I’ve spent a lot of time in offices where the mantra seems to be, “Wait, why didn’t I hear about that?”
For example, I spent decades in the newspaper industry, and the running joke was that we were in the communications business, but we didn’t know how to tell anyone in our building what was going on with our business.
Thankfully, it didn’t stay that way forever.
In our management meetings, we started going through our agenda, talking through everything, making our decisions, then writing three to five bullets that summarized the key business points everyone needed to know from the meeting. From there, the important thing was to get those notes in front of everyone.
In one of our smaller operations, we taped that list to the door that led to our work area. This way everyone saw the list regularly, so all the information stayed fresh in their heads.
Soon, we went from “What do you mean we have a special?” to leaving notes for the management team on the summarized meeting list. From there, we maintained that system and improved day-to-day operations by making sure that everyone knew what was going on.
Even if you’re a small company, this story applies to you. After all, if you put five people in a room, they’ll make six decisions, and three of the people will remember things differently. So be sure that you’re reinforcing your message and keeping everyone on the same page.
Your list doesn’t even have to go on a door; leave sticky notes by the coffee maker, invite everyone to a Google Doc, just do whatever it takes to keep your team working together. You won’t believe how much time you save when nobody’s asking, “Wait, when did we decide that?”
I’ve been helping businesses fix their numbers for a long time, and most operations fall into one of two categories: You either have metrics that you watch carefully, or you don’t.
If you’re not tracking some key items, it’s time to start. If you’re already tracking them, I’d be willing to bet that you’re watching too many. In either case, your course of action will be pretty similar.
Pick a small handful of factors that move your bottom line, and keep an eye on them. Choose the metrics that make a real difference; so think units sold rather than clicks to your website.
I recently worked with an organization that had 15 KPIs (key performance indicators, or just “important metrics” if you’re not trying to impress anybody). When I quizzed people about what the actual numbers were for these metrics, nobody had any answers for me. Why? Because 15 is way too many metrics to actually track and use. The team had just stopped paying attention.
The right number of metrics is going to be somewhere between “I don’t have any” and “Yeah, I keep meaning to check on that one.” Generally, I found that 3-5 is a manageable number that keeps me aware of the important stuff.
The actual metrics to track will come down to your business. If you’re a small venture, your most important metric might just be cash flow this week. These are some other important metrics to consider:
Recently, I had two colleagues recommend The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, and if this resonated with you and you want some further reading on this and other business management topics, I’d highly recommend it.