[Note: This blog is for technology companies who have matured beyond the first phase of start-up chaos.]
Every excellent company has a systematic way of driving business planning and execution cycles. Usually, the time element of the planning process is controlled by a calendar. Most businesses have annual cycles dictated by required financial reporting, seasonal sales, etc. In addition, the business may have multi-year programs or initiatives. These time-cycles amount to a "heartbeat" rhythm that can be used to control and improve your business.
If you don't yet have a robust planning system, start by synchronizing your company’s planning and execution calendar with the timing of companywide business processes such as fiscal year reporting. For example, the annual planning and execution process starts on the first day of the fiscal year. Quarterly reviews of the plan and course adjustment activities are tied to end of each quarter. A companywide planning and execution calendar, well publicized within the organization, gives time for people to prepare data for planning and review activities. Asynchronous, event driven elements of the planning process are triggered by changes in external events impacting your company’s business focus. Ongoing continuous scanning of the external environment helps to prepare people for these event-driven planning activities. However, major unplanned events can seriously disrupt the rhythm and profitability of the business.
Knowing the core competencies of your organization helps you to focus on your strengths and to create significant competitive advantages.
Core competencies are a combination of unique skills, pooled knowledge, technical capabilities, company and personal connections, intellectual property, and cultural values that have accrued in the organization that allow it to develop and deliver value.
A start-up or growing company may first try to identify, and then focus on, its core competencies. Over time, the company may develop key areas of expertise which are distinctive and critical to the company’s long term growth, allowing it to establish a footprint while gaining a solid reputation and brand recognition.
The criteria for identifying a core competency are:
- It is something we know or do as well as or better than anyone else in the world,
- It provides clear customer benefits,
- It is not easy for competitors to imitate, and
- It can be leveraged to variety of products and markets.
by Scott S. Elliott, CEO, TechZecs LLC
The first and major ongoing job of any company leader is to define and articulate the Vocation of that company. Vocation is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action. In other words, a self-imposed calling to serve a certain set of customers or provide a certain set of solutions. What is the company about, and how will it serve its customers and stakeholders? A well-articulated Vocation statement helps to elicit drive and passion from its employees and loyalty from its customers, and keeps the company focused for success. We have chosen the word Vocation because it implies more than a Mission. Frankly, the Mission of most companies is mainly to make money for their owners and investors. A company's Vocation is a shared compulsion to serve a certain market using a set of innate skills, passions and competencies within its workforce.
A start-up or small company can usually operate effectively with few structured policies or business processes. The employees all meet frequently and informally and fill multiple roles to develop and deliver value to their customers. However, as a company grows in size and complexity and workers specialize, a set ofdefined work procedures (processes) is needed to coordinate efforts and organize the results. In developing and implementing these processes, many companies try to implement too many rigid processes, hindering their ability to serve their customer flexibly. So, how do you define the right level of process to serve customer’s need efficiently?