A Little Curiosity

A “What if Moment”

Countless conversations in executive offices and around conference tables in small and large businesses seek to better understand and quickly resolve problems, ultimately to improve performance. Maybe it is sparked with a concerning trend, a customer or employee complaint, or just a little curiosity. I call it a “What If Moment.”

However the process of change starts, it is central to improving employee engagement, targeted business outcomes, and numerous financial metrics.

In a business setting, discovery is the process of gathering relevant facts to increase awareness of existing structural, behavioral and/or market challenges that are or would impede the attainment of a given business goal or objective. Essentially, by increasing awareness a path forward is discovered.

Sometimes business challenges are quickly understood and placed in the rear view mirror. Sometimes the challenges are more complex, or the requisite talents, experiences, and other resources necessary to solve the problem are not available given the volume of routine business activities. Today, many businesses run lean.

In the more complex scenario, many business owners outsource change management projects to more fully understand the specific challenge and either resolve it or receive a road map for the company to marshal efforts to accomplish a given goal or objective.

Understanding “where you are today” (Present State) is especially foundational for external consultants to solve problems and move a client’s performance to “where you want to go,” a desired Future State. This understanding or discovery can happen really fast, but don’t cut it short. In almost every endeavor, how you prepare signals the quality of the outcome you seek.

You might decide to remodel your home, but carpenters, painters, and all contractors take measurements and prepare surfaces to be revitalized. It is the same with a wide variety of change management projects – be sure to fully understand first – before you make change happen.

Elevated performance will follow.


Critical Junctures

A New Business is Born …

You have a brilliant idea, rough out your vision, file organizational documents, set up a checking account and all the rest. In a matter of a few days, your business is already unique. Over months or years, with perseverance and many struggles, it takes off. You land more clients, hire employees, create physical and financial assets, and business activities are increasingly complex.

Your original north star vision may be the same or it has changed, but your business has grown. Your needs are different. Maybe you recognize internal challenges and market opportunities not being met. Maybe the last two quarters were sub-par on revenue and/or profitability, or a key client or two is looking at your competition. You know that your top line indicators and bottom-line metrics could be much better.

So, what to do next? Maybe you step back and ask the same questions you posed as you started the business.

  • What? Your product/service/value proposition.
  • Who? Your target clients. Your competition. Your vendor partners.
  • Where? Defining your geographic market. Your resources to fulfill promises made.
  • When? When can you achieve the next objective, and the next?

As your business matures, two other questions become more pressing.

  • Why are you doing this? Maybe you have bigger goals looming around the corner.
  • And, maybe most importantly, HOW?

At critical junctures in business, taking a critical look at your team’s leadership, strategies, culture, processes, capabilities, and behaviors is a good first step. Then apply the same critical look at your market and target customers. Those answers may frame new possibilities.   

A Workforce Multiplier

A company’s executive leadership teams historically focus their attention and resources on improving financial performance … tangible “hard-side” results. There is an almost endless list of quantifiable measures captured on spreadsheets, tracking individual and team performance. Here are some.

Revenue Profit Margins Client Growth
Market Share Units Sold Cost of Marketing
Cost of Sales Production Costs … and many more

“Soft-Side” components are mostly cultural intangibles, which are harder to quantify. Here are just a few.

Leadership Committed to Innovation and Excellence

Employee Buy-in to Company Vision and Mission

Engaged Employees (Empowered to Adapt)

Organizational Transparency and Accountability

While a company’s culture is sometimes seen as a low priority—as far less than a pressing requirement—it really isn’t. A positive company culture—fully supported by the entire leadership team—can be a powerful force inside a company, empowering its employees to accomplish so much more.

Think of a positive company culture as a workforce multiplier.

Empirical evidence supports that statement. Harvard Business School a few years ago, in a 11-year study of a variety of businesses with either positive or negative cultural attributes, concluded that:

Positive business cultures averaged 682% growth.

Negative business cultures averaged 166% growth.

The difference is striking. Investing in and supporting the development of a positive company culture … literally drives more growth.

Even if organizational performance measures are consistently meeting established business goals and objectives, strengthening company culture can dramatically improve those measures even more. Big change doesn’t happen overnight, but small changes can quickly establish new directions.

What cultural changes are most needed in your business?