The Elusive Obvious Secret to Achieving Business Goals

By Andrew Bass | Newsletter

When I was a teenager I crashed my Mum's car. I had to produce my documents at the police station. The desk sergeant was friendly and cheerful. He checked the paperwork and as I was leaving he said, "See you again!".

"I bloody hope not," I muttered under my breath.

Turnaround practitioners probably get the same response.... I was once an observer at the board meeting of a struggling media company. The Chairman was a tough-as-nails turnaround specialist. I vividly remember him swivelling away from the PowerPoint presentation to round on the directors.

“We’ve been talking about this new product for eighteen months,” he admonished. “SO WHERE IS IT?”

The directors squirmed, and responded with an ineffectual: “It’s still a priority, but...”

The Chairman held his head in his hands, as if to stop the steam from coming out of his ears. The phrase “It’s still a priority, but...” is of course B.S. There's a big difference between real priorities and espoused priorities. If you want to know what the espoused priorities are, look at what people say in their PowerPoint decks and Annual Reports. But if you want to know the real priorities of a business, pay attention to what actually happens.

Don't wait until it's too late – those turnaround artists can be a bit scary! Ask yourself the following:

"If this were, really, seriously an active priority of this business, what three to five things would absolutely be happening NOW that would prove it?"

For example, if selling the new product really is a priority, don't wait until you can see the sales numbers. That’s far too late. Also, don't take the sales manager's word for it.

Ask: “What must be happening today if that new product is a priority?” That could be that:

  • Email correspondence shows follow-up on meetings with buyers where the product was discussed.
  • Technical experts on the new products have been asked to accompany sales people on calls.
  • Samples are being requested from the new products team.

... or a host of other bits of evidence depending on your unique situation. Are these actually happening?

Results don't appear out of a vacuum. Any goal presupposes certain actions that must happen first. To make sure your organization is serious about its stated priorities, look for these actions – they offer much better information than any PowerPoint progress report.

Copyright Andy Bass 2021

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