Is your business stuck in a low/no growth rut? In your business, do you observe any of the following symptoms
- Your company consistently misses financial targets (even realistic ones)
- Your company consistently is unable to achieve all that it sets out to do (Goals)
- Many team members complain of lack of clarity in what is expected of them
- Many a times, you produce something which is not really required at that point in time
- Most days, you come in and start the day afresh with new ideas and next best thing to do. Its as if there is no continuity (And you dont just leave it an idea but change priorities of the relevant teams and put it to play.)
- … and so on and so forth.
In other simple words
“You keep feeling that you are just not getting there”
Analysing why a business experiences such symptoms, could be the topic of a big book (several books). And hundreds of books/articles have been written on this subject. A lot of businesses and consultants exist to just help your business go past such constrictive phases.
The problem could be in many parts and aspects of your business. From something as basic as whether there is need for your product in the market, Funding, to your strategy, to your team composition and right onto the execution where the rubber meets the road.
My purpose here is to help you sort out ONE possible cause for this, and that relates to point 4 above (execution). Hence I assume that your product has an accessible market, you have adequate funds, and your strategy is good, working by proof to some extent.
ONE possible Cause of poor execution
In our own business (Mithi) over the last few years, we have grappled with issues that come with scaling up and scaling out and experienced similar symptoms along the way. We were quite sure of our product, service and market since that was proven over the years by consistently releasing solid product versions and acquiring large marquee customers whose businesses depended on our solution. When we embarked on a program (strategy) to REACH out to more customers, acquire and service them in high SPEED, and at the same time continue to grow in PRODUCT EXCELLENCE, our ways of working and our systems were severely challenged by these new goals.
Looking deeper we discovered that one reason for us slowing down was lack of ALIGNMENT amongst teams (to some extent the teams were pulling in different directions and their efforts and results were not adding up CONSISTENTLY to the final goal). Put another way, given ENOUGH TIME, we would “GET THERE” for sure. But it would be an excruciatingly slow journey
We felt that to fix this execution gap, we needed:
I. Clear unambiguous TARGETS CLEARLY COMMUNICATED to the teams
We broke our targets into two types viz. Leading Indicators and Lagging indicators.
Lagging indicators are numbers which measure the results you wanted for your business. Typically financial targets and may include numbers like number of customers acquired etc.
Leading indicators are numbers which measure the output of the activities that you chose for achieving your business targets. E.g. number of mailers sent out, number of calls to be made, number of product releases to be done, etc.
While deciding these, you must be able to make the connection that consistently achieving the Leading indicators (execution of chosen activities/initiatives HAS a very high chance of achieving the Lagging indicators (results)
II. Clearly documented milestones, which are repeatedly communicated to respective teams
- The strategy had to broken into short term, medium term and long term projects/initiatives for each department with monthly milestones defined.
- The monthly milestones to be further broken down into weekly milestones
- The above to be DOCUMENTED top down, and CLEARLY COMMUNICATED to each department’s team REPEATEDLY
Note: The above projects if viewed from a birds eye, should give an indication of each initiative adding up to take the company TOWARDS its goals. In this definition, the sequence of events and date/time based milestones have to be properly thought out. E.g. a particular initiative, lets say promoting a new feature in the marketing department obviously cannot happen unless the feature is ready and released by the product team.
Never underestimate the power of routines. These define the activities to be done periodically for the entire company. E.g. the marketing team to send weekly mailers, the product team to do perform daily builds and daily upgrades on the inhouse servers, daily monitoring of critical resources, monthly team meetings, etc.
I plan to write a separate article on routines, but suffice it to know that consistently performing routines, day on day, week on week, month on month can add up tremendously to achieving solid depth and results in those areas of work.
Routines also bind the deliverables of each team, since there is always an interdependence.
IV. Weekly Reports to indicate progress
You need indicators to show progress (or the lack of it) and not “touchy feely” discussions. Establish a system to generate weekly reports on all agreed upon leading and lagging indicators and don’t just stop there.
V. Have Weekly reviews, around the indicators to course correct
Have weekly reviews around the reports to understand the gaps in execution, decide upon the changes to the plan, make the changes to the overall plan and proceed into the next week.
One of the most important things about this is that the execution plan should be available in one page to allow that top view (which is what is typically missing once you deep dive into the execution). Looking at this weekly will reset your vision to the targets and the milestones and this very simple exercise itself will increase clarity and dramatically increase your chances of reaching your targets.
Its not a new science that you must define targets, define a strategy, break it down, clearly communicate it and follow through on it. Such methods are followed by thousands of successful businesses around the world. Via this post, I am not really proposing a radically different way of execution, but just a simple tool to tie up all the elements required for effective execution (will talk about this in my next post)
In essence it is about
- All of you agreeing to the direction to go
- All of you having the necessary team work to pull in the same direction
- All of you being result foccussed by measuring and course correcting continuously
Is any of this rocket science? Of course not.
Do you follow this in your business? You may want to ask yourselves?