Looking back to move forward

By November 23, 2018 No Comments

What do successful entrepreneurs do? They conduct regular reviews of their strategy, goals, metrics, culture, wins and shortcomings – with their teams. If you want to improve in 2019, now’s the time to reflect and learn. So this week, Smart Bytes sets out a basic framework that might help motivate you to do just that. Or it might not. In which case fast forward to next week.

What has planning got to do with innovation?

Glad you asked. Google ‘innovation’ and you will find that “innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation”. 

Indeed. And its synonyms highlight a critical truth about what it is: Change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, reorganisation, restructuring, rearrangement, recasting, remodelling, renovation, restyling, variation. Many of these words point to innovation as recombination, an idea that was nicely validated in The Second Machine Age. To successfully recombine to break new ground, you need to be clear about the working parts – like, how you got to where you are now.

But there is a problem here. The idea of a review meeting can make many go limp.

Prefer to plan the future more than evaluate the past? It’s a head game.

To keep things interesting, you just have to stay curious.

Approach your reviews with the right headspace. Be super curious not uber critical. Be wide open to learning stuff. Work through the really important, toothy questions, like:

  • What were our top achievements?
    • What tools, or processes did we use to achieve them?
    • How did they specifically impact our progress/growth?
    • What could have improved the processes or the outcomes?
  • What were our biggest disappointments?
    • What did we learn from them?
    • When we hit problems, did we implement a specific strategy to pivot or constructively address the issues? Or did we just push on?
    • What could we have done/do better?
  • Did we have unexpected expenditures?
    • Why? Could we have planned for those events better?
  • Did we have unexpected challenges?
    • What forces were they caused by?
    • Could we have planned for those challenges, or prepared for their impacts better?
  • What did we do this past year to cultivate a positive culture?
    • What opportunities were missed?
  • What do we think our competitors are doing well that we can learn from?

After all, how can you fix something if you don’t know how it broke, or even that it is broken? How can you understand success when you’re not entirely sure how you nailed it?

So if you want 2019 to be innovative – love to review. 

Plan it into your time – preferably over a week. It is not a quick exercise over a coffee. If life is really busy, try setting aside three or four good shorter sessions across a week to address: 1) What are we trying to do longer term? 2) How did we do this last year? 3) What should we do more of, and what could we do differently? 4) What will we do next year?

And definitely don’t just take your own word for it. Get curious with your customers, and find out from them:

  • How you are doing and what could you do to improve your services/products?
  • How are they doing and what could you do to help them achieve their goals?
  • What do they think your competitors are doing well that you can learn from?

Then synthesise all your answers into your planning session questions to ask:

  • What are the key things we will take forward to help us do better next year in our: Culture? Customer experience? Processes? Systems? Competitiveness? Planning? Execution?

How will you direct focus and resources to go after goals you are re/setting? Do you have, or will you have, the resources [time/skills/people] required and will these goals drive strategy? How will you know you’re making progress?

Then assess your metrics.

Are you measuring the right things? Are there other tools and resources you could add to your dashboard?

And know this, success depends on two things: Execution. Follow up.

So once you’ve completed your review and planning process, break the work into bite-sized sets of activities. Run short, sharp, daily stand ups. Schedule a monthly meeting to perform mini-reviews. Learn. Make changes, note wins, and above all, celebrate progress.



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