A recent Quora question got me thinking about this topic. Then, as often happens, the Baader Meinhof phenomenon kicked in. Suddenly opportunities to talk about the importance of this tool were everywhere.
So what is it, you ask? It's this: have a system. Whether you want more time for travel when you're a business owner, or you'd like more reliable sales results, or you want to be sure your research about customers is a reliable guide to your decisions, a systematic approach makes the difference. Systems are the reason franchises improve many business owners' success rate. Systems free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks. And systems let you see whether it's your research approach, or a change in your customers attitudes, that has resulted in a different response than usual.
Let me give you a couple of examples. The first has to do with the freedom to be working on your business, and not just in it. This is the freedom to travel more, to sell more, to do high-level thinking. The best system I know for doing this has two parts. Part A is to prioritize your work focus regularly, and don't take on anything that doesn't move you toward your over-arching goals for your life and business (those goals should be aligned, by the way). Part B is to invest in help if there is work that is important but can be done by others, more effectively or efficiently than by you. I learned Part B as the $10, $100 and $1000 tasks rule.
Every day, make a list of all the tasks you must take on, and then prioritize them. If they do not contribute to your goals at all, find someone else to help, or eliminate them altogether. (Reading random posts on Facebook when you're not a social media manager, or even when you are...gone). Secondly, figure out which tasks are both urgent and important. They should be at the top of your list. Which of these can be done only by you? (Selling to your best customers? Check. Making strategic decisions for the future of your business or career? Check.) Which of the jobs can be done by someone else, if you pay them? Look at those jobs, and as your first step, pay to get rid of any $10 tasks. Those are the tasks distract you from your most important, or $1000, jobs, like finding your next customer or finishing a project that will make your boss realize how valuable you are. You'd spend $10 (or even $100) to save or make $1000, wouldn't you? I knew you would.
Every business problem that seems like there isn't enough of something (cash flow, customers, sales, ideas, insights) can benefit from putting a system in place. Buy yourself some freedom. Establish a system today.
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. You can also find insights from us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And for News you can Use directed right to your inbox, sign up using the orange button. Are you stuck and looking to make a career turnaround or start a business? Check out our Upcoming Event link at the top of the page.
Does that sound like an interesting discussion to you? Trust me, it was! Early this morning, I got into a conversation with two marketers I know only from social media (and that we have connections in common). It started with someone poking fun (nay, mocking) a marketing plan template. One aspect of that template was the SWOT analysis, and there was a lot of talk as to whether the SWOT was no longer relevant.
Now Steve and I are both fans of frameworks. They give teams a common language to approach an analysis, so you can stop disagreeing about how to look at what's going on, and simply look at what's going on. They also provide constraints: don't bother finding data that doesn't answer the questions required for that framework. (You can always use that data for a different framework. Just don't force-fit stuff where it doesn't belong).
On that note, we also had a sidebar on templates that are created by head office, your boss, or some other wise guy, that (a) requires data that isn't available in your branch-plant country, or (b) solves a problem that isn't relevant to your context, but rolls up to a bigger template that serves someone else, somewhere else. Don't do this to people. But if it's been done to you, the best way to come up with numbers for the missing links is to triangulate.
Anyway, I digress. I stood up in defense of the SWOT, not because I think it is always the best framework, but because I believe it is a mis-maligned framework, and that often what doesn't work about it are two things: (a) teams try to stog too much into their SWOT, and (b) they've been mis-taught how to use it best. So here goes:
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It's meant to help you think about where you are now, and where you might go (and what could happen to you along the way). The first error teams make, is to mix up Strengths and Opportunities. Or Weaknesses and Threats. It's about looking through the right lens.
Strengths and Weaknesses are about you (and by that I mean your business, your product, your team). What strengths does your product have? What weaknesses? Are you with me so far? These are internal factors. Opportunities and Threats exist once you leave the safe harbour for open water (or open your front door and go outside). Opportunities are things you can achieve or places you can go. And threats don't come from inside, they come from the outside factors. Yes, if your culture is broken, you've got an issue. But that's something you need to fix within your own house, not something that's outside of your control or might impact you whether you want it to, or not. Got it? Excellent. I knew you would.
All this is to say, frameworks are one of the best ways to get people on the same page, fast, to make better decisions. They also can be one of the worst kind of hammers to wield when you've convinced yourself that everything is a nail. So proceed with caution. (And if you'd like to talk about which frameworks to use to answer your burning questions, let's talk).
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients make #betterdecisions, sometimes using frameworks. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. And for insights delivered direct to your inbox on Fridays, you can sign up using the orange button, below.
Every day, we hear companies saying they love their customers. And how do they show it? They push them tons and tons of irrelevant content. They flood their inboxes. They try to sell them things they don't want or need. And here's what many of them don't do:
Try to find out what will really make them happy.
If you've been fortunate enough to be in a long-lasting relationship (like we have), you'll know that you're always looking for ways to delight the other person. To show them that you want to help them get what they want and need to feel like they are their best. Saying sorry when you're wrong. Asking their closest friends if there's something they've been dreaming of that they haven't told you. Not taking, taking, taking.
So today, on Valentine's Day, and every day, if you really love your customer:
To you: thanks for reading. We appreciate it. And thank you to all of you who refer others, endorse us on social media, and engage in conversations about how to find, understand, and engage customers.
I'm Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. (The other is Steve Willson - Happy Valentine's Day!) You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or through our weekly email news.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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