The military has always known that the best battle plan is useless 10 minutes into battle. There are too many unpredictable elements to be able to carry out a detailed plan for very long.
To compensate for the chaos of battle, the military now uses what is termed “Command Intent”. The objective is given at the top. Each succeeding level of command issues specific orders to meet the top level objective. Each order moving down the chain of command must contribute to the top level objective.
Most businesses have a mission statement. Few employees could recite their company’s statement. Dump it. Then come up with one everyone can actually adhere to. We’ll worry about that later. We have something far more important on the table.
The CEO needs to state a one sentence objective for the quarter, the year and into infinity! Every manager should be able to weigh their plans and decisions according to the CEO’s stated objective.
Most readers are saying to themselves, “that’s obvious, we already do that.” But you don’t.
Is the objective written? Is it constantly reviewed? Is it discussed at meetings? Is it one sentence or some less defined goal like, “we will cut cost and raise profits while increasing sales”? Duh. That won’t do it.
How about: We will increase sales by 10% and gross profit by 15% by year’s end? The CEO issues that edict. Then he must ask the management team reporting to him to give their objectives as fitting to his to order. This needs to be done down to the lowest management level. These orders serve as a template for making decisions.
Ok, let’s use the above example. We’re going to increase sales by 10% and gross profit by 15%. I’m the customer service manager and I’m thinking of conducting a customer service survey. I’d like to know if we’re making our customers happy. I know we have a lot of problems but we’re working on them and I’d like to measure our progress. Good idea?
Does conducting a survey in any way serve the CEO’s objective? No. You already know you have problems. Fix them. Find ways to satisfy the customer at less cost without sacrificing service—that meets one objective—and see if customer service can become a source of sales (it can). If customer service starts making sales, it meets another of the top objectives!
The time to conduct a survey is when you think you’ve solved all the customer service problems.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog