For the past fifteen years John Spence has helped companies such as Microsoft, IBM, GE, Qualcomm, AT&T, Abbott Labs as well as dozens of small-to-medium sized business and start-ups improve their strategies. In his new book, Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action, John explains the core strategies that a business must focus on to build a foundation for sustainable long-term success. I asked him to provide me with the gist of what companies need to do to succeed, and this is what he provided me:
- Vivid vision. Whether you lead two people or 2,000 it is critical that you create a vivid, compelling and extremely well-communicated vision of where the organization is headed. Especially now, a time of turmoil and change, people need the security of a clear direction to help them keep focused and productive.
- Best people. The success of your business is directly tied to the quality of the people you have on your team. Many companies who say the “our people are our most important asset,” but very view have put in the systems and processes needed to make talent management a key strategic advantage.
- Robust communications. The watchword here is transparency. Knowledge is absolutely power, and the more information you share with your people, the more power you give them to help the business succeed.
- Culture of urgency. This is not about wild, out-of-control speed, the goal is “speed + results.” You want everyone in the business to have a strong sense of urgency about getting the most important things done immediately.
- Disciplined execution. A lot of companies have cool, innovative and exciting ideas, but only about 10 – 15% of businesses effectively execute on their key initiatives in a disciplined and thorough manner.
- Extreme customer focus. At the end of the day, the only critic whose opinion counts is the customer’s, and the company that owns the “voice of the customer,” owns the marketplace.
There is nothing particularly “revolutionary” in these prescriptions. However, there is a big difference between knowing these ideas are good and living them every day, so here is a quick audit to test how well you are doing. Score these on a scale of 1-10 with a ten meaning “we are world-class at this, we totally rock!!!” and a one meaning “We are horrible at this; this does not describe us at all.”
- We have a clear, vivid vision that is extremely well communicated throughout our entire organization.
- Our company is a talent magnet. We have only the best people on our team.
- We have lots of open, honest, and transparent communication across the entire company
- Everyone in the business works with a strong sense of urgency to deliver results.
- We are fantastic at flawlessly executing on all of our key initiatives.
- We have strong, trusting relationships with our customers and listen to them intently to understand their needs, wants and concerns.
A score below a seven should concern you. A score below five scare the crap out of you. A score above fifty means that you’re going to kick butt.