Diagnosing the Body Corporate

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Remember your last visit to the doctor's office? Odds are the first thing the nurse did when you took a seat on the examination table was check your vital signs. Your pulse and blood pressure are two key indicators of your overall health. A problem with either is a sure sign of trouble.

Especially if they're missing!

Businesses have vital signs, too , an done of the most effective ways to check them is by assessing the flow of business communications inside and outside the company.

A Simple Business Model

My friend and mentor Richard Scott of Paragon Coaching taught us a lot about Herman Gyr's enterprise development model of business. I've produced the version available at the following link designed to highlight business communication points of contact:

http://www.onestraightline.com/assets/simple_step_model. png

The red arrows between the functional elements What it Does, How it Does It, and Who Does It represent the flow of communication within the business. The green arrows between the business and its customers, investors, vendors/suppliers, and the community represent the flow of communication outside the business.

The model makes it clear that strictures or breaks in the flow of communication either internally or externally can create major problems that manifest themselves in a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Loss of revenue.
  • Customer dissatisfaction.
  • Poor product quality.
  • High employee turnover and low morale.
Communication carries the “nutrients" a business needs to ensure the good health of all its parts. Just as blood cells carry oxygen to body tissues and carry carbon dioxide away, communication delivers consistent messages to all stakeholders and provides the kind of feedback the business needs to keep its relationships running smoothly.

When there is a breakdown in communication, there are corresponding symptoms at key contact points. A communications contact point assessment can help you diagnose the causes of such breakdowns and resolve or eliminate them.

Communication Contact Point Assessments

The key to checking a business’ vital signs is to assess the health of communications at the external and internal contact points. The flow of communication is bidirectional. Much as a blockage in an artery or vein results in definite physical symptoms such as cold or tingling extremities, a blockage in the flow of business communications creates measurable symptoms.

Start by checking the health of the business’ external contact points. External contact points include:

  • Customer relationships.
  • Vendor/supplier relationships.
  • Investor relationships.
  • Community relationships
Once you have evaluated the condition of the external contact points, you'll have a good idea of what the problem are. Turn your focus then to the contact points within the company to trace down the deeper issues.

Internal contact points include:

  • Interdepartmental handoffs.
  • Project team member relationships.
  • Business process inputs (requirements) and outputs (deliverables).
Look for the disconnects. Are customers receiving what's been promised in your marketing messages, for example? Does the vision or mission espoused by the company's executives match what the employees at the individual contributor level are hearing from their managers? Is the business receiving what it really wants from its vendors and suppliers?

Solving complex business problem is never easy. The good news is that a well-considered contact point assessment can help you take the pulse of a company's heartbeat.

And that's the first step in rebuilding a healthy business.

Michael Knowles, co-author of The Entrepreneur's Concept Assessment Toolbook (available at http://www.booklocker.com/books/1988.html or Amazon.com) helps businesses take what they do best and focus it on success. A Principal in One Straight Line LLC, Michael has over 25 years of experience helping companies create communication strategies help them engage customers, employees, investors, outsourcing partners, and the community.

Michael can be reached at mknowles@onestraightline.com.

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