Could you improve your business by 20%?


Picture by Tal Bright on Flickr

Yesterday, the BBC announced the appointment of George Entwistle to the post of Director General (DG). Lord Patten, Chairman of the the BBC, was widely reported as saying that one of the challenges for Mr Entwistle was to make the BBC 10%/20% better.

Of course, like the consummate politician, he espoused no detail of what precisely an institution as venerable as the BBC would look like if it managed to improve by such a huge margin. However, what struck me was at least he was prepared to stamp a figure on what was expected of the new DG.

Just imagine waking up this morning and someone saying, as the successor to the previous incumbent, that your challenge today i.e. the next 24 hours is to improve your area of business by 20% and, at the same time, take a very significant pay cut!

Where would you start?

  • Improving ‘significantly’ the product or service? What measure would you use?
  • The people? Do you have the right people on the right seats on the bus?
  • The facilities? Are they fit for purpose and, better still, cherished?
  • Speed of delivery? Are you willing to put in place a no quibbles guarantee in the event that you don’t meet your KPIs?
  • Quality? Are you the best judge of your self-imposed standard or should you be asking for a independent review?
  • Systems engineering? Is the budget shot to bits – hanging by a thread – or are your prepared to forgo a pay rise, or, more likely, take a pay cut and do without to ensure you have a world class system? Oh sorry, I forgot you already have!
  • The Process? Have you appointed a Chief Hurdle Removal Officer (see The Little Big Things) to get rid of the grunge?
  • Design? How much do you value the design of … well … practically everything? Design needs to be baked into your offering and not just slapped on and moulded at the last moment.
  • The brand? Do you have one that is memorable, WOW and engaging internally and externally?
  • Leadership? Are you doing the right things or doing things right?
  • Training? Come on you have slashed the budget to nothing. The best businesses expect their people to get better, and not just to self-fund. If you want one of those Top 100 badges then get used to spending in this vital area.
  • Outsourcing? Is it even on the agenda?
  • Off-shoring? Ditto?
  • Cross-functional/team working? Perhaps the biggest improvement in any business is to get people talking. If you can crack this one then, at the very least, the 10% doesn’t look so scary after all.
  • Communication skills? Are you prepared to serve your employees and adopt a more open style of management?
  • Strategic listening? The average time before someone gets interrupted is incredibly short. Are you willing to change?
  • Thoughtfulness? Kindness, decency and being humble go hand in hand with all great leaders and organisations. The tone has to be set at the very top.
  • Profitability? If that is the only driver, where and over what period will you generate the additional revenue? You must have a plan B and one you stick to.
  • Cost savings? Who, what, where, when and how all come to mind. It is likely that you are running a lean ship but can you see a scenario where you still make Excellence a service promise and deliver on it?
  • Winning new clients? Ditto.
  • Getting rid of dud clients? Yes, you heard me. You need a strategy of exiting even the semi-profitable ones in order to free up room for better clients.
  • Develop a greater sense of urgency generally? Ready, Fire, Aim may sound like the Wild West but are you willing to be less risk averse for the sake of capturing the opportunities that up to now have seemed so remote?
  • Develope a winning mentality? Success begins in the mind. If you don’t believe you can achieve a monumental milestone then you won’t.

Of course, this is just a list. Whilst Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither did it become so powerful by people standing on the side-lines waiting – tick, tock – for something to happen.

Perhaps the messaging doesn’t have to be about growth only but the “audacity of austerity” (picked up from a Tweet of Gary Hamel).

Are you up for the challenge?

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