strategy posts

The Cost of Chaos – Part III

Imagine that you have a huge digital billboard in your office. It’s something like the national debt clock, and it’s tracking something that is just as critical to your company’s future. It’s the money your organization wastes while trying to generate revenue: the cost of failed products, excess sales salaries, sales support, ads, promotions, campaigns, demos, travel, unhappy customers, re-makes, lost deals, incorrect pricing, channel support, training, and more.

We have a name for these losses — the Cost of Chaos — and your new “chaos meter” would track every minute and dollar lost from uncontrolled revenue generation. And while nothing can match the national debt clock, we can guarantee that you won’t like the numbers you see on the version that hangs in your office.

This topic is so important that we’ve covered it in a three-part series. Today we’re providing examples of specific actions you can take to reduce these costs.

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The World Isn’t Flat: Planning for a New 2011

Can you imagine being alive in the late 1400s when Christopher Columbus *didn’t* sail off the edge of the world? After a lifetime of believing the world was flat, would you readily accept that it was round? Or is it possible that you might react as many others do when faced with a new reality [...]

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8 Ways to Listen to Your Market

Look OUT, not IN! If you’re following our CEO Challenge articles, speaking or consulting work, you’ve heard this mantra a lot. More often than not, answers to your most important business questions aren’t inside your organization; the answers lie out there with your customers. What problems are they facing? How is your firm REALLY doing at solving those problems? How do they make decisions? What’s the image they have of your firm versus your competitors? How much value do you really bring? How consistent and predictable is your service? Do you know what your customers wish you did better? But how can you gather this research? This action plan provides 8 ways to listen without breaking the bank.

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Have we entered a New Normal? Hardly.

I have a bone to pick with the phrase “The New Normal” and how frequently it’s being tossed around these days. Yes, we’re emerging from a disastrous global economic crisis. In the aftermath of a tsunami, it’s tempting to look around and call the new landscape “The New Normal.”

My discomfort derives from the implied assumption that there is a “normal” at all.

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You know the saying about assumptions. Why are you still making them?

Assumption testing has always been important in organizations. Right now, however, it’s more critical than ever. Markets are evolving so fast that the wrong assumptions can be fatal.

Worse yet, an organization’s inability to routinely identify and test assumptions is a cultural defect that can be very difficult to correct.

Rick and I often see this problem when we participate in leadership meetings held by our clients. During these meetings, we frequently hear executives mistakenly state assumptions as if they were facts.

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The Cost of Chaos

During the first week of the new year, when we tend to gaze optimistically at the road ahead, a headline from the Associated Press announced “Americans’ job satisfaction lowest in 22 years.”

The article then went on to say “That is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in over 22 years of studying the issue. If the job satisfaction trend is not reversed, economists say, it could stifle innovation and hurt America’s competitiveness and productivity. It also could make unhappy older workers less inclined to take the time to share their knowledge and skills with younger workers.”

Well, that got my attention! Of course there are many reasons for the decline, including the worst recession since the 1930s and the fact that downsizing has created more work and more demands on the workers who’ve survived the cuts. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that such a decline has somber implications for businesses, and executive teams need to address this issue in their organizations.

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“I’m lying awake worrying about sales!”

As you’re well aware, a CEO is constantly juggling a myriad of challenges. But when it comes to sleep deprivation, the top culprit is typically revenue-related … burning questions such as

Is my sales manager doing a good job?
Is my star salesperson going to quit?
Why does one salesperson excel while others struggle?
This stress frequently stems from two beliefs:

That consistent revenue generation depends on the talents of a few select individuals
That those individuals operate in a world lacking both structure and predictability.
Good news: You can eliminate this chaos! Revenue generation is a science similar to other disciplines inside your organization. And there are three keys to your success.

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“We have a great strategy but have trouble executing it.”

Have you had this thought lately?

“This year we’ll include a wide range of employees to assist in developing our revenue strategy. People will feel involved, they’ll fully understand the reasoning behind why we’re moving in this particular direction, and they’ll have ownership of the strategy. In fact, this is so important we’ll even hire an outside facilitator and conduct the strategy sessions off-site so there will be no distractions. The result will be a well thought out plan for moving the company forward. Perfect.”

Not really. Because, as we all know, the challenge of implementing that strategy is what trips us up. We put a great deal of time and energy into developing a strategy, but daily tasks, emergencies, and problems cry out and divert us from strategic initiatives. Six months down the road we’re sitting in a meeting struggling with familiar issues, and the great strategy we developed is long forgotten or ignored.

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