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Creating Velocity thru Strategy

Imagine you are a leader of a business, a division, an institution, or of a team. You’ve worked with your team to come up with plans and goals for the coming year. Now the economy goes south in what some believe will be an 18-24 month down cycle.

What should you do? Do you stop things? Start things? Answer: yes, to both. Of course you should rethink and reevaluate but if you do that for long you put at risk the current business or effort simply because you didn’t execute what you could have done.

Thanks to some friends at big companies, or SaaS companies or web 2.0 firms, the question of “how to focus on delivery, now” has been in my inbox and meetings. You’ve inspired me to write some basics down that are focused on how to make sure a team achieves a specific goal. Not just by focusing on what you need to do, but how to do it.

How do you make sure your business is going to achieve your goal? How do you let people follow you? How will they know they’re on track.

Here are 7 tips to make sure you achieve goals -

1. First, make sure you have a goal. Is the defined goal really a goal? I think the only way a goal becomes really clear is if you know what success looks like. Let’s say you want sales revenue growth to be 20% worldwide? Does that come with gross margin growth or decline? By how much? Does a particular product line need to be incubated so that u achieve next year’s growth. In other words, get concrete and clear about what u want.”double click” down on the specifics in such a way that when others go off to achieve the goal, they understand any conditions that must be met and have the same picture in their mind as you do yours.

2. Add visibility. There’s been a bunch of research and of course anecdotal information that says when people publicly commit, their follow-through increase. I personally don’t mind if this is linked to peer pressure or peer awareness, all i care is that people are aware that someone will notice if they don’t follow-through.

3. Brainstorm lots of strategies. Take the growth example…we could do that growth in one region, thru one product, etc. There are so many ways (strategies) to accomplish a goal. But without deliberating the many ways to achieve a goal, you haven’t figured out which option is best for you to achieve goal.

4. Stop confusing goals and strategies. A team I worked with recently talked about a goal being “get X million people to visit a home page and do trial”. That’s not a goal. That’s a strategy. It is being done to support the goal which is to drive attachments, sales, upgrades. Web traffic is one way to achieve goal but not the only one. If you only focus on one strategy, you have no other alternatives to pursue when that one goes down in flames. Think of a goal as a target city on a map, and the roads being strategies. You want to make sure that people have many roads to get to a destination but not just one.

5. Encourage debate. Talk thru programs, ideas, potential risks because you will learn something you don’t already know that will help you have more fidelity on an issue or opportunity. A client and I were talking yesterday. She had been advocating the use of traditional marketing and I kept advocating online web marketing (new tools). I thought we were out of agreement. I could have viewed her as wrong or she could have viewed me the same. But here’s the reality. Both were true. She had data that showed a yield on traditional marketing was higher than online. So while the cost of entry was lower online, current performance techniques means u have to spend more to go do it. That additional information that we discovered allowed us to have more clarity on what we were trying to solve and we had a more creative resolution to the strategic next steps.

6. Change what you need to change. Before you need to. Quite often, teams embark on new strategic directions without deciding to stop something else or to think through what needs to change. At the beginning of the year, Bruce sat in my office while he was helping drive the Rubicon ’08 plan….and he reminded me of the basics. We had some new goals and new team members to integrate and all that. He wouldn’t let me add a new thing until I could identify what do we STOP doing. What a great question. If you are going to lose weight, you stop eating sugar. But what do we do when we do business planning?

7. Create a building team, not a wrecking crew. Who we surround ourselves by is the difference between the team that slogs through vs the one that wins. We need to build a team that knows how to debate, understand, improve each others ideas and then ultimately build upon each others’ strengths to help one another. Only a great leader can find those people and create a culture where this is not only permisable but required. Be one of those and other teams who value a meritocratic culture will want to join too.

And the flywheel of success will grow in momentum. How you create the strategy creates the velocity of the strategy

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