We’re Growing So That’s OK. Isn’t it?

Simon is CEO of a business operating in the Middle East and Africa and when I met him it was enjoying double-digit growth, significantly outperforming similar organisations in mature European markets. The most recent financial year had seen growth of 12%, something his former colleagues in the UK could only dream of.

So why wasn’t I impressed?

“What’s the potential in this region?” I asked.

“Around 40%,” he replied.

“So you’re underperforming by quite a long way,” I said.

He was quiet. For a moment I thought I’d overstepped the mark.

Then he admitted, “I’d never thought of it like that.”

I hadn’t been trying to undermine his achievement, merely open his mind to what was possible and shift his focus to the 28% that was up for grabs.

This led us to get his team together and explore the potential.  We brought his country managers together.  As is typical with these workshops, there was a lot of ground to cover.

Isolating the interference

We started with a venting session, designed to get out all the issues that hold us back. We label this interference. It could be real, imagined or perceived – anything that gets in our way and occupies thinking time or activity.

The team shared over 80 things that bothered them. These were the 80 things that were preventing them from hitting their €1bn target.  

Putting the barriers in boxes

We categorised every item on the issue list – all 80 of them – into three boxes.

  • Bothered
  • Not bothered (at all or right now)
  • Givens (things we can’t change)

At the end of the process we were left with three items in the “bothered” column and we knew that if we addressed those we could unlock €2bn in additional revenues.  Solving them required no magic, no investment and no more headcount.

Think differently

We showed the teams how to take ownership and develop a plan to capitalise on the hidden potential.  Will they unlock all €2bn? Probably not, but they will go beyond their current comfortable level of thinking and increase their productivity significantly.

So ask yourself:

  • What is your real potential?
  • What interference is getting in your way?
  • What are you prepared to do about It?

Why not try the 3  step process for yourself?

  1. Vent – write down all the things holding you back
  2. Categorise
    • Bothered
    • Not bothered
    • Givens
  3. Prioritise – Go to work on your bothered list

Why is thinking so important to business?

 

Thinking underpins everything we do, driving the actions we take which deliver the results we get, yet most people just take thinking for granted.

Ricky and Richard explore how Thinking can have an impact on driving better results, showing how taking control of your thinking can deliver different results.

 

It’s fair to say many of us take the power of thinking for granted. In the podcast, Ricky and Richard discuss how thinking fundamentally affects our actions or inactions. The challenge arises when our thinking isn’t getting the results we would like to see. This could be evidence the team or business isn’t heading in quite the right direction.

Ricky and Richard consider how we need to ask ourselves questions. Are the actions we are taking, as a result of our thinking, working in reality? It’s all too easy to get caught in a loop where we keep doing the same things but somehow expect the results to change. As the pair explain, if we want to see a change in the outcome, we need to change the quality of our thinking.

We also need to ask questions of ourselves that help us to think differently. After all, our subconscious and the long-standing habits we have formed over many years will be having an impact. To drive a different set of results, we need to be asking ourselves a new set of questions and trying to create some new habits. Even if a business has the same products or processes as before, by challenging people’s thinking it’s possible to come up with a new way of doing things and get better results.

Ricky and Richard wrap up their discussion by exploring how in a work environment, the natural focus is often on the output. Thinking is essentially an input and by examining our thinking and collaborating with others, we can increase our chances of success.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Why your current situation isn’t the problem

So you’re facing a bit of a business crisis. It might mean answering to shareholders, investment being put on hold, or even layoffs.

At a lower level, it may be that bonuses aren’t paid, promotions are passed over or individuals are held accountable.

It’s a problem, right?

Wrong.

How can the result be THE problem, when the result comes at the end?

Yes, the result may cause a problem and bring consequences, leading to a different set of decisions.

The real problem came earlier – and it was probably one of these:

  • The Unhelpful Mindset.  Often driven by the size of the target, the quality or price position of the product or service or even how well your people feel supported by their manager, colleagues or other departments will reduce performance.
  • Reward Strategies.  It could be the way you manage your people. Do they feel valued and appreciated? If there is a perception that others are valued more, then this ‘treatment’ will lead to a sense of unfairness and unhappiness and lower productivity – or worse.
  • Systems and Processes that make it hard for people to do their job can be immensely frustrating.  Whether I am trying to win business, serve customers or support the internal teams I want to feel like I have the tools to do my job well.  ‘Fighting the internal systems and processes is frustrating and reduces productivity. Worse still, you’ll lose your good people.
  • Measurement.  When you measure the wrong things, you not only drive the wrong behaviours and limit your performance, you seriously p*** off your people.  They don’t get it and you end up creating value destroying processes just to report on the wrong things.

Facing one of these issues is bad enough, but more than one and you’re in big trouble!

Ask yourself – to what extent …

… is your peoples’ mindset focused on ‘how to’?

… is the way you reward and acknowledge their contribution motivating them?

… are your systems and processes enablers for your people?

… do you measure the things that add the most significant value to your business?

Thinking Focus specialises in transforming business performance by unlocking potential in people.  Why not give us a call to discuss your current situation and how we can help? You can also tune in to our podcast series – ‘The Question is…’ available now on iTunes.

 

How can you motivate your team more effectively?

 

Ever wondered if there was anything you could do to motivate your team to achieve the goals and tasks that they have been set?

Ricky and Paul ponder this by exploring how relevance and purpose can be used to engage and motivate.

Ownership is key when it comes to approaching tasks or goals with energy, enthusiasm and passion. In the podcast, Ricky and Paul discuss the importance of giving a team clarity about what they are working on and outlining the purpose. Sometimes, leaders can too easily become caught in the detail of what needs doing but the focus needs to be on the vision and getting people to buy into that vision.

They explore how the issue of relevance is key to motivating a team. It’s important to make sure everyone knows how they fit into the bigger picture. How is it relevant to them and the wider organisation? Ricky and Paul consider how at work some people can be on auto pilot: they do what is asked of them very well but don’t see the connection to the bigger picture.

By giving people a level of autonomy, we can give them the freedom to express themselves and go after goals in their own way. They can deliver them in the way that feels most appropriate and bring a different perspective into the equation. Ricky and Paul refer to the book Drive by Dan Pink which looks at this issue in more detail.

The pair conclude their discussion by breaking the process of motivating a team more effectively into five steps: clarity, purpose, involvement, autonomy and ownership. We are likely to see real benefits and value if we can get people to own the task or goal. This will be apparent in the way they apply themselves and have a knock-on effect when it comes to the wider aspirations of the organisation.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Is your CI Team the problem with your CI programme?

A UK food manufacturer was looking at investing in a formal Lean and Six Sigma programme, as they believed that they had done everything they could to optimise their plant. Across the business, there was evidence of people operating in silos, and a fragmented attitude towards Continuous Improvement with a perception that CI was purely for the manufacturing process.   The business driver was to continually find year on year savings.  The challenge was that they believed no further savings were possible.

Why is having a dedicated CI team such a problem?

Typically, businesses invest huge amounts in business improvement methodologies. They create a CI team to drive the improvement agenda seeking to save money on their production and processes. The trouble with that is that the rest of the business sees them as the owners of CI.

By having a team dedicated to CI, you inadvertently create abdication amongst the rest of your business. Your people look to your CI team to solve problems, own the reporting and expect them to take the heat when the benefits of CI do not materialise as expected. After all, you created the CI team to ensure your CI investment pays off. CI is cultural, adopted at all levels of the business. Everything you do needs a CI lens to look at process optimisation, waste reduction and process improvement. You need an environment where everyone can and are encouraged to get involved in the improvement agenda.

What are their limits? 

The CI team have limited reach. When they intervene, they are dependent on the individual or team adopting the revised approach. Much will depend on how they manage the change process. The CI team have the process knowledge but do they have the change skills to take people with them? Are the CI team fighting the culture, the business mindset? Your CI team become frustrated at a lack of support, perceived or real. The overall impact means the business loses out on many levels. You do not realise efficiencies and savings; waste is created by people not being engaged effectively and leaders go looking in the wrong place for reasons.

Back to the food manufacturer

Let’s get back to that food manufacturer. The issue was that their culture was not one where CI was central to everyone’s role.

How did they solve it? They developed a programme which brought together cross-functional teams to tackle seven business projects. The leadership team sponsored the key projects and the project groups were equipped with mental models and tools and then challenged them to apply them to the business. They created an environment where people felt able to have a go.

The impact was a real cultural shift. 

The CI team became enablers, not owners of CI. They provided expertise but didn’t own the problem. In just 90-days they have not only identified over £500k of savings across the business, but improved engagement, streamlined processes, and freed up almost 30 hours a week by removing duplication.

 

Are you getting the bang for your CI buck? If not, I recommend you look at how your CI team operate. A CI team who act as enablers in a culture where the whole business owns CI will unlock huge productivity gains and better still your people will own it! A CI team who own the CI agenda will never realise the potential that exists in your business.

How does visualisation help goal defining?

Is visualisation an effective goal defining technique, or is it just day dreaming.

If you have big goals or aspirations, visualisation can be a very effective technique.  Rob discusses with Ricky how you can use your imagination to define your future.

None of us know what the future holds but visualisation can be a helpful way of gaining clarity and harnessing our imaginations. Rob and Ricky begin by exploring how some goals are clinical and straightforward, set targets for example. But bigger goals focused on the future require a different approach and this is where visualisation comes into play.

They explore the issue of retirement as another example. Many people can talk very precisely about their retirement even though it may be as far off as 15 years away. To have such clarity, they must have thought about the matter a lot and be very motivated about what retirement is going to bring them. Essentially, they have achieved a level of clarity through visualisation.

Rob and Ricky go onto explore how visualisation has a couple of elements: the first is clarity and the second is focusing on what we want to achieve. By using our imaginations to build a picture of the future, we can define our goals.

Senior Managers will often spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Rob and Ricky explore how they can bring that visualisation to life, enhance their passion and energy, to take the rest of the team on the journey.

Visualisation helps us to turn off rational or scientific thoughts and tap into our imagination enabling us to work towards something we really want to achieve at a future point. To all sense and purposes, it’s about sketching a picture and then giving others the opportunity to add colour and fill in the gaps.

How can you write goals for things that are touchy feely?

 

Some goals are easy to write down, they have clear defined outcomes.  However, goals for feelings, such as confidence, or for perceptions such as relationships or expectations are much harder to articulate.

In this episode, Rob explains to Richard how you can use a benchmark within SMART to create clear simple goals around these harder to define areas.

When it comes to the best approaches for writing down goals around emotions and feelings, there are still useful techniques that can be applied. Rob explains to Richard how you can use a benchmark within SMART – specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time related – to help you achieve a written down goal.

But how do we measure something that is a feeling or a perception? Rob explores how a useful technique is to consider the feeling on a scale of one to ten and then apply a numerical figure. For example, you may judge your feelings to be 4/10 at this moment in time but where do you want to be on the scale by a particular date?

Rob and Richard discuss how this approach allows us to write the feeling down in a SMART goal format: by this date… I will have…. improved to a specific number.

Rob adds that it’s important to use our imaginations. For example, on the scale we know what 4 feels like right now but how much would we like it to be? What would this feel like? We may feel an improved level of confidence in specific situations.

It’s fair to say goals around feelings are more difficult to write but as Rob and Richard explain in the podcast, there are useful methods that enable us to put these to paper.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Should the R in SMART be Realistic or Relevant?

Have you noticed how some people use realistic, while others use relevant?

So which is the right one, does it even matter?

Rob and Rich discuss the merits of both.  Maybe they might change your mind about which one to use.

It’s fair to say the acronym that gives us a guide to setting goals and objectives, SMART, has been around for some time. In our podcast, we explore how you get better value if you consider the R stands for relevant.

Rob and Rich begin their discussion by reminding listeners what SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-bound. Many people use realistic because that’s what they know but Rob is a big fan of applying the term relevant instead. He maps out how if you have a list of tasks to achieve on a day, we can always choose something that’s realistic. Just as an example, we could easily set ourselves the limiting goal of running 100 metres in 14 hours.

It becomes a different question if we ask how relevant is the goal? We should be looking at the relevance of achieving our tasks rather than just asking can I achieve them. By applying this technique, we can reach a meaningful goal.

Ricky adds that we bring into play questions and thoughts for the person writing the goal about their motivation if we use the term relevant.

Both agree that realistic and achievable can almost be interchangeable when considering the SMART framework. Substituting the R for relevant can help us to prioritise and consider our motivation therefore adding more value to the whole process.

There really are no right or wrong answers but using relevance in their expert opinion will add more depth and value when it comes to achieving our goals.

What’s the best tool to use for writing a goal?

 

Is there just one way to write a goal, or are their different techniques?

In this episode, Rob and Richard discuss how to select the most appropriate approach making defining your goal easy.

How many ways can you write a goal and what methods are best? In our podcast, Rob and Richard discuss the most appropriate approach to make defining your goal easy.

When it comes to the best approaches for writing down goals, there are a few elements to consider. In the podcast, Rob and Richard discuss how it all depends on what the goal is about.

Among the questions to ask ourselves are: is the goal specific or big picture? Rob explains that SMART is a useful technique if the goal is quantitative and you want to achieve it in a certain amount time. This acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time related. On the other hand, if the goal is around feelings, a benchmarking technique is a better approach.

Richard goes onto examine how aspirational goals are another matter and you can break these down into different parts by using a ‘chunking’ strategy. For example, if the goal is to run your own company before you retire, this can be broken down into chunks so it becomes achievable.

Goals set around feelings are more difficult to measure but Rob explains benchmarking can be a useful technique. We can ask ourselves questions about where we are now, where we want to be in the future and look at closing the gap.

The pair summarise the discussion by focusing on the approaches they have examined including SMART and benchmarking. They explore how it’s important to be able to describe and measure the goal in some way. This gives us greater clarity as to whether we buy into the goal or not.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on iTunes.

Why can’t goal writing be easy?

Goal writing sometimes seems like a mystic art form, limited to a very few highly trained experts.  Are goals really that difficult?

Richard and Paul discuss how to make goal writing really simple.

Goal writing sometimes feels like a complex task that requires specific training to get right. In our podcast, Richard and Paul discuss how to make goal writing really simple.

There are times in the workplace when we’re asked to focus on writing down goals but for many of us it’s not always a straightforward process.

In the podcast, Richard and Paul talk about how we may never have been shown how to put goals to paper before starting work. Sometimes people talk about goals as though there is a magical way of writing them but in reality, if you have a decent structure, the entire process can be simplified.

The easiest way to begin is to set out what you are trying to achieve. Crucially pick a date and then focus on the positive ‘I will have.’ Richard and Paul explore how there can be a nervousness around choosing a specific date but once we commit it allows us to start focusing and really working on the goal.

They go onto examine how many of us play it safe when it comes to writing down goals keeping them vague. But goals need to be sharp: we need ‘picture, perfect, clarity’ and a real point of time in the future by which the goal will be achieved. Sometimes if we feel unsure about a written down goal, it’s because we haven’t given it enough thought.

Richard and Paul conclude their discussion looking at the issue of accountability. If we share a goal, we are more likely to achieve it. Essentially, they say writing down goals is about having a go. Keep it simple: what do I want to achieve and when do I want to achieve it by?

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.