Each quarter my clients exercise the discipline of quarterly planning meetings. For someone who has never undergone this required discipline that Gazelles Coaches and Positioning Systems practices it’s difficult to appreciate how much can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
In this newsletter I provide the 3rd of three quarterly examples of what three of my client’s achieved in the third quarter by investing in a day or more on quarterly planning. To produce results in 2013 you need to make quarterly plans and most importantly dedicate a day or two to annual planning by the end of the year. This is the third of three newsletters to offer how my clients achieved success and most importantly realized their One Thing for the quarter.
This month’s example is from the contracting field, a service company that offers concrete moisture testing for new construction and remodeling businesses. Their third quarter One Thing was Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised. This is a productivity measure and they balanced this with developing a system for Employee Performance Reward Tracking. Remember you need to balance your One Thing with a critical number that counterbalances your Productivity Driver with a Relationship Driver. The Employee Performance Reward Tracking offered employees an opportunity to be rewarded for their service and efforts and recognize their contributions.
Delivering projects on time as promised for this quarter would be no small achievement. While my client had an exceptional record of getting their reports to their clients on time, this quarter their largest client provided them with a moved up agenda of new stores to conduct their moisture testing on. If they achieved the targets they set it would result in record quarterly revenue.
The company set their targets ahead of the guaranteed time frames they promised their customers. This assured they under promised and over delivered. It also would allow them to protect themselves from circumstances beyond their control, including weather and the unpredictability of outsourced technicians.
As the quarter progressed the demand on operations to meet the unexpected but anticipated capacity of work expanded. Teams were working harder, more efficient and in better communication than ever before. The leader of this group was down in the trenches working more tactically than strategically to ensure he and his team met their target dates.
Several obstacles arose during the quarter that interfered with reaching the deadline. One of the programs they were using to build reports for their clients crashed delaying data gathering and reporting for about a week. Internally the team failed to use support staff to help them complete their projects, losing an opportunity to delegate and speed up their completion time. Several of the projects required additional clarification. Rather than working on these as they arrived, the list grew to more than 50 projects. Even as they attacked these, new projects were added, creating a bottleneck in reporting.
Additionally my clients outside source, technicians used for gathering the data from the customers’ sites, needed to be managed better. Technical writers should have called the technicians on all projects that needed clarification. Passing projects between Tech writer and Project Manager’s proved to be inefficient.
Finally an unforeseen opportunity for training came up during the final week of the goal. This took two of my client’s most productive operational people (including the manager) out of production at the most critical time.
Even while all this is occurring, in our monthly meetings when dashboards are updated the leadership team member accountable for hitting this target maintained assurance his team would hit the target. In retrospect he was overly optimistic. He recognizes his own failure to realize the complexity of the issues that held his team back. His failed to report this to the leadership team and ask for a short extension. Based on the progress they were making and despite not getting the reports all completed to clients, it’s likely he and his team would have been given a reprieve on their target for reports being complete.
Why would the leadership team extend the deadlines? Simply look at the numbers.
Record projects billed and reported. Targets hit for billing clients and record sales for a month and for any quarter in the company’s history.
Had they been given an additional week or two to complete the reporting portion of their priority they most likely would have achieved their targets.
The perplexing result was despite record projects completed and revenue achieved they failed to hit the ultimate priority, “Delivering Projects To Clients On Time and as Promised.” This is by their own definition of what the target meant.
To his credit, the leader of the team recognized his accountability. He noted that at the very least he should have not been so optimistic, and informed the leadership team of the issues beyond control. He should have asked for an extension. He learned a valuable lesson in how to manage.
The owner truly wanted to give the full bonus to his people, yet realized in doing so it could set up a poor precedent for future themes. How likely would future deadlines be perceived in a reward situation like this?
After a meeting with the operations leadership team in which they accepted responsibility for failing to hit their targets, the leadership team met to discuss options. It was decided that the bonuses wouldn’t be awarded since the targets had been missed. (Keep in mind this bonus would be unprecedented in the company’s history since they’d just started conducting themes this year.) The owner wished to ensure the efforts of his team didn’t go unrecognized however. It was agreed that when all the reports were completed a celebration at a local restaurant would be held immediately after work. The owner additionally handed out sizable checks to each operations member (albeit the amount substantially less than the bonuses they would have earned) to thank them personally for the extra hours and increased efficiency they’d displayed.
What might you have done in this situation? Would you be able to rely on the collective intelligence of your leadership team to help you do the right thing?
The owners course of action I feel is correct. Targets that are elastic are not targets at all unless there is agreement on why they should be changed. At the same time it’s important to recognize and applaud your people when they extend extra effort to achieve a goal.
The owner intends to recognize their efforts again in the company’s annual year-end bonus program.
Making plans for 2013? It’s not too late. Michael Gerber noted that, “Businesses that plan always do better than businesses that don’t. But business that change their plans are always more successful than businesses that plan but don’t change them.” That’s why it’s important to recognize an annual meeting is only the first of your meeting rhythm disciplines required to achieve your company’s 2013 priorities.
If it requires you to strategize and plan in January it’s better than having no plan. Give your team the clarity, alignment and cohesiveness they need to make 2013 your best. Need help? Contact us or ask for a Needs Assessment to schedule a meeting with one of our coaches/consultants.