Benchmark Business Group

Graduation Implementation

May 30, 2017

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This month we are promoting how to graduate your business to the next level. We explored refreshing your vision, proactive change, embracing new ideas, change through people and the opportunities for changing your technology, customer service and products. This week's focus is on graduating your business's "to do" list. These are the ideas you wrote on a cocktail napkin, the hand written notes on a notepad next to your bed when you wake up at 3 am, or items on your computer in the "someday" folder. So how do you take these "to dos" and ideas to the next level? 
  1. Pull them all together and prioritize
  2. Get creative and start thinking strategy
  3. Keep the end result in mind
  4. Create the timeline
  5. Communicate often
1.  Pull them all together and prioritize
There are probably several places you have these ideas for your business, including, but not limited to the ones mentioned above. The first thing we suggest is to gather all of them and put them in one place. Not having all your ideas in one place makes it difficult to track the bigger picture and forces you to waste time and energy just remembering where they are kept. Consider keeping them in:
Once they are together, prioritize each idea based on the time it would take to implement and the impact the idea would have on your business. An idea that isn't very impactful or takes a long time would be a low priority. An idea that would be very impactful and take limited amounts of time will be a high priority. Ideas that are impactful and time consuming or are not very impactful, but won't take long are in the middle. Once they are all prioritized, start with the one at the top and get creative!
2. Get creative and start thinking strategy
Several of us have a mental block when it comes to the words, "creative" and "strategy." Think back to when you were in school and had to write a class essay. You may have sat there in front of your computer (or typewriter), or looking at the reference materials in the library, or at your desk with a notepad and pencil. Where did you begin? What techniques have worked for you in the past? If you can't remember what you did in school, here are some suggestions to try:
  • Start scribbling! This could be words, phrases, drawings or even nonsense. The point is you are getting thoughts and fragments out of your head. And once they are out of your head, you start to put them together.
  • Review the Who, What and How and document:
    • Who: Who should be involved? Who might have information needed for this idea? Who will it impact? Who has time to work on this idea?
    • What: What is the impact this idea will have? What will it solve? What result is needed? What barriers are there to implementing this idea?
    • How: How might this idea be implemented? How could it work/look/ or even feel? How might the idea get stuck?
  • Again, this doesn't need to be perfect, but it allows you to clear the way for the next ideas to form.
  • Research your idea. Discover what is missing or what you don't know. Your research could be accomplished by looking through the web, reading magazines or holding conversations with colleagues or someone you trust to bounce around ideas.
It doesn't matter if you use one of these ideas or something that you used in school, the main point is to start thinking about the idea. Because, once you start thinking about it, your conscious and subconscious mind starts to put plans and ideas together on how to make it happen. 
3. Describe The End Result
Next, describe how your business will be when the idea is in place. What are the possibilities? Write out how your business will be different and benefit with this new idea. Add detail to the result with tangible items; changes to product, employees, customers, or yourself. Include details that will change the senses. For example: will there be a different look, feel, smell, etc.?
With the end result known, decisions along the way are easier to make, because you always know the direction in which you are headed. The actions, steps and even roadblocks may be handled with clarity. 
4. Create the timeline
When the end result is known, creating an outline and overview of what needs to happen along the way is the next step. Start by brainstorming all the needed activities or actions. Decisions that need to be made along the way will begin to crystallize. You will also continue identifying who needs to participate in the project. Document every activity or action that comes to mind without worrying about the order or which one needs to happen first. The focus is getting everything listed.
After you have every action and activity you can think of listed, then begin to put them into an executable order. When you move them around and consider what might happen, and how that changes other parts, you'll create a timeline and know what needs to start today, tomorrow, next week, and so on. You can now even fill in the estimated time for each action. 
When this step is completed, the detail on who and what emerges; you have the actions in order; and, you have the estimated timeline to complete the overall project.
5. Communicate often
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Did we say communicate? Once you have the result documented, details listed, and the timeline set, don't forget to communicate the initiative to your entire business. Describe the benefits and how it will improve the company, customer experience or benefit your employees. Be specific and refer back to the end result. Don't forget to communicate to those employees not involved in the implementation. They will appreciate the knowledge and understanding of what everyone else is doing and talking about. Communication about a new initiative isn't a one-time activity. Don't just announce the plan and be done. Schedule regular updates and have key participants provide their progress. Everyone in the company will appreciate progress updates so they can be part of the end result even if they play a very small part.
It is also important to note that your employees may resist change. It may be hard for them to understand to grasp the benefits. This is another reason to keep communicating on a regular basis. With the consistent communication on the project and progress, you will alleviate their concerns and they will gain trust in the project and outcome.
Happy Graduation!
This month we wish you much success in graduating your business to the next level. The challenge is to recognize how your business will benefit from change, and to take action to implement change initiatives. Change, no matter how small can have a large impact on the bottom line of your business and the experience of your customers and employees.

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