Over the 30+ years of my career, I have had the chance to be part of, and at times lead, some significant projects. Ranging from the launch of Breyers Light Ice Cream early in my career, to the launch of Coke Zero now more than ten years ago, and more recently the North American expansion of the Bolthouse Farms line of Juices and smoothies, I have had the chance to be part of a number of initiatives that now account for well over $1 billion in annual retail sales. While the absolute scale is not that important, I have had the chance to learn some vital lessons on the concept of “R.O.W.” (Return on Work.)
The “R.O.W.” Model: this concept links directly to the financial concept of “R.O.I.”
ROI is usually expressed as a percentage and is typically used for personal financial decisions, to compare a company's profitability or to compare the efficiency of different investments. The return on investment formula is: ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100.
In the same vein, I have realized that the MOST precious resource for a business leader is time, or more specifically how she/he CHOOSES to use her/his time. Over the years I started realizing that the impact of my work, or in other words the “Return On my Work” varied greatly across projects/initiatives. It dawned on me years ago, and it continues as a work in progress today, that if I could deploy my time to the highest “returning” projects/assignments, I could work on improving my impact in the role assigned.
The “KMX/Coke Zero case”: While this idea/concept of “R.O.W.” had been “kicking around” in the back of my head for a number of years, it came into clear focus a little more that ten years ago. I had a senior sales/marketing role at Coke at the time; we were launching a number of new products into the market. Two of new products from that period that I worked on personally were the now defunct energy drink, “KMX”, and the hugely successful diet soft drink, “Coke Zero.” It was eye-opening to realize that while it took almost the same amount of time for me and my team to develop and implement the launches of these two projects, the “return” on the work varied greatly. I remember specifically trying to calculate the number of hours it took us to “sell-in” both items into Walmart. While not exact, I remember that it took about about 25% more time to “sell-in” “Coke Zero” than it did for the team to “sell-in” “KMX.” The size and scale of “Coke Zero” was so big, that while it took 25% more time, the “return” on the work was 12.5 TIMES bigger….. a huge “R.O.W.” difference!
Don’t let your calendar be King/Queen: This idea of being intentional on your personal deployment, and hopefully that of your team as well is powerful if and only if YOU take control of your personal deployment. Too often I have seen talented leaders fall prey to their own calendar being filled up by others and other people’s meetings/priorities/projects. You are in control of YOU, and I encourage you strongly to take action against that idea! Even today as I lead my consulting business, I take time out weekly (if not more often) and “work the calendar” with my trusted work partner and friend Cathy. We typically work 30-45 days out, looking at upcoming client meetings and travel needs always with an eye to maximize the impact or “R.O.W.” over that period of time.
Remember the lesson of “Important and Urgent”: I refer back often to an early essay on this blog titled “Tyranny of the Urgent…5% for #2.” http://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2010/11/tyranny-of-urgent-5-for-2.html
Its one of the most read essays (top 5 out of the 151 I have posted as of today) and it centers on the point of balancing The “Important” and “Urgent” priorities on your plate. Be careful not to let the “urgent” issues take over your life! Be careful with technology that over emphasizes the most “urgent” issues/priorities and work to insure that you are taking a balanced view of your landscape allowing you to focus on the issues at hand that are both “Important” and “Urgent.” Only with the balanced view will you have a chance to improve your “R.O.W.” over time!
Try to apply the “R.O.W.” lens to your work landscape today. Ask yourself whether you are really spending your time on the issues/projects/initiatives with the highest “return.” While I think it’s always a work in progress, strive to improve the impact/”return” of your work over time!