I try to keep up my monthly intake of business books, and I am always looking for those gems that provoke thought, provide a new way to look at something, or reinforce fundamental principles. The third time Patrick Thean, author of Rhythm, mentioned that The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Organization was one his favorite books, I knew I had to get a copy and read it.
The book was written by the famous Peter F. Drucker, known as the world’s foremost pioneer of management theory. He lived to be ninety-five and left us in 2005. I was first introduced to his work when studying management theory while receiving my undergraduate degree over 20 years ago.
The five questions are as relevant as ever and align well with the work we do with Rhythm. Peter Drucker suggests taking a self-assessment to answer these questions:
1. What is our mission?
This asks the question, what is your organization’s reason for being? In our world, we refer to this as your Core Purpose which is the soul of your organization and is the reason you attract and retain the people you do. In our company, we are trying to “change the world, one entrepreneur at a time.” The people that join and stay with our team are committed to this purpose and live it everyday.
2. Who is our customer?
Defining your primary customer is one of the most important things you can do. We use the terminology of Robert Bloom, author of The Inside Advantage by asking, who is your “Who” and “How” do you sell your “What” to your “Who”? The key is to drill down as far as possible until you can see the eyes of the individual actually making the purchase decision and then define what are their true needs, not wants.
3. What does the customer value?
This question again speaks to needs not wants. The only way to truly find the answer is to talk with prospects and customers to identify the real needs. We may start with assumptions, but until we ask the right questions, we do not have a clear understanding. The Sheetz Corporation is a wildly successful convenience store chain that started in my hometown. Steve Sheetz spoke to our Rotary Club one day and said the secret to their success was in asking customers what was important to them. The answer was clean restrooms and safe, well-lit parking lots. They responded with action and the rest is history.
4. What are our results?
Are you achieving the results you need each quarter and each year to reach your long-term goals? Results are measured both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Developing success criteria with red, yellow, green and SuperGreen targets creates very clear desired outcomes that the team agrees on and reports on each week. We normally prefer numbers or dates, but sometimes results can be measured in the desired outcome you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are installing a new line of equipment, rather than just using an install completion date, you may measure success as producing an acceptable number of quality parts. (Asking this question forces you to focus on what is most important to the organization over a particular period.) Drucker states, “results are the key to our survival.”
5. What is our plan?
The idea is to develop a clear plan that focuses the organization on the right things while helping it say no to the wrong things, or next shiny object as we sometimes say. These key initiatives and priorities should align with your Core Purpose and help the organization reach their long-term goals or BHAG. To achieve the desired results, you need to set a limited number, three to five, very clear, measurable annual and quarterly priorities. Doing this allows you to make the necessary adjustments to achieve your goals and focus the organization’s energy on the right activities with clear deliverables. Drucker states, “if you have more than five goals, you have none.” Plans are dynamic and need to be adjusted based on learnings and market conditions. Planning each quarter for a 13-week race allows you to make the necessary adjustments.
Have you asked yourself these questions about your organization lately? If not, consider doing so, and consider taking the Rhythm Assessment. We developed the Rhythm Assessment to answer these questions along with many others to give you perspective and ideas on how to improve.
Please let me know your thoughts and plan well, Alan