The one thing that I have come to recognize in my own work and in working with many leaders is that we don’t often have a full sense of the state of affairs, and often we have a bias towards thinking we are in better shape than we actually are. Think about the last time you reflected on your organization’s health; you probably thought that your brand was in good shape, your team was pretty good (good enough at least), and that your value proposition was strong enough to tackle the rising competition and disruptive threats. It’s human nature to think things are better than they are – likely an unconscious reflex driven by not wanting to do additional work. The status quo feels pretty comfortable.
I wrote about the need to have a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo a few weeks ago in my blog, and now it is time to take a look at some simple but effective steps to assess the current state of your organization so that you can make the necessary moves to achieve remarkability.
In my model of remarkability, outlined in Making Remarkable, there are five key steps to assessing your organization:
- Dig into the numbers to assess the financial health of the organization
- Undertake an organizational assessment, looking at performance to current plans, KPIs and peer benchmarking
- Listen to people to get a no B.S. assessment of what works, what doesn’t and what needs to change
- Understand trends and forces that affect the success of your organization
- Complete the remarkability diagnostic tool I have created
Dig Into the Numbers
Depending upon the size of the organization you may or may not have access to strong financial or accounting expertise. If you have a finance director or a CFO, you can ask them to do this analysis for you. Otherwise, you may want to consider hiring someone who can do many of these analyses—a CPA, a CFA or another financial expert.
You should consider looking at several financial analyses, including:
- Organizational profitability, current and historical, and departmentally/functionally if possible
- Productivity of revenue-generating resources, such as sales and sponsorship, to determine the net income of all sales revenues brought in versus their cost/expense to the organization
- Retention and conversion rates: how many customers/members repeat business, and how long it takes to get a sale
- Historical cash balance and annual cycles
- Balance of investments/restricted funds and historical returns and balances
- Revenue and expense historical growth rates and cyclicality
- Staff expense percentage of total expenses, and growth in salary expense over time
- Net income and margin of revenue areas (like events and conferences)
- Historical average sale value and per customer expenditures annually
This analysis will give you a sense of the organization’s financial health, how effective it is with its money, and what kinds of decisions need to be made to either stop the bleeding or continue the acceleration.
This step is all about assessing how the organization performs compared to plans and compared to performance measures and benchmarks.
A key piece of your assessment will be performance against established metrics or targets. Look for any performance indicators, KPIs, OKRs or metrics currently being used by the organization and ask for current state and historical data on them. You should be looking at measures such as market penetration; size of organization (budget and FTE) compared to peers; turnover and retention; sectoral representation; and other performance measures.
To the extent that you can, use peer benchmarking and assess your position against the performance of similar organizations. An analysis of yourself by yourself is often limiting in terms of insight, context and comparability. Knowing that you can lift 50 lbs. is great, but you will never know if you should be lifting 100 lbs. until you look at how you compare to others. Benchmarking our chamber to peer chambers helped us understand where we were under-performing and where we needed to improve to be considered best in class.
If this kind of benchmarking service does not exist in your field, you should work to get a sense of how you perform relative to some key indicators that may or may not currently be getting tracked. You can do this by reaching out to some peer leaders in similar organizations and asking if they would share their data in return for your completed analysis. I have done this a few times with everything from salaries and benefits to retention rates and more. I have often found my peers willing to share, and your payback can be offering them the completed analysis, so they can see where they stand relative to other peers.
Listen to People
Once you have generated a picture of organizational performance through data analysis and benchmarking, you should have an informed discussion with a wide range of stakeholders, including:
- Your board
- Your staff and colleagues
- Your current and past customers/members
- Your sponsors, patrons or financial backers
- Community leaders
- Naysayers and competition
- Peer organizations (i.e., similar organizations in other cities or locations)
- People whose opinion you trust and respect
What you also want here is honesty. I always tell people “don’t pat me on the back as I’m walking off the cliff.” You want candor—radical candor.
Some questions you should ask include:
- How are we doing? Are we meeting your needs and expectations?
- What do we do that is really good?
- What do we do that really sucks?
- What do you want to preserve and why?
- What do you want to change/discard and why?
- What do you hope I do?
- What are you concerned I might do?
- What are you concerned I might not do?
- Are there any critical or priority issues to address?
- What changes or trends do you see happening that we need to be aware of or should be acting on?
Understand Trends and Forces
As a leader you will need to become aware of, and regularly track, those trends and forces that impact your organization’s success. You must also have the ability to understand how those changes may affect your organization and be able to choose how to adapt.
This does not mean that you need to become an expert in blockchain, or an authority on AI. But it does mean that you need to make a regular practice of surveying the landscape for the trends and forces that affect the success of your organization, in technology, demographics, health, business, finance, economics, etc. It means engaging with or convening other experts to help build your awareness and understanding. It means trying to have a degree of foresight with respect to what will happen next in certain areas affecting your business, and how you might respond.
I wrote about the potential trends and forces affecting leaders and organizations in a previous blog called Tapestry. You may want to review it to get some ideas.
You may want to take a more detailed assessment of your organization specifically aligned to the principles and standards of remarkability. I have built a free, on-line tool for you to use. You answer a series of questions on each element of remarkability and it will provide you with a score and an assessment, including potential recommendations for ways to improve your score. Click here to launch your on-line diagnostic assessment.
Bringing it All Together
Once you have completed your assessment, bring all the information together into one centralized tool. Again, I have built a matrix that you can download and use to bring all this information together. It will provide an insightful heatmap of where things look good, and where there is need for work. From there, you can determine priorities and opportunities.
Why bother? This seems like a lot of work, you might be thinking. Well, the reality is that you can’t afford not to. The world is changing so fast, and the need to be adaptive and nimble to what is going on is critical. Not to mention that if you want to be remarkable, you have to take stock of where your organization is at currently so that you can map out your Remarkability Agenda to make the necessary improvements.
Waste no time. Assess and get on with it. Be dissatisfied with the status quo. Become remarkable.
Want to learn more? Pick up your copy of Making Remarkable: How to Deliver Purpose, Inspire People and Build a Platform for Exceptional Results.