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What Makes a Great Organization?

My friend Dan Rockwell writes a terrific blog, LeadershipFreak, which regularly challenges me to better define my thoughts about key leadership issues. A recent post titled “Six Steps to Organizational Excellence” based on work by Dr. Muriel Asher provoked me to come up with my own list. Here are my Six Drivers of Organizational Excellence:

1) Service & respect – that includes customer-focus, but goes beyond to have a service mentality towards all stakeholders, both internal and external. Great organizations foster a culture of respect, service, and candor.

2) Financial transparency – that requires both clear reporting and clear metrics, and as we know, what gets measured gets managed.

3) Mission & values – as Dan Pink writes in his superb book, Drive, modern workers need a sense of purpose in their work. The organization must clearly articulate how they intend to impact the world. This creates internal passion and engagement.

4) Strategy-driven – strategy answers the question “how will we win?” If every worker can’t understand how their efforts contribute to winning (however that’s defined) the organization risks misalignment and failure. Strategy also defines where the organization must excel – whether in innovation, operations, branding, financials, site-selection, portfolio, customization, community-building, or some other area. No one can excel at everything; strong organizations choose.

5) Diversity leading to excellence – strong organizations foster robust debate, and use disagreement to create solutions that are superior to any one point of view. This is the opposite of compromise, which ladders down to common denominators.

6) Action orientation – great organizations do great things, do the right thing, and achieve results.

What do you think of this list? What would you add or change?

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