Whether you have just taken over a new unit or you have been managing it for some time, the value created for your organisation has to be understood if you and your team are to be effective. Also, being able to communicate that value goes a long way to building business focus for the unit and establishing trust with your other stakeholders.
As the manager, you should also have a strong understanding of how this value is created by your unit both individually and collectively. While you may not have a formally defined team, the effectiveness of your unit will be enhanced significantly if you consider yourself to be leading a team of people committed to creating value for their customers inside and outside the organisation’s boundaries.
Five steps to framing value
In our experience there are five key steps to framing a clear value proposition for your unit:
- Understand the purpose and role of your unit: Regardless of its size, your unit was created to provide products and services that enable others to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Time may have changed things but aligning what you produce with the needs of the organisation is essential if you are to demonstrate your contribution to its success and by implication to that of its external customers. Your unit’s value creates benefits that enable your customers to do their jobs efficiently and effectively reducing their real costs of doing business with you.
- Understand your customers: It doesn’t matter if you manage a unit in the front office or the back office, either way, you have customers who depend on what your unit produces to do their jobs. It is important for everyone to know who they are and what they need from you. Take the time in a team meeting to have everyone share their knowledge about who uses the product of their work. Remind them that value is understood from a customer’s perspective and that talking to people provides a more direct understanding rather than that through paper and electronic communication. You might well uncover some interesting insights.
- Know what they value: When you have that team discussion, also ask a customer to come along and share what they value in dealing with your unit. Tease out what they do with your products and services and where it goes next through the organisation. Is it the time taken to deliver it, the accuracy, the reliability of individuals, the general quality of the work, the experience of dealing with people or that they can make decisions and act with confidence based on the products and services they receive? This is where the trust begins and organisations that can build trust in their operations are often more effective and efficient.
- Measure and monitor what you deliver: It isn’t the activity of production that matters to customers but rather what gets delivered. As you engage more actively with your customers, agree on the information that will support a productive discussion and build effective relationships. Gather it and use it to inform the agenda and as the focal point for performance related meetings. Make sure you also use it in your performance meetings with your manager. It shouldn’t be self-promotion but a reflection of how your unit makes its contribution to helping the organisation achieve the goals that its leadership have set for it. When other senior managers understand the value your team creates they are in a much better position to make informed decisions about future investments and resource allocations.
- Plan to improve: An operating unit of any type should have a plan that extends beyond budgeting. It should have some sense of its strengths and weaknesses, be clear on setting relevant business objectives that align with those of the organisation, set clear performance expectations and understand the assumptions that underpin the roadmap for the next 12 months. It isn’t the plan that matters so much as the mindset that is built around a disciplined approach to execution. Situations and circumstances will almost certainly change but orienting everyone to a clear business focus will help everyone to adapt as these changes emerge.
An effective manager creates a value system
Being an effective manager depends on how you enable your team to create value, both individually and collectively. There are certainly many management techniques and skills you will need, however, until you understand value you won’t know what matters and what doesn’t, so you won’t know what resources you need to produce it. Your value is to create the environment in which you have the right resources, productively working together in the same direction for the success of your organisation.
To do it, you need to challenge assumptions and eliminate waste, the subject of the next post.