Organizational Fitness: What is it?

We all want to be fit; having lots of energy, less susceptible to illness, resilient, and able to participate in events and activities we choose. To do that we need to maintain a level of health and fitness. Organizations are the same. Think of organizations you have been associated with that you would rate both high and low on the fitness scale. What were their traits?

Fit: Resilient, vibrant, able to adjust pacing, and have the agility to react to unforeseen obstacles.

Out of Shape: sluggish and operating with substantial inertia limiting responsiveness.

What is the level of fitness in your organization and how do you measure it? The following elements are what I see as keys to organizational fitness:

  • Planning – the ability to effectively plan at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels
  • Communication – the ability to ensure all members of the organization have the same message
  • Execution – the ability to operationalize a plan with agility
  • Review – the ability to continually assess and integrate lessons learned into current and future operations

Let’s briefly examine each one.


Plans provide the measuring stick for an organization at every level. Without a plan direction is unclear, success is purely subjective, and confusion reigns. What are some components that are common at every level? First, is the requirement for a clearly defined vision, measure of success, or end state. Everyone needs to know where you are going and what it looks like when you get there. Second, a solid plan requires the right people in the room to create the plan. Regardless of the level; strategic, operational, or tactical, if you do not have the correct people creating the plan, your plan is flawed. Lastly, the plan must set boundaries, metrics and standards.

Ever experience this? You are handed a plan to implement that you had zero input on designing, when your expertise would have clearly helped? The impact on you emotionally and professionally was?


The concept of clear communication is completely understood by everyone at the lower end of an organization. Just ask. When the bottom rung of an organization is left confused by the message, it generates significant discontent and criticism of the leadership. Statements such as “What they should have done is” or “They don’t know how this affects us.” Why is it that leaders are criticized as being unable to communicate clearly throughout the organization? Get feedback from every corner and level to determine what was received. Just because you said it does not mean it was heard.


The heart of every operation; getting the job done, providing deliverables, services, and products. If you missed the mark on planning and communication the likelihood of having consistently smooth operations are small. But what else is required for a fit organization in the area of execution? This is where agility, resiliency, flexibility, and the ability to react to changing conditions make the greatest impact. If those executing the plan are inextricably tied to the plan without a level of autonomy and authority to make adjustments. Your fitness is suspect.

Toyota famously created the Andon Cord that allowed any worker on the assembly line to pull the cord to stop production and correct a problem. Supervisors would huddle with the individual to assess the issue and resolve it prior to restarting the production line. Every industry, company, and small business intuitively knows what fitness look like in the execution of its business. Having the discipline to adhere to the standard is the challenge. This is similar to going to the gym or running every day. Just going through the motions does not provide a quality workout or run. You need to be deliberate about what you want to accomplish.


This is accountability for what was delivered and how. A culture of intentional review develops a learning organization and can be a game changer. Looking at each project or deliverable and assessing: what was the plan, how was it communicated, how well did we execute the plan, is difficult. This challenge provides the opportunity to find bright spots and celebrate successes as well as identifying areas for improvement.

What would this look like for you and your organization? How can this be integrated into the normal way of doing business. Fitness takes discipline, consistency, and the continuous evaluation of results that are fed back into the organization.

Who would benefit if your organization operated at its highest level of fitness possible? Need help assessing your business’ fitness level?  Please contact us today for your complimentary coaching session.