Got a high-level idea of where your business should go? Despite that, work still feels unclear?
You often hear founders running around proud and even secretive of their startup ideas. It’s as if the idea is 90% of the value of the venture.
“Startups Don’t Fail On Ideas, They Fail On Execution” is a typical headline, yet worth reiterating over and over. It’s way harder to make any idea work than to generate a good enough idea.
The high-level strategy is typically expressed in the form of Mission, Vision, and Values. I recommend getting this right, with resources like FranklinCovey’s Mission Statement Builder.
While I recommend getting the strategy right, it’s something that’s refined by a team that does execute. We’ll look at the strong link between strategy and execution, and how the latter shapes the former.
Lessons from Industry Giants: OKRs, MBO, and KPIs
What are these acronyms about? Let’s look at lessons from the likes of Google, Intel, Peter Drucker, and FranklinCovey. They have different terms for the same principles of turning fluffy ideas into action plans.
OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), Management by Objectives (MBO), and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) all begin by finding leverage. At any given time, there’s one metric best represents progress. As Lean Analytics calls it, the One Metric that Matters.
The O in OKRs / M in MBO / KPI is identified by pinpointing the biggest chokepoint of the strategy at the moment. The good news here is there’s always a metric that deserves more attention than others. The bad news is it’s tempting to do things that don’t relate to that metric, but we’ll get to that later.
Identifying and Attacking the Chokepoint
To pinpoint the chokepoint, the thing that will provide the most leverage, let’s break down the 4 steps to from blurry strategy to clarity:
1. Refer to Your Strategy
Some teams are more formal in a way that they have their Mission, Vision, and Values written. You don’t necessary have to take this approach. Document your description of where your business is headed in the long run and put that in front of you for the next step.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
Get creative. List your ideas of what customer behavior represents your growth. Refer to this piece on How to Choose Your Priority Metric, to see your options.
— Allan Caeg (@AllanCaeg) May 30, 2016
3. Choose Your Focus
From your list of ideas, choose which number deserves the greatest attention. You’re agreeing with your team that growing this metric is the best representation of your success, at the moment. You may decide to focus on this number for a month, a quarter, or a year. Whatever the period is, get everyone on the same page.
4. Enforce Focus
Turn this focus into reality. At this point, you’ve agreed on what’s important. After getting sign off from everyone who will work towards this direction, make sure this happens. It’s not just an amazing workshop activity. Use this agreement as a guide for what gets prioritized. Your Project Management tickets, whether Agile or not, should be ranked based on this. Schedule weekly check-ins to see if this number is growing.
The whirlwind is urgent. It acts on you. Importance doesn't attract you as much. #OKRs
— Allan Caeg (@AllanCaeg) June 1, 2016
The hard part here is practicing the focus. It’s easy to discuss what your business is about. After identifying your most important metric, it’s easy to justify why it intellectually makes sense. Yet, people aren’t all about the cold, hard facts.
Your team needs a constant, strong reminder of what’s important. By dedicating resource on moving this needle, you’ll review later if you’re truly focusing on the best number.
The most important thing is dedication on the metric that your team deemed to be most valuable at the moment.
— Allan Caeg (@AllanCaeg) May 18, 2016