Start, stop. Start, stop.

This is the pace at which lots of businesses review performance. Review is seen as something that you do every so often (weekly, monthly, quarterly). When you’re done with it, you go back to your desk to do “real work”.  

The problem is, reviewing results is real work. In fact, it’s more real than that email you rushed back to your desk to reply to.  But, imagine if these two things (review and rushing back to your desk for real work) were the same thing.  What if the review came to you?

It’s possible and we call it the Ongoing Business Review, or the OBR.  We’ve mapped out what an OBR looks like and even built a tool to help.  But first, let’s level-set on where we all are.

More after the jump…

Where we are

While the details may vary a bit, it goes something like this…

Every three months, a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) is held. You know, the one where everyone spends a week or two getting ready, presents a mind-numbing amount of detail, and explains why the action items from the last meeting are no longer applicable. You leave the room in a daze and try to block the whole thing from you mind until it’s time to start over again next quarter.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t establish a framework for your people to get the most important stuff done. It’s just not possible to review results, diagnose issues, and establish action plans in only a couple of hours once a quarter. In addition, any momentum from a QBR quickly fades once everyone returns to their every day responsibilities.

Businesses should review results and execution continuously. We call it the OBR, the Ongoing Business Review.

The OBR in action

The OBR is an ongoing, asynchronous review process that allows your people to manage execution on their own time. Asynchronous communication eliminates the need to have all the right people in a room at the same time. People should be able to manage results and execution much like they manage email, on their own time.

It may still make sense to get together in person every so often, but I bet your discussion will be different. You’ll focus more on how to achieve results as opposed to taking a first look at numbers and issues.

A good OBR drives continuous review of these five elements:

  1. Strategic initiatives that break your strategy into actionable chunks
  2. Measurements that track the performance of these initiatives
  3. Robust dialogue amongst the team tasked with executing these initiatives
  4. Action plans that are measurable in terms of both speed and results
  5. Ownership of results

While some or all of these elements may be present in your organization, it’s probably hard to pull it all together. Your initiatives may reside in a set of slides, your measurements may be in a spreadsheet, and your action plans sent around in an email. Even good managers struggle to create linkages between these elements.

But, it’s worth the effort. The strength of these linkages is the difference between a business that executes well and one that gets left behind.

Linkages are the special sauce of an OBR

Without linkages, you lack context. Context is established by linking measurements, action plans, and people directly to your initiatives. Once established, these linkages tell you whether you are progressing towards your goals (measurement), what you are doing to achieve them (action plans), and who is responsible for results (people).

These linkages don’t come easy. It’s one thing to think them through and put them on a slide, but getting them to stick is tricky. You need to publish your initiatives with evident linkages to measurements, action plans, and people. Only then will your people fully understand how their actions drive achievement of the business’ initiatives.

We’ve built tools for an OBR

We’ve spent the better part of two years working with business leaders to define performance measurement systems. We defined metrics that support strategic initiatives and built dashboards that showed these measurements in an intuitive, dynamic fashion.

During that time, we realized a couple of things:

  1. Establishing linkages between initiatives, measurements, and action plans required a lot of effort
  2. There weren’t any tools that helped businesses pull it all these disparate pieces together.

So, we decided to build Dunegrass.

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