The Know/Do Matrix

20th March 2011
This is inspired by a delightful conversation with Mark Mapstone of Mediasnackers and Trevor Lever of TLC in Starbucks (Wells branch) earlier today. Thanks guys!

Very often people who are running their own business consider themselves, quite rightly, to be the leading expert on all important matters relating to it.

However, from time to time, when they come across something they haven’t handled before, they understandably want, and seek, outside help. This can be a frustrating and ultimately unrewarding process, as consultants often just don’t “get” the owner or their business.

By the same token, there are many people who advise these kinds of businesses who see issues looming a long way off and although they try to raise it with their actual or potential clients, the client either doesn’t see it or again doesn’t get it. This means frustrated advisers and missed opportunities for clients.

So one thing that might help both sides might be a way of describing the territory, or mapping the business, in a way that each party can explain their own role and understand where the other one is coming from.

Hence the Know/Do matrix; a way for you to categorise your activities in your own business so that you can understand your comfort zone and your scope for potential, and at the same time be able to describe and explain it to others, both within and outside the business. First the visual, then the words;

Know/Don’t Do Know/Do
Don’t Know/Don’t Do Don’t Know/Do

If you consider your own business you may be able to put most of what you do into (at least) three of the four boxes. Here are a few examples;

  • Know/Do:You know what to do and you do it. It’s so obvious you don’t even put it on your to do list. It’s a core skill for you and/or an essential function of the business. Like keeping up with your emails maybe.
  • Don’t Know/Do:You don’t consciously know what it is straight away, but when someone outside the business points it out to you, you recognise that it’s actually quite important. Like the specifics of how you go the extra mile for your clients. It’s often wrapped up in other activities, but it’s an important part of the “magic” in your business
  • Know/Don’t Do: You know you should be doing it, you may even be advising your own clients to do it, but you don’t do it, or not often enough at least, yourself. You might call this the “easy wins” or “low hanging fruit” category. Like mining your social network for opportunities to help your contacts, or just sharing knowledge in- or outside the business.
  • Don’t Know/Don’t Do: This is the one area you can’t do yourself, because you need to be outside the business to do it. It has to do with the things that, although you might know roughly where to look, even if you had the time and resource to deal with them you don’t know exactly what they are or how to approach them. You might call this the “buried treasure“, and you will invariably need some external help and support to locate and extract it.
So now the matrix looks like this;
Know/Don’t Do
Easy wins
Don’t Know/Don’t Do
Buried Treasure
Don’t Know/Do

If we look at this again, it now appears that we might be able to develop a growth strategy for the business simply from looking at what we know and do, specifically;

  • Essentials.This is what we need to carry on doing to maintain the success we have with our current clients. We should be proud of this and tell interesting stories about this to people outside the business.
  • Magic.This is what we need to train into new staff and share more with our existing people. We also need to keep it to ourselves as far as possible as it represents a core part of our competitive advantage.
  • Easy wins. This is what we need to find the resource to go and do, while ensuring that we have the right people tasked with doing it. Just because it’s an easy win doesn’t mean we can get away with under-resourcing it.
  • Buried Treasure. This will usually mean hiring external expertise to help uncover what’s there, how it might be valuable and what resource will be required to land it.

While in theory a business could get consulting support in each of these areas, it’s likely that most value will be added in the “magic” and “buried treasure” domains.

What also strikes me about this is that the more precise you can be about what goes in which box, the more clear you can be about what support your business needs.

For example, if your “buried treasure” area is a complete blank;

  • you could first pick some of that low hanging fruit, in order generate the cash to…
  • start with a bit of one-on-one exec coaching to kick it off,
  • then after a few weeks of mulling it over…
  • a half day strategic workshop for the senior team,
  • then a couple of months or so later…
  • one or more functional pieces of training on social media, selling, negotiating etc.

In terms of the business impact, this could well mean;

  • a “bite-sized chunks” approach to strategic business development, which allows you to retain flexibility in both planning and timing
  • an opportunity for you to use “best of breed” consultants in each area, rather than entrusting the whole thing to one person/generalist firm
  • the chance for you to retain control of the whole programme rather than your consultant feeding you the “what’s next” at each stage
  • a real prospect for you to use each stage to generate the funds to pay for the next stage through increased revenue or margins

A self-funding strategy. I like the sound of that.

If you want to give this a try then feel free; and if you do, good luck with it. Do drop us a line to let us know how you get on.

Oh, and if you find yourself needing some help along the way, Mark is great at social media, Trevor’s a whizz on selling and negotiating, and yes, Patrick and I can do strategy.


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