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Organisations often have ideals of which kind of organisation they are, and what they want to become. These ideals might be externalised in, but ideals have to be implemented in the organisation and anchored in a common understanding to make a difference. Ideals about what the organisation is and what it should be would mean nothing if it is not translated into something measurable.
Key performance indicator (KPI) is a term for a control mechanism that can help an organization or a department assess the progress on achieving their goals. KPIs thus provide information about how the organization or department performs in relation to its goals. You can read more about KPIs here.
Measuring KPIs from the right data can make your actions more proactive, as you will no longer have to act on previous data, as it is a real-time reporting tool. We have a useful blog post on choosing the correct data here.
By using KPIs you are forced to look at the specific actions and behaviors you might use to drive you towards your goals.
The effects of using KPIs
Increased motivation of individual employees
A possibility of bench marking (internal / external)
Clear and balanced expectations
Fast and continuous gathering of performance
An organizational understanding in the individual
Support of and influence on business objectives
When setting on which KPIs to use, you will need to set a strategy and a goal of what you want to achieve. We have a blog post on using KPI’s to set and meet strategic goals here. As you do this, it is important to involve everyone and make sure they are regularly updated on the KPIs. When people feel responsible for KPIs, they are more likely to push themselves and receive more satisfaction from a job well done. Check out our blog post on the importance of setting differentiated goals.
Having a clearly defined KPI and goal makes it easier for everyone to talk about the progress, and to keep objectives at the forefront of decision making. As you can see, there are many reasons to use KPIs when guiding the organization towards the goal.
We hope you are now ready to embrace KPIs into your work life. Below you can see some of the articles we have collected on how to set goals for your organization.
See our case of the Box Company, for an example of a company that did not use KPIs and suffered from it.
KPI is an abbreviation of Key Performance Indicator and is a term for a control mechanism that can help an organization or a department assess the progress on achieving their goals. KPIs thus provide information about how the organization or department performs in relation to its goals.
Setting goals for an organization is a complicated task that takes energy and time. When done right your goals will tell you and everyone, both inside and outside the organization, what you are aiming for and what you are working towards. This will influence what will happen with the organization in the future. When setting goals, we find that there are times when it is scientifically easier to influence people to pursue and stick to it with commitment. It is important to take everyone into account, as well as their point-of-view. This is why it is recommended that you set differentiated goals for each team or department.
In this article we describe some models, that make goal setting more manageable. First, we will describe when to set goals, and when not to. By making use of the theory of “freeze and unfreeze”, by the psychologist Kurt Lewin. Afterwards, we will describe the SMART goal model, which is used as a tool for setting goals in an organization. This model helps you set goals that make sense. Read about them bellow!
UNFREEZE, CHANGE AND FREEZE
One way to look at the process of setting goals is through the theory of freeze-change-unfreeze by the Swedish psychologist Kurt Lewin. This model is important for setting goals as all businesses, no matter their field of work or size, are to face change through time. Therefore, we as a company must perceive change as a process compounded by different stages for which you should prepare and develop a plan to be able to cope with the evolution.
Setting goals is a task that is time and energy consuming but which can change what you do and how you do it. This is why it is so relevant to think about when to set goals.
The theory is commonly compared to an ice cube, which, if left long enough, will melt. And therefore, it will be able to acquire a different shape than the original one. With the three stage model, Kurt Lewin provides us with an understanding of changes inside organizations.
Unfreezing might be helpful to do once in a while in order to reconsider if you have actually placed the cups in the best spot in the kitchen. Unfreezing one thing will make more things unfreeze. If you move over your coffee cup next to the coffee machine, you might have to move the tea bags that were there before, which will then be taking the place of the sugar cubes and so on. When re-thinking your organizations’ goals in relation to branding, for instance, you cannot do it without also rethinking human resource, production, suppliers and so on.
Unfreezing is a demanding task that will take a lot of psychological energy but from which you will benefit in the long run. This means that you should do it regularly, but not too often. To be able to carry out the unfreezing stage, we first need to make everyone in our company aware that change is necessary. The reason why the system should change needs to be visible and the gap between the current situation and the ideal situation should be highlighted. This way, everyone will be aware of why the current process cannot continue and why change needs to happen.
To not waste energy and time, there needs to be respected for the fact that when you set a goal, it is engraved in stone and you need to trust it. This way, you can focus on something else and be confident when making decisions. Only then, you might set a date for when you need to reflect on the goal, but it cannot be done constantly.
After unfreezing, people need to start looking for a new way of doing things. This happens during the change stage. Going back to the cups, tea bags and coffee machine, you now need to reconsider what places might be best for them and try out different locations until you find the best one, which will make the morning process of using the kitchen a lot easier. Applying this to a company, you need to make sure that the employees understand how this change will benefit them and you need to make sure that you give them enough time to adapt to the change. By assuring this, you also assure that they contribute to the change in a positive way.
Only when the introduced changes to the company have been totally adopted, will change be completely effective. Applying this to our morning coffee we find that when you get up in the morning and grab your regular breakfast, you don’t think about where in your kitchen you have placed the mugs, coffee or tea bags.
Thinking about where you have placed all the utensils, would take you out of your routine and make you re-evaluate where everything is located in your house and how you act in your kitchen. The reason you don’t think about these things in your everyday life is called freeze mode. This means that you take things for granted and don’t rethink everything. This, which makes humans able to act in everyday life, might make you overlook the bigger picture. Not thinking about everything, frees you up to think about more specific tasks.
Applying it to a company means that by making sure that all the changes the company has incurred are integrated into everyday business. This will give the employees steadiness and confidence when the time for taking decisions comes and will allow them to go more in-depth in more meaningful tasks. Although, it should be looked at closely since when you become too comfortable and confident it can lead to stagnation and procrastination, which is something that you want to avoid. That is why sometimes un-freezing and trying out new things and methods is helpful, but always give it enough time to transit and freeze.
The SMART model
As an addition to the Unfreeze-Change-Freeze model, we find the SMART model, which is one of the most suitable models to follow when setting a goal for your organization. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Based. It is a well-established tool that you can use to plan and achieve your goals, commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. Below you will find an explanation of each of the letters in SMART.
S for Smart
Your goals should be clear and specific. Otherwise, your employees won’t be able to focus on them nor feel truly motivated to achieve them and you won’t be able to measure them with key performance indicators (KPIs). It is important that the goals are clear for the employees who have to deal with them, and it has to be clear exactly what the KPIs measure. The employees must know what happens in everyday life so that the strategic goals will be built on a common understanding between everyone who is involved. When using KPIs, it is often useful to find out what you want to know and then look at data to find the answers. The KPIs will not matter if they were not measured on something specific and useful. It will also make it easier for you and for your employees to identify a clear plan to achieve the goals.
M for Measurable
It is important to have measurable goals so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Keeping updated with the progress helps the employees to stay focused, to meet deadlines and to feel excited for being closer to achieving your common goals. One way to make sure everyone is always updated is to use a schedule or calendar that will make it easy to share the progress of the company and each person in real-time.
A for Attainable
Your goals also need to be realistic and attainable. It is important that the strategic goals are achievable, but not too easy to achieve. On one hand, If the goals are too easy to achieve, they will not motivate the employees. But on the other hand, we find that If the goals are not achievable, the motivation to work towards them disappear. When the task is too difficult to achieve, the employees usually give up or get stressed and under-perform. The goals must also be realistic in the sense that the company is able to achieve them with the available resources. Nothing is more discouraging than striving for a goal that you will never obtain.
R for Relevant
To succeed with a goal, it is important to ensure that your goal matters to everyone involved and that it also aligns with the company goals. The competences of the employees and their education need to be taken into consideration when delegating tasks so that you make sure everyone is capable of completing the tasks they have received and thereby achieving the goals. To set relevant goals easier, start by asking yourself about the importance of these for your company. What benefits would it bring to your company if these goals get achieved? Would these goals still have the same importance in a month’s time or if it is just a temporary issue?
T for Time based
Every goal needs a target date so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work towards. Setting a start and endpoint for achieving the goals, allows the company to maintain its priorities and to make sure that not only the short term goals will be achieved, but also the long term goals.
It is usually helpful to not just define what should be achieved at the end of the process but also what should be achieved at different times so that we can see if everything is on track. Setting and monitoring KPIs for this purpose will be helpful for keeping the goals on track and evaluating them.
WHY SET GOALS?
Research proves that setting goals will help your organization. Setting goals is a delicate process. So when setting your goals, you will need to focus on what you would like to achieve – not on what is acceptable or the minimum. This way of thinking leads to the fact that not reaching your goal also improves your company. You should be in an iterative cycle, where the goals that are not achieved influence what you do in terms of strategy and future goals. By using the theories described in this article, we can say that setting goals for your organization work better when it is done at a specific time. Then they are not questioned again before the time has run out or an unacceptable level has been reached.
To summarize, the best goals are clear, specific and relevant, so that the employees can relate to them and see how their actions affect them. The goals also have to be measurable, so there is no doubt whether they have been achieved or not. In addition, goals should be realistic and attainable, so neither the employees nor the employer will give up beforehand. And last but not least, the goals should be time based so that there is a deadline to work towards.
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Setting strategic goals can be paramount to succeeding, but only if done in the right way. To do so, the SMART model is a commonly used model for setting goals. This model aims to set a goal that is; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
In order to achieve the outcome you expect and achieve your goals, it can be a good idea to apply the use of KPIs as a tool for measuring how well you and your team are doing in regards to accomplishing that goal.
Thus, this article will guide you through the usage of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to set goals. The reason for using KPIs is because they show a very clear indication of whether the company is achieving their strategic goals and where they are in that process. This article tries to give a general knowledge on how to approach and talk about this subject. And at the same time, increase the motivation for everyone involved. Read it bellow!
SETTING A SHARED GOAL
The first thing you will want to do when setting a goal is to find out what you actually want to achieve in your company. This way, you will set standards for your company.
Think about your objectives and key results
In order to set goals that align with the company’s purpose, it’s a good idea to include objectives and key results.
Objectives are descriptions that map out what you want to achieve, they should be easy to remember, and engage the team. They differ from goals in such a way that objectives are to be achieved in a short period of time and attempts to guide towards a specific direction. On the other hand, goals are the company’s long term ambition.
Whereas key results are quantitative and allow you to monitor how to get to the objectives and to measure the progress towards reaching those objectives. There should be several key results for each of the objectives but it is advisable not have more than five key results as goals to be achieved within a given period. Otherwise, the focus would become more scattered and therefore, not all goals will be achieved satisfactorily. Doing this, will align the company’s purpose, mission, and vision beyond different teams and departments and establish a shared goal within the company.
Not only should your company focus on what you want to achieve short-term, but also mid and long-term. This way the company maintains balance and ensures the accomplishment of long term goals. Click To Tweet
Then, set a shared goal
Many companies have a shared goal, which is usually set by c-level, and this is what the company is working towards, but these strategic goals can be hard for lower-level employees to identify with. This is why you need to make sure that your goal is adaptable to each department in your company and that the employees can relate to what the goal represents.
Let’s take the LEGO group as an example. LEGO group has a shared goal of achieving the highest possible customer satisfaction. They are using the KPI tool “Net Promoter Score” to measure customer satisfaction, and with this, they ask their customers about their level of satisfaction in regards to their shopping experience and assess the likelihood of to which degree they would recommend LEGO products. LEGO measures the overall success of this goal but also aligns it with the goals of other departments, every one of them from a different perspective, but with the same common end goal. This is what we call differentiated goals.
Don’t forget to set differentiated goals!
If for example, the shared goal is to increase revenue, that might be hard to relate to from the production workers perspective. But if the goal for the production department is to produce 5% more a week, this will still work towards the shared goal and is also be more relevant and achievable for the workers in production. The sales team, however, would probably not relate to production goals, because they cannot make a difference towards reaching that goal. A differentiated goal for the sales team could be, for example, to increase sales by 5%. This aligns with the shared goal of increased revenue and the production goal to produce 5% more a week.
By having a system of differentiated goals, you make it transparent how each department contributes. Each group and person know what they can do in order to reach bigger goals for the organization. Click To Tweet
If we take a look at IKEA’s shared goal to manage the movement of the goods efficiently and how it is differentiated, we find that in order to achieve this, there are three teams who have created a goal that is relevant for their department but still aligns with the main goal.
One of the departments is receiving the merchandise, where they focus on the flow of goods and avoid overstock. Another department is managing logistics and makes sure the volume of products coming in and out is aligned. Lastly, we have a department that does stock controlling where they focus on keeping track of the stock movement to trying to keep costs from logistics low. What seems apparent is that all three teams mainly focus on something different but in the end, all of the objectives align with the shared goal but have been adapted to each of the teams so that they can stay focused and motivated on what is relevant to them.
Although you will want to adjust your actions to maintain your strategic goals, you will need to trust them and not modify them all the time. Goals are set at the beginning and evaluated at the end. These are the only two times you should review your goals, and of course, they should be tracked with KPIs to achieve the optimum results.
Although having set your strategic goals is a good start, this is only the beginning. One of the keys to success is to keep an eye on progress – this is where KPIs are can be crucial. Reviewing the KPIs frequently to find more effective ways that you hadn’t thought about before can lead to even better results.
Moreover, it can also help you figure out what is happening in your company. Choosing the right KPIs will provide you with practical performance information about the company. If this information is presented, explained and later on applied properly, it facilitates the decision making process of the management team and the employees.
Ensuring that you are setting KPIs which will involve the team and that they feel related to, will improve the companys’ performance. This works as a virtuous circle when employees see that their work on a daily basis matters to the overall company strategy, they will be more motivated and work harder, correct issues themselves, and hopefully begin to see KPIs and goals as a tool for improvement and self growth.
When you choose the right KPIs for your company, you can get a good overview of what is important for the company. Using KPIs as a measurement can provide a lot of benefits, but also have some pitfalls if you don’t continuously adjust your actions accordingly.
When your strategic goals have reached their deadlines, you should evaluate, not only on whether you reached your target but also on the actions executed in the process of trying to achieve them.
You need to ask yourself and everyone else in your department; “Why did we succeed? What worked well? How could we do better? Can we keep doing this? And what is the next step?”. This is to become aware of which practices you should repeat next time so that you will be successful once again.
If you succeed, make sure to congratulate the team and thank them for the hard work and show them what they have achieved and how they have helped to accomplish the company’s common goals. If you fail to reach your goals, you need to ask yourself and your team; “Why did we fail? What did we do that didn’t work? How could we do better? Did we follow our plan or did we veer off course somewhere? Could we have prevented it? Do we want to improve this with an adjusted strategy or new goals? What can we do next time to avoid failure?”
If you find out the reasons why you were not so successful, make everyone in the team aware of them so that next time you can avoid them. One way to make everyone understand each other’s perspectives is through visualization. This could be a graph, a bar or a gauge of numbers. It could also be a drawing or an illustration of how each person sees the current situation or his or her place in the organization.
After all, running an organization is not something that ever reaches any deadline. It is an iterative process of improving and learning.
To sum up, we first set common goals that will be the same for the whole company, we then differentiate for each department in order to adapt it to the capabilities and knowledge in that department. Later on, the KPIs are set to track these goals by monitoring the KPIs. Lastly, you will evaluate the strategic goals to see if we have achieved what we wanted or how far we were from it, and then repeat this process.
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For newcomers in the social media world, such as fresh-out of college marketing professionals or personalities, it can prove quite the challenge to get to know the online space. Moreover, when delving into marketing activities, it is not only hard to choose the right approach, but also to figure out how to measure and follow-up. To make this a bit easier, we have prepared a little guide with eight essential SoMe goals for some of the famous channels. In this article, we will mention the main, most widely used platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Setting SMART SoMe goals
It will be surprising if you are up to date and you have not heard about the SMART Goals Model, as it is so widely used in marketing. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The purpose of this framework is to guide professionals in goal-setting.
This tool can prove to be effective and give marketers a clarity on what it is they are aiming to achieve. Moreover, as time is one of its key features, it often pushes its users to be more time-effective and plan their actions for success.
Continue reading to find out which SMART goals we believe should be implemented in your social media strategy. Read about the 8 key SoMe goals bellow.
SoMe Goal #1: Create Brand Awareness
One of the most common goals for marketers using social media is to create brand awareness for their organization online. Companies want to be recognizable for their current and potential clients, and social media is a great tool for doing that. Depending on your target market, the different platforms provide different possibilities.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are preferable medias for achieving brand awareness in the case of B2C companies, as they give its users the opportunity to not only advertise their products and services but bring attention to the values of the company, its employees and what it stands for. On the other hand, LinkedIn and Twitter can be used for more professional branding, in which the focus is on networking and the achievements of the organization. Moreover, the difference in both cases is underlined by the content shared in order to achieve the goal. Yet, all companies want to present themselves as knowledgeable in their craft, with great product/service and values, as well as good customer service.
Brand recognition is a hard metric to measure due to its abstract nature. Moreover, it is based on the customer’s opinion, which can prove to be a challenge to collect. Ways to figure out if your activities are successful is through customer surveys, checking if the traffic to your website comes from keywords and search volume data, as well as social listening.
SoMe Goal #2: Increase Customer Loyalty
While the number of your followers and brand recognition are key metrics and help a company understand the extent of their influence on clients, there are other aspects of the relationship, which is also important to follow. Customer Loyalty has many benefits to offer, as it increases the chance or re-purchase, recommendations, and advocacy. However, the company has to continuously meet the needs of the customer, keep their interest, and nurture their relationship.
It can be established by close communication, feedback and adaptation to the trends in the industry, and customer needs. To measure it, companies should use social listening and track their recommendations, re-purchases, and engagements.
SoMe Goal #3: Higher Content Reach
As social media content is distributed through different algorithms, it can prove to be a challenge to accelerate your reach and therefore, your follower count.
Instagram, YouTube, and recently, Facebook have introduced new algorithms, which increase the reach of promotional posts and make organic reach harder for its users. Therefore, finding out what works for your company and adapting can prove to be not only beneficial but cost-effective.
The key measures to track your success are the reach, views per posts, and profile visits.
SoMe Goal #4: Boost ROI
ROI stands for return on investment. To maximize your efficiency, you should aim for your campaigns to give you more than you have invested in them, or at least to cover your expenses. It is important to follow the development of your ROI and to increase it over time, as there is no point in maintaining campaigns, which do not support your growth.
It is essential to measure not only your ROI but also the new followers, likes, page visits, and sales coming from a campaign, as those are the key outcomes of your marketing efforts. By knowing in which way you achieve the most, you will be able to focus your budget on effective practices and prevent monitory leaks.
SoMe Goal #5: Increase Sales and Generate Leads
Another important goal to set is increase in sales and potential customers. While the marketing of your brand and brand awareness are great for business, the most important thing is the sale. A marketers first priority should be not only making a brand recognizable and generating new followers but converting all of those people into potential clients. This process can be quite different depending on the target market however, it is essential for the development of every organization.
While we are all aware of what a sale is, “lead” is a word of discussion. It is widely described as followers or people familiar with the company. Moreover, individuals who already had an encounter with it and had provided it with some personal information or had an interest in the product. One way of reaching this goal is through advertising and sponsored posts. Even though most social media channels provide opportunities for this, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube are well known for their effective options.
When having this goal in mind, it will be important to track your engagement and conversion rate, reach and website visits, but also the personal data collected through social media, rate of downloaded content and clicks on lead-generation posts.
SoMe Goal #6: Improve Customer Service
Customer service is one of the key touch-points between a customer and an organization. Therefore, its development is essential for nurturing a good relationship and providing post-purchase services. Facebook has proven to be a good platform to use for improvements in your customer service and interaction with clients. Starting from chatbots and reviews to engagement in posts, there are many ways to reach your audience directly. Companies also use Instagram and Twitter for this communication.
Having an informative page, fast response rate, and good reviews can be vital for many customers when they are in their decision-making process.
Frequent scrutiny of the feedback your customers are giving you is the first step to satisfying their needs and living up to their expectations. Other aspects that can be tracked are the number of support questions, the response time, and the customer satisfaction score.
SoMe goal #7: Drive Traffic
Most companies aim to re-direct their followers and visitors to a website or blog of their own, where the customer can get to know the product or service and reach a purchase decision. Almost all well-known social media channels can be a great way for your company to re-direct traffic to a page of your own. Indeed all, except Instagram, provide not only the option for including a website in your page description but also in posts.
Good metrics to follow in order to keep track of your traffic are the traffic from social media, bounce rate (quality of traffic), and clicks on social media posts.
SoMe goal #8: Grow Community Engagement
Engagement is the second most frequently cited reason why marketers use social media. Put simply, online engagement is a two-way interaction between profiles and followers in which one of them reaches out and gets a response from the other one. On most platforms, it can manifest itself as public shares, likes, or comments. Moreover, it is found to bring many benefits to companies doing digital marketing. Those include increased brand recognition, loyalty, and recommendations.
Every platform provides calculates engagements by different criteria. Additionally, provide numerous ways of interacting not only between you and your customers but them communicating with one another.
To summarize, there are many types of goals a company can choose for itself, and the ones listed below are just our picks. Therefore, it is important to address the bigger picture in your organization and the direction it is aiming at.
We hope this introduction to the world of social media goals have been useful. This is a very broad topic we intend to expand on in the future. Therefore, let us know in the comments below, which are the topics you are most interested in reading more about and don’t forget to follow us to get updated when we post new content.
Some of the problems facing marketing firms are coming from their tools and the data they use. Below are some suggested solutions and ideas to help firms become more efficient and productive. This blog post is part of 2 part series, you can find our other blog post here.
Understanding the tools
One of the issues that firms have, is that their employees and management do not fully understand the tools they use. They do not know the full capacity and potential of their systems, software and tools. Analysing tools and dashboards are fantastic, and give a broad overview of the situation. However, if the user does not understand the cause or the reason for the performance, then it is useless. Using these tools, relies heavily on the user’s digital knowledge and their understanding of metric measuring systems. Dashboards only demonstrate the KPIs, it is the human factor that understands it and interpretes it. Ways to improve on this, is to ensure user’s know how to fully utilize the tools and systems. Offering further training sessions can help increase the user’s knowledge, and in turn, increases the user’s ability to utilise the tool to its full potential.
Have a clear data strategy, purpose and goal for using tools
Tools are there to serve a purpose for the user, and if there isn’t a clear purpose then the process of gathering data is a bit pointless. Without any strategy, it is difficult to have an indication of what information you should gather, or which KPI you should measure and obtain results for. Creating a data strategy is a good way to make sure you are productively using the tools with an end goal in mind.
Blending different data results to have a full understanding
In order to have a fully comprehensive picture, you need to take data from different KPIs. This way, you are not basing your final results on just one KPI, but from multiple. By doing this, you will get a bigger and fuller indication of current situation of the business.
Understanding and having clear communication using data tools
It is important that the users of the tool have clear communication standards between each other, this will reduce the likelihood of any misunderstandings and mistakes, which can be costly for the business. Other types of communication, for example between employees and senior management, should be clear and consistent as well as the firm towards existing and potential customers.
Using a smart goal management tool, like Cobraid’s, will allow to manage your goals, and stay on top of your data. For more information, click here to check out our website.
These are just a few suggestions and ideas. If you have any questions or comments, then feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
The Google Analytics integration is not functioning with large data sets. This could be an issue when dealing with websites with millions of monthly visits or websites that has been using Google Analytics for a long time.
We are working on a solution and expect it to go into production within a couple of weeks.
You might have heard the word “agile”before . You might know, that it’s the “it thing” we all need to be these days; whether you work in marketing, administration, or as a software developer. Besides all the buzz words and fancy fuss, what is this all about? Isn’t it just another word for “work harder minions”?
To get an idea of where it comes from, we first need to take a look at software. Working agile is well known in the software industry as a pendant, to working with the so called Waterfall Model where an entire process is planned then developed and lastly tested. The model has been heavily criticized for being non-flexible and causing misfits between the actual need and the developed solution. Just consider it the “classic” working process for project management and let’s move on.
Agility where does it come from?
The term agile in relation to a working process was made popular by the agile manifesto from 2001- which stated how some very prominent software developers and gurus strive to work with software.
The principles of agile software development dates back as early as the 1950’s in the early days of the computer industry. It has now started to “sneak” into other industries as well as you might have experienced if you for instance are working within marketing.
About the author
Sune is one of the co-founders of Cobraid.
He is a software engineer, but in Cobraid he handles everything from coding to Sales and Finance
The whole principle lies in the word “agile”.
If you take a look in the dictionary you will find that “agile” comes from from the latin word “agilis“, which is a composition of the first part of the word “agere” (ag-) which means to do (act) and the part -ilis or, in English, -ile meaning capability. This means that “agilis” could roughly be translated into “the capability to move or act“. In software this translates into the ability to change quickly as things change. It has been translated into various frameworks like “Rapid Development”, “Extreme Programming”, “Kanban” and “Scrum”.
To “borrow concepts form Agile software development” one must understand what makes something agile and as we’ve been through here it simply means to be able to act upon changes.
It doesn’t mean the ability to take an extra task even though you have a pile of existing ones to do, just because somebody states that “we are agile, so you should be able to take this new task right?” (take a look at this blog post if you want to know why this is psychologically a bad idea). It also doesn’t mean to adapt daily stand ups from Scrum and make it an hour long meeting with no agenda.
When used correctly, agility and the thoughts behind it, are an extremely modern and progressive way of working. This practice could be the life or death of a business in this rapidly changing world.
Now you know a little more about the fuss, so try it out and know, that being agile It is something that comes with practice and the right mindset.
You know the feeling all too well: You’ve been to IKEA and bought a new great piece of furniture. You just need to assemble it and everything will be perfect! The manual? No, I don’t need – I just need to put this thing here and then this…
10 hours and several unsuccessful attempts later you have to admit you actually need that blasted manual – just to see that it would have been quite simple if you had just used the manual in the first case.
It’s the case with IKEA furniture as with most other things: If you follow the manual it will usually be faster and easier. So why don’t we just always do that then?
Once bitten twice shy
I’ll admit it: I was the one buying the IKEA furniture and not following the manual. When I assembled it, in the end, it was because I followed the manual to a tee.
On the other hand, when I had to assemble the second piece of furniture I was much faster. Only because I had bought two of the same piece of furniture. I just knew where to follow the guide, and the most of it I knew off by heart.
Why did I need to go through the first part of the experience? Well, I took a look at the manual and thought it looked a bit complex, I didn’t understand the drawings, and it was a bit of a hassle having it out of reach.
In other words: I had a lot of reasons not to follow the manual – even if I knew it would have been smarter.
It takes hard work
The point is that we don’t always choose the best approach. We sometimes take a shortcut, that we know very well will be a detour in the long run because it’s easier now. If you want to take the best approach every time, then we have to work together to create a firm structure of how to do things.
The firm structure doesn’t appear by itself. We have to agree about it, and then keep each other at bay. When someone suggests taking a shortcut, they should be reminded of their decision and that the structure is there for a reason: To make sure we keep a good pace in the long run.
When we know what each other is doing, we can optimize our own working processes. For example, when I know my colleagues have done their job, with the agreed upon result , I can optimize my own work flow relative to it.
Same direction, but to different beats
Notice that I wrote “The agreed upon result” – not in the agreed upon way. When people are able to decide, by themselves, how they’ll reach a specified result – the result will be better. That way, the work flow can suit the person doing it.
We have to make room for a task to be solved in different ways – as long as the end result is the same.
It’s not without its challenges, keeping the actual result to what has been agreed upon. The American Army can vouch for that, because the “Practical Drift” was the reason why a Black Hawn helicopter was shot down in Iraq – by the Americans themselves. The events are detailed in Scoot Snook’s book “Friendly Fire: The Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Black Hawks Over Northern Iraq”.
The reason for this incident was that the actual result slowly, but surely, had drifted far away from the agreed upon result. Continual optimization, and changes, had made the outcome so different from the agreed end result, that it culminated into a terrible accident.
The solution: Retrospectives
The solution of course is to make sure that the actual, and the agreed upon results are the same. The way to do this, is to make recurrent retrospectives. Here, you can make sure that you agree on what the result should be. If it so happens to need change, adjustment, or optimizing then you can do it together, and ensure you all agree what the end goal should be.
It’s simply about giving room and time for aligning what we think we do, versus what we actually do. Additionally, making sure everyone is on the same page. That way ,you both make a firm structure and make sure everyone knows what it is. Then you are ready to speed up!
How was you last experience with ikea?
How did it go last time you assembled a LISABO? Or a YPPERLIG – the couch, not the cushion. Or have you tried a BODBYN – an entire IKEA kitchen?
Leave a comment about your last IKEA adventure – then we can both smile about it together, and share a good story.
You’ve probably tried it: An email arrives from the boss marked “URGENT! Must be solved immediately! Or the customer will terminate the agreement!” with a task that is not in the sprint. How do you handle this? Should you clear your desk and solve the task? Or deal with it when you’ve finished what you are doing and risk the boss getting angry at you? It’s like choosing the lesser of two evils.
First I would like to say: You are not alone! Being put in this situation is not a unique occurrence – sadly. It’s a common misunderstanding that it’s easy to squeeze in an extra task without consequences and with it being solves ASAP. But that’s not how it truly is! When squeezing in a task you don’t also get assigned more hours in a day. So squeezing in more assignments will naturally mean pushing out other tasks. It seems logical, but the world isn’t always as logical as you’d sometimes wish.
That’s why it’s smart to use fixed systems and procedures for how to do things: How do new tasks enter the playing field? How are the tasks prioritized? And who does what? That’s just a few of the questions that must be dealt with if production must run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
We have a suggestion for a good solution. You might have guessed because it involves Scrum. But before you get the explanation I’ll give you a look into why squeezing in a task actually means it will be solved later than needed.
Why is this not true?
There are several reasons why tasks being pushed and squeezed is the worst thing you can do to productivity in a team. I will take out just three of these and present to you because they are the most surprising to most bosses.
First of all it takes up to 20 minutes from being interrupted to getting back to full focus on the task at hand. So even a small task that only takes 5 minutes might take out more time than expected.
Secondly we use a lot of mental energy on changing focus. It matters a lot on how fast we solve a task if we have mental energy. Imagine a morning before waking up: That’s not when you solve complex tasks, is it? You’d rather take care of that when you are awake and fresh. For every shift in tasks you use mental energy. When the energy is gone it takes even more time getting back on track. And as an extra bonus – the risk of making a mistake is a lot higher when the energy is gone.
Third the entire planing of the day will fall through. One thing is ruining your own plans – it takes time and mental energy changing plans. But what about your colleges? They might not be able to continue until you finish your part of the task. So they have to wait for you to finish a task that the boss thought “wasn’t much”. When one more task enters the day doesn’t get longer. No, when a task enters and is prioritized – another task is not solved.
But then why do they do it?
When I ask bosses or leaders why they do this the answers I get are widely different, but the causes are usually the same. The cause that shows up most is uncertainty. If they don’t do it now then when? Will it be included in a release in 2 years? Who will take care of it? If it will take 2 years it will be way too late.
Another cause is insecurity or lack of trust. This is usually expressed as “Last time I had a task that needed solving it was forgotten and I had to keep reminding them time and time again to make sure it was solved”. Lack of insight into what the team is doing makes it hard to know where the task has landed and what status is on it. It’s not about control over the team and checking if they’ve done this or that. It’s only about getting a status on the task.
A last cause I often hear is a lack of control on the prioritizing. That they simply don’t know how to get a task through before something else that’s already being done. Because it does actually happen that a task appears that’s more important than the ongoing tasks. What is there to do then? How do you approach in the team to change the priority? Who in the team has the “power” to do this?
If you look at it all together it’s about insight, overview and control. Insight into that goes on so you can get a status. Overview of the process and the plan. And control to change the process and the plan when necessary.
So it’s not because someone outside the team is standing there ready to throw gravel into the machinery. No one actively wants it to be slower or more difficult. It’s only good intentions that turn out another way because the systems and procedures aren’t designed in a way that restricts the intentions in showing in a better light.
CHANGE the workflow and procedures.
Our proposal is to use SCRUM and change the workflow and procedures so the good intentions can unfold in a constructive and positive way. That will give happy clients and happy colleges. If you choose to use Scrum as a system for workflow and procedures it will give the team and those outside the tem a greater insight, overview and control over what is actually going on.
Here’s a short explanation on how Scrum gives more insight, overview and control:
In Scrum all tasks are marked in a system. It can be Jira, Liquidplaner or something other. In that system all tasks are present. The team regularly updates status on the tasks so anyone interested outside the team can follow. A status will be available when needed – the team does not need to use time on making and giving reports whenever requested.
In the same system there’s an active sprint and 3-4 coming sprints. Info about what will be included in the next release and future releases is therefore easily accessible. It give a good overview 2-3 months ahead (when a sprint is 2-3 weeks). If the task is included in the planned sprint you know how many weeks will pass until it’s solved.
Planning future sprints it’s easy to take out some tasks and add others.
How does the boss react?
My experience is that the boss will be happy! Very happy actually! Because the uncertainty will disappear and the control will reappear. A horizon of 2-3 weeks to get a task solved is fine for mostp eople – as long as you know and can plan accordingly.
So if you have problems with a boss pressing tasks through then show him or her this and say that we are open to talking about how to make it all work. This way it will get easier for the boss, clients and the team.
The phone is ringing. E-mails are coming in. Facebook says “Bing!”. Twitter tweets. LinkedIn has new job opportunities for me. It just might drive me insane. What do I have to do to get just a few minutes of peace and quiet?
Does that sound familiar? That’s often my day. Many changing tasks means there’s many people who want to get in contact with me and many things I have to conciser.
Recently someone advised me to use silence actively in meetings and that’s why I thought it might not be that crazy. My conclusion after trying it in several meetings is: Try it! You won’t regret it.
When do I use silence?
In general I use silence to give all the participants in the meeting a bit of quiet time. Quiet time to think, to feel and to calm down. In other words silence gives a bit of quiet time to our busy brain. Silence is a welcome change in our busy working day with a lot of impressions. And a changes in a meeting will give energy, excitement and life – in my experience.
I’ve used silence to start the meeting. It might be a meeting where the purpose is to air out frustrations. They might be in silence and writing down their frustrations on paper. That then gives them an opportunity to take some time to find out what’s actually the problem and making them frustrated.
I’ve used silence for brain storming. Participants sit in silence for 2-3 minutes and write down their thoughts on post-its. One thought or idea on each post-it. Afterwards they can compare post-its and talk about thoughts and ideas.
It might also be used at a midway reflection. With a couple of minutes silence you can stop and reflect how far you’ve come in the meeting. It also enables you to gather your thoughts and perhaps look at things in a different way.
Silence is also good as an ending. When the record is on the board the participants might use 2 minutes on looking it though before leaving in different directions.
Why do I use silence?
My experience tells me that silence makes the meetings more efficient and the results more concrete. Silence makes it possible to stop and change directions. Sometimes meetings can go into overdrive where it’s more about getting heard than reaching a decision or result. A couple of minutes silence is usually enough to stop the overdrive and get the meeting back on track.
What’s so special about silence?
First and foremost silence makes meetings more calm. A busy working day calmness is often hard to come by. Silence might therefore provide the only quiet time the participants in the meeting will have that day.
Silence also might calm down a place where there was a discussion before. Discussions help bring meetings closer to conclusions and results, but also might need a break. Silence will provide that break.
In turn silence also gives time for reflections. When everything’s quiet our brain automatically starts reflecting. New thoughts appear and old ideas fade out. That’s only possible in silence.
Do you want to try silence?
Next time you are at a meeting suggest taking two minutes silence when you’ve looked though the agenda and are ready to go. The two minutes gives time to think about other points to the agenda and what they expect from the meeting. When everyone has thought about it you are ready to discuss and therefore have a shared direction of the meeting.
If this sounds too strange and like something you might not be able to incorporate naturally then contact us. We are ready to help getting onward and using silence in your meetings.
Imagine being the captain of a large cargo ship: You’re on the bridge and steering the ship to it’s destination. You know the destination and set the course. Way beneath you the motor spins merrily – the engineer and his team makes sure of that. The destination and the course does not matter to them. their focus is to keep the motor running and make sure all systems are working properly – no matter where the ship is going to.
Imagine you, as a captain, going down to the engineer and reminding him to check this and that, to make sure there’s enough fuel and that the drive shaft needs a check up soon. Suddenly it gets hard to keep an eye on the horizon and make sure the ship’s on the right course. It’s just not possible to be in control of the bridge and be in the bottom of the ship telling the engineer how to best keep the motor going.
It’s either or: Either you have the larger overview or you have a focus on details. With other words: Either you steer the boat or the lead and distribute work.
Project steering and project leadership
We will change course for a bit because there are to terms that need to be cemented first: Project steering and project leadership.
In general they are called “Project Management” – to manage a project. In Danish we translate it to “Project Leadership” which to me is something completely different. This made me think that we need to different terms for project management: Project Steering and Project Leadership.
Project Steering is about setting a goal for the project and steering the project toward the goal. To do that you need to first make sure everyone knows what the goal is and make milestones so that you continuously can check whether you are on the right course. Next you need to make sure all the tasks that need to be done to reach the goal are prioritized. Because on the way to the goal something will change and you will get smarter – and that’s why the priorities change as well.
Project Leadership is about leading the team that has to do the task. You do that by first trusting that everyone in the team knows what they have to work with and are doing their best. Next you need to facilitate the process: You need to help the team divide the tasks, tak out the hurdles and protect the team against external disturbances.
When to steer rather than lead
Way to often we see a team being steered instead of led. Spread sheets and plans are made without even asking the team. In stead the team gets told what to do, how to do it and who should do what.
This is an effective way of making sure the expertise, experience and knowledge the team has will not come into play. The team becomes a passive wallflower instead of being an active player in the project.
And as a bonus the team gets the blame for not being motivated, participating and committed to the project. But who actually has to do the work?
steering towards a goal
The point is that you should use the tools that fits the task – and the task is defined by which level you are at with the project. If you are in charge of the bigger picture you should steer – if you are in charge of the practical part you should lead and facilitate.
Getting back to the ship – the captain is the one setting the course and steering the ship safely to its destination. The engineer makes sure that the people in the machine room make use of all their experience, knowledge and expertise to ensure that the ship reaches its target destination as fast as possible. That’s two different levels in the project: Keeping the larger picture and facilitation a team.
It’s easy to believe that one level is finer or more important than the other. That’s just wrong! None of the two levels can stand by themselves. It’s in the interaction between these two levels that the project succeeds.
With the best intentions
But why does it happen that you steer and lead at the wrong times? My experience is that you have no understanding of the fact that different levels require different tools.
When you set the course for the project and make sure that you arrive at the target destination it takes steering. When starting the motor you have to lead and distribute the work.
But when the speed is too low it’s easy to believe that if you just pop by the engine room and tell them how to do it the ship will probably speed up. They must be doing something wrong since the speed is so low. Suddenly you are not steering towards the destination, but towards small and often insignificant improvements. And the course slowly will turn away from the destination.
Just like it’s wrong to steer a team it’s wrong to lead towards a goal. You cannot facilitate a team to find a goal for a project. Because the goal is not depended of the wishes of the team. There’s no point in sailing to Kolding if the cargo is needed in Singapore. Then even record time cannot help you.
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