Different academicians, consultants, and practitioners use them with various meanings. The words or terms that re used in your discussions on the subject of Organization Direction are not that important in and of themselves. However, to avoid miscommunication among a group that is attempting to collaborate in a direction setting effort, a set of common definitions and usage or terms is needed. It is very difficult to effectively communicate and consistently use clear terminology during the (re)design of an organization.
If you can’t be clear about what you are trying to do, it is very hard to learn from mistakes, to detect misdirected effort or to expect the members of your entire organization to be empowered and purposive and committed to your directions. The following terms and explanations are ones, which are typically used in direction setting (organizational planning). It is intended that the information in this paper will help establish a common base of understanding.
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Organization Direction Statement Definition: An Organizational Direction Statement clearly defines the reason for which an organizational unit was created, the major guidelines under which it can be expected to operate and its’ strategic focus or direction the path it intends to follow to its ideal future state. A Direction Statement is used in organizational planning and operation. It is usually a set made up of some or all of the following elements: Vision, Mission/Purpose, Strategic Priorities, Objectives, Guiding Principles/Values/Operating Norms and Leadership Practices.
The Direction Statement communicates: “Here’s what we are here for, folks, this is our unique qualities, and this is what you can count on us to deliver. ” The Direction Statement is a clearly defined “bridge” for the organization to cross over (transition) from its current state to its ideal future state. (See Figure 1 Discussion: An organization exists to accomplish some purpose a mission. If this purpose is to be most effectively accomplished the choices and actions of individuals within the organization must be directed within some reasonable boundaries.
In a simple organization (such as a single owner/ manager and one employee), it is not necessary to be explicit about direction since the manager can effectively influence and guide the employee in day-to- day operations. As organizations grow and become more complex, this is not possible’ Yet, the need to guide employee behavior and the focus of Page 1 their efforts still exists. Both the organization and individuals need some form of predictability and structure. Typically, organizations provide this guidance and control through job descriptions, clear rules, work assignments and norms of operation that develop over time.
Figure 1 This method of providing guidance and control has drawbacks, however. It tends to assume that the manager can determine “one best way” and that this way will not need to change with changing conditions. It also does not take advantage of the initiative of employees, who will invest more creative effort and have more personal commitment if they understand the objectives of their organization and if they are allowed some individual choice in how to contribute to them. The elements making up the Organization Direction are intended to facilitate a move away from rigid rules and assignments.
This is accomplished by providing an explicit description of what is important (Vision, Mission/Purpose, Strategic Priorities and Objectives) and general guidelines or principles for achieving those ends (Guiding Principles/Values/Norms, Leadership Practices, etc. ). When people are given the information they need, he training and encouragement to use this knowledge, they tend to make individual choices (decisions) that are “organizationally appropriate” for a given set Of circumstances.
Thus, when people are focused on what is important, and are given some freedom and flexibility in the way to respond, they will most often do what is needed and expected. They are said to be “empowered. ” Vision Definition: A statement that describes the “ideal future state” of an organization. It energize and mobiles its members to realize this ideal. It empowers people and creates enthusiasm describing the unique and extinctive contributions that the organization will make in its chosen field of endeavor.
The Vision is a statement that communicates: “This is what makes us special and what we foresee as our ideal future state. ” Page 2 EXAMPLE: Sonny’s vision of its’ ideal future state, created in the early sass was ‘We will create products that become pervasive around the world We will be the first Japanese company to go into the U. S. Market and distribute directly We will succeed with innovations that U. S. Companies have failed at – such as the transistor radio Fifty years from now, Our brand name will be as well known as any in the world And will signify innovation and quality that rival the most innovative companies any. Here “Made in Japan” will mean something fine, not something shoddy. ” Discussion: The Vision Statement is the result of the effective integration of the individual needs of its players with the needs of the overall organization. It is a rather personal statement, which must be sensitive to changing business trends, challenges, opportunities and marketplace conditions. It describes the kind of organization we want to become and how we want to be seen or embedded its points of greatness.
The Vision Statement lends itself to many formats a narrative description of one-taboo pages, being summarized or condensed into a series of short descriptive phrases, images, slogans and other devices that invite people to embrace it and own it. It provides substance with which members of the organization are able to identify and associate with pride. The Vision Statement captures people’s attention with its zest or protectiveness. The statement may be the precursor of the organization’s Mission Statement (statement of purpose).
In tuitions where a well-defined and currently viable mission already exists, the Vision may articulate how the organization will improve its performance. Mission/Purpose Definition: A statement describing the nature and scope of the work to be performed; the organization’s reason for existence. The Mission/Purpose communicates: This is the business we are in. We could not exist except for this basic reason. EXAMPLE: At Hewlett-Packard the mission is make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity. ” Discussion: The Mission Statement is a to-the-point description Of hat the organization or unit was formed to do.
Other units or organizations would readily understand and accept the statement. It does not try to capture trends or special areas of accomplishment but simply describes the basic productive functions and the intended outputs. It stakes out the territory. It is the foundation upon which other components of design and direction are built. For an operations/production unit, the purpose may be quite obvious. For a staff department, articulation of purpose will demand clear thinking as to what the unit is really in place to do. Most staff units do not develop a Lear, precise purpose.
As a result, they tend to spread into unintended areas that are not necessary or helpful to the basic business. They begin to serve themselves. As an organization unit grows and becomes more complex, its purpose becomes less obvious to members. People tend to forget or make their own assumptions unless the basic reason for the unit’s existence is kept very clear. Page 3 Strategic Priorities/Goals Definition: Statements identifying the major outcomes around which the organization allocates its resources and priorities its efforts. If accomplished, these outcomes significantly move the organization to- ward accomplishing its mission.
The Strategic Priorities communicate: “Let’s all look for ways to keep moving toward these key outcomes. ” Example: “To capture the majority share of the business systems marketplace. ” Discussion: Strategic Priorities identify the areas for particular focus and attention that are beyond the business-as-usual requirements of the organization. They generally are not measurable objectives, but rather are longer-range targets to keep shooting for. ‘Typically covering a 3-to-5 year period, they describe strategic positions to be attained, new beachheads, or improvement and innovation efforts.
Establishing Strategic Priorities forces an organization to say “Of all the useful/needed/interesting things to do, these few are the ones which will significantly move us to- ward the attainment of our Vision. ” By setting a limited number of outcomes (typically two to five), the, Strategic Priorities also define, by exclusion, what should not get too much attention by the members of the organization. A clear understanding of market- place conditions and customer needs are particularly important in determining Strategic Priorities.
Otherwise, organizational resources will be ensured by responding to unanticipated demands. The Strategic Priorities will be reduced to wishful thinking, rather than a useful mechanism for helping the organization’s members to set short-term objectives. Performance Objectives Definition: Statements of short-term (tactical usually 12-to 18 months or less), measurable and with clearly defined, specific outcomes/results to be achieved that fall logically within the boundaries of a Strategic priority and are essential to achieving that priority.
The performance Objectives communicate: “This is what you can count us to specifically accomplish. ” Example: “To have departmental quality improvement objectives set and implemented by all department heads no later than the first working day of the 2nd Quarter. ” What: To establish specific departmental quality improvement objectives and have effectively communicated these objectives throughout the department. Who: All Department Heads When: By the first Friday of the 2nd Quarter Discussion: Objectives state clearly what will be accomplished, by whom and when.
To achieve any objective, numerous intermediate results (some sequential, other simultaneous) must be achieved. These are stated in terms of action plans each having its own set of action steps, resources and time frame. By tracking Objectives, the Page 4 organization in- forms people of progress and ensures that the day-to-day work is moving in the right direction focusing on Strategic Priorities, accomplishing the Mission and, ultimately, living the Vision. A common problem occurs when objectives are not set to support a Strategic Priority, because of the difficulty of stating exactly what action needs to be taken.
By contrast, Objectives that are well developed and clearly stated provide all employees with a statement of what an organization intends to do in response to a particular Strategic Priority. Objectives may also be appropriate in areas that fall outside of the Strategic Priorities. It is often important to track accomplishment in areas of the business that do not qualify as Strategic Priorities at that time (for example, safety objectives, which are important, but not necessarily an area for major new action).
Guiding Principles/Vases/ Norms Definition: A series of statements that serves as a code of ethics for operating the business. A set of criterion against which people can test future sections and choices. A vehicle for determining the rightness of their decisions and choices. The Guiding Principles/Values communicate: “Whenever possible, we will look to these for guidance on how to act. We will strive to have our behaviors be consistent with these stated intentions. We will walk like we talk. ” Examples: C] Quality/Product Excellence – “Our customers can always look to us to provide them with highest quality products at fair prices. Candor/Openness – “Everyone in this organization is expected to be fully involved, to express his or her feelings and opinions and stay optimally engaged. Teamwork – ‘We build strong personal relationships based upon trust and mutual respect. We work in full support with one another in the accomplishment of our team’s goals and objectives. Discussion: Usually consisting of a series of statements, the Values or Guiding Principles are derived from a consensus on what behaviors and attitudes are important to build into the fabric of the day-to-day operation – our organization’s culture.
The statements are a result of reaching consensus on a number of issues, which normally engender a diversity of opinion: our values and beliefs about people at work. Organizations on the leading edge of the Performance Excellence typically have written Guiding Principles in four areas: customer-focus, quality, continuous improvement and employee involvement/empowerment. Some also have them in the areas of ethics and supplier partnerships. The organization succeeds when people act in ways that obtain desired business results through the accomplishment of mutually beneficial Strategic Priorities and Objectives.
And they do so by behaving in manner that is in alignment with their stated values. Anything that unnecessarily restricts the employees’ ability to understand the desired exults or that creates barriers to the Vision is counter to the business interests, Rigid values, unpredictable management actions and conflicting value systems restrict healthy page S problem-solving and decision-making. Guiding Principles (Values) are intended to remove the restrictions while still providing the focus.
A key to the successful use of Guiding Principles is to institutionalize them: Make the principles a meaningful part of the organization’s life. This is accomplished to the degree that key behaviors are identified and clearly associated with the principles. Such behaviors include normal or expected procedures, systems and methods of operation that are put into effect to support the principles. The Guiding Principles (Values) only become believable and useful to the extent that people actually see them in action and applied to every- one.
People readily detect incongruities between organization principles and management behavior. When conditions warrant actions going against a principle, the reasons should make sense to anyone who is given the facts. Leadership Practices/ Qualities Definition: Statements that describe the editorship’s approach or intention in regard to dealing with major groups of elements or the organization and its environment. The Leadership Practices/ Qualities communicate: “This is what we want you to know about us and what you can expect from us in key areas. Example: “To provide the type of work environment that permits and encourages each individual member to apply his/her talents, knowledge and efforts to the fullest in the accomplishment of our Strategic Priorities and Objectives. ” Discussion: Leadership Practices are not always a part of an overall direction package. Some organization leaders Indo it helpful, even important, to make some general statements of philosophy as a step toward developing operating principles. Such statements can be a very useful way to communicate publicly what the leadership stands for.
A public statement is also a strong indicator of commitment. Example: “We, the Executive Leadership Team, are fully committed to providing the necessary information, training, opportunity and encouragement to our people to insure their maximum contributions. “‘ Business Expectations Definition: The hard numbers and specific expectations, which must be met if the organization is to continue as a successful entity. The explicit/specific expectations communicate: “If we want to survive, we need to at least deliver the following, otherwise we will fail in our Mission. Discussion: Most organization units are created and governed by some greater authority (e. G. , stock- holders, board of directors, etc. ). Hard numbers define the necessary bottom line results the organization was created to produce. Usually, the expectations take the form of specific profit numbers, expected accomplishments or minimum acceptable conditions. It is in the organization’s best interest to have the expectations stated as explicitly s possible in order to have a meaningful gauge for success.
Otherwise, the unit experiences the frustration of working on the wrong things or being measured against changing ground rules. Page 6 Note: Business Expectations are an essential part of the Direction Statement, but due to their confidential nature, they may not be a part of the public document. The Process is the Pay-off unfortunately, all-too-often, organization leaders do not strive to make direction explicit. Many leaders assume that everybody knows why they are here and what they are expected to do. This is rarely the case, however.
People and organizational units have a way of drifting toward behaviors that support their own purposes or their individual interpretations Of what is really important. Another common assumption of organization leadership is that consistent guidance for people will occur through the day- to-day interactions. This assumption tends not to recognize the need for diverse and changing guidance that results from a diverse and changing marketplace. A well thought-out and effectively communicated Direction Statement is an extremely powerful mechanism to inspire and empower people, and to align their individual efforts.
It builds important consistency and predictability into the organization without being rigid or depending upon only a few key managers or individuals to make the right things happen. The end product the Direction Statement itself is of great value. But of even greater value than the words is the journey taken to develop the Direction Statement. This front-end investment of time and energy pays off in the form of less need to detect, manage and correct the effects of second- guessing, conflicting norms (values) and people working at cross-purposes. Page 7 John N. Younger, Ph. D.
John Younger is the President and co-founder of Associates In Continuous Improvement, a Houston, Texas based advisory and educational resource to executives and senior managers. Additionally, he has served, since 1 993, as a Chair for Visage International.