Most companies create yearly plans.
But sometimes the plan you created for the year goes awry (the pandemic is an extreme example). Or the plan you created needs to change based on new information (something happens in the market, a competitor makes a move, etc.). Whatever the reason, there’s a great quote about hiring that says, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Changing plans should follow the same general idea: if you’re going to pivot, think hard about how and why–and then once you make a decision, don’t do it gradually. Do it fast.
For example, earlier this past year we hired a new CFO.
Throughout that process, we took some time to reflect on our key operational KPIs. We had four very clear goals for ThirdLove: one was around customers, one was around product expansion, one was about improving retention, and one was around internal efficiencies to drive profitability. But as we began to get our new CFO up to speed, we started to realize many of the nuances within these goals needed to be shifted or made more specific (which by definition sort of changes the goal). For example, in one instance we realized we didn’t want to focus on how much repeat revenue we were driving on a monthly or quarterly basis as much as we wanted to focus on the change in the percentage of women buying underwear or a different category of product in the context of our revenue goal.
So, as we got clearer about what we “actually” wanted, we needed to change our company’s goals in the middle of the year.
Now, I hope next year we can have more clarity at the beginning so that we don’t have to pivot halfway through next year as well. But sometimes, changing course as a company (however slightly) is necessary.
Here are some good reasons for steering in a different direction:
1. The longer you go without fixing this problem, the more the problem will compound.
Another great business quote is, “What gets measured gets managed,” by Peter Drucker
Well, this is only true if you’re measuring the right thing to begin with. If you’re measuring the wrong thing, then no matter how well you manage it, it won’t move the needle. And in the case of ThirdLove, we realized we weren’t quite measuring the right things, and we needed to change our focus.
Anytime in the company where you realize you are focusing on the wrong thing, however big or small, it’s worth asking the question, “If we go on doing this, what’s going to happen?” And six months or a year spent measuring the wrong things inside the business means you lose time that can’t be recouped.
2. Your goals and/or action steps aren’t clear.
Having a clear North Star is only beneficial if people understand how to move toward it.
If you start to realize the plan you created for yourself, your team members, and your company isn’t being acted on because people don’t have actionable ways of getting there, you either need to a) figure out how to create actionable steps forward or b) change the goal. For example, if you make your number one goal for the year, “Forge more authentic relationships with customers,” and nobody internally has any measurable way of achieving that goal, how will the team know if and when they are successful?
Which means you need to change the goal to something more specific.
3. Teams (and team members) have opposing goals.
Anytime you have two (or more) parts of an organization rowing in opposite directions, you have a problem.
When we decided to make changes to our goals halfway through the year, we started by first getting everyone on our leadership team onboard–which consists of 20 or so people. Then, we presented the new plan to our entire company the following week (150 people). And then thereafter, all the directors within the company, managers, etc., followed up with their own teams, cascading the message throughout the organization.
Every director and manager then needed to create their own goals, and present them back, showing how they relate to the larger company goals.
And now – I see our teammates are often referencing back to the goals. That’s when you know you’ve truly aligned your company.