Barriers to creating an Operational Rhythm

By Ben Shapiro on October 23, 2019

Today we’re talking about embedding an operational rhythm within your business, which is one of the key things that helps people enable change – but one that many organisations really struggle with.

As we talked about previously, the problem with tools, tech, and process – particularly in MarTech – is that you need to be comfortable that the tool you have is only as good as you understand it to be at any given point in time. But, like with any other tool, as soon as something new happens your point of view will change as a result of that new information.

So, how do we build that into a consistent and a persistent approach to ongoing operations, so that you're always getting your data in, always analysing your situations, and always ready to change?

There are a few barriers that we need to overcome, break down or hurdle to make this happen.

Working on the right things

The first barrier is understanding, out of all the things we can do, what should we do. This might seem like a very simple idea, but in reality it's a reasonably hard thing to figure out. This is mostly because people don't have the bigger picture context of what things are affecting the business. Quite often we see they are trying  to work on the right things, with good intention, but they're not necessarily the things that will move the needle and drive the business forward. The reality is we've only got a limited time window to work on things, so we need to:

  1. Figure out what the key things are that will drive the business forward
  2. Build a shared agreement around those key things between the marketing team and the leadership teams

Regular and frequent feedback loop

Figuring out whether you’re working on the right things often comes down to setting good context through a regular and frequent feedback loop. To do this, we need to decide as a team what the key metrics are that will tell us whether we're on track or off track and make them visible to everyone. We find the best way to do this is by using a scorecard so we can see them at a glance on a weekly basis. We all probably know what a scorecard looks like, but do we look at these pre-agreed metrics on weekly basis and use it as a benchmark for us to identify things that are working and things that aren't working?'

Here is an example scorecard that tracks weekly agreed metrics:

Scorecard

The next question is deciding what that goal window is. We typically think about working on the right things within a quarterly window, and then measure week to week within that quarter.

Adding real value to customer acquisition

How do we know that the activities we're doing actually add real value to what we're trying to achieve with our acquisition, retention or sales metrics? Often, this is about ensuring we’re doing activity that moves the needle for the sales team - because when it comes to marketing and marketing tech, we're working quite a fair way up the sales funnel.

One of the common complaints about the inbound methodology to marketing, is that because we’re working so far up the funnel, the real buying intent isn't clear when a lead converts. We then pass these leads on to our sales team, who say "These leads aren't actually leads. They're just a waste of our time."

What this really means is that we need to think about how we measure the right thing so that when we're tracking activities across acquisition and sales, that there is a clear buying decision criteria. This will mean that when we hand leads across to the sales team, they're based on the activities and intent around things that add real value for both the customer and the sales prospector.

Defining your metrics around buying decision criteria will mean your leads are going to be further down the funnel and more qualified – which results in the marketing team becoming a reliable team to deliver qualified leads into sales.

Progress, not perfection

With all these incremental pieces of information gathered and presented weekly, we need to be comfortable with looking at progress, rather than making sure everything's perfect, always.

I see a lot of people worrying about the exact, perfect bit of information coming into their team. This acts as a blocker to doing any activity at all until the thing they’re working on is absolutely perfect – resulting in the project being delayed for weeks and months and quarters. People are so worried about the information being right, that they don't do anything at all. That in itself is a problem because we never really have the right information at all times – and we have to be comfortable with that.

Part of getting the operational rhythm right is about saying, "You know what? It doesn't matter if it's not perfect, but what we're going put it out there - we're going to see week to week what's going on, we're going to measure, have the clarity, and then make the adjustment when it doesn't make sense." That one piece of activity and motion is a gamechanger for organisations but does require bravery, because it’s a fundamental change, and a shift on how you do things.

We believe that this mindset helps you be more agile, get more of what you want, and is a major step for getting an operational rhythm in place.

Consistency is key

The key to getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is making sure the data on your weekly scorecard also has clear business relevance. Part of our goal when it comes to operational rhythm is to look at, and be consistent around the key values that make sense to the business.

Once we've got the key parts of the operational rhythm right, then what I try and do is use that to build processes using MarTech tools. We talked about this in the automate and centralise blog - once you have that right, an operational rhythm lets you start thinking about automating parts of the process that we all agree on; that we don't need to argue the toss over.

After we get the right people using those automated processes and looking at the incremental changes we're achieving through the operational rhythm, we free up our time to think about what other processes and things we can spend human time and attention on, so we can then look to automate those as well.


Creating an operational rhythm that’s sustainable is hard, but if you overcome these key barriers you will drive the operational rhythm you’re looking for.

If you’re finding it hard embed this operational thinking within your business, get in touch with us – we have a knack for helping teams get on the same page and operationally working together towards a common business goal.

 

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