February 25, 2007

Metrics for User Engagement

Posted in marketing, Metrics at 7:47 pm by scottmaxwell

If you run an e-commerce website or have an otherwise clear conversion metric (e.g., filled in contact information, registration), then you probably have a small number of very clear metrics that you are using to monitor and manage to. But if you have a community, social, or entertainment oriented website, then your key metrics may not be as clear. Number of page views or Alexa ranking might be an acceptable starting point, but as you get more views and visitors, what are the truly best metrics for determining how “engaged” your users are with your site?

Eric Peterson has been running a really good series on measuring user engagement. His approach one of problem solving and also pointing out diverging points of view as he works through the issues in his series. Clearly, the issue is not fully resolved, but Eric (and others he points to) does a great job thinking through the issues as he works through the series:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

I like Eric’s definition of engagement (as well as the more detailed components that I am not listing here):

Engagement is an estimate of the degree and depth of visitor interaction on the site against a clearly defined set of goals.

I also like the thinking that Eric has done on the topic. While there is probably a long way to go before there are some common metrics that are shared across companies (that I am sure that Eric and others will continue working on), his thoughts are developed enough so that you can incorporate them now and probably get significant benefit from them (you don’t need industry standards to get benefit from them and many of the metric refinements will most likely be highly correlated anyway!)

The one, perhaps most important, issues that I would like to see Eric cover as he continues his series is How do you change your site to better engage the visitor? The obvious answer is that you should change things such that your engagement metric goes up, but you should also be using the components of the engagement metric to better understand what the users really want to do and then modify your approach as well as your goals (and metrics), so that they are more aligned with what your users want to do on your site!

February 23, 2007

10 best ways to lie with metrics

Posted in management, Metrics at 2:31 pm by scottmaxwell

We spend a lot of time with our portfolio companies trying to identify, manage, and track meaningful metrics that, when managed well over long periods of time, will assist in the building of a great company. ( I had a summary post last year on the topic.) As I meet with companies, read press releases, and hear presentations at companies, I find that many would rather present “feel good” metrics rather than metrics that give an accurate picture on the state of their company, including all of the positive and negative trends (or, more importantly, do the hard work of managing to get strong, positive trends for the key drivers of their business). If you want to make your metrics “feel good” (rather than “key drivers”), this post is for you:

10 best ways to lie with metrics

  1. Gather a lot of metrics and then only present the metrics that are positive. If you gather enough data, you will always have metrics that show positive trends. One good way of finding positive metrics is to look for the negative statistics and then look for the bright side. For example, if you lose a few great employees, focus on your costs being below budget. (When you show different statistics over time, you should also congratulate yourself on adjusting the metrics to new ones that are better indicators of your business…this will demonstrate that you are a “learning organization.”)
  2. Gather and present some metrics that are really easy to manage (this will allow you to consistently show some metrics over time that can have really good long term trends). For example, show “leads” or traffic, as you can always come up with ways for buying more (but be careful not to present lead quality, cost of leads, or ROI, as these are more difficult to manage to).
  3. When you are presenting, use many metrics. This will impress the audience that you are truly on top of your business.
  4. Use extremely precise numbers. For example, don’t say “about 100,000 downloads” or “growing roughly 100%,” say “101,243 downloads” or “growing at 102.4%.” The more precision that you use, the more your audience will think that you are a brilliant manager.
  5. Present your metrics quickly. The more quickly you go through your metrics, the less time your audience will have to consider the validity of your metrics.
  6. If your audience asks for some metrics that don’t make you look good, tell your audience that “we don’t break out those numbers” or “our systems don’t allow us to get that data” or “we put our resources against product development and marketing, so we have a very lean staff that doesn’t allow us to gather those numbers” or “I will get back to you with that information.”
  7. Hire a graphic designer to turn your metrics into really good looking charts (3D, movement, many colors, graphics, etc.). Your audience will focus more of their attention on the quality of your slides rather than the data you are presenting. The net effect will be very positive.
  8. Keep some of the metrics “in your pocket” so that you can share some of the metrics “off the cuff.” This really impresses the audience. A good way of doing this is leaving the most recent data out of your presentation and then sharing the most recent data orally.
  9. Prepare each of your functional heads with some of the more detailed data that supports your “feel good” metrics so that during your presentation you can say ” <name of functional head> would you like to expand on this?” the more your team members seem to be behind your metrics, the more believable the data.
  10. Never, ever, ever educate your audience on the small number of key drivers for your business. The simpler and clearer that you are, the easier the audience will grasp and remember how to think about your business and the more frequently they will ask for the same data. This education will completely destroy your future ability to keep your metrics “feel good!”

Note: You can get some additional great ideas on how to obfuscate the truth from the book How to Lie with Statistics, a classic!

January 30, 2006

Show Me the Metrics!

Posted in customer service, Economic Model, Execution, management, Metrics, Sales at 11:57 pm by scottmaxwell

About 10 days ago I interviewed a VP Sales candidate for one of my portfolio companies. The more I think about our conversation, the more I like him. I walked out of our conversation thinking that he would be perfect for any B2B software or SAAS company. Why?

This particular candidate pulled out his personal operating report and explained to me how he knows what is going on every day (even when he is on the road with customers) and what he does when particular metrics drop below a certain level. He showed me the different levels of his report so that he could see his deals moving through the sales pipeline and how each salesperson and sales group was doing vs. their benchmarks. He also explained how predictable his system is in forecasting sales as well as determining when he needed to add resources at various stages of the sales process. Finally, he was able to explain how his system allows him to accurately predict the results of adding new resources and, just as importantly, how he is able to relatively easily recruit and train people to follow his system. Separately, he has relevant experience and success managing several models of distribution (including telesales, field sales, and channel sales), each of which has its own unique best practices. Also, we were able to get a reliable reference that echoed what the candidate had said.

He did not quite “have me at hello,” but he did have me about 10 minutes into our discussion. I knew going in that he had relevant experience and was known for making his numbers, but it was his approach of managing to metrics that got me. Why?

When you can accurately predict your results in each operating unit, it means less risk and a greater opportunity to scale your company without blowing your capital (missed quarters get more and more expensive as you grow!). Being able to make accurate predictions also means that:

  • You have an operating model (not just a collection of people), which allows you to scale better,
  • You understand the key drivers of output in your operating model,
  • You are consistently managing the unit to your operating model,
  • You have a set of early warning signs (your key drivers) that you can focus more attention on when they get below certain thresholds (i.e., it helps you to know where to spend your time),
  • You have a set of measures that you can benchmark against other companies to understand where you have opportunities to move to best practices, and
  • You know when you need to add staff or other resources well before you get caught short.

Finally, the understanding of the above gives you a solid platform for experimenting with new approaches and accurately evaluating the effectiveness of the new approaches (thereby allowing you to kill the approaches that don’t work and expanding the approaches that do work).

Over time, the nature of emerging growth companies is that they move from simpler approaches to more sophisticated approaches (more specialists, more channels of distribution, more products, more marketing channels, more approaches to customer service) and you want to make sure that you continue to evolve in the right direction (note: this is not an argument to get more sophisticated as an end to itself, just that getting more sophisticated leads to better operating results as you growl…you clearly need to keep your operation as simple as possible).

Metric driven management can and should be applied in every functional unit in an expansion stage company, from product development activities (e.g., project management, bug fix reports, usability testing) to marketing (lead generation ROI, website path analysis, shopping cart abandonment, number of daily quality leads) to sales (e.g., movement through the sales funnel, salesperson activity analysis) to customer service (response time, close rates, close times, etc.) to overall customer satisfaction measured both qualitatively (surveys, interviews, etc.) and quantitatively (usage reports, retention rates, etc.).

The key to getting the right metrics program in place is to eventually understand the minimum number of measure that give you an accurate understanding of the state of your company.

Some Caveats:

  • Many (most?) very early stage companies can get by without metrics-based management, as there are very few people in the organization, the processes you have are quite simple, and you can manage staff a lot easier. But as soon as you start getting any measurable number of users/customers, metrics-based management starts becoming useful, and as you grow more metrics become difficult to live without.
  • There is no sense building systematic operating models and a set of metrics if you are not going to manage to them. I have met many intuitive managers who don’t get (or don’t want to get) this approach. If you don’t believe in the approach, shoot me a note or comment to this post. If you don’t completely get the approach, hire someone to work for you who does (I have done this multiple times at my portfolio companies).
  • Once you lock into a set of metrics (it will take some time to determine the best most simple metrics), you should try to use the same metrics over time. I am amazed when I go into certain board meetings and see a different set of metrics each quarter…sometimes managers feel the need to present the metrics that show off the accomplishments of the company…I would rather see the metrics that show the improvement opportunities for the company…this is where the real upside is!

***

If you want to tell me about your results from or projections for your operations, my preference is that you show me the metrics!

December 22, 2005

How David Can Beat Goliath- Summary of Strategies

Posted in culture, customer service, David vs. Goliath, Economic Model, finance, management, marketing, Metrics, Product Development, Sales at 11:50 am by scottmaxwell

This post is an overall summary of the David vs. Goliath Series and meant to act as a pointer to all of the posts in the series. There are three overarching points for the series:

  1. Emerging growth companies have several natural advantages over larger companies that they can amplify,
  2. Large companies have several advantages that emerging growth companies can minimize, and
  3. Emerging growth companies can (and should) take a series of specific short-term actions that over time will accumulate into a long-term defensible competitive advantage (by amplifying their advantages and minimizing the large company advantages)

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for emerging growth companies to think through these issues and develop a clear point of view on what they are trying to achieve. Regardless of the long-term goal (a sale of the company or remaining independent), building a defensible advantage will make life much better for you (easier time in the product markets, better growth, better bottom line, higher valuation, etc.). Of course, once you know what you want to achieve, you need to execute against it!

The Nine Major Themes:

  1. Create an Information Advantage. The emerging growth company has the natural advantage of being closer to the customer that the large company. You can truly capitalize on this advantage by taking steps to increase the information flow into your company even more.
  2. Create the Time Advantage. The large company has a disadvantage as it grows, as solid communication between employees gets much much more difficult as companies grow. This communication difficulty turns into a time advantage for emerging growth companies, as larger companies have difficulty doing anything quickly, while emerging growth companies, with their smaller staffs, can turn on a dime. The emerging growth company can take several steps to capitalize on this natural advantage.
  3. Create the Scope Advantage. The emerging growth company has the ability to focus on one product market. The larger companies naturally need to increase their scope in order to sustain growth. The emerging growth company can exploit this natural advantage by staying focused and continuously improving “ownership? of its product market.
  4. Create the Scale Advantage. Large companies have difficulty seeing and/or addressing small markets, even if they are very high growth. This gives the emerging growth company time to establish a foothold in the market as well as create some level of defensibility before the large company enters the market.
  5. Create the Innovation Advantage. Large companies have difficulty executing against certain types of innovation (for example, innovations that cross department boundaries, such as new products with new channels of distribution and new customer service approaches). If emerging growth companies innovate against these natural advantages, they can create an edge against the large companies.
  6. Set Your Operating Point Closer to the Funnel Singularity. This is the strategy of allocating your resources against nailing the customer experience at low price points to the customer instead of allocating significant resources against sales and marketing activities. If you do this well in the right markets, you can create a large, profitable business that is very difficult for the large companies to compete against. This is a classic strategy, but the internet-based sales and marketing approaches now allows the strategy to be executed more aggressively.
  7. Attenuate Goliath’s Strengths. The large company does have some natural advantages itself. The posts below address each of the large company advantages as well as what the emerging growth company can do to minimize the large company strengths (and in many of the cases, create an edge):
  8. Defend Against Goliath’s Attack. No matter what you do, if you are successful then Goliath will eventually attack. These posts address the nature of Goliath’s attacks as well as how the emerging growth company can set up in advance to defend against the attack. I point out that the results of the attack will be determined well in advance of the attack! The two posts are:
  9. Execute Against Execution. All of the prior posts are about what the emerging growth company can do to create a strategic advantage. This post is about how to maximize the pace of your company toward the series of goals that you have set for your company. The higher your pace toward your goals, the faster your company will develop into a large profitable company with a defensible competitive advantage.

I am going to take a breather from this series for now, but I do intend to put together the implications for each department so that some of the more esoteric points will be made more tangible for each functional group. When I post each of the functional implications, I will place a link on this post below so that this post will act as the index of the major strategies in addition to the specific implications for each function.

December 21, 2005

How Can David Beat Goliath?- Strategy #9: Execute against Execution!

Posted in culture, David vs. Goliath, Execution, management, Metrics at 6:01 pm by scottmaxwell

Up until now I have focused on how the emerging growth company can gain strategic advantages and minimize the large company advantages. If you have taken the best of the ideas, distilled them to their essence, and applied them to your emerging growth business, then you should have a very clear idea of what you are trying to achieve (a.k.a. your vision) at this point.

This post is about how you best execute toward your vision, which I think of as punching the fast forward button (like you do on your DVD player) so that your organization moves rapidly toward nailing a series of short-term goals and, ultimately, your longer-term vision.

Quite a bit has been written on execution (I list my favorite books on the subject at the end of this post). If you have been studying the topic, you have found there are many possible inter-personal and inter-group issues, many different types of people and situations, and lots of advice on leadership methodology for approaching each situation.

What I have done with this post is to boil away all of the tactical details and present what I believe are the most important skeletal components for execution (you will find these components in all companies that have been high achieving for a long period of time). If you get the skeleton right, you should be 80% of your way toward optimal execution. Get these wrong, and your results will be significantly lower that they could be (you still might get lucky with a unique product or a unique product market for some period of time, but you will regress toward the mean over a longer period of time).

The essence of execution is fourfold:

  1. Genetically engineer your organization. You need the right people doing the right activities in each position. Recruiting, training, motivation, reward, and separation systems that are 100% aligned with performance are key.
  2. Create challenging focal points. Every group and individual in your organization needs 2-4 short-term, challenging focal points that are aligned with the company milestones and interdependencies.
  3. Measure progress and make adjustments to close gaps frequently. Every individual and workgroup needs to review progress, understand gaps, and get help closing the gaps on a regular basis. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reviews are a necessity.
  4. Be flexible. Adjust your longer-term goals based on short-term results. The world rarely turns out the way you expect.

These skeletal ingredients are very similar to agile software development principles applied to the entire organization (although I have tried to make the key ingredients more black and white for the purposes of clarity). If you have just these ingredients, you will execute at least 80% well against your game plan. Each of these four ingredients is discussed in more detail below.

Genetically engineer your organization…

Genetically engineering your organization means getting the right people doing the right activities, with a management approach that is merit based (a.k.a., the meritocracy). Each of these is outlined below:

  • Right people. I have already posted on the topic of recruiting best practices for hiring “A” caliber people. There are two additional thoughts that I would like to make here. First, if you want to get something done quickly, you need to hire a person that both knows how to do it AND has done it before successfully. Additionally he or she needs to be passionate to do it again (not people who have read a book or watched someone else do it, but rather people that have managed the activities that you are trying to set up). Even better, if you can find people who have both set up and managed the activities before, you will have much better execution as the skill to set up the group in the first place is much different than the skill to manage a group once it has been set up! For example, if you are developing a database application on SQL server in C++, getting a person that has been developing successfully in SQL server and C++ makes sense. Likewise, if you want to start a telesales group, getting a manager that has been highly successful setting up and managing a telesales group makes sense (rather than hiring a field sales manager to manage telesales). This is a simple point, but not followed as closely as I would expect. Second, you need to hire people that fit with the culture that you are trying to set. Either you need to hire experienced people that have the culture, or you should hire entry level people (“A” caliber!) directly out of schools and train them into your culture (this is the best long-term approach in my view, especially if you supplement the entry level people with the managers that have the direct experience. However, it will be less effective in the short-term, so you need to determine the trade-off you are willing to make).
  • Right activities. Just to reinforce my point above, you need to hire people that know how to do the right activities into the leadership positions of your company. If you supplement the leaders with entry level “A” caliber people, then you will form a team that should generally be doing the right activities. The major point is that the right people should know the right activities and naturally set them up and proper oversight will make the activities even more “right.” You need to be EXTREMELY careful that you are sure your hires know exactly what they are doing, however, as good people will do a good job executing what they think is right. If they do not know exactly what they are doing, you will end up with the wrong activities and it will be much more difficult to changeover to the right activities!
  • Meritocracy-based management system. If you want a management system to maximize execution, you need to set up a culture that makes it so that top performers that want to win will love working for your company (and lower performers won’t like working for your company). Generally this means compensation and advancement goes to those that perform and separation goes to those that can’t or won’t perform. The trick here is to start at the point of recruiting and let the recruits know that you have a performance-based culture that rewards top performance and does not have time for underperformance (this will both set expectations and help to attract the top performers and reduce the attraction from the underperformers). Once people are hired, set up goals (more on this point below), and then reward the performers in various ways (rewards can include the obvious compensation and advancement, but other rewards are in many cases more valued, such as publicly thanking people, giving them awards of various kinds, and giving them challenging new opportunities and leadership roles). For the non-performers, moving them into less critical positions and/or helping them find jobs outside of your company will help you maximize your execution while doing the right thing for your underperforming employees.
  • Prevent “bad behavior.” Finally, you must make sure that “favorites,” “sacred cows,” “politics” and other management approaches that are not merit-based do not creep in your organization. These approaches not only hurt execution short-term, but also dramatically impede your ability to build a long-term sustainable execution advantage. Merit-based approaches get high-performers focused on results, non-merit-based approaches disengage high performers and get everyone else focused on issues other than results. Managing for high performance will significantly reduce the energy focused on “bad behavior”, but you will also need to manage away these behaviors (and potentially the people exhibiting these behaviors!) before they breed in your organization (this is particularly difficult as you grow into a large organization, as their are more places for these behaviors to breed).

Create challenging focal points…

Given your staff is in place, you need to disaggregate your longer-term vision into a series of goals for each department, group, and person in your company. Overall, this gives everyone in your organization a focal point to think about and act on when they come into work every day. Generally, the more they focus on the goal, the more their activities and actions will be aligned with the goal. The goals need to be:

  • Specific. It is very important that the goals are very specific. For example, “have the best product” is not at all specific and very difficult to take actions against. However, product download speed, installation time, alignment with specific use cases, and user satisfaction are all much more specific.
  • Measurable. Measurability goes hand-in-hand with specificity. If you can measure your performance against your goals, you can determine that pace of improvement. For example, product download time from a broadband connection, number of “clicks? to install, install time, number of clicks to complete a given action, wait time for a given action, and user survey results are all measurable and repeatable so that you can both benchmark yourselves and measure your progress against your goals.
  • Short-term. Having the goals be short-term is highly important, as an immediate goal creates a sense of urgency in the business. Forget goals that are one year out, and set goals that need to be accomplished this month, this week, or today. This is probably the most important factor in execution!
  • Stretch. The goals need to take real work to meet, as goals that are too easy to accomplish will create a sense that “this can wait until tomorrow.” You want your staff to be working toward the goal every day!
  • Achievable. Ultimately you want everyone to build excitement around achieving the goals AND you want everyone to know that you are serious about everyone meeting their goals. The only way to do this is to set goals that can be achieved if people work hard (if you truly work on this, then you will get better at setting your goals over time so that they are both stretch goals and achievable goals). The more people think that the goal is not possible, the less they will work toward achieving it (why work hard if they are going to miss nailing the goal anyway?)

Some examples (note that these may or may not apply to your business):

For Product Development, make the next build by Friday, release the next version of the product to customers by next month, work toward builds every other day by the end of the quarter, work toward customer releases every 6 weeks by the end of the quarter. Build specific use cases into the product by a certain date, improve download time to 1 minute by a certain date, etc.
For Marketing, create 100 qualified leads (with a specific, measurable definition for “qualified”) a day by the end of the quarter with an average cost of $10; generate at least one featured article in a trade magazine this month. Generate at least 30 customer referral leads per week by the end of the quarter, etc.
For Sales, Make 50 new customer contacts each day, create $1 million in bookings this month and build a $20 million of qualified pipeline by the end of the quarter, etc.
For Customer Service, pick up the phone by the second ring 95% of the time and don’t leave anyone for more than 2 minutes. Resolve 95% of customer issues while they are on the phone and the remaining 5% within 3 business days. (Of course, you would expand this into e-mail support, self-help tools, VRU approaches, etc.)
For Finance, reduce days receivable down to 50 days by the end of the quarter (and many other possibilities depending on your current situation).
For Business Development, create and propose at least 3 partnership proposals to the 3 our of the list of targets by the end of the quarter, close on one deal that generates a specific revenue stream in a specific time period.
For (insert the right department) increase pageviews per visitor by 10% within 30 days, reduce customer churn by 15 percent by the end of the quarter, increase.

These are just meant to be thought starters. The more your goals disaggregate to specific people across your organization, the more the people know the dependencies with other parts of the organization, and the more your people help each other to meet their goals, the more setting these focal points will drive execution.

Measure progress and make adjustments to close gaps frequently…

The focal points are only words on paper (or e-mail?) until you put the proper management model in place that reviews progress against goals and make adjustments as you determine gaps in progress against the goals. Your management model should give everyone the opportunity to review their results vs. their goals and also has the opportunity to hear the ideas of others to help them improve on their goals both during the review meetings and in between the review meetings. Everyone should have review sessions at least weekly (more likely daily or intra-day for some of your work groups), and less frequent, more in depth meetings as well (I think about weekly reviews that are short and to the point unless there are gaps emerging, monthly in-depth reviews for everyone to get a detailed understanding of what is going on and to offer their ideas and assistance, and quarterly meetings to have even more in depth reviews and to set up the next set of goals. These time periods are rough, but the nature of the work week/weekend cadence requires at leas one checkpoint each week).

As a separate point, these review sessions are better when they are not meant to put people on the spot or to create unhealthy stress, but rather to be collaborative sessions to truly understand progress and to help people nail their goals. If they are set up in the right way, the combination of individual and group accountability, problem solving/idea generation, and resource adjustments based on results, will make the sessions an extremely important part of your execution program and something that people will look forward to (would you rather feel like you are being judged in a session or feel that you are going into an environment where people are going to acknowledge your hard work and help you achieve your goals?)

Be flexible…

Most emerging growth companies are working in extremely dynamic markets and their companies are extremely dynamic as well. The nature of the business is such that sketching out the long-term and then focusing on the short-term is a necessity. But sticking to the longer-term when market opportunities change or execution challenges become apparent is not a good idea.

This brings up the issue of annual budgeting and planning sessions. My view is that thinking through an entire year and sketching out a plan and budget are very important to making sure that you are rethinking the big picture at least once a year. However, the annual planning cycle in my view is more of a starting plan rather than the last plan for emerging growth companies each year. Each day, month, and quarter will bring its own surprises, and reviewing and adjusting your plan each quarter is totally appropriate (you will have plenty of time for long-term planning when you are a large public company that must implement these approaches as control systems!)

Wake Up to Your Current Situation
The four skeletal ingredients for execution are pretty obvious, perhaps too obvious. I can’t tell you how many companies and mangers think that these points are obvious, unnecessary or think that they are doing these things well, but actually are quite average at execution (roughly half the companies are actually below average!!). Every once in a while, however, I meet a senior manager or a team that has implemented these principals and the results are truly phenomenal.

When I was a young McKinsey & Company Consultant, I had an assignment working with a senior manager at a client that was extremely capable at execution. He had just given a similar framework to one of his junior staff members and the junior staff member said “any monkey could do this!” The senior manager’s response was “yes, any monkey could do this, but no monkey does do this!” It takes a capable leader to manage execution, even though the steps are very basic.

How do you determine where you stand with respect to execution right now? Start by taking a baseline audit of your current approach. The best approach that I have found is to ask a cross section of employees several questions:

  1. What are the short-term goals of our company? What are the measurements? Are they easy for you to measure? Are the measures objective?
  2. How does your group (or team or department) contribute to those goals? What are the measurements? Are they easy for you to measure? Are the measures objective?
  3. How do you contribute to your group, thereby contributing to those goals? What is the deliverable that you are currently working on? When is it due?
  4. How does your supervisor, team members and/or other groups review progress and assist you in achieving your goals? Do they know this? Do they have measurable goals against this? Are they easy to measure?
  5. What are the rewards for nailing your goals? What happens if you don’t nail your goals?
  6. Do you think that everyone in the company understands their goals and is working hard to achieve them?

If you are like most companies, the results will be awakening. You will probably find a complete lack of consistency in the answers, which is the key indicator that they ingredients described above are not in place (or if they are in place, they are not being executed against). If you are a high performing company with high performing teams and individuals, you will both see a consistency across answers and see a clear enthusiasm for the processes that have been established.

Summary
Execution is not rocket science. It is all about getting the right people, telling them what is expected in the short-term, reviewing progress, making adjustments, and making sure success is rewarded and the less successful processes and people are managed out of the organization.

The approach outlined here takes some level of management discipline. I find that a lot of people lack the discipline to either implement these items or to continuously executed against the items. You may want to make someone responsible for making sure that the processes are followed and/or sit in on conversations periodically and give friendly reminders to all of the managers responsible for execution.

I left out mention of interpersonal behavior as an item above. There are several very good books on the subject if you need them. In my experience, if you take the steps outlined above, then people will not have a lot of time for bad behavior and that some combination of 360 degree reviews and one-on-one feedback will help you both determine the issues and help you address the issues. Ultimately, there is some level of interpersonal behavior that is acceptable and you will need to separate the people that tend toward extreme unacceptable behavior, even if they have high performance.

Reference Books
There are a lot of details beyond my outline above that will help bring you from 80% to 100% in terms of execution. The first three books below are some of my favorite books long-term that I keep as references. The fourth is a quick read and has some good ideas as well. My strong advice is to focus your attention on the outlined points above, as all companies can move the needle quite a lot by executing against these points. If you have the time and inclination, pick up one or more of these books:

  1. The Breakthrough Strategy by Robert Schaffer is my all time favorite book on execution. Robert does a great job of distilling execution down into what you need to do and what you need to look out for. Summarized here.
  2. The Wisdom of Teams by Jon Katzenbach and Doug Smith is getting to be a classic on building high performing teams. I was lucky enough to contribute to the book when I was a McKinsey & Company consultant, working with the authors. Summarized here.
  3. Double Your Profits in 6 Months or Less by Bob Fifer. While this book is not directly about execution, Bob has some great ideas that are completely aligned with getting things done in the short-term.
  4. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. This book also has some great ideas, although it is probably a bit too heavily weighted toward large companies (rather than emerging growth companies). PDF Summary here.