Planning for 2012: How Healthy Are The 4 Functions of Your Business

Every business, regardless of size or industry, has four basic internal functions. Each of them must do its own work and also support and be supported by the other three functions. The functions are: Sales & Marketing, Operations & Production, Finance & Administration and Human Resources & Organizational Development. The detailed job descriptions of each function may vary from industry to industry, but the four functions must be present and working in every organization. The right people must in the right jobs doing the right work. Each function must understand its role in the overall success of the enterprise.

The big job of executive leadership is to keep the four functions working together and to preserve the political balance between them. The more specialized we are as individuals, the greater our tendency is to see things and to define problems and solutions through the lens of our specialty. This situation is further complicated by the differences in peoples’ styles and ways of processing information and seeing things.

We are fond of using team sports or military analogies in defining issues and solutions. There is a clarity of both mission and outcomes in team sports and military endeavors that supports the use of the analogies. Team sports and the military are not without their share of political imbalances that deflect success. But when the successes occur, you hear how strong the various parts are and how well they work together.

So in your planning for the coming year, take a measure of your four functions. Do you have the right people working in them? Do they work together well? And, when the inevitable conflicts arise, are they harnessed to gain improvements? And if you are still doing all four functions. has the time come to build an organization around you?