Sometimes when I work with a client things just "feel" wrong. On the surface they seem to have it all together. They are busy. They have money coming in the door. Employees seem reasonably happy. So what could it be? They are just trying to do too many things at once. They lack focus and clarity. When you dig deeper you find that revenue keeps coming in because they are able to keep picking up new customers...but they keep losing them also. Employees "seem" happy...but confused and perhaps frustrated. Typically it helps to simply scale back; get more targeted and focused.
Here are some areas where I’ve seen organizations go in too many directions at once – leading to confusion and less-than-ideal performance:
Targeting too many goals at once is the same as not targeting at all. We’ve all probably fallen into this trap at one time or another. There are so many things we’d like to do. There is so much standing between where we are today and where we want to be in the future. It’s tempting to try to get it ALL done at once.
Individually, there’s nothing wrong with any of these goals. But when you try to accomplish too many, they each get lost in the haze of chasing after too many things; hopping from priority to priority; never sure which one is the most important. Is it higher revenue/sales? is it profitability? Are you trying to expand the product line? Are employee satisfaction measures the most critical? Is customer loyalty the most important thing? Before you know it, there are way too many for your team to focus on at any given time.
Employees don’t really know where they business is heading. They feel like the company is trying to do too much at once. And sometimes these goals can be working at cross-purposes. When a dissatisfied customer or an potentially innovative new idea comes along, how do they handle that situation?
Better: A better approach would be to be more deliberate in setting goals. Choose 2-3 longer-term goals (maybe 2-3 years or longer, depending on your specific business)
A business that is trying to implement too many strategies at the same time is one that definitely is at risk of sending employees in too many directions at once. It’s confusing for them. They don’t know what the real priorities are. It just feels like the organization is moving in way too many directions at once. And sometimes those directions even work against each other.
Sometimes you can’t tell which one(s) really make a measurable difference because you are implementing many at once. In a way, it’s a little like science class (I know. I’m sorry.) If you are doing an experiment and changing too many variables at once, it’s nearly impossible to tell the one(s) that have an actual impact on the result.
Usually this is related to having too many strategic goals. If you have too many goals, you will also probably have way too many strategies to achieve them.
Better: Focus and share the company's top 2-3 strategies (and the goal(s) they are tied to) to make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of what strategies are most important.
Have you ever seen a business that just seems to want to bend over backwards to serve every single type of potential customer that exists? They seem a little desperate. They
It’s one thing to serve individuals or businesses that find you and choose to become a customer. But every business also has an outbound sales component to try to find and attract new customers. And without a clear understand of just who you are trying to attract, this process can be almost impossible for your team to execute. At its worst, this process can get bogged down in confusion and become paralyzed as your team tries to figure out how to cast the widest net as possible. At best, it will become extremely wasteful as your team shoots in tons of directions at once. Or attract the wrong customer
Better: Invest time to outline what makes a good customer. Understand their characteristics, their problems, and how your organization can solve those problems. Give your team a clear understanding of who you are trying to attract, and support them as they go get them.
The other day in a single Chevrolet dealership commercial I heard (at least) three different distinct messages. That’s pretty good in one 30 second spot, right? When I hear “Finding New Roads” (which I guess is supposedly aspirational), “We Hear You” (which is supposed to demonstrate some vague sense of customer-focus), and a bunch of shouting about cheap vehicle prices (signaling their desire to compete on price). In the end I wasn’t exactly sure what they were trying to tell me. Are they primarily some sort of aspirational brand, a customer-first brand, or a price-competitive brand). Frankly it sounded like they were trying to hit on every possible message out there.
It’s extremely easy for a company’s brand messaging to get muddled. More than one message gets used or it changes too often (possibly leading to market confusion). Your messaging signals to the outside world (and even to your own team) how your business wants to be viewed and what you understand to be its primary point of uniqueness.
Better: Zero in on a clearly-defined message that best reflects your brand; and build your marketing strategy from there.
Can products be confusing? Definitely. As a matter of fact, sometimes having too broad of a product line and too many options and variations can get in your way. Too many choices for consumers//buyers. Too much for employees to keep up with. And the odds that all of them are top-notch are probably slim.
Better: Look for ways to slimline your product/service offerings. Focus on a very targeted set of products and/or services. Focus on those that truly solve specific problems for that ideal customer base. Make sure that you provide a product/service that is uniquely the best. And concentrate on making that one the best it can be. And also look for ways to trim back the many options and variations that may have crept into your products/services. Simplify. It may seem a little counterintuitive, but it may make the customer's decision process simpler and easier.
So when your company feels a little out of control the answer may not need to be a complete overhaul of your business. The answer may lie in simplifying the various aspects of the business - and making life easier for yourself, your customers, and your employees. In this case, less may be more as you pursue your path to growth!