Well, to be more accurate, there are countless ways to define success, but as an organization, you should have one overriding definition to which everyone and every department is working toward and to which they ensure that their personal/departmental definition of success supports. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case.

Walk through your office and take a sample of how departments define success:

  • Does marketing define success as creating greater brand awareness for the organization?
  • Is the sales department's definition that of adding to the top line?
  • When you ask the account managers, do they say it's to respond to clients and keep them happy?
  • Is HR focused on attracting/retaining/training talent?
  • Does the finance department define their success as protecting the bottom line?
  • What about the executive team, do they define their success as creating, communicating, and committing to a vision and purpose for the team?

While these may sound okay, I'm going to argue that they're probably off base.

Now you may be thinking, "What in the world is wrong with any of those?" And, I would answer: Nothing at all, at least maybe nothing.

You see, the most critical of these definitions of success is the vision/purpose to be established by the executive team. It needs to be this definition to which all of the departments align their own definition. If this leadership definition isn't established and clearly communicated, you may be surprised at how out of alignment the other departments' visions are:

  • Marketing may be creating greater brand awareness, but it may not be the right brand, or it may not be communicated to the right audience.
  • Sales may be adding to the top line, but if it isn't done in a way aligned with vision/purpose, they may be bringing on the wrong type of clients.
  • Account managers may be responding promptly and professionally to client's demands, but may be missing out on ways to enhance those relationships through more proactive efforts.
  • If the organization is moving in a direction that requires new types of talent/training, HR may be attracting/retaining/training talent based on the wrong value proposition.
  • Finance may be protecting today's bottom line but may be doing so at the expense of tomorrow by not making the right investments.

As the saying goes, it all starts/ends at the top. Don't allow yourself to be fooled that all is good just because each department is achieving their individual definition of success. If those departmental definitions aren't established to be directly in support of the agency vision/purpose, you are quite possibly celebrating false victories.


Photo by milkos