Business Ideas that Matter Most

Avoiding the Challenges that Distract an Organization from its Primary Mission

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

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Choosing the proper priorities is a challenge for both individuals and organizations. As organizations we tend to suffer from two ailments: The first is liken to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in individuals, and the second is what I would call the bureaucracy trap in which we exchange activity for relevance.

Organizational ADD

It is not surprising that organizations would follow the epidemic of ADD given organizational attention is shaped by individuals and their own behavioral habits. Our modern media blitzes us with sensational images and stories full of drama that regularly compete for our attention. Social media has given us the immediacy to capture events while they transpire. It is easy to focus our attention on the latest distraction rather than what has become common place to us. Organizations are also rightly focused on emerging concepts and the fast-moving competitive environment shaped by globalism. Every organization has to remain nimble and quickly pivot to innovate if they want to capture a first-mover advantage and avoid becoming a footnote in the history of obsolete companies.

Bureaucracy Trap

As organizations grow and become more process driven, they also tend to take on activity that bogs the organization down and competes for scarce resources without necessarily contributing to the primary mission of the organization. Every business is filled with layers of bureaucracy that tend to grow exponentially each year. Although these elements of the organization may have had some meaningful original essential purpose, they tend to take on a life of their own and can become a cancer that sucks the significance out of the organization and compete for precious resources and organizational attention.

Secret Sauce

Avoiding these two challenges is essential if an organization is going to properly prioritize the ideas and behavior that contribute to the organization’s secret sauce. Every organization must determine what makes them essential and distinctive in achieving their mission. In other words, what is their purpose for existing? In Strategic Management lexicon, organizational strategy becomes the purpose for an organization to exist and is shaped by a competitive advantage based on lower cost alternatives or some distinctive of the product, service, or brand of the organization that makes it indispensable. Although every organization would rather compete on the basis of distinctions other than price, all are subject to competitive forces, and finding the right combinations of low costs and desirable market attributes is an ongoing challenge.

The VIRO Model

Barney and Hesterly (2015) provide the VIRO model to serve as a guide for helping organizations choose the ideas and behaviors that help to reinforce an organization’s secret sauce and avoid the pitfalls of attention deficit and the bureaucracy trap. Organizations should focus on ideas and behavior that are Valuable to the market place, difficult for competitors to Imitate, Rare with few alternations, and develop a unique Organizational structure designed to enhance the distinctive elements of the organization. For organizations seeking to implement the best ideas, the organization should first identify their secret sauce and strategic approach. Every idea should be considered in light of the VIRO model to determine if the ideas align with and support the primary purposes of the organization. In addition, organizations need to critically review their processes and organizational structure to ensure that all parts of the company are working cohesively to achieve the purpose of the organization. Avoiding the bureaucracy trap takes an intentional approach of regularly culling the various divisions and departments to ensure they have not developed their own subversive purposes. Support departments should articulate their own mission in a way that aligns with the organizational purpose.

Sam Heinrich
Associate Professor of Business
Department Head for Business Degree Completion


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Source: Barney, J.B., & Hesterly, W.S. (2015). Strategic management and competitive advantage: Concepts and cases (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc

Blog HomePosted By: Sam Heinrich - 8/2/16 1:00 PM

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