Five Critical Questions for Your Organization

By Charles Waldo

Easily asked, but not so easily answered

As a reader of the Hamilton County Business Magazine,  the odds are very high that you are part of and/or involved with a number of different types of organizations:   Your place of employment, your church, synagogue, mosque or temple, a chamber of commerce;  you may be a school board member, on a civic board or committee, and so on. No less an authority than the late, great Dr. Peter Drucker contended that the leadership of all organizations, regardless of type, must (or should) periodically wrestle with the following  Self Assessment  questions if the organization is to move forward:

Question 1: What is our primary mission?

Question 2: Who are our primary customers?   Secondary customers?

Question 3: What do the customers (both actual and potential) value most? 

Question 4: What are our results? 

Question 5: What is our plan going forward?  


How would you answer those questions for organizations in which you have a leadership role?   Drucker argued that, until an organization can positively answer them, it will operate sub-par.  Does your organization(s) regularly wrestle with these and similar questions?  Do these exercises help in moving the organization forward or are they exercises in futility?  Answers probably won’t come easily or quickly. In fact, be wary if they do.

Sample Questions

Now, how would you react if an “all star” team (see notes 1, 2 and 3 below) of highly respected, well-known, seasoned management and organization development consultants showed up at your door offering to help you and your organization answer the above questions at a cost of only $10 - $15?  That’s what you will get when you go to a book seller and get a copy of The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, lead author Dr. Peter Drucker.

When you get it, you will find it is relatively short, just about 100 pages.  It is easy to read but answering some of the main and secondary questions your consultants ask is another story.   Try these sample questions and compare to what you do now:

Question 1:  What is our current mission?  Why does the organization exist?   What are our near and longer-term challenges and threats?   What and where are new opportunities?    What do we do really well?   And not so well?   Does the mission need to be revisited?

Question 2:   Who are our actual and potential customers?   What about us do they value the most?   The least?   Who are our secondary customers?   How, when, and where will our customers change?   What are their demographics?   Psychographics?    What more do we need to know about our actual and would-be customers?     

Question 3:  What do we believe our primary and secondary customers value in us the most?   How sure are we?   Have any large or key customers left us recently?  Why?   What additional knowledge about actual and potential customers do we need to have?    How do we get this knowledge?   What percentage of our customer could be described as “raving fans?”  Who are our primary and secondary competitors?   What do they do very well and not so well?   How are we sure?

Question 4:   What are our results?   How do we define ”results?”   How successful are we?     

Question 5:  What are our goals and plans for going forward?    Should some be altered…or abandoned?   How risk  tolerant  are  we?  Which goals and plans have to be approved by the board?

In addition to helping you get to the roots of these questions and many more, Drucker offers a chapter on doing an Organization Self-Assessment and Frances Hesselbein “ices the cake” with a chapter on Transformational Leadership:

Across the globe, for leaders aware of the tenuous times ahead, the journey to transformation is a journey into the future.   These leaders are taking today’s organizations and transforming them into tomorrow’s productive, high-performance enterprise.  Although the milestones on the journey are known, the destinations are uncharted, and for each organization the destinations will be determined not only by the curve of the road ahead but also by the quality of the mission and the leadership it inspires.”

Near the end of the book Drucker has these words about self-assessment, both for yourself and your organization:

"True self-assessment is never finished.  Leadership requires constant resharpening, refocusing, never really being satisfied.  I encourage you especially to keep asking the question, What do I/we want to be remembered for?  It is a question that induces you to constantly renew yourself – and the organization – because it pushes you to see what you can become.

What can you and your organization become?


(1)        Dr. Peter Drucker, a native of Austria, was a long-time business consultant, professor of business, and probably the most prolific author in the realm of business and economics, having published 39 books and scores of articles and monographs. Dubbed the “Father of Modern Management,”  he passed in 2005 at the age of 96 and was still working hard at age 93.

(2)        Each chapter contains comments and suggestions from Drucker and one of the expert contributors who include: Jim Collins, consultant and prolific business writer (see for example, Good to Great,  and Built to Last);  Dr. Philip Kotler, Marketing Professor at Northwestern University, and the co-author of the best selling ever Introduction To Marketing textbook;  Jim

Kouzes, consultant, and with Barry Pozner,  co-author of a number of  books on leadership, including the best-selling The Leadership Challenge, 5th edition; Dr. Judith Rodin, former CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation and former President of Pennsylvania University;  and Dr. V. Kasturi Rangan,  long-time Professor of Marketing in the Harvard Business School.

(3)  Frances Hesselbein has enough awards and honors to fill several pages. Among her notables was as the long-time CEO of the Girl Scouts of America,  founder and CEO of Leader to Leader Magazine and The Leader to Leader Institute,  founder of the Hesselbein Leadership Institute,   and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.