Where to start: Focusing your activity to develop and achieve scale

There are lots of templates and tools out there that you could subscribe to, but the two most important things to know about using any of them are (1) how to apply them to your business, and (2) how to avoid traps that will waste your time.

The tool I often use is the Lean Canvas, though rarely without some adjustments. The fact is that this along with every other template or model was devised in response to one type of business and one type of business challenge, when in reality there are different scenarios that you as a business leader might need to solve for.

In 2005 Alexander Osterwalder created the Business Model Canvas; and by 2010 Ash Maurya had begun developing the Lean Canvas, as he found there were elements missing which he felt were actually more important than some that had been included, so he began trading elements…

The most important trade he made was to include Key Metrics, since businesses “often drown in a sea of numbers in an attempt to bring order to the chaos of uncertainty“.

Choose the right metrics and focus on them without compromise. THIS is where to start. If you get this right, you’ve won half the battle.

Big metrics traps to avoid

Bottom line metrics

Key metrics are never, ever related to the bottom line (revenue or profit), they should be metrics that DRIVE the making of money, not that reflect it – you care about the money, of course, but backward looking £ values should not be what drives forward-looking day-to-day activity.

KEY metrics

You shouldn’t ever have more than three or four – more than that and they’re no longer KEY! You’ll eventually want to make sure that everyone in the business is aligned to pursuing these metrics to make sure all activity is heading in the same direction.

Vanity metrics

This is a tough one. It demands that ego takes a back seat…

People who found or run businesses have to be resilient; they have to believe in themselves; they have to be able to keep going even when people inevitably tell them their idea won’t work. Being able to do that takes ego – ego is not a bad thing! The skill comes in knowing when to put the ego in a box and take a cold hard look at what REALLY drives the business so you’re not distracted by vanity metrics.

Yes, the “reach” of your brand can be measured by the number of people that see it (views, visits, registrations, etc.), BUT you could mistakenly spend loads of money inflating that figure only to find that there’s no return on the investment, because reach doesn’t convert to payments and renewals!

Vanity metrics are just that – metrics to boast about, not metrics that make a real impact on business goals.

Commitment, time and space

Here’s a scenario you might recognise: you’ve identified something you need to do for your business, but the time you’d planned to use for it got swallowed up by firefighting – the latest operational jam or the urgent need to smooth a client’s ruffled feathers.

Perhaps you know that key metrics are a good starting point for growth and you do want to start moving your business forward, but the risk is that this becomes just another item on a long list of tasks abandoned as you once again get stuck in a firefighting loop.

How can you avoid these traps and defend the time and space you need to focus and grow the business?

Consider booking that time in with someone from outside your organisation with the EXACT skillset to make this task happen so you don’t waste time making mistakes. Not only will you avoid mistakes, but it’s much harder to be knocked off task once you’ve made the commitment to spend the time with someone else.

It’s also much easier to “put ego in a box” with the help of someone with distance!

That person should keep you on track and have the experience to ask the right questions, design and even execute on some fast, targeted tests to ensure you’re working with data not assumptions. They should push you to make and stick to difficult decisions – those are the decisions that make the most impact, pushing your business forward with the greatest pace.

Bring that person in as a freelance consultant for an initial 2 hour discovery session with you and/or your existing team. Out of that session will come a playback of your vision or mission, recommendations for choosing, testing and monitoring key metrics, some immediate action points, and probably a partially or fully completed lean canvas as a bonus!

If you then run with those recommendations yourself, you got what you needed;

If you’d prefer help to action those points and bake those metrics into your organisation, arrange check-ins on a regular, ongoing basis;

Either way, you win, without spending loads of time or money on something that doesn’t work for you.

Does this sound like the solution for you as you try to scale or develop your business?

Then get in touch.

Now, go get those key metrics!

Katy quickly brought to bear clear focus, themes and objectives based on sound empirical data, enabling the business to understand what was worth spending time on.

Haran Rasalingam, Agile Coach

Get in touch to see if I can help you today.

Business leaders: How to make space in the day-to-day to create a culture of solving challenges fast

Right now there’s a perfect storm where business leaders have limited budget and headspace, yet they face some of the biggest, most immediate challenges they’ve ever encountered and may not have the skillsets they need in-house.

Firstly, shall we try and sum up this perfect storm without using the dreaded “C” word?

  • Businesses and indeed whole industries are grappling with new ways of reaching their customers/clients, new ways of interacting with them and managing their business
  • The rate of environmental change means affected businesses aren’t necessarily keen or able to take on new perm staff to handle this
  • There isn’t the time or the money available to sink into longwinded projects
  • Already frayed, nobody needs another initiative demanding the leadership team hold their nerve and commit to months or years of waiting for indicators to confirm whether or not they’re pursuing the right solutions

That’s what makes the formation of small, hyper-focused, independent and empowered teams a most useful approach to staring down business challenges and circumventing the mire of organisational politics.

James McQuivey, Ph.D, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester told the FT years ago that small, independent teams are critical to “digital transformation” projects.

I’d say (and perhaps James would agree!) that the term “digital transformation” is now pretty outdated (that’s a post for another time!), but the idea of small, independent, hyper-focused teams, is seeing renewed relevance in today’s world.

When given a mandate direct from an organisation’s leaders, these groups can leverage their distance from day-to-day organisational politics to propose the best ideas, regardless of the impact they may have on entrenched behaviours and beliefs.

If these teams are empowered to test in real time, their ideas can fast be proven either worthy of further research, or without merit, so little time, energy and money is spent figuring out next steps or pursuing the wrong priorities.

This can very quickly produce a roadmap for change and improvement with the priority of learning and delivering quick wins as well as shaping longer term strategic thinking.

This sounds great, but…

Although the people inside an organisation are wizards at their craft, do they know how to perform in this kind of group?

Well, no.

And to ask them to try without support or guidance would be setting them and the organisation up for failure.

So, who could move fast, and focus on delivering value now but also get learnings for later? Who can work with a tiny, cross-functional set of domain wizards from within your organisation and coach them to successfully solve the biggest organisational challenges you’re facing? Who can help set and then work to a mandate and KPIs supported by leadership but with little need for oversight?

Consider bringing someone in whose whole mission is THIS. Someone who’s job has always been THIS. Someone who has done exactly THIS time and time again.

Bring them in as a freelance consultant, part time, a few days a week to guide, coach and work with your existing team. Virtually, if that’s what works right now.

Give them the contacts, give them the timescale for reporting back and give them a budget and see what they can tell you for that money and in that time.

If it’s good, you learned something;

If it isn’t, you learned what doesn’t work without spending too much;

If you want more, keep working with them.

Does this sound like a good, low risk solution for you as you navigate your business through today’s storm?

Then get in touch.

Sincere good luck as you chart your course!

Katy worked with members of our team to ID what success was for us, then designed and executed a cycle of testing to challenge some of our most tightly held hypotheses.

It can be tough to hear that things aren’t always as they seem, but committing to the process and being open to the outcomes has put us in a far more competitive position for the future.

Simon, Strategy Director

Get in touch to see if I can help you today.