How to Fix Business Drift
Much like sailing, in the dynamic landscape of business, organizations often encounter a phenomenon known as business drift. Business drift refers to a gradual deviation from the business strategic goals and objectives over time. This drift can occur due to various factors, including a lack of priority alignment, inadequate measurement of key metrics, and ineffective team action planning. For SME CEOs and Founders this can occur when conditions change yet strategy and plans don't, or when leaders get too caught up in the day to day running of the business. In this article, we will delve into three causes and solutions to ensure your business successfully sails toward its destination by mitigating the effects of business drift.
"All of a sudden it happens. You realise that you’re no longer ahead of the game. You ignored too many warning signs. Conveniently chose to listen to those who told you what you wanted to hear, not those who would challenge you and tell you what you needed to hear."
Recognize this situation in your business described by Renee Robson? When strategic priorities have been displaced by supply chain problems or customer complaints; when there is no time to look deeply at data and decisions have to be made now; when updating staff is primarily done through emails. The result is often what can be described as business drift.
"Drift is when the focus of a business starts to slip...when your company as a whole has lost sight of its priorities and it's wasting resources on stuff that doesn't matter"
If not addressed with effective leadership, the longer-term consequences can result in long term decline and eventually complete business failure. Remember Blockbuster, Nokia, and Kodak! All well known businesses that drifted into the sunset!
Causes of Business Drift:
Priority Alignment: one of the primary causes of business drift is a lack of alignment between the business priorities and its day-to-day operations. Over time, as people and teams focus on their individual tasks and responsibilities, they may lose sight of the broader strategic objectives. Misalignment can occur due to poor communication, shifting market conditions, or evolving customer demands. When priorities become misaligned, the organization's trajectory can deviate from its intended course, leading to business drift.
Measuring Metrics: ineffective measurement and monitoring of key performance metrics can also contribute to business drift. Metrics serve as a compass, providing organizations with valuable insights into their progress and enabling them to make data-driven decisions. However, if organizations fail to identify and track the right metrics, they may overlook early warning signs of drift. Inaccurate or outdated metrics can lead to a distorted understanding of the business's performance, making it challenging to detect and address drift in a timely manner.
Addressing Business Drift:
To combat drift caused by priority misalignment, businesses should foster a culture of strategic alignment throughout the company. This involves clearly communicating the organization's vision, mission, and goals to all employees. Regularly revisiting and reinforcing these priorities can help ensure that teams understand and work towards the same overarching objectives. Additionally, cross-functional collaboration and interdepartmental communication can help identify and resolve misalignments as they arise. In todays faster changing and more complex business environment, Jennifer Berger and Keith Johnston suggest in Simple Habits for Complex Times,
"it's helpful to have a vision that connects people to their highest values and connects people to one another"
Revenue goals, growth targets, expense reduction do not in themself engage and motivate staff since they are often too narrow and unattached to the values that drive people. Ensuring alignment of priorities can no longer be left only to a once or twice a year activity. Consider making your one-page strategic plan a living plan that is connected to work of every employee.
2. Measuring Metrics:
To prevent business drift resulting from inadequate measurement of metrics, businesses should establish a robust performance measurement framework. This framework should include a well-defined set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the organization's strategic goals. Regularly tracking and analyzing these metrics will enable organizations to detect any deviations from the desired path. Continuous monitoring can help identify trends and patterns, allowing for proactive adjustments and course corrections to minimize the impact of drift.
3. Team Action Planning:
Effective team action planning plays a crucial role in combating business drift.
"Every team meeting we review our action plan and align ourselves to the goals within, and every quarter we repeat the process."
Here are some team action planning strategies to consider:
Regular Reviews and Reflection: teams should periodically review their progress and assess their alignment with the organization's goals. This reflective practice encourages accountability and ensures that teams remain focused on the right priorities.
Agile Approach: adopting an agile approach to project management can help teams respond quickly to changing circumstances. Frequent iterations, continuous feedback loops, and adaptive planning allow teams to adjust their actions and strategies in real-time, minimizing the chances of drift.
Clear Communication and Collaboration: open lines of communication and collaboration between teams are vital to maintaining alignment and addressing potential drift. Regular meetings, sharing of information, and fostering a culture of knowledge exchange can enhance coordination and synergy within the organization.
Business drift can pose significant challenges to organizations, hampering their ability to achieve long-term strategic objectives. By addressing the causes of business drift, such as priority misalignment and inadequate metric measurement, organizations can mitigate the risks associated with drift.
Implementing effective team action planning, including regular reviews, an agile approach, and fostering clear communication and collaboration, will enable organizations to stay on track and adapt to changes in the business environment. Proactive measures to address business drift will help ensure sustainable success in today's ever-changing business landscape.
As an Agile Growth Coach & Certified Business Coach, Jerome Dickey utilizes professional expertise every day to ensure clients can successfully ask the right questions to find solutions right for their organization. Agile Work Solutions provides a proven, practicable and profitable path for companies, non-profits, and local governments who want to move beyond their current performance.
Jerome Dickey, MA, PCC, CPHR, Q.Med