What is Our Business?: 10 Questions Every Organizational Leader Should Ask.

Every organization has a mission, but not every organization is on mission. To be on mission entails an organization living their mission, and continuously referring to their mission when it’s time to make decisions. Below are 10 questions influnced by the Paterson Process( StratOp) that every organizational leader should continously train their people to ask and know the answers to.

  1. Who are we? So many organizations confuse who they are with the services they provide. Have you ever heard the saying ” you are not what you do”. Once the significance of a company is found in what they do it is easy for them to place their identity in the success of their services and not the identity of their organization. An organization that knows who and what it is will never have an issue doing what it is supposed to do, but an organization that is concerned with what they do more than who they are will take on multiple identities just for the sake of doing.
  2. What is it that we do? Once an organization knows who they are they then can begin to process what they do as a uniquely designed organization. Their identity should drive their productivity. Answering this question should be done with specifics, generalizing will not bring clarity but just allows your people to live in a missional fog. What you do is the big picture picture of why you exist and why the world needs you. If your people shrug their shoulders and stumble over figuring this out then you need to equip them with the answer, or you will be forced to settle for the misguided efforts that are a consequence of people not knowing how to run the race and find the finish line.
  3. Why does it matter? This is a question about accomplished and intended impact. Why does it matter if your organization exist? If you shut your doors today would the quality of life for the people who support you decline? If so, how? If not, why not? Many organizations find out too late in the game that what they do doesn’t matter, or they aren’t doing it well enough to matter. Your organization has to find a way to answer this question of impact and it may be good to have your customer/member base speak into it. A simple question on an annual survey or on a customer service survey could get you a ton of information on why you matter to the people you serve.
  4. Who are your customers/members? Where do they live? What do they do? What do they need? When do they need it? What are all the make ups of the demographics they are a part of? I know it is impossible to learn every single thing about your customer/member base but you need to know as much about them as you possibly can. Remember, they are not just a name or a number, they are people who support your organization and they need to be known so you can continously find the best ways to serve them.
  5. How do our customers/members see us? Whether we want to admit it or not perception and lived experience mean a lot to your customers/members. Some people will percieve your organization from a distance and others will form an opinion off of lived experience. Your job is not to appear perfect, but to move enough stumbling blocks out of the way so your customers/members can truly get a feeling for who you are. Your customers/members will continously form this opinion from the moment they have inquired of your organization until the moment their time with you expires. Do everything within your power and identity to show your customer/member base who you are. True authenticity can only be established alongside of clarity.
  6. What is the unique buying/buy-in state of our customer/member? Getting the answer to this question will help you really understand why your customers/members support you. Is your organization and what you offer a neccesity, an accesory, or a luxury. Organizations that are not driven to profit monetarily should not ask what is the buying state but instead they should ask what is the buy-in state of our customer/member. What causes them to buy-in to the service you offer? Non-Profit organizations should ask the same questions: Are we a neccesity, accesory, or luxury to our customers/members? A neccesity means you are vital to every part of their lives and they understand the importance of being a part of your organization. An accesory means that they love to use you but when life pushes them to the place where only the neccesary survives then you get cut. A luxury means that their is some kind of excessive margin in their lives that allows them to support you, but when that excessive margin decreases no matter how much they have enjoyed your organization they will be forced to end the relationship. Why? Because, your relationship was designed out of excess. Your organization was only superficially connected to their lives.
  7. Where is the trail of success and what does it tell us? You have to track down where you are winning to know the true score of the game. I know it is hard for some organizational leaders to track down success but you have to do this to understand affectiveness. There could be a problem with your product/service, there could be a problem with pricing/cost of engagement, their could be a problem with the supply chain/organizational pathway, or you could just be in a bad market/demographic. Tracking down the trail of success of your product/service gives you a peak into how you are recieved in certain markets/demographics and if you want to stay in your current market/demographic or move to another.
  8. Where does our business come from? U.S? Internationally? Specific Region/Neighborhood? The reason you track the break-out of your success is to gain further information on the markets/demographics you are welcomed in and are serving. Why? Once you are in a market/demographic you need to think about stability and expansion. If you are going to expand you need to understand the culture of the market and asses if you have the proper systems in place to expand. If you are performing poorly in the market/demographic you need to assess why, and put systems in place to perform the way you predicted you could or reevaluate your position, intention, and longevity in that market/demographic.
  9. How strong are we in these markets/demographics? It’s time to evaluate your strength in the market and this will be done in a specific manner. One of the Paterson Centers’ evaluative images are colored coded circles. The colors of each circle can tell a story about your immediate strength in the markets/demographics you serve. Do what you need to do to keep up the good work or to improve.

A. Red Circle= We are in trouble and need to fix.

B. Yellow Circle= Caution.

C. Green Circle= In good order.

10. How is profit made? Our definitions of profit may be different but we all profit something if we are leading our organizations well to achieve their mission. Your goal is to not only notice the profit but to understand how it was made. This helps you understand where you need to put your resources( people, talents, budget, primary interest) as an organization. It also helps you identify areas that once were profitable but have become dead weight and an encumbrance to the efficient movement of your organization. The only thing worse than an organization that is not successful is one that does not know how it became successful. Of course, none of us know every single step of why we are successful but we should be able to carve out a pattern/process that helps you evaluate much of your success. Asking these 10 questions repeatedly establishes a positive pattern of executing, evaluating, and innovating within your organization. Patterns like these are what take organizations far and deep on purpose.

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