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Posted: April 26, 2013

Best of CoBiz: It’s hard to look smart with bad numbers

...and other rules for success in life and business

Laurence B. Valant

(Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance.)

Measure progress to plan with regular reviews of key and defined milestones.

A plan is the means by which obstacles are overcome to achieve the objectives. A good plan is comprised of the following:
 Clearly stated, quantifiable objectives
 The major steps of the plan
 The key deliverables and milestones required by the plan
 The timetable for each milestone
 A beginning and end
 The resources required to achieve the plan
 Frequent reviews of progress to plan

Milestones are a critical part of any plan, essential to ensuring that the plan is achieved. Frequent reviews of progress against plan assure that the plan's milestones are achieved on time and on budget. Should a variance from plan occur, which is often the case, these frequent reviews make it possible to get back on track quickly and achieve the plan's essential objective on time and on budget.

It's hard to look smart with bad numbers - deliver good numbers and you earn the right for people to listen to you.

Whether individual, departmental, division wide, or for the whole company, performance reviews must be based on quantitative results against quantitative plans. The numbers speak for themselves, and pretty slides and clever words will not disguise even slightly what the numbers are saying.

A performance review, whether as an individual or the manager of a larger group, will be much easier if you have good numbers. When reporting on your group's performance, whether you are running a department, a division, or a large entity and you want your peers to listen, you had better have good numbers -only then do you have the right to be heard.

At the end of the day, glibness and good presentation cannot take the place of good results. Produce good result and get gold stars, fail to produce results and don't bother taking the stage.

Predictability is challenging for two reasons - people and accountability.

Producing predictable results is, to say the least, incredibly challenging. Achieving predictability requires 1) gaining accountability 2) from reasonably competent people. Controlling either one of these factors, let alone both, is very difficult.

Carefully consider these facts: People will behave much more predictably when they agree to be held accountable. People agree to be held accountable only when they thoroughly understand what is expected of them and believe the expectations are reasonable and can be accomplished. And people must have the resources necessary to meet expectations.

Predictable behavior and predictable results are achieved by clearly defining what is expected of yourself and those who work with you. State these expectations clearly in a written plan. Allow for dissent and negotiation. Ask for accountability only when the goals are understood and believed to be attainable. Maintain unambiguous communications in a weekly review of the established goals where you listen as much or more than you talk.

Take these actions and predictability will result. People will begin to trust. People will be held accountable.

Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at lvalant@valantco.com or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit www.valantco.com.

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