The Ultimate Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Business

In our home base of Toronto, March and April are important months. While we love the Ontario winters and the fun activities it brings, many of us begin to long for spring this time of year. We want to peel off those extra layers, shed the boots and scarves and become a bit more agile in our day-to-day.


We’ve had neighbours over the years call it all sorts of things: spring cleaning, coming out of hibernation and even shedding.

Of course, organizations do this too — and the time frame is often similar.

Senior leaders typically have some downtime around the holidays in December (relative to industry, of course) and come back in January refreshed and renewed, often buoyed by personal — and some professional — resolutions. But then day-to-day work sets in. A client recently called it “the business of doing business”, and it can lead to resolutions falling by the wayside, both personally and professionally. Compare the number of cars in a gym parking lot on January 2nd to those still there on April 2nd and you’ll see this phenomenon in action.

Perhaps you’re familiar with this in your own life and business. Here we are nearing the end of Q1, how are you tracking on your resolutions for 2016? If you’re feeling off-priority or misaligned with your original goals, perhaps it’s time for a little spring cleaning!

The Ultimate Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Business

5 Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Organization

We approach this type of exploration with clients in different ways relative to their industry, background and the specific reason they reached out to us, but there’s a consistent five-step process for how a leader should be involved in renewal.

  1. Inspire
  2. Focus
  3. Harmonize
  4. Correct
  5. Reward


1. Inspire:

The primary mission of the work we do with our clients is tying everything back to purpose. Keeping purpose at the center not only inspires but often leads to much greater sustainable financial growth as well.

The “inspire” stage in the spring cleaning process is the cornerstone of bringing purpose into the picture. A leader must set a vision for the work being done; it can’t simply be transactional (i.e. a salary), although we will get to rewards later in this list. The leader’s role in this stage is to ensure the shared “purpose” is visible to the entire team. Leader’s need to have the courage to engage with team members about their personal purpose, to ensure they are inspired by and working towards the organization’s purpose.

2. Focus:

The core focus in this stage is determining the outcome, engaging the team, and making the overall ‘dream’ of the organization feel real. In our experience, this is typically the stage at which most companies get stuck.

Here’s how we work to counter and offset the problems leaders and organizations often experience during the Inspire and Focus phases of this journey:

  • We ensure clients commit to a longer-term (three-year minimum) holistic offering
  • We work with the top line of leadership directly on their competencies, life purpose (yes, life purpose), and strategic plan
  • The next level down of management also works with us on these topics
  • At that point, we revisit the corporate purpose
  • Ideally, we find alignment between those with decision-making authority and the overall corporate purpose (sometimes we don’t, and that’s a subject for a future post)
  • Then we work on disseminating the plan and strategic objectives throughout the organization

The cornerstone comes from purpose — but it must also come from corresponding market research. When discussions are rooted in actual market intelligence — instead of ‘gut feels’ that long-tenured executives can often have (and often correctly) — there’s more accurate data to base strategic plans upon. In this way, you can drive the focus home through both (a) conversation and (b) real, factual information.

3. Harmonize

In the first two stages we were focused on aligning the individual purpose and corporate purpose or priorities and focus. This stage is about establishing culture and norms, where we focus on the alignment of what senior leaders say and what senior leaders do.

Typically the day-to-day activities of an organization will mirror the latter, not the former — even if the leaders bang the correct drum on what to say at every turn. This harmonize phase is about self-regulation of a culture; what norms rise to the everyday forefront, and what negative tendencies are pushed down?

4. Correct

This is the stage that can sometimes worry people we work with, because there’s a connotation in business that “correct” implies firing people. It can, yes, but that’s not our focus here.

Rather, consider this example: let’s say the Toronto Blue Jays team was built, over a period of years, to play excellent baseball (Let`s go Blue Jays!). Suddenly, the MLB decided out of nowhere that the Blue Jays now had to play soccer. Well, the team isn’t designed for soccer — it’s designed for baseball. But it still has fans, passions, and needs to make money, right? So now it has to realign to be a successful soccer team.

That’s what ‘correct’ means. Business models shift, revenue streams shift, sales funnel maximizations change. Some companies we’ve worked with have successfully pivoted their business model a half-dozen times in a few years. If you go from being a ‘core product company’ to a ‘core events company’ (things like this happen), you need different players — or you need to realign the existing players.

5. Reward

Ideally this should be a full-circle loop back to inspire, so that realizing on the inspiration is a form of reward. Of course, there are also monetary basics in play here; access to perks like extra paid time off, bonuses or use of corporate amenities.

The fact is people want to be rewarded for doing a good job; it`s baked into our consciousness from a very young age. It’s impossible to launch a large-scale renewal-type initiative and not consider the reward stage. If your margins are tight and that’s a concern, it doesn’t necessarily have to be financial in nature — but some type of reward structure and incentives need to exist. Without that, longer-term buy-in from the execution level of your organization will be a challenge.

These are the five core phases of any organizational spring renewal, which is a bit more complex than cleaning out the garage or spring cleaning your home. We promise it`s worth it, though. The growth will be there if you follow these steps, just as the sun is sure to start shining more now that Spring has finally arrived!

Look for our next post where we’ll get a little more in-depth on customer research and how it ties back to organizational decision-making and priority-setting, also known as … “The Lies People Tell You (And How To Overcome Them).”

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