Monday, October 26, 2009
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.
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.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
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
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.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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 Erika@cameronchell.com. 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.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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
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!