Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting your Results on Track

Getting your required results “On Track”

The power of the right question.
Now that you have a simple way to measure you and your team’s 90 day priorities the next critical aspect to consider is what to do if you are behind. Sometimes this is obvious and it involves just spending the time doing what you know needs to next be done to get your tasks moved into the “on track” or “ahead” column. However quite often it is not that clear. The best way that I have found to accomplish this is to ask yourself a question on a consistent basis, i.e. daily, to keep you moving forward in accomplishing the priority task at hand.

The human brain can answer any question so of course the key to this technique is asking the right question. At Business Instincts Group (B.I.G.) the consulting firm I am a part of we have a construct that helps us determine the right questions to ask.

Question Construct:

What: What do you need to do?
Context: Type of action you need to take, i.e. is a new action, a consistent action, a bold action, etc.
Time: How often do you need to take this action, i.e. hourly, daily, weekly, etc.
Result: What is the desired result?
Incentive: Ask, why this is behind and “tag” (see example below)


As outlined in the October 12 post the measurable result Steve determined for his search engine optimization task was a Page 1 Keyword Search Engine result by Dec 31/09 for Sustainable Startup. Steve also determined that he was about 50% complete this task and that he was behind on it at that time.

The next thing we now do is design a question that Steve can ask himself to determine what he needs to do on an hourly, daily or weekly basis to get on track. FYI, My update meetings with the people I work with more often than not consist of answering the daily questions to determine what needs to be done that day to ensure we are on track with our measurable results.

The question that we designed for Steve:
What consistent action do I need to take today to ensure Sustainable Startup has a page 1 keyword result and I am not stressed by the amount of time it takes to do this task?

Here is the question broken down as to how we designed it as per our construct. What, (What, all the questions we do for this purpose start with “what”), consistent, (Context, to determine context ask the question why is it not getting done. If the answer is, “I don’t have enough time then the context may be consistency. If the answer is I am not sure what to do next the context may be what “new” action.) action do I need to take today, (Time, “today” is used because in discussing Steve he indicated that he needs to do daily work on this task.) to ensure Sustainable startup has a page 1 keyword result (Result, as demonstrated in the October 12/09 posts) and I am not stressed by the amount of time it takes to do it, (Incentive, is determined by asking what has prevented the person to be ahead of schedule on this task to date and then tagging the question at the end with what would prevent this from being the case).

For a video explanation of the above please see today’s accompanying video post

Next post we are going demonstrate this process in action showing how effective it can be as well as demonstrating the different results depending on the seemly slight difference in the question asked.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Measurement in an Organization Defines Culture

Measurement communicates to everyone what is most important to an organization and how the person, team or department fits into the organization. In order for measurement to be effective it generally needs to posses the following three characteristics.

1. Fits into and relates directly to the big picture. Again, this is why clarity is step one. If everyone in the organization clearly knows what the plan is they can know why the measurement at hand is important. I have found that the best way to ensure that measurement is effective and taken seriously is to have the people responsible for the measures design what the measures should be. By doing this the people responsible are also designing the process of executing the plan and strategy. The White Board Video accompanying this post will go through an exercise that demonstrates how to do this as well as accomplish the following two points.

2. Immediately Self-Measureable. Self Measurement is only effective if it is easily measureable at any moment by the people responsible. If it takes more time to measure or think about measuring than it does to write this sentence, typically people will not measure. Instead, they will get wrapped up in just trying to get things done because measurement has become something that gets in the way of getting things done. My experience has show that if something takes longer than 30 seconds to measure, people avoid measuring.

3. Public. People like and need to perform. If you do not create an environment where they are performers they will not perform. Give people a stage and watch what happens to performance! Making measureables public allows people the opportunity to show how they contribute to the objective. This is healthy from both the perspective of someone knowing where they fit as well as everyone else knowing where that person, team or department fits in an organization.

Monday, September 28, 2009

“Measurement is to an organization as Language is to a society”

Language communicates what is most important in a society and how we as individuals fit into it. Measurement does the exact same thing.

Like language, measurement has infinite dialects and subtext. When one realizes this, the act of measurement becomes an art. Just like mastering a new language, mastering the art of measurement becomes one of (if not the most powerful) of all the assets in your toolbox.

Generally when I am working with clients and we start talking about measurement, almost inevitably one of the “right brain” types pipes up and insists "numbers don’t lie" and that the "measurement is in the bottom line profit". I fully recognize this has validity but I view the bottom line profit as the result and not the measure. If organizations wait until they get their results to determine what needs to be done next, then that organization is in big trouble.

In general I have found most often that measurement is viewed as a discipline. It is quite often something that is imposed or insisted upon by management and shareholders. I rarely have seen a company be sustainable when measurement is enforced. Enforcement of measurement is usually done out of desperation. When I refer to desperation I mean the organization is in trouble and management is looking to increase “productivity” or “output”. Most often I see this as a case of managers and shareholders/investors confusing measurement with results.

Next post we will run through an exercise that can be used to build daily measurement into every position in an organization.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


As of tomorrow Sustainable Startup will be moving to a new platform. The new url is That being said the existing posts and new updated posts will still be available here and on other platforms. You will also be receiving an email from updating you on any details and helping you with whatever it takes to make the move to the new site as seamless as possible. Steve is the newest member of our team and we affectionately refer to him as Colonel Cloud. This is due to his knowledge and use of cloud computing, of which given my history I to am a big fan of. Steve comes to us with a Bachelor of Management degree, a strong work ethic and a fresh perspective. Don't worry Erika is still here, her role has expanded in support of our clients and Sustainable Startup Bootcamp.

Two last items on the last dedicated blogger post. 1.) Sustainable Startup Bootcamp is on Friday September 25th. at 1:30pm -4:30pm at 3002 Ogden Rd. S.E. Please RSVP with 2.) Sustainable Startup has a fan page on Facebook. If you do a search within Facebook, "sustainablestartup" it will come up as the first search result. It is just getting started but your joining will help us evolve it to a useful place for your startup initiatives to flourish.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Draft One of the Book Outline

Back on April 22, 2009 I wrote about what I have seen as the five "must haves" to build a Sustainable Startup. In reviewing these it is clear to me they represent the first draft of the book outline. Certainly once we go through the clarity questions and the remaining steps as outlined in this blog but as it relates directly to the book the outline will become more detailed and robust. At this time however I think we should continue on the path of writing about what I am now referring to as the five steps to building a Sustainable Startup.

Draft one of the book outline: 5 Steps to Building a Sustainable Startup

Step 1. Clarity - being very clear on what we want to accomplish as opposed to what we think we want to accomplish.

Step 2. People - being able to identify who we need and not what we need.

Step 3. Working Plan - "The key to a plan working is not the plan but the process." - Chell, August 09

Step 4. Cash - prioritizing & maximizing your cash.

Step 5. Balance - Live within your means and pay yourself first.

This post completes our goal of having a draft outline for the Sustainable Startup book done by the end of August, (I know it is September 1st :-)

Next post we will continue with the second and third components of a Working Plan. Scalability and Measurability.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Simple, Simple, Simple.

The key to a plan working is not the plan but the process. -Chell, August 29/09

In order for everyone to be able to work the process it must be simple. A working plan is something that changes every moment in its finest detail which means that everyone must know how to work the process and not just the plan.

I am going to use Sustainable Startup blog as an example so you can see how I build out my working plans. Also, because it is real time and you are witnessing and participating in the actual development of the Sustainable Startup business, (this is a reality blog).

Back on May 7th we set out goals for the year, as such we are going to build our working plan for the last quarter of this year based on those goals. Just to review, the goals that were set for the end of the year were as follows, (keep in mind we have hit all of our goals up to this point):

1.) Average one quality post per week as rated by the followers.
2.) Grow from 40 members to 80 members.
3.) Have full clarity on the Sustainable Startup book.
4.) Build a working plan and business plan specifically for the book.
5.) Outline of book finalized.
6.) 33% of the book written in first draft.

So how do we start? As in most things in life you start with a question. I take the first goal, "Average one quality post per week as rated by the followers" and I ask; "What do I need to do to ensure I complete one quality post per week as rated by the members". When I ask I don't "think" I just write. I never stop my pen from writing for 2 -5 minutes. I write what ever my brain is spitting out as fast as I can. When I am in a group doing this on a white board I encourage people to just yell out what ever is on their mind as it relates to answering the question. In doing this you will come up with several answers. The goal is to now prioritize the top three. If I am in a group I give everyone a chance to give their top three actions to ensure the goal is reached. I give each persons top answer a ranking of 3 and their least a ranking of one. I then total up the rankings and the the three with the most points become the three actions of the working plan for that goal. I like to stick to three actions. Three is an easy number to remember and it is generally not to many things to get done. However as you will see below sometimes I increase or decrease the amount of actions depending on their complexity.

As I did the above exercise these are the three actions that game out as the priority actions to do to ensure we hit the goals. You will notice that the actions are not elaborate and that they are doable. I am relatively sure that you will agree that this process can be done by anyone for anything that needs to be prioritize and get done in an organization from reception to CEO.

1.) Average one quality post per week as rated by the followers: A.) Schedule time in my calendar to write just as if it were a meeting. B.) Write daily in smaller chunks. C.) Personally ask for feedback from a different member each week on the current post.

2.) Grow from 40 members to 80 members: A.) Survey the members asking if they would refer anyone to the site and if so why, if not why? B.) Move the blog to a platform that has more flexibility and capability i.e. video. C.) Make it easier for people to sign up i.e all that is required is an email address. D.) Do some Search Engine Optimization work on the site once on a new platform. E.) Do some social on-line networking with other sites in the same space.

3.) Have full Clarity on Sustainable Startup Book: A.) Do Clarity questions, (Step 1). B.) Identify who I need help from or to hire in order to complete the book and get it to market, (Step 2). C.) Corporate VSO - 12 word elevator pitch.

4.) Build a working plan and a business plan for the book: A) Start a PlanHQ session just for the book. B) Research publisher vs self publishing costs/benefits, options. C.) Research and build projections. D.) Look at hiring resource to help write the business plan. Do a VSO for the position.

5.)Out line of book "finalized": A.) Once clarity questions are answered spend 1/3 of my daily Blog writting time on the Book Outline. B) Get feedback from blog members. C) Get feedback and input from published authors in the space.

6.)33% of book written in first draft: A.) Once clarity questions are answered and the outline "finalized" spend 1/3 of my 1/2 of my blog writing time on the book.

If you have signed up for PlanHQ you can now go to it and see each of the goals set up and the actions required to accomplish.

I know this seems to simple but I assure you it is a process that gets things done and they are the rights things to get done. This allows the process to scale across an entire organization but more on that next post.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Step Three. Working Plan

We have now completed the first two steps of a five step process that I take my clients through when building a sustainable startup. Step one, Clarity - understanding what we want to accomplish as opposed to what we think we want to accomplish. Step two, People - Identifying who we need and not what we need. Step three is building a Working Plan.

A Working Plan is different than a Business Plan. I define a business plan as a document that is primarily used to pitch your vision for funding purposes. To me a working plan is a process. Step three will run through the process of a working plan. This process is really a business management and project management process that is simple, scalable and measurable.

As I go forward and explain this process I will be assuming that Step one and two have been done. This means that we have an organization that is clear, (Step 1) on it's purpose and the difference it makes in it's industry and/or the world. The organization knows what values are fundamental and irreplaceable. What business it is in and against whom it competes. How it's approach differs from that of its competition. And, what its' goals are next month, quarter, year and 5 years. The organization also has attracted people to a purpose and not a cause (Step 2) and has mapped the responsibility's and task of its people to values and goals of the organization. I think that step one and two are the two steps that are the most important in an organization and they are the least well done, (if truly done at all) in most organizations. If this is the first Sustainable Startup blog post you are reading it may look as though steps one and two are overwhelming. I think this is how most organizations "feel" about it as well so they tend to minimize the importance of the first two steps by calling it the "soft stuff". If all this does seem overwhelming take the time to read the past posts that run through steps one and two and I think you will be able to breath a sigh of relief that there is a way to actually accomplish these first two steps in a simple and systematic manner. I am not saying it is easy, a lot of serious thinking has to occur but for sure if you just follow the process it is very doable and it will set your business up for success.

The Working Plan process that has developed over the years for me has three main characteristics. 1. Simple, 2. Scalable, 3. Measurable.

1. Simple: This means that anyone and everyone in the organization must be able to understand the process and utilize it themselves. A working plan is something that changes every moment in its finest detail which mean that everyone must know how to work the process and build their own working plan for their objectives or team at any moment. Simple is key because everyone has to be able to do it.

2. Scalable: If everyone can work the process then the working plan is scalable.

3. Measurable: This is so key to staying on track with the goals and values of the company. In this process we will be able to make everything measurable.

Next Post we will run through an exercise on establishing our working plan.