Is Your Business a Triple Crown Winner?

American Pharoah triple crown

On June 6, American Pharoah (misspelled name and all) became only the 12th Triple Crown winner in racing history. It is an achievement so rare that almost nobody can name more than three or four of the 12 winners, and keeping the winning ticket will pay more than cashing it in, in the long run. Other than having the right pedigree, what goes into making a Triple Crown winner? Turns out, the same things that go into making a winning system implementation, a winning service organization, or any kind of winning business initiative. The business Triple Crown includes People, Process, and Technology. By having all three at optimal levels, your business will be a top performer and will position you to leave the competition lagging behind.

The people involved with American Pharoah shared a single-minded focus, understood their individual roles, played those roles as part of the larger team, and gave all the credit to the horse. The most successful business teams also demonstrate these characteristics, with the possible exception of people process technology triple crowncrediting the horse. The trainer trained, the jockey rode, and the owner funded the enterprise. Take a look around you: do your people have clearly defined roles? Ask yourself whether your teams passionately share a goal, yet play their roles to perfection while crediting others instead of themselves. By promoting these values in your business culture, you will dissolve competing priorities that inhibit critical projects from moving forward. Having a clear and compelling mission creates sharp discernment about what is right for the organization and what aligns with the organization’s winning strategy. A clear and compelling mission provides direction, and role clarity becomes a business enabler. When each member clearly understands how their performance is measured relative to the desired outcomes, accountability increases and speed of decision making across teams improves. It’s worth the investment to make sure your organization has internalized its mission and people’s roles are clearly defined.

Horses don’t just show up on Derby Day and run. The process of building a Triple Crown winner begins even before the horse is foaled, and continues through training, scheduling, traveling, and overall care. Horse racing is a business, and every business has its unique processes. What business processes are core to your organization? Are your processes aligned with your company’s unique strategy and goals? The processes surrounding American Pharoah were aligned with the strategic goal of winning races. Examine your business processes and decide if they are aligned with your organization’s goals and optimized for performance. Start by defining the indicators you use to measure accomplishments; some common indicators used include innovation, quality, speed, and customer satisfaction. Define the business indicators that make the most sense for you and create a plan for tracking those indicators in your organization.
Now, take inventory of your current capabilities and their associated processes to determine which ones drive your business objectives and overall mission. You can then identify opportunities by evaluating the gaps between your current performance and your target results. Map these processes end to end, identify their vulnerabilities (or pain points), and redesign them with an eye to practicality and business value. If you discover missing capabilities, dare to be different to win. Design your future state using cross-functional groups of subject matter experts. American Pharoah’s winning performance depended on every team member contributing and cooperating – so does yours.

Did you know that American Pharoah wears ear-plugs? The noise of the crowd distracts him from racing, so his team keeps the cotton handy. Also, jockeys crouch so the horses can run five to seven percent faster. Why mention these fun facts? Because “technology” doesn’t have to be high-tech to be high-impact. Look for the places in your organization where, if you align a technology with a clear business need, you increase your odds of success. Often times, companies have plenty of low hanging fruit. Consider a customer service department challenged to resolve customer exceptions but burdened by an old workflow that routes exceptions to multiple managers for approvals, depending on amount. Lowering the approval limits for the service representatives and adjusting the workflow system could shave hours or days off the time, resulting in satisfied customers and empowered employees. Improvements like this can greatly improve your overall performance, without big price tags.

Companies win when their people, processes, and technologies integrate.

Two out of three is good, but it’s not the Triple Crown. To ensure that your business is an American Pharoah and not a Materiality, make sure you have clear definition of mission and roles, assess whether current state processes and capabilities need maintenance to ensure success, and make sure your technology agenda reflects a balance between fast practical business value and long term growth and scalability.