Building thought leadership, when there are more critics than creators. Live long and propagate.

Thursday, June 7

Strategic Understanding Required ..... even when you work the mailroom

Although I have claimed my topics here would really be related to marketing and opinions, I thought I'd branch into workplace politics for a moment.

We all know there are "big picture people" and "small picture people" as well as "strategic jobs" and more "task-oriented jobs." One of the biggest mistakes organizations can make, is not correlating the tasks and busywork with the big picture. Some managers I have talked to don't believe in letting their receiving person, receptionist or janitor in on the overall picture of the business, but fail to notice the mindset of the executives impacts the team. They like to keep this information to the managers, and people who ask for it.

So why bring this up now? We one thing I have seen happen is companies hire a specialist for a few critical positions or projects. Let's say a graphic designer, shipping clerk or executive assistant. I understand not everyone cares about the how behind collecting their paycheck, but understanding the business side is a great way to provide additional value to your current organization and your resume. Understanding the business can make your projects and ideas effective and increase the impact.

Case in point, currently my company is undergoing a website redesign. Since our web designer doesn't understand much about our business, corporate goals or market segment, he runs into roadblocks on his design ideas. Since his experience and interest lie with product oriented shopping sites, his design ideas are pulled from those ecommerce-type sites. For many technology companies, the goal of the website isn't only to sell a specific product, but sell a vision to the world. The organization wants to present its values, uniqueness, expertise and mission with its web presence. Designing a website focused on presenting an entity, not just an item requires a different perspective on presenting the content. With these wildly different perspectives, it is hard to come to a consensus. So we enter a never-ending cycle with design after design that isn't quite right, since for him content is boring and product presentation is key.

What about the marketers? Well of course we have a long list of goals: reach our audience, build an image, educate the market, generate more prospects, prove market leadership or value. The list goes on an on. As a marketer, I find it difficult to achieve any of these goals without having a good grip on where the organization is trying to go. Why do we need to build our brand, and reach out to the audiences? What is my objective here? If you don't know, ask. If your executives are unable to articulate the corporate vision and execution strategy [focus pays dividends], it is very difficult to make sure your programs and results will match up with management's objectives. If this happens to you, work from another angle. Articulate your own goals for the position, create a list, and start checking these activities off. If you can't fulfill the corporate goals, fulfill your own. Don't forget to figure out your exit strategy. An organization without a clear vision and execution plan won't last too long.

Business education isn't just for executives and marketers. Approaching tasks with an eye on company goals and the bottom line will save you effort and headaches. If your activities don't have any relationship to company goals, be warned, you are expendable and replaceable. Understanding the business helps you control your destiny.

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