Leaders are usually great at seeing the next hill the team needs to take. Many are crystal clear on the vision and values of their organization. However, too many leaders fail to understand the critical role infrastructure plays in sustaining success.
This is a topic I discuss often with leaders. Many times we don’t start the conversation talking about infrastructure – we begin with questions about growth – unfortunately, lack of growth. The questions usually revolve around frustration and uncertainty about what creates growth. The general assumption is typically, we’ve got a talented point leader and a significant market opportunity. Why aren’t we growing?
In a simple blog post, I have to be careful not to overgeneralize. There are numerous reasons an organization could be stagnant. What continues to surprise me is how often the root cause turns out to be infrastructure related.
Here’s the metaphor I use to make the point…
Think of an organization as a large apple tree. The roots represent the values of the organization. The branches represent the products or services. The apples are sales, profits, satisfied customers, changed lives, or some combination of the above.
What’s missing from this description thus far is the trunk of the tree. It is how the nutrients from the roots get transferred to the branches. The trunk is infrastructure. Having values, regardless of how tenaciously you cling to them or how deep they run, is no substitute for infrastructure. Without infrastructure, you impede growth.
So what constitutes infrastructure? The specifics will vary depending on your organization. But, here’s a question to help you begin to formulate your own answer.
What is essential for our long-term success that is not visible to our ultimate customer?
Here’s a clue to help you think through your answer to this question – infrastructure is not the goal or desired outcome – it is what enables you to achieve your goals.
Next week, Part 2 of this post – I’ll share examples that may help jump-start your thinking. Between now and then, try to identify the critical elements of infrastructure you need to make the trunk of the tree strong and to produce as much fruit as possible.[GLS_Shield]