How does your company measure success? How do you ensure that you and your team are focusing on the critical levers that drive your business? Many companies focus on sales, expenses, headcount and other outcomes — they are the result of a large number of key business processes that drive your company. In effect, these measures are lagging indicators of decisions made in the past. How do you determine the leading indicators that actually drive results?
I always ask new clients what their company’s “hot buttons” are. These are the 2-3 key levers that drive everything in the business. Of course, many important metrics should be measured on an ongoing basis — but there are only a few that are crucial, make or break items that determine success or failure. As you can well imagine, every business has its unique hot buttons, particularly given the current state of the company.
These are the 3 most effective techniques for identifying hot buttons.
1. Taking a new perspective
One of the greatest gifts leaders can give to their team is a pair of fresh eyes. It’s extremely difficult for those who are deep in the details of the company’s daily operations to see the big picture or look at their work objectively. Taking an outside-in perspective is essential to uncovering these nuggets.
Working with your team to identify these hot buttons can be an intense process — probing, examining, questioning, evaluating every aspect of your company. Asking questions such as “Why is this critical?” “What happens if we don’t do this?” “What happens to our sales if we invest in quality?” or “What happens if we raise or lower our price 10%?” really force you and your team to learn what the essential drivers of your business.
As you can imagine, discovering your team’s hot buttons will also equip you and your employees with the necessary tools for improving inefficiencies and creating solutions to problems there were never even considered. It can help you reevaluate your whole system of operations.
2. Process Mapping & Data Analysis
Company’s consistently make changes to rules, policies, practices, systems and other components of their business model. While each individual piece might seem to be working, often times the complete process may have problems.
I recall advising a company several years ago whose CEO complained that it took 3 months to onboard new clients, which appeared to be an outrageously long period for what should have been a non-complicated process. By speaking with employees, mapping out each process and analyzing lots of data we learned something quite interesting. Each department was tracking the time of its own process but was not tracking the quality of their work. In addition, there was no one in the company who was responsible for either the time or quality of the overall onboarding process. We learned that most of the 3-month time frame was either related to fixing problems in other units, or long waiting times between units.
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