What’s a BOS?


If you haven’t met the BOS yet, it’s time—because your company’s success depends upon it.

First of all, what is it? A Business Operating System (BOS) refers to how a business operates, both systematically and enterprise-wide. Much like a computer operating system ensures the collection of software and hardware resources on your computer function and work together, the collection of tools and processes and interconnections that get your product or services delivered to your customers is your BOS. 

The definition of a BOS also extends to the fundamentals and applications of your business. In a previous post, I described the principles and practices of high-performing businesses, highlighting that it’s the interconnectedness and systematic way they work together that has the greatest impact on an organization’s growth and sustained performance. 

It’s personal, though. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to developing a BOS, whether choosing to DIY or selecting pre-packaged solutions. Two pre-packaged examples are Gazelles and the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) that offer models, toolsets, processes and certified coaches, if required, to help a business create its BOS.

Why does your business need a BOS?
The fact is more businesses do not succeed than do. That’s an unfortunate reality. Leaders of small to medium-size businesses and their teams are understandably often busy “working IN the business, not ON the business.” But operating the company without a clear view or shared understanding among all employees of the strategic plan for achieving goals puts the organization at risk. Verne Harnish highlights this peril in his book’s subtitle, Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t.

To minimize risk, achieve your strategic goals and add value to your customers, leaders must share their strategic plan, explain how the company will execute on that plan, and make sure the entire team is clear and onboard. 

Some good questions to ask are: Do each of your employees understand how their role contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization? Can your leadership team articulate how they will execute the strategic plan? Is there common language and understanding of how you create value as a business and for your customers? Is the team aligned and working toward the same goal?

What are the usual pitfalls?
In a nutshell, running before you walk: A common danger in business is failing to plan. Organizations that don’t have a systematic approach that can be emulated might well be using processes and structures that don’t add value. Authors Jones and Womack modified Alfred Chandler’s management theory that asserted strategy proceeds structure into their lean approach where strategy precedes process, and process precedes structure. This customer-centric method means the leadership team is continually asking how the company adds value over the longer term. And that is crucial.

What does a BOS do for your business?
It brings a systematic approach to the collection of processes in the business. A BOS is a means to getting everyone on the same page and using the same language. It provides the structure a business needs to achieve greater organizational alignment and consistent methods for problem-solving and closing performance gaps. This creates traction in the business, greater employee engagement, and velocity towards strategic goals.

A BOS example – case study
After initial research and reading Scaling Up, a small Canadian manufacturing company decided to use this approach to implement their BOS. The owners first identified the area of the business that needed the most attention: people, strategy, execution, cash. 

Over the next six months, they focused on the people component ensuring the right people were in the right seats. Once they had the staff in place, they turned to implementing the strategy component. Here they engaged a coach and used several tools to help them firm up their strategic plan and develop key performance indicators. Today, the company is focused on executing their strategic plan and establishing a regular meeting schedule for the organization. 

How to get started? 
If you want to create a BOS for your company, ask a few fundamental questions. Simon Sinek author of Start with Why? lists some good ones: Why does your company exist? If your company were to close tomorrow, who would miss it and why? Take these preliminary steps:

  • Take stock. Start with your “Why.”
  • Get the leadership team meeting on a regular basis and taking time to work “ON” the business.
  • Determine whether you’ll use an existing BOS framework and toolset or create your own. There are great online resources available (search “Business Operating System”) to help with the decision and resource materials such as books, videos, and toolkits.
  • Seek alignment on which areas of the business are the most important to work on (e.g., people, strategy, execution, cash) and start there.
  • Establish a meeting schedule (annual, quarterly, weekly, daily, same-page meetings for executive teams.)
  • If you need it, get external coaching for support and to accelerate establishing your BOS.

Are you ready for a BOS? There’s no better time to get started than the present.


Katherine Sharp, founder of K. Sharp & Associates, enables companies to make meaningful social impact because they run businesses that are strategic, profitable and highly efficient, not to mention great places for the people who work there. If you want to get perspective on your organization’s strategic needs, please contact Katherine directly.