February 22, 2015 1 Comment
Why not build something? Something that will last.
Out there in the streets of corporate America, life seems to be getting tougher with each passing day. The pressure to achieve short-term results has never been greater. In fact, this pressure seems to be increasing exponentially. Perhaps it is an idealistic delusion that tells us that by now we should be much further beyond where we are in this regard. The good news is that each and every day places us at a series of crossroads. This is precisely where we can make choices about how we go about doing what it is we do.
While top-level objectives, especially earnings targets in public companies, are best and more safely viewed as fixed, there is probably greater latitude to build something that will last than first seems apparent. There often exists some amount of room for artistic freedom, individual conscience, and long-term thinking in how we choose to go about meeting the top-level requirements.
Not everyone gets to play in the product sandbox every day when they go to work. However, those who do are in a great position to literally build something that will last rather than just build something that gets out the door quickly, works for a while, and then falls apart or stops working altogether. Engineers, brand managers, and ultimately production organizations collectively decide how long a tangible product that we as consumers buy will last.
Even with cost and go-to-market constraints, the decisions these folks make determine how long your car, refrigerator, or cell phone will last. Not that everything can or should last forever. But building something that will last is ultimately good for a company and its stakeholders.
On the service side, sales representation, delivery, technical support, and customer service go together to define what is commonly called “customer experience”. Depending on the business, billing, credit, and collections are financial areas that enter into the experiential realm. And these days, who can deny the role of web sites and other IT services in building experience?
Building customer experience is not a slam dunk. It’s hard work and involves many pieces and parts of an organization. Applied to tangible product or services, for-profit and non-profit, building customer experiences that will last leads to market differentiation which ultimately builds brand equity. Building customer experiences that last is ultimately good for a company and all its stakeholders.
Processes are the support systems that hold together entire product and service experience structures. Arguably the first two “builds” above are not likely to happen without first building processes that last. This is an areas where organizations who choose the easy short-term answers get burnt in the long-run. It is easy to build a process “house of cards”. It takes less time and costs less. Is it any great wonder that they fall apart just as easily?
Processes involve many people and departments throughout an organization. As a result, they are very vulnerable to short-term cost pressures. Downsizing, reorganization, and ill-advised tinkering works against strength in process. When processes fail, entire companies, or at least businesses and individuals within them, fail because customers, products, and services are impacted. Building processes that last is ultimately good for a company and its stakeholders.
Regardless of what job we hold in our organizations, we all have the opportunity to build relationships that last. Always important but often overlooked as aspect of organizational life, this “build” becomes even more critical as our work forces take on greater cultural, generational, and geographic diversity. Acute short-term pressure for results in our Darwin meets Dilbert organizational lives makes this at the same time both more challenging and more important. In the end, it is people who make the product, experience, and process “builds” possible.
Building relationships that last is not about co-workers and colleagues wanting to become life-long friends. Some of that happens, but by odds and necessity, it will always be the exception rather than the rule. What this “build” is really about is having more people within the workplace actively trying to find the spans of understanding that add up to a better set of sustainable working relationships with which to accomplish the organization’s work. Building relationship bridges that last is ultimately good for a company and its stakeholders.
Mentoring and helping others to become better future contributors to building things that last may indeed be reaching lost art status in today’s workplace and maybe even the greater world at large. It is highly likely that the whole short-term pressure thing is causing this organizational casualty. Overwhelmed people in overwhelmed organizations find it next to impossible to take the time to develop people. Everyone is fully occupied trying to manage their own short-term issues in order to meet their own short-term requirements and needs. Who has time to worry about building others beyond the short-term need?
From a broad organizational sense, this has significantly weakened bench strength everywhere and has led to increased hiring from the outside when positions requiring experiences not found internally do open up. While it may be too soon to know the long-term impacts of all this, it seems likely that it will become even harder to build products, experiences, processes, and bridges that last. Building futures that last is ultimately good for the organization and its stakeholders.
Build something that will last
The good news is that it is definitely not too late. Everyone just needs to become a bit more of a builder by trying to do just a little more with this one each and everyday. Even with today’s mountain of short-term pressures, individuals making the right choices collectively can build something. We can build something that lasts.
But I’m not the only one.”