Moving beyond the basic premise outlined in part 1 of this series, I wanted to talk about the foundations of an organization. While much of the power of Blueprint allows for setting the direction and investment portfolio of an organization, I don’t want to minimize the value of everyone understanding the most simple aspects of the organization’s foundation – functions and influences.
In short, functions are the verbs of the organization. They describe what the organization does. For businesses, this would include aspects such as sales, marketing, financial management, product development, customer support and human resource management just as examples. For a specific department, there may be more specific actions such as in the Information Technology where the verbs could include software development, vendor management, user support, project management and so forth. The biggest risk of not cataloging and describing the importance of these actions is that while most believe they just know them, the reality is that they don’t – at least not in a consistent way with their colleagues, direct reports, and supervisor. When it comes to outlining the most core elements of what a department does or is expected to do, it’s worth the time to write it all out and ensure that everyone is aligned.
The second element (captured in Blueprint regarding the foundations) is the influences. Basically, an influence is anything that can have an impact on day-to-day decision making and that is often monitored and watched at regular intervals. As an example, foreign currency markets aren’t likely to be an influence for an HR department given they don’t watch them and they couldn’t do anything about them anyway; but foreign currency exchange rates could likely have a lot of significance and influence on a multi-national corporation’s treasury department that is tasked with moving money around the world to take advantage of taxing rules and regulations. The value of capturing influences is to explicitly state what should be watched and how important shifts in those elements could be.
The specific content of each of the elements above is not the most important thing – it’s secondary. Taking time for everyone managing or participating in the organization to come together and have a clear and consistent view is of the utmost importance. It provides confidence that everyone has similar expectations around the most basic purpose of the structures within the organization. Without this grounding, there is likely to be significant misunderstanding and lack of results from an engaged team. After all, how can someone be engaged if they don’t know what they are engaging in?
Below is a quick depiction of the functions and influences that might be characteristic for a CIO of a public company. There are just for illustration and not meant to be exhaustive.