Here is a radical thought: take the one most important parameter you measure in your business and publish it. I don’t mean publish as in a press release. I mean make it available in real time, 24/7 to your customers, employees and competitors.
Let’s start with the basics. Each business should have one or a few key parameters it should measure. Jack Welsh, GE legendary Ex-CEO, once said that “you don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.” If you want to be the best in customer service, for example, you have to figure out what it means for YOUR customers. Is it speed? Technical knowledge of your people? Politeness? Whatever it is, it is crucial to find a way to measure the goal and do it often.
When it comes to measuring, there are several types of businesses: the lowest on the totem pole have no clear goals they measure. They run the business in their heads. You can run a small business like this but you cannot get too far. The next type developed goals, but did not develop ways to measure them. It is a step in the right direction since the employees have common goals and a sense of direction, but it does not provide feedback to the business and therefore fails to drive the business to the next level. More sophisticated businesses will set goals and even measure them. By the way, SMBs tend to measure less (“it is all in my head”), but they should measure just as much. It needs to cascade to everyone’s head.
In a sense, this should the minimum for every business: set key goals, make sure they are measurable, and share the results with every single employee. This system works like magic in call centers, where big plasma screens show real time information on the call center’s performance. Ask support center employees: they don’t take long lunch breaks when all numbers are red.
Now, let’s be radical: why not take the number which is most important to you and make it available via your website to everyone? Imagine the benefits: you are pointing a searchlight to the most important factor of your business and making everyone look there. This exposure makes everyone committed and accountable to be the best in the world. It is like those restaurants with a glass wall to the kitchen—you don’t think they are clean—you KNOW they are.
I watched a presentation of a software startup this week. The promise they made was product implementation in 12 weeks or under. This is a breakthrough in their industry, as the typical cycle is measured in months. Not weeks. I met the CEO later that day and told him that the vision is great, but everybody in the industry says they have short implementation cycles. It is just not believable. The CEO went passionate on me: he said that he was personally fanatic about this number. He said that he has all projects on his dashboard and every consultant knows that it is either under 12 weeks or a pink slip. This is how serious he was. I believed him, but it took a one-on-one meeting to drive this message home. My question to him: if you have it on your dashboard, why not publish it on your website? Obviously you will have to scramble the customers’ names for privacy, but all the rest can be shared. Imagine the impact: all of a sudden everyone in the industry will watch your numbers and talk about your 12 weeks’ implementation, and all your employees, from sales to R&D and service, will do whatever they can to improve these numbers.
What about the competition? If they use your numbers against you, invite them to publish their own numbers or forever hold their peace. If you are crazy enough about your goal that you are willing to make it available to the world in real time, rest assured your numbers are better than theirs…