Welcome to the Advancing Business Module. This module is the 5th in the Advancing Transformation series, as we extend from Self (1) to People (2) to Teams (3) to Leadership (4) to Business (5) to Customers (6).
These drivers are common across every business- no matter if you own a surfboard shop or run an international property business. These are the 5 drivers that business leaders are always aware of.
The Advancing Business module is very important. Covid19 has disrupted virtually every industry. Businesses are compelled to adjust due to sudden shifts in results, customer demand and technological change. Revenue has dropped, cashflow is tighter, and expenses have been reduced to maintain profit. Asset utilization is under pressure. We still aspire to growth; the question now is “how” to grow. Our roadmap must evolve.
The Challenge for Leaders
The Advancing Business module has been created for you as a leader- regardless of whether you lead a state, product line, business function, or enterprise. Leaders are always thinking about how to create a shift FROM where we are now TO where we want to be.
This could mean “how do I take the business to the next level?”, “how do I best lead a change in my business area?” or “how do I engage my people into next year’s business planning?”. In any of these scenarios, you must clearly articulate your growth ambition.
The challenge for leaders is to not just:
- “tick the box” in an alignment exercise, but really think about the shift you need to make.
- “give the plan” to people, but really engage them in creating the plan. They will engage with what they create.
- “communicate the plan”, but vividly bring the plan to life.
Only 37% say they have a clear understanding of what their organisation is trying to achieve and why (Covey). We want to help you grow and connect with your key stakeholders in meaningful ways. We offer you the following practical tools to create simplicity and scale.
Stages of Development
At what stage of development is your business currently in? Organisations typically grow, or mature, through various stages;
- Process Excellence
- Market Leader
- Leading the Market
Generally speaking, the more mature a business becomes, the more you see 1) Leadership alignment shifting from functional to enterprise 2) Robust ability to lead change and 3) Greater levels of empowerment.
Advancing the business requires working out the narrative on the shift you want your business to make: what represented the last phase and what you want to see in the next phase. This narrative can be literal like FROM “Chaotic” TO “Laying the Foundations” or more symbolic such as FROM:
- an “aircraft carrier with missiles going off in all directions” TO “a sniper.”
- “tired and struggling to reach the marathon finish line” TO “fit and fast in the sprint”
You want to state your ambition for the next stage. If you have a good structure and momentum in the Process Excellence phase, it would be sensible to have an ambition to become the Market Leader. If you are Dysfunctional, the focus is becoming Functional.
So your first exercise is to define what characterized your last stage and what will characterise your next stage?
What framework will you use to plan and engage your people to growth?
A plan must define the levers you will activate to grow – a balanced view to with which to alignment the team. Every business has different strategies on how they intend to grow. I suggest you initially think and plan across four dimensions;
- Customer – customers should be at the centre, whether they be consumers, business customers or internal customers. Key questions include: who are you key customers? What are their core needs and how are these shifting? How do they define and recognise value? What is your plan for engaging your them? What would demonstrate the next level of customer engagement or service delivery? What level of revenue uplift do you want to see from them?
- People – our skills needs to keep up with customer and business requirement evolution. Key questions include: what skills do you need to build in your team? Does the team have a career and development plan that they own? If you measure engagement, what would represent the next shift for you?
- Brand – the way out of a crisis is through marketing and people. Key questions include: what products do you want to double down on? How can you increase your visibility and presence? What channel and partners will help you grow? What is the next phase of growth for your new business pipeline and your employee bench or pipeline? If you want to be a market leader this is a good time to go on the offensive with attracting clients and people.
- Platform – what assets, systems and tools do you want to deploy more effectively? Most of the noise in businesses comes from inefficient legacy processes, technology and systems. At the heart of the issue is a lack of utilization and adoption from managers and leaders who should be role modelling their consistent adoption. Often the key is focusing on the “basics”: the core systems or processes you must align your team on. Synching this with a scoreboard meeting will help you create leverage, appease key stakeholders and progress to the next phase.
Certain dimensions are more important to certain growth stages but we must present a balanced focus to succeed.
Engaging People to the Plan
Within organisations we often expect that because there is a plan, it is understood by everyone and that people are diligently aligning their tasks to the plan. I heard a great quote by Stephen Covey that if you compared organisations to a soccer team, most of the time the players are trying to kick the ball into the wrong goal. From a research perspective we know that Only 20% of employees are actively aligning their tasks and efforts to company goals (Corporate Executive Board, 2009).
It is incumbent on you to engage and empower your team to a simple plan. People engage with what they create. They need to feel like they came up with it to own it. So you need an inclusive process to help them engage with your plan.
The four step FAST process is;
- Frame – provide the planning framework, the ambition and direction in each area: Customer, Platform, People, Brand. If you have goals you should communicate them, but not feel like you need to have all the answers. Leave the activities to the team.
- Ask – articulate key questions for the team to consider in each area. At minimum this could be STOP, START, CONTINUE.
- Speed up – coming back to the stage of development: what is it we need to start now, to speed up and prioritise to advance our business? What is Horizon 1 for us to progress towards?
- Take ownership – the key to creating a step up in leadership is to have everyone in the team acting as leaders, everyone owning something on behalf of the team. They may not be responsible for the “doing”, but they are accountable for driving it forward on behalf of the team. You should ask the team who wants to own and progress what priority are. This is beyond the normal functional day to day tasks. These are your critical team goals, the priority projects, the things you want to measure and report on as a team. Ideally one person accountable for one major goal or initiative.
You should set three meetings: 1) a communication session on the framework 2) a working session on the activities and 3) a prioritisation session to clarify roles and accountabilities.
There is nothing easy about Advancing a business- it can be a real struggle that tests our commitment, our resilience, our ability to change. It is a constant and never ending journey of evolution and improvement. However, it is definitely easier if you have a plan that you can come back to, guide you and inform where your focus should be. Particularly in a crisis, many of our questions are answered within our Enterprise Plans.
Advancing your Business
Hopefully this module provides you with the clarity and simplicity to think about;
- what is the next stage of development
- do you have a business planning framework
- new ways to engage your team
At Lighthouse we are all about navigating people and businesses FROM where they ae now TO where they want to be. Our mission is to provide you with Leadership Systems so you can grow, connect with your stakeholders and scale yourself to create more freedom for you, your colleagues, and your family. Please reach out if you need help to Advance your business.
See you at the next module – Advancing Customers.