2020 is now behind us and businesses are firmly focused on 2021 – and beyond. Regardless of what is happening in the broader, largely uncontrollable exterior environment, it’s time to get our business heads screwed on and focus on success. And that focus leads us to today’s key re-cap: that the truth can be painful; but it’s the truth that leads us to success.

After all:

  • Success requires objective measurement – which is why we define it as part of our strategic planning.
  • If we are serious about measuring success, then we need to be prepared to face failure as well.

Many business leaders are nervous about implementing a culture of measurement and evaluation because it can be a difficult and sometimes painful exercise. It’s easy to go about our working lives focusing on the good examples, and ignore those troubling concerns, poor reviews, flagging sales figures and rising costs because they are uncomfortable, complex and difficult to deal with.

Performance Measurement Specialist, Stacey Barr, puts it well when she says:

‘The truth from our performance measures can hurt, but if we don’t get that truth, we’ll never get where we want to go.’

Read Stacey’s article Don’t measure if you don’t want the truth. Failure isn’t anything to be afraid of. In fact, failure can be a good thing – if we rapidly learn from the mistakes that we made, and put them right.

To begin implementing remedial measures that tackle business problems and improve what we do – we need to be able to identify and quantify our mistakes. Without that, we are suddenly back to square one of the bad-old ‘pre strategy’ days, when everyone was dashing around like a headless chicken, focusing randomly on reactive tactics and the latest operational panic without any view of the big picture, the driving data and the most pressing strategic issues.

So how do we get better at identifying mistakes?

We can easily spot what is going wrong in the business by first having a solid set of business objectives in place. We can then see the extent to which things are going wrong by using the appropriate measures, with tools such as comparator data and pre-defined ‘RAG’ or benchmark data to ascertain the scale of concern.

Get your house in order

Do you have your business objective measures in place? Without those, it will be impossible to quantify your results, and ascertain how well they are doing against your definitions of ‘good, bad or acceptable’. Remember, every business uses its own set of measures – and what works for your organisation may not work for another.

The vital thing is to get your business objectives in place and the measures by which you will assess your progress. At Intrafocus, we recommend using a tried and trusted framework such as our seven-step Strategic Planning Process (based on the Balanced Scorecard) to make your strategic business processes as smooth and well-managed as possible.

How to tackle ‘reluctant measurers’

Some managers will always be reluctant to measure and write the process off as being ‘pedantic’ and unnecessary. They will claim that a good leader will have an instinctive view of how well the business is doing, based on more fluid measures such as personal relationships with customers and other stakeholders, a ‘feel’ for the working culture and an observational view of areas such as staff turnover, sales, operational costs and so forth.

But, as Stacey Barr notes in our reference article above, some people will never want the truth. The price for this is repeatedly failing. Some people refuse to measure organisational results because it is potentially painful. To make this easier for them, focus on the feelings of control that come from having a detailed, factual view of the business – warts and all! Also, takes steps to change the culture to one that places greater emphasis on measuring the ‘business’ rather than measuring the ‘individual’.This leads to true power; the knowledge which allows informed and confident decision making. At this point, the gain far outweighs the potential pain of assessing the truth.

Steps to take now:

  1. Revisit your strategic objectives. Are they still relevant? Are they still correct?
  2. Set your KPIs, remembering that they need to be ‘counted and compared’ to each underpinning objective, and given performance thresholds which can be monitored through a system such as Red, Amber, Green (RAG.)
  3. Use the above to set your strategic projects and remedial ‘quick fix’ actions for 2021, assigning owners to each across the organisation.
  4. Communicate your plans and priorities for the year ahead, ensuring engagement and buy-in across the business with clear leadership and a sense of purpose. Remember your values-led leadership here to capture hearts and minds!
  5. Automate the process as far as possible to minimise time, duplication, wasted resources and errors. Use the right software to help, do not rely on spreadsheets and presentations.

The help that you need

The team at Intrafocus is here to help you succeed with your business strategy in 2021 and beyond. Our team of strategy experts work with organisations of all sizes that span the private, public and not-for-profit. Whatever stage you are at in your strategy journey, we can work with your team to help you move forward – and to see results. We are also adept at working remotely as required. Please contact us to discuss your needs, without obligation, and we will be delighted to assist.