The title of this column may seem like a simple question, but the answer has major ramifications on your department's goals, activities, priorities, and organizational structure. This is best explained in a quote by General and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower 'We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.'
From a management perspective, this means, at least from my perspective, that if you can define your department's most important objective, that all secondary objectives, goals, and strategies should be based on this primary objective.
To illustrate this concept, consider a company's customer service department. As you may expect, this is the department that answers customers' questions and helps customers with their issues. If the primary department objective is to provide the highest possible quality service, then the department will be well staffed, well trained, and given the authority, within certain bounds, to do whatever is needed to help the customer. If, alternatively, the primary object of the client service department is to minimize costs, then customers will be directed to the company's website first, then, go through a maze of phone-based options, and only then speak to a client service person who's judged on how fast issues are resolved, rather than on customer satisfaction.
Both of these objectives are viable client service objectives based on the company's business model and cost structure. That said, as illustrated, these two client service departments are structured very differently because of their different primary objectives.
The question for you is do you know your department's primary objective? If no, consider trying to define your objective. If yes, then consider the following additional questions:
What are your department's secondary objectives?
Do you and your manager agree on your department's primary and secondary objectives?
Are your department's annual goals consistent with your objectives?
Are your employees' personal annual goals consistent with your objectives?
Is your department properly structured to best meet your department's objectives?
What things could you do to better align your department's process with its objectives?
Now let me ask you another question. Do you know the primary objectives of the internal departments your group serves and/or the company's customers' primary objective?
The reason I'm asking you this question is because the better you understand the objectives of the businesses you serve, the higher the level of client service that your group can provide. Understanding their objectives will allow you to do the following:
Anticipate their needs
Provide service in a way that best meets their internal objectives
Reduce the potential of wasting time providing services that they do need and/or value
Strengthen your relationship with them by being able to speak with them on their terms and from their perspective
Develop strategies on how to enhance your service quality while reducing your overall costs
. . . and lastly, assess the alignment (or lack thereof) of your department's objectives and your customers' objectives
In closing, logic and experience show that a department works best when corporate objectives, department objectives, the manager's personal objectives, and staff objectives are all in alignment. Please take the time to think seriously and deeply about the questions asked in this column. It can be of great value to your clients, your company, your department, and you personally. The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
The title of this column may seem like a simple question, but the answer has major ramifications on your department's goals, activities, priorities, and organizational structure.
A department works best when corporate objectives, department objectives, the manager's personal objectives, and staff objectives are all in alignment.
This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.