‘9950! I just need to go up and down stairs a few times; I’m nearly there!’
Are you hooked on your 10000 steps a day? It’s that time of year again when we review how those new year resolutions are going. Use the stairs, eat less sugar, get off the bus a stop early.
With the state of obesity and the impact on a stretched NHS, there’s a real abundance of programmes and adverts out there helping us to eat better, sleep better and particularly move more. The aim is 10000 steps a day. Apparently that number was a pretty random figure, yet like me, you probably know someone who is addicted to achieving it daily.
Many of us have started to use watches and fitbits to measure our activity and keep us focused on our daily steps target. Research has shown we can get so hooked on our target that we’ll (literally) keep going that extra mile, to ensure we achieve it.
So if personal targets like this can work so effectively, what about business? Are targets in business good or bad? Well, I would say that it really depends on the target.
Did you hear the one about the train driver that went straight through every station to ensure he kept to his timetable! (Probably an urban myth.) But I did know of an organisation whose target was to process work in two days. So guess what happened to work not completed in that time? Yes, it got fitted in as and when, so managers could concentrate on getting new work done in the timescale by which they’d be judged. These managers were celebrated even though their old work was piling up. But at that time the age and level of that work was not a target and not measured, until it began to impact on the Customer. You probably have your own examples of targets where true customer service is not at their heart.
If you set a target and either celebrate it’s achievement or give people hell if it’s not reached, guess what? People will start to deliver it at any cost. If that target is not holistic or engenders fear of failure, somewhere down the line the business and your people will suffer.
So there can be dangers in target setting but also great rewards.
So what makes a good target?
A good target will always take you towards your business vision - so you need to be clear about that for starters.
It will be holistic - in the best interests of both your Customer and your business to engender a culture of excellence.
You can’t set targets just to improve profit - you’ll probably succeed in the short term, but what will the long-term cost be if you’ve achieved your target by cutting corners on quality?
Equally, you can set targets aimed at driving Customer satisfaction above everything else, but this could cause big problems if you ignore the needs of your business profit.
You want productivity – but if you focus on productivity without any thought for quality, customer focus or value for money, you may end up being very productive doing all the wrong things.
You get the gist.
Targets, like your SMART* goals, will be challenging, but achievable. You’ll be able to measure them, and celebrate their achievement with the team.
The very best targets drive your people and your business to excel and give everyone a real sense of achievement - just like your fitbit!
Do one thing: Review your business plans and ask yourself - are my plans a route map to my business vision / my destination? Do I have targets as key milestones along the way and are those targets holistic with the customer at their heart? Do they create a culture of excellence? Is my whole team involved in their creation and achievement?
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*SMART goals traditional definition:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Time-bound
I’ve refrained from mentioning the B word in my posts. Like many of you I’m heartily sick of the dreaded ‘Brexit’ word. It’s not that I’ve been burying my head in the sand or anything, just rather like many people I’ve not felt qualified to give advice. But there is one thing I would recommend, and that is to plan.
Not knowing which way we’re going to go, let alone what’s going to happen then, can perhaps make people think what’s the point of planning when your crystal ball has totally clouded over.
Any time you work on a business plan you are faced with two things.
Now at anytime those ‘unknowables’ take an amount of guesswork based on things like the starting point of your business, the economy, strength of the pound, forecasts etc. So you plan using what you know and your best guesswork based on your current knowledge.
With Brexit/no Brexit looming those ‘unknowables’ are worse than usual since they can be a totally different set of unknowables depending on a hard Brexit or even no Brexit at all! Suddenly your best guesswork is built on very little knowledge and two possible outcomes at extremes of each other.
I usually say that planning is fun but I imagine planning for many businesses at the moment is a nightmare. So many factors are outside individual businesses’ control it can feel like you’re going to hit sheet ice and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
But I still believe in planning. Plan based on what you know and then plan based on what you can imagine. Planning in the current climate is going to need some creativity. Brainstorming how a hard Brexit or no Brexit might affect your business; get your team, your suppliers, your Customers involved, perhaps a third party unconnected with you who can add a ‘naive’ or independent view.
This is about planning for the worst case scenario but it can also be about recognising opportunities for example the effects of a weakened pound on exports, tourism, staycations etc.
McDonald’s taught me a lot about the importance of planning, and how to be smart about it. I learned that planning is a team sport; most effective when it involves the people it affects as well as those who will deliver on it. Add someone with no bias or axe to grind into the mix, and you will develop a truly effective plan.
I learned that you listen to those with the skills and experience, but you also consider the new and the different; that it’s ok to re-visit what might once have been considered crazy or just plain wrong for the business, as things change, and the ‘right time’ comes along.
I learned that you have a system for planning that makes it routine, regular, consistent; that keeps you focused on the end goal, even when you need to adapt, or change your route.
A plan for me isn’t something to be made then stuck in a drawer it needs to be dynamic; reviewed and adapted to changing circumstances. And 2019 may prove the most fluid yet.
Do one thing: Review your business plans. Do they include worst case scenarios or potential opportunities?
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Imagine you have a boat. It’s the start of a new year and you’ve just set sail, headed out to sea - full of optimism and excitement. Captain of your destiny. Owner of your fate.
But where are you headed? Wherever the current takes you? Slave to the tide and the prevailing wind? Or have you plotted a course to take you to your dream destination?
Now imagine that boat is your business.
Business navigation is no easier than navigating the ocean, but just like sailing the high seas, you’ll always be better off with robust preparation and planning, so give some thought to the following:
What’s the name of your boat?
This will say a lot about how you see yourself right now.
If you had to name it today what would it be: ‘Victory’, Endurance’?
Or might it be ‘All at Sea’?
Have you set your course?
What are your goals and milestones for 2019; for the next 90 days?
And what about practical action plans to achieve them?
How will you recognise that storms are coming before they hit?
What have you put in place to pick up on problems - to anticipate and overcome them?
How will you fill the gaps in your knowledge and experience?
Who or what are your anchors that will keep you from going under?
These are often the people who keep you grounded, keep you going, maybe develop and inspire you. A family member or a trusted mentor.
Perhaps they are words from a loved one that you carry with you.
Or perhaps it’s a faith, a belief in something greater than yourself.
How have you selected your crew?
Did you recruit to your values and passion? And how have you developed their skills to help them fulfill their promise? Can they take over happily if you get seasick or need to sleep?
What are the Values, the compass points that will keep you on a true course?
Those things that make you and your business tick, that show the world what you stand for. That you hold true too, day in and day out.
Do one thing: Think about where you're headed in 2019, and ask these questions to check that you’re prepared for whatever comes - good or otherwise.
Wishing you a safe and splendid passage through the year.
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Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)