Four demand lessons to drive better performance

When asked to describe their performance chain, leaders often leap right inside their organization, focusing on their capabilities and from there move quickly into a discussion about production or operating strengths or challenges.

Leaving demand out of any operating assessment substantially limits the internal creativity to drive performance to higher levels. Demand provides a critical context for every decision you make. If you find yourself skipping over demand requirements, or hear others in your organization talking only about production without tying it to demand, here are four lessons that you can introduce into your performance conversations:

1. Use a crystal clear picture of your marketplace to shape performance requirements.
Market assessments often sit on some shelf and only the person(s) that collected the information knows it and how it impacts the business. If you’re having a production discussion – make sure the agenda starts with at least a summary review of:
Customers and their requirements.
Competitors and how they shape market expectations.
Market conditions – static, dynamic, soft or exploding and the resulting implications.
Factors that are likely to change (regulation, technology, skilled talent…)

Roll everything you know about your market into a crystal clear picture of your performance requirements and test every decision against it.

2. Don’t settle for the simple demand definition.
Demand isn’t always simple. Let me rephrase that: demand is almost never simple! Despite what experts say, demand just isn’t an exact science. Customers can be unhappy, unpredictable and tough to satisfy. Competitors can and will introduce new products or services and mess up all your plans. This is the demand of the real world. It is fickle and unfriendly.

My point? Plan for all this variability when mapping out your performance chain. Don’t over-rely on all the numbers, charts and graphs you’ve culled together. Sure, you want to do your research. But also make sure you factor in potential variables and challenges along the way (and be realistic) including ways to capitalize on the unexpected. If you want a nimble performance chain, keep an eye open for the unexpected in everything you do.

3. See the whole—mine the meaningful.
This notion is so obvious and so simple it is almost always overlooked and performance chains suffer for it. Businesses of all shapes and sizes talk about silos and disconnects from one part of the organization to another. Seeing the whole means first looking broadly at demand as it impacts your performance chain, before you make any focused decisions. Mine the meaningful means, once you have a full view, go deep and solve those issues that most block peak performance. If you let demand be the driver of these assessments, you’ll prioritize performance improvements that match your market requirements.

4. View demand across your performance chain horizontally—not functionally.
A performance chain, at its most basic level, is just a system of moving pieces. Demand flows in, through and out. It flows through work zones and processes. And, in the end, it is intertwined with your customer experience to either make you money—or cost you money. We all hope for the former, obviously!

Focusing too narrowly, or on one functional area at a time will cause disconnects in value creation. When demand is chopped up into pieces, it’s very likely the big wins will be missed, or worse, you might lose sight of demand altogether. Look at demand horizontally across your performance chain, instead of like a baton pass from one internal customer group or function to another, and the likelihood of performance delivering to demand requirements increases. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris LaVictoire Mahai

Chris LaVictoire Mahai, a partner with global strategy and operational change firm, Aveus, has more than 20 years’ experience leading, developing and implementing business and marketplace strategies. Chris is also the author of ROAR, a business book focused on helping executives use the lenses of speed, predictability, leverage and flexibility to control their performance chains. You can also find Chris blogging regularly at ROARing Performance. Contact Chris directly at clavm@aveus.com.