One of the reasons why organisations become uncoordinated, dysfunctional, and inefficient is that managers make a decision they don’t take into consideration the needs of the whole organisation when they make decisions. They adopt a narrow perspective overly focusing on their own areas and don’t account for the impact their decisions will have on other parts of the organisation. Leading with an Enterprise Mindset means filtering everything through the lens of the organisation’s goals. It means that we don’t sacrifice the long-term success of our organisation for the achievement of our own short-term goals.
This myopic view will present itself in many forms, the sales leader who overly customises their standardised products in order to win clients. Therefore, creating lots of issues for the operations team. The Product manager who doesn’t consult with the customer service team so that they can keep to the delivery timeframe, even if it means developing something that doesn’t fully satisfy the needs of the client.
Why is it hard to adopt an Enterprise Mindset?
There are a number of reasons why people find it difficult to adopt this enterprise mindset. Most leaders start out as an individual contributor and are initially promoted to a management position due to outstanding individual performance. As an individual contributor, they are accountable for their performance and no-one else. Their success often isn’t measured by the outputs and outcomes of the business units upstream or downstream of them. So they often go about their work with self-centred view of the world. When they’re promoted the organisation fails to spell out how the expectations for their new role will be different to their previous one. This holds them and the organisation back because as the leading author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith says, “what got you here, won’t get you there”.
Being an effective decision maker requires you to focus your energy and attention away from yourself and onto to the needs of your wider team and organisation. Anne Field in the Harvard Business Review (2009) described this as shifting from a “me” to “we” perspective.
It’s not just newly promoted managers who fail to make this transition from individual contributor to enterprise leader. Even at senior level, the management ranks are full of leaders who have failed to achieve the required shift in mindset. They put too much time, effort and focus on the performance of their own business areas at the expense of the whole organisation.
An enterprise leader has to be willing to deprioritise their objectives for the good of the whole organisation should it be required. When they make a decision, they need to take into account the resource implications for other business areas. If a Marketing team is making a decision to launch a campaign on a particular date, they need to check with the client fulfilment team that they have enough product inventory or customer agents to service the increased demand it will generate.
There are external factors that contribute to why decision makers often don’t see the world through an enterprise lens. All organizations are potentially prone to operating in silos rather than as one unified system. This is often down to the organisation structure. For example, the most common organisation design, the Functional structure organises employees into groups according to skills. You will find HR, Finance or Risk professionals grouped together according to their discipline. There are numerous benefits to this such as greater operational efficiencies. A major downside is that it encourages silos to form between teams as there is little imperative to socialise or connect with other teams unless they’re dealing with a specific task or project. As a result, it negatively impacts the flow of information and communication. Collaboration requires more effort because the required levels of understanding and trust needs to be developed and it often leads to a lack of co-ordination around decision-making.
An enterprise leader needs to put deliberate time and effort into building their networking skills and span organisational boundaries. This way they can understand how the organisation really works. They also can take into consideration the needs and priorities of other teams and therefore how their decisions will impact them.
Remuneration can also be an obstacle to decision makers developing an enterprise perspective. Too many organisations reward their people for individual performance, which in turn encourages individualistic behaviour. Because people only get paid for achieving their own targets there is no incentive to put the needs of the organisation above their own. Their job security can be put in jeopardy if they miss their individual targets. An effective decision maker in this context must strive for a careful balance between achieving their own targets and supporting other teams to achieve theirs.
Role Strain and the Impact Upon Decision Making
When managers are overwhelmed with work or pulled in too many directions they often become overly focused on just coping and getting through their day. This sense of drowning means they don’t take the time to invest in developing relationships with other teams. Many managers experience role strain and it’s often caused by a feeling of being overloaded and lost. It can be caused by a variety of factors:
Managing risk. The stakes are higher for a leader than for an individual contributor. Managers must make important decisions under imperfect conditions. This requires them to build confidence, a strong will, and the ability to feel comfortable exercising power and influence – while accepting and learning from mistakes. In honestly admitting their mistakes, imperfect decisions, and limitations, many leaders are surprised to discover that their power is not at all diminished. Indeed, their honesty helps direct reports see them as real human beings – and thus more approachable and credible.
Having power over other people’s lives. Having decision making authority and responsibility can be disconcerting for a manager. Numerous first-time managers soon realise that their actions have lasting consequences for the people around them. And leadership contains many elements that can prove particularly stressful for inexperienced managers:
- They have too much work to do – they have insufficient time and information, and limited resources.
- They have conflicting responsibilities, such as increasing revenues while also reducing costs.
- They are accountable to too many people – their manager, clients, direct reports, fellow managers – this often leads to them feeling being pulled in many different directions.
Here are ways that decision makers can avoid feeling overwhelmed:
- You can manage the fast pace and constant interruptions that define your job by scheduling quiet moments for strategising, for example, by structuring your day with slots for undisturbed work or planning time .
- Learn to live with Imperfection – you can’t always make the perfect decisions. You sometimes have to accept the fact that you can’t neatly plan and control every moment of your day and that your decisions require trade-offs among competing interests.
- Accept your own lack of knowledge. You can’t be an expert on all the issues you’ll face every day. Learn to call upon experts and members of your team.
To develop an enterprise mindset, decision makers should value the other business functions, rather than merely tolerating them or going around them.
A leader needs to remember they’re not just the champion for their own area, they’re also the champion of the whole organisation. The imperative is see your organisation as your “First Team.”, followed your business unit and team.