Why am I the only one who feels this is a priority?! Why am I the only one who is working to get the proposal out today and not tomorrow? Why am I the only one who is pushing to have the contract draft done today and not a week from today? Have you ever felt alone in the pursuit of getting things done quickly? You are working overtime to get a project out the door while a key member of your team leaves at 4:59 pm with an "I'm sure it can wait until tomorrow" attitude. A day lost is a day lost. And a day lost could be a day of significant cost increase or revenue loss. Recently, one of my customers told me that a competitive partnership differentiator, above many others, was the ability to respond quickly. He insisted on fast follow-up and follow-through. He wanted us to respond completely and consistently. There is nothing worse than a lack of responsiveness or waiting for internal process delays to negatively affect the effort of getting a partnership off the ground.
How do you move the process quickly? How do you avoid the political hurdles and pitfalls of getting things done that beset any organization, big or small? How do you move consecutive processes into parallel processes to cut down on the time required to get a proposal, contract, or solution back to a customer? And how do you collaborate with your internal support teams to drive fast action? How do you achieve an environment that is solutions-oriented versus one that is centered only on problems and the reasons things cannot get done? How do you effectively convey priorities as "urgent" and differentiate them from others that have additional runway? Would your customers describe your turnaround time as extraordinary? Would you describe your process as well-oiled and efficient?
Regardless of your answers to those questions, any and all processes have room for improvement. The first people to feel the pressure are the front-line employees managing a customer relationship. They feel the daily burn or angst in their desire to make things happen quickly for the customer.
The key to success is instilling an organizational framework that engages and incents all members of the team to over-deliver (and at a minimum meet defined commitments). Whether or not a team member deals with the day-to-day customer interactions, they still must operate with the same sense of urgency as customer-facing individuals.
BRINGING IT TO LIFE ◙◙ Be Impatient With The Process: If your goal is to win new business, every day is another day without a signed contract. Meanwhile, the competition could be in the customer's office pitching their program. Every day is a lost sale for this year. Every day is a day of lost revenue and gross profit to your partner who sells your product, and to you as the supplier of the product. If you manage strategic projects, every day is a day closer to rollout. Closer to going live. Closer to sunsetting a costly old piece of technology. Every day is one less day in the project plan to work through and resolve tasks, requests, requirements, and enhancements. Every day the clock is ticking. Be impatient with mediocrity, slow response, and inefficient processes. ◙◙ Incent Collaborative Behavior: How can you financially incent teams and individuals that support the product, project, or sales team to move fast and be collaborative members of the team? You will be pleasantly surprised at the performance upgrade that is experienced when there is an incentive to deliver by a specific date or time. Incenting behavior quickly fleshes out the top team performers and allows you to move those individuals who are clearly not able to keep up to other roles in the organization where their skill sets may be more effectively utilized. ◙◙ Remember That The Clock Is Always Ticking: "The clock is always ticking - kick-off is at 3:30 pm Saturday and regardless of all of the delays, roadblocks, equipment problems, access restrictions, and other conflicts, we must deliver at 3:30 pm Saturday. Nobody cares about the issues or reasons things are difficult, or hard, or challenging. They expect kick-off Saturday at 3:30pm." My good friend Craig is a producer with CBS Sports and recently made this point - one that resounded with me. When the customer sets a date (or date and time in this example), you deliver on or before the date. No excuses acceptable. None. As the leader, you must find ways to clear roadblocks and meet the deliverable date. This requires a sense of urgency and leaves little margin for wasted time. ◙◙ Measure, Report, Review: Establish clear timelines and guardrails for delivery. Report results for specific steps in the overall process. Establish a post-implementation review routine with all members of the organization to ensure that the process is reviewed and necessary changes are made before the next deal hits the funnel. Measurement drives behavior.