The end of the first quarter is close at hand. Now is a good time to do a formal review on multiple fronts within the organization. It is easy to get caught up with day to day and week to week operations thinking you are heading in the right direction, but only to find out things have slightly stayed off. At the end of each quarter is a good time to take a few minutes and insure business activities over the last 3 months have continued along the path corresponding to your vision, business and financial plans, and overall scope with which is your guide. Granted you have been reviewing weekly and monthly reports as well as general activities and monitoring the general immediate direction the organization has been heading. Taking the extra time to do a higher level review and a higher general directional goal review with your staff is important to ensure everyone is still grounded and everyone is still working towards the same end goals…keep everyone pushing the organization in the same direction with the same effort. Three main factors can be reviewed on a quarterly basis to ensure the organization is heading in the right direction…Processes, Financial, and Staff… although there are more that can be looked at.
Weekly reporting is extremely important to ensure compliance towards the business direction, goals, and expectations. Some reports are better viewed monthly as well and provide a different perspective at a broader range of data. For some data, viewing it at a quarterly level provides an even higher perspective not visible in more frequent doses. It is all about charting and viewing data in a visual form. Collecting data points on a daily basis may show the process which is monitored as being compliant even at the bottom of the range. Viewing this data point on a weekly basis can yield yet another perspective of dips and valleys which collectively show potential opportunity in the process. Now move these data points to quarterly, and it will net an even higher perspective of transitions between months. The ultimate goal is to see a broader summarization against a larger picture to gain an alternative perspective. Sounds like a lot of business speak doesn’t it? Consider this example: You are a service organization and are measuring billed hours vs. paid hours on a weekly basis. On the surface of just the data, it seems you are on track and hitting targeted goals each week. Now when you look at it monthly, you can see you still seem to be hitting the numbers, but might be on the lower side of the goal. Now pull the lens out to a quarterly view and you see the trend is actually flat or heading potentially downward as it relates to the other related months. This should trigger a deeper review as you now can see potential loss if the trend continues. It is not about reaching a loss before taking actions, it is all about preventing the direction towards a loss and taking action. It is sort of like driving and not simply staying focused strictly on the road immediately in front of you. You routinely have to change your focus and be looking at both, what is coming up from behind as well as what is coming down the road.
Not only should you be looking at your processes and financials, now is a good time to sit with your staff and review their progress. As both an employee and manager, there is nothing more discouraging than to sit in a review and assume everything has been going great throughout the year, only to find out you were not focused on the same thing you thought the organization expected. The staff should have had goals and objectives established early in the year. I discussed this at length in earlier blog writings. Granted, from day to day operations there have been many discussions on key decisions and potential deficiencies in performance, and even gratitude’s for good performance. All of which were probably either on the floor or even one time office sittings. At the end of the quarter, it’s a good time to take 40 minutes or an hour and simply sit with your staff individually to do a general review of their established goals and general performance. Not only will it provide you a one on one perspective that might not otherwise present itself with a key staff member, you will also have a chance to change and/or encourage and current direction the staff member is heading. This process becomes as much of a respect and courtesy to those who report to you, as it does in adding foundational strength within the organization which will strengthen business improvements and sustainability. Go through the preset performance goals and objective for the employee and provide an opportunity for both of you to reflect, comment, and discuss how they and you are doing. Sometimes it might take more than the proverbial “Open Door Policy” to get someone who is struggling to ask for assistance.
At the end of the quarter, it is a good time to pull back on the lens and get a broader view to see what is happening within the organization. Perform a quarterly review on many fronts to include process direction, financial direction, and employee/staff performance against desired business objectives and expectation’s. Viewing data from a broader or higher level can yield flat spots, low spots, and high spots in the overall business direction which is not entirely visible simply looking at week to week and month to month data charts. It doesn’t take long to assemble and chart the data as well as perform an overall review and analysis. The broader perspective can certainly yield opportunities for improvement or confirm improvement efforts are working. Also, conducting one on one and face to face performance reviews will go a long way towards ensuring collaboration and general expectations against established goals. Taking time to touch base with staff and employees facilitates opportunities for bi-directional communication against performance that might not otherwise take place. Just like steering a boat, you have to stay in front of it as opposed to waiting until you’re at the dock to change course…or the end of the year and trying to change the direction key staff is heading. The results will strengthen the foundation of the organization and possibly uncover something you didn’t realize was happening.
O.M.E.M., LLC – Helping Businesses Improve