Constant Progress: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Successful business owners know that the only way to thrive is to grow and change with the market by making use of smart strategic planning and clearly defined annual goals. Where many companies flounder, however, is in their commitment to those annual goals. Juggling day-to-day demands and unexpected emergencies doesn’t leave much time to even breath, let alone to devote to making progress on longer-term goals. Making time for those goals, however, is often the factor that sets a great company apart.

As you completed your last 3-5 year strategic planning exercise and determined what your company needs to accomplish over the coming years, you likely put much time and effort into creating S.M.A.R.T. goals, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If not, start by reviewing your list of goals and revising them to be better formulated. Be specific not only in what you want to achieve, but also who is responsible for achieving it, and make sure that you’ve set a specific date by which this goal needs to be realized. “Someday” or “sometime next year” is not going to cut it – you need to hold yourself (or the goal owner) accountable for achieving the goal in a measurable amount of time. Equipped with your goals, you’ve already laid the foundation for achievement, but you absolutely must follow through to ensure success.

A regular goal review meeting is a critical tool for following through on longer-term goals and pushing everyone within the company to continue making progress against those goals. On monthly or bi-weekly basis, company leadership and managers with ownership of goals should gather together for 30-60 minutes to discuss the status of each goal, in particular focusing on any goals which aren’t progressing or are at risk (e.g., need scope clarification scope, require resource reallocation, or are experiencing budget issues). In addition to creating openness and improving communication, a dedicated review meeting fosters a clear sense of accountability across the company and builds a strong incentive for employees to carve out time each week to devote to longer-term goals, lest they show up to the meeting empty handed in front of their supervisors and peers.

To ensure constant progress a goal review meeting should strive to follow certain operating procedures:

  • Measure progress. With measurable goals and a set deadline, it should be easy to map out major milestones that occur every few months. Hold goal owners accountable for reaching those milestones and at each meeting ask them to provide a numerical estimate (50%, 80%, etc.) of how close they are to achieving the next milestone.
  • Leverage tools. A graphical chart or color-coded spreadsheet that can be projected for everyone to see gives a clear at-a-glance picture of which goals are on track and which aren’t. Utilize a Green/Yellow/Red system to denote which goals are at risk and assign one person who will be responsible for updating the tools before, during, and after each meeting.
  • Prioritize meeting time. Spend the first 5 minutes of the meeting reviewing recent accomplishments and celebrating hitting big milestones on time. The rest of the meeting should be devoted to discussing goals in progress, particularly those that are at risk.
  • Brainstorm together. With all of the company leaders and managers in the same room, there’s a lot of talent and experience in one concentrated area. Use this resource to run quick brainstorming sessions to generate ideas for overcoming challenges and unblocking goal progress. Focus on three key areas, scope, resources and timeline.
  • Set expectations. End the meeting with a quick rundown of who is responsible for doing what by the next meeting so that no one leaves without a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Even better, assign an individual who is responsible for keeping notes and sending a list of action items out via email after the meeting.

DataKey Difference: Strategy is directly connected to tactical planning throughout the organization to ensure successful implementation.  The best laid plans can easily go awry if they aren’t constantly monitored. DataKey has the tools and experience your company needs to create and align effective goals and to help you gauge progress against those goals by designing an efficient review meetings process specifically tailored to your company’s needs and culture. With DataKey as part of your team, goal owners are held accountable for achieving company strategy and equipped with the know-how they need to get there. Take your long-term strategy off the back-burner and start achieving your potential today.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Increase Accountability to Drive Results

You already know that accountability is key to driving results in any business. You create goals for your employees and evaluate them against their objectives in annual performance reviews. You have a vendor scorecard to make sure you’re getting the value you need out of your suppliers and contractors. You even rate your customers on their reliability and value-add. As the owner of your business, who is keeping you accountable?

The long-term success of a business relies not only on the day-to-day performance of employees and suppliers, but also on dedicated planning and the leadership team’s adherence to the company’s vision. Executive teams must look beyond basic metrics of revenue, profitability, and productivity to see the big picture. What are the best practices for our industry? Where are our competitors pulling away from us? Where is our market going? Are we prepared for the future?

It’s difficult to focus on these larger questions when you’re tasked with everyday management and keeping the business “in the black” in an increasingly competitive economy. However, failing to dedicate time and resources to create a long-term strategy could be a fatal mistake. If your competitors are planning ahead, you could be left in the dust.

Myopic planning prevents a business from growing and adapting to the ever- changing demands of the market.  As your company’s leader, it is absolutely essential hold yourself accountable for the future of your business.

Tips to maximize accountability at the top of your organization:

  • Look ahead 5 years from today and assess the strategic direction of your company. Consider environmental and competitive factors.
  • Create 3 to 5 well-defined, written S.M.A.R.T. goals to drive your business and your management team towards the desired state. Measure strategic, long-term progress with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) alongside traditional financial metrics. Create benchmarks to assess your starting point and measure progress.
  • Achieving strategic goals is a top priority! Each strategic goal will have an owner on the leadership team, including you. Each owner is responsible for achieving the goal with the help of the organization, while proactively identifying risks and clearing obstacles that are in the way.
  • Share your goals with a business advisor, board, or other leadership group. Making the commitment outside of your company brings more focus to your effort and strengthens your dedication to achievement.
  • Keep the goals posted where they’re visible day to day. Stay on top of your progress towards goals with scheduled monthly review meetings where the management team holds each other accountable to making progress.
  • Conduct more formal quarterly and annual business assessments to discover strategic opportunities and performance gaps. Understand where changes and improvement are most needed, and make the corrections immediately.
  • When you reach a goal, celebrate! But remember that you’re not at the finish line. Always be looking to improve and go further.

DataKey Difference: Real-time coaching designed for immediate, practical application.  Long-term planning and evolving the vision of your business are not easy to do on your own. By partaking in our Management Coaching programs, you can leverage insight from peer CEOs who are struggling with the same questions. DataKey keeps you accountable by providing an objective outside voice that can help you manage towards your strategic direction while delivering expertise and understanding wrought from years of experience.  Bringing more accountability to your business will drive long-term results and ensure your company’s future success. DataKey can help you get there.

Download a PDF version of this article here.

Getting Out the Gate: Driving Internal Change

 Inertia is a difficult force to overcome. Driving internal change is dependent on a company’s ability to mobilize behind an objective, make continual progress, and see the project through to the end. And no one person can enact change on their own; to truly be successful, change must have support throughout the entire organization. Almost every company has struggled with internal change. Even with a brilliant strategy and enthusiastic leadership, all too often those leaders will find themselves in the frustrating position of being within sight of the finish line but unable to reach it. This is rarely due to shortcomings of individuals or of the plan itself, but rather due to the nature of the beast. Change is hard.

Typically, the leadership of a company has a clear picture of where the business needs to be in a certain timeframe. Grow this division to $500M in revenues in 5 years, or double the volume growth rate of a particular product line by next fiscal year. With a goal in mind, the management team sets to devising a plan to reach that goal, or maybe brings in an outside consultant to provide unbiased expertise. A plan is wrought, everyone seems to be on board, but soon it’s apparent that something’s not working. Progress reaches a plateau and won’t budge for weeks. Meetings are spent rehashing the same old issues instead of focusing on what’s next. Before long, the project is abandoned and it’s back to the drawing table. What went wrong?

Unsuccessful internal change is generally the result of a variety of factors which compound to prevent real change from ever getting out of the gate. Change requires organization, planning, socialization, flexibility, and dedication. It requires an understanding that it’s not going to be easy, and that there may be bumps along the way. It requires accountability, tracking, risk management, and good old fashioned hard work. Most of all, change requires confidence.

Everyone involved must believe that they, as individuals and as a team, have the ability to push through difficult or uncomfortable situations in order to reach a common goal.

To drive successful change throughout your organization:

  • Start with a comprehensive plan. Detailed, measureable, achievable goals are great, but also consider risks and countermeasures to anticipate and resolve problems before they happen. Do you foresee clashes in the personalities involved or opposition to tinkering with long-standing processes? The more you are prepared for in advance, the easier it will be to address issues as they surface.
  • Set your team up for success with the right tools to assign responsibility and track progress against goals. Goals should have clear ownership by individuals. Regular status meetings give everyone the chance to share successes and will keep each team member accountable for delivering on time.
  • Before implementing a plan, socialize it with all of the key stakeholders. Make sure that everyone the plan depends on is bought in, from the top of the management chain all the way to the mail room. Even an entry-level employee can undermine a major initiative if there is not broad support and dedication established.
  • Make it a priority. Management needs to be vocal about why this initiative is important and how it will benefit everyone within the company, and also needs to solicit (and react to) feedback. Employees must have confidence that the project is supported by the people at the top, and that those people will do what it takes to make sure it’s successful, even if it means taking constructive criticism.
  • Always be looking to improve. Once the process is complete, reflect back on which aspects were successful, which weren’t, and why. Document this learning and be sure to incorporate the lessons from this project into the next.

DataKey Difference: Strengthens and energizes client organizations by becoming part of the team to accelerate key initiatives.  Sometimes change requires an outside catalyst to really make it stick. DataKey integrates unbiased leadership and world-class expertise directly into your team to get the results you need fast. With proven tools, dedicated capacity, and best practice experience, DataKey can help your team hit the ground running.

Download a PDF version of this article here.