There is an interesting phenomenon that exists in many organizations. People are usually enthusiastic to tell you all of the different workarounds their team uses to get things done. Most people in an organization know where their processes are inefficient or flawed. In the cases we have observed, few people tend to seize the opportunity to make those processes better. The most frequent reason is that the team does not have time to change the process, almost always because they are too busy working within the inefficient process. If those teams could dedicate a portion of their time to fixing their processes, they would find that they are more productive than before. The teams would also have happier customers, find more time, and less stress. This post introduces the concept of Relentless Improvement, a way to iterate through process changes using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
What is Relentless Improvement, and Why Does it Matter?
Relentless Improvement is part of the Agile Mindset culture for sales teams in our Sales Accelerator Playbook. Relentless Improvement is such an essential part of agile sales that we break it out into a separate core principle in the Playbook. Relentless Improvement encourages everyone in an organization to aggressively seek out and optimize everything possible through reflection, collaboration, and experimentation. Leaders and teams develop a sense of urgency to improve the entire organization and increase responsiveness to an always-changing competitive landscape.
When Relentless Improvement is not part of your agile sales team culture, your team feels like it is running on a never-ending treadmill of inefficient day to day processes. Without Relentless Improvement, it seems like there is never enough time to make things better. By committing to Relentless Improvement, teams gain the opportunity to reduce costs, drive more revenue, build team morale, and increase your overall customer satisfaction. Relentless Improvement empowers your agile sales team to find issues and experiment rapidly to find more efficient solutions. The model we teach our clients to use to perform these experiments is called Plan-Do-Check-Act, or PDCA.
How to Use Plan-Do-Check-Act for Relentless Improvement
PDCA is an iterative cycle of experimentation that allows us to systematically try potential improvements to team processes and see their effect. Based on the experiment’s outcome, we make adjustments, try something new, or make the adjustment a permanent part of our newly optimized process.
There are two objectives in the planning stage. The first objective is to describe the proposed change. We identify the change, and we determine our stakeholders – who is involved and whom the change affects. We also recognize the tools, systems, and resources that will need to be added or changed. The end goal is to ensure that we know what the change requires and communicate the plan to avoid surprises when the changes occur.
The second objective is to create a hypothesis statement that describes the benefits of the change. We also plan how we will measure the results of the change to prove our hypothesis. As we continue the PDCA cycle, we test this hypothesis against these measurements to decide how to proceed with the change.
Next, we execute our plan. We ensure everyone involved with the plan knows the changes we will be making. We collaborate with team members responsible for changes to the tools and systems for our process change, like changes to our Salesforce CRM or sales email automation workflow. Finally, we include our stakeholders in testing the changes to ensure that the outcome of these changes meets our plan.
Once we have completed our changes, we measure the impact the changes have on the team and our customers. Does our change save our team time? Do our customers get faster responses? Does the change speed up our sales cycle? Do the changes reduce costs?
After a planned period, we begin to analyze the change to compare how the results meet our hypothesis. We create reports, charts, and other data visualizations to prepare for the PDCA cycle’s final step. Finally, we formulate recommendations for what actions we should take based on the analysis.
In this last step, we take action based on the analysis of the change results. Does the data indicate that there has been a positive change, but not to the degree that we had planned? We can begin to prepare for a second PDCA cycle iteration to make adjustments to the changes to see if there is an improvement in the results. Does the data indicate that the change made things worse? If so, we can plan for a new PDCA cycle to revert the changes or try a new solution. Does the data indicate that the changes were a raving success? Then we should plan a celebration with our team to show off the success of Relentless Improvement and encourage the team to continue looking for process optimization opportunities.
Managing Relentless Improvement in Agile Sales Teams
As a manager or leader, it may seem like Relentless Improvement will burden and distract your teams. The good news is the Sales Accelerator Playbook provides two methods to manage incoming Relentless Improvement experiments while keeping your teams focused and your sales goals a priority.
The Program Backlog provides a way for sales leadership to capture incoming Relentless Improvement changes, along with planned sales campaigns, customer-focused sales efforts, and business development. We use the Revenue Prioritization Formula (RPF) to triage and prioritize the work that gives the most benefit in the shortest amount of time.
Each sales team has a Team Backlog representing the work the team has committed to in a timeboxed period. Agile Sales Teams use the Scrum framework to manage their workload. The Team Backlog allows the team to organize, prioritize, and commit to the work they can do in that time while also bringing in new revenue through sales.
Relentless Improvement may seem like a massive hurdle to implement in an existing salesforce with a culture established. The benefits of integrating Relentless Improvement as part of an overall agile sales mindset culture are tremendous. Relentless Improvement empowers your team to make changes that will make your team faster, accelerate your sales process, reduce your customer acquisition cost, and increase customer lifetime value to your business.