Relationships = Success. No one disputes this, yet few allow this knowledge to drive their behavior. Here’s a quick story to help illustrate this point:

Early in my career, I was in the office of a successful political operative working on his computer when he gestured to get my attention. Picking up a 5”x7” pocket card from his desk, in a quiet subversive voice, he murmured. “Psst, hey kid. You wanna know the secret?” Well of course I wanted to know THE secret, so I pulled up a chair and sat down for what I expected to be a lengthy discussion on political strategy and policy development.

Instead, what I got was one sentence that has stayed with me until this day. Holding up the card, which contained only five names, he said, “These are the only people I am going to talk to this week.” Somewhat disappointed in the brevity of my tutelage, I went back to what I was doing and pondered the brief lesson.

Initially, I thought he was talking about targeting; making sure to focus on the right people. But I soon realized that it was more than targeting. The real lesson was discipline. While everyone knows targeting is important, the “secret” is in the discipline to allow that knowledge to drive your calendar and call list.

Throughout my career I have observed many reasons people and organization fail to convert their targeting plans into actions. For some the failure comes from a subtle fear of rejection or lack of confidence. For others the failure to stay focused on the most important relationships comes from a lack of internal processes and tools that help hold the entire team accountable.

In the post-information age, there are of course no lack of websites, programs and apps that will help you manage your contacts and call lists. Most of these tools are geared toward sales professionals and seem to have limited application for policy professionals. And anyway, apps and websites do not relationships make.

Our RQM (Relationship Quotient Manager) is something different. It combines basic management principles with online tools to help individuals and organizations stay focused on the right people and prospects.

The process starts with a discussion about organizational goals. This conversation is not a formal strategic planning session, but rather a brief examination and clarification of desired outcomes. In its simplest terms, “What do we win when we win?”

While there are some clear-cut goals such as “pass this bill” or “elect that candidate,” most of the work of public affairs has to do with more malleable, even ineffable concepts such as “raising awareness” or “expanding markets.”

If we are not able to render this discussion into a handful of salient and actionable priorities, then the process stops. If you can’t explain to the architect what you want, then hiring a carpeting is only inviting disaster.

If, however, consensus arises around the stated goals, the process then shifts to identifying the corresponding constituency. Who are the people most equipped to help us achieve the stated goals? We set about gathering all the names and contact information form the many and varied repositories: iPhone contacts, Outlook address books, event sign-in sheets are all showered (scoured?) for the people who will help us achieve our goals.

Action Factory then consolidates this information into a single list, hosts it in the cloud, and makes it available via several highly intuitive interfaces.

Next, members of your team review their constituencies and assign two numbers to all contacts that makes up their RQ: Their quality of the relationship with this constituent (-1 to 5), and the potential for this constituent impact the goal (1 to 5).

Our iPhone app has a Tinder-style interface that allows users to easily enter and update rankings. When all contacts have been ranked, each individual will have an RQ and the constituency as a whole will have an average RQ.

This process helps our customers to think deeply about who they should focus on and why. Additionally, once all the ranking is complete, the organization is now able to track the progress of all the keys relationships in the organization.

So whether you call us to implement an RQS for your organization or not, before you pick up the phone or head out to your next meeting, ask yourself, “What am I really expecting to happen here?”