I often talk about the skills that entrepreneurs need to be successful, and pattern recognition is one of my all-time favorites. Lately I am realizing that companies need to see patterns too, at every leadership level of the organization.

It is our job as entrepreneurs to see them, obviously, but it is also our job to build systems to help the team see them as well. Companies that are using Scaling Up tend to get into a flow, a rhythm, and a mindset that starts to create patterns.

Most importantly, and this is one of my ‘forever rants’, we then need to use the data and patterns to drive outcomes, but that is a rant for a separate day!

We were in a planning session for Scaling Up Coaches recently, and were having a great conversation, and debate, about the customer experience. We were talking about subconscious customer experiences, versus things you can measure, and how challenging it is that you can’t always get clear data on what is working and what is not working because some stuff is too subtle to directly attribute to an outcome. The debate was fantastic, and led to some great new thinking, but it also reminded me of something that happened at Appletree (the call center company we sold in 2012) that I think is worth noting…

We built a system at Appletree to help our front line, site level managers, see the “patterns” in their business. It was a rudimentary algorithm where I made some educated guesses about what metrics were driving success, especially ones that were not directly attributable to outcomes. Even though there were some guesses in the algorithm, we were able to measure over time that higher scores on this rudimentary set of metrics did lead to higher customer retention. Score one for intuition… but that wasn’t the real lesson.

The real lesson came in some of our locations that were not performing well, and watching their scores decline in this rudimentary algorithm, and being baffled as to why they were declining. It took a while, but eventually we figured it out.

The way the score was calculated involved the site level manager spending 5 minutes (yes FIVE TOTAL MINUTES!!!!) in the morning to run a handful of reports from the day before, and entering them into a Salesforce.com form we created to do the calculation, and to put up a green, yellow, red, color coded dashboard so they could see how they were doing. All that data then flowed in to the leadership team.

As is turns out, the sites that were not performing, we discovered, had site level leaders that ABDICATED the responsibility of running those simple reports (FIVE MINUTES!!) to someone else on their team. By running the report, they did not ‘feel’ the shifts in the data, or see the color of the dashboard, and they ‘lost’ touch with the PATTERNS! Easy fix, but tremendously valuable lesson.

If you have managers that have some level of responsibility to an outcome, have them perform a small series of tasks that tie them to the patterns of that outcome, and no matter what you do… DO NOT LET THEM ABDICATE THAT RESPONSIBILITY!

Pattern recognition can be systematized, and is EVERYONE’s Responsibility!!


Founder of the align5 Companies,  CEO of Scaling Up Coaches, and Serial Entrepreneur

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