OK I’m going to give away a little bit of a trade secret for success. Don’t get too excited, most of the trick is not so much the knowing as it is the execution. Everyone knows that to be a successful quarterback, you need to be able to put the ball in the hands of a receiver, among other things. Just because you can even make that pass in practice, does not necessarily mean you can execute it in a game, especially if the receiver is barely open.
So, what’s my one of my trade secrets, it’s adding value to organizations. Yep, that’s it, in a nutshell. The possibilities to add value to any organization are truly endless. If you are looking for them, they will appear routinely.
The mantra of hard work leading to success has been used countless times. Not that I necessarily disagree with that notion, but it’s not always hard work as it is delivering a good product. If one can work smart, they might be able to deliver the same product without as much “work”.
For instance, if you’re eating at a restaurant, you probably don’t care how much work the kitchen staff required to prepare your meal, what you’re concerned about is what they delivered on your plate. A mediocre cook might expend a certain level of energy to make a basic grilled cheese, whereas a professional cook could make a gourmet grilled cheese with 3 different types of cheese, grilled tomatoes and crisp bacon, all with the same effort, or less. The professional chef can work smarter because of their advanced knowledge, part of which is due to hard work over a long period of time.
Here are some situations to illustrate the mindset to identify opportunities.
Data Overload – Oftentimes, I see clients get inundated with data (keep in mind that data is not information). For the people flinging the data across the organization, they may actually feel they are making a difference. Not many people take the time to truly understand how well the recipients are absorbing what they receive. If the target does not absorb or understand the end product right away, then it’s not effective. To really add value, you need to make sure the person receiving the information is able to use it quickly and effectively. Listen if they have the same follow-up questions, and you might be able to start anticipating them. For instance, sending an updated customer forecast does not add much insight if it just includes a bunch of data points and you cannot glean what impact it will have on the business (sales, staffing requirements, purchasing, etc).
Forecasting– Many people produce a forecast (whether in dollars or some other measure of units) and do not include any summary or benchmarking. An easy way to add value is to compare to a prior forecast or historical results and include some bullet points or other short synopsis that explains the key changes or drivers. Telling the story, or putting things into context helps drive understanding and allows more time to be spent on asking more insightful questions.
Trends – Trends can be very useful, since they may not just provide a snapshot at a point in time. Knowing that a company has X number of employees is not as meaningful as knowing that the number of employees is down by 33%. Of course, the real question, and where the value can be added, is providing insight as to whether that 33% decline is good or bad. If sales are only down 10%, but investments in new equipment has streamlined operations, that 33% decline in employees might be a good thing (depending on the cost of the investment vs. the labor savings). However, if volume is down by 50%, the ratio of employees / sales is not heading in the right direction.
As a real world example, I have a client who’s hourly operators have decreased by over 30%, and due to wage increases and a change in the mix of tenured employees, their average hourly rate has gone up by a dollar per hour. On the surface, this could appear to be a bad thing. However, there are other metrics that can be impacted by this, such as overtime (could be lower due to less absenteeism), less quality incidents, and possibly lower scrap.
The numbers of a company almost always tell a compelling story, but it takes the right mindset to keep digging to find the real nuggets of information. The individuals who are capable of providing that critical insight will always be the most important.