Many business owners spend a lot of time in reviews. They review their business’s performance for yesterday, last week, last month. They may review the performance of their marketing department, their sales department. They regularly review their people in what we call appraisals hopefully on a frequent basis, ideally every 90 days. It is only right and proper that they do. Reviewing the activities and results of our business is a valid way of making sure that we are doing what we intended to do and holding the people in charge accountable for the results.
Do you review your progress?
Equally frequently some business owners spend very little time reviewing progress. They go months without reviewing the financial data and when they do they do that alone and without their senior leadership team who generate the financial results. Others never get their team together at all. I can understand that too. Business is more about tomorrow than yesterday. We as business leaders are generally future focussed. We don’t bother much about yesterday as we are so focussed on tomorrow. Sometimes the simple act of looking back can be painful. It can be embarrassing or disappointing. But if we never look back, we never learn the lessons that history is trying to teach us.
One of the many challenges of leadership is getting this particular balance right. We can often oscillate between spending all of our time with our head in the past, reviewing what has happened and doing little to influence the future; or running helter skelter forward and not looking back at all.
Learn from it
How you manage this will depend upon you, your skills and preferences as well as the needs of your enterprise and your people. But here is a thought. We cannot affect the past. It is what it is. We cannot change it, but we can learn from it. Therefore we should pay appropriate attention to it. However, whatever lessons we might learn from the past are of no matter unless we take action to do something different next time, so it is really important to decide to do something different next time. A review is of limited value unless it leads to a preview of future performance.
Is it possible to find a better balance? Always remembering that what is appropriate in any circumstance may not be in a different one. I have a very rough rule of thumb. I like to spend 20% of the time looking back and learning the lessons and the rest of the time planning and deciding the actions that need to be taken to get a better result.
To do this effectively we cannot waste time sugar-coating what has happened in the past. We need to quickly confront the facts, draw the conclusions both positive and negative and assess the performance so that we can decide the performance improvement tactics and implement them. That leads to constant and never-ending improvement.
How much time do you spend looking back?
Take the appraisals that you will do frequently with your people. How much time do you spend looking back at the performance and how much time do you spend discussing what they are going to be doing in the next period? Is it an effective balance? If not, how could you improve it. A review is of limited value unless it leads to a preview of future performance.