Every company today faces growing uncertainty and complexity. Executives are under increasing pressure. Employees are nervy, and many are not fully engaged in their work. So how do you stay competitive and keep producing results?
What you don’t need now is another complex formula. So instead, here’s a simple checklist to remind you of what’s really important and to keep you focused.
Keep it on your desk. Pin it on your wall. Share it with your team. Use it in your meetings and strategy review sessions. And if you think it’s just too simple, read it again, and ask, “Is this what I do?… Is this the way we work around here?… What must change?”
- Your #1 challenge as a leader is to take your people with you. So create a climate for high performance and engage them constantly in a rich, robust conversation.
- Accept complexity, but simplify everything you can. Cut through clutter and focus on the few things that make the most difference. You have limited resources and a lot to do, so don’t try to do everything and be everything to everybody.
- Know what you’re aiming for, and spell it out loud and clear and often. Make sure your entire team understands your purpose, strategy, values, and priorities. You can never communicate enough, so keep repeating yourself.
- Focus on your “right” customer … forget the rest. Create clear criteria for defining your “right” customer (industry, size, growth potential, reputation, buying power, ease of doing business, ability and willingness to pay, what they can teach you, etc.) Make these criteria clear to all your people. Be ruthless about customers that don’t fit—they’re a dangerous distraction and you can’t afford them.
- Get your “basics” right. Put “gas in your tank and air in your tyres” and do what you must to get your “engine” firing on eight cylinders, not four. Strike a balance between consistently meeting customers’ current expectations and surprising them with something new, better, or different.
- Relentlessly drive value up, costs down. It’s the only way to compete.
- Learn from everything you do, and share new insights with your whole team fast. The more you learn, and the quicker you do it, the more adaptable your company will become.
- Hold your course. Be boringly consistent and persistent. Don’t be tempted to zig-zag. Sustainable strategy might be an impossible dream, but you have to repeat yourself for some time to hone your performance and build key resources and capabilities.
- Be ready to change when you must … then do it with everything you’ve got. Gather all the information you might need. Think about what you might need to change, and how. Develop the strengths that will matter. Practice, practice, practice. And when the time comes, don’t dilly-dally—go for it!
- Pace yourself … when you think it’s time to make a new decision, ask, “Is this really the time? If it’s not, wait. Sometimes, doing nothing is best. In another day, week, or month, you’ll have more information and a clearer picture of what you need to deal with. And it’s quite possible the risks you see right now, or the challenges you think you need to respond to, will have come to nought.