Posting by Stewart Christ, MBA, Principal at BMC Associates
Business leaders can be quick to charge ahead in pursuit of a “solution” only to find they are not only chasing the wrong solution but may be ignoring the real problem. Leaders can get so fixated on the How, they don’t think to ask the more important questions of Why and What.
The root cause of the apparent problem may relate to a much higher-order set of questions: Why and What. Unless leadership has answered the question of Why the business exists, it cannot define What the business must do, and just How to go about doing it. It is often much easier for business leaders to jump directly to How and avoid the Why, and What. This is particularly difficult when business leadership is comprised of multiple owners or business partners.
Many corporate initiatives have gone awry or have not solved the underlying business problems for this reason. Business leadership may need to press the “pause button” and address these higher-order questions. This is but one instance where business owners and partners can benefit from taking the time to align their vision.
When there are multiple owners, the process of discussing and aligning the Why can be uncomfortable and may unearth long-standing differences in personal styles or values. It may be that the partners have different goals for themselves or their families. Time frames or exit criterion may vary. Partner roles, responsibilities, authorities, or governance rules may no longer be clear.
There may be several reasons for this lack of alignment. Business owners and partners can become trapped in the day-to-day management of their company and lose sight of their shared vision. Partners may not have aligned their visions when they started their business or they may have not taken the time to revisit their original vision. In either case, their vision must set the Why of the business.
The Why is driven by the recognition that the business must first serve the needs of the owners. As such, they must start with Why and commit time to a Visioning process. If ownership does not have alignment on a single Vision, the recognition and discussion of their differences is essential. The sequence of starting with Why, prior to a discussion of What, and then How, assures that the business design will serve the needs of the owners.
It is too easy to become trapped in the day-to-day or to avoid difficult or uncomfortable conversations. Invest the time with your business partners on Visioning and check in with that vision regularly.