August 28, 2007

Accountability and Objectives

Sometimes your business leaders set objectives for you, and you are not satisfied with what you see.

For instance, you might be a merchant who is being asked to increase the sales of your merchandise division by ten percent.

In order for the merchant to exceed this objective, she has to buy fantastic merchandise.

She also has to depend upon a veritable plethora of folks that she has no accountability over.

She needs the visual merchandising team to present the merchandise in an appealing manner.

She needs the janitor to clean the gum off of the floor.

She needs the sales associate to treat the customer with respect.

She needs the marketing team to drive increases in traffic to help her achieve her goal.

She needs the Port of Tacoma to get her product from China to the distribution center.

She needs the truck driver to deliver the merchandise from the distribution center to her store.

She needs her inventory/buyer team to acquire enough merchandise so that she can sell through it --- but not too much merchandise so that she has to liquidate it.

She needs her circulation team to select the right people when mailing catalogs.

She needs her e-mail marketing team to send the right targeted e-mails to the right customers.

She needs the online production team to feature her merchandise in a place on the website that customers can easily find it.

She needs the paid search team to spend the right amount on various keywords to drive traffic into her department.

She needs the affiliate team to find sites with the proper demographics.

She needs the online marketing team to manage the right portal relationships.

She needs the information technology folks to provide a reliable online experience for her customers.

She needs the social media team to create a buzz in the blogosphere.

She needs the merge/purge vendors to not mail the same customer multiple times.

She needs the customer acquisition or compiled list vendor to find customers who have never experienced the brand, but are likely to be interested in her merchandise division.

She needs the printer to depict the item as it was photographed.

She needs the creative team to depict the item in an aspirational manner.

She needs the post office to deliver the catalog to the customer.

She needs the e-mail vendor to deliver the e-mail to the customer.

She needs magazine, radio, newspaper and television marketing teams to execute well.

She needs the competition to avoid selling the same item at a significantly reduced price.


If all of these teams do their job, then the merchant has a chance to succeed. If a portion of those teams fail, and she misses her ten percent targeted increase, she loses her job.

Similarly, all of us are going to be stuck with objectives that we feel we don't have accountability for. The e-mail marketer might not like the product he has to feature in the e-mail. The circulation expert might not like what is being presented in the first twenty pages of the catalog. The paid search marketer might be embarrassed by the performance of the website.

Ultimately, none of this matters. Shared objectives cause us to evaluate all aspects of the food chain. Ever had a merchant tear your head off after seeing next year's circulation plan? Now you know why. Her job depends upon you doing your job well. Similarly, your job depends upon her skill in buying great product.

Shared accountability can be a good thing, so long as folks work in a collaborative manner.

All too often, collaboration fails, causing folks to fall back into their respective silos. And when you work in silos, you're going to focus on what you have accountability for. I've been there, I've done this. Ask anybody who's worked for me.

Therefore, you have to have strong leadership at an Executive level. You need leaders who require that business units work together.

I've worked for Presidents who love to pit people against each other. I've worked for Presidents who support the entire team. Who would you prefer to work for?

1 comment:

  1. Tom Lindmeier4:09 PM

    I too often find that collaboration is stifled because information sharing is inadequate. There is a lot of data associated multi-channel marketing and some people are reluctant to take the time to digest it. So what happens? Everything that readily visible such as inventory issues, catalog creative, email campaigns, circulation and sales per catalog numbers get most of the attention. The net effect is that the visible marketers get the scrutiny and functions that require elaborate analysis are not as accountable. The best collaborators understand how to best share data, place it in context and make sure that team members understand it in it's entirety so that factors are properly weighted.
    I had the pleasure of working with one executive, Ben Baxter, who was a great collaborator. His unique quality was that he would never move to next topic until he knew you had a complete contextual understanding of the information at hand. It was annoying at times, but very effective.

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