Take Your Business on a 90-Day Challenge
In today’s economy the 90-Day Challenge is a great exercise for any business. The 90-Day Challenge dedicates resources to identify and deliver manageable projects, in a transparent framework, within a relatively tight timeframe to produce measurable improvement to the bottom line. By providing this environment, an organization is able to focus its limited resources on key issues where changes will have a real impact on business performance.
With falling oil prices, a change of government, daily reports of rising unemployment accompanied by declining consumer confidence and investment, Alberta businesses find themselves facing very tough market conditions. In this setting sales fall, costs rise, inventory builds and morale drops. Something needs to be done, and unfortunately, if action is not taken and soon, this market will have dire consequences.
It’s been my experience over a number of business cycles, that when faced with these circumstances, companies often react in one of two ways. They take on the “deer in the headlights” look and organizational paralysis sets in. Denial is common or they don’t know what to do, so do nothing! Alternatively, management tries to do everything and runs around trying to implement all of the good ideas that are offered up. Meetings are held, action lists created, many balls tossed in the air, and then with too many demands, too few resources and too little time, nothing gets done. Next month the cycle repeats itself except the results are even worse and the pressure mounts.
What is needed is a program methodology to ensure effort and delivery, moving the organization forward in a systematic and clearly defined way. The 90-Day Challenge is just the vehicle.
Over my career, I have used the 90-Day Challenge successfully to:
- Lower costs –identifying and weeding out those hidden costs that build up in an organization over time and are non-value adding. Eliminating these has real short-term benefit to the bottom line but no long-term impact, so it does not hurt the organization when the economy picks up.
- Reduce inventory and improve supply chain management – not only get rid of surplus stock, but also streamline the order to delivery process so that the need to carry higher levels of inventory is reduced forever.
- Close facilities –sometimes it is more difficult to close a location than to open it. However, by eliminating a location without diminishing customer service it is possible to maintain sales at a much lower cost of delivery.
- Launch new products and enter new markets – clearly identifying an opportunity and lining up all the ducks to take advantage quickly and successfully benefits immensely from this approach.
Why does it work?
The 90 – Day Challenge works because it provides structure, discipline and focus to get things done. I like to say it forces the organization to move from activity to action. It provides a rallying cry through which an organization can build unity and confidence around clear deliverables. With a strict timetable of checkpoints and reviews every 30 days, everyone knows what is expected and that action (or inaction!) will be visible and monitored.
How it works
The 90 – Day Challenge revolves around a process methodology that requires a rigorous approach to goal setting and benefits delivery. Throughout the program, visibility is key. A senior management committee overseeing the process is an essential asset. A kick – off workshop which brings together potential project champions offering up ideas to 3rd party review and examination is a great way to eliminate noise and identify those short – term opportunities and quick wins that will deliver meaningful results within the 90 days. It is crucial that there is adequate input into the review process because it provides strong upfront governance over the allocation of valuable employees to the programs. Importantly, clear measurements of success should be quantified and documented and a well – written delivery plan and timetable is needed. Project teams are then given the mandate and authority to do what is necessary to deliver the project.
Once you have picked the challenges and appointed the teams, then communicating them and the benefits throughout the organization and setting up the framework to monitor progress is critical. Every 30 days, in a collective forum, progress will be reported and reviewed to ensure that the projects are on track to meet the 90 – day delivery deadline. There is nothing like a bit of peer pressure and organizational visibility to help things along. And of course, throughout the program sponsors and mentors need to be available to provide assistance where necessary.
What you need to make it successful
Before starting this journey, a company needs to commit to a number of things to make sure it reaches the destination. Up front, the timetable needs to be clear and the company needs to commit to the resource cost to prepare for, facilitate and deliver the process. This is required on three levels. First, nothing will kill it quicker than if senior management appears to be too busy or has no interest in seeing it through to the finish. Second, project teams who are working on delivery have to be released or freed up from their “day jobs” to be able to devote the time and energy necessary. You have to give them the space to deliver, rather than try to have them serve two masters. Finally, everyone in the company needs to be brought on board to reinforce its success. This ensures that when information, support or additional resources are required from those not directly involved, the roadblocks are eliminated up front. It is no good starting the Challenge and then finding everyone is too busy to do it.
At each review, guidance, encouragement, and where necessary, additional help needs to be given. Regular progress updates should be provided to keep the Challenge top of mind. And remember, at the end of the Challenge, celebrate your victories, because nothing builds success like success!