Which Critical Business Metric Will Get Everyone Marching to the Same Beat?

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress, working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Is your entire company marching to the same beat of the drum? Or is everyone making their own music as they go?

As simple as it sounds, getting people aligned to focus on a common vision and goal is actually straightforward – but it’s extremely rare to find it actually happening in a company. Lots of people talk about it – very few can pull it off.

Most people treat rallying themes with a typical “Rah rah! To the moon!” complete with posters and t-shirts – and three weeks later, no one has a clue what’s happening.

And traditionally when an executive team goes away on retreat for ‘strategic planning sessions’, everyone else wonders what they’re doing (other than golfing and having a good time). Even if the team works really hard, nobody else ever sees the output, and or understands the direction. Their daily work doesn’t change – even when dramatic changes are planned.

All For One

A few years ago, as I was interviewing 50 CEOs around the world for a book project called “Scaling Up” (an update to the Rockefeller Habits), I found that many of them used these quarterly or annual themes, and learned a lot in the many examples they shared.

One of my favourite mechanisms to get people in a company – whether 30 or 3000 – marching to the same beat is something called a Critical Number, made popular in a book called “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack.

In the book, he gives an example when he went to turn around factories. He got the front line people focused on what matters most, and not only taught them the details of financial statements – and how they could impact them – he got them aligned around a common rallying cry – a Critical Number that everyone drove towards.

This is one of the most effective leadership and execution tools I know – and it can be a daunting task!

So when we work with companies, we make sure we identify a single Critical Number that the executive team is engaged around and driving towards – and a tactical, operational initiative to make sure the entire organization is aware, and doing their part to make it happen.

Plan for Success

Because we’ve been involved in 100s of successful themes (and some abysmal failures), we know which business metrics work and which don’t. Here are examples of some Critical Number themes we’ve chosen that have had notable impacts on our client’s organizations:

  • High Five: Aiming for five items or more per transaction
  • Route 66: Decrease cash conversions days from 96 days to under 66, during the quarter
  • 1000 Little Pieces: Drive sales by ensuring each department is focused on processing 1000 units a day: Sales to sell, production to make, shipping to ship, and accounting to invoice
  • 57 New Friends: Find 57 new customers over the course of the quarter
  • I Love the 90s: Improve mystery-shopping scores from the lower 70s to at least 90%
  • A Team: Get at least 60% A players on the team by the end of the year
  • Bin-It: Eliminate wasteful actions: things that waste 15 minutes or 15 euros on a weekly basis for anyone in the company (The City Bin Co., Ireland)
  • 600: Generate 600 referrals during the year, from internal staff and existing customers (ProService Hawaii)
  • Happy Handovers: Every customer is absolutely thrilled when they take possession of their apartment (measured by the Net Promoter Scores). (Ashiana Housing, India).

All the goals were achieved because everyone was aware of the target, fought to achieve it, and felt like they won when they did.

Build muscle

It starts with a great strategy – and it’s all about discipline and phenomenal execution.

It doesn’t work because you picked the right number, or because you had a cool name. It works because there’s a discipline and rigour to breathe life into it on weekly basis – so that everyone sees the progress, and feels like they are winning. And if they don’t do their part, they are inspired and pulled along by the momentum of others.

Weekly recognition or reward is important. And, at the end, when the goal is achieved, the team – or the whole company – celebrates together.

The benefit extends beyond the theme time frame because the true value is in the strong muscle of alignment and achievement that the organization builds, time after time.

There’s nothing like the feeling of an organization in sync, marching to the beat of the same drum – winning and getting stronger.

PS – We love to help companies find, achieve and celebrate their Critical Numbers so if you need help, call us.