I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve spent the better part of 20 years running a business with rocks in my head! OK, hopefully not rocks, but definitely missing the point somewhere important.

I’ve lectured and monologued to my teams, time and time again about how the Sales Team will break the Service Team, then Service will break Sales. One drives the other, so on and so forth!

Everyone bought it! I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type this! It kinda makes sense though, doesn’t it? Competition drives growth. Yeah?

Nah. Not quite.

Why would I want my own business’ departments competing with each other? That’s ludicrous!!

Treating a department as a discrete system simplifies management and appears to make it easier to set and reach targets. But a department isn’t a discrete system, is it? It’s part of the greater system that is the organisation!

What if one department wins, but the organisation doesn’t? Does the department really win?

A conversation I’ve been initiating with my teams recently begins with the question, “Who are your customers?” Not just THE customer/client. We know we need them. “Look internally,” I ask, “…and now tell me who your customers are?”

An example from my own business would be, our Professional Services (Projects) Team obviously serves the end customer to deliver a solution/business value, but they also work for our Service Desk (Helpdesk) by delivering a supportable solution. It’s been a great shift in mindset for our Leadership Team.

The see-saw effect of maximising department outputs makes no sense when compared to the rising tide of an optimised system. It really is quite poetic in that context. The “see-saw” has been common in my organisation, and glaringly obvious in many of the businesses I’ve worked with over the years.

Sales’ forecasts should help operations with resource planning. Operations’ resource planning should guide sales targets and forecast. It sounds so simple when put like that!

I’m taking a step back this quarter and taking in the wider view of the organisation as a system. I’m critiquing our metrics to make sure they are providing real help and guidance, and asking what data needs to be shared between departments to ensure we optimise the system. Not maximise the components!

Who are your customers? Internally. What data needs to be shared to create a positive feedback loop? How do we optimise the system, not maximise the component?

A really nice set of questions to ask your teams.

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