Is Drag Holding Your Business Back?
Everything that moves, meets resistance. If you want to move quickly, or move a lot, then this resistance becomes a big deal.
And your business wants to move! In today’s fast-paced business environment, everything is about flexibility, speed of innovation and reaction. Your ability to innovate and bring to market, or to learn and re-design and pivot, can be the making or breaking of your hard-fought business.
So identifying, and removing, your points of drag, is important stuff.
In your business there’s a number of factors that can lead to drag: complex approval lines, lack of funding, cumbersome manual processes, excessive administration and human factors like under-motivated staff or slow, out of touch, partners or suppliers.
Whatever the cause, the outcomes are often the same: efficiency declines, growth stalls and innovation is inhibited.
So the challenge for business owners is spotting and alleviating this resistance before it becomes destructive or debilitating.
What does it look like? What should I do?
If you recognise any of these drag factors, it’s time to take action:
- Motivations are not aligned: Whether it’s your workforce, your executive partner/s or your key suppliers, if any of these key parties have hidden or markedly differing motivations, you will experience conflict and communication problems, and everything will take longer.
Start as you mean to go on by being up front and transparent about what you are looking for from each key engagement relationship, and understand the same from your partners’ perspectives too. Only then can you ensure that goals and activities are aligned and tuned to meet both of your needs.
- Priorities are unclear: Without a focused approach, time, energy and resources will be lost on opportunities that have little or no strategic benefit to the business, causing drag and misdirection.
Instead, define specific strategic goals so you can target opportunities that will actually move the business forward.
- Decision-making is laboured: Whether due to poor communication or a convoluted hierarchy, a lack of focused and on-point decision-making will slow down core processes and stifle innovation.
Differentiate every-day operational type decisions from those that genuinely need up-the-line review, and set authorities and empowerment accordingly. Not only will your decision times reduce, but your staff will also feel more involved and invested in the business.
- Incentives are counterproductive: Target driven initiatives have obvious benefits, but if misaligned they can also become a distraction drawing attention away from other (but nonetheless important) tasks.
Identify your key goals and outcomes at each level of the business and put in place corresponding staff performance goals and measures. Share your business vision with everyone, and step it up a level by also rewarding staff for improvement, innovation and acting in the best interest of the business.
- Processes are overly complicated: Anything that adds extra time or effort to a task that should otherwise be undemanding, means extra drag.
Don’t just assume you can install a process or solution and then forget about it. Make a point of revisiting – maybe even bring in a fresh pair of eyes. Consider how it can be improved, made more flexible or simplified. Identify why it exists and realign as needed, so it supports the key outcomes.
- Customers have become an inconvenience: If you find that your business would work a lot better without customers coming in and expecting things, asking questions or demanding inconvenient variations, this is often a sign of poor communications, an inward focus, and having lost sight of the original goals of the business. In the short-term, confused and disillusioned customers can wreak all sorts of havoc on the smooth running of things. Longer term, word will get out, and your competitors will get in; lousy service never prevails!
Keep a close watch on customer service with quantitative (e.g. delivery times, service backlog) and qualitative (e.g. feedback, complaints) measures. Include this feedback as key measures of the business and set ownership and responsibility for continually improving performance.
By the way, reducing drag in your business doesn’t necessarily mean cuts and reductions. Quite the opposite in fact – it usually requires effort and investment.
Either way, it’s tough work, especially if the causes and behaviours have become ingrained in key processes and procedures or the mindset of staff or strategic partners. If you can’t catch it early, then you may need to dial down certain non-critical efforts so you can give due focus to your streamlining.