By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.
11 months ago you gave significant time and thought to what you wanted to accomplish during this year. If you take the time now to carefully evaluate your progress toward those goals, you will make your company plan for the next 12 months immensely more effective.
Slimming down, reading more, spending more time with the family – most people feel the need to set goals for the new year. But hardly anyone goes to the next step of systematically assessing their progress as the year draws to a close. This is especially critical with business, because goals set there have a significant impact on the success or failure of the organization.
Set Aside An Hour Or Two
Obviously, the first thing you should do is to set aside the time for a good review. This isn’t a joke – you really have to block out the time so it’s not interrupted. The job can usually be done thoroughly in a couple of hours, especially if you have a plan. Here’s one to consider.
SWOT-ing Your Goals
Yes, the time-honored SWOT analysis is a very good way to analyze business goal progress, because in this exercise you’re not looking at numbers as much as evaluating activities. Why? The purpose of a good goal review is to decide new actions – or the next steps in getting your business where you want it to go. SWOT will let you do that systematically.
Rather than driveling on explaining each of the parts of SWOT, here’s a list of good questions to ask that will really help.
STRENGTHS Within Each Goal
Look at each of the past year’s goals and write your answers to these questions:
- What went really well with each goal?
- What made it go well?
- How did this goal strength positively affect your clients or customers?
- Are there customers who were more positively affected than others? List them.
- Did the effect on these particular customers result in a good impact on the bottom line of the business? How much?
- How did it positively affect your staff?
- When did it go particularly well – were there times during the year that you should note for future planning?
- Who in your company particularly contributed to the strength of that goal?
WEAKNESSES Within Each Goal
Again, taking each goal individually and sharpening your pencil, answer these questions:
- What are the weaknesses that are obvious to you from each goal?
- What is the specific negative outcome that is making you consider this a weakness?
- How did this weakness negatively affect your customers and/or clients?
- How did it negatively affect your staff?
- Were there specific obstacles that contributed to this goal not being met? List them.
- Were there specific times during the year that the weakness seemed worse?
- What was going on during that time that might have contributed to the poor performance toward that goal?
- Was there a part of your business that seemed to contribute more toward the weak goal performance?
OPPORTUNITIES Related to Each of Your Goals
Now, keep your list of Strengths and Weaknesses handy, and let’s start looking at opportunities that are hidden within this past year’s activities.
Taking into consideration the Strengths you’ve just identified:
- Consider what went well and what you think made it go well – can you do more of the actions that made it work?
- Looking at the customers who were more affected than others – should you be focusing even more activity toward this group?
- Should there be a change in your marketing toward a specific customer group that will have a significant impact on your financial picture?
Talking with your staff about the positive effects that you’ve identified:
- Why do they think the positive result was produced?
- Are there things you, as the leader, can do to further increase these positive outcomes?
- Are there areas within the organization that, if addressed, will further increase these positive outcomes?
Thinking about the strengths that you feel were affected by the time of the year:
- What about that time of year particularly strengthened this goal? Can it be taken advantage of during the coming year? How?
- Are there marketing efforts that would take better advantage of this time-based result? Is there a specific market that seemed be affected that strength more than others? What can you do about it?
- Were there parts of your company which seemed to have a bigger effect on this time-based strength? Again, can you take advantage of that department’s result on the strength?
Thinking about individuals or departments whom you feel particularly contributed to this goal strength:
- Should you reward them for their efforts?
- How can they contribute even more to this strength that they helped produce?
- What can be done to make it easier for them to increase the strength of their results?
Now, considering each goal in terms of the Weaknesses you’ve identified:
- Is there a way you can minimize this weakness? What specifically has to be done to accomplish that?
- What do your staff think of this weakness? Do they have ideas on what could change it to a strength?
- Is there a way to eliminate this negative outcome before it reaches your customers? Do your staff have any ideas on how this could be done?
- Talk with your staff about the list of obstacles that you feel contributed to the weakness, can they add to the list?
- What action planning can be done to eliminate each of those obstacles?
THREATS Related To Your Goals
Threats can come from three directions: those coming from outside your business, those coming from within the business, and those arising with YOU. Use your list of Strengths and Weaknesses again, but this time focus more on the “weaknesses” part of the list.
- What did your local competitors do this past year that you consider effective, and that your company is not doing? Can you do it? Should you do it?
- What did you see developing within your industry that you hadn’t allowed for, but that should be addressed this year with an effective counter?
- What’s going on in the economy that your company should make allowances for? Start with the national economy, but drill down and consider heavily the local economy – that’s where your planning is most likely to produce good results.
Reviewing your organization’s weaknesses:
- Which arose from customer or service delivery issues? Customers have long memories, and these should be addressed quickly and thoroughly immediately.
- How is the quality of your product? Of your service? Do your customers consider your product to be the best they can buy? Why, or why not?
- What are recurring complaints among your staff? Talking with them and identifying issues they have to constantly deal with will usually give you a great starting point for managing looming internal threats.
- Where, within your organization, are those issues that are limiting your growth? Ignoring these can be the “kiss of death” to your business over the longer term, and you should know what these are and plan to eliminate them. Don’t just look at financial or capital threats, but consider also your company’s:
- ability to deliver enough of your product or service
- ability to deliver a quality product or service, the first time
- ability to provide stellar follow up service
- effectiveness at getting referrals from your current customers
- ability to generate new business
Threats Arising From You…
These threats can be subtle – or obvious to everyone in the organization. So you may want to get input from both colleagues and direct reports. This can be a little hairy, but you may find that quantum leaps in company performance are hidden in activities YOU could do differently.
- Review your involvement in day to day processes. Are there areas where your busy-ness (or absence) is holding up decisions or action? Is it happening regularly?
- What are your key relationships within the business? Are you providing the interaction, information, and decisions that those people need to get their jobs done right?
- Are you missing any skills or knowledge that would make a difference in the organization’s performance? When and how can remedy the situation?
- Are you giving time to your key personal relationships? When things go poorly with your spouse or children, they tend to have a negative effect on your performance at work.
Involving Staff in the Review
As you consider the effects that specific staff or departments might have had on the weaknesses you’ve identified, determine whether the issues is based on lack of skill, lack of knowledge, a process problem, or an attitude problem that would require some sort of disciplinary action. Interestingly, while many bosses default to the attitude issue, it’s FAR more likely that the problem is one of process – steps within the system that are making it work poorly. In fact, about 90% of issues within a process have to do with the process design (or lack of it) rather than with the people involved. It’s worth looking at closely.
Also, remember to include the staff where you can in this process, especially in the Opportunities and Threats analysis. They will have a better understanding of the process issues than you will, and inviting their input will not only give you good, workable ideas, but will build their self-esteem and
Wrapping It All Up
Now you have several pages of ideas and data that you’ve systematically produced, all related to your goal performance from the past year.
When the time for planning your – or your company’s – new year arrives, you will find that those goals and plans will come much more easily, and are immensely more likely to make a positive difference during the coming year. Get to work!