Focus Lenses: A Different Way to Look at Your Strategic Outcomes
Focus Lenses Tear Down Silos
A common complaint among business leaders is the occurrence of departmental silos. Silos develop for many different reasons, but a primary cause is when team goals are emphasized over company goals. Most strategy plans are comprised of top level company objectives that are then broken up into smaller team-oriented goals and individually assigned to departments, divisions, or groups. This goal hierarchy seems to make sense to a lot of leaders because they figure that goals should be divided up by the groups that are directly responsible for achieving them. However, this rationale is problematic because it shifts the focus from company success to team success. When a team is focused on their success first, then their entire mindset becomes self-centric. This fosters rivalrous antics causing teams to compete for resources and organizational power as they prioritize their needs over the needs of other teams. Teams that lose sight of how their individual efforts connect to the overall company success are more likely to put up communication barriers, be less collaborative, and display many forms of disfunction. So what is the alternative?
Rather than dividing strategic objectives by department (which encourages silos), compose them from different perspective planes through which the company is viewed. A simple analogy to help demonstrate this different approach is to consider the human body. A departmental focus would be like looking at different body parts such as the hands, feet, head, and torso. It is a form of reductionism which implies that the bigger system can be engineered or managed by reducing it down to its parts. Assigning goals or objectives to each body part separately fails to account for the inter-departmental interactions and networking effects that transpire. Companies are complex systems and trying to reduce them to parts will ultimately create confusion. Likewise, a human body is a complex system and cannot be managed in parts because if body parts aren’t working in-sync, the whole body loses balance and is unable to coordinate effectively.
To contrast that, a focus lens approach is like looking at the different systems of the body such as the muscular system, skeletal system, respiratory system, nervous system, and digestive system. Each system works for the entire body and relies on all parts to work together for the system to function properly. This is systems-thinking and provides a more capable management paradigm that accounts for network effects and interdependencies.
Business Focus Lenses
There are four primary lenses through which a business can be viewed. These are Customer & Market, Product, Operations, and People. Each Focus Lens targets a particular system in the company and the various sub-systems that comprise the larger system. A system is not structured by teams or departments. Rather, each system is looking at a network of people, interactions, intentions, and capabilities that work together. For example, the People Focus Lens looks at all the people within in the organization and the relevant details such as how they are compensated, what motivates them, how they collaborate, and many other important factors. This is distinctly different than human resources, or HR. An HR lens is departmental and focuses on what that department is charged with managing. The HR department happens to be responsible for many people-related functions like recruiting and benefits, but the tasks that fall within HR are performed and managed by HR personnel. With the People Focus Lens, strategic outcomes are shared by the entire organization. They aren’t goals for the HR department. They are company-wide and benefit everyone. As such, strategic actions that fall under the People Focus Lens are not strictly assigned to HR team members. They could, and should, span the entire organization. For example, everyone in the company should take part in employee retention. It is not enough for HR to simply implement a recruiting plan and end there. Recruitment also depends on brand reputation, cultural attributes of the organization, employee development opportunities through skill development and career progression, intra-team and inter-departmental experiences, and many other factors that the HR department cannot directly control. People are an entire organizational system, not a departmental function.
Customer & Market Focus Lens
The Customer & Market Focus Lens examines how the company connects and interacts with its customers.
Product Focus Lens
The Product Focus Lens relates to how the company solves the needs of its customers.
Operations Focus Lens
The Operations Focus Lens drills into all the innerworkings of how the company functions.
People Focus Lens
The People Focus Lens scans the company’s people.