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Your greatest strengths are the abilities you’re most likely to overlook.
Because the things you’re really, really good are central to who you are. They come naturally to you.
So you don’t recognize that those talents set you apart. That not everybody sees the world in quite the same way you do.
This concept became apparent to me recently. We just finished developing a new tool for the Growth Method called Front Domino Thinking. It’s so new that we haven’t rolled it out quite yet.
This was one of the trickier tools for me to build because I had to really step back from what I do naturally and break it down into a repeatable process others could follow.
(As an aside, if you’re struggling to pass on some knowledge or technique to your team, get some extra support. I worked with two of our team members closely to help extract this tool from my brain and put it together.)
What is Front Domino Thinking?
It’s ultimately about making decisions that give you the most leverage to create change in your business. The idea is that you find the “front domino” that, when you knock it over, will send a long line of other dominos to the floor. That, in turn, delivers your final outcome.
Here’s a case in point: a client session that I ran a few months ago.
As we were reviewing the client’s 3 Year Objectives, it became clear that they were going to hit their revenue target a full 18 months early.
Yeah, that’s very good. Except for one thing. Their profitability wasn’t keep pace with their revenue growth.
They were less profitable than they expected to be with their current revenue.
So I asked the question, “What is the main factor causing the shortfall in profitability?”
In other words: What’s the front domino here?
How do you find the Front Domino?
To find the front domino, we had to dig into the numbers. This client has several different lines of business, so we needed to evaluate each line’s performance separately.
(THIS, by the way, is why having up to date financial reporting is critical—without it, you end up having conversations based on conjecture. With it, you have real data to give you 80% of the answers.)
As we looked at the financials, the problem became clear. Although the company overall was doing well, they had one revenue stream that wasn’t profitable. That line of business was dragging down the overall profit and creating the misalignment with their financial plan.
Now we knew the problem, but we hadn’t identified the real front domino yet.
As we discussed the issue, more questions came up. Could we improve profitability in this line of business? Yes, to some extent. But there were limitations on how much improvement was possible.
Then, we had to examine this line of business in relation to the business as a whole. If you could only optimize this segment so much, the company would never hit its profit targets. This segment made up too much of the overall revenue.
More questions come up:
Are these revenue and profit targets still achievable?
What would have to change to hit them?
How committed are we to this arm of the business?
And if we’re committed to it, where do we need to adjust our expectations to reflect reality?
The Front Domino
The front domino of this situation might surprise you.
This company no longer has a financial plan that links to the vision of the business.
In other words, the financial targets no longer align with the CEO’s commitment to this particular line of business. If the line of business stays in, something else has to adjust accordingly.
The team’s finance leader takes the next step: create a new financial plan that matches the objectives the company wants to achieve.
If we had jumped into action too quickly, we would probably have identified a “middle domino” to improve the profitability of this particular line of business.
But further investigation showed that wouldn’t have fully solved the problem. The line of business could only be optimized so much. Growing that line of business would have continued to exacerbate the issue.
Without too much effort, we could have blown the company’s business model entirely.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, the team is recalibrating their efforts and redefining their goals.
Sometimes a front domino will do that.
Front Domino Thinking is problem-solving to find points of leverage. It’s not always easy to find the front domino.
But finding it is a great feeling. It’s so satisfying to imagine that line of dominos leading to your goal, toppling over one by one.