It’s March — how are things?

The Santa Clarita Valley Business Journal
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Ken Keller, SCVBJ Contributor

How is your business doing? Assuming your company has a plan for the year, are you ahead of plan? At plan? Or, behind plan? How your company has performed so far this year should be of comfort or of concern.

What stands between your company goals and the current situation?

The first step is to properly define what you are trying to accomplish. Many companies cannot do that, or when they do it, they do it poorly. 

How can a goal be set improperly? By not being specific; by not having it measurable; making it be unrealistic and hence unachievable; by having conflicting goals; by not assigning an owner; by not having a deadline; by not writing it down; by keeping the goal secret.

Let me address keeping company goals under wraps. Many companies do not share their financial information. But every company can find metrics that all employees can focus on to help the company succeed. Why share? To rally employees; get them and keep them focused on success.

So the second step is to determine what can be shared. This might include volume numbers; widgets sold or hours billed. It could also include on time delivery, customer complaints, returns; customer renewals and so on. The airlines live and die by the on-time-arrival ranking report issued every month.  

The third step is the creation of an action plan to achieve the goal. This is the responsibility of the goal owner. If the CEO writes, “My company has a goal is to increase revenue by 15% by the end of this calendar year over last year. The sales manager is accountable for achieving this goal.”

So far so good, except one major issue: who knows what the goal is and who owns it? I’ve been advising many companies where the sales manager doesn’t know he owns a goal and no one else does either.

Assume that the sales manager does know about the goal; did the CEO ask the sales manager to write a plan, to secure alignment, assume ownership and to secure appropriate resources? 

Did the CEO have any follow-up meetings with the sales manager to discuss the plan? The results? Where to find out where help might be needed? These shortcomings happen far more often than anyone ever wants to admit. In many companies, the disease NOETMA is part of the culture; it means “No One Ever Tells Me Anything.”

There are pitfalls to be concerned about when using this process. The most common is that there are simply too many goals; this is solved by prioritizing and scheduling. The second is the lack of resources. The third is lack of know-how; when the company does not have the capability in-house to achieve the goals. The fourth is resistance inside the company to goal achievement; this is when individuals fight change for any number of reasons. The fifth is that it often takes more time to get started and moving on a goal than is planned.

The last thing I want to mention is that many companies ignore providing recognition and rewards for success. Too many CEOs fail to provide the kudos and thanks in public and private for the people that do the heavy lifting to get important assignments done. A paycheck is no longer enough; people need encouragement and kudos for their efforts.  

It’s only March; still plenty of time to hit your plan. But you may have to do it differently than you had originally intended.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability. Email:[email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ. ν

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