office 2000

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Inside any kind of organisation bigger than the land of Me & My Mate, you’re probably surrounded by people who do a job that’s completely different to yours.

What do all those people do?

I’ve been thinking about the doing part of that question lately, rather than the people part. The way I see it, no matter what the job title or department, the doing falls in to one of only five categories:

Making Promises – easiest to think of as all the things that happen in sales or marketing, some customer services and board functions. Anything that makes any kind of commitment on behalf of the company is a making promises action.

Keeping Promises – everything that even vaguely fits into operations: all the tasks that make the product, perform the service, look after customers, pick up, package or deliver the thing.

Measure and control – all the things involving numbers or making sure nothing gets out of hand.

Support – what gets done in order to make everything else function; what normally happens under the headings of IT or HR for instance.

Leadership and innovation – without getting bogged down in book style definitions, leadership is about direction setting and steering to the compass whilst innovation is all the processes that aim to improve things.

These are not departments, they’re functions, and whilst every person spends most of their time in one kind of role, they probably undertake processes in others, if not all. For example, a production worker is mainly employed to keep promises, but they probably also try to innovate to improve things, keep an eye on production rates and quality, put their arm around colleagues when they need it, and continually make commitments within and for their department.

Ok. So what? Is this anything other than yet another way of thinking about organisational structure?

If every process is about making, keeping, ensuring and supporting promises, or improving the way the whole thing gets done, then every job is about the customer.

So what do all those people do? Let’s hope they’re not wasting any time discussing, deciding or doing anything that doesn’t draw a straight line to improving the life of the customer.

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Innovating Keeping Promises Leading Making Promises Managing

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