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StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article

Why Your Business Should Become More Like Orwell’s Big Brother

Monitoring your business, whether you’re a sole trader, entrepreneur or small business owner is essential. It’s often the difference between turning a profit and failing to break even.

But what does “monitoring your business” mean in practice?

In general, when gurus talk about monitoring, they’re referring to the ability of your firm to optimize its workload and achieve greater productivity simply by analyzing and refining its processes. It means going over your processes with a fine tooth comb and trying to find whether there is anything that you can improve using the data available to you. Here’s how to make your business more like Orwell’s Big Brother.

Analyze How You Spend Your Time

The biggest problem most businesses face isn’t their toxic workplace “culture” or their lack of skilled staff: it’s how they’re spending their time. Most managers just assume that their employees are working for the entire 7 – 9 hours they’re in the office every day. But when you actually look at how they are spending their time, you’re lucky if you even get 6 hours out of them.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article
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The reasons for this are twofold. The first is that employees spend a lot of time doing unproductive things in the office, like walking from their desks to the water dispenser or yawning during in meetings. Most of this can’t be helped, so it’s not an obvious target for monitoring.

The second reason is that employees are wasting a lot of time performing tasks that could be done more quickly and efficiently by either another team member, software or a different department. Sometimes, the issue is training – for instance, employees not knowing how to save time filling out cells on spreadsheets. These are the types of activities for which it is worth collecting data because it can result in a substantial uplift in productivity.

Monitor Your Accounts

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Getting paid is another major headache for businesses. Clients often pay late or not at all. Monitoring and managing accounts receivable, therefore, is essential. The problem for most small businesses, however, is that they are still relying on old-fashioned methods which make it difficult to keep track of clients. With monitoring, however, you’re immediately able to view client payment histories and get alerts if a customer is late with a payment. By monitoring your accounts, you’re able to identify patterns in high-risk customers and alter your premiums accordingly.

Monitor Staff Performance

With more and more work being completed online, it’s getting easier for companies to monitor staff performance. Monitoring workers is key to ensuring that you get maximum performance out of them every day, not just when they know you’re watching.

But it’s not all about Orwellian monitoring of their daily activities: it’s also about finding strategies to boost their productivity and waiting to see whether they have any effect in the real world. Something as simple as having a policy of saying “please” and “thank you” to workers could have a measurable effect. Find ways to keep your team feeling valued and help new recruits slot into the organization. Track the effects of guidance and training and find out whether it has any positive effect on your bottom line.

Rhian Silvestro

Surf your data!

Is your strategy built on received wisdom or analysis of performance data? – management rhetoric or business reality?

Are you building your business strategy on received wisdom or real data? Corporate strategies are often based on assumptions about what drives business performance rather than data from the company itself. J.W. Marriott (founder of Marriott Hotels) is famous for saying “You’ve got to make your employees happy. If the employees are happy, they are going to make the customers happy”. TNT Express promotes the slogan “Take care of your people, let them take care of your customers and the rest will take care of itself”. The implication is that happy employees make happy customers, which drive profits. But does this really happen in your organisation?

The problem is that often some drivers of performance aren’t measured at all; let alone the correlations between them. For example, you may believe that loyal employees create satisfied, loyal customers, but do you have data which demonstrates that your longest serving staff create the highest levels of customer loyalty? Another assumption is that loyal customers are the most profitable; we’re often told ‘it is five times more profitable to serve existing customers than loyal customers’. It makes sense. The better we know our customers the better we are likely to serve them. And because customer spend tends to increase over time, it may well be cheaper to serve long-term customers than keep attracting new ones. But, can you prove this is the case in your organisation?

Performance topology mapping is a tool that can help with this analysis. The first step is making sure that you’re measuring the right thing. So if your business is built on the assumption that employee loyalty is necessary to create loyal customers, collect loyalty data. Identify your key performance indicators, and then measure the correlations between them in order to build a map of business drivers.

The findings can be astonishing. For example, the link between customer loyalty and financial performance is often regarded as a basic principle of retail management. However when they came to explore the data in their own organisation, the management of one home improvement retail chain discovered that there was no such correlation. They could not prove that the stores with the most loyal customers were the most profitable.

Analysis of the performance topology map of one of the UK’s big four grocery superstore chains also revealed counter-intuitive results. Its management bought into the idea that satisfied employees created customer satisfaction which drove store profitability. But the data revealed negative correlations! In fact the stores with the highest levels of employee satisfaction were the least profitable. The explanation for this lay in the value proposition: customers in these stores did not value contact with staff so much as product availability, price and checkout speed. Therefore their shopping experience did not hinge on the quality of their interaction with employees.

In other businesses, of course, the interactions between staff and customers are likely to be much more critical. Take, for example, the professional services of clinicians or lawyers. Their services are based on more sophisticated interactions between staff and clients, and long-term business relationships may well be an essential part of the value proposition. Therefore employee engagement is likely to be a more important driver of profitability in professional services.

Understanding the performance drivers is crucial. Because failing to understand what drives profitability is to fail to understand why your company has succeeded… or indeed failed. The reality is that your business strategy is based on all sorts of assumptions about what investments will yield increased market share, revenue growth or profitability. To get the strategy right, better start testing those assumptions… surf the data wave!

About the Author

Dr. Rhian SilvestroDr. Rhian Silvestro is Associate Professor of Operations Management at Warwick Business School. Rhian has conducted service management research in a number of large, leading edge organisations including retail companies, banks, transport companies, health services and call centres. She has publications in over ten international journals in the fields of service design, performance improvement and supply chain integration.

StrategyDriven Management Observation Program Best Practice Article

Management Observation Program Best Practice 18 – Observation Transparency

StrategyDriven Management Observation Program Best Practice ArticleIndividuals naturally become edgy when monitored at work. Observation programs shrouded in secrecy further contribute to this sense of anxiety as observed subjects remain unaware of what is being documented and how it might affect their career.


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StrategyDriven Business Performance Assessment Program Video

Value of Evaluating Business Operational Performance

Does your organization need to improve its performance to remain competitive? Do you have a process to continuously identify the most value-adding improvement initiatives that will keep you ahead of the competition at a cost you can afford?
 
A lot of business leaders recognize a need to continuously improve their organization’s performance but either haven’t established a formal program to do so on an ongoing basis or worse yet, just don’t know how.

At StrategyDriven our experience working with leading companies around the world reveals that a formally defined, well-funded, and effectively executed business performance assessment program is the centerpiece for continuous performance improvement. Through this program, the business leaders we work with have enhanced productivity, reduced costs, and raised revenues by double and triple digit percentages.

Our Value of Evaluating Business Operational Performance video describes how to calculate the financial benefit of having a business performance assessment program that enables you to identify the actions needed to make your organization’s performance rise above the rest.

Business Performance Assessment Programs play a key role in the identification of value-adding performance improvement opportunities that will keep your company on top. If you don’t have such a program or are looking for ways to improve the value of your business performance assessments, register for StrategyDriven’ FREE Maximizing the Value of Business Performance Assessments video series. In this free, five part video tutorial, we’ll show you how to optimally synthesize your organization’s data into actionable performance improvement information.


About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal, and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

StrategyDriven Business Performance Assessment Program Video

Four Phases of High-Quality Business Performance Assessments

Business performance assessments are conducted in a series of phases: Identify, Plan & Schedule, Execute, and Close-out. Associated with each phase is a collection of principles, best practices, and warning flags aiding the identification, communication, and acceptance of value-adding, self-critical performance improvement opportunities.

Assessment Phases

  • Identify Phase: The Identify Phase starts the business performance assessment process by defining the broad parameters within and by which the assessment
    will be performed.
  • Plan and Schedule Phase: The business performance assessment process continues with the Plan and Schedule Phase during which the specific assessment activities – document reviews, personnel surveys, activity observations, and individual interviews – to be performed are identified and scheduled.
  • Execute Phase: The Execute Phase is at the center of the business performance assessment process. During this phase, assessors gather and analyze data from a number of sources to identify performance improvement opportunities.
  • Close-out Phase: The Close-out Phase marks the end of the business performance assessment process. Performance improvement opportunities are captured within the corrective action program and assessment documentation is properly cataloged.

As illustrated by StrategyDriven’s Information Development Model, business performance assessments belong to the third tier of performance data refinement. Performance reports at this level benefit from human intelligence added to supporting data during: initial data synthesis, basic trend identification and analysis, multi-trend synthesis, and basic model application. It is the infusion of human knowledge and experience at these points that makes these assessments broadly integrated and highly insightful.

To learn how to maximize the value of your business performance assessment efforts:


About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal, and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.