Having worked as a turnaround expert for nearly 20 years, I was regularly called in to help struggling projects or departments get back on track and into the green.

When you do that for as long, and as consistently as I did, you start to see patterns, common mistakes that people make in the set-up or execution which are causing them to under-perform, become inefficient and fail to make progress.

Often there are some very simple adjustments that you can make, that will have a dramatic impact and help you make rapid improvements.

Here are the four key areas where I always found challenges, which when addressed had a positive impact on performance.

Focus

You are at your most effective when you have everyone pulling in the both the same, and the right direction. So this is the first area that needs to be checked. Do you have clear goals and objectives that have been communicated to everyone, and that are clearly understood?

We live in a world of constant distractions, with too little time, and too much to do that it becomes easy to lose focus and to get sidetracked onto the urgent rather than the important tasks.

At one client they spent $400,000 per year on correcting critical data errors. They had a small team of people who spent their entire days fixing the data.

As leaders, it's our job to make sure that people are doing the right job, rather than just doing their job right.

Within a month of taking over, I'd assigned someone to find the causes of these data problem, yes it cost us an additional $40,000 but once the problem had been found we no longer had data errors to fix, and that saved $400,000 per year.

Make sure you're doing the right job, not just doing any job right.

Accountability

Do people have clarity around their roles, responsibilities, and the expected outcomes you're looking for them to achieve? I am constantly amazed at the poor communication within organizations around this topic. Very often there will be detailed processes for people to follow, but very little information on the outcome expected. You need to be holding people accountable for outcomes not following processes, as it's this that drives engagement and ownership.

I remember when I worked in Germany one of the council rules was that if the temperature was over 80f, you must water the plants. That led gardeners watering plants that were stood in 6 inches of water after some torrential summer storms, all because the temperature was over 80f.

Ensure that you have clear roles and responsibilities communicated, but that these also set out clear expectations around outcomes.

Simplicity

I understand that there is complexity in business, but often there are additional complexities that are added which just kill execution.People are not afraid of hard work, they are afraid of failure, and when they cannot understand the solution, or how success will be achieved it has a damaging effect on performance.

I worked with a client where they had thirteen strategies that were created to help them achieve 25 goals that had been defined for their business for that year.

After three months the CEO was concerned that very little progress had been made.

It was hardly surprising, in spite of having so much information, there was no clear plan of what needed to be done, or how success was going to be achieved. It was just chaos.

When I met with the CEO, I said to him, "just tell me simply what it is you're looking to achieve?" He said, "the company has been struggling and that these strategies and goals are designed to get the company back into the top 10 in our sector."

So I said, "well why don't we make that the goal, instead of having 25 goals no one understands."

As soon as we did that it galvanized the team. It also put them in a position to assess whether or not the strategies defined were going to help, and for those that weren't, they could replace them.

Keep things simple, communicate things simply and foster understanding.

Transparency

According to Gartner Research on average initiatives cost three times their initial budget.

It's amazing how often I see companies take on initiatives without fully understanding what's involved, and when they do that they set themselves up for failure, that also creates de-motivated and frustrated teams.

To be successful, you need to have the transparency into what's involved otherwise you are just setting yourself up for failure.

It can also make you feel like you're doing a bad job, when in fact you're doing a good job, or it can make you quit when you're actually very close to success.

I worked with a client who's on time delivery of projects was 30-35 percent. Their customers were extremely unhappy and were looking for alternative suppliers.

After spending a couple of weeks analyzing the situation, it was very clear what the problem was. They were letting the customers define delivery dates based on their need, rather than what was involved in delivering the project.

Now while this felt like it was good customer service, it was actually causing the problems that were leading to customer dissatisfaction.

As a result of this approach, 50 percent of the projects were behind schedule before they could even start, and consequently they had zero chance of success.

When the projects were scheduled based on effort and resource availability, the on time delivery jumped from 30-35 percent to over 70 percent.

There was no delivery issue, it was just a scheduling issue, but without the transparency into what was needed, it was causing them to fail.

By fixing these four areas: Focus, Accountability, Simplicity, and Transparency, I have helped companies to transform their operational performance and results quickly.

These are some simple changes that can have dramatic results.

Published on: Jun 19, 2017
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