The success of any organization is measured on how well it delivers value to its customers. The value equation is owned and calculated by the customer and contains his/her viewpoints on benefits of the product/service, consistency, ease of use as well as cost. So, how does leadership get everyone focused on these results that matter. Here are a few principles and tools that work.
Survey the customer regularly
Be it through focus groups, Internet-based or telephone surveys, or a review of customer communications, you need to know with certainty how your customer views you relative to the competition. Why do customers choose you? What distinguishes you? What are the needs/wants that aren’t being met by you? What are the ones that your competitors are delivering better than you are? You have to truly understand your customer if you seek to focus your employees on what matters and to grow the company.
Plan for outcomes not activity
Those of you who use our Vision Navigation® planning system know that we always state milestones as completed actions (results) rather than actions still to be done, i.e. “Financial report completed” rather than “Complete financial report”. As leaders, whether at the management or board level, you want your reports informing you of completions. It is much easier to say “I am doing___” than it is “I have completed___” when asked to report on the status of a project. Stating project milestones as completions also helps you make clear what results you want, what form that result should take, what the standard might be for comprehensiveness, accuracy, etc.
Measure if strategies have their intended effect
Again, in strategic planning your focus for each project should be on what change in current results you are seeking. The change could be addressing an opportunity to grow (e.g. expand into new market) or an internal problem (e.g. improve customer service). Behind each planned change or project is a theory as to what will bring about the change you want. We call that theory your strategy. It is a statement of your belief that if you make certain improvements or competitive moves, you will ultimately change the results in the organization (e.g. strategy = a new profit sharing program, change being sought = improved employee retention, or strategy = mailers and deep discounts, change being sought = entrance into a new market).
Therefore, for each project, you should design a method to measure whether your strategy or theory is working. We call such a measure a metric. We introduced metrics to our planning after working with several clients who knew they were completing their projects but did not know if the projects were having the intended impact. For leaders, both at management and board levels, success comes from strengthening what you know works and getting off what you know doesn’t. But you have to truly know in order to do this?
Maintain performance statistics on processes and people
Too often evaluations of both people and departments are based on subjective measures, e.g. level of commitment, ability to work independently, willingness too take responsibility, rather than real performance statistics. If you can’t define a statistic for a position, then the product that position is supposed to produce is not clear. If the product is not clear, the results will likely not add real value. Give employees real, measurable targets and standards. Measure the results and reward them according to the results produced.
Leaders that frequently (i.e. at least monthly) hold others accountable for results have success in raising performance. Don’t wait for the annual evaluation. Your competition is moving faster than that. You need continuously improving results now. Leaders shy away from accountability because they don’t like confronting bad performance, but employees already know their performance. They just don’t know whether you know. Employees want to know where they stand and respect leadership that demands results and holds everyone consistently to a high standard.
The same holds true for the processes within the organization that flow across positions and departments. You need to know the performance of that process defined in quantity, time, accuracy, or defects. The results the customer wants are a direct result of the quality of the processes that produce them. As many of you have heard us say time and again, “you will only get what your systems deliver.” Once you have the data on performance, review it often.
Promote continuous improvement
The potential of your people and your processes are limitless. Both should be improving over time, all the time. Great organizations create cultures in which improvement is stressed, fostered through training and rewarded. Pushing the envelope to insist on improvement is draining, unpopular, sometimes unpleasant, but when all is said and done, both people and organizations that aren’t growing, aren’t happy. Your favorite and best teachers were those that demanded a lot from you. Behind that demand was a belief that you could do it and it is that expectation that spurred you to get there.
Final principle, let everyone in the system know the results you are getting. If successful, celebrate and reward. If not, ask them to help you find the solutions. Either way, communicate, communicate, communicate.
These principles and tools for focusing on results work at all levels in an organization and in organizations of all types. Whether you are in the board room, executive suite or at the department level, check yourself against these principles and strengthen what you need to.
Questions? Drop me an email.