Developing a Strategy at the Entrepreneurial Stage
(Part 1 of 3)
Step 1: ASSESS
In some ways a continuous improvement strategy deployed on an entrepreneurial firm is about as oxymoronic as it can get! And yet…
The Oxymoron Problem: The entrepreneurial firm that is ready to make a step toward stable processes and consistent delivery of value to its customers is poised to become even more successful. Yet, a critical factor to keep in mind is that most quality nerds (you know the people you think you need to hire to enact a continuous improvement strategy) are actually the last people who should do so.
Your entrepreneurial edge is undoubtedly based in the innovation and forward thinking that launched your products in the first place. Traditional quality management and hence continuous improvement is more akin to hardening of the arteries than it is increasing organizational strength. We need to protect your innovative core while stabilizing your customer focused processes.
What are the processes in your business that are absolutely customer facing?
There are several: Sales, Customer Service, Accounts Receivable, Shipping & Fulfillment, possibly even final manufacturing.
How are they performing currently?
Excellent, above average, mediocre, below average, worse? Any process not rating an “above average” score as measured by your customer must become a priority improvement target.
How will you know?
The best way is to ask your customer. If this isn’t easily available then review your customer complaints, rejects, claims, online reviews, and customer facing employee comments. Prioritize the list. Think about triage, our goal is to stop the bleeding and stabilize the patient. You may be thinking by business isn’t in mortal danger what’s with the medical metaphor?! Simple, any one of the processes above that is mediocre or worse is an invitation for your competitor to steal away your client base and then where are you? No customer no business.
How effective is your problem solving?
Another critical area to examine relates to actions taken when a customer problem is received. Do you throw people and money at the problem and spare no expense to take care of the concern? Do your employees and leaders actually know how to solve problems beyond putting on band-aids. Chances are high that they do not and this has a serious consequence, problems that happen over and over again.
Leaders are the change agents that either help a strategy succeed
or cause it to wither and fail.
How effective is your leadership?
This is a tough one. Every leader I meet acts as if they are in the top 20% when it comes to leadership skill. This obviously is false for 80% of them. The problem is confounded by another factor. John Maxwell a prolific author on leadership, has an excellent rule when it comes to leadership called the law of the lid. Essentially of leaders are rated on a 1-10 scale with ten being excellent, we tend to hire leaders for our teams that are at best equal to our leadership ability and generally worse. What is the implication? The deeper you go the weaker the leaders. I will add to this that leaders who rate less than seven rarely are thinking about leadership development of their direct reports. Again leading to weaker leadership.
Why is leadership important to this conversation?
Simple, leaders are the change agents that either help a strategy succeed or cause it to wither and fail.
I ask again how effective is your leadership?
Once you've done the assessment, advance to Step #2 PLAN.
If you' re ready to begin building your continuous improvement strategy, we're here to help. Schedule your complementary STRATEGY SESSION and together we will design a plan that fits your unique business.
Dr. Ron Hurst
Avid cyclist, dog lover, life long learner, enthusiastic problem seeker. My life's work is to challenge leaders like you to grow your abilities to create empowering, positive, high performing workplaces.
Developing Leaders Inc.
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