Does Your Organizational Design Reflect Your Brand’s Values?
A recent blog post about organizational design peaked my attention. It said, “…organizational design must be the foundation from which a brand is built.” Pay special attention to the word “brand” as opposed to “organization.” A brand is much more valuable than the organization itself, as it communicates to the world who that company really is. As this blog post puts it, “A brand is really just a collection of values.”
How is your organization designed? Is it designed around job titles and functions or is it designed around a vision? Too often, companies become structured simply by minutiae. As a company grows, different people take on different tasks. As their roles expand, either by growth factors or because of a lack of additional resources, they become the designated leader for that job function. Management roles are therefore born, new hires are brought on to do some of the work for them, and thus a company is formed.
But this blog post had me thinking about the value of an organizational structure that is less about the job roles and more about how the company is aligned with its branding message. A company is not a “who” but it’s people are. If its people are simply filling a job position, they are missing the opportunity to not only inspire their workers but to inspire the world.
People Relate to Brands, Not Companies
Think I’m being overly dramatic? Take Disney, for instance. When people think of Disney, they think of wholesome, family values. They picture Disney World, the many Disney movies beloved by generations of children, the Disney characters and all that’s good in this world. They aren’t thinking of the ABC network and ESPN and they likely aren’t imagining a giant, multi-billion dollar powerhouse. That’s the company. The brand is family values.
Consumers care about these values. One study found that 90 percent of consumers expect companies to “do more than make a profit.” They expect them to “operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. In fact, 84 percent of consumers globally say they seek out responsible products whenever possible.
When companies can structure their organization around its vision and purpose, instead of higher profits, everyone wins. The employees are more motivated to succeed because they can understand how their specific performance contributes to that vision. The vision and the purpose of the brand has an opportunity to resonate with the beliefs and values of the consumer. That’s what wins brand loyalty. And guess what? Your reward is the higher profits you weren’t even aiming for.
It Starts with A Vision
So how does this work in an organization? It starts with the people. When someone decides to start a business, they are doing it because they envisioned something better than what was already out there. Then they start hiring. Who they hire matters. If you are passionate about your vision and values, you want people working for you who share the values. They have to understand exactly how they can contribute to that vision and that starts from the top down. Executives and management must all be on the same page and manage towards that singular vision.
In 2016, there is no excuse for having employees who aren’t clear on what the company stands for and how they contribute. According to Gallup, only 41 percent of employees know what their companies stand for and what makes its brand different from its competitors.
“Understanding a company’s purpose helps employees answer yes to the question ‘Do I belong here?’”
In fact, Gallup goes on to say that their research proves that “ensuring employees have opportunities to do what they do best every day and emphasizing mission and purpose are the two strongest factors for retaining millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers.”
This doesn’t happen without a foundational belief system and intentional communication that is more than verbal or written pep talks. It’s not a one-time thing, either. It’s repetitive and it trickles down from the top so that every layer of the organization is saturated with the concept. It’s what gives every employee, from the CEO to the new sales guy a reason to come to work. The vision shows in who is hired, what products or services are developed, how they are marketed and sold, the level of customer service offered and the kind of internal culture the company fosters.
How TOMS Is Changing the World
When the purpose, people, processes and products are aligned (and in that order), the magic happens. Employees are engaged and motivated around a common mission. The brand is differentiated and connected to its customers. This is how giants are made.
A company that seems to have this concept down is TOMS. One person had a vision. After traveling to an impoverished country and seeing how many children had no shoes, Blake Mycoskie knew he had to do something. He began TOMS not to simply to sell shoes but to use the profits for selling those shoes to make shoes for those who had no shoes. The idea was to give away one pair of shoes it manufactured for every pair it sold. The “one for one” sales model has not only outfitted more than 60 million children across 70 countries, but it started a revolution.
Increasingly more companies have followed suit. Instead of a company who makes shoes, TOMS has become the company who gives away shoes to poor children. Those of us so blessed to have resources flock to TOMS shoes not only because we like the shoes, but we feel good about the fact that our shoe purchase just put a new pair of shoes on a child who needs them. Blake’s vision wasn’t to break into the shoe market with fabric shoes from which he could turn a nice profit, but to literally change lives by using those profits to do good.
Now TOMS has expanded its product line to include eyeglasses. Purchase their eyewear and you have a hand in restoring sight to someone who needs surgery, glasses or medical treatment. They sell coffee beans, but not just to satisfy your thirst for caffeine. Their one for one model means those coffee beans just helped establish clean water systems in the regions where they source those coffee beans. Buy a TOMS bag and you just helped a mother receive needed medical care for a safe delivery of her baby. Purchase a TOMS backpack and in turn, provide training for school staff and crisis counselors to help prevent and respond to instances of bullying.
You see, TOMS has figured out that they can become a giant without destroying the competition. They structured their company around a vision. Every product they develop must have a corresponding charitable outcome. Every employee is impassioned to not just be a part of a company, but part of a movement for good, a movement for change.
And it all started with one man, one vision, and a company that was completely, inextricably aligned with that vision. Does it matter if TOMS is a matrix organization or holacracy? Not at all. What matters is that the company is structured around a belief system. Every layer of the company is organized around how to deliver on the values it passionately upholds.
Your Organizational Structure Is A Mirror
Too many organizations get stuck on their structure. They may stick to the tried and true or be more dynamic and restructure every now and again. Whatever your structure, it’s time to ask if your organizational design reflects the values and beliefs of your company. Do your employees understand the mission and how their roles contribute? Does what your brand communicates internally and externally what you stand for? Does every customer touchpoint include this messaging?
Organizational design is valuable only inasmuch as it is a direct reflection of who the company is and what they believe. The design serves only to execute the vision. Any layer of the organization that does not directly and positively impact the vision is not only unnecessary but detrimental to the success of the organization as a whole. It is counter to the belief system and therefore toxic to the health of the company. Take a look at your org chart and analyze every layer, every division, every department. Are they all working towards the same goal? Are they all indispensable in achieving goals? Are they and their people completely aligned with the vision?