In this episode, we’ll look at a framework to develop your front line people to fearlessly execute the day-to-day operations and free yourself up to put more time and attention in growing your business.
A lot of the change that’s going to be needed will be with you, the leader, not just your front line of people.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- Are you concerned with keeping operations running every day?
- Are the weekly results of your business inconsistent, moving in a sawtooth from good to poor without a clear reason why?
- Are you missing out on connecting with new and existing customers because you’re wrapped up in day-to-day operations?
- Do you have a sense that you need to develop new products and services for the future but haven’t found the time to focus on it?
- How often have you experienced this idea, we have time to rework our products but not to make them right the first time?
RESOURCE FOR REFERENCE
To help us get some ideas to deal with these questions, we’re going to be working with a framework developed in the book, Run, Improve, Grow: Your Roadmap from Firefighting to Bold Business Growth, by Ray Attiyah of Definity Partners.
Ray’s key idea is frontline people should be developed to fearlessly and flawlessly run the day-to-day activities, which should free up senior leaders like you to focus on growing the business.
Here’s how he defines three work areas of a business.
Everyday activities need to keep the business running and serving your customers. This is where you need to have highly reliable processes and people with skills and confidence.
This is the work needed to improve your current operations. Now, if process development is overdone, it can be stifling.
The improved portion of our business needs to have both elements, both flawless processes executed every day and then the ability to step back and improve those processes as the need arises.
Growth is the work that expands your business or creates new products or services for your customers. What is the new solution our customers are seeking and we can serve?
Where can we find new customers either in terms of geography or other locations?
As a leader are we asking the questions of what we might look like in the next three to five years in terms of new products and services that our customers might need?
As we go through this process and you continue in your work-life, keep thinking about this one key question.
Step back and reflect on it.
What activities generate my highest value added and contribute to the business?
Now, as you return to the book, Ray describes what he calls the marathon manager.
WHAT’S A MARATHON MANAGER?
That’s a leader who tries to be involved in every aspect of the business. It is both impractical and unsustainable.
He would say that you can relieve some of this busyness, confusion, and overwhelm for both yourself and your employees by developing the skills and knowledge of your frontline workers.
That way, with other people successfully executing the run every day, you can place your time and attention on the activities that will create the future for your business. Running around is not the run.
PYRAMID OF BUSINESS ACTIVITIES
What I call his pyramid of business activities, the baseline is the day-to-day activities that serve your customers.
The firefighting that has to occur when things don’t go correctly in the day-to-day activities, but then there has to be an element above that, the improve.
These can be reactive improvements to fix processes that don’t work and also proactive improvements that will define new processes that can be even more flawlessly executed with higher quality.
And then finally at the top of the pyramid is the grow.
That’s where you’re going to be looking for new markets, new products and services, and new geographies with which your business can work too.
WHERE DO WE START AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
We need to develop a mindset both for us and for our employees of confidence and ownership of our processes.
We need to define our processes so our frontline employees can confidently execute the work that is needed each and every day.
In the end, it remains not scalable for you to try to do it all, so you need to develop your teams to have more capabilities and confidence in executing those day-to-day activities.
So, how can you begin today?
Think about how you have spent your time in the last couple of days.
Did you spend any time thinking about how to make your processes more reliable?
Did you spend any time thinking about how you might grow your business?
Try to carve out 15 to 20 minutes to capture some thinking on where your employees have the most questions about getting their work done.
Think about the question that if I could clone myself, what would I assign that clone to do?
What are the activities that I would have someone else do for me?
Then think about what are my obstacles with having other people responsible for the run.
Is it they have lack of skills; they have lack of training; maybe have lack of knowledge, or maybe they don’t know enough about the business yet.
Are you the only one that knows all the pieces of the business?
So, think about what you feel are the obstacles to success.
Then think about, how can I lead the way?
In terms of stepping out of our old habits of work and help our front line people practice our new habits of work…
The leader often has to go first and demonstrate what’s important to the people. If you’re going to choose to do things the new way, you have to lead the demonstration of that.
In the run, we create simple but clear processes for everyday work. These may develop, be documented, and flawlessly executed by frontline people.
We need to develop skills and knowledge in those frontline people so they can take ownership of the everyday processes.
As we move to the improved portion of our business, ask your front line leaders to support the front line employees and teach them how to look for reactive and proactive process improvements in cooperation with those employees.
Finally, in the growing piece of the business, consciously step away from the run and spend focused time on creating growth plans for your business.
Keep reinvesting in the development of your people to help them build higher capabilities.
And, for immediate action steps, take a few minutes right now to reflect on yesterday or last week.
NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN
What percent of your time was spent in the run, the improve, or the grow?
Or, go out and have a conversation with a couple of your frontline employees about what in their work is confusing or what they may not understand.
What knowledge or skills would help them do their work more smoothly?
Feel free to leave a comment on what your experience and thought process as you asked yourself these questions.