Exploring other visions for organizational changes.
A few days ago I attended a virtual conference about the philosophies of yoga. It’s always interesting to broaden horizons and listen to other points of view. Within all the content shared, one nugget, in particular, got my brain thinking: “one of the main problems of humanity is the illusion of separation.” Human beings exist feeding this illusion that we live in one body that has a mind, with some others believing there’s also a soul tied to it. When we think this way, our actions tend to reflect one of these three parts, but not as a whole. The human “being” is a union that needs to be aligned in order to work and complete a series of goals – like those we chase after to feel whole throughout our existence.
What does this have to do with business? Well, as I returned home after this workshop those words kept circling my mind and I started to think of why it’s sometimes so hard for companies to implement marketing tactics that can actually change the game. This is something that genuinely keeps me up at night, because I’ve seen business strategies crash and burn and innovative initiatives die in the waiting room, all because of a lack of alignment between a company’s departments. Do you see where I’m going with this? Can companies aspire to move forward harmoniously as a unit when still to this day they’re divided by lines of business? Do you really believe that marketing and sales work together seamlessly towards the same endpoint? Yoga has many teachings that we could apply here.
Planning: the Big Bang of conflict
Generally, the planning process starts by defining the objectives of the company as laid out by the Board. These are quantifiable goals like sales quotas, earnings, client base, retention rates, investments and expenses, among others.
Finance – which finds itself ever more powerful amongst companies – defines every area’s budget in order to meet the goals, setting aside a sizable chunk to show off as savings, which appears as a win no matter the price. This is a real tactic that grows disproportionately annually and as they increase the savings, they usually expect a parallel increase in sales but with fewer resources…
Sales define what percentage of sales they expect from existing customers versus new clients, reviews their human resources and decides on its annual plan based on quotas. Finally, there’s
Marketing, which with the budget from finance and the goals set by sales, must create an integrated plan to generate new leads, solidify existing customer accounts, increase market share, all of which they must do without losing sight of the marketing trend that is “in” that year and that the board expects to see in the plan (read: social media or any other example that fits).
In the meantime, the board is expecting all of this to flow well miraculously internally, while also hoping all the areas support each other simultaneously, that the market is open to the strategy, and that goals are met by the end of the year.
Finance, Sales and Marketing, are the most obvious examples of this disconnection, but this "atomization" exists, usually in the whole organization.
What’s *actually* going to happen though?
Sales will say marketing didn’t yield qualified leads and there was no merit to the work, that the event did not bring in any business, and that the LinkedIn followers aren’t converting... Marketing will say that sales were the ones that defined what a lead was, that the salespeople didn’t call the leads that were provided, that no one from sales stayed until the end of the event to approach the attendees… Finance then will say that since Marketing didn’t accomplish the results they were expected to, then the following year they will get their budget cut down, while sales will have to let go of one resource because they didn’t meet their quota.
Does all of this sound familiar? In my case, this is what I see happen every single year whether it’s a small business or a multinational enterprise. The company doesn’t actually behave as a unit because every area is focused on delivering on its own results. Much like some of us take care of our bodies, others feed their minds, and a few watch out for their souls. Everyone is living under the pretense of an illusion of sustained separation brought about by results (or lack thereof). The gap widens under the threat of losing resources, budget, power, or all of them – in that order.
What would an experienced yogi do in this situation?
The Hindu philosophy probably has millions of answers for these situations, and even though this isn’t my area of guru-level expertise, I do have some learnings to share from my hours of conversations, reading, and experience with businesses of every size:
Let go of fear: we live and die by the fear of failure that will end in our loss of the job or problems for our company. Let’s lose the fear and talk openly. If you’re in marketing, talk to your sales counterpart and figure out how to work towards reaching your goals together. If not, learn from it and execute again. You’re not in your role because you know everything, but because management believes you’re the right person to execute what it takes to meet goals, and oftentimes, that means trying. If you don’t execute and measure, there’s no way to reach the best solution.
Focus on excellence and not on success: Deepak Chopra once said something along the lines of if we focus on having open communication, understanding the needs of others and understanding context and possibilities within your plan, then success will only be a consequence. Stop focusing on KPIs and instead create processes and methodologies that go further than a tactic. If you focus on an “efficient how,” the “what” doesn’t matter.
Give your ego a break: stop looking at your colleagues and the board with jealousy. Take advantage of your role and opportunity to also grow as a person. Start a team focused on excellence and competence. Play to win, even if you lose. Integrate with the rest of your colleagues and push them to create a collaborative environment so that everyone gets their end-of-year bonus. Forget about shining from results, and look for the best version of you.
Express yourself: the biggest enemy of every relationship are assumptions. Express your ideas openly so there’s no room to “suppose” or assume. This will do away with the “I thought you meant...” type of issues and will improve your value as a professional, as well as personally.
Let’s agree that:
The company as a unit is something that isn’t often discussed in business meetings, at least not seriously.
Aspiring to have everyone working and being motivated, synchronized, aligned with objectives and harmoniously seems impossible.
Imagining finance, sales, and marketing working together like a tripod with no gaps with the purpose of the common success of the company seems like science fiction these days.
So, what’s the solution?
With the arrival of new market leaders and people that continue to think differently, hopefully, there will be a change in the way we collectively think of the Homo Business, and especially when we all start thinking consciously as individuals, benefiting the enterprise as a whole.
While these new individuals continue to arrive at the table, it’s on us to raise the standards for our way of thinking and helping it permeate and infiltrate every area of life, starting with schools and moving to the top areas of the business. Change starts with us and avoiding that responsibility will only keep us stuck to the “same old” longer. Thoughts?