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Forcing Functions: Why Every Organization Needs Them

Author ryan.drawdy Category Uncategorized

This week’s episode is with Sangram.  If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out below.

Imagine Steve Jobs getting up at an Apple event and not announcing a new product.

No iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Nothing.

Seems crazy doesn’t it?

Forcing functions are the greatest reason why innovation happens in companies at a rapid scale.

Think about an annual conference like Dreamforce, Hypergrowth, or Conex. The teams at the companies that put these conferences on know that they have to have a whole new message, product, acquisition, or whatever it is that they do, ready to roll out to the world.

If they don’t, they become irrelevant. What would happen if Apple held a major press event and just spent the whole time talking about how great they were doing, but didn’t announce a new product?

They would (rightfully) get panned by the media.

When we started Terminus, we would use major events to light a fire under the team to make sure that we were ready to go with whatever new product we wanted to have ready.

Nobody was put on the spot, and as a result, nobody was truly held accountable.

So how can you help ensure that your organization has those forcing functions? Those moments that drive development and innovation?

Here are just a few things we have done at Terminus to keep forcing functions at the center of what we do.

Weekly All Hands

Every company has an all hands meeting. They’re usually monthly, or quarterly, and they’re usually filled with awkward conversation, and whole teams of people feeling like they’re not really contributing, so they use the time to catch up on emails.

At Terminus, we moved our all hands meetings to a weekly cadence, making sure that every week, the product teams or customer success teams are highlighting something innovative that they’re working on or a customer success story they want to bring to the table.

Why a weekly meeting?

Because it forces the teams to innovate. If you know that in 3 weeks, you have to have something to present to the entire team, or if you’re a small enough organization, the entire company, it forces you to innovate. To think outside the box.

If you know that every week during the month of January, your customer success team has to have stories to tell, it’s going to force your team to get out there and talk to tons of customers and really listen to them and tell you what they’re experiencing.

Focus on the Customer

This one seems obvious, but focusing on the customer again puts the pressure on a bit.

At Terminus, we have a customer of the month program. We highlight a particular customer, tell their stories, and really focus on them. If we know that we’re going to have to have a whole catalog of things to say about our customer, it makes us spend time with them, and that in turn drives innovation and customer success.

On the #FlipMyFunnel podcast, we have brought in over 20 of our customers and made them the focus of the interview.

We ask them what’s working, get their stories, and really listen to what they have to say, and in the end give them the chance to address our audience of tens of thousands of listeners.

Board Meetings Where Nobody’s Bored

Typically, a board meeting is all about numbers.

You sit around a table with a bunch of people talking about numbers, and how to make those numbers go up, or how to stop them from going down.

Numbers are great, but when you have the forcing function of putting customer success at the center, all of a sudden you have these curated case studies for the board meeting to listen to.

At Terminus, the board can listen to the episodes where we’ve had customers on. It gives them the chance to see success beyond just the numbers.

Storytelling helps create a ton of confidence with the board members, which is something that is crucial.

For The Individual Contributor

As an individual contributor, what can you do to find these forcing functions for your organization?

First, make sure that every single meeting with an agenda and action items before you even walk into the room. How many meetings have you sat in only to leave with no clue what the purpose of the meeting was?

Everybody should leave the meeting with a clear list of action items and ownership.

And second, make a priority list. Why do you need to get this thing done on the date that it needs to be done? Is there a forcing function behind it?

The challenge is simple:: Figure out your forcing function. Even if it feels like you don’t have one, you absolutely do. There is so aspect of your job where you can institute a forcing function. Do that and watch how quickly things start to get done in your org.

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