Traction, A Book Review
By : Ken Paskins -
No one loves going to the doctor. But sometimes, you have to. You want to know where you stand health-wise. While it’s not always great, you need to know how you are and know how to improve your current standing. It’s the same in business. A lot of times, people don’t want to sit in the big off-site going over annual progress. It takes a few days, it can feel tedious, and there’s real operational work to get done. You know are you doing great, there is a profit coming. Taking the time to figure out where your business stands health-wise gives you the chance to learn what is working, how it’s working and what can be done better.
Organizational health is just as important at some level as personal health. An organization can seem strong in the financials, but if the core isn’t truly healthy, 9-10 quarters down the road, everything can collapse.
This is one of the great values of Gino Wickman’s book Traction, Get A Grip on Your Business. In it, there’s a 20-point organizational health checklist. You go through the 20 items and score your company on a 1-5 scale; Wickman recommends doing it twice a year with your senior team. The maximum possible score is obviously 100, and no company should be hitting that target. It’s nearly impossible, and if you’re scoring yourself as all 5s, you probably lack some self-awareness.
Scoring yourself and your company over 80 is a truly great company and a strong base on which to build the financials and growth.
I won’t list all 20 elements — they are presented several times throughout the book —
Here are a few, showcasing a mix of short- and long-term thinking.
- Our core values are clear and we are hiring, rewarding, reviewing, and firing around them.
- Our three unique differentiators are clear, and sales and marketing speak to them.
- Everyone is in the right seat, meaning they get it, want it, and have the capacity to excel in their role.
- Our 10-year target is clear and communicated regularly.
- Everyone has 1-7 “rocks” (priorities) per quarter and is focused on them.
- Everyone in the organization has one number they are responsible for tracking every week.
Look at just those statements above. Are you a 5 on any of them? Most places I’ve worked would get 3s on most of these, and sometimes even lower than that — we’ve all worked in places where the numbers are controlled by only a handful of people, but then the numbers are all that’s discussed, leading the people who don’t control any numbers to feel disengaged. It’s real, and it happens.
Promise I won’t get political here, but just after the 2016 Presidential election, Om Malik wrote an article for The New Yorker called “Silicon Valley Has An Empathy Problem.” This quote always stood out to me:
It’s hard to think about the human consequences of technology as a founder of a startup racing to prove itself or as a chief executive who is worried about achieving the incessant growth that keeps investors happy. Against the immediate numerical pressures of increasing users and sales, and the corporate pressures of hiring the right (but not too expensive) employees to execute your vision, the displacement of people you don’t know can get lost.
The quote stands out to me for the word “racing.” That’s often how running a business, or being an entrepreneur, can feel. This is why Traction is such a good book. Traction is the opposite of racing. It’s digging in and doing the right things and knowing your path is clear and makes sense and is being communicated and everyone is aligned towards it. That’s traction. You want that. You don’t want to race and always be proving everything to everyone. You want traction. And this book has the checklist and the road map. Are you not getting traction in your company? Contact us, we can help you.