Success Is Action
Success is a verb, an action, not a noun. It is a journey, not a destination. Measuring success in terms of forward momentum or progress makes sense.
You strive for success. You take action, make decisions, and get others actively involved. Successful businesses (and people) accumulate financial wealth as a product of their journey. Wealth is a by-product of serving others in a way that they are willing to exchange financial assets for your products or services.
Financial results are often the first thing we look at as a measure of success. We look at financial metrics because of their comparability across time and entities. However, we need to understand that financial results are products of the priorities, processes, and people in our businesses.
Since success is a product of action, the right critical steps must occur. I see a lot of super busy, hyperactive people getting tired daily but not moving toward success.
To ensure that your activities are the correct ones, the ones that will maximize results. You want to focus on the elements of STRIVE℠:
- Set objectives;
- Take action;
- Review results;
- Involve others;
- View the future; and
- Embrace successes.
Before we examine each of the STRIVE℠ elements, let’s think about the categories that activities. Every activity is either part of the process to generate revenue (directly or indirectly), a cost of doing business (regulatory, contractual, and others), or consumes resources without benefit to the organization.
Another way to think of activities is as drivers of revenue or cost in the business. These drivers generate beneficial actions and keep you in business and growing. [You shouldn’t think of administrative activities as unnecessary. However, not all organizational activities are useful. I will share more on this in a future article.]
So, think about your business as a series of actions. We first need to identify the beneficial actions from the resource wasters separately. We want our organizational engagement in successful efforts at 95% or more — to eliminate waste and preserve resources.
Beneficial, revenue-producing (directly or indirect support) fall into categories.
- The first category is things that you have to do because they are short-term actions that preserve the ability to be in business. In other words, you are working on your business. They do not necessarily produce revenue and profit directly but maintain the existing systems and processes that do.
- The second category is things that you do that are structural and central to business capability. These activities are when you are engaged in working in the business. Direct activities include generating sales and delivering on commitments to customers. They may be revenue drivers or cost drivers (actions that enable revenue production but are not directly related to customers).
- The third category is the strategic, operational, and financial actions that are building the future of your business. These activities include:
- analysis of results – what are your activities producing (revenues and profits) and the cost of those activities;
- capacity analysis to
- determine what current levels are,
- what future levels are for existing business lines, and
- what quantities are for new lines of business;
- design and acquisition of new systems and processes for the next iteration of your business (the future structure that supports growth, increased capacity (people, money, equipment, and other resources); and
- reallocate current resources to priorities based on results.
To get your organization equipped to STRIVE℠ for success, take work through each element.
Objectives or goals are critical to success. Clearly stated, measurable objectives enable the organization to align its actions (and consequently its resources). Having clear objectives means the organization can create a hierarchy of priorities, so everyone knows what to work on first, second, and so on. Rarely do our organizations have consecutive demands (coming one at a time, one after another). Instead, our organizations and consequently, our teams have multiple, simultaneous requirements that challenge them to decide what to work on first.
Clearly stated objectives and priorities position the organization to make the right decisions on how to deploy resources (time, talent, and tools). In conjunction with goals (and priorities), your organization must STRIVE℠ to create a hierarchy to escalate activities and decisions that are on the critical path for your core business. In other words, you want a process to enable your team to communicate when priorities conflict at any level of the organization, and that could result in a delay in revenue and profit production.
The organization needs a bias toward action. The let’s wait and see what happens doesn’t work. Your organization needs to be proactive, not reactive. It would help if you entrusted the authority to act to your entire team based on their roles. If you can’t trust them to perform to the benefit of the organization and according to priorities and objectives, then you must determine why.
Generally, the inability to delegate decision-making authority falls into one of several categories:
- management is reluctant to give up control;
- management doesn’t believe the employee has the skill set, experience, or understanding of business priorities;
- management has hired, promoted, or otherwise put an employee in a position they cannot fulfill successfully (The Peter Principle);
- an employee has previously demonstrated poor decision-making;
- an employee requires more time and training on business objectives and priorities, role in the organization, systems, and processes because the employee is new to the organization or the role;
- the employee is incapable of assessing the situation due to multiple factors including the wrong person for the job;
- the business has changed some elements of how business systems and processes work;
- the company has created conflicting priorities and demands at the employee level;
- external factors prevent delegation – regulatory, legal or other restrictions; or
- some combination of the above items.
Your organization must continuously monitor results and performance. The organization at all levels need to be aware of the quality of decisions made and the impact of each decision on metrics.
Furthermore, your organization needs to be in learning mode. Perpetual learning means that every employee improves their skills and decision-making abilities through practice. Yes, mistakes happen. Those mistakes are less costly than having an organization constrained by limiting who in the organization can make decisions.
In addition to being proactive and continually learning, your team needs to understand that even the right decision may not generate the desired outcome. The goal is to develop organization-wide analytical skills. Those analytical capabilities can determine if an issue is a result of poor decision-making or unforeseeable consequences.
Successful organizations contain decision-makers, proactive learners who can analyze results and know what worked, what didn’t, and how to take corrective actions. If you want to succeed, then one of the most critical activities in your organization is the development of your team.
If you want to understand what has or hasn’t in your organization, look at your results. Financial results are often the first indicator that you need to do something differently. That something may be changing a system or process. It could be realigning your team. It could also mean that you need to stop doing some things and do more of others.
At every level of the business, there are critical points when you get the best information. The closer to the time an actual event has taken place, the more likely you are to get the real picture of what happened.
If you lose a long-term customer, when is the time to analyze what happened? When you find out. A postmortem, a formal discussion or analysis to determine the root cause of failure, provides your organization with a learning opportunity. The post mortem isn’t about finding whom to blame. The goal of a postmortem is to learn from the situation.
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- Who made the decision?
- Did we do or not do something critical?
- Was there a different alternative we could have pursued?
- What internal factors impacted the outcome?
- What external influences came into play?
- What additional information would have helped your decision quality if any?
- Did we have the right people and tools in place?
- Was there some past performance issue that impacted the decision?
- Is the competition doing something differently?
- Did we communicate effectively? And
- Many other questions.
Every result, positive or negative, deserves some analysis to see why you got the outcome. We always want to do more of what works (assuming it is profitable) and eliminate or minimize what is unproductive.
Results matter. What matters more? Creating a results-based feedback loop in your organization creates a system for performance improvement.
Have you heard the saying “two heads are better than one”? Decisions made in isolation from a single perspective are rarely optimal decisions. On the other hand, getting too many people involved can stall decision-making.
If you want to make wise, informed decisions, then you need to get input from multiple points of view, experiences, and skill sets. Obtaining several perspectives enables you to analyze opportunities from different angles. By seeing things in different ways, you get a better decision.
The critical element to point out is that you are asking for input. However, a single person makes the final decision. Businesses are democracies run by popular opinion. The reality in our companies is that only a few people typically have complete information, or as complete as possible needed to make decisions. The more strategic, big-picture decisions, including objectives, priorities, resource allocation, and related items, are made at the top.
Decisions by a committee may seem ideal, but the reality is that someone has to be ultimately accountable for every decision. Each business must delineate the hierarchy of decision-makers, advisors, and those charged with making things happen.
Decision-makers, those responsible for performance and results, will exist throughout your organization. It would be best if you made strategic decisions in whom you select to lead the components of your organization:
- identify them,
- define their roles,
- delegate the appropriate levels of authority,
- define their scope of responsibility,
- allocate resources,
- measure their performance,
- provide feedback, coaching, and development opportunities, and
- correct actions and behaviors that aren’t working.
View the Future
Every organization determines their future, at least in part, by the ability to learn and adapt. Organizational engagement in change must occur at every level, every day.
The scope and nature of change depend upon the objectives set and the results obtained. The organization engagement includes a continuous loop of:
- analyze the opportunities and environment,
- decide what actions to take,
- evaluate results,
- learn, and
- adjust strategies, processes, systems, and other components.
Action creates results. If you aren’t willing to act, someone else will be. Failure to act means you accept the consequence caused by someone else. It is better to act than to surrender control to outside forces.
Ultimately, success is a result of an action. Taking action means you are in the driver’s seat, deciding the route your organization chooses. You know your point of departure (today’s performance and capability). You know your destination (your objective). Now it is time to decide the route you will take.
STRIVE℠ to Achieve Your Definition of Success
Success doesn’t happen by accident. It is a product of perseverance and focused effort. Your company should STRIVE℠ to achieve your definition of success.