Know your customer
Who is your customer? Can you explain in one sentence or less? What does that customer value most? Do you understand those things and are you providing that value?
Know Your Customer. This seems simple, and yet I am often surprised at how many people come to work every day, put in their time, and go home without a clear understanding of who that is.
Can you articulate it clearly in 1 sentence or less? Work that out. In many cases, your customer is your boss (or at least your boss is your primary customer). You might also have clients and you may, in some cases, have direct reports who are also a customer of yours. Who is the primary? Keep that clear and you will succeed well.
Ask. This is the hard part. Ask them – directly and clearly – what do they value? What do they want? Write this down and iterate it back and forth until you really understand it.
Maybe your boss wants you to "serve the customers and balance the needs of the business." Maybe your customer wants "the cheapest solution" or "the one with the longest shelf life."
I can guarantee you that if you don’t know that clearly, you don’t have a hope in achieving it. The above seems simple so put it to the test.
Open up an email to yourself. Write in this email “My Customer Is…" and "the things my customer values the most are…" and answer it. If you can do this in 10 minutes or less you are on the right track. If not you need to do some thinking and asking and talking until you can.