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Transformational Leaders Move the “Big Dots”

Written by Terri Wallin

The old adage “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is quite true.  Watching executives try to manage business without metrics confirms this adage.  Sometimes we put together elements of data that we produce and send out to the board of directors, but these data elements are not always tied to organizational vision and strategies.

It is common to have an organization pump out data without any evidence of improvement in the data measures.  The distributed charts and graphs of the data could win awards, but month after month, the results don’t seem to change.  The leaders may even identify targets that they aspire to reach, but the organization just doesn’t quite achieve them.

Transformational ResultsMeasuring for measurement sake doesn’t work.  You can research external benchmarks and determine internal goals and targets for finance, growth, quality and service indicators.  But unless there is a defined method to achieve the targets and to move the “big dots”, it is quite likely you won’t achieve your desired results.

A transformational leader is driven to determine realistic goals and targets as well as a plan that engages teams to live out the plan and achieve the goals.

A transformational leader uses data to move the organization toward a favorable goal.  This is done with measurable metrics and effective plans that when implemented give the executive the ability to see if the planned method worked to move the results. If the results weren’t achieved, then the plan can be adjusted, implemented and re-evaluated until the desired results occur and are sustained over time.

When the results aren’t achieved, evaluate the root cause.  However, getting at the root cause for a change in the data outcomes requires incredible tenacity.  Typically the reason that seems most logical for data results to decline, increase or remain flat after investigating, is incorrect. You won’t know that unless you diligently explore every reason to see if it has or had an impact on the outcome.  For example, if growth in your company or a particular product or service is plummeting, speculation to justify the results doesn’t change the trend unless it is a true root cause related to the growth.  There are many variables that can impact each data element you measure and without understanding the variables you will have a difficult time changing the results.

It is a purposeful process that enables a transformational leader to achieve extraordinary results.

Here are a few steps that will help you achieve the results you believe your organization is capable of producing:

  1. Identify external organizations outside your competitive market that are similar to you in size and complexity that will provide you with their targets and results to assist you in setting targets for your goals.  This benchmarking data helps in several ways:
    1. It provides your organization with believable targets
    2. It lets your organization see how far it is from reaching a goal someone else has already achieved
    3. It provides competition to achieve or exceed the target.
  2. Identify realistic targets every year that are a bit of a stretch, but not seemingly impossible to reach.
  3. Develop a simple dashboard with key elements you plan to track that match the organization’s vision and goals.  Select a few key categories and perhaps one or at the most two goals under each.  Examples of categories include:
    1. Finance – revenue, expenses, net income
    2. Growth – volume of products or services
    3. Service – customer satisfaction
    4. Quality – reducing errors and improving the quality of products and/or services
  4. Define your expectations to your management team and employees about reaching the goals and their part in making the organization a success by achieving the goals.
  5. Produce the dashboard monthly to key leaders responsible for elements within the dashboard.  Explore the best method to display the data.  Run or line charts show progress well over time.
  6. Watch results monthly and over time for variation.  Once you achieve the target, it is critical to continue to review and evaluate results for at least six months to ensure you have a proven method to sustain the results over time.
  7. Master the ability to determine the root cause for variation within a dashboard element.  This is an art and takes patience of every team member to understand the drivers contributing to results.
  8. When you make a change in process to impact a dashboard element, do one change at a time or you won’t be able to know for sure if that change made a difference.  Watch the result for a few months after implementing a change to see if the results are impacted.
  9. Celebrate when your organization learns to move a “big dot”.

With diligence in focusing on your dashboard, evaluating results and changing processes to improve them, you will move the dots.  You will also pick up speed with process change and with accomplishing predictable results over time.  When this occurs, there is no greater satisfaction for the leader and every team member than making progress on and achieving organizational goals.

Here’s a challenge – review your organizational vision and goals against your data to see how closely they match.  Review your results over the past 12 months and objectively answer the question – are we moving the big dots?  Do we know how to move the big dots?  If you are moving the “big dots”, congratulations – you have a competitive advantage.  If you aren’t moving the “big dots”, review the steps above and identify an area for improvement.

Your customers and employees benefit from successful results and of course, so do you.

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