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.

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants: Amazon and Microsoft

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants
While I’m working on my next book, I sometimes refer to my last one. Not because they are related, they are not. But, because as a self-published author and consultant, I need to let people know I exist. So, here is the funny juxtaposition I see. Two giants were birthed in my proverbial back yard, namely Microsoft and Amazon. And, while each of these companies boasts legacy, scale, and reach that most other companies will never know, the two titans are very different. I want to share a tiny comparison from my point of view as a customer of both.

Amazon is mindful of my experience
It’s true. Amazon IS mindful of my experience. It began a long time ago with one-click before most dot-coms imploded in the first internet bubble and long before iPhone or Android devices ever reached the market. But, Amazon didn’t let their foot off the accelerator. They’ve continued to expand products and services, seemingly with the customer top of mind. They even purchased Zappos, a notoriously customer-centric company. And, then they did the right thing. They left Zappos alone, letting them run as a wholly owned subsidiary. But, it’s not just the big bets I’m talking about that has Amazon mindful of customer experiences.  It’s the little things, too.

screen shot of amazon sync to furthest location for blog post - delightability

Little things have a cumulative effect in winning hearts and minds
Case in point. When I read my book (or any book) on my Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Application on PC or Android, then at a later time open the same book on a different device, I get a very thoughtful prompt. The prompt asks me if I want to continue reading from the last read location. Little things like this have a cumulative effect in winning the hearts and minds of customers. This is true whether it is an application like the Kindle Reading App or your own personal relationships. If you don’t believe it, then ask your partner.

Kudos to Amazon
Kudos to the Amazon engineers and others that made this little thoughtful feature a reality. It is a tiny thing in the grand scheme of the Kindle Platform, but it is very much appreciated. It is customer centric and as a customer, albeit a tiny one, I truly feel it.

Contrast this with my experience with Microsoft
I probably have tens of 1000’s of hours invested in using Microsoft products. One such product is Microsoft Word. My current book project is intended to be around 225 pages completed. I’m currently at 323 in the rough (with notes) and about 149 completed, pre-edit pages.  I’ll eventually strip out the notes and get it fully tuned to reach my goal of 225 pages, within a scosche. Of course along my writing journey I’ve spawned many other ideas for books, companies, apps, services, talks, blog posts, etc. I don’t have huge expectations that Microsoft would accommodate the organization, linking, revision control, and a host of other ideas that could make Word more powerful and relevant to my writer’s journey. After all, a product engineer might argue that there are many types of personas using Word and they can’t cater to the nuances of each of them.  Again, I wouldn’t expect that.

However, what I would expect is that autosave doesn’t make my computer go non-responding. Chock that up to an older version of Word? Perhaps. I’m granting that you have “Instant Autosave with Multitask” on the newer version. You do, right?

Be careful of the brand baggage you bestow on customers
Autosave isn’t my pet peeve here. Every day, I reenter my 323-page manuscript (and growing) with the intent of continuing work from where I was last working. This is understandable. Much like preparing a meal in a kitchen or creating a building on a construction site, when you return to the site, you want to begin where you last ended. A lengthy document isn’t any different. It could be my book, a technical manual, even your own strategy document or go-to-market product plan. While Amazon gives me the friendly thoughtful prompt, from Microsoft I get nothing. When I open my lengthy manuscript I expect to see [return to last known edit?], but instead, I receive the very first page, every time. Little things like this annoy, rob customers of time, disrespect, and over time, the negative brand aftertaste builds our brand baggage. Then negative word-of-mouth sets in.

Pretty please Microsoft
It’s not too late. There is hope. Problems like this are knowable and solvable, that is if you listen to customers and become obsessed with serving them. I’ll know that you really care about customers, even tiny ones like me, when you take care of little things like this. I want to believe you can do this. Microsoft, you are a product of my own back yard. I’ve done an internship there. I’ve been a consultant there. I’ve used many of your products and have had some good experiences, too. But, it’s time you become newly OBSESSED with customers. After all, they are the reason you have a business today and in the future. Little things do matter, even for giants like you.

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about the author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full-color print edition.