Suspension bridges provide an excellent graphical representation of six characteristics common to successful organizations whether they are for-profit businesses, charitable entities or membership organizations. For centuries, people have built suspension bridges to cross otherwise un-navigable terrain. In the U.S. two of the most famous bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, were instrumental in shaping two of America’s great cities. We draw the following analogies between structural components of suspension bridges and six characteristics of “organizational bridges”:
Components of a suspension bridge
Although the elements of success are applicable to all types of organizations, we will address them from a business strategy consulting perspective.
- Success of any venture ultimately comes down to the effective execution of its plans. Execution is the bridge deck that takes a business from point A to point B. Business Performance Management processes are lane markers on the roadway providing measurement, feedback and “course corrections.”
- When done properly, business planning in the form of operating plans, marketing plans, budgets, and policies and procedures define the direction of the “roadway.” Additionally, they anchor the business and absorb the “tensional forces” affecting the business as cables supporting a bridge deck are anchored to land at each end of a bridge.
- The Strategic Plan is represented by the cables of a suspension bridge that are attached to the bridge deck and the bridge anchors. In a successful business, tactical plans are made in time periods of up to one year to support the Strategic Plan. As bridge cables are anchored to maintain proper tension and stability, tactical plans create the “tension” to keep a business aligned with its Strategic Plan.
- The weight of a bridge, or “compression force”, is distributed equally through the cables to two towers set on solid foundations. Business “foundations” are Vision and Mission Statements and engaged employees. Successful businesses have leaders that clearly state the vision – succinctly and consistently – which is embraced by its employees to continuosly move the business toward the vision.
Just as in the physical world, the larger the idea – the larger the strategic plan needed. A well-thought-out plan is more executional and the more executional the plan, the greater the chance for success.
Author: Brian Mueller