Direction, Alignment, and Discipline

This may sound obvious but I have to say it. Companies cannot succeed without clear, easy to understand business objectives. Business objectives provide direction. Easily understood and highly socialized objectives are fundamental to efficient and effective operation.

So how do companies clearly define business objectives and ensure all development and operational efforts align directly under those objectives? It’s easier than you think. All the company needs is a D.A.D.

  • Direction
  • Alignment
  • Discipline

Direction comes from the business objectives. The objectives must be simple and easily understood. All departments must be intimately familiar with the objectives and deeply committed to supporting them. To align departments and priorities behind objectives you will need to establish goals and metrics to measure success. And finally, to succeed, department leaders need to have the discipline to prioritize necessary changes when the goals aren’t being achieved.

If you don’t have the company business objectives written in bold type hanging on your wall, you may not be aligned with other departments in you company.

Define Objectives

Define objectives within a framework that will align your company talent and resource. Starting with senior leadership, use the KJ Technique to identify the most important priorities for you company. It is important to include key executive stakeholders across company departments. Without cross-department leadership support, you will have a hard time aligning your efforts.

Confirm your objectives are D.U.M.B.

  • Doable
  • Understandable
  • Manageable
  • Beneficial

Objectives can be defined and agreed upon through an Executive KJ session. With objectives in hand, you can pursue a strategic path forward by defining goals with individual department leaders.

Define Goals

Utilizing the KJ Technique, schedule subsequent sessions with department stakeholders and their senior management and identify goals for each business objective.

This will help define instantly understandable priorities that are directly aligned with business objectives. Not only will department goals foster tactical support across departments, it will also provide a framework for metrics.

Define Metrics

Now that you have department goals aligned under business objectives: you will need to define metrics to measure success. Again, working across departments with Customer Support, Web Analytics, Customer Experience, and Operations, identify metrics across departments. Remember metrics will always be a number/count or a ratio. Keep your metrics simple easy to calculate, manage, and share.

Define Key Performance Indicators

Once metrics are nailed down, identify the most important metrics or KPIs for each department. These will be the metrics that best help us understand how you’re doing against your goals.

KPIs should:

  • Be simple – instantly understandable
  • Directly relate to goals (desired outcomes)
  • Focus on areas where you spend the largest effort
  • Be comparable to competitive intelligence
  • Tie back to “traditional metrics”
  • Be inclusive (e.g. include customer voice, brand)

Define Targets

To keep teams aligned and focused, define targets for your KPIs. Targets are pre-defined numerical values which act as indicators of success or failure. An example may be your Customer Satisfaction Score, NPS or SUS. Determine the number you want to achieve and work toward it.

Identify targets by consulting with Finance teams, Sales, Customer Support, Operations, Analytics Teams and others for historical KPIs.

Define Dimensions & Segments

You can’t forget the customer. Measuring and understanding customer behavior is critical to success so you will need to identify dimensions or attributes of your customers to better understand their experience with your products and services.  Segments are a collection of dimensions. This where survey as well as analytical data is helpful.

Examples of dimensions could be:

  • Source: Where your customer is coming from – how did they find you?
  • Channel: What means did they utilize to make contact? Mobile? Web browser? Phone call?
  • Context: What were they doing that lead them to you? Shopping? Research? Working?

An example of a segment would be a group of customers who…

  • Live in a major metro
  • Regularly use your product(s)
  • And Regularly use your competitors product

Survey

To understand your customer you need a balance of quantitative a qualitative data. Defining dimensions and segments help you identify cross sections of your customer base but it won’t capture their voice.  You will need a feedback mechanism to continually capture and listen to the collective Voice of your Customer perceptions and attitudes toward your products, services, and company brand.

Socialize Data Collection and Insights

Now that you have data collecting covered, you will need to get the word out. Everyone in the company must be able to see the “forest for the trees”.

By widely socializing your data insights, across departments and channels, you can provide a broad picture that everyone feels a part of. Establishing a highly visible, common knowledge base and regular updates to the data can go along way toward aligning and motivating departments to work together toward common objectives.

Be Disciplined

Once you have the block and tackle in place, you need to act on the findings. Many companies collect data but fail to act on insights learned.

Focus on areas of improvement where necessary and let department heads manage their own improvements. The metrics and goals keep departments aligned and become the catalyst for change.