Organization

Business Goals

Business Goals Jonathan Poland

Business goals are targets that an organization sets for itself in order to improve its overall strategy and performance. These goals are typically designed to increase profitability and enhance competitive advantage.

There are several types of business goals that organizations may set, including financial goals, such as increasing revenue or profitability; customer-related goals, such as improving customer satisfaction or loyalty; and operational goals, such as increasing efficiency or productivity.

In order to achieve these goals, organizations must develop and implement a strategic plan. This process involves conducting a thorough analysis of the organization’s internal and external environments, identifying opportunities and challenges, and setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.

Once the goals have been set, organizations must work to implement and execute the strategic plan, which may involve making changes to business processes, allocating resources, and setting performance targets.

Effective goal setting and strategic planning are crucial for the success of any organization. By setting clear and achievable goals, and developing a comprehensive plan to achieve them, organizations can improve their overall performance and increase their chances of long-term success. The following are illustrative examples of measurable business goals.

Revenue

A farmer targets revenue of $400,000 with a strategy to plant several high value crops.

Overhead Cost

A company plans to reduce software licensing costs by $1.1 million by retiring a legacy system.

Gross Margins

A cafe has a goal to increase gross margins from 30% to 35% by introducing higher price menu items such as specialty coffees.

Unit Cost

An organic cereal company plans to reduce unit costs by 10% by directly purchasing several key ingredients from organic farmers.

Market Penetration

A snowboard manufacturer establishes a target of 10% market penetration with a pricing strategy designed to offer low prices to price sensitive customers.

Sales Volume

An ice cream company plans to increase summer sales volumes to 14 million units a month by expanding sales into the Mexican market with a distribution partner.

Customer Acquisition Cost

An air conditioning maintenance company plans to reduce customer acquisition cost to $1000 per contract with a sales partnership with a building management firm.

Customer Lifetime Value

An airline seeks to improve customer lifetime value to $144000 for its elite members by expanding its services at airport lounges.

Customer Churn

A cloud platform seeks to reduce customer churn to 3% for small business customers by reducing bandwidth costs that are often cited by customers as the reason they are closing their account.

Conversion Rate

A streaming music service has a goal to improve its conversion rate for website visitors signing up for an account to 3% by accepting more payment methods.

Leads

A house builder has a goal to generate 400 leads for a new development project with advertising and the launch of a local sales office.

Win Rate

A software company has a goal to improve its proposal win rate to 50% by recruiting talented sales people.

Customer Profitability

A cloud computing provider seeks to improve the value of a government contract to $66 million per year by providing value added services in areas such as security management.

Share of Wallet

An information security company seeks to improve its share of wallet to 40% for large accounts by offering a line of infrastructure products.

Productivity Rate

A software development company seeks to improve its average lines of code per day with a program that lets developers work from home three days a week if they meet productivity and quality targets.

Efficiency Rate

A bank seeks to improvement its data center infrastructure efficiency to 65% with a new cooling strategy. Data center infrastructure efficiency is the percentage of energy at a data center that is used for computing as opposed to other facility uses such as cooling.

Throughput

A bank that plans to improve the throughput of a mortgage application process from 440 application reviews a day to 880.

Cycle Time

A company targets improvement in the cycle time of order-to-delivery to an average of 47 hours.

Time to Market

A product development initiative at a bank targets a 6 month time to market for a new mortgage product.

Time to Volume

An electronics firm targets a time to volume for an innovative new camera lens of one year and one million units.

Figure of Merit

A solar panel company seeks to improve its cost per watt to $0.29 with new designs and manufacturing methods.

Diversification

A manufacturer of ceiling fans plans to diversify its product line with a number of lighting products with a target to generate 25% of revenue from the new product line within 3 years.

Customer Satisfaction

A telecom company targets a customer satisfaction rate of 55% from 35% by removing unpopular contract terms.

Customer Ratings

A hotel seeks to improve its ratings on a popular travel site from 3.2 to 4.0 by addressing the top 3 complaints in reviews with new services and policies such as a later check out time and cheaper flat rate parking prices.

Customer Loyalty

A brand of coffee targets 1 million loyal customers with a plan to aggressively position their product as the cheapest high quality organic coffee on the shelves.

Churn Rate

A software platform plans to fix several bugs and remove unpopular features to improve monthly churn rate from 4% to 2%.

Brand Recognition

A dentist advertises their clinic all over town with a target of achieving 20% top of mind brand recognition for local dentists.

Brand Image

A technology firm does a rebranding and promotional campaign to break its association with a legacy technology and establish an more modern brand image. The goal is for brand recall of 30% for the produce category software as a service.

Employee Satisfaction

An insurance company seeks to improve new employee satisfaction to 80% with a more extensive onboarding process.

Employee Retention

A restaurant owner seeks to improve one year employee retention to 80% by offering more consistent and predictable shift scheduling.

Employee Performance

A graphic design company seeks to improve employee performance with a series of training workshops. They will measure performance improvement in terms of client satisfaction with a target of 90%.

Return on Investment

A factory is expanding from two production lines to three with a target return on investment of 1400%.

Payback Period

A telecom company builds a new data center with a goal to achieve payback within 4 years.

Occupancy Rate

A hotel is investing in room renovations to improve customer satisfaction and ranking of the hotel on travel sites. The goal is to improve its occupancy rate to 94% and average price per night to $200.

Availability

A SaaS app targets uptime of 99.99% with architecture and infrastructure upgrades.

Load Time

A fashion brand redesigns its website with a target of a 3 second average load time.

User Engagement

A streaming media service seeks to improve its average user engagement to 11 hours a month by introducing new children’s shows.

Mean Time to Repair

A telecom service provider targets a mean time to repair of 35 minutes.

Returns

A manufacturer of men’s shirts has a goal to reduce returns from 18% to 5% by improving the quality of materials to produce shirts that are more opaque and less likely to wrinkle.

Risk

An airline plans to measure risk probability and risk impact for its legacy IT systems and reduce that risk by $4 million over five years with modernization projects.

Sustainability

A fashion brand plans to improve positive perceptions of its brand by switching to 100% sustainable materials that are responsibly sourced, have low environmental impact and are renewable.

Strategic Communication

Strategic Communication Jonathan Poland

Strategic communication is the deliberate planning, dissemination, and use of information to influence attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It is a crucial aspect of successful organizations, as it helps to align the actions and messages of the organization with its goals and values.

There are three main types of strategic communication: internal communication, external communication, and online/digital communication.

Internal communication refers to the communication within an organization, including communication between departments and between management and employees. Effective internal communication is important for building trust and ensuring that all members of the organization are informed and aligned with the company’s goals and objectives.

External communication refers to the communication between an organization and its external stakeholders, such as customers, investors, and the media. Effective external communication helps to build and maintain relationships with these stakeholders and manage their expectations.

Online/digital communication refers to the use of digital platforms and channels, such as social media and websites, to communicate with stakeholders. In the digital age, it is important for organizations to have a strong online presence and to effectively use digital channels for communication.

To plan and implement effective strategic communication, organizations should follow a process that includes identifying communication goals and objectives, conducting audience analysis, developing messages, choosing appropriate channels of communication, and evaluating and providing feedback.

There are several challenges that organizations may face in strategic communication, such as managing crisis communication, dealing with conflicting messages, maintaining consistency in messaging, and managing internal and external stakeholder expectations.

To overcome these challenges and effectively communicate with stakeholders, organizations should follow best practices such as developing a clear and consistent brand message, being transparent and authentic in communication, engaging with stakeholders and building relationships, using a variety of communication channels and platforms, and continuously evaluating and adjusting communication strategies.

In conclusion, strategic communication is an essential aspect of successful organizations, as it helps to align the actions and messages of the organization with its goals and values. Effective strategic communication requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, including the audience, message, and channels of communication. While there can be challenges in strategic communication, following best practices such as being transparent and consistent, engaging with stakeholders, and using a variety of communication channels can help to overcome these challenges.

The following are illustrative examples.

Candor

Being open, honest and forthcoming with your stakeholders as a matter of principle. For example, a solar panel manufacturer that communicates a quality problem to customers, investors and regulators in a straightforward manner. This can earn a firm respect and trust.

Strategic Silence

Strategic communication can include efforts to keep secrets from external stakeholders. For example, customers may delay purchases if they know a vastly improved version of a product is soon to be released. As such, a firm may have incentives to keep product releases secret until shortly before launch.

Defensive Publication

Defensive publication is the practice of releasing public details of things you don’t want your competition to patent. For example, a firm that develops a new speaker design may release details that serve as prior art that prevent competitors from patenting the idea.

Propaganda

Propaganda is manipulative use of communication to influence. For example, a firm that spreads disinformation to undermine public support for environmental regulations.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)

Communication that aims to create fear, uncertainty and doubt about the competition. This strategy was historically used by large IT firms whereby salespeople would imply that customers who choose products from smaller competitors often end up getting fired for this decision. This was so common that it became a truism in the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for choosing (fill in large firm name)”

Embrace, Extend & Extinguish

Embrace, extend and extinguish is the dubious strategy of embracing a smaller competitor or open standard only to lead them to ruin in the long term. For example, a large IT company that voices support for an open source technology but then help to lead the project in ways that cause it to fail.

Striking Fear Into the Hearts of the Competition

Striking fear into the hearts of the competition is the practice of communicating strategies that are intended to draw a competitive response. For example, a firm that announces a future product capability that would change everything in an industry. This may cause the competition to waste resources chasing this capability when it may not be feasible. This can be interpreted as illegal in some situations — particularly if you mislead investors by implying that you will do something wonderful in future when you have no serious intention to do so.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

An effort to change things by communicating a vision such that it becomes more likely to become reality. For example, an early pioneer of electric vehicles who communicates a vision that sparks other firms to invest in the technology creating momentum for a technology that requires massive infrastructure changes to be successful.

Engagement

Seeking to engage stakeholders such as lead users. For example, a technology firm that pitches its platform at developer’s conferences to increase adoption.

Brand Image

Promoting a brand image. For example, a CEO who communicates wild ideas about the future to promote the image of a firm as being innovative.

Brand Recognition

Communication that is simply intended to create recognition of your brand name and symbols in the minds of your target audience. This is based on the tendency for customers to simply buy what they recognize.

Public Relations

Public relations is the process of communicating to stakeholders such as investors, employees, partners, communities and regulators. For example, a firm that seeks to create positive investor sentiment by communicating efficiency improvements.

Change Management

Internal communications design to build momentum for change.

Business Objectives

Business Objectives Jonathan Poland

Business objectives are specific targets or goals that an organization, team, or individual strives to achieve within a certain time frame. These objectives are used to measure the performance and success of the business and can be used to inform decision-making, allocate resources, and motivate employees.

Objectives can be either long-term or short-term and can be related to a variety of areas, such as financial performance, customer satisfaction, employee development, or efficiency. For example, a long-term objective for a company might be to increase its market share, while a short-term objective could be to improve customer satisfaction ratings by a certain percentage within a quarter.

In order to be effective, business objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This means that they should be clearly defined, with a quantifiable outcome that is realistically achievable within a specific time frame and that aligns with the overall goals and priorities of the organization.

Business objectives can be used to drive performance and drive growth by providing a clear direction and focus for employees and helping to ensure that resources are being used effectively. They can also help to create a sense of accountability and allow for the tracking of progress towards achieving specific goals. Overall, setting and working towards business objectives is an important aspect of running a successful organization.

The following are common types of business objective.

  • Revenue – Revenue such as a product management team with a revenue target of $45 million for a particular product line.
  • Costs – Reducing costs. For example, an automation project that reduces the cost of warehouse operations.
  • Competition – Competitive objectives such as gaining market share.
  • Knowledge – Developing know-how and intellectual property.
  • Return on Investment – Achieving an attractive return on investment is a common objective for strategies, projects and investments in assets and securities.
  • Efficiency – The amount of output you get for a unit of input. For example, the amount of electricity required to produce a unit on a production line.
  • Productivity – The amount of output you get for an hour worked such as the amount of work required to produce a pair of shoes.
  • Processes – Improving processes such as reducing the cycle time of an order fulfillment process.
  • Capabilities – Implementing new business capabilities or improving existing capabilities. For example, a human resources department that launches a campus recruiting capability that allows the firm to engage graduates at 12 universities and colleges.
  • Brand – Brand objectives such as brand awareness and brand loyalty.
  • Product – Product development objectives such as time to market and time to volume.
  • Sales – Sales targets such as customer lifetime value and customer acquisition cost.
  • Pricing – Pricing objectives such as price leadership.
  • Distribution – Distribution objectives such as developing distribution channels in a new region or country.
  • Customer Relationships – Reducing customer churn and cross-selling related targets.
  • Customer Experience – Improving the end-to-end customer experience as measured by customer satisfaction, ratings and reviews.
  • Employee Experience – Satisfied, productive and creative employees. Measured by employee surveys and productivity metrics such as revenue per employee.
  • Organizational Culture – The norms, expectations and habits of your organization. Measured with surveys. For example, a survey of manager perceptions of resistance to change and office politics.
  • Operations – Objectives related to your core business processes. For example, the availability of your IT services.
  • Quality – Quality objectives such as improving quality control metrics, reducing customer returns or improving product ratings.
  • Risk – Risk management objectives such as reducing the probability and impact of information security incidents.
  • Innovation – Innovation objectives such as developing a product with revenue potential that is an order of magnitude beyond your current products.
  • Compliance – Implementing controls to achieve compliance to standards, laws and regulations.
  • Sustainability – Objectives related to the global impact of your operations and products such as reducing harmful waste.

Economic Moat

Economic Moat Jonathan Poland

An economic moat is a concept in business strategy that refers to a company’s ability to maintain a competitive advantage over its competitors. Economic moats are considered to be a key factor in the long-term success of a business, as they allow a company to protect its market position and generate sustainable profits over time.

There are several types of economic moats that companies can possess. One type is a cost advantage, which refers to a company’s ability to produce goods or services at a lower cost than its competitors. This can be achieved through economies of scale, access to low-cost raw materials, or superior production processes. Another type of economic moat is a network effect, which occurs when a company’s product or service becomes more valuable as more people use it. For example, a social media platform becomes more valuable to users as the number of users increases, creating a strong incentive for new users to join.

Other types of economic moats include brand recognition, regulatory barriers to entry, and customer loyalty. Strong brand recognition can make it difficult for competitors to gain market share, as consumers may be more likely to trust and purchase from a well-known brand. Regulatory barriers to entry, such as patents and trademarks, can also create economic moats by making it difficult for new companies to enter a market. Finally, customer loyalty can create an economic moat by making it difficult for competitors to win over a company’s existing customer base.

In order to assess the strength of a company’s economic moat, investors can consider a number of factors, such as the company’s financial performance, market position, and competitive landscape. Companies with strong economic moats are generally considered to be more resilient and have greater long-term growth potential, as they are better able to protect their market position and generate sustainable profit.

The concept of economic moats was popularized by the investor Warren Buffet, who is known for his focus on finding companies with strong competitive advantages. Buffet has famously stated that he looks for companies with “wide moats” that protect their business and allow them to generate sustained profits over time.

However, the idea of economic moats is not new, and has been discussed by business strategists and economists for many years. In fact, the concept can be traced back to the 19th century, when the economist Adam Smith wrote about the importance of competitive advantage in his book “The Wealth of Nations.” In the book, Smith argued that businesses that are able to produce goods or services more efficiently than their competitors will be able to sell them at lower prices, leading to increased market share and profits.

Today, the concept of economic moats is widely accepted and has become an important factor in business strategy and investment analysis. Many companies and investors seek to identify and create economic moats in order to sustain their competitive advantage and drive long-term growth.

The following are common types of economic moat.

Barriers To Entry

A general term for an industry that is difficult for new competition to enter due to factors such as permits, know-how and capital requirements.

Coercive Monopoly

A monopoly that is established by preventing competition with extraordinary powers.

Government Monopoly

The most common type of coercive monopoly that is established by government protection.

Infrastructure

Unique or expensive infrastructure that competitors can’t match such as hydroelectric dams or railway lines.

Know-how

Knowledge, capabilities and skills that are difficult to duplicate.

Legal Protections

Legal protections such as licenses, permits and intellectual property.

Location

A unique physical location such as the only hotel with beachfront access to a famous beach or the only data center beside a stock exchange.

Loyal Customers

Customers who are fans of a particular brand or product line may be difficult or impossible for competitors to influence.

Natural Monopoly

An industry that makes more economic sense as a monopoly such as a region with a single railway line.

Organizational Culture

Factors such as norms, behaviors and values that differ widely from one organization to another. Organizational culture is notoriously difficult to transfer or emulate.

Processes

A business process that competitors have difficulty challenging such as manufacturer that consistently achieves higher quality at a lower price.

Relationships

Relationships with governments, industry groups, universities, partners and customers.

Reputation

Reputation can be a potent long term advantage. For example, a law firm with a reputation for winning complex cases may command high fees.

Resources

Unique access to superior or lower cost resources.

Scale

A firm that has achieved economies of scale is often difficult for smaller firms to challenge.

Switching Barriers

A firm with captive customers who find it difficult to switch to a competitor.

Technology

Superior technology built into products, decision making or process execution.

Customer Service Principles

Customer Service Principles Jonathan Poland

Customer service principles are guidelines that an organization follows to shape its service strategy, policies, procedures, measurement, and culture. These principles are unique to each organization and are based on factors such as its goals and brand identity. They can be presented as slogans or more detailed statements that function as rules. They can serve as a foundation for an organization’s customer service efforts and help to ensure that its service meets the needs and expectations of its customers. Both styles are represented in the examples.

Always Help

One of the most widely disliked customer service attitudes is coined in the phase “It’s not our problem.” As such, many firms have established a culture of always helping the customer, even if a request is completely unrelated to their products and services. Principle: it’s always your job to be helpful to customers.

Measurement Balance

Performance measurements such as average call time, often have unintended consequences such as rushed, impolite or inadequate service. Principle: performance indicators are designed to maximize customer satisfaction, including qualitative assessments of results.

Common Courtesies

Modern customer service approaches often emphasize personality and informal service styles that attempt to build rapport with customers. Nevertheless, many customers continue to value the polite treatment that is often associated with a more formal approach. Whatever approach is taken, common courtesies are a fundamental customer service practice. Principle: customers are addressed with polite language.

Complaints As Opportunities

Establishing a policy of learning from complaints and generously compensating where complaints have any merit whatsoever in the interests of brand reputation and customer loyalty. Principle: every customer interaction is an opportunity to learn, improve and impress.

Customer Experience

Viewing customer service as part of a comprehensive brand experience that is carefully designed to express your character as a company. Principle: customer service is a cornerstone of our brand and reflects our values, spirit and quality.

Customer Is Always Right

A well known customer service principle that suggests that customers be treated with great respect. It is associated with practices such as no-questions-asked product returns, valuing customer feedback and treating perceived problems as problems. Principle: the customer is always right.

Customer Perspective

Viewing each interaction from your customer’s perspective. Avoid saying things like “Do you know how expensive it would be if we gave every customer a refund?” or “We are so busy today, you called at our busiest time.” Principle: customers are uninterested in our business constraints, view each interaction from the customer perspective.

Customer Relationships

Building business relationships with customers and valuing customers on a long term basis. Principle: impress customers to build lifelong relationships.

Customer Satisfaction

Valuing each customer’s opinion of your service, experience, brand and products. Principle: continuously gain feedback from customers.

Emotional Intelligence

As a skill, customer service demands insight into emotions and the capability to effectively use emotion. Principle: value and develop emotional intelligence as an ability and skill.

Employee Satisfaction

It is unlikely that your customers will receive exceedingly good customer service if your employees are overworked, stressed out and under appreciated. This can result in a downward spiral whereby unhappy employees make customers angry, leading to more unhappy employees. Principle: employee happiness and customer happiness are the foundations of a profitable business.

Engage Customers

Actively engaging customers as opposed to waiting for them to call. For example, by joining relevant conversations in social media. Principle: engage the customer at every opportunity.

Escalation

Providing customers a path of escalation if they are ultimately unhappy with your service. This is widely considered critical to handling service quality issues, reputation and compliance. Principle: customers can reach managers who are empowered to handle special complaints.

Feedback Loop

Improving processes, products and practices based on customer feedback. Principle: customer service is a critical source of feedback that is actively used to drive business improvements.

Frontline Decision Making

Empowering customer-facing staff to make decisions as opposed to merely applying a policy. Principle: frontline staff are empowered to make exceptions to policy.

Frontline Information

Customer-facing staff are provided with ample information. Principle: frontline staff have full access to organizational knowledge and are informed of relevant situations as they arise.

Know Your Product

Customers expect your staff to be experts in your products. Principle: employees are experts and evangelists for our products before they ever face a customer.

Listening

Listening to the customer with intent to understand their unique situation, personality and needs. Principle: listening skills and abilities are a key skill for customer-facing staff.

Make Exceptions

It is often neither practical nor desirable to develop policies that cover every possible customer service scenario. As such, exceptions to policy are a regular course of business. Principle: policies are helpful guidelines not an unbendable set of rules.

Measure And Improve

The practice of measuring and improving your service culture. Principle: our customer service performance is measured and continuously improved.

Multi Channel Support

Customers often have a strong channel preference and may resent being forced to a particular channel such as web, phone or in-store for service. Principle: customers are free to choose their preferred channel for support, a full array of services are available on each supported channel.

No Scripts

Customers commonly complain that scripts are used as a substitute for thinking and that they result in irrational responses that indicate a lack of listening or comprehension on the part of a customer service agent. Principle: each customer interaction is unique, improvised and unscripted.

Patient And Fast

Ideal interactions with customers can often be described as both patient and fast. Think of the barista at a cafe who engages customers in a unrushed conversation but then prepares beverages with skill and speed. Principle: customer interactions are unrushed, work that keeps the customer waiting is conducted with speed and accuracy.

Performance Management

Regularly rewarding and recognizing employees to mitigate the work related stress that is commonly associated with customer service. Principle: superior performance is regularly rewarded.

Persona

Customer service is often described as being an acting skill that requires a professional or calming persona in the face of the most difficult of situations. Principle: employees are expected to maintain a calm, professional demeanor in the presence of customers.

Personal Responsibility

It is common for customers to complain that customer service representatives don’t apologize when the company they represent is clearly in the wrong. In some cases, representatives are known to say things like “It wasn’t me who over-billed you, it was our billing department.” In other words, representatives may confuse apologizing on behalf of an organization for taking personal blame. Principle: you represent our organization and are expected to apologize and take responsibility for perceived problems.

Personalized Service

Customers have different personalities, situations and needs. Principle: service is customized to individual preferences and needs.

Plain Language

Avoiding the use of jargon such as industry or technical acronyms and communicating with intent to be clearly understood. This often needs to be balanced with other principles such as respecting the intelligence of the customer. If it’s likely that a customer will understand a particular technical term, it’s often better to use it. Principle: avoid jargon and complex terms that the customer may not understand.

Positive Language

Use positive language where possible by focusing on what you can offer as opposed to directly saying no. However, positive language should not be used to deliver bad news such as a flight delay announcement. Principle: use positive language to avoid challenging the customer or directly saying “no”, instead focus on what you can offer.

Process Hiding

Customers tend to dislike being told “you’re not following our process.” As such, many organizations establish the principle that customers don’t have to jump through hoops or understand processes. Principle: the customer is never required to understand or follow our processes, they are guided through each process without having to be aware of it.

Professionalism

Most organizations set principles related to professionalism such as standards of appearance, behavior and habit. For example, employees may be heavily discouraged from talking about personal things such as their dating experiences in front of customers. Principle: standards of professionalism are clearly communicated to employees and are incorporated into performance goals.

Provide Certainty

Customers tend to value certain information over uncertain. For example, it’s often better to tell customers a flight will be delayed for an hour than to say “15 minutes to an hour.” Principle: communicate unambiguous information to customers.

Provide Choice

Customers value choice. If a package is lost in the mail, give them an option of an immediate refund or shipping the product again with free express shipping. Principle: offer customers pleasant choices.

Provide Information

Customers value information and want you to respect their intelligence. Unless information is truly a confidential secret that’s terribly important to your competitive advantage, it’s often better to share. For example, if a flight is delayed, tell your customers about the problem. Principle: share information that customers may find interesting.

Rapport

Building rapport with customers is a well known way to gain loyalty and brand value. Principle: building rapport with customers is a valued skill and ability that is core to our recruiting, training and performance management.

Service As Marketing

Viewing service reactions as an opportunity to show off your brand culture and values. Principle: each interaction with a customer is an opportunity to impress with everything that our brand represents.

Service As Public Relations

Service both exceptionally good and exceptionally bad tends to attract media and social media attention. Principle: treat each interaction with a customer as if your conversation will be published in media and social media.

Service Commitments

Publishing service commitments and guarantees and earning a reputation for living up to your commitments. Principle: our service commitment and values are openly published and we talk about them proudly with every opportunity.

Service Culture

The idea that service extends beyond a policy or set of practices but is reflective of your organizational culture. This includes factors such as organizational values, norms, habits, language, history and symbols. As such, efforts to improve customer service may require a culture shift that impacts your entire organization. Principle: service is reflective of corporate culture, improving service requires improving as an organization.

Service Delays

Waiting times are amongst the most common customer complaints. Principle: we do everything we can to avoid making the customer wait.

Service Diligence

Customers commonly dislike being bounced from one representative to the next. They also may resent being directed to a self service tool when they’ve gone to the trouble to reach a human representative. Service diligence is the idea that at least one employee stays with a customer until their request has been satisfied. For example, when a customer asks for directions to the customer service counter in a department store, an employee walks them to the counter and stays with them until someone helps them. Principle: the first employee to receive a customer request is responsible for ensuring the request is completed and the customer satisfied.

Service Fairness

Customers may feel stressed out and unappreciated if they feel that service is unfair. For example, customers tend to prefer a single line for all windows because it guarantees first-in-first-out service. Principle: processes and practices are designed to treat customers consistently and with fairness.

Set Expectations

When customers know exactly what to expect, they are much less likely to be disappointed. For example, detailed and honest product descriptions can improve service rankings and decrease returns for online sellers. In many cases, communicating negative information such as things that a product can’t do is greatly appreciated by customers and may improve sales as a result of improved trust. Principle: set customer expectations with as many honest details as possible.

Single Point Of Contact

Be easy to contact. Principle: we publish a single phone number and web address that can be used to access all of our services.

Stand Out Service

The idea that customer service should stand out by going beyond the call of duty. It is common to use true stories of employees who did great things for the community or customers as a foundation for corporate culture and marketing. Principle: going beyond the call of duty may pay off in unexpected ways.

Delegation 101

Delegation 101 Jonathan Poland

Delegation is the act of assigning specific tasks and responsibilities to others, along with the necessary authority to complete them. This is a common management technique that allows managers to focus on higher-level tasks and responsibilities while empowering their team members to take on more responsibilities and develop their skills. Delegation typically occurs between a manager and a subordinate, and the manager remains accountable for the outcomes of the delegated responsibilities. By effectively delegating tasks and responsibilities, managers can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their team. The following are illustrative examples.

Job Descriptions

The expectations for a role as stated in a job description. For example, a job description for a hotel manager that states that they are responsible for handling customer inquiries and complaints.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is the process of setting objectives for employee performance for a period of time such as a quarter or year. For example, an IT manager who sets objectives with a developer that state the developer will deliver the code for a project.

Communication

Communicating an instruction, request or command to an employee under your authority. If you are someone’s boss, asking them to do something is delegation. If you have no direct authority over someone, any instructions you issue them are simply a request.

Action Items

An action item is something that a person agrees to do in the context of a meeting. These are issued in a formal action plan document or as part of meeting minutes. If you are someone’s boss then any action items you give them can be viewed as delegation.

Work Assignments

Formal communication of work assignments such as responsibility for a client or project.

Ownership

Asking an employee to own something. For example, a marketing manager who assigns an employee to own a campaign.

Team Leads

Asking a direct report to take on a formal or informal leadership role. For example, a construction manager who asks a carpenter to lead a team for a renovation project.

Functional Leadership

Asking a direct report to lead a business function. For example, asking a construction manager to lead safety compliance across all job sites.

Missions

Management teams are commonly assigned missions. For example, a CTO who is given a mission to improve the operational efficiency of IT. A mission may span many years and be measured as multiple milestones such that it is more complex than an objective or function. It is generally unfair to assign these to low level staff who may lack the self-direction, relational capital and authority to fulfill a mission.

Named Person

Naming a person as being responsible for some function. For example, naming an employee as a investor’s relations contact for a company.

Relationships

Assigning an employee to manage a relationship. For example, an IT manager who is asked to manage a relationship with a vendor.

Informal Delegation

Delegating a task that isn’t documented. This can occur where the task is small, intangible or sensitive. For example, a manager who asks a designer to ask around and try to find information about a client’s marketing budget.

Delegation of Authority

Granting your authority to someone as part of delegation. For example, a hotel manager who asks a front desk staff to manage the hotel for a few hours with authority to make decisions regarding customer requests and complaints.

Delegation Without Authority

In many cases, management will delegate work without delegating the authority required to do the work. This requires management to approve any decisions requiring authority. For example, a hotel manager who asks staff to manage the front desk but asks to be called if there are any decisions to be made.

Delegation of Accountability

It is possible to delegate responsibility but it is not possible to delegate accountability. In other words, when you delegate work you remain accountable for any problems that occur. For example, if a CFO delegates responsibility for accounting to a manager they can’t claim not to be accountable for any financial problems or accounting irregularities that occur.

Sidelining

In some cases, delegation has political motives. For example, a manager who feels threatened by a talented individual on their team who tries to sideline the individual by assigning them to pointless or low value work.

Setting Up To Fail

Delegating a direct report to an assignment where they are likely to fail. For example, a manager who accepts an unrealistic mission or goal who then assigns it to you. Setting up to fail can also involve a lack of experience, support, training, resources and authority that makes a work assignment more or less impossible.

Unjustified Assumptions

In some cases, managers feel that they have delegated work based on assumptions that haven’t been properly communicated. For example, assuming that someone is dedicated to a project because you invited them to a project meeting without communicating an actual work assignment or action item.

What is a Turnaround Strategy?

What is a Turnaround Strategy? Jonathan Poland

A turnaround strategy is a business plan that is implemented when a company is facing financial difficulties or declining performance. The goal of a turnaround strategy is to restore the company to financial stability and improve its performance.

There are several different approaches to turnaround strategies, including:

  1. Cost-cutting: This involves reducing expenses in order to improve profitability. This can be done through measures such as layoffs, wage freezes, and outsourcing.
  2. Restructuring: This involves reorganizing the company in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This can include reorganizing departments, streamlining processes, and introducing new technology.
  3. Diversification: This involves expanding into new markets or product lines in order to reduce reliance on a single industry or product.
  4. Asset divestment: This involves selling off non-core assets or businesses in order to focus on the company’s core competencies.

Implementing a turnaround strategy can be a difficult and complex process, and it requires careful planning and execution. It is important for companies to communicate openly with employees and other stakeholders about the changes being made and the reasons for them.

Essentially, a turnaround strategy is a business plan that is implemented when a company is facing financial difficulties or declining performance. It involves a range of measures designed to restore the company to financial stability and improve its performance. This typically requires fast and aggressive decisions in the context of constrained resources and large threats. The following are common examples of a turnaround strategy.

Triage

Triage is a process of quick decision making in an urgent situation. A turnaround may require large decisions to be made within hours. For example, if a trade dispute causes borders to close disrupting a supply chain, a manufacturer may have to immediately decide which operations need to shutdown.

Replacement

The practice of replacing the management of an organization or team that has generated poor results. In some cases, a management team has produced good results but an organization is at risk of failure due to external factors such as a disaster or economic collapse. A replacement strategy may still be used where management has performed well. This is typically done where it is felt that insiders are likely to hold tightly to the status quo of the organization.

Business as Usual

Business as usual is a basic principle for managing drastic circumstances whereby people are asked to continue with their work without becoming distracted by events of the day. For example, an airline with a drastic cut in revenue due to an adverse global event may ask employees to continue on without loss of enthusiasm despite pending job cuts.

Retrenchment

Retrenchment is the process of reducing an organization including elements such as departments, teams, products, regions and business functions. This is a painful process that is often nonetheless necessary for the survival of an organization. For example, a firm that is facing a liquidity crisis may be able to secure additional funding based on the condition that they reduce costs by 40%. From an optimistic viewpoint this can be considered a process of creative destruction.

Repositioning

Repositioning is the pursuit of creativity and innovation to find a leap forward that saves an organization. For example, an oil company that repositions itself as a solar energy firm that produces energy at great scale and low cost.

Renewal

Renewal is the pursuit of a long term strategy that will eventual pay off in significant ways. Once a firm stabilizes its finances a turnaround begins to invest in the long term goals of the organization. For example, an oil company that begins to recruit talent who can realize a shift to green energy.

Culture Shift

The process of changing the culture of an organization. For example, shifting from a culture of resistance to change where people find excuses not to do things to a culture of aggressive change where people find ways to speed things up.

Basis of Estimate

Basis of Estimate Jonathan Poland

A basis of estimate (BOE) is a document that outlines the methodology and assumptions used to create an estimate for a project. It is typically used to provide a detailed explanation of how the estimate was developed, and to provide transparency and accountability for the estimate.

The BOE should include a description of the work that is being estimated, as well as the assumptions and constraints that were considered in developing the estimate. This may include information about the resources that will be required, the schedule for the work, and any other factors that could impact the cost or duration of the project.

In addition to providing a detailed explanation of the estimate, the BOE may also include supporting documentation, such as cost estimates for materials or labor, or references to industry standards or best practices that were used to develop the estimate.

The BOE is an important tool for managing projects, as it helps to ensure that the estimate is accurate and transparent. It is also useful for stakeholders, as it provides them with a clear understanding of the assumptions and constraints that were considered in developing the estimate, and helps to build confidence in the accuracy of the estimate. The following are examples of basis of estimate content.

Assumptions & Constraints

Any assumptions and constraints that were required to generate a set of estimates. This isn’t a repeat of project assumptions but applies to the estimates themselves. For example, assumptions that were made to generate a list of comparable projects for estimate benchmarks.

Attachments

Identify the version of requirements, risk registers and other project artifacts that are the basis of the estimate. Attach any source documents such as price quotes from suppliers.

Estimate Summary

A high level summary designed to communicate the estimate to all stakeholders such that it can be easily understood.

Procedure

A description of the estimation procedure. For example, describing a bottom-up estimation process of identifying tasks and having subject matter experts estimate each. Include details of calculations or algorithms.

Guidelines

Principles that are used to guide estimates. For example, a principle of using three point estimates to estimate complex tasks.

Bottom-up Estimates

If bottom-up estimates are used the details are included at the level at which estimates were produced, typically the task level.

Parametric Estimates

The details of any calculations or algorithms that were used to generate estimates. Algorithms are sufficiently explained in plain language such that they aren’t a mystery.

Analogous Estimates

Any comparisons that were used to generate or validate estimates based on your historical projects. The details of the historical projects used are listed.

Reference Class Forecasting

Any benchmarks that were used to generate or validate estimates using a database of similar programs, projects and initiatives. The details of relevant database entries are listed.

Third Party Estimates

Details of price quotations and other estimates provided by third parties.

Contingency

Details of contingency added to an estimate to account for risk. Potentially includes confidence intervals for estimates.

Analysis

Details of any analysis related to the estimates.

Validations

Details of sanity checks and validations that were performed. For example, a bottom-up estimate technique that is validated with reference class forecasting.

Approvals

An audit trail of approvals for the estimate.

Project Stakeholder

Project Stakeholder Jonathan Poland

A stakeholder is anyone or any group that is impacted by a project. This includes individuals or teams who are accountable for or responsible for certain aspects of the project, as well as stakeholders who are simply consulted or kept informed about the project. The following are a few common types of stakeholders:

Project Sponsor

The persons accountable and responsible for representing the sponsoring business.

Customer or Client

Representatives from the sponsoring business who have a stake or role in the project such as providing requirements.

Program Management

A project may fall under a program or impact programs.

Project Management

Managers of the project or projects that are related or impacted.

Business Analysts

Business analysts deliver artifacts such as the project’s business case or requirements.

Project Team

Generally defined as anyone who contributes work to the project.

Project Management Office

An organization’s Project Management Office may have interest in project in order to monitor a project portfolio or maintain project management standards.

Project Management Board

Project governance bodies such as a Project Management Board.

Executive Team

Generally a project wants to garner as much executive attention as possible in order to create visibility that helps to clear issues and recognize project successes.

Functional Managers

Managers who are impacted by business change driven by a project or who have resources committed to the project.

Architects & Designers

Members of the project team who are responsible for delivering aspects of the project’s architecture and design.

Internal Stakeholders

A term for stakeholders who work for the client organization.

External Stakeholders

External stakeholders include anyone involved in a project who doesn’t work for the client organization such as contractors, vendors, partners and suppliers.

End Customers

The customers of the project’s sponsoring business unit.

Local Communities

In many cases, members of the local community have stake in a project. For example, the neighbors of a large construction site may be impacted and compensated for disruption to their use or enjoyment of their property. In such cases, they may be informed of project schedule updates.

Regulators

Some projects attract the interest of government agencies who become stakeholders. In many cases, government approvals are a project dependency.

Request for Proposal

Request for Proposal Jonathan Poland

An RFP (request for proposal) is a document that asks suppliers to provide a detailed proposal for a supply contract. This could include materials, parts, components, services, and outsourcing partners. When issuing an RFP, it is often because the company wants to consider more than just price in awarding the contract. For example, a technology project might also consider factors such as technical capabilities, reputation, and the vendor’s ability to deliver. The following is a template that can be used as a starting point for an RFP bid.

Purpose

Describe what you want and why.

Background

Provide the context for the request.

Scope of Work

A list of requirements. This may include functional requirements and non-functional requirements. These may be presented in a variety of formats such as user stories or specifications. Each requirement is designed to be atomic, correct, verifiable, unambiguous, complete and consistent.

Performance Standards

State your expectations for supplier performance and how performance will be monitored and controlled.

Deliverables

State what the supplier will deliver.

Deliverable Quality

A list of acceptance criteria for deliverables.

Commercial Terms

State the proposed legal terms of the contract.

Payments, Incentives & Penalties

Give details of how payments, incentives and penalties will be assessed and paid.

RFP Requirements

A specification of what RFP responses must include. For example, it is common to request that suppliers describe in detail how they will achieve each requirement in the statement of work. Other requirements may include a detailed price quotation, company profile, references and elements of a solution design and a solution architecture. RFP requirements may link to other templates that must be filled out and attached to responses such as a template for software architecture.

Award Process

Describe how RFP responses will be evaluated and the contract awarded.

Schedule

Define a schedule including deadlines for anything you expect from suppliers.

Contacts

A list of contacts for the RFP process.

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