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How defining success and failure helps add structure to agribusinesses

Part 2 of 3: The building blocks of a “Goldilocks” organizational structure that’s not too corporate, not too free range.

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In our blog last month, we started working through the first of three points to create clearer structure and organization in your business. We can’t start putting people into roles until we know the structure that the business needs in the first place. These three points include:

  1. Structure reflects what the business needs
  2. Roles are defined so team members know what success looks like
  3. Managers have clear expectations and decision-making boundaries

While organizational structure (and things like org charts and hierarchies) feel like they are static, they evolve right alongside your business. In a client call this week, we pulled out the org charts we developed with them over the last couple years to revisit where we were today. In some instances, the roles we wanted to create in the business have occurred. In other instances, we saw a future need for a role, but didn’t have the business case for it until today.

Because you already took the time to consider your own business goals and strategy (and to get into specifics on them) and have outlined a structure to support it, you’re in a great position to be able to start defining individual roles.

Structure Point #2: Roles are defined so team members know what success looks like.

Start with the end in mind

While you might want to start writing down the punch list of tasks for each role, I encourage you to pause for a moment. Before we get into the day-to-day tasks, it’s critical that we also take the time to ensure that each role knows how it is connected to the overall success of the business.

One statistic that’s stuck with me the last several years is that 44% of American workers DO NOT know how the work they do every day impacts the business.

Nearly half.

Those managers and leaders who work more closely with you may have a decent understanding, but your new hires, your part-timers, your drivers — they likely fall into that category of NOT knowing.

One book I’ve enjoyed (that isn’t overly “corporate”) is Who Not How by Dan Sullivan. In this book, the author gives some great points about defining roles. One concept we’ve adapted and incorporated in our own business and work through with clients is to define BOTH what success looks like and what failure looks like. It might not seem very sunshiny, but getting specific and clarifying what failure also looks like helps you minimize the confusion your team members may have about their role.

For each position, I recommend answering each of these questions:


  • What does it look like for someone to be successful in this role?
  • What behaviors are you (and customers) seeing from someone successful in this role?
  • What business results are you seeing (get specific!) from someone successful in this role?


  • What does it look like for someone to fail in this role?
  • What behaviors are you (and customers) seeing (or not seeing)?
  • What business results are you seeing (get specific)?

Define metrics for success:

  • What are the goals for this role that will make an impact on your overarching goals?

Each role contributes differently – get specific

When we define metrics for success, I often see leaders bristle a little. It feels overwhelming, it feels like another “to do” on our end to measure something. It may even feel a little micro-managing. None of these are the intent of this exercise.

Here’s what I mean.

If our goal is to increase our margin in the next two to three years, each role in your organization will play a part in it. That said, the part they play will be different based on each role.

Your delivery drivers contribute to increasing the margin by planning more efficient routes, through their conversations with customers at the farmgate through keeping their trucks and equipment clean and maintained.

Your store associates contribute to margin by keeping shelves faced, reducing damaged product and by interacting with each and every customer when they come in.

Your warehouse team members contribute to margin in keeping inventory in order, reducing the amount of aged and damaged products and in planning ahead for seasonal changes in the business.

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Get down to this level of specificity in each of the roles you have. Whether margin, revenue, or something else entirely is your business’s overall goal, make sure you are directly showing your employees how the role they do impacts the overall goal.

In next month’s blog, we’ll round out the three points of structure by looking more into the role that your managers and supervisors play. Have questions in the meantime? Send a note directly to Erin at [email protected].

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