When I was a management consultant for HayGroup, a global consulting firm, I spent a lot of time helping companies set up the right organizational structures to do their business. What functions or skills were needed to get the work done? What is the accountability of each job? How do the teams work with each other? Who reports to whom? While too much reliance on job descriptions and org charts can choke initiative, the right amount of structure (and process) helps people effectively apply their talents and initiative, and avoids confusion.
In coming up with the “right” org structure, we used to do an exercise to identify Critical Success Factors – those things that the company needed to do right to succeed and, therefore, the kinds of things the Organization Structure needed to support. For example, if customer service was a Critical Success Factor, it did little good to tie up front-line service reps under many layers of decision-making and approvals. The company had to be organized in such a way that it could “nail” speed and flexibility in order to keep customers happy.
I came to think of Critical Success Factors as the “buttons” that lived under the org structure – what buttons needed to be pressed by the organization to make the company machine turn?
When you interview for jobs, it’s very important to look for “buttons,” too – what are the company’s needs that the job you want has to satisfy? For example, a woman I recently coached at my Career Coaching firm, Of Both Worlds, was applying for an office manager position. The company, I learned, was family owned and the culture was very fast paced. Although the job description didn’t explicitly say so, we figured out that among the job’s “buttons” was the need, of course, to be able to juggle many tasks while, at the same time, help keep the owners organized, and – and this was very important and less obvious – act like an owner even if you weren’t, which would emphasize the responsibility my coaching client would feel toward making everyone a winner even though, strictly speaking, she didn’t have a piece of the business.
We practiced interviewing to emphasize these buttons. These Critical Success Factors became talking points that our heroine came back to again and again. In the real interview, she came in loaded with these points in her head and tested them during the interview because, after all, we could have been wrong and, if so, she’d have to change her strategy. But, it turns out we were right. And, hitting those buttons landed her the job!
My advice: Look at the job description or posting; learn about the company, its background, and its organization structure; and try hard to figure out the hidden buttons. Talk to others if you can, in the company, in the industry – or even anyone with some experience and insight – to get ideas. Sometimes, pushing the right buttons is exactly what it takes.