Get Your Business In Shape for 2008

Have you ever intended to get in shape? Lose that weight? You know you’ll feel better, yet two thirds of us are overweight. Understanding you need to lose weight or telling others you plan to get in shape does not get you any closer to doing it.

It takes more than knowing you “should” to change your behavior for your health and for your business. As the New Year begins how do you get yourself and your team to make the changes needed to implement your plan?

Ask Yourself:

  1. Is your message specific enough for your team to understand priorities and make daily decisions?

A lack of clarity about what you’re really trying to achieve can create chaos. “Creating shareholder value,” “growing market share,” and “increasing profitability” may all be admirable goals, but goals this vague can be achieved in so many ways that often what results is nothing but disillusion and tragically wasted resources.

Success Stories For Understanding Priorities and Making Daily Decisions.

How Toyota ‘Beat Benz.’

Toyota’s “Beat Benz” motto made it clear that each worker could do something in their daily job to move them toward the company’s goal. Oversimplified? Perhaps.

But it created a common understanding that management could then shape with company culture and key initiatives within each area. It helped teams understand how they needed to partner. It helped engineers understand what inventions and innovations would be appropriate. And it helped sales and marketing teams understand the targeted customer base.

How Southwest Became The Low Cost Airline.

Likewise at Southwest, Herb Kellerher’s mantra to be the low cost airline helped team members make decisions every day, from what amenities would be offered, to the importance of flight turn-around times, to cultural factors like how pilots and flight attendants treat each other or what types of humor may be appropriate during flight announcements.

  1. Are you communicating enough?I have had the opportunity to work with many gifted communicators. One of the most fascinating things I’ve seen is that even for them, message-senders consistently over-estimate the degree to which their message has been received. There are many reasons this happens. But consider:
    • Your team needs to hear you. For advertising it takes at least seven messages or touchpoints before people even recognize they’ve seen your message, and some estimate as many as 21 times before they’ll remember it and associate it with you.
    • Your team needs to believe you. When you were a teenager, how much did you pay attention to your parents’ warnings? Did you immediately heed all advice? For some things, did you think you knew better until you experienced a reason to believe? Your team needs more than facts and figures to understand where you’re headed. Connect with their emotional evaluators too, demonstrating the importance of your goals through stories or tangible experiences.
    • Your team needs to practice the change. Did you know that we don’t really break old habits? Instead we replace our old habits with new ones. And typically it takes a minimum of 21 days practicing our new habit before it actually becomes a habit. So whether it’s new personal priorities around diet and exercise or new work priorities around where we spend our time and other resources, keep communicating, showing and practicing in everything you do for at least the first month.
  1. Are you practicing your new priorities?

If I tell you that our goal is to increase our market share by 5% over the next 12 months, but I don’t reallocate any budget dollars or staff, and our regular meetings focus on delivery time and cost reduction, what are my real priorities?

Or if I tell you that retaining our most valuable customers is our number one priority, but don’t tell you exactly who those customers are – or how to identify them yourself – what has priority?

What if the first month, I tell you who the customers are, but give you no way to measure whether we’re doing better, and spend most of my time talking about how to reduce average customer support time? Maybe average customer support time does need to come down.

But if I frame that need by explaining that most call times need to be reduced by 50% so that the support team has adequate time to address the needs of the customers we must retain, I’ve actually reinforced my priorities message instead of undermining it.

How Kodak Failed To Click with Megapixels.

Kodak declared digital imaging as its #1 priority for more than a decade. When the events of September 11 unfolded, however, they had precious little to show for their declared priority.As a consequence, when traditional film processing plummeted with these events, never to recover, so did their stock price. Now Kodak, whose renowned inventors had plenty of lead time, struggles to gain a foothold in markets where formerly it was a giant, continuing to lose market share to its more agile, more aggressive competitors.

The Bottom Line. If you’re not communicating clearly enough, often enough, or consistently with your actions, you may need to take a step back to reassess your priorities.