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The “Y” Factor

Many organizational improvement projects begin organically. There is a change in leadership, or a change in the marketplace, and the organization wants, maybe needs, to improve performance. Projects are devised with the intention of increasing this or reducing that, with little regard to whether increasing this or reducing that will make a difference.

How can you know if you are on the right path and not just going in a circle or getting to the wrong result more quickly? The question needs to be asked- why? That’s the “Y” factor. Asking why can help focus attention toward a desired result. Asking why can change the attention from mere activities and output to outcomes. People in the organization may be doing their work right, without doing the right work. That is why you have to start with goals.

Why is this important? As much as we may wish and hope, no organization can be good at everything. Decisions have to be made on how on the real goals of the organization.

Changes in organizations are always occurring; there may be change in management or a change in the market. Asking “why” reaffirms or questions the direction of an organization. It provides that important opportunity to define, redefine, and/or reinforce the goals and direction of the company.  

Why start with goals?  No organization can accomplish everything. Directing attention to a few critical areas that will make the largest, positive impact is where to begin. Those critical areas are the strategic objectives, the goals, of the organization.

Why does strategy matter? Strategy is the pathfinder to show the way, even if the destination isn’t immediately visible or clear. 

Take the iPod. Apple was a computer and software company that jumped into the consumer electronics market. That was a pretty big, and risky, jump. Strategically, it wasn’t just enough to make a device, Apple also provided the way to easily get content on that device. Because both iTunes and iPod have been wildly successful ventures, these strategic decisions make perfect sense – in hindsight.

While it is true that merely having a strategy is no guarantee of success, without being able to show the way, how to do you keep everyone on the same path, working toward a common goal?

Why is this KEY? There is an important difference between collecting data and using that data strategically. Measurement, by itself, may not improve performance and most organizations are already overwhelmed by data. Starting with a strategy, your “Y” questions ask where to best direct your attention. Why not leverage your data, instead of drown in it?

Progressive Insurance has used analytics to target particular market segments, attract and take that market, and move on to the next opportunity before their competitors can respond. It is only through pairing that strategic vision with their analytics that propels them ahead of the pack.

Why are we doing this? No organization has unlimited resources. If strategic focus means doing a few things well, that also means identifying those things that a company should not be doing at all.

Obsolete processes, unnecessary blockages, and unread reports cost an organization money as well as being demotivating for the workforce. It may take a number of “Y’s” to question the status quo and start to undo these obstacles.

An excellent organization doesn’t try to be good at everything. That’s why it is so important to have, and communicate, strategic goals. To ask those “why” questions and concentrate efforts that will actually improve performance results.

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