Dan E. King: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris


King, Dan EDan is the founder and principal of CloseReach Consulting and has developed a proprietary growth acceleration model designed for business leaders and senior teams striving to outpace the competition. The model consists of and numerically scores three growth drivers: Strategy Planning, Execution, and Talent. Dan developed this data-centric concept for assessing critical aspects of an organization’s capabilities in order to provide leaders with the knowledge of where weakness resides. Only then, can investments be targeted to the right elements of the business in order to steepen the growth trajectory. Dan helps leadership teams overachieve – fortifying the business so that financial targets are surpassed – the hallmark of hyper-growth.

Prior to CloseReach, Dan held a senior executive role with a mid-market enterprise that delivered double-digit revenue growth for five out of six years and was named winner of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Pacesetter Award in 2010. In December, 2012, the company was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies for the fifth time.

He has developed white papers on topics such as The Keys to Flawless Execution, Achieving Talent Density in a High Growth Enterprise, Strategic Planning – Getting it Right, and Applying the Organizational Prowess Scorecard to Create an Integrated Organization.

His book, The Scorecard Solution: Measure What Matters to Drive Sustainable Growth was published by AMACOM (2015)

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Dan.

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Morris: When and why did you decide to writeThe Scorecard Solution?

King: The ideas for the book struck me 3 years ago while working in a private, VC backed business that was experiencing impressive growth, but producing wide swings in performance from one year to the next. One year would be stellar, surpassing revenue and profit goals by a wide margin. The next year we would fall short. Over the course of 5 years we saw growth, from $25M to $80M. But there were two “down” years within that 5-year span. Why couldn’t we sustain year over year growth? If so, we would have easily surpassed $100M in that timeframe.

I became curious and conducted my own quiet examination of the organization to better understand what was really happening. During my analysis, I discovered that there were certain growth drivers that had to be optimal in order to sustain growth. I bucketed these as strategy planning, execution framework, and talent. Additionally, these elements of the business required frequent attention in order to keep them at the optimal level. For example, shifting strategies meant different talent requirements. We made the classic mistake of expecting the same people to do new things. We pushed people away from their skills and our results suffered. The neglect of these growth drivers was, in a nutshell, the reason our performance slipped. We would come off of a good year and assume that we could repeat. That led to the cross your fingers approach to leadership. “Let’s not rock the boat and we can have another great year.”

What I learned is that rocking the boat is mandatory and necessary to sustain growth. These revelations 3 years ago led to the book. I wanted to capture the essence of what we experienced and convert the findings into an actionable methodology for the reader. The “secret” ingredient is how the scorecard pulls the curtain back on parts of the business that a leader normally can’t access – seeing how execution truly occurs in the trenches. This is so much more revealing than relying on what others tell you. The message is almost always sanitized.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

King: The big ah ha moment was when one CEO who I interviewed as part of my research for the book suggested a numerical scale to measure the growth drivers. She shared that business leaders love the numbers and if I could portray the health of the enterprise numerically, it would resonate with the reader. Consequently, I developed the scale, made up of the 4 quartiles – laggard, vulnerable, resilient and agile. I’ve also learned that the progressive nature of the numerical scale gives teams something to shoot for. A best practice is to re-apply the scorecard every 6-12 months and as improvements are made, it is motivating to see increasingly stronger scores.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

King: My editor encouraged me to show more of the details of what was addressed within the case study business as a result of the scorecard results. I had conveyed the improvements at too high of a level and the suggestion really made sense. The reader could actually visualize the specific actions taken by the leadership team to build back the strength in strategy planning, execution and talent density. The other meaningful change reflected in the final form was the emphasis on the playbook. This is the tool that actualizes the scorecard results. I was excited about the playbook because it is a tangible way to keep the book alive – not just sitting on a shelf. I wanted to create a book that a leader could easily learn from and apply in his or her business.

Morris: What dos and don’ts should be kept in mind when formulating a scorecard?

King: Do spend the time to customize the sub-elements to your business and current state. For example, under “strategy planning” there are multiple items to be scored. Each leader needs to scrutinize the data and add/modify as needed. Since I developed the measurements based on research, a lot of modification isn’t advised, but some adjustment to make it more relevant to the business is fine. Another “do” is to be very careful when selecting the individuals who will do the assessment. Some companies engage external experts in order to stay objective and unbiased.

In my experience, most companies that adopt the scorecard have objective leaders who can handle it. Just be careful on who is chosen. The one big don’t I would offer is, don’t keep it a secret. The scorecard and the numerical score can be a rallying cry for an organization. Share it widely and get people vested in the work to improve the score. I know one CEO who applies the scorecard every 6 months and publishes the results for everyone to see. As a business, they have moved from the vulnerable quartile to resilient over 3 years and they have the financial results to show for it. The company is healthier, employees are engaged and shareholders are ecstatic. It’s a real success story.

Morris: Who should be involved in that process?

King: The business leader (CEO, owner, Division President, etc.) must own it and sanction the work. The person who has the authority to drive change and make decisions that affect the organization being assessed must lead the charge when it comes to scorecard adoption. Then, the senior team needs to endorse the process. The scorecard results will be converted to an actionable playbook that is the domain of the senior team. Then, as I mentioned, the selection of those who will actually collect the scorecard data is key. This might be a member of the senior team or someone a level or two down.

Morris: In your opinion, what is the best way to introduce the scorecard to the workforce of an enterprise? What dos and don’ts should be kept in mind when doing so?

King: Great question. The best examples I’ve seen involve multiple methods of communication. In one mid-market business, the CEO introduced the concept of the scorecard at a town hall meeting and through a well-crafted email message. He then asked his senior team to hold small team meetings to further share the scorecard and implementation plan. That set the stage. Once results were in, another town hall was held to unveil the results and action plans. While there was room for improvement based on the score, people liked being informed and knowing exactly what had to get worked on and how they could help. In this case, the leaders established a cadence of repetitive application of the scorecard, address the weaknesses, repeat. It changed the culture to one of high energy and high performance.

* * *

To read all of Part 2 of my interview of Dan, please click here.

Here is a direct link to Part 1.

Dan cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His consulting firm link

His blog link

The Scorecard Solution link at Amazon

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