisals, it's only natural that as a means of self-protection, teams or divisions create silos that would allow them to deflect finger-pointing – and responsibility – to others. Of course, the other thing this creates is an internal attitude of us-vs-them which only serves to perpetuate the blame-game outcome as no one is interested in helping the other as they are in seeing their own efforts succeed.

    In this light, while I agree with you that internal social media tools can help to improve communication, I doubt in and of itself it will lead to more information-sharing and transparency as the organizational culture needs to first demonstrate that such attitudes are welcome and desired, as opposed to being a liablity for putting a bulls-eye on your team's back.

  14. On September 15th, 2011 at 9:59 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sanjay; glad to hear you enjoyed this piece.

  15. On September 17th, 2011 at 6:24 AM Mahendra Yadav said:

    Work with Goals and Objectives sure gives great results. Nice post Tanveer.

  16. On September 17th, 2011 at 9:04 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Mahendra.

  17. On October 5th, 2011 at 10:43 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Joel. To answer your question, there's no panacea when it comes to stress because stess is a situational problem. That's why it's important for people to first determine what's causing the stress they are feeling and then make a proper assessment of dividing those things which are in their control to do something about from those things they can't do anything about. Many times, we allow ourselves to get stressed over things that are outside of our control, which only compounds our stress level as we realize there's nothing we can do to alleviate the situation. By drawing that distinction, we can shift our attention to those issues we can do something about and thus, feel some relief and satisfaction from knowing we're able to improve the situation.

    I hope that answers your question, Joel.

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