Have you ever discovered a new business tool or strategy and been tempted to rush in and implement it in your quest for business transformation? Sure you have. We’ve all been there. After all, it takes a lot less time to simply grab what others have already tried and tested and plug it into our own business model. And while it’s wise to consider what works in other organizations and determine if those tools can fit into your own business, there’s a danger in doing it too quickly.
You need to ask yourself some critical questions before you implement too much, too fast. And then, after you find success and see momentum, you need to go back and ask these same questions again.
These six questions are adapted from The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni. (I highly recommend any of Lencioni’s books). And, if you ask these critical questions often enough, you will be equipped to determine what tools and strategies you should adopt, and which ones you should ignore.
The six questions are:
Let’s break them down a little…
#1 Why Do We Exist?
This is all about knowing your why. Simon Sinek has an amazing TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action, in which he says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Don’t be afraid to be idealistic with why you exist. Make it grand. Make it exciting. Employees buy in when they know that at the heart of what they do there is meaning. Ask yourself this question: How does what we do make lives better? Then, ask yourself, Why? Why do we do that?
This isn’t an easy process. I understand that. Most likely, it will get messy. It will take time. Which is why it’s critical that you start figuring it out now. The more time you spend on this question, the deeper into the heart of your company’s existence you’ll discover.
#2 How Do We Behave?
In their book, Built to Last – Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras suggest that successful companies adhere to a fundamental set of principles which guide their behaviour. In other words, they stand for something. We’re talking about your company’s values. Your values will define the personality of your business and they provide clarity to your employees about how to behave.
How do your identify your core values? One good way is to undertake a three-step process. First, identify the employees who embody the values you want your company to be known for. Talk to them. Find out what makes them so admired. Use those qualities as the initial pool of potential core values.
Then, identify the employees who embody the values you don’t want your company to be known for. They may be lazy, unproductive, selfish, etc. Analyze them the same way you did with the great employees you talked with in the first step. What is it about these employees that people don’t respect? It is the opposite of those negative traits that provide more potential core values.
Finally, look in the mirror. As the owner – the leader of your company – what values do you embody?
#3 What Do We Do?
I have met many businesses that try to be everything to everyone. That’s a recipe for disaster. It is vital that you take time to define your business. Be crystal clear about the nature of the company’s business so that you stay focused on being the best at what you do.
#4 How Will We Succeed?
A business’ strategy is really just a collection of all the decisions it makes to give itself the best chance to thrive. That means every single decision you make for your company will be part of the overall strategy. And so, to answer the question “how will we succeed?” simply look for patterns within the decisions you’ve made in the past that have generated success. Create an exhaustive list of all the decisions that form the context of your current situation. Determine which decisions were effective and important to hold on to moving forward, and which decisions should be judged for their poor results.
Will this process hurt a little? Probably. But in the end, you’ll come up with a strategy that will give you the greatest chance of success in the future.
#5 What’s Most Important Right Now?
I met a business owner recently who was proud to announce that he has ten top priorities for his company. I responded that none of those priorities will matter all that much when his business closes in a few years. Look: if everything is a priority, then nothing is. It is crucial that you determine what matters most – in this moment. Ask yourself this question: What one thing can we do right now that will have the biggest impact and provide the greatest opportunity for success in this company?
#6 Who Must Do What?
The potential for politics and infighting is limited when there is clarity around the division of labour. Don’t take this for granted. Make it clear to everyone who is part of your leadership team – as well as every employee in the company. Define clearly who does what! Stand by it. And you will avoid many of the problems that plague so many businesses and organizations.
Embracing Business Transformation
Six questions. They’re not easy questions. You won’t answer them during a coffee break. You might get uncomfortable at times. But these six questions when thoughtfully considered, will lead to business transformation and give you the edge over your competition. It’s time to start asking them!