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Building A TOM

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Building A Strong TOM


Every single high-performance organization I have worked in or with has a T.O.M. (Target Operating Model).   Whether it was Google in the late naughties where we built a TOM that still operates today, or larger FTSE and Fortune 500 companies on both sides of the Atlantic, the common thread is always a strong TOM.


But is a TOM just the province of large multi-billion dollar companies with 10,000 of people and sophisticated management functions?  Not at all.  The best scaling companies at series B onwards always have a TOM and are working hard to make it more repeatable, stronger and future-proof.  (note: At Series A and before you should really be focused on PMF, and until you have that your TOM is secondary!)


Beyond business the high-performance sports teams I know all have TOMs.  Most F1 teams are based in the UK and operate towards sophisticated TOMs that they are always seeking to squeeze more performance out of as is their culture.  Top flight international sports teams and premiership football clubs all operate their own TOMs and seek to learn from each other (where they don’t directly compete!).  The military has long adopted TOMs as a fundamental bedrock on how they work, cascading it into ‘standard operating procedures’, and many other scalable approaches.


Having said all this the concept of a TOM isn’t as widely known outside the CEO and COO offices of as many firms as you would expect.  Maybe because outside those small tight teams it doesnt need to be understood.  After all people have enough to worry about just getting their pieces of the overall machine working, without having to worry about how the whole engine or car comes together.


Unfortunately while I have set-up and run some world-class TOMs it amazes me how poorly the average company uses these pretty fundamental principles and foundations to run their businesses.  With a bit of work up front - not much - it is relatively simple to define a blueprint for how a company's medium-term strategy is executed through actionable 100 day plans behind which the organization, operations and capabilities align.


Like most things the basics are often over complicated either by internal politics and functional turf-wars, or by external advisors that are trying to sell big implementations with large and/or expensive teams.


In the TOM game 80-20 works extremely well, with well over 80% of the benefit coming from just doing the basics solidly.  Actually I would go so far as to say it is more like 90-10.  In the Scale-Up System we get quickly to that 90%, and then if you wish I can give you the contact details of any number of consultancies who would gladly spend your money to try to squeeze out the remaining 10% of value.


My 2 cents, don’t bother and spend the cash incentivising your team to do that themselves.  You will probably get better results faster and still have money to spend on that company ski trip.  If that’s what you decide to do, just don’t forget to invite TOM as a thank-you.


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