Tell me, what do you think your core business is? No that’s not it, that’s just what you do. Want to try again? A little closer, but that’s not it either. How do I know? Let’s call it an educated guess.
I’ve been where you are now; Comfortable in knowing what it is you do and your ability to do it. For a very small circle of the world I could walk in and say I’m a technology manager. The group would knowingly nod and a smile (In a good way I hope) as we went about our way.
The rest of the world really didn’t give a hoot. Something that only became an issue once I’d hung my shingle out. After all, what does an IT guy know about business? They just do websites and PC support right?
What I realised very early on was in order to understand the value that I provide, I myself needed a better understanding of where value comes from. As the journey continued, it was clear I wasn’t alone in this dilemma. Most people I spoke to didn’t really understand the value they provide or indeed, where it came from either.
Like me, they were probably quite comfortable in describing what it is they do. What people actually care about though is the value that you create for them. Unless you’ve stopped to ask or even think about it, you may not ever know what that value is.
The way I see it, our job as businesses is coordinate whatever is needed in the background to create that value. That is our core business. The coordination activities needed to put the show on the road.
We’re like a conductor for a musical orchestra madly waving our arms around hoping to produce the right kind of sounds. You might have to trust me when I say you can play just about any kind of music with any type of instrument. In order to succeed, we have to start by knowing, not guessing, what our listeners want to get out of it.
Maybe it’s to get up and dance. Or perhaps background music while you read a book. Get that core purpose wrong and you may find yourself on the musical version of Marie Kondo.
Pretty much every engagement we’ve ever had has involved reframing the problem in this way. In short:
- What is the value we are looking to create?
- What outcomes do we need to achieve this?
- Can we identify the capabilities we need?
- Are our assets and resources aligned effectively to deliver those capabilities?
We have found time and time again that reframing your problem towards value and outcomes opens whole new conversations and possibilities. It broadens the opportunities at your feet, yet at the same time allows you to focus more clearly on the things that truly matter.
Value and outcomes are first. Assets, resources and activities follow. The primary role of a business is to co-ordinate the latter, to achieve the former. Get that core function right and the rest is gravy.
While it seems obvious to me, I am confident in saying it’s not a natural mindset (for most settings I’ve been in at least). Frankly technology guys can be some of the worst. Bring in some top down, outcome focused thinking and a sprinkling of outside perspective; It’s amazing the results you can achieve.
Let us wrap up here by taking another look at that core business question. What would you say your core business is now? Has it changed? Given that response, are your capabilities still aligned in the best possible way?
If they’re not, then perhaps it is time from some top down, outcome focused thinking of your own. And as always, if you need a hand, we’re always here to help.