What ‘tracks’ does your business run on?

What ‘tracks’ does your business run on?

Recently I had an Insightful breakfast with a friend – we, as usual, explored a number of different topics and somehow got onto the topic of what makes a business run successfully or not (and for that matter what enable an individual to have a ‘successful’ life – or not?)

A thought that I have often referred to struck me – every business runs on two parallel tracks – and a new thought emerged – either one of these tracks must form the benchmark against which the other is laid or takes its line.

The question to ask is ‘ which track forms the benchmark in your business? (or life)’ But first let us examine a few other implications and challenges linked to this metaphor of running a business on two parallel tracks.

  1. If the tracks start diverging (moving apart), as so often happens in business the business leaves the rails and becomes a directionless, dangerous and damaging entity with nothing to guide it. This often happens where what is stated or said in the business is not the same as the actual reality, that which is done in and by the company!
  2. If the tracks converge (move together), in others words there is not a healthy tension/distance between the tracks, or they are not seen as two distinct elements that run parallel, the business then grinds to a halt. This is not a problem of running wild (as above) but one of inertia or overbalancing and stopping – a train needs two rails to run on, not one!
  3. If one track is neglected and the other well-maintained they train will eventually derail due to the damage, or degradation of the neglected track. This happens when one of the two foundational rails in the business is seen as significantly more important than the other. One of the tracks tends to be primary, the benchmark mentioned above, the other secondary and taking its line from the benchmark – but even this does not diminish the importance of both tracks, the necessity of both to enable the train to run.
  4. Finally, one of the tracks in a railway line must be laid first – the other track then takes it’s ‘line’ from the first track. Both cannot be laid simultaneously – there is always a precedent, a primary track.

So with these warnings and comments in mind what are we actually talking about – what are the tracks that every business needs to run on.

The two tracks are the track of values and the track of strategy.

For each and every business one of these will be the primary track, the benchmark against which the other track takes its parallel line, never meeting, but never drifting apart.

The question remains ‘which of these tracks forms the benchmark in your business?’ and why? and what is the implication for your business?

My thought is – is there a better track to be the primary benchmark track? or are they both equal? are there any significant differences between benchmarking values off strategy or strategy off values?

In some businesses the primary track is ‘strategy’ – where we are going/want to go, and what is required to succeed in this journey. Success is measured in the ability, no matter what it takes, to achieve the objective.

In others the primary track is ‘values’, what those in the business hold to be true and important. Success is measured in adhering to a set of values as opposed to achieving a strategy.

Granted, no successful company has only one or the other – that is not the point I am making, one to the exclusion of the other. I am asking which is primary, which is the starting point,  the benchmark. And more significantly is one of these a better, more sustainable, benchmark than the other.

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