What business are you in? What business do you want to be in?

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 15, Issue No. 11b
March 15, 2017

By Dan Coughlin


Recently I facilitated a two-day meeting for a company that has four divisions each of which is a uniquely different business.

The Assignment

The assignment for the division leaders was to describe the business they are in right now and their actual business performance over the past two years and what they have in terms of projects and objectives for the next twelve months.

The Meeting

The leaders for the other three divisions listened and asked questions on day one.

On day two the roles were reversed. The division leaders heard from everyone else in the room as to what business they thought the division was in. They also heard input on where the other people in the room felt they were doing things that didn’t fit with the business they said they were in. Finally, the others in the room tossed out ideas on other ways to define the business the division was in that could allow for opportunities to generate greater sustainable, profitable growth.

It was remarkable for me to watch and listen to the respectful way in which people delivered and heard the messages both on day one and day two. It was a great example of two of my favorite business words: reflection and discernment.

The Preparation

Each set of division leaders had five weeks to think about what they wanted to say in their presentation to the corporate leaders and the other division leaders. Then they had two hours to make their presentation and answer questions on day one. Then on day two each division had thirty minutes to receive the input from everyone else in the room.

The Collaboration

What I noticed was a high degree of organized collaboration. It caused each of the division leaders to really think about the business they are in and the business they could be in.

The next step in the process is over the next ninety days for each of the division leaders to go back and think about how they want to define their business for the next three to five years.

The Future of Intentional Decision-Making

Imagine you’re floating down a river and you can come to a fork in the river. You can stay on the river you’re on, or you can change the direction of your boat and float down a different river.

These division leaders are now coming to a deliberately chosen fork in the river. They can either continue on in the business they are in, or they can consciously choose to redefine the business they are in.

The last part of the assignment is once the division leaders choose the definition of the business they want to be in, they have to decide what they will continue to do the same, what they will stop doing, and what they will start doing that fits the definition of the business they want to be in. This is the assignment whether or not they choose to change the definition of the business they are in.

The idea is to intentionally do things that fit their desired definition of the business they choose to be in, and to intentionally not do things that don’t fit the business they want to be in.

The Conclusion

Overall, I think this is a tremendously healthy exercise for every business to go through. Don’t just allow your current customers to define the business you are in. Step back and really think about the business you are in now, and decide if that is the business you want to be in going forward. Decide why you define your business this way now, and decide if that is the way you want to define your business going forward. Of course, all of this is just as true if you are in a not-for-profit organization or a for-profit business.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at dan@thecoughlincompany.com with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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