Why John Smith the Delivery Guy is More Important than Fred Smith, the CEO Guy at FedEx

Who would think that the most important job at FedEx would be the delivery drivers? Or that the trash collectors at Disney World are the key positions? Or that the loan officer at your local bank makes all the difference for the bank’s bottom line? Or that the manager at your neighborhood McDonalds is the make or break person for the success of that global company?

When we think about critical positions within companies we usually assume that the most important person is the CEO or the CFO or some operations person. While all every job in an organization is important some roles are more critical to the success of the organization. These roles are referred to as “Strategic Roles” These roles are critical to the success of the organization and are essential in executing the business’s strategy.

Researchers estimate that about 15% of all jobs in an organization are strategic roles while another 20-25% are core positions that related to operational excellence, The vast majority of jobs, perhaps as high as 60% are supporting roles where people make sure that internal operations run smoothly. And then, unfortunately, there are some roles that are not part of the organization and are probably best outsourced since they do not serve the core mission.

So lets return to our list up above an analyze why these positions are so core to the organizations:

  • Trash collectors at Disney: At Disney, the first rule is  “we create happiness, but the second rule is “everyone picks up trash. Creating a clean and family friendly. While there are assigned trash collectors at Disney, the reality is that all “cast members” are trash collectors and that creating a clean and fun Park is essential to the idea of the fantasy world of Disney.
  • Loan Officers at Banks: When you work with banks, you quickly realize that the key issue for bankers is to turn money around. They want to secure as many deposits as they can so they can get that money out and to lending customers as quickly as possible. Banks make their primary money off of lending and having loan officers who are able to build relationships, secure customers and create good loan customers fulfill the strategic mission of the bank better than any other member of the team.
  • Store Managers at Mickey D’s: While the average age of an employee at McDonalds has gone up from 20 to 29 in recent years, McDonald’s knows that they key for their success is in who is managing that individual restaurant. You see them every time you go into a McDonald’s. They’re the ones constantly checking the monitor, filling in a gap in customer service or barking out an order to get those fries going. They’re at work at 5 AM and may often stay until 10 PM because they and the company knows their role is critical.
  • Delivery Drivers at Fed Ex: FedEx does one thing really well…get your overnight package delivered to your door by 10:30 AM. While there is an entire supply chain of people who must make that happen, the only thing you really care about is seeing that red, white and blue truck pull up to your door with that delivery person hopping out with your package and his or her computer signature pad alongside. Getting the last mile of delivery is their job and while others can fill other key roles (co-pilots can sub for pilots, sorters are completely automated, the person who picks up the mail from the mailbox has backup) there is only one person who can get the package to you so that you see that FedEx has done their job. That role is strategic to FedEx.

Knowing the strategic roles in your company is critical to how you plan and execute your talent strategy. Make sure your team is in agreement with who are the critical players and use an exercise such as the one above to help convince the non-believers about who really pays the bills around your organization.