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Navigation Towards Growth

Strategic planning may be critically important to the growth of all businesses, but more often than not it exists in name only.

Patty Vogan

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[The 4-phase approach]

1. Finding the best strategy  for your business

To answer those questions and more, Entrepreneur interviewed Michael Canic, business consultant and author of Ruthless Consistency: Aligning Your Organization to Win…or Else!

Entrepreneur One of a leader’s many responsibilities is to have a ‘strategic plan’ for their company.
Does a strategic plan produce sustained focus for
the leader, their management team and the company’s employees?

MC Actually, a strategic plan doesn’t produce sustained focus for anyone. What typically happens is that well-intentioned leaders go off-site for the annual ‘strategic planning’ retreat. They plaster the walls with flip chart notes and discuss at length big-picture issues such as mission and vision. When it’s over, everyone breathes a sigh of relief and gets back to the ‘real work’ that’s stacking up back at the office. The strategic plan is documented and distributed, and then it sits on a shelf and collects dust.

Entrepreneur So why don’t strategic plans become strategic reality?

MC Because strategic planning is all about creating ‘the plan’. Plans don’t implement themselves. Strategy, right through implementation, needs to be approached as a process. That’s why we created the four-phase strategic management process — to focus on turning strategy into reality.

Entrepreneur The idea of strategic management sounds good because it puts the strategic plan into action. What are the four phases of your plan and why are they important?

MC The four phases are assessment, positioning, planning and implementation. The reason they’re so important is because ignoring any single phase can lead to disaster. Failing to conduct a thorough assessment can mean making decisions based on faulty assumptions. Failing to establish the positioning of a company can result in plans that focus on the wrong things. Failing to plan leaves you with a destination but not a roadmap. And failing to implement means your efforts at everything else are wasted.

1. The assessment phase

The key here is that leaders have to be willing to attack their assumptions — to overcome their egos, to come to grips with reality, warts and all. So you start with a question the company needs to comprehensively answer: What is our current situation?

There are three things to look at here. One is the organisation itself, from an operational, financial, structural and people perspective. Two is market data — current and potential markets and current and potential customers. You want to look at your performance feedback and value drivers. Third, and this is the one that’s most often neglected, is what I call the ’STEEP’ factors: the sociocultural, technological, economic, environmental and political factors that can greatly impact a business.

Consider a fast-growing software company. Suppose their growth rate over the past three years has averaged 44%. Customers are happy. Investors are happy. It might be tempting to feel a little self-satisfied, perhaps become a bit complacent. But what’s happening to the industry? For example, if the trend is for ‘on demand’ rather than ‘on premises’ software, failing to recognise this and adapt could put you out of business.

2. The positioning phase

The question to ask here is: what do you want to accomplish as a business? Forget the manicured mission and vision statements. Most of these are too vague, too long and not remembered. Boil it down: come up with one, simply worded sentence that captures what you do as a business so that a stranger who heard this sentence could gain a basic understanding of what you do.

Then develop another simply worded sentence to capture what ‘winning’ would look like. Think of the early days of Apple when the overarching goal was to create the most user-friendly operating system for personal computers. Or recall that more than 30 years ago, Nike had a single, laser focus: ‘Crush Adidas’.

3. The planning phase

The general question to ask here is: how do you get
there? This is the phase that has to be information-driven.
How much capital is required to support the infrastructure for growth? How rapidly do you have to grow to survive a consolidating market? Which distribution channels do you need to dominate?

Think of how many promising start-ups have died because they underestimated both the time to establish a significant market presence and the capital required to achieve it.

4. The implementation phase

Here you must answer the question: how do you ensure it happens? This is the most important phase and the phase where strategic plans fail.

A critical and underestimated part of any implementation is alignment — ensuring that the factors that impact people (from skills, authority, resources and incentives to processes and structure) are all aligned with the overarching goal. It’s alignment through the eyes of the people, not just leaders, that counts.

A second critical aspect of implementation is commitment building. Here we like to structure leaders’ regular communications and engagement with employees. Our underlying belief is that information, input and involvement together help to build commitment.

The last part of this phase involves execution management. Every month, the leadership team should meet for a few hours to track and manage the implementation of the plan. I strongly believe that every 90 days, the leadership team should also meet to recalibrate the plan. Reality changes, and the plan or elements of the plan can become irrelevant. Every 90 days, it’s critical to question the assumptions upon which the plan was built and make adjustments as necessary. Have you lost a key customer? Has a new competitor come into the market? Has a promising investor bailed out on you? What has changed to the reliability of your supply chain?

Unsurprisingly, when a company vigorously adopts a disciplined strategic management process, they’re much more likely to achieve their ambitions — the right ambitions.

[Strategic structures]

2. Five structural elements of strategy

Strategies fail over and over again for the same reason: businesses ignore the five key structural elements of strategy. Miss one and your strategy is doomed to fail.
By Nilofer Merchant

How many times have you experienced this situation: you, your partners and your managers develop a plan, hold meetings, and achieve alignment. Yet during the execution phase, the strategy falls apart. During the inevitable review process, the causes are all too familiar: no defined key players. No consideration of the decision-making process. Too many ideas generated, too few killed. A laborious process or no process at all. The wrong people engaged or poor team collaboration. There’s a reason that the causes of failure are repeated. It’s because strategy has a unique structure, and if you overlook one of the five key elements of that structure, you’ll fail. Add elements that don’t support that structure and you’ll fail. And the failure will look familiar every time.

1. Power distribution

Power distribution dictates who’s involved, how much information each individual can access, and the decision-making process.

It’s crucial to know who you’re working with from their track record on complex strategy projects to basic strengths and weaknesses. Talk to other people in the organisation who have worked with them to gain more information. Vet people to avoid surprises and to understand the best ways to support and motivate team members.

How much of your strategy is confidential? What can — or should — be shared with other groups? Set the boundaries and share them so that everyone agrees and has the same expectations. Make sure that the inner working of the group matches the culture and values of the parent organisation. If your company is as free-flowing as Google, don’t bind people with conservative rules that eliminate communal sharing of ideas or the development  of innovative solutions.

2. Decision-making

The way that decisions are made in organisations determines how ideas are generated and which ideas are considered. The way decisions are made influences how these ideas are carried out later.

Does decision-making in your organisation flow top-down or bottom-up? Who are the holders of the power to decide which ideas advance and which are eliminated? If ideas are valued in your culture, there’s a strong likelihood that it might not matter who generates the ideas.

3. Idea generation

How ideas are generated affects the quantity and quality of these ideas, which directly affects the number of viable strategy options.

A company that has an annual strategy meeting with a brainstorming component that encompasses input from many directions within the company uses one type of idea generation. The Google model involves having employees use 20% of their time for innovation. They test and grow projects. Some projects are nurtured and provide the company with revenue. Others are killed off. It’s even possible that original projects may mutate into something different.

4. Process

Process is the way that ideas are handled and consumed within organisations. Process defines the way that agreements and commitments are made and managed, and how well people understand what is happening and what to do. The process-driven organisation avoids wasting employee time and energy. People in this type of company reach agreement that an action is valuable, develop a process around it, and set it in motion.

Process may be communicated to a team in writing, by word of mouth or in other ways. Agreement is critical to the understanding of process within an organisation.

5. People

In an organisation of any size, people bring their domain knowledge, talents, and perspectives to strategy creation. Often people are viewed as the first point of strategy failure, but they are actually the last point of failure in a long series of cascading interactions.

Put another way, very bright, creative, motivated people can fail if they are embedded in a strategy creation structure process where power, decision-making, idea generation, or process are broken.

Each of the five elements is critical to the strength, balance, and practicality of the proposed strategy. Tighten up around these five and watch your team’s next strategy
succeed beyond your plans.

[Growth strategy]

3. Plotting your path to business growth

Growth strategies are not cast in stone. You need to be flexible to maximise opportunities as they present themselves.
By David Meier

ost entrepreneurs, from time to time, have more than one way to grow their businesses available to them. The process of deciding on a growth strategy is ongoing, and the decisions that result can be critical to the future success of any business.

The search for real business growth, by creating permanent increases in profit as a direct result of measurable and sustained increases in sales volume, may not only be a reaction to opportunities in the marketplace, but also a requirement in order for your business to maintain market share. The right decisions can conceivably have a major positive impact on your business’s bottom line, thereby creating real growth. However, if you choose unwisely, or decide to do nothing when action is clearly warranted, the results can lead to a loss of growth potential, or even a period of negative growth (decreased sales and profitability).

Invest in growth

As with so many issues in business, your growth decisions should be based on objective financial data, consisting of relevant estimates and projections. Not every growth strategy can be expected to impact your business in the same manner, and over the same time period. Your ability to compare growth options is the best way to make informed decisions.

Think of your decisions in the context of ROI analysis. Each growth opportunity has an investment component, money that you would be required to spend as a part of the process of implementing a specific growth strategy. The corresponding return that you can expect from your investment in business growth can be represented as the increased profit your business is projected to incur, directly as a result of the sales increases created by your business’s growth strategy. For example: a retail business is considering growing by adding a new product line. The required investment to add the line is R1,2 million. This addition is expected to add R800 000 in annual sales, and as a direct result, a corresponding R200 000 increase in annual net profit. Therefore, the anticipated ROI from this additional (product) line is in excess of 16% (R200 000/R1,2 million).

Evaluate growth plans

If the business is currently enjoying an overall 25% ROI, the question the owner must answer is, ‘Should I invest R1,2 million in the addition of the new product line to earn an ROI that is nearly 9% less than my business is currently earning (25% – 16% = 9%)?’ The correct answer may appear to be an obvious ‘no’, but there may be other business reasons that would cause the owner to decide to add this product line, such as the presence of a strong market demand for the new items.

In any event, once each growth strategy is converted into an ROI percentage, you can compare dissimilar growth options, and ROI can be used as a critical financial component in any business growth decision. Furthermore, just as ROI analysis can be used to evaluate these additional growth strategies, it also can be used to evaluate business ideas, such as those of entirely new businesses. And fortunately, ROI analysis can be applied to these new business ideas well before an owner ever decides to invest in that new business.

Patty Vogan is a top leadership columnist and success coach.

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Performance & Growth

Elon Musk’s Formula For Successfully Growing Companies Faster

There is no denying the many ways in which Elon Musk is unique. There is also no denying the fact that you can learn something beneficial from him.

Manish Dudharejia

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Elon Musk needs no introduction.

Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of Elon Musk and the energy he brings to the business world. His major companies include: Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company, HyperLoop, Solar City, and Giga Factory.

All Musk companies have a major theme, vision and technology

These companies all have one major theme in common; they are set on pushing boundaries. In fact, this innovative concept has practically become synonymous with Musk’s name.

Combined with groundbreaking technology and a strong passion for improving life (both in and outside of Earth), Musk’s unique vision is one of the most valuable contributions in bringing humanity to the next level.

One his quotes has always stuck with me: 

“If you get up in the morning and think the future is going to be better, it is a bright day. Otherwise, it’s not.”

Related: Elon Musk’s Lessons On Getting To Mars

Musk, the most influential entrepreneur today

Musk is the most influential entrepreneur of our generation. His approach has inspired many others to try new things and to make a real difference in the world. So what is it about his formula that is so special?

Well, truth be told, it’s really not that complicated. The bulk of his strategy can be traced back to several key cornerstones.

Musk is committed to challenging convention

One of the traits that makes Elon Musk so influential is his keen eye for understanding human truth. In essence, human truth encapsulates the deeper meaning behind universally-accepted status quos. In other words, it is the common thoughts and feelings that unite us all.

Musk’s formula for innovation starts by identifying the what and the why of certain pain points in day-to-day life. One of his more recent ideas, from SpaceX towers, aims to change the very perception of air travel.

What is human truth?

The human truth of air travel is that most people do not genuinely enjoy spending hours on a cramped airplane. Travelers like to get to their destinations as quickly as humanly possible. Musk’s ambitious plan is to create a revolutionary rocket system that transports passengers from any one city to another in under an hour.

For instance, a flight from New York City to Los Angeles would take roughly 25 minutes. Perhaps the best part of the plan; tickets will cost as much as a typical economy-class ticket. If you haven’t seen the videos, definitely check out part one and two.

This is not Musk’s only idea (both past and present) to challenge convention. Throughout each idea, the driving force effectively finds inefficiencies and works to create solutions that have never been done before. In many cases with Musk’s ideas, have never even been fathomed.

Related: 5 Habits That Made Elon Musk An Innovator

Musk understand everyone involved is a vector

dharmesh-shah-and-elon-musk

Recently, Dharmesh Shah, founder of HubSpot, got the opportunity to meet and converse with Musk at a dinner for legendary founders at Sequoia Capital. Like so many others, Shah wanted to know what Musk does to create a successful company. Shah asked him: “What’s your advice to build a great company that grows every day?”

Musk is a physics man, and his response reflected this fact perfectly. He told Shah to think of it in simple terms of getting a company from point A to point B. Each person within an operation is a vector that exerts energy to achieve this goal. Everyone has a quantity of both magnitude and direction.

A company’s progress is determined by the sum of all these vectors. If some vectors are exerting energy in one direction, while others are doing so in a different direction, the impact will be sub-optimal. For example, if an employee is exerting a force of 10 in one way, and another is exerting a force of 10 in the opposite, the total impact is zero.

For a company to achieve maximum impact, all vectors must be exerting energy in the same direction. In short, for a company to thrive, all parties must be consistently devoting their efforts to a common vision.

Firmly align team goals with customer needs

One of the biggest problems that plague many companies is a misalignment with internal team goals. When this is the case, misalignment with the customers’ needs is all but inevitable. Maintaining common goals within a company gets more and more complicated throughout growth; even more so when third-parties are introduced to the mix.

One of the basic human truths Musk factors into his business plans is that all people want a positive end-to-end customer experience. A stellar end-to-end customer experience involves outstanding products, sales strategies, and service options. Throughout each venture, Musk’s primary goal is to ensure these components happen.

Related: How To Market Like (Elon) Musk

Perhaps the best example is with his famous Tesla car. Many of the major car companies we know follow a common business model. While most have their own stores, a good portion of the sales aspect comes from third-party dealerships. Throughout this process, the unique brand values are being filtered through a number of different visions and mentalities. In turn, it becomes incredibly easy for core values to get lost in translation.

At Tesla, the authentic products are exclusively sold at their own stores. There are no outside dealerships involved to aid the sales cycle. Service options are available from branded Tesla centers. The Tesla computer system within the cars conducts all of its own updates and is equipped with technology to seamlessly guide users to the nearest Tesla charging stations.

If a user wants to sell their vehicle, they can do so through the Tesla website. At no point in the customer experience does the user need to branch out to any outside parties for assistance. When this is the case, keeping team goals aligned with customer needs is much easier and branded values do not run the risk of being muddled by external mindsets.

Conclusion

Elon Musk has already made a significant impact in improving the way we live. His superlative knowledge and dedication to the greater good is truly a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

However, his core ideologies can be applied to virtually all business models. In 20, 50, or 100 years down the road, my hope is that more people catch on to his profound philosophies and continue to push human development to a brighter future.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Performance & Growth

4 Ways To Make Your Business More Authentic And Successful

How to build an authentic presence that translates to your employees and customers.

Dane Jasper

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My business (Sonic, but not the burger joint) is significantly smaller than most of its competitors, so being authentic is one of our strongest competitive edges. And this authenticity comes in many forms – it’s the people you hire, how well you stimulate engagement, and how you motivate your team. Being authentic in these aspects is not always easy, but as an entrepreneur, you learn that the best things never are.

But, how do you build an authentic business?

1. Hire nice people

Never underestimate the power of being nice. Hiring genuinely nice people has been an invaluable cornerstone of my entire business philosophy. If you hire nice people, they are kind to your customers, who reward you with their loyalty, and that cycle sustains itself. It seems simple, but I’m surprised by how often this idea falls by the wayside.

Related: 11 Steps to Starting a Successful Business in Your 20s

I know what you’re thinking: Well, duh! Because you always hire the best and the brightest, right? Right?!

Probably not. You’re strapped for time, you’re growing at a rate you had never imagined and you settle for Joe, the guy who came in for his interview with his shirt inside out. You can do better. Really take your time, hire an awesome HR team and empower your managers to help hire nice people – this will set the tone for your entire enterprise.

2. Motivate them

So, you’ve hired your nice people. You sent Joe packing and went with Amelia, who took a little longer to find but is a much better fit for your organisation – good for you. Now, how do you get all those nice people motivated to do their best work for your company? Their motivation will come directly from you, from your passion for the industry and the authentic way in which that needs to be communicated.

Remind yourself why you’re pursuing something in the first place at times when that thing is most challenging or your business’s deeper purpose seems murky.

For me, I’m motivated by the fact that Sonic really is fixing the internet in America by giving our customers a fair choice for their internet provider. I communicate this motive with employees at quarterly company meetings, I sit down with groups of new hires every few months to share Sonic’s story, I have lunch in the breakroom, and I never stop reminding everyone ‘why’ our work matters. I authentically care about what we are doing, and I share that over and over.

3. Engage them

engagement-advice

Your vision for your organisation is meaningless unless you share it with the people you need to help you achieve it. They need to know what they are working toward other than just a paycheck.

  • What is the end goal?
  • What is the real purpose behind your mission, your business’s core values?
  • And how are they contributing?

Sharing your vision will allow employees to be a part of something bigger, something more than ‘just another job’, which is much more powerful than a cool, new cappuccino machine. That vision will be the long-term drive of your organisation, and it will push your employees to do their best work. This can be a conversation in the hallway, the beginning of a presentation or a cake delivered to each employee. Whatever form it takes, be relentless.

Related: Top Tips For Building A Successful Business From Your Home

4. Pay attention to the little things

You’ve hired the right people. They’re motivated and engaged. Now how do we keep them happy? First, focus on what key factors make your business special. For us, it’s a multitude of things, but one example is our ‘All Hands’ meetings. This is something we’ve done since the beginning and the impact remains huge.

It’s my opportunity to engage, motivate and reward the people of Sonic. We pass out awards for the month’s standout employees, we talk about the past and the future and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s real. It’s authentic. There is emotion, because I am so very proud of every one of the team.

And, it’s so important. Along with free pizza on Fridays and successful launch celebrations, these meetings bring us back together and remind everyone that they’re part of a team – an especially awesome team.

Keeping these activities happening even with a company’s exponential growth is huge. They are the defining aspects of your entire enterprise and the core of the organisation’s authenticity. Keep what separates you from the competition; compete with them not by emulating them, but by doing the opposite: doing what makes your business genuine and unique. Your customers will recognise it and so will the people who work for you. I assure you it will make all the difference.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Performance & Growth

17 Most Important Performance Management Decisions Leaders Will Need To Make

Is your organisation geared to handle its own growth strategies? Are you sure?

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Roadmap to success

The 17 most important performance management decisions you need to make as a leadership team to build a high-growth organisation. Understand what they are, make them, and your business will thrive.

If you’re awesome, you’ll succeed. If you succeed, you’ll grow. As you grow, the scale will change everything and, then, you won’t be awesome anymore — unless you change a lot of what made you awesome in the first place. This is known as the scale up paradox. In a nutshell, what got you here, won’t get you there! The ability to recognise this and change yourself and your business is what separates great businesses from brands that have faded into obscurity.

Knowing what to change, when to change and how to change is the very essence of scaling up.

Take as an example the way we manage performance. A start-up can run everything on ‘check-ins’. Through frequent check-ins you can zero in on who’s doing what, by when and how. You can keep on top of how things are going and whether you need a course correction. The check-in system is awesome. Until it’s not.

Because you can’t run everything on check-ins when there are 30 people around. The ‘check-in’ system basically means that you are the system. You, the founders, keep everything together. This means you’re the bottleneck. Your personal bandwidth is the ultimate ceiling on your growth. And that is bad news for your health — and your business.

If you’re awesome, and you succeed, and grow, it won’t be long until you can’t sleep because of the many loose threads in your brain: Tasks you need to assign headspace to, projects and people you’re not ‘on top of’, discussions to be had that you can’t get to.

So, to get some sleep, you’ll be forced to take delegation to another level. This is not simply a question of giving away tasks or projects; it means giving away responsibility for entire parts of the business. That’s scary. But if you have great people, it’s also liberating.

Related: 3 Ways To Promote Business Growth In A Troubled Economy

Performance architecture

Now you’re sleeping again. For a while. Because if your people are awesome, you’ll succeed, and you’ll grow, and pretty soon the balls will be dropping again. You’ll realise that what you assumed people were doing, they’re not doing, just because they assumed they should be doing other things. And you’ll long for the days of the ‘check-in’ system when you could be on top of everything through enough ‘check-ins’. But there’s no going back now. You’re too big. You simply can’t check-in with everyone when you’re at or beyond the 30-person mark.

Maybe you’re having a conversation with someone at that point, and they tell you about OKR: Objectives and Key Results. Now there’s a system you can hang your keys on! A rhythm to align on key priorities and targets every two or four weeks (or every month or quarter, if you’re a bit more mature).

Liberation! Suddenly you can be on top of everything without the check-in overwhelm. It’s a thing of beauty, really. Until it’s not.

Because if you’re awesome, and you succeed, and you grow, the day will come when those balls will once again drop. And it won’t be because the senior team aren’t doing what you agreed when you set your quarterly OKRs. It will be because the business is too complex now for OKRs. OKRs still rely on a lot of manual alignment through collaboration and regular ‘check-ins’ at the operating level. Even simpler than that, the balls are dropping because, suddenly, there are a whole lot of new people issues you have never had to deal with before at this level:

  • Accountability vacuums: A rising tendency for important things to fall into ‘no man’s land’ with nobody accountable for them
  • Major differences in contribution: A rising number of people in cruise mode while the rest of the team do all the work
  • Performance politics: Lots of high performers are unhappy because people aren’t being treated fairly. Slackers are getting good reviews and rewards just because their managers are lenient; high performers, on the other hand, are getting the same as them because their team has higher standards
  • Compensation politics: People aren’t satisfied that bonuses and increase decisions are being made fairly
  • High Performance Culture slide: All of this is causing relational friction and culture issues that are impacting performance.

So, right now, there’s way too much going on for OKRs and ‘check-ins’ to work. Things need more alignment and coordination than you’re going to get through your team interactions. You need a new way of aligning the different parts of the business without falling into ‘check-in overwhelm’.

You need a performance architecture with more processes and systems that maintain alignment across teams. Big words. Corporate words, which we know entrepreneurs tend to dislike. But let’s understand them.

Basically what they mean is that, around about this time, performance management needs a major upgrade. Why? And how should you do performance management? Isn’t it an awful relic of industrial-age corporate management, which is why so many top employers are moving to something new?

True enough. The dilemma is that a lot of the new age buzz about liberating talent to thrive without backward-looking performance reviews don’t work in most contexts; most often, it will break things even more than a frustrating, antiquated performance management system would.

The reality is that performance management is much more complex than an annual review and, furthermore, is definitely not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach.

Related: 3 Strategies To Implement A Culture Of Innovation In Your Business (Without Blowing Billions)

If you’re scaling up and keen to build a scalable performance management system that works in your context (and at the same time reinforces your greatest culture assets), here are 17 of the most important performance management decisions you will need to make as a leadership team.

Performance management intent: What is the main goal of our performance management system? Accountability for performance, coaching for development and improved performance, or both? Harvard Business Review says this is a 70-year old debate. Don’t assume your other leaders see this the same way you do.

Individual appraisals: Do we believe that focusing on individual appraisals would result in better — or worse — business performance? Does it adversely affect team work and a ‘looking beyond my scorecard’ mentality?

Standardisation: Given that various parts of the business are so different, should we be doing the same thing across the business? How do we do performance management differently (if we even should) in areas as different as engineering, sales and customer service?

Target setting processes: Should targets be set from the top down, bottom up, or some combination of the two?

Nature of targets: Should performance targets be activity targets, behaviour targets, intermediate outcome targets (closest to ultimate outcome, that are fully within control) or ultimate outcome targets (even if not within our control)?

Bonuses: Should we link rewards to personal performance ratings? Some say that you should just pay really well and bake everything into a fixed bonus, or into basic compensation, and fire the non-performers. Which works best?

Bonus pool formula: Which proportion of an individual’s bonus should be determined by either individual contribution versus the performance of their team or division, or the business as a whole?

Long-term incentives: What percentage of variable incentive remuneration (VIR) should be long term, and which should be deferred to future years/long term (LTIR)?

Increases: How should performance ratings affect salary increases?

Formal or informal feedback: What is the right balance between formal appraisal and informal continuous feedback?

Feedback sources: Are there objective measures? If not, who gives input to the appraisal? If there are multiple parties, how are their inputs weighted? Is a line manager’s feedback more important than multiple, non-line individuals or ‘bosses’?

Performance appraisal scale: How do we summarise individual performance assessments?

Appraisal frequency: How often do we appraise performance and give feedback? Would this be per assignment or based on time, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually?

Bonuses versus career investment and opportunity: How do we decide which individuals to prioritise for investment in growth and promotions? How do we balance bonuses versus investment in learning, development and promotions?

Dealing with high performance that doesn’t produce results: What do we do when people perform well, but don’t deliver the business results due to issues outside their control?

Performance management roles: Who does what in the performance management process? What belongs to HR? What belongs to line managers?

Performance management software: When do we move from Excel (or similar) to software products that streamline this process? What are the best packages for our business? (Small Improvements and Engagedly are our top recommendations).

Related: Has Your Business Stopped Growing? Here’s How To Turn Things Around

Walter Penfold, MD Everlytic

walter-penfold

  • Fire faster. Bad performers are toxic for the culture. Use the three-month probation period brutally. The culture impact of firing fast is much superior to that of firing slow.
  • Attune to sentiment. Many poor performers are great at upward management. They can look like performers to you, but people around them know the truth. Stay attuned to, and respond to grumblings.
  • Give immediate, direct feedback on any performance issues. This should never wait for a formal performance review. We do a formal 360-review once a year.
  • Keep it super simple to start — we definitely over-complicated it.
  • Centre on weekly one-on-one meetings. Then performance management becomes the way you work, not a chat between strangers once a quarter.

Stuart Townsend, Edge Growth

stuart-townsend

Be realistic. Our training budgets are not realistic enough to enable people to build the competencies we need them to have to deliver the outcomes we expect.

Brad Magrath, Co-founder, Zoona

brad-magrath

  • Invest in growing your managers. We over-estimated the ability of young, inexperienced managers to have honest candid constructive conversations. If they suck at having good performance management discussions, the whole system breaks down.
  • Non-performers weren’t scored as non-performers, leading to ugly train smashes down the line.
  • Bad managers give good ratings to bad performers.
  • Invest in creating role clarity. Performance management didn’t work well initially because we lacked role clarity and agreed metrics.
  • Focus on behaviours, not just outputs.
  • Ensure managers are deliberate around context of feedback: Is it coaching, is it performance, is it brainstorming? Be clear on why the conversation is happening so the message is not mixed.
  • Get huge buy in from the beginning — we didn’t do enough of this. Then people don’t actually do appraisals well and the whole system breaks down again.
  • What you measure is what you get — A-players like the idea of being performance measured objectively. Make sure the metrics are totally objective and have integrity.

The reality

The ability to recognise that what got you here won’t get you there is the first step towards building a high-impact, significant business.

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