Some time back, I was leading a private manufacturing company, and they let me go.
The event brings out a principle that I want to emphasize today.
I spent my days building the organization and making sure high quality product got out the door while we did this. I built a team that could work together. I gave them visionary and values laden direction and lots of clear feedback and coaching. I emphasized real systems that had life and not paper work to build the culture that would ensure our future.
The owner had other ideas. He lost a lot of sleep because I did not personally focus on the product like him. I focused on building the organization to fix nagging inventory problems.
I labored to help him see that we would focus on who first and what second. I explained that culture development would produce excellent inventory process and accuracy, but it would take time. The cart could not come before the horse. They wanted the cart first. I was glad to move on.
A company must have products that customers want and must get the product out to serve those needs. However, the purpose of top leadership is to build the organization and not primarily the product. The tyranny of the urgent must not get in the way of organizational development.
Yes, you can build a company on product focus, but Built to Last puts it this way: “…the key people at formative stages of the visionary companies had a stronger organizational orientation than in the comparison companies” and “…the continual stream of great products and services from highly visionary companies stems from them being outstanding organizations, not the other way around.”
The comparison companies are good companies, but great companies know that great organizations produce great products and services. Build great organizations on the right people aimed in the same direction and doing it together. Great companies struggle as much as any company. However, they get stronger year by year and stop running the treadmill. By taking time to build the organization, they can solve problems more deeply and flourish over time.