I remember when I was a wide-eyed graduate fresh out of college with lots of big ideas and ready to take on the world. I was going to change the PBM world, powered by all that I learned from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Many of us start our professional career this way. We’ve achieved academic success (in my case, marginal academic success) by learning to manage ourselves effectively. Managing our time, our priorities, our behavior, our results. This pattern serves us well as we step into the often-first-time role of individual contributor. Typically, success there leads to becoming a manager of people for the first time. That’s when the rules all change (insert sound of needle scratching across the record). All of the sudden you can’t do everything … aren’t able to make every final decision. We need a new skill — the ability to consistently deliver the results through others.

I would argue that same seismic shift actually happens multiple times throughout a leader’s career. Certainly, when she becomes a leader of people for the first time, but also as she steps into roles with increasing scope and complexity. In fact, it can happen to an entire organization when they are experiencing significant growth or during a strategic transformation.

Whatever the source, when you find yourself or your organization needing to drive big results, it is the perfect time to make sure you have some important fundamentals in place. Before you architect an elaborate strategy, make sure you are building on a strong foundation. When execution is paramount, you must first get back to basics.

There are several foundational elements that are important to lead an organization that consistently delivers. However, here are the top five fundamentals that are critically important, yet often overlooked:

  1. Voice of the Customer — Do you know what your customers expect? How do you engage them? How is the status of key accounts shared across the organization? What dissatisfies your clients, and what are you doing about it?
  2. Aligned Objectives — What does success look like? Does everyone understand the strategic imperatives? Do scorecards exist? Are incentives aligned? Do you talk to your team about progress being made towards the objectives throughout the year?
  3. Management Data — How do you measure performance? Is the right information being pushed to you in a timely and accurate manner? Do have visibility to key performance indicators? Does everyone in your organization know what a good day looks like in terms of work product delivered?
  4. Team Meetings and One on Ones — How frequently do your teams meet? How is information shared? How much time are you and your leaders spending with their direct reports? How is that time used… just tactical updates, or more forward-looking strategy/ development opportunities?
  5. Forward-Looking Strategic Planning — What are the most critical projects or initiatives that have to be delivered within the next 3 to 6 months? What are the early indicators if those critical projects or initiatives begin to go off track? How will you invest your precious capital during the next 12 to 24 months to drive improved growth? Who is accountable for delivering these initiatives, and is there a defined plan to deliver the necessary results?

While these elements are basic, don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t directly influencing the results being delivered. Done well, these straightforward solutions often provide an immediate lift to performance, without significant cost or added risk. ALTTRAX has successfully helped many clients assess their current business and quickly install these operating mechanisms.

Stay tuned over the next several weeks as we dive deeper into each fundamental and share greater insight into how small investments in these areas can yield significant results.

Jon Schlosser