Black Women's Business Blog

Winners Stay 10 Steps Ahead: Speed and Agility in Business

Successful businesses create systems and cycles for continuous improvement in their business that ensure that their products and services get better and better quickly. They don’t fix things that they would like to fix – they fix things that the customer tells them to fix. They are beasts about using customer feedback to make rapid improvements.

The key is to fall in love with mastering repeatability. Drive profits and growth with the following tools for improvement in the repeatable cycles in your business:

Start-Stop-Continue Reviews

The start-stop-continue (SSC) review  is an easy to use process for your use after every major event or delivery cycle in your business. If you sell e-courses, use it after each course closes. If you host fitness bootcamps, use it after each event. If you sell bookkeeping services, simply use it at the end of each month or client project.

The way it works: Meet with your team to review the project cycle, event or delivery of any service or product. Review any customer feedback that you received. Then discuss which items you want to start, stop or continue. If something was missing from the experience, put it under the start column. If something went really wrong and needs to be removed from the customer experience, put it in the stop column. If something went really well, put it in the continue experience.

Keeping an SSC log helps you to remember what worked, what didn’t work and why key changes have been made to your products and services. This is especially helpful when there is turnover or new hires in your organization. It leaves a record that can inform new hires as they make key decisions in your business.

The key to SSC efficacy is to make sure that you actually hold your team accountable to making adjustments and improvements quickly. Another great tip for SSC is to have the worksheet available at the actual event or during the project so that you can fill it in while things are happening. Then you can focus more on discussion in the review session. Click here for my SSC worksheet.

After-Action Reviews

After-Action Reviews are structured meetings for reviewing the results, success and challenges of a project or event. They serve a similar purpose to the SSC review but have a standard agenda and different process.

The way it works: The agenda is centered around conversations to these questions:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why were there differences?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • Why?
  • What would you do differently next time?

It’s important to create an environment where people feel safe enough to admit failure and explore necessary improvements. Be sure to attack problems and support people in these discussions.

PDSA Cycles

Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles are short, quick inquiry cycles used to plan and test a new product or service or major improvement. They have four phases (plan, do, study and act) and with repeatability you can quickly study and make improvements on new products and services.

The way it works: Documenting the whole process in writing is important. You will plan out the change, improvement or innovation in your business. You should document the outcomes you expect to see if it is successful in the plan. Then implement the change. Revisit the plan and notes from implementation and decide what worked, and what didn’t. Create a plan for the next implementation cycle and keep testing until you get the results and information you need to move forward in the business. This may be a great product launch or product kill, depending on what you learn. PDSA cycles are good for when you need to test and improve over and over for a while.

Feedback Surveys

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Yet, we fail to make sure we know exactly what customers want and need in order to return and stay loyal.Feedback is a precious gift and surveys are critical to collecting feedback.  However, according to  “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legne a typical business hears from 4% of it’s dissatisfied customers. They should be used whenever you deliver a product or service to improve future customer experiences. Organizing and compiling surveys, and having a review protocol for them is something you can do within or in addition to each of the three methods above. One of my favorite books is Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Read it and think carefully about you can set up rigorous systems for collecting, sorting and using customer feedback.

Now, I shared these systems and methods because I see small businesses skipping out on this type of work all of the time. Sis, you are leaving money on the table, and likely losing clients if you aren’t engaging in rapid, structured, continuous improvement in your business. If I’m describing you, then try one of these methods to get you started. Cheers to your growth and success!


Makisha Boothe

Makisha is Head Business Coach and founder of Sistahbiz Global Network. She specializes in rapid improvement and innovation, and helps women with business startup and design.

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