A Checklist to Begin the Journey of Improved Business Performance
“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” Lou Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?
Reviewing the management process of a large, nationally operating company recently highlighted once again the continual challenge of remaining objective about the business we lead. Our repeated observation is owners and managers of businesses may declare they want to implement new ways to enhance business performance, but rarely understand and accept that as leaders of the enterprise, their own personal change must accompany or precede business change.
Although senior management may name a set of values they assume will create the organizational culture, the real culture will be determined by how all workers perceive daily operations are actually practiced and rewarded. An old maxim states, ‘Perception is stronger than reality’. Our work teams will see, feel, sense and then practice the culture of our business long before they adopt any stated values or formally announced strategies and processes.
Behavioural change will not come through talking, written communications, lecturing or demanding a particular process. Effective long term change to increase company value and stability requires carefully thought out modelling of the proposed practices and processes plus showing all team members what needs to be done and how to do it. Rose-coloured glasses will maintain business performance at mediocre levels, based on historical practices in the company.
Bill and Kristine Schneider of the Corporate Development Group (CDG) emphasise how company value and growth is likely to be highest when the cultural practices, leadership style and strategy adopted by a company are aligned.
The following is a detailed checklist allowing any business to begin the journey of improving business performance. It is not intended to be comprehensive but will highlight sufficient key issues for your business to review. Please use the checklist as a positive assessment of how you can kickstart new growth and understanding of your business strategy.
- Does your business have a clearly defined written strategy as a foundation for all decision-making?
- Does your leadership team pro-actively research, discuss and adopt what is required to enhance business certainty and clarity?
- Do you conduct frequent regular reviews of operational and strategic planning?
- Are you confident about what is required to take the business to the next level?
- Have all business owners and senior management team members formally indicated they will learn and adopt all required changes to enhance growth?
- Have all business owners and senior management team members formally indicated they will commence the journey of personal change required to enhance their own leadership?
- Have you listed 5-6 practices of yourself or other leaders/managers in the business clearly inhibiting growth and clarity for the future?
- Do you know how to lead all staff into a program of change and improvement?
- Can you succinctly explain the Vision and Mission of the business?
- Have you done any specific leadership and management training in the past 10 years?
- Do you read about and study businesses, leadership and management frequently?
- Do you have certainty and clarity about the business in all areas?
- If not, how do you deal with this? (This may include personal skills you struggle with, tasks you are required to do for which you do not feel equipped, team issues, business functions, how suggestions or recommendations are handled… or anything!)
- How would you describe your leadership and management style and practice? (be honest!)? How do you think others would describe it?
· Visionary/Big Picture
- Many companies limit growth by neglecting staff training. The resultant focus on short term targets delays expansion or stops it completely.
- Do you have a specific program of in-depth staff training?
- Does formal staff training include learning methods additional to lecture style and written instructions?
- Has the business designed and implemented on-the-job training processes to model and demonstrate all systems and processes?
- Can staff have some autonomy and be free to make mistakes as they learn?
- Does every staff member have a personal training and development plan?
- Do all business owners and senior managers have a personal training and development plan?
- If each staff member was asked about on-the-job training would they say it is frequent, relevant and equips them well for their role?
Marketing and Customer Service
- Do you view marketing as unnecessary?
- Do you have a multi-strategy marketing plan?
- Is there a procedure and schedule in place to frequently review your marketing?
- Do you have a specific written description of your key target market groups?
- Can you identify your primary customers (ie customers who create 80% plus of your business)?
- If so, is the plan known by all key personnel?
- What perception do your primary customers have of your business? How do you know?
- What uniqueness are you giving clients to create competitive advantage?
- Can you list the performance drivers of the business? i.e the factors that determine success – they must happen or everything heads south.
- Are Innovation, Creativity and Research being specifically nurtured, developed, tested and measured?
- Do you have a system of testing and measuring all marketing and advertising strategies?
- Do you have a clear picture of how many leads are required to obtain 1 customer and what the process of lead generation costs?
- Are your staff trained in how to use an effective sales process?
- Does the business have a specific program for writing effective advertising copy for all marketing strategies?
- Would relevant staff say all marketing and sales processes are frequently reviewed and therefore work well?
Financials, Performance and Business Control:
- Is business growth decided and planned? (the alternative is merely hoping it will happen)
- Do you have a Gross Revenue & Net Profit target for each Market/Industry segment as relevant to your business?
- Do you have other targets for various indicators relevant to your business?
- Do you have a written comprehensive strategy with detailed action plans and teams to move toward strategy achievement?
- Have you identified key issues and risks hindering achievement of growth plans?
- Do you have a risk management plan to protect the business against all reasonably foreseeable scenarios?
- Do you have a plan to ensure all systems and processes to keep up with proposed growth are reviewed, installed, updated or changed?
- Is there a plan to adequately fund all proposed areas of growth for the business?
Combined, the answers to these questions will give you a general, overall picture of the strengths and weakness of your business. This will give you clarity as you move towards improved business performance.