Posted On: 16th August 2012
We are living in a business age where change is undeniably a matter of course. External and market factors drive all sorts of change impacting all businesses in some way or another. Change also occurs constantly within businesses and much of this change is outside of our control. It's easy to see how the moving goal posts that this constant evolution can create make focussed delivery of key goals even more complex both for managers and the teams that they are leading. It’s all too tempting to do things as we always have but if we simply follow current rituals out of habit, there is a danger of strategic drift.
Some changes in the market place are gradual and aren't immediately obvious, while others are clear blatant warnings that internal strategy needs to be refocused to accommodate them. Without a crystal ball, business owners the world over have developed individual styles and strategies to plan ahead, and achieve success. But whatever the style or the strategy, we all need to face up to change; we owe it to the future of our businesses and to our stakeholders.
We must recognise that we need to re-evaluate strategy constantly, agility is key, in order to respond to turbulent and shorter unstable life cycles. But how do we spot important change early on? How do we ensure that staff, structure, and systems are flexible enough to meet customers and the market's changing needs against a background of multiple moving targets and goal posts? We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves: are yesterday's "business as usual" rituals really still appropriate for today? Here are a few questions that can help with this:
1) Think back to 5 years ago, or if you’re a start-up, think back to when you sat down and put your business plan together to perhaps get the important funding you needed to start up. Is your business where you wanted it to be? How would you describe your business’ position right now?
It's a great idea to look back to what you set out to achieve, and assess whether you feel that you have achieved your goals. Are you continuing to achieve them? Whether you have or you haven’t, be honest and realistic with yourself. Do you need to change your thinking, your strategy or your tactics? If you are caught up with the detail of the day to day work you will always benefit from an objective opinion. This is a good place to start if you want to move forward to focus on tomorrow's business objectives.
2) Where do you want your business to be, and what are you currently doing in order to get there?
Making millions and retiring may be a dream or a long-term objective, but only achievable through realistic and thorough planning, doing and learning from your mistakes. There are many stories of people all over the world who have focused on their vision against all adversity and achieved it. What they all have in common is that they had a clear path to follow and adapted the way they moved down the path as the terrain and conditions changed.
3) Who are your customers? What do they need from you?
Companies who know their markets will focus on the needs of their customers and will deliver relevant services and products to them profitably. It’s absolutely crucial that everyone in your team knows exactly who and where your customers and audiences are, what they are buying from you and why. Also by identifying the range of industries that your services and products appeal to and by taking into account the positions that audience members hold in their organisation, you can tailor and target your communications activity. Put relevant information in front of the right pairs of eyes.
4) What are your key messages and how are you going to communicate them?
It’s essential that any promotional work is tied in with your business strategy, and that you’re really focused on producing excellent content that clearly delivers the messages you’re communicating to the right people. Think wisely about the most effective solutions for you – you don’t have to recreate the wheel each time you want to create a new piece of marketing material. Think about what you’ve already got, and how you can use it, so that you’re making the most of your content, skills and workforce in the best way possible.
5) What are the key 5 steps that your business should be taking over the next 3 months in order to achieve your business objectives?
Write down these steps and agree these with your staff so that everyone is aware of and commits to what the business needs to achieve. Break the steps down so that you all know how to go about accomplishing them, and make sure everyone knows their part in each step and why their contribution is important. Don’t forget to think about your role in achieving the objectives, too; think about what actions you’re personally going to take. As the leader, you may be used to delegating and explaining to others what needs to be done, but sometimes it’s good to lead by example and illustrate rather than just explain what’s needed. Give your team a model to follow – and remember – effective internal communication is key!