Review your business – Outside-In

review your business
We all know where we’re going, don’t we?

But does everyone in the business know where it is going and more importantly how it will get there? We all hope so. We’ve written it down in business plans and communicated it through the organisation. The business therefore knows the strategy, where it’s going and how it’s planning to get there. Great stuff, jobs done, let’s move on to the next activity….

Surely not, haven’t we got to monitor it? Of course, that’s why we produce financial and business management reports; they’re our tools to monitor progress. We pick up the exceptions, investigate negative exceptions and if necessary put in place remedial action. Or, less frequently, consider the impact or opportunity of positive exceptions.

Can your business get more out of your investment in strategy?

Many times we don’t make full use of the effort put into the strategy development. We don’t sit down quietly and consider if we are really en route to our chosen destination. One of the most difficult challenges is finding the time and commitment to properly review your business. It is easy to let it slip or pay lip service to the idea of review. Why is that?

  • There is no time pressure
  • There is always a perceived greater immediate issue
  • There is always someone/something else demanding attention
  • It’s not today’s critical activity

We all tend to think about the pressures on each aspect of our business in isolation, often when they occur. We rarely review the relevant importance of each of these to the overall success of the business: The difficulty is, how do we

  • separate the day to day from the strategic?
  • identify those things that significantly impact the business, good and bad?
  • ensure the business we are winning is the business we want?

We need, therefore, to reflect on how all the different activities impact on each other, within a framework for evaluation.

If the framework is the business strategy, the business review is the process for evaluation. But how do we avoid the blindness that comes from knowing the business inside out and making the review impotent?

The power of Outside-In

When some who doesn’t know your business asks “why are you doing that” the first thought might be if you knew my business it’s obvious, what an annoying question. Then, as you try to answer, you might realise that the question is actually “what is the purpose of doing that, what will we gain from it?”

You will get a better result, therefore, if you review your business with someone from outside the business, someone that can:

  • view your business dispassionately
  • ask those pertinent (‘annoying’), constructive ‘why’ questions
  • challenge the assumptions, not because they are thought to be wrong, but to ensure they stack up with the rest of the business and your plans

An outside view doesn’t assume to know what is going on – which adds an important additional dimension when you review your business.

Hence, another source of the outside-in view is to regularly ask your customers, suppliers and staff how they view the business.

Their answers need listening to and not being treated like a box to be ticked. The way the question is answered will often say more than the answer itself. On occasions the business will get to hear things that indicate assumptions need to be re-validated. The business review is the ideal tool to do just that.

To sum up, the business review is the SatNav for your business

It displays where you have specified you want to go, shows how you’re going to get there, enables you to check you are on the planned route and identifies bottlenecks ahead. If you veer off the route, or see a roadblock, it provides you the opportunity to automatically reroute.

What steps will you take to ensure you have a SatNav appropriate for your business? Who could you engage to review your business from an outside-in perspective?

Author: Chris Ball