Spring Into Action

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We’ve had an amazing few days of mild temps and sunshine here in south central Wisconsin, and the forecast ahead is looking pretty nice too! We don’t usually get to say this in early-mid March, but spring has definitely sprung! For me, spring is a time of renewed energy and focus. I usually feel some pressure to get stuff done before summer comes with long weekends, camping, motorcycle riding, just wanting to be outside spending time with friends and family, and not wanting to work any more than I have to! It’s a time to “spring into action”, so to speak: shake off the winter doldrums, dust off your desk and your strategic plan, revisit your goals and take a fresh, reinvigorated approach.

Dust Off Your Strategic Plan
Whether it was just written in January or has been on the shelf for months or years, this is the perfect time to pull it back out for review. Do a gut check. Is the strategy still relevant? Have you drifted from it – and if so, is that good or not-so-good? Does it need to be updated?

Going through this review always has a way of motivating and inspiring me. If it’s “all good” – that’s great! Now, what progress have you made towards achieving your strategy? Take a few minutes to review, document and celebrate your achievements as well as ask yourself what may be holding you back from achieving more. If you haven’t made progress, ask yourself “why?” Is it uninspiring? Intimidating? Reword it, break it down into smaller chunks, or seek out a coach or mentor to help you.

Don’t have a strategic plan? What better time to look ahead and put some structure to the direction you are taking your business. After all, what gets documented gets done.

Refresh Your Short- and Long-Term Goals
If you are like me, you start off the year optimistically, setting some strong (and perhaps overly optimistic) goals for yourself and your business to achieve in the months and years to come.

  • Do they all relate back to achieving your strategy in some way? If not, then why are they on your radar? If they are important, it’s a sign that the strategy may need to be revised. If they aren’t, maybe it’s time to find someone else to do them or strike them so they aren’t there hanging over your head, weighing you down when it’s time to spring into action.
  • It’s been a few months now – enough time to have a sense for whether they are realistic stretch goals. I mean, it’s a goal, not a gimme, so it should take some effort. Are you and your team prepared to do the work required? Do you need some additional resources?
  • Are they SMART goals? I know, this is often easier said than done, especially the “measurable” step. I have found this exercise to be a valuable one. If I can’t measure my progress in some way, then is it really a goal I should be working towards, or is it just a day-to-day part of getting stuff done?

SMART Goals

Do Some Spring Cleaning
I like to take a 5S approach to this, and it can be applied to many areas of your business: your inbox, your staff, your work space, even your services/products and customers.

1. Sort: Only keep what you need, where you need it.When in doubt, get it out. You can always bring it back in later if you realize you do need it.

  • Inbox: Set aside an afternoon and delete, file or archive those old emails! Keep only those you need immediate reference to in your inbox.
  • Staff: Evaluate your staff. Address performance issues. Keeping poor performers or allowing marginal performance only results in holding the rest of the team and the business back from achieving exceptional results.
  • Work space: Keep the things you need to do your job every day within arm’s reach, the things you need once a week in a nearby closet, drawer, or shelf, the things you need monthly in a closet or cabinet, and the things you need less than that can be in another area completely. The goal is to remove clutter, distractions and potential safety hazards.
  • Services/Products/Customers: Joseph Juran’s 80/20 Rule / Pareto Principle states that 20% of your employees/customers/products/services usually account for 80% of your results, revenue and profits. Take a look at your own business – is this true? How much are you investing in marketing and development of the other 80%? As the story goes, you should be spending about 80% of your time further developing that 20% that is working well for you. Are there any products/services/customers that just haven’t proven to be worth the investment? Is there a way to cut them, or at least cut the amount of time you spend on them?

2. Set In Order: A place for everything, and everything in its place. This step is all about making things easy to find, and easy to put back in their place.

  • Inbox: Decide on an email filing system that works for you. How do you normally search for things? By sender/key words/flags/subject? Set up folders that are easy to drag and drop into once you’ve read the email (if you can’t delete it – delete should always be the first consideration!). What works for me is utilizing the “follow-up flags” in outlook to flag messages that need some further attention – this also adds a task to my list to check off. Set up rules to automatically delete “junk” emails and file newsletters or coupons into a designated folder that you can review later when you have the time.
  • Staff: Look at job titles and responsibilities – is this clear for everyone? Are people working on the things they do best? Are they doing work that really should be done by someone else that is the “master” in that particular area?
  • Work space: Label your drawers, files, cabinets, toolboxes, etc. Think shadow boards for items that frequently walk away so it’s obvious if something is missing and where to put it back when you get back into the area. It should be easy for someone not familiar with the area to come into it and find what they need – and put it away when they are done. It saves you time by having to show them and also protects your privacy – who wants people rifling through drawers, papers, etc.?
  • Services/Products/Customers: Is it easy for your customers to see what you have to offer? Can you group like things together in a way that makes sense and helps customers gravitate towards your higher-profit products? Is your website easy to navigate?

3. Shine: Clean and repair! The clutter should have disappeared in the first step, now you can really see where dust, grime, etc. collects. This step is about creating pride in the workplace and making it sparkle!

  • Inbox: Inevitably, there will be some items daily that make it through the steps put in place in the Sort and Set In Order steps. Make some time each day or week to go through your inbox and delete or file those emails.
  • Staff: OK, this might be a stretch, but bear with me. Evaluate your dress code and grooming standards. Are they appropriate for your workplace and the customers you are serving? What about their behavior? If not, take steps to correct this. Coach individual employees or put some clear standards in place.
  • Workspace: As you are cleaning, inspect for damage and repair/replace items as you go. Paint walls and add lighting to brighten up the space. This will all make it easier to see when something is out of order or broken in the future. It’s much easier to see leaks, broken parts, or dripping grease on equipment that is clean and freshly painted.
  • Services/Products/Customers: If you have a storefront, are your products displayed in a clean and bright way where it’s easy to see what you have? Can you further clean up your customer list? Are your marketing materials clear and concise?

4. Standardize: Make it a habit! Set some standards and processes to maintain the progress made with the first three steps.

  • Inbox: Did you know you can color code emails as they come in? That way it’s easy to identify the messages from your manager, employees, or key customers that may need attention more quickly than some others.
  • Staff: Are your job descriptions and employee handbooks up to date? Do you have a good performance management system in place, that makes it easy for employees to know how their performance is evaluated?
  • Workspace: If you haven’t already implemented shadow boards, it also fits here in the Standardize step – it really makes maintaining an organized workspace easier. Implement daily or weekly checklists to review the first three steps or set aside 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day / 30 minutes at the beginning or end of each week to keep things organized.
  • Services/Products/Customers: Consider implementing a process to evaluate new products, services, and customers as well as periodically evaluating existing products, services, and customers for their potential value to avoid creep in these areas.

5. Sustain: What gets measured gets done. Set up periodic audits to ensure that everyone is sticking to the standards set in step 4. Additionally, review the standards periodically and as changes occur in the business to ensure that they are still relevant and accurate.

Give In To Spring Fever – Have Some Fun!
Everyone around here has spring fever right now, and if we can acknowledge it and channel that energy it’s so much more effective than trying to ignore it and trying to continue business as usual. It’s the perfect time to pull your team together, head outside, do some team building, and have a little fun celebrating where you are and where you are going. Do what make sense for your team and business.

At one of my former employers, we eagerly watched the forecast – sometimes for weeks on end, to find the first sunny day over 55 degrees and quickly pull together a “break in the weather” party. All that involved was heading out to the patio, grilling the first brats and burgers of the season, pulling out the lawn games, and just spending an hour or two together not working. We all went back to work with more energy and focus since we had the opportunity to blow off some steam.

Understanding that this isn’t realistic for everyone, maybe it looks more like starting up a walking club at lunchtime, granting everyone an extra hour or two of paid leave to be used before June at a time that’s convenient for them (and the business of course), or even implementing a “spring into action” challenge or contest related to business targets.

Now, are you and your team ready to spring into action? Feeling renewed and re-energized and refocused? Go knock those goals out of the ballpark before the dog days of summer and vacation season begins! Pick just one of the suggestions in this article, and tell me about your experience in the comments!


Wood Consulting Group‘s mission is to partner with small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits to help them stand out of from the pack and optimize their workforces through training and development, strategic planning processes, employee engagement, succession management, performance management, coaching, and supplemental human resource activities

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