System Architect | Ben Strickland: alliancesoftware.com.au
Understanding how to best lead your brand and your business is going to be tricky. It’s not just a case of understanding what your brand does and who’s accountable for what. It’s about bringing it all together into one manageable whole. How do you regularly monitor how your leadership is performing? Do you have full control over all your stats and figures?
It’s perfectly fine to say ‘no’ at this stage. We all start learning somewhere – no one is ever born knowing how systems work! Chances are, most leaders and managers will have more than a few strategies in mind. But how can you make them work more efficiently? How can you effectively get the most out of your existing team and processes with a few minor changes to your system?
As always, it’s time to go back to basics. SYSTEMology is all about watering down complexity to something more digestible. We’ve all been in moments of blind panic. We’ve all scrambled for results with only a few shreds of data to hand. What we need to recognise, on the whole, is that while we’re only human – it’s time to start thinking a little more like a well-oiled machine.
Effective, leadership thrives on clear goals and guidelines. Otherwise, it’s doomed to flail around, grasping at success. In this brief guide, we will look at effective ways for you to perfect your leadership strategy. How to lay it all down, and how to look at the bigger picture without losing the plot.
Step 1: Create an organisational chart to establish the leadership team and responsibilities.
- Outline the core functions in your business – typically between 5 and 9 For each core function, assign a person who will be responsible for driving that part of the business. The people who oversee these processes are the leadership team.
- Typical functions include: Leadership & Oversight, Finance Legal, Project Delivery & Business Systems, Technology & Infrastructure, Sales & Specification, Marketing & Brand, HR & Recruitment.
- The leadership team are responsible for making key decisions for the company and set it’s direction. Organise weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings of the leadership team to track progress. Each leader then must have a meeting with the people of the company that they are responsible for.
Step 2: Set the vision and direction of the company.
- Create a vision document that answers the following 8 questions:
- What is your core product or service focused on?
- What are your core values?
- What is your purpose in business?
- What is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) looking like?
- Who is your target market and how do you reach them?
- What are the 3 things you are going to be great at?
- What is your proven process?
- What is your guarantee to the customer?
- Actively review, debate and engage on the vision document with your leadership team 4 times a year.
- Share the vision document with the entire team.
Step 3: Create a numbers driven business – identify your key metrics (KPIs), track them and review them with your leadership team weekly.
- Create a spreadsheet and/or dashboard that contains your most important numbers.
- For example: Current workload, Leads, Sales, Utilization, Revenue, Profit, Training Time, Customer Satisfaction, Staff Satisfaction
Step 4: Set run meetings with a purpose and find the right rhythm for them.
- 10-minute daily standup meeting with the management team to discuss the issues of the day.
- 90-minute weekly leadership meeting rhythm:
- 15-20 minutes: look at your key numbers, check to-do lists, major 90-day goals and accountability, customer and employee deadlines.
- 65 minutes to discuss issues (both opportunities and problems) – set a collaborative Google Doc and list these issues. Process for dealing with issues: IDS – Identify, Discuss, Solve.
- Last 5 minutes: review to-do’s and confirm ownership, any cascading messages to tell in the company weekly meeting, evaluate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10.
- 1-day quarterly retreat – apart from reviewing the quarterly numbers, the two core activities are:
- First, everybody must ask themselves “What are the 1-3 things that I should focus on, that will push my department most towards our combined strategic goal?” Set these as your quarterly goals.
- The second activity is to deal with high-level issues – discuss what the issues are and what the solutions might be. The solutions can become quarterly goals for the leader.
- 2-day off-site annual meeting
- Review company vision and strategy.
- Make a SWOT analysis (planning method that evaluates strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to a business).
- Review and refine company’s long-term (3-year) goals.
- Suggestion: Have an Agenda– Google document template for each of the meetings – weekly, quarterly and annually.
Know Your Limits
Working out an effective leadership strategy is all about knowing your constraints. We’re not suggesting setting yourself limiting goals, of course. We’re discussing ways for you to move towards long-term success in manageable chunks. The above system was designed to help pick apart the muddles of management and to lay it all out flat. Are you asking yourself enough questions?
Never worry about dreaming too big. It’s better to go big than go small, especially when ambition is concerned. A perfect leadership system keeps goals in sight while making use of a team’s skill sets to smash regular targets. KPIs and short-term goals are great ways to build morale. Meeting regularly, too, keeps everyone on the same page.
Communication is key! We’ve said this several times while discussing systems in the past. Frankly, it’s because it’s true. Too many leadership and management plans have fallen foul of miscommunication. This leads to frustration, missed targets, and poor performance at all levels. A leader is only ever as good as their system.
This system is adaptable to your own needs and goals. You don’t have to throw in meeting after meeting unless you need them. However, it is still a very good idea to keep in touch and to make sure everyone knows where they’re headed.
Have you honed your leadership strategy with a similar system? What works for you and your team? How do you reach your goals while maintaining company morale? Share a few stories with us.
Ben Stickland is the Founder & CEO of Alliance Software.
Alliance Software is an Agile Software Development firm founded in 1999 by Ben Stickland during his final year of University. Despite topping his entire graduating year and receiving a variety of enticing offers, Ben opted to build the Alliance business.
Ben is a passionate entrepreneur with a deep interest in both marketing and business process optimisation. To this day, Ben continues to take a hands on role in a number of startups including serving as both a board member and key strategic advisor.