The monthly business performance meeting. When you and your top team review the numbers for the past month. Yet all too often these meetings are little more than a look at the numbers, a few off-the-cuff comments as to why you’re meeting or not meeting plan, and then you move on. Is this really the most effective way to manage business performance?

Here’s a model that raises the bar. It raises the level of discussion so that your managers aren’t just observing business performance, they’re managing it.

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1. At the beginning of each business performance meeting, make sure everyone has a copy of, or access to, the Analysis-Action Ladder.

2. For each performance measure, start at the bottom rung of the ladder and then “climb the rungs” to the extent warranted by that measure.

  • Ensure rigor when people are explaining why did it happen? Do this by asking incisive questions such as: How do we know? How certain should we be? Are there other factors that might also help explain our performance?
  • Predict what is likely to happen if you don’t do anything differently. What would you expect to happen and why? Is that acceptable or not? If so, then record your predictions so you can come back the following month and evaluate them. The purpose isn’t to judge people’s predictions. It’s so the team learns from what happened and improves their forecasting in the future. On the other hand, if what you expect to happen isn’t acceptable, then climb to the top rung of the ladder.
  • Ask, what do we want to happen? Then ask, what can we influence, what actions should we take to help make it happen? Record agreed-to Action Items (who will do what by when) and review them the following month.

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