My Top 10 Tips For Building Predictable Success® in 2007:

Dec 14, 2006

Here are my personal top 10 recommendations for achieving Predictable Success® in 2007, 5 for smaller, fast-growing organizations, and 5 for larger organizations. Oh, they work for divisions, departments and teams, too.I’ve listed below my personal top 10 recommendations for achieving Predictable Success® in 2007.

None of these recommendations are complex, and none of them require any resources (other than patience and perseverance), but they are challenging, and require considerable commitment to implement and maintain.

In my consulting work, I’ve found that these 10 recommendations are the make or break issues for most organizations trying to get to Predictable Success®.

This page contains 5 recommendations for smaller, fast-growing organizations, and the next page has 5 for larger organizations.

Oh, they work for divisions, departments and teams, too:

1. REDUCE YOUR DEPENDENCE ON ‘MAVERICK STARS’

Many mid-size businesses growth plateaus out at around $30 – $50m because they grow dependent on the performance of a few ‘big dogs’.

Sustained growth comes from …building a team – based culture

While this is a great (and natural) way to build early stage growth, over time, the big dogs build a kind of ‘sweat equity’ in the business – a loyalty-based relationship with the owner(s) which allows them a de facto veto on any structural or other changes that threatens their autonomy.

Eventually, this turns into a culture of cliques and mini-‘cults’ based around the power base of the big dogs.

Sustained growth comes from unhooking your business from such a dependence, and instead building a team-based culture of support and alignment toward the organization’s common goals.

2. DEVELOP BENCHSTRENGTH

The best, quickest and most effective way of reducing the hold of the ‘big dogs’ is to do something which is good for the business anyway – build benchstrength in your key positions.

Ask every key manager to submit a proposal for developing a strong bench for his or her team. Work with them on the proposal until it seems realistic, then hold them accountable for implementation.

3. START ONE-ON-ONES WITH ALL YOUR KEY REPORTS

Most owner-managers are way too busy to consider spending tine on one-on-one meetings with their direct reports (*and many do not know how to do it effectively).

The reality is, if you want your business to grow, you have no option. Your business is far more complicated than it was 5 years ago, and your managers cannot be expected to know what you want from them by osmosis.

Set 3 hours aside every week, and see two of your managers for 90 minutes each. Get into their world in-depth. Coach and mentor them, and drum home – over and over again – your goals for the organization and their team for 2007.

4. START BUILDING CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS

Sooner or later, every owner-managed business has to make the transition from a ‘silo-d’ organization that tries to solve everything in self-contained ‘boxes’, to a cross-functional, organic business that brings people together across functions to deliver real, implementable solutions.

[Silo-d] solutions are too simplistic…

Not making this transition will drag your business into a downward cycle of decision-making that never gets implemented (because the solutions are too simplistic and do not address the complexity of the overall business).

As a result, staying silo’d will eventually breed frustration, disillusionment and a sense of powerlessness in your best people.

Start moving to cross-functional decision-making now – 2007 is a great time to start this process.

5. FIX YOUR HIRING PROCESS

Most owner-managers are great ‘gut’ hirers – they get the business off the ground by making great hires.

About now, you should start getting yourself out of the hiring process, for two reasons:

  1. Your gut doesn’t know enough about what’s needed in your larger, more complex business, and

  2. You don’t have the time any more to mentor and coach the folks you want to hire because they have ‘great attitude’. Don’t kid yourself: you’re not a training organization – not yet anyway – and telling yourself that you’ll train and develop someone with a ‘great attitude’ but lacking the required skills is just being in denial.

You need to put a professional hiring process in place that delivers ‘plug and play’ skilled individuals who can both fit in with your culture and deliver productivity quickly.

Next: My Top 5 Tips For Larger Organizations|pagebreak| My Top 5 Tips For Larger Organizations

Here are my personal top 5 recommendations for larger organizations wishing to regain Predictable Success® in 2007.

The previous page has 5 recommendations for smaller, fast-growing organizations.

1. FIND YOUR CHANGE AGENT

Large organizations slide past Predictable Success® into the ‘Treadmill’ stage of development for one simple reason – the [V]isionary (risk-taking, long-term, entrepreneurial, status-quo-challenging) mindset is quashed.

To get back to Predictable Success®, your biggest challenge is to revitalize that ‘V’ function in your organization.

Start by finding someone you can trust as a change agent – someone who will effectively challenge the precepts you’re currently running the business by, in a creative, constructive, way.

As an interesting example, see this short article about John Udell’s new job at Microsoft (an organization that badly needs to do all of this).

2. REWARD ‘QUALITY QUESTIONING’, NOT ‘LAZY LISTENING’

If you genuinely want to make a return to Predictable Success®, you must be fully committed to the concept of creative criticism.

This means encouraging people to question as much as they listen (you’ve probably done a great job getting people to listen – so much so, you rarely hear a discouraging word…)

In fact, you want your folks to start the path back to Predictable Success® by questioning more than they listen – for a while anyway.

3. STOP SERVING KOOL-AID

The biggest single reason that you’re not hearing quality questions from your folks, is because you’re feeding them so much corporate kool-aid

Start finding shades of grey…

  • That ‘company mantra’ that everyone has to ‘get’, or they don’t ‘fit’;

  • The ‘unchallengeable’ metrics that must be unquestionably delivered;

  • The underlying assumptions about your operating environment that are ‘not up for discussion’.

Of course, these were (and still are) important factors in getting that alignment and focus you needed to get into Predictable Success®, but if your organization, division, department or team on the slide through Treadmill, or even worse, verging on Bureaucracy, then the blunt fact is, you’ve overcooked it.

Ease off on the binary, ‘black and white’ stuff. You need to start finding shades of grey, allowing you (and your key people) to get comfortable with more ambiguity.

4. BLOW UP YOUR UNPRODUCTIVE PROCESSES.

What’s your most unproductive process / meeting?

Kill it. Today.

Kill it quickly, and simply: “From today, we will no longer be holding the weekly Murfle Review Meeting.” You don’t need to explain. Everyone will know why.

5. MAKE VACUUMS

That process or meeting you just killed?Leave it killed.

You don’t need to fill the vacuum with some equally turgid, artificial activity. Let the space breathe.

Find other ways to put empty spaces into your people’s activities. They’re all working too hard to think, let alone think creatively.

Stop scheduling, metric-ing and meeting-ing people to death. If you want Predictable Success®, you need organic vibrancy and flexibility – the rigidity and brittleness you’ve currently got won’t cut it.

Good luck!

Previous page: My Top 5 Tips For Smaller, Fast-Growing Organizations