Business readiness requires thoughtfulness surrounding how to bring business strategy into everyday actions. This article touches upon necessary milestones that connect strategy and action in a way that is useful for preparing and planning.
Regardless of the length or complexity of your product delivery process, when you focus attention on the alignment of strategy and action you create more options.
During good times it is easy to put off looking forward. However, what is incredibly important is to be able to shift direction proactively. It’s always better for business to be proactive. This intentional review of internal and external cues creates a guidance system that may be helpful anticipating issues, but more importantly this tack is the way to stay on course in times of real uncertainty.
As much as we attempt to put emotion aside to make rational decisions … humans don’t. That reinforces the importance of a clear path from strategy to goals to measurement of those goals, and using the results to evaluate. What we can do is create a framework to use that allows for critical and thoughtful review. We help our brains receive information without getting stuck in what happened or why it happened and instead use the results to make adjustments and move forward.
Business intelligence at its best is the right combination of strategy, action, and KPI’s. I asked three people to talk with me about what they use – and what they have learned – to better their business with their chosen KPIs they shared.
Here’s what they shared:
Cash on hand, and how you use it.
To successfully implement your business strategy, it is important to have a clear understanding of how your business uses cash. There are several metrics and KPIs here that one can use … even for the 56% of SME executives that dislike financial tasks.
Knowing cash on hand – and how far that will get you in a worst-case scenario – will provide you insight into if you have enough. A great article I read Today, Cash Flow Beats Income Statement by Andrew Podner, CEO of Atlas Precision Consulting, is something for you to reference. He goes into much detail including how important operating, investing, and financing activities are with regard to shaping the your organization’s constraints.
Consider this question:
What indicators are we not using that will help us understand our financial situation to respond and plan?
Ask the right questions, more often than not.
All questions are not created equal. Sometimes they include biases and are framed to reinforce what we think. That is something you and I face with every question we have while in the process of setting, acting on, and choosing how to measure our company’s strategy.
The time spent to find the right question could do even more than save time later … taking action can save your business. Edwin Willims, founder of Zen Hammer, has learned how important the right question really is. His initial idea failed and he had to make a major pivot to gain traction and have a product that generates revenue and solves a real problem. He shared that having the correct question for what you are trying to accomplish is most important.
The wrong questions will undermine your strategy. Which means any action taken will be off course, even though the KPIs will reflect the actions being taken … the outcomes don’t show progress on the big goals. A little off course is probably OK. It’s when it’s a whole-business objective that takes two to three years to fully implement that little bit off course turns into the wrong destination. In thriving times, that’s probably acceptable. In difficult times, when facing unexpected problems that really impact your business, “a little of course” is the last thing you want to have happen.
Consider this question:
What assumptions have we been using that are working? What are we looking for to know when they have stopped working?
Stress test your leadership.
In addition to key business metrics, there will be KPIs that are unique to your company. These custom metrics specifically help you stay aware of the strength of your competitive advantage, how well the outside understands your company’s purpose, and the way you conduct business.
The way you use and converse about the data shapes your culture. The right KPIs (that come from clear goals and a thought-out strategy) ensure necessary conversations happen timely. First and foremost, a Present Retreat™ is protected time each week where you are uninterrupted for several consecutive hours. Part of that time is reflection – what the company has actually done. Another part of that time is evaluation – what must happen and what opportunities move the needle toward existing goals. Yet another part is thinking through scenarios – the best case and worst case – which gives realistic constraints to making strong decisions. And it is a time to dream – what else is possible to make the greatest impact.
When you actively practice a Present Retreat™ you have the elements necessary to discuss, evaluate, and make decisions throughout your organization. The clearer you are about the KPIs you need for your business + your uniqueness, the easier it is to make the linear connection back to achieving goals that came from your strategy. David Tash shared with me, “Data is not gonna lie to you.”
Consider this question:
What are the places within our product delivery, customer service, and sales that can be simplified or modified for a better experience?
Facing change is a requirement of leading effectively.
Constant adjustments to any part of your business not only slow things down, but also erode the foundations of the company. The purpose of measurement is to provide guidance that you are going in the right direction. Small constant changes to a plan prevents enough information to become known for thoughtful decisions.
While we expect our environment to be filled with instant gratification, many hours are put in behind the scenes to make that experience occur. The time it takes to collect data is the time it takes. When you build the ability to stick to a plan, get the results, and then make decisions about the next iteration you are preparing. When you are able to take time to implement, take time to understand the resulting data, and recognize the amount of time necessary for your business processes … all these elements add another important constraint to your decision-making process.
Things happen out of your control. Being able to respond and reduce the problem, if eliminating it is impossible, happens when the selected metrics do more than just tell results. You can use the results can also to find patterns that are new or different. But when something happens that tells you that something could be up – that is the time look deeper, reflect a bit more, and look outward to your industry locally as well as globally.
Casey Carol shared with me, “It’s because you have to approach business differently [at different stages] to solve your problem.” That is so true! Recognizing that the KPIs you have today will change over time with different goals lets us bring what need need, and leave behind what we don’t need anymore. That concept is common in personal development, and it also applies to business development.
You’ve got to be willing to change. And, everything I’ve been doing in the last eight months has been very different from everything I’d done before that point. It’s because you have to approach business differently to you solve your problem.
Consider this question: Which KPIs are going to be our canary in the coal mine that alert us to something out of the ordinary going on?
Be bold. Be agile. Be thoughtful about your KPIs.
The strategy you embraced, the values reflected in your work, and the way you collect data … all will determine your business’ success. There are many traps that your team can fall into, and David Parmenter shared several KPI myths, and I find companies that I work with to have adopted some of these myths as truths.
Asking the right questions, reflecting regularly, and practicing clarity in conversations prepares you for being tested to stay the course when everything around you gets topsy-turvy. Some point in time rapid and unexpected events will find you, if they haven’t already. You won’t know if the way you were going is still the best way. You may not even be able to know what way could be the way through. Solid practices combined with thoughtful data points create the framework you need to pause, assess, and act.
Asking the right questions, reflecting regularly, and practicing clarity in conversations prepares you for being tested to stay the course when everything around you gets topsy-turvy.
Provided you want to more fully incorporate dimensional leadership, for yourself and your company, reach out. Let’s have a conversation. Office hours are by appointment, and you can reserve a time here.
My mission is to see medium-sized organizations succeed by finding their true north, building competency, and creating processes to align everyone to the same goal to achieve more.
For more tips on growth, leadership, and business strategy check out our previous articles.