5 Hot Tips for Reactive Organizations


5 Hot Tips for Reactive Organizations

The “Dog Days of Summer” are coming to an end and things should start to cool down. But many of our clients say they feel like the heat at work never lets up. They’re constantly putting out fires and responding to ongoing requests that exceed their capacity to deliver and affect their ability to focus. The workload ends up being the tail wagging the dog.  

Sound familiar? It’s a telltale sign that your organization is working reactively.

Reactive Ramifications

So what’s the problem? It boils down to your charter, or in these cases, a lack thereof. Without a charter clearly outlining services, roles, responsibilities and service level agreements, you’ll likely duplicate efforts, have things fall through the cracks and be asked to deliver non-essential tasks. Without agreed upon priorities, you end up tackling every request instead of spending time on what your customers need, work that makes a difference or efforts that are valued. As strategist Michael Porter says, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” 

Working without a clear charter takes a toll on everyone. It impacts team morale and creates burnout which ultimately affects customer satisfaction and brand perception. You work nonstop, but you feel like you’re not getting ahead. All that sweat and no equity. It’s exhausting – and Gallup warns that employee burnout can trigger a downward spiral in individual and organizational performance. 

All of this puts your organization at risk of not being perceived as a valuable contributor to the company. We’ve seen this happen to teams that deliver internal products and services, who, unlike customer-facing groups, have a harder time showing tangible results in terms of impact on the organization. It’s a slippery slope.

One client recently described how her team manages requests, “It’s a constant flood and a constant mix. We just figure out how to attack it and go after it. ...It’s hard to say no because we have not set expectations.”

A Path to Strategic

Pivoting to proactive can feel like a vicious circle, especially since most organizations can’t put their internal customers on hold while they make the move. But there are a few things you can do to get started:

  1. Scratch the surface. Do you understand what your customers really need? Interview your stakeholders (people to whom you provide products or services) to see what they need in terms of products and services. Find out what’s working and what you need to improve. 

  2. Ladder up. Ensure your work supports the overarching corporate goals and your stakeholders’ objectives. Tie everything you do to those priorities. This will help you ensure you’re doing the right things, eliminate wasted work and prioritize. It’ll be a lot easier to justify saying “no” if you’re asked to do work that deviates from clearly stated goals.

  3. Get real. Assess your team’s capabilities. Can they provide what your customers need? Do they have the skills? What can they do now and down the road? Delivering high quality work will trump quantity of tasks any day. 

  4. Get it on paper. Reflect on how your organization can meet your customers’ needs and how you can add value. There will likely be a gap between what they want and what you can provide. Discuss your plan to close the gap, including a timeline and the steps involved. Your plan should include:

    • how work gets prioritized and who decides 

    • clear roles and responsibilities

    • how you’ll work with your stakeholders going forward 

    • quality control measures including metrics, service level agreements and a recommended cadence of check-ins such as Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs)

  5. Strut Your Stuff. Communicate what you do and the value you provide, inside and outside your organization. Be your best ambassador and socialize your charter often. Make sure that your organization is clearly identified as the service provider for your area of expertise. This may mean educating your stakeholders to understand the services you provide and when they should turn to you versus going somewhere else. The easier you make it for customers to “get you” the better your chances of getting work you’re mandated to do. Everyone wins. 

Turn Up the Heat

“We want to be more strategic and less tactical,” a manufacturing company tells us, “but how do we get there while we’re trying to manage our day-to-day obligations? It’s not like we can stop what we’re doing and transition.”

It’s true, change like this takes a concerted effort. Cliff Consulting guides teams of all sizes toward being more strategic. We’ve listed a few steps to get you started, give us a call to help lead you the rest of the way. 

Kirsten Kuhlmann CEO & President