Category Archives: Productivity

Preparing your company for next level of growth

As a CEO/Founder, you have already taken your company from point A to point B. You have survived the initial 2 to 5 years of journey to build a company. Now you clearly understand what kind of people will be able to work with you and in your company, and most importantly you are revenue positive too.

Now it time to scale your company and take it from point B to point C. And this kind of scaling comes with its own kind of challenges. It’s the time you must bring in more experts inside your company especially at the leadership and mid-managerial positions. And most importantly, allow them to run the show on your behalf. Since people will be executing things on your behalf and you will move from PUSH to PULL mode of execution, you must invest heavily in the organization, people efficiency & effectiveness. The 3 most important work areas for you apart from arranging capital to support execution are

  1. Hiring right kind of people.
  2. Constantly aligning People beyond Leadership with your Strategic and Annual Business Plan.
  3. Investing in people efficiency and effectiveness.

1. Hiring right kind of people

Hiring the right people is the core of every business. It makes sense to outsource your hiring if you choose to remain small. To grow your business from point B to C, you need more people.

It starts with investing in the right kind of talent acquisition team who will be in charge of hiring the right people for you.  And making sure your existing people are accountable for hiring the right people. And make your talent acquisition team accountable for hiring the people with right kind of behaviors.

The first step of hiring the right kind of people is to create the data-driven process of hiring. You create the Interview Score Cards which are easy to be understood by employees who are hiring on your behalf. These interview scorecards are created for each department separately.  Even if you don’t want to score people, just identify the required skills and required behaviors specific to your company and mark it yes and no.

Interview Scorecard

Skill/Competency Score by

Team member 1

Score by

Team member 2

Skill-1
Skill-2
Skill-3
Skill-4
Behaviors
Behavior – 1
Behavior – 2
Behavior – 3
Behavior – 4

 

Example : Hiring a Sales Manager

Skill/Competency Score by

Team member 1

Score by

Team member 2

Ability to hiring the Sales People
Ability to train the new Sales People
Ability to pitch the product/service with clarity
Negotiation Skills
Ability to Build Relationships
Behaviours
Realistic and Rational
Open Minded/Open to Change
Ability to Learn new things
Disciplined to the core
  1. Constantly aligning People beyond Leadership with your Strategic and Annual Business Plan

Probably Strategic Business Plan and Annual Business Plan(also called Annual Operating Plan) are big jargonish words for you. Many first-time entrepreneurs & CEO’s don’t understand them, and many feel that it’s a corporate company thing.

Strategic Business Plan(SBP) is about what you as the founder(s) & CEO want to achieve in next 3 to 5 years. Its about what point “C” looks like. If you don’t want to put in detailed SBP, you can simply put in place 3 to 5 statements indicating what as a company you want to achieve in the next 3 to 5 years. Draft these statements and get these statements validated by your leadership team.

Annual Business Plan(Also called Annual Operating Plan) is about how as a company you have to performance in a particular financial year to meet your Strategic Business Plan. Many companies break down their revenue targets till sales executive level and think they are done with it.

And many do create a plan beyond achieving sales number during their annual offsite; but post that CEO struggles to see the action plan and execution on that action plan. Here is a quick step-by-step process to set your Annual Operating Plan and to make sure execution happen on that plan.

  1. Before annual offsite, share the 3 to 5 statements that describe what needs to be achieved in that financial year. These 3 to 5 statements should be linked(aligned) with your strategic business priorities.
  2. Validate these annual priority statements with your team before going to onsite.
  3. While you are preparing for the offsite,  ask the team now to come up with 1 to 5 projects & goals for the next 3 to 6 months that will help the company to achieve these annual priorities.
  4. During the offsite, the entire leadership team validates those projects. And put in place the action plan & milestones to achieve those projects & goals.
  5. Post offsite, leadership team discuss, validate and correct these projects with their respective teams. And put this plan in action for execution.

Though this sounds simple, making sure that the team remain focused on drafting the projects and milestones to achieve those projects. You need to put a person in charge who will own this entire end to end process & activity. Usually, this person has a very good understanding of your business horizontally and to whom rest of the team members will listen to.

Frameworks like Objective and Key Results (OKR)  can help you in achieving how to creating the strategic and annual plan and how to link people and execution with this plan.

  1. Investing in people efficiency and effectiveness

This is the part where most of the CEO fails to do a good job. And end up hiring the team of consultants/guru who end up giving you ready to eat meals which probably don’t work for your company. Organization effectiveness and efficiency is majorly about:

  • 3. a) Properly defining the business KPI’s & Projects to achieve your achieve your Annual Business Plan.And then making sure execution happens on to achieve those KPIs and Projects.
  • 3.b) Investing in tools that enhance productivity and get work done.
  • 3.c) Enhancing leadership capabilities through training or workshops

3.a) Properly define the business KPI’s and Project:

Most employees hate taking accountability towards what needs to be achieved by them in a company. And most managers take the decision of who is making progress and who is not based on perception; not on data. When the company invest time in setting up the process to define KPI’s and projects to achieve execution properly, it enhancing decision making, transparency from top to bottom and reduces biases between teams and across the company.

3.b) Investing in processes and tools to enhance productivity: The next question to answer is what kind of tools are required by employees so that it can enhance & accelerate the execution on business KPI’s and Projects to be executed. Many companies invest time in drafting a plan, but only a few invest time and resources in making sure that the plan gets executed. At company level you primarily need 3 kinds of tools :

  • One that enhances execution on your Business KPI’s and Projects. Example: CRM’s, Project Management tools, Goal-setting tools, Task management tools.
  • Second is that help the company in enhancing customer centricity. Example: Tools to measure customer satisfaction, tools to listen to customer voice/opinions and tools to provide awesome customer support.
  • Third are tools that reduce administrative work. Example: Financial Support Systems, HRMS etc.

Not all listed tools are required immediately. You need to decide which tools are more important and which can be implemented later. Another important point here is, many of these tool implementations fail for many companies. This happens because of many reasons. I am listing down few of them for you:

  • Company is not able to define the requirement clearly and you end up buying something which doesn’t fulfill your need.
  • An Owner and internal champions are not defined who is responsible for successful implementation.
  • Vendor is not helping the company to identify their requirements.
  • Company doesn’t go into the detail on evaluating the tool in detail and don ask the right question.
  • A UAT (User Acceptance testing) is not done properly against the requirement before rolling out to the larger audience.
  • Not leveraging vendor expertise in implementing solution successfully.
  • Owner of implementation is more bothered about her learning from the implementation than successful implementation.

3.c) Enhancing your leadership capabilities through training or workshops

The first few training or brainstorming sessions you need to invest are in:

  • Visioning Workshops
  • Team Alignment workshop
  • Building accountability across company workshop

Visioning: In a 1996 HBR article, James Collins and Jerry Porras showed that companies with a strong sense of vision had outperformed the others in the stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925! Vision reflects what we care most about and is derived from our sense of purpose and values. It provides meaning, attracts commitment, and focuses human energy by drawing on our deepest yearnings in striving towards a purposeful goal. Visions provide a clear, easily understood image of a better future. Strong visions inspire employees. They embody values & behaviors, provide people in the company the purpose, and direct them to what will be different and distinctive.

Team Alignment : The biggest challenge we have seen while implementing qilo is that of alignment towards the annual and long-term goals of the company. A simple test of this is to “ask your employees what are the 3 to 4 things the company wants to achieve in this financial year”.  Almost 80% people in the company fail to answer this. This is CEO and leadership failure, not employee failure. With alignment workshop, focus on communicating what company wants to achieve and help people align their work with CEO’s agenda.

Accountability workshop: Accountability means I will deliver the expected results from me, come what may. I will collaborate with people across teams and will not wait to be lead by someone to get work done. Building the behavior of accountability is far more difficult. And that the reason companies prefer people from top institutes and people with the excellent academic record because it shows that the likelihood of this person being accountable for execution is very high. But every company doesn’t have access to these people, and the best way to build this behavior is to constantly communicate about the importance of the same across the company.

Summary

  1. Invest in setting up the strong process and people who hire on your behalf.
  2. State your strategic business priorities in 3 to 5 statements.
  3. Draft 3 to 5 statements that will summarize your annual business plan. And link these statements with your strategic business plan statements.
  4. Invest in enhancing your leadership capabilities. And invest to set up processes and tool to enhance people productivity.

Objective & Key Results (OKR) for Strategy Execution

Strategy Execution is an Alignment, Accountability and Execution problem. And execution is most of the time a definition problem too. If the company is unable to defining WHAT and HOW of WHAT; how you can expect the execution will happen.

Once CEO and board has decided on the next projects and strategic initiatives to be executed, defining exactly WHAT needs to be done and how it can be done properly and the metrics that will help us measure progress isn’t an easy task.  There are many goal-setting/policy deployment frameworks, but Objective & Key Results (OKR) is one of those frameworks which is simple and easy to implement.

OKR(Objective and Key Results) is a management tool that helps you to translate Strategy Into Goals and Metrics. Andy Grove @ Intel first made the twist to MBO methodology and created the OKR framework when Intel was trying to capture the market. In a way, it is a bit less formal than the balanced scorecard and Hoshin Kanri approach, but it is successfully employed at many companies. Google uses it for example.

There are two components to an OKR, an Objective that specifies what needs to be achieved in the medium or longer term, and Key Results: these are specific shorter term actions that we need to take to fulfill that objective. Key results should be measurable. Since they are used to track progress, they should also be time bound.

Let’s look at an example: Suppose we were managers of a retail chain. Our objective is to open five new retail branches in South East Asia by November. To achieve that objective we’ll need to achieve the following key results.

1) Identify the locations for our new retail outlets. This should be completed by August 1st.

2) After we know in which buildings we’d like to open their new retail outlets, we need to draft leasing agreements, and that should be done by September 1st. We want all our retail outlets to have a similar look, so we’ll need to renovate the buildings a little. For example, painting interior, put the company logo on the entrance, and this needs to be completed by October 15th.

3) We’ll also need to hire new people to work in the new retail outlet. Hiring should be done by October 1st, because we’ll also need to give the new staff some training and so on. This should be completed by October 25th.

4) And finally, we’ll need equipment, computers, POS(point-of-sale) machines. This should be purchased and installed also by October 25th. At any point in time, we’re able to tell how we’re moving towards achieving our objective of opening the five retail stores by November. If it’s October 1st and we still don’t have the locations for the new retail outlet, much fewer lease agreements, we’re in trouble.

By contrast, let’s say it’s October 15th and the managers from our Retail company headquarters are calling to check in about progress.
We’ll tell them that the staff has been hired and trained, and the equipment installed. So we’re done, and actually, we’re ahead of schedule.

This way everyone can see how their efforts fit within what the organization as a whole is doing. OKR framework is a simple, yet powerful framework to align and define what and how of execution.

Watch this video by John Doerr, who introduced Objective and Key Results to Google when they were 40 member team.

Difference between OKR and KPI

CEO’s and companies who want to implement Objective & Key Results(OKR) as goal-setting framework are often in the dilemma on how OKR is different from traditional yearly KPI/goal setting methodology. And Why they should invest in a change that comes with OKR implementation. There must be good reason for implementing OKR over KPI(Key Performance Indicators).

The similarity between them is that both are the goal-setting approach but with different purpose, starting points, and execution ownership.Here are 3 major differences in both the approaches:

PURPOSE

The purpose of OKR is to achieve and improve Alignment and Execution across the company. The purpose is to enhance the accountability. The purpose is to improve the discipline across the company for how we can grow better & probably faster.

The purpose of annual KPI’s/Goal setting is to measure the performance of the individual at the end of the year. At the start of year, KPIs are set and than are put in under the carpet. At the end of the year, dust is removed from the KPI’s and people are asked to prove themselves as how good they have performed against those KPI’s.

STARTING POINT 

The starting point for OKR is the CEO’s/business Annual Operating Priorities(AOP) and/or Strategic growth & innovation priorities.

The starting point of KPI are the Job Description of the person or should I say the role to which that person belongs to or should I say Google.

OWNERSHIP AND WAY OF EXECUTION

For OKR the execution ownership lies with the CEO or COO or Strategy Head of the company and HR.  You have to create a team who understand the business horizontally and a team which can put stretched objectives and the team that can teach people across the company how to set OKR’s which are directly aligned with company’s operational agenda and strategic priorities.

In Objective & Key Results(OKR) framework, you define WHAT needs to be achieved(Objective) and HOW you are going to measure the progress on your Objective(Key Result). The Key Results can be owned by either the Objective owners or team members of Objective owners or team members from other departments. This results in breaking silos and accelerate the execution. Further Objective and Key Results are agile in nature and are not fixed for year. They gets adjusted based on business conditions.

The ownership to set the KPI’s across the company lies with the HR. KPI’s sit in the silo without any context to an individual as how its impacting the company growth or help in achieving the operating plan. KPI approach worked when the organizations were simple, cross-functional collaboration was not that critical and bureaucracy & hierarchy was the acceptable norm. KPI’s are usually fixed for a year and remains static even if business conditions change.

Summary

  1. Purpose of OKR is alignment and execution, whereas the purpose of KPI is to measure the performance at the end of the year.
  2. CEO or people who understand the business horizontally drives OKR implementation, whereas KPI’s execution are owned by HR.
  3. The starting point of OKR is your Annual Operating Plan or your Strategic Priorities/Themes, where are input to KPI’s are your Job Descriptions.

6 to-dos a day, keeps unproductivity away

I never believed in creating my daily plan, or simply put a to-do list of the day. Its hard to remain disciplined on planning your day. Doesn’t matter how many people/managers or articles or blog post suggested to be a better planner of your day, following it on daily basis is difficult.

Unless you are not working in a system like an army where the organization itself make sure you become disciplined, who cares. But recently after a suggestion from one of the top COO of a company who is our client, I started planning my day by putting down 6 or fewer to-dos that I have to achieve on a day. These are the most important work items I have to finish on that day. And these todos are arranged in the order of priority. That’s it, only 6 or less.

And once these 6 most important things/to-dos of the day at work are finished, post that I allow myself to get distracted by all other things in the world. And the trick is not to jump to 2nd or 3rd to-dos until 1st is not completed. And believe me, at the end of the day I feel much more productive & satisfied at work on that day. Once reach the office, I first thing do is put down these 6 or less most important todos to achieve that day.

Just try to follow this habit for 1 week, every day and see the difference. The most successful leaders/CEO’s I have interacted with till date plan their day. They are way more disciplined on that on daily basis.