There is a great analogy for businesses that, over the years, I have shared with many clients. Its originator is unknown to me, but when a company needs help putting the magnitude of their behind-the-scenes administrative stuff into perspective, this is a great place to start.
First, think of your company as an iceberg floating in the sea. Now think about the visible, above-the-water portion of the iceberg as the elements of your company easily seen by others (i.e., facilities, service or product quality, employee attitudes and behaviors, office or production areas). The final step is to think of the vast, below-the-surface segment of the iceberg as representing the elements of your company not as easily seen by others (i.e., personnel, policies, office and production quality control measures, internal company communications and procedures).
Based on the observable tip of the iceberg, your customers often determine if yours is the type of organization they want to do business with. These visible indicators convey tangible images of your company to your customers. Are your prices fair, employees friendly and knowledgeable, schedules met, and products or services of high quality?
How Your Company Presents Itself to Outsiders is a Visible Indicator of what's Below the Surface.
Floating below the surface are the elements of your company not as easily seen by outsiders and, just like an iceberg, what’s below the surface of your company is the larger part of the whole and it is potentially more damaging.
If your company projects itself positively to the outside world, it's usually safe to assume that below the surface the bulk of your company/iceberg is in order. Systems are in place so things run smoothly and your employees can focus on doing their jobs. This means employees are motivated; standardized procedures are in place; deadlines are met; receivables, payables and overall cash flow are controlled; and you and your employees generally work together as a focused team. You are not complaining about their lack of teamwork and they are not complaining about your lack of leadership.
However, if your organization projects a less-than-positive image to the outside world, it may mean there are larger issues beneath the surface creating damaging and detectable effects. Issues like: poor financial controls, inadequate communication, inconsistent office and production procedures, lackluster quality controls, unfocused and ineffective leadership, poorly trained staff, failed teamwork, and/or haphazard employee policies.
An organization that projects itself well normally has fewer negatives hiding below the surface. An organization that does not present itself in a good way usually has enough disorganization, chaos and damaging elements weighing it down to sink the Titanic. If you don’t want your company to go under, make the time to take an honest and objective view of your entire organization. See if it is bottom heavy with internal problems that can interfere with success. I am warning you, “The unseen cannot be ignored.”
Take Action, Now!
Take action now to address the hard issues dragging your company down. You will benefit, your employees will benefit, and your customers will, too. The initial positive effects may be slow to recognize, but the long-term impact of addressing those below-the-surface negatives will ensure your organization doesn't end up sinking itself.
Copyright MMII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.