Too often we hear people talk about good intentions. There is never a shortage of ideas, advice or opinions on how something should be done. Of course, the challenge always is execution. Best efforts just aren't enough. So, what helps a company - or leader for that matter – go beyond best efforts to achieve desired results?
After some failed attempts and challenges with traction on certain key initiatives, Marco began shifting to a focus on determined results instead of simply best efforts. It was getting hard to tolerate the “incompletes.” We instituted a more accountable strategic planning process about 8 years ago that has delivered the results I was looking for.
Here are four steps we take at Marco to develop a high performing culture and achieve significant results year after year:
- Focus on fewer items.
Each year, our company narrows its strategic initiatives to 2-5 goals. We have had many more in the past, but you cannot accomplish a dozen initiatives with even the most dedicated workforce. By the end of the year, we would rarely complete more than a few. We can achieve the most when we have the least. It’s better to end the year 3 for 3 than 3 for 10.
- Build in accountability.
This is the key element that shifts the talk from “I’m working on it” or “I’m trying my best to get it done” to desired results. At Marco, it’s important that we do what we say we’re going to do. Internally, we assign a lead person who’s accountable to achieving results for each project or initiative. Often, we use third-party consultants to hold us accountable to results. One current example is our work with a training and development consultant to implement a talent management system. We attempted this on at least three occasions. We had a track record of underperforming and needed a solid training curriculum in-house that’s consistently delivered. Early results are very favorable.
- Create a score card.
It’s hard to know if you’re making progress if you’re not tracking it. Attaching numbers that measure success is an important component of shifting from best efforts to determined results. We establish a metric – and benchmark – whenever possible. Take customer satisfaction. Most companies will say they have excellent customer satisfaction but have no process in place to prove it. We validate it every month through a consistent survey process that we have been doing since 1994. A year ago, a key corporate initiative was to improve customer satisfaction that had slipped to 88 percent recommends. In 2014, we established a minimum of 90 percent recommends and it now consistently tops 91 percent. We’ll never let it slip again.
- Schedule checkpoints.
Setting up progress reports provides an opportunity to get an update, provide input and make necessary adjustments. If you look at my calendar, you’re bound to find one of these checkpoints. Just recently, our copier/printer group reported to the leadership team on their key initiatives. During these meetings, we ask those accountable to rate themselves using a simple academic grading system from A to F. The leadership team then provides a grade on the progress as well. Often times, the presenting group is harder on themselves than we are. The point is, just like in school, we all want a good report card and will work hard to get it.
To drive a high performing culture, best efforts just don’t cut it. While it can be hard to hear sometimes, it is a reality. Those that are okay with “best efforts” will struggle to succeed. When you shift the focus to “determined results”, you achieve better outcomes and that’s far more rewarding.