Mid-Year Business Performance Tune-up: 7-Step Action Plan for Leaders

Automobiles, machinery, and precision instruments at times need to be tuned and calibrated to ensure performance. Life and business have similar demands. If you aren’t concerned about performance then whatever you’re doing is adequate. But, periodically in your life and in your business you’ll want to re-evaluate strategies that are misfiring, products and services that seems amiss, a launch that falls short, an identity that isn’t working, communications that don’t connect, recognition that is absent, etc.

When there is an uncomfortable enough performance gap, then you’ll do something different. This is true in life and in business. Mid point in a calendar year is a natural point to reflect on the first half and project forward what you’d like to have happen by year-end. You may have a similar cycle with your financial planner and dentist. But, what about the rest of you and your business?

There are plenty of tools and conversations you can use. The key is to start. Once you begin it is easier to keep going and pretty soon you’ll be closing the uncomfortable gap just as you avoid toothaches and worse with periodic checkups and cleaning.

Here is a 7-Step Action Plan for a Business Performance Tune-Up

  1. Revisit your strategic imperatives for the year – what were the big bets for the year and are they paying off? Didn’t really have any solid strategic initiatives? Now would be a good time to establish some. Get clear on the destination: where are you going and what does success look like? See related post: Make Work Feel Like Vacation
  2. What have you learned and how can you apply it? Consider both the business landscape and the customer ecosystem. Organizational immaturity and old habits and patterns may get in the way of identifying and leveraging the talent and resources available in the business landscape. Also, if you don’t have personas to represent your various stakeholders now would be a good time to prioritize their development. Personas provide representative profiles for a customer base and other stakeholders too, e.g. investors, employees, partners, etc. As a design tool, they are a powerful way to visualize and communicate behaviors, goals, wants, needs, and frustrations.
  3. Get clear on your audiences and priorities: what promises will you make and keep and to which audiences? Make visible your Promise Delivery System for each of your stakeholders. The Promise Delivery System is a closed loop system that revolves around an audience and includes strategy, delivery, validation, and learning. You have a Promise Delivery System for each stakeholder that is served as well as those who serve. This is the subject of CH 8 in the Experience Design Blueprint.
  4. Define deliverables: what will you produce and deliver to keep your various promises? Think products, services, events, campaigns, programs, and communications.
  5. How does all of this line up against the calendar? What will be your day-to-day operational reality? What will your organization invest its time and resources into?
  6. Establish operating mechanisms: how will you stay on track and maintain your Promise Delivery System? What will be the rhythm and pace of the organization? Revisit your operating mechanisms and calendaring processes and events to ensure excellence in execution. Create an operating mechanism to capture ideas that may come at inconvenient times. Also, create an operating mechanism to evaluate and advance ideas. These are important to maintain (or establish) a culture of innovation.
  7. Revisit your performance metrics. How are you keeping score? If any of your metrics are irrelevant, modify them. If something is working well and appears to be a bright spot, then do more of it. Dial-up the activities that drive desired metrics. Stay focused on those areas where you have uncomfortable gaps between current performance and desired performance. See related post: Business Performance Continuums. Identify experiments you can run to test ideas for value. These represent quick trips around the Promise Delivery System.

You wouldn’t be comfortable flying in a commercial airliner that doesn’t receive maintenance and performance tuning. Your business is no different. Don’t let you customers, employees, and partners suffer through an under-performing business, especially when many of them would love to be engaged in a solution path to higher performance.

“Drive thy business, let not that drive thee.”

Benjamin Franklin
Author, Printer, Scientist, Musician,
Inventor, Satirist, Civic Activist,
Statesman, and Diplomat
(1706 – 1790)

Ben Franklin said it well, “Drive thy business, let not that drive thee.” Leadership sets the tone and begins the conversation. If you’d like some brainshare and assistance shoring up your strategy and designing deliverables to accompany that strategy, then please contact me.

about the author

Gregory Olson authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 2: Make the Customer Come Alive
  • Chapter 3: Who is in the Sandbox?
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed (see Glimpse)
  • Chapter 15: From Argh to Aha!

Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

thumbnail image of author Gregory OlsonGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

Tapping your Inner Designer no Matter Your Title or Role

Human History and Design

image showing early cave painting communications design - Delightability

Humans have been designing objects and systems long before either of those words were uttered. Hunters and gatherers benefited from the weapons and carry systems they designed. Other additions to the design portfolio of humans include the design of communications in the form of art and language, shelters to protect us from the elements, and objects to serve various functions.

image of primitive carry system that has been designed - Delightability

Humans have a long history of design. We’ve even designed systems and schools to help others design. Humans work in concert to make things better through design and that makes us unique compared to other animals in the Animal Kingdom. My book is designed to help you tap your inner designer and to have better conversation so that you can design for good.

image of girl designing sand castle - Delightability

Thinking of yourself as a designer, no matter your title or role in the organization might feel out of place for you, but it shouldn’t. We actually start our creative lives as budding designers. We envision, we draw, we build castles in the sand, we go on to host excellent tea parties, build forts, etc. But, then something happens. As we get a little older, we start to become more rigid.

You Started Out as a Designer

We begin to observe that some people are better singers than we are, some are better musicians, athletes, artists, some are good at math, and others are good at other stuff. Parents, teachers, siblings, etc. all reinforce that. The reminders of what we are good at start early on. Depending on the generation we might get encouraged and rewarded for participating, even if we aren’t that good.

Specialization is Good and Bad at the Same Time

Then, if we take on more education, we begin to specialize. Most people make choices and do something narrow like studying accounting or engineering or biology or physical therapy. We go on to get better at those things and practice medicine, or law or accounting or whatever we set out to do. After all, each field is full of things to learn and master. And, from the early industrial age thinking, we’ve been conditioned to think specialization a la Frederick Taylor, is the path toward improving industrial efficiency.

image showing dentist work is specialized- delightability

Aside from the obvious challenge of remaining relevant in a world that changes around you, specialization doesn’t do much for the human spirit. It leaves us longing for more unless of course we simply drown that fire inside us that yearns to create, design, and build things, systems, and community.

Increasing Complexity Breaks Experiences

image showing cockpit complexity - delightabilitySpecialization, amid all of the technological advances, has created an atmosphere where as consumers we expect thoughtful, holistic experiences that understand us and fit our needs and desires. Specialization breeds increased depth. And, complexity builds as there is more demand for the various pieces of an experience to all fit seamlessly together. This is true whether the subject of design is vacation or travel, healthcare, car sharing, education, streaming music, financing a home, etc.

Unless an organization has a very narrow offering, then any single person in the organization, from the CEO on down the line, is not capable or empowered to deliver an entire experience; there are simply too many moving parts and most lie outside of one’s purview or specialty. The result is that experiences are relegated to the specialists in call centers or those that create the website, etc. There isn’t even widespread agreement on what an experience is. Don’t believe me ? Define it, then turn to your colleague and have them define it. See, I told you so.

Experience and Innovation Literacy

We live in a world full of broken experiences. But, I believe we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and even communities . I am hopeful that there are rich possibilities that can be made to come to life as people like you become empowered. My book aims to increase your competence and confidence in intentionally designing better experiences and building healthy innovation cultures that can actually deliver them.

image of boy challening you to design better - DelightabilityThese are the subjects of my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.  The book is chock full of 78 images, 56 recipes that you can apply to your own situation, and 25 inspiring examples. These examples range from tiny organizations that are inventing new women’s sports to multi-national coops that are lifting people out of poverty while at the same time giving investors a financial and social return. The book is available on the Kindle publishing platform, but your reading experience doesn’t have to include a Kindle device. There is a free Kindle reader application available for Mac, Windows, Browser, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

Will You be a More Thoughtful Contributor to Humanity?

The world needs more thoughtfulness around our experiences. That begins with you. I’ve done my part by writing the book, to demystify things that were previously invisible. Now, it is time for you to do your part. Invest the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee, purchase the book and awaken your inner designer. The world is waiting.

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

For more guidance and self-help read my book or reach out if you’d like some help. We’d love to help you build an enduring brand that matters. If you’d like to talk further please reach out.
Greg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon. He is also the Managing Director of Delightability, LLC., a consultancy that believes if you delight customers, then success will follow.