Granted, it was a reasonably informal environment, but I recently asked a group of finance and accounting people, “How do you decide what you’re going to drive in the next 6-12 months (and I certainly didn’t mean their next automobile choice)? “What things do you have on YOUR near-term agenda, beyond the week-to-week forecast due-dates, banking reports, monthly financials, your audit planning and scheduling, etc.? What’s on your list and who put them there?”
To be honest, the lack of a “crisp answer” was most surprising to me, more than disconcerting. As a member of executive management, would the private equity firm, or a key stakeholder, or investor—likely find such commentary, or the lack, of great concern? What I have found in practice is that just about anyone with clout will have a “list of stuff.” In one role, mine included such things as, get that root-cause analysis of working capital improvements finished and then if the business case proves it–find a way to get the funding. Another one was: what do we have to do to ensure the experienced run-rate of customer credits gets reduced? And still another, how can I find a way to get along differently with that $#*}-@&& head of operations who’s headquartered in the Midwest and not working on the right stuff?
I am certain, people in my organization used to poke fun at me… “Oh, here he goes again…better, faster, cheaper, smarter;” “what’d you fix today;” or, “how’s that new advertising spokesperson selection going?” I’m sure my “hovering” drove them crazy, but we also celebrated completion of each of those steps to improvement, and I made sure to publicize them internally. In one organization, I STILL look back to the singular accomplishments of one key group of people, doing their day job as well as one of the more strategic projects (in terms of size) that I had ever taken on—after inheriting a systems conversion disaster. And they just killed it! That chosen group of business process experts, and information technology people, added $200 million back to profitability, and the cash-flow improvement was probably 3 times that. And to this day, I can only hope they know how impactful that project was—and how grateful I was for what they had done.
We have a responsibility to identify and then keep driving improvements, we likely have the business process experts working for us, and we’d better be doing something about our operations. I remember one slightly overused phrase repeated incessantly by our CEO:
“If not us, WHO? If not now, WHEN?
He drove me crazy, but we got things done. Cuz if important things weren’t on my list, he’d more than likely put some there. Believe me, I quickly learned to just do it myself—that way I got to choose, and who knew it better anyway?
So what are you going to do TOMORROW to make things: Better, Faster, Cheaper, Smarter?
If you don’t, someone else will likely be doing it in your place—very soon.