I recently spent the day with author Andrea Kates, who was challenged to connect the relevance of the working philosophy found in her best-selling book, Find Your Next, with real solutions that can help move businesses forward.
Working with the executive team of a national restaurant chain on this particular day, Kates asked herself, "Which single metric could they focus on to yield the most growth for the company?"
Her conclusion was that of all the metrics and contributing factors, it all boiled down to a dogged pursuit of increasing guest frequency. She learned that an increase of one visit per year per guest would lead to more than $140 million in revenue. Kates's analysis convinced her that "increasing guest frequency by one visit per year" could become a rallying cry for operators throughout the country, with initiatives designed to move that needle over the next 12 months.
What I thought was most interesting was her ability to zero in on the one insight amongst the many over the two days that could galvanize their entire team.
Leaders who drive transformation need to measure what matters most.
If you were able to focus the attention and efforts of everyone on your team on one set of goals that can drive significant results for your company, what would you use as the one metric to measure progress? How would you know you are on the right track? What would you champion?
A colleague of Kates's who runs a large financial services company answered those questions when he visited with the head athletic trainer of the Houston Texans and posed the questions, "What is the acid test for fitness?" The answer came back as a single word: "Squats." The trainer said, "If a player can squat twice his body weight, I know that the other aspects of training (cardio fitness, drills, and discipline) are all in line."
Seasoned, transformational leaders come to understand which measures reveal the most powerful indications of organizational progress and health.
Kates believes that the same approach works for business. Transformational leaders—the ones who can make the biggest impact on forward momentum—know what to look for and know how to focus their teams on what matters most. They know the secret "squat" for their business—that single metric that proves they’re on the right track.
Kates spent a lot of her professional life walking through the doors of organizations in virtually every industry—consumer goods, technology, manufacturing, health care, energy, entertainment, hospitality, financial services, and nonprofit or government agencies—and over time has become convinced that every leader needs to master the skills that an outsider can bring to capture the essence of the strategic equation. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Create a movie trailer.
Look at the company where you work with fresh eyes and challenge yourself to develop the equivalent of a movie trailer—a short synopsis of the plot of your organization. Synthesize the complexities of the important issues into a basic strategic story line that describes what it takes to hit the next level of progress.
2. "Net up" your insights.
Construct a single metric that reflects the impact of the core business drivers. How will you measure progress? What are the "squats" for your business?
3. Develop a focused rallying cry.
Connect the dots from the squats to the aspects of operations, marketing, product innovation, talent development, and financial management that will drive most powerfully toward your goal. When leaders clear the clutter and stop to reflect on what it really takes to get to the next level of performance, they bring clarity to the process of transforming their organizations.
A single metric that is the main indicator of performance can rally everyone in the organization to a focus, so leaders figure out what they need to do to accelerate progress toward that metric. Find Your Next covers examples of key moments at every level of an organization where people understood what was required to hit the mark. Transformational leaders at every level of an organization need to understand what matters most and how to measure it.
4. Find patterns in your DNA.
Kates's book is based on the premise of the Business Genome, and that tapping into new patterns that have been proven to drive business growth can drive success. In genomics, scientists are able to identify, map, and learn from patterns of an organism’s DNA. In business we can do the same thing by breaking down the core DNA of a company into several basic elements and learn from the patterns. With that insight, we can see how all companies are the same, and what patterns they create, regardless of the industry, and where that learning is applicable.
5. Find your next
Find Your Next offers a process based on mapping a new perspective of the future, on scanning innovation across industries, and combining them together to create new possibilities. The business genome approach is designed to allow everyone in business to follow their hunches, look at the world in a new way, and craft ideas for growth by following a genomic process and finding patterns. Pattern recognition is the first required fundamental skill in the genome-transformation process. Business leaders must learn how to spot patterns within the business universe, looking beyond their company’s own industry for insights into their future, and then working to interpret what they see.
The business landscape has changed, no matter the industry, which means everyone needs to adapt and evolve just to keep up. The Find Your Next process is designed to balance the strength of traditional models with the flexibility of intuition. Find Your Next is not just a great read for a company revamp, but to also help assess and enhance current product offerings. By recognizing the new realties, shifting our focus to new questions, and tapping into the patterns that are evolving today, we can shape our "next."
Shawn Parr is the The Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Join the conversation at www.twitter.com/BULLDOGDRUMMOND.