Corporate Culture Sub-Optimization

My latest response to a question posed in the Mentor’s Guild Ask an Expert forum:

I admit to having used such a suboptimization strategy, back in the day, when I was promoted to run a department that was both negatively viewed and non-core to the business.

Although the larger company culture was very “high-visibility” and “political,” I asked my staff to adopt a “let’s be so good that no one notices” mantra so we could work “under the radar” on some basic improvements and lessen the unwanted attention — which they embraced because they were tired of all the blame.

As routine processes became increasingly consistent, I added core-business elements to our focus:

  • Empowering low level employees to ask internal customers for the “business justification” of their requests significantly reduce our workload — and costs — and improved staff’s morale and business-like focus.
  • I made each employee responsible for providing feedback from internal and external customers about new product and service ideas….and then taught those employees how to write (and present up the chain) cogent, compelling business cases for the good ones.
  • In our annual budget process, I insisted that my managers differentiate between what we wanted and what we truly needed, simplifying my upstream negotiations, and greatly facilitating additional funding requests throughout the year.
  • When a 10% company-wide budget reduction was requested, we demonstrated how we could better improve the company’s bottom line by INCREASING our spending — and got approval to do so.
  • I also regularly invited senior leaders, including the president, to attend my staff meetings, giving us great insight into their priorities, concerns, and upcoming initiatives — and how best we might support them.

So, ironically, it was through suboptimization that we became more integrated into the core business than hoped for. And while, admittedly, this is more anecdotal than Best Practices, sometimes it just is what it is!

Happy to talk  more with you if it would help.

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