AUTHOR: Leigh Risbey

The rhythm of a business is the beat to which its moving parts move.

An erratic rhythm will cause an erratic environment while a smooth and melodious rhythm will set a business up for many advantages.

‘Getting in the groove’ and ‘working to the beat’ seem strange phrases to use in a business context, but they can make all the difference when we know what they mean.

Picture Viking warships or Dragon boats: at the front is the beat master or drummer. The beat-master determines the pace and rhythm of the rowers. Each rower knows that they need to stroke to the drum beat or the boat will veer or possibly create catastrophe.

What has this got to do with business?

The rhythm of a business is the repeated processes and dependent actions needed to keep the business moving forward, working together. This sounds simple and obvious, right?

How do you know what your Business Rhythm is and if it is the right one?

Not all businesses will operate to the same rhythm and this makes it interesting to find the right one for your business. You may think everything’s fine, while most likely something or someone is beating their own rhythm, even if it can’t be detected. Getting everyone to row at the same pace, intensity, depth and commitment is not easy. It requires tuning and checking periodically. Its therefore very important to know what to look for in your environment.

The rhythm can be determined by several factors. A very appropriate one is the cash cycle and the processes that support it and drive it. Others could include cashflow (this is different to cash cycle), working capital, stock turn or any other measure or KPI that indicates the flow of a business. Fundamentally, the driving factor must be connected to the lifeblood of the business, this tends to be cash related.

Why is it important?

Knowing that you have a good rhythm in your business and everyone knows what beat to work to is important for many reasons. These include accountability, responsibility, building expectations and predicting the outcomes of changes.

How do you know when you have a good rhythm?

You know you have a good rhythm when the business operates without ongoing obvious intervention or guidance from the owner/manager or process owner. If a business relies on one person to tell them what to do next or how to solve a problem, there is no rhythm to the business. It will be very stressful for both the person on whom everyone depends and the people who need answers or guidance. This is costly and inhibits the business from moving forward.

The typical indicators of a business rhythm being present and heard are:

  • Work gets done with no fuss
  • People know what to do and by when
  • Information is presented in a standard format and at regular intervals
  • Surprises come form outside the business not within it
  • People smile!

Why review the rhythm if all is working well?

One rhythm will get a business to a certain point; it may take a business on a growth trajectory, then plateau.

Every business needs to refine the rhythm when things change or when new strategies are employed to take the business to a new level.

Reviewing the rhythm of your business periodically, or when a certain milestone is reached, will ensure that indicators such as the Cash Cycle work optimally. The people in the business will learn to change their operating rhythm and match the pace and beat of new processes or systems.

Efficiencies to gain or save money will impact on the rhythm, which is to be expected. The balance, however, has to be maintained. Chasing a few cents by speeding up a process may end up costing more through stress or an out-of-sync process increasing cost elsewhere. The return on investment of change is another big topic and deserves its own consideration.

There is a rhythm in every business. Some are smooth and others are erratic; often you can sense this the minute you walk through the door!

In the following articles you will learn:

  1. How to review your rhythm
  2. The key areas in which to set some rules

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