The Online Life of Skip Reardon
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Are strategic thinking and strategic planning - the same thing?While they certainly related and complementary, thinking strategically and planning strategically are two different concepts.Let's first consider strategic thinking, which involves viewing your organization from a holistic perspective. Research has determined that strategic thinking can be explained through seven dimensions:A vision of the futureStrategic formulation and implementationManagerial role in making strategiesControlManagerial role in implementationStrategy makingProcess and outcomeStrategic thinking is extremely effective and a valuable tool, and requires developing skills in creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. The good news? It's a skill that can be learned.Steps in building strategic thinking skills:Critically examine and evaluate the existing situation. Understand what is being done, if it needs to be done that way, and fight hard against the "we've always done it that way" mentality.Look at your business as a holistic system. Strategic thinkers view their businesses as a whole: its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.Focus on the future. Strategic thinking is future-oriented. Before considering the viability of ideas, consider their potential contribution to the future of your organization. Continuously ask for feedback from your customers. Strategic thinking cannot be effective if done in a vacuum. Get realistic data for confirmation. Strategic thinking requires making predictions about the future and forecasts must be realistic. Gather reliable data to justify and confirm your predictions. Align your thoughts to your organization. Review your organizational structure to determine if the organization and key leaders are in place to fulfill your vision, otherwise it's a pipe dream.Be ready to consider change and unexpected challenges. Flexibility is a critical element of strategic thinking.Strategic planning, on the other hand, is a continual planning process that relies on strong strategic thinking. When done correctly, strategic planning is not a one-time or annual event. It's an on-going process, reviewed quarterly, that affects the organization's initiatives, plans, and activities. BOTTOMLINE: Both strategic thinking and strategic planning are important - even vital to your organization - and neither can be ignored.(TIP: For more on strategic planning, search this blog for "strategic planning" - you'll find dozens of related posts, hints and tips are available to you!)
(The following post is authored by Eric Kurjan, President of Six Disciplines Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to jump beyond the status quo. For more information visit www.SixDisciplines.com/NWOH , or call 419-348-1897)###Execution – The Fine Art of Getting It Done (Part II)In last month’s newsletter, I shared the key processes for building the strategy (see the original post here) . In this article I will share some of the finer points of bringing the strategy to life.To start, the keys to a good strategy are found in the words, “Where”, “What” and “How”, which are an easy to remember summary of the Six Disciplines process for Disciplines I and Discipline II. However, it is the next words of “Who” and “When” which turn the plan into action. This is the crux of Disciplines IV – Work the Plan. This is where we need to engage the organization to do the “real work”. If we can get our employees focused on what is most important and measure the activities then the results will follow. The added benefit is that “who” and “when” are the cornerstones for creating a much higher level of accountability in the organization. The concept we are trying to create is that the work which is assigned is a contract between the Team Member/Employee and the company. In essence every quarter we are saying “I (name here) commit to do this work for Company X”. Without a doubt, execution is the tougher, more critical side of the strategy/execution equation - getting it done, measuring progress along the way, and finding what doesn’t work early enough to make course corrections, are the steps to insure individual activities support the Vital Few Objectives (VFOs).The best way to drive the execution of the strategy is to create a plan for the specific assigned work for each quarter of the year. We call this an Individual Plan or IP. The IP consists of two key components. First, the normal everyday tasks as described in your job description are called sustaining or “Run the Business” activities. Second are the tasks or activities which are intended to “Change the Business”. These are the date-driven tasks that are supporting the initiatives/projects which we have chosen to implement to truly change the direction of the company and support the key objectives (VFOs). Here is an example of a simple Individual Plan:This example of an “Individual Plan” breaks the work into the two key components of “Change the Business” and “Run the Business” activities. It also sets due dates, defines priorities and approximates the hours it will take to complete the tasks assigned. The “IP” also takes into account other activities like “Personal Development” and “Administrative Activities”. We include one more segment called the “Parking Lot” which is a staging area for tasks that you are not committing to complete this quarter but if time permits you might put some work into them.The tendency for most people and organizations is to over-commit. Somehow everyone thinks they can achieve much more in a given timeframe. A critical component is to place a “Weight” or priority on the key tasks. The weighting allows you to be sure you are focused on those key items first. The weighting is not intended to represent the item with the most hours but the items that must get done. If trying to make a judgment on where to spend your time, the weight should dictate that decision. A second critical component is time or the “Hours”. This is the estimate of the hours required to complete the tasks in the IP. These hours may not be exact but they at least give a range of the required time. To gauge the workload we suggest you start with 520 hours per quarter (40 hours per week x 13 weeks). The hours may vary by role in the organization but it is a good spot to start. In my example, Susan is carrying 632 hours for her Quarter 2 IP. That works out to be a little less than 50 hours per week which may be fine for Susan’s role. What we are looking for are unrealistic hours – both total hours and individual tasks that would cause Susan to be unable to fulfill her commitment, her “contract” for the quarter. Even the best plans need to have room for adjustment. Another important consideration is that since it is a “contract” between the employee and organization, the manager needs to sign-off on this contract too. To sign-off on the contract, the manager needs to agree with the tasks Susan plans to work on and that the hours are realistic. This also means the manager cannot add more work on Susan’s plan after the quarter has started. Although placing more work on employees is a very common occurrence it generally means that the original IP has little value and the “contracted” work will not be completed on time. So how do we adjust for the changes that are likely to occur? First, we always recommend including a “catch-all” bucket called “Unplanned Time” to account for the unexpected. The second is that there is a trade-off. If there is work/tasks that are truly more important than what has already been assigned then something needs to be reprioritized, the date pushed out or the current task replaced/removed. This will be difficult for managers and leaders who are used to just coming up with “brilliant’ ideas and then dropping them on someone in the organization. Unfortunately, many of these “brilliant” ideas do not even fit within the objectives set in the strategy. So the IP actually helps prevent “brilliant” ideas from distracting the organization. It is this lack of focus and commitment to the execution phase that kills most strategies. It is like cheating on your diet. If you remain true to the plan you will lose weight, if you cheat, you won’t. Living up to the contract by each person with an IP makes the strategy succeed. Execution is a simple concept, but hard to live by.
Eric Kurjan is president and owner of Six Disciplines Ohio/Indiana, with licensed Six Disciplines business coaches operating in both states. He's also the president of a private golf club (Findlay Country Club).In this article, recently published in PGA Magazine, Kurjan offers his advice and explanation of the Six Disciplines methodology to PGA professionals.
According to the latest results from the CEO Challenge 2010 Survey produced by The Conference Board, the critical issues of excellence in execution and consistent execution of strategy by top management once again remained at the top of the list.In addition, this latest survey (which was fielded October-December 2009) revealed such growth-oriented challenges as sustained and steady top-line growth, customer loyalty/retention, and profit growth received higher ratings as "greatest concerns."Also moving up were corporate reputation for quality products/services, and stimulating innovation/creativity/enabling entrepreneurship.Here's links to their two previous surveys in which execution was named the top priority:Executing Strategy - Once Again The Top Priority for CEOsExcellence of Execution is Top Concern for CEOs Worldwide
Scott Cleveland reports that a managing director of the Palladium Group (think: balanced scorecard) conducted a survey that compared two groups, one with and one without a formal strategy execution process in place.A formal process in their terminology means "strategy maps, derived projects and process improvements from it, and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets reported in scorecard dashboards and cascaded down into the organization."The results?70% of organizations WITH a formal process were exceeding the performance of their peers in their industry, while in contrast only 27% of those without a formal process were.BOTTOMLINE: The overwhelming majority of businesses (and particularly, small and midsized organizations) do not have a formal process for strategy execution. They do not have strategy maps, derived projects, process improvements and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets reported in scorecard dashboards and cascaded down into the organization.What kind of strategy execution process is your organization using?
"Creativity, a quality more traditionally associated with artistic endeavors, has been slow to find its acknowledged place in the business world. "So begins an article from the Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge site called "Getting Down to the Business of Creativity."Key points:Business leaders must manage and support creativity just as they would any other asset. People have their best days and do their best work when they are allowed to make progress.Their research suggests that most managers are not in tune with the inner work lives of their employees.For the longest time, creativity was considered the work of a genius operating on their own, however, there's a construction of creativity that involves many other actors.BOTTOMLINE: Creativity, when sought after and encouraged, MUST be done purposefully.Innovation, which is really just another name for creative problem-solving, must be done in such a way as to support the overall strategy of the organization. Discipline V - Innovate Purposefully is a discipline that is detailed in the award-winning handbook Six Disciplines for Excellence. It is not an isolated event in an annual or quarterly cycle; it's a mindset that permeates the culture of an excellent organization.
Many of the top-performing organizations we work with every day - have expressed a real need to build accountability into their organization.Take a quick minute – and consider the following key questions:Does each of your team members understand exactly what they are responsible for?Does your leadership team set consistent expectations for accountability?Do your new team members know exactly what’s expected of them – Day 1?Are all of your team members self-managing?Do you have a standardized way of monitoring progress? Weekly? Monthly? QuarterlyDoes your hiring process focus on attracting individuals who can be self-managing?BOTTOMLINE: Here are some steps to consider when considering organization-wide accountability: Understand your company's core competencies Validate your team members Create a culture that grows and develops its people Identify the systems and processes that are now in place throughout your company and rely on your team members to make the systems and processes more efficient and more effective Get the right people in the right place Get all team members to understand that what they do affects everyone else in the company Build a strong second-tier management team that can take the company to the next levelHold everyone, including yourself, accountable Raise the bar by bringing in top talent
As reported in the Harvard Business Review's Daily Stat, the consulting group Bain's updated global database of Sustained Value Creators found only 12% of companies worldwide managed to grow profits and revenues more than 5.5% over the 10 years ending in 2008 and earn back their cost of capital. Here's another take on the same issue: As reported in the best-selling book Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, (How Big Is The Challenge, page 29), a recent McKinsey study concluded that few large global companies outperform their competitors on both revenue growth and profitability over a decade. The consulting firm analyzed 1,077 companies according to revenue growth, profitability, and both measures. This study concluded that thirty of these companies were superior, based on growth over this period. Ninety-nine were superior performers by profitability. And only nine (.008 percent) out of 1,077 companies were superior in both categories.BOTTOMLINE: Achieving sustained, profitable growth is very challenging, and the odds of success are low. Achieving such balance and predictability is extremely difficult, and therefore, extremely rare. While this fact may be viewed as a deterrent to some, it provides insight into an enormous opportunity for building a business that executes more predictably than most.
The most significant emerging trends affecting leadership development, as identified in a Human Resources Executive recap of the 2009/2010 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report, are: Impact of the Economy. It means that there is more pressure now than before to prepare leaders who can weather the storm and navigate their companies successfully through the turbulence.Bench Strength is No. 1. "Lack of bench strength" was identified as the second most influential factor impacting executive development and "Increasing bench strength" was the top key objective in executive development.Accelerate the Development of High Potentials. Respondents placed much greater emphasis on the identification and development of high potentials in the 2009 survey than in any of the prior surveys.Strategic Thinkers and Those Who Can Inspire. Areas in which the next generation of executive leaders are weak are the ability to think strategically, lead change, create a vision and rally others around that vision.Better Metrics. A standard for measuring participant outcome has become more universal. This is a notable shift from just four years ago, when evaluation metrics was a much more fragmented practice.Leader-as-Teacher Model. The use of leaders as teachers has become a best practice that is growing in popularity. Respondents noted that it is a particularly effective component in their executive-leadership programs.Read a lengthy excerpt of the study here.
Only 23 percent of new leaders — or employees who have advanced from being individual contributors to supervising or managing others — receive the coaching they need to reach their full development potential, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, a provider of integrated human capital consulting services and solutions.Key findings from the survey:While organizations see value in providing coaching to strategic and developing leaders, coaching is not offered as frequently to new leaders.Most new leaders advance in their careers due to their proficiency with technical skills, but they don’t necessarily have the leadership abilities needed for success in their higher-level positions.New leaders would benefit most from coaching in emotional intelligence skills. “Coaching in emotional intelligence provides self-awareness, builds management and social skills, and assists one to become more empathetic toward others and more understanding of oneself.New leaders don’t need coaching in technical skills as much as they need guidance in how to treat others.”BOTTOMLINE: “New leaders need as much development as strategic and developing leaders. They are the future leaders of the organization. Smart organizations focus their resources to develop these individuals and ensure they deliver on their much-anticipated success.”
Here's a profound observation from management guru, Gary Hamel:"If you want to understand the real strategy, look at what people are doing!”Indeed, more often than not, there are disconnects or gaps between the strategy that is formulated by the senior leadership team, and how the strategy is executed by the rest of the workforce.Why the gaps?Could be for a number of reasons:The strategy is not accessible/available to the workforceThe strategy is not soundThe strategy is not well understoodMost likely, the recognition and reward system that drives the daily activities and behaviors of each person in the workforce is not aligned with the strategy of the organization. How to combat this situation?Make the strategy as transparent as possible. The mission, vision, values and strategic position of the organiztion MUST be transparent and available to everyone within the organization.Establish Vital Few Objectives (VFOs). Most organizations have 2 to 5 times as many projects and initiatives going on than they can possibly address. Reduce the number of key objectives. Keep the VFOs simple - financial, customer, production, people - and let everything else go. Be very focused on a few things, and do them well.Make the VFOs measurable. Define measures, targets, and create a small number of initiatives that support the VFOs. Assign responsibility and accountability to someone for each VFO. Define an Individual Plan for each person. On a quarterly basis, develop a plan for every individual, assigning activities from each initiative. Have each person track time and progress toward achieving the stated outcomes. Measure progress and update status weekly.Align recognition and rewards based on the achievement of outcomes. Recognition and rewards systems are not to be based on activities, but results. BOTTOMLINE: What people spend time on should be based on how well your strategy, goals and initiatives are articulated. Reward and recognize workers based on how well goals were achieved (results), not on how much activity took place.
The essence of strategy is deciding what not to do. If your organization doesn't develop the discipline to do this, our wonderful free market system will.BusinessWeek recently published an article entitled "Are You Losing Control of Your Business?" in which it advised: "No. 1 on your to-do list? Make a "stop doing" list"BOTTOMLINE: As part of the annual strategic planning process, the Six Disciplines strategy execution program has, in Discipline I. Decide What's Important, a distinctive step called "Agree What To Stop Doing."
For the 20 years that consulting firm i4cp has been conducting research, leadership development has always been a top issue.In their 2010 research study, however, leadership development has increased in prominence, with a surprising 75% of organizations citing it as an important issue.Other key findings:only 23% said they were effective at developing leaders internally - a gap of over 50%.only 14.3% of high-performance organizations have a process for identifying gaps in leadership development.Only 25% of the study's respondents said leadership was effective at managing change, yet 74% said change management was important.Strategy execution and alignment was another area of concern. Though 79% of respondents said aligning the workforce to business strategy was important, only 33% said they were effective at doing so.BOTTOMLINE: "Companies should be treating leadership development as both an urgent survival tactic and a business opportunity. The companies that get it right - and several high-performing companies are doing it right already - have potential for great success."
Sherpa Coaching's 5th annual survey shows that the executive coaching industry survived the downturn, and is looking toward radical change in the near future. Key findings from the survey:When there is turnover in top management, there’s a need for leadership development. Emerging leaders must learn how to listen and communicate well, deliver clear expectations and make accountability a positive force in the workplace. Ideally, executive coaching creates those positive changes in business behavior in a limited time frame.Executive coaching is seen, more and more, as part of succession planning.Do executive coaches follow a published process?40 percent of executive coaches ‘develop a unique approach from one client to the next'.An additional 40 percent have ‘developed their own process for coaching’.Only 20 percent follow a published process that guides their coaching engagements.Since 2006, the delivery of executive coaching services has moved decidedly toward in-person encounters. In this year’s survey, there's change in practice that goes against the tide: phone coaching held steady, while webcam coaching took a couple of percentage points away from in-person engagements. What stalled the trend toward live coaching? 2009 was an unusual year, based on budgets drawn during a stock market crash in late ‘08. The call for cost reductions favored remote coaching, hence an increase in webcam engagements.
The way this Wall Street Journal article portrays it, "the recession has changed the way business leaders think -- formerly reliable tactics no longer work and innovative strategies are becoming the new standards." One standby that may have gone out the window, the WSJ article argues: strategic planning.In fact, NOTHING could be further from the truth!If you really read between the lines of this article, strategic planning isn't going away at all. Rather, it's becoming even more important - and will become an even more pervasive activity as we move ahead beyond the recession and into the recovery. "Old" practices, such as updating the company budget on a quarterly basis, are being replaced by monthly updates. One-year and three-year strategic plans are being reviewed and adjusted on a monthly basis as well, to faster respond to fluctuations in the market.According to The Business Insider, "...even as the economy stabilizes, these new habits might just stick. Valuing flexibility over sticking to a long-term plan allows companies to better react to consumer changes and take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and that extra work and attention can result in better business overall."
In a post by Brian Lassiter, President of the Minnesota Council for Quality, a state-level Baldrige program, Lassiter poses the age-old question: "Why is executing strategy so difficult – especially during today’s tough economic conditions, when strategy is really so paramount to long-term success?"He sites a recent study by Minnesota-based Digineer (conducted by Pat Salaski, a management consultant and a 2009 Minnesota Quality Award Evaluator), in which they found: 69% of the leaders surveyed are NOT confident in their organization’s ability to execute strategy.When responding to the question of what was the number one barrier to effectively executing their strategy, most of the barriers reported by these leaders were INTERNAL issues, not external factors (the top two vote-getters: company culture and past habits. In fact, only two external factors listed in the top 10.These tendencies seem to exist in good times and in bad (and maybe they have for decades or generations, which might explain why 70-90% of strategies are said to fail.All contemporary methodologies for implementing strategy – Balanced Scorecard, Hoshin Planning, and others – really have five common elements:Focus on a few critical strategic goalsIdentify key prformance indicators that measure progress toward those goals.Assess initiatives against a screen of strategic effect and cost benefit.Execute programs that deliver the benefits.Review progress against Key Performance Indicator targets in real time and adjust course quickly when necessary.BOTTOMLINE: "In challenging times (and really in ALL times) a key role for leaders is to set and execute strategy – to set a vision for the future and align organizational resources to move (and adjust) toward that vision. The good news is that these internal factors can be addressed by senior leaders. The bad news is that they are the same internal factors that have been identified in multiple other studies on this topic for years."
The InsideCRM guys posted this managerial cheat-sheet for those in leadership roles.For easier reading, they’ve also split the 101 rules into several categories.Review The Manager's Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders here.
According to The High-Performance Organization Survey that was conducted by i4cp in December 2009, one thing is clear: there is no single organizational element that is correlated with high performance. Rather, there are five.For decades, the research team at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has studied what separates high-performing organizations from their lower-performing counterparts. The results of that research have consistently shown that companies that excel in the following five domains are typically high performers:StrategyLeadershipTalentCultureMarketThe results were interesting, if not startling. The gap between higher-performing and lower-performing organizations has widened considerably from previous studies.You can download their white paper here: The five domains of high-performance organizations.
Why read Six Disciplines for Excellence?“…for those who take the time to read it, the payoffs can be astounding.” (Sarah Bosch, Business Opportunities Weblog) “For pragmatists and those who love execution, I give this book a strong recommend. Buy Six Disciplines of Excellence.” (Sam Decker, Decker Marketing) “Well done Mr. Harpst. You have created what I think will be a book and method that will be used for generations.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)“The Six Disciplines book is a must-have addition to the small business owner’s library.” (Gary Whitehair, High Performance Business)“This book is about real business, how to get it done, how to consistently improve, and how to achieve excellence using that time tested method called 'hard work.' (Rob May, The Business Pundit)“Truly - one of the most well thought-out business books I have read in a long time.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)“This hands-on book goes beyond the fluff that many other business books serve up, and offers a real world business plan.” (Sarah Bosch, Business Opportunities Weblog)“Gary has found a way to comprehensively combine the best practices from Balanced Scorecards, Malcolm Baldridge and other frameworks into a world class approach.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)“I really liked this book because it is simple and practical. It is easy to read, relevant to most companies, and thorough.” (Rob May, The Business Pundit)“One of the more enjoyable books I’ve read on small business success.” (Dr. Robert Rausch, CEO 1 Executive Energy)“A Business Improvement Book with a Lasting Difference” (CEO Refresher) “Six Disciplines for Excellence, by Gary Harpst is a great example of how to use common sense to build a business.” (Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy)“Six Disciplines is unlike anything I've seen for small businesses. It's a book. It's a methodology. It's technology. It's a coaching system. It's something you'll be hearing a lot more about.” (Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends)“There are very few people in this world that can consistently execute to get things done right. This book can help you become one of those rare execution-oriented individuals.” (Rob May, The Business Pundit)BOTTOMLINE: Get Six Disciplines for Excellence from Amazon.
There's a lot of talk going on these days about accountability. For some, it's important for their professional lives (i.e., setting business goals, keeping on track, being responsible, etc.) For others, it's more personal (i.e., diet, weight loss, exercising, etc.) Whatever the case, it's important to understand what accountability is, and ultimately, how it works. Here's a short course:What is accountability? Why is it important? If you walk into a room and ask ten people what accountability means, you’ll likely get ten different definitions. To some, it’s something you make people do, as in “holding people accountable”. To others, accountability means accepting responsibility, but only when a project goes off course, or it’s too late to fix. When it’s all said and done, a workable definition of accountability might include the following elements: Taking responsibility for your own behavior; doing what’s right consistently; demonstrating personal integrity, and actively participating in activities and interactions that support the strategy of your organization. Now that we understand better what accountability is, now consider what it isn’t. Accountability is not something you “make” people do. It has to be chosen, accepted or agreed upon by the people within your organization. People must “buy into” being accountable and responsible. For many, this is a new, unfamiliar, and sometimes, uncomfortable way to work or live. Learning how to become accountable involves an element of discipline. Most importantly, individual purpose and personal meaning comes from accepting responsibility and learning to be accountable.Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they learn to be more responsible. When they become more responsible, they earn more freedom. By being accountable, they earn the trust of managers and coworkers. When they are more accountable, they understand their purpose and role within the organization and are committed to making things happenHow can you learn to be accountable for yourself? In reality, it’s very difficult to be accountable to yourself. Depending on your frame of reference (professional vs. personal) you need to find someone who can help you to stay on track, to stay focused. Accountability can be the catalyst for unlearning old habits, and learning new habits. For weight loss, it's the reason that WeightWatchers is a multi-billion dollar business. It's also no secret that the tremendous growth in business coaching (for example, like Six Disciplines) due to its success in applying the benefits of external accountability coaching.BOTTOMLINE: Accountability and positive organizational change come through a new set of conversations. So, what are you waiting for?
Kenneth Dodd, a marketing consultant and contributor for The California North County Times, offers his views on "A New Resolution For Better Plan Execution."His premise:Every year, we gather our thoughts and consider resolutions for the coming year.No matter the goal, it requires us to formulate a strategy that helps us to achieve our desired results. And here lies the problem. Formulating strategy is one thing. Executing it is another.The simple truth is most of us are trained to plan, not to execute. Execution is all too often learned in the "school of hard knocks."For any business caring about its brand's promise, becoming better versed in the ways of plan execution is a must. In fact, place it high on this coming New Year's resolution list. Do so and you gain a tremendous competitive advantage over your competitors who continue to ignore its importance.BOTTOMLINE: "When developing your New Year's resolutions begin by establishing a strategy execution model as goal No. 1. Do so and you will have taken an important first step in making your upcoming planned strategies work as needed. How you execute your planned strategies is a key to strategy success. Clarify each and every step of an execution plan with your employees. As you examine your current approach to implementing your plans, you will discover much of the difficulty of execution is due to the obstacles or impediments to it. These may include the requisite time frames needed for execution; involvement of various people in the process; poorly defined or vague strategy; conflicts in the organization or unclear responsibility and accountability."
Making New Years Resolutions that “Stick”: How Small Businesses Can Overcome the Odds in 2008There’s an old saying “If nothing changes, nothing changes….”So, with every New Year, business leaders take a hard look and say to themselves, “This year – we’re going to be better, we’re going to change and do things differently…” So, they make a series of New Years resolutions and attempt to set a new course.And what happens?53 percent of businesses do not maintain their New Year’s resolutions because their planned changes are either too expensive or take up too many resources (Resource: Health & Safety Executive – HSE – 2006).75 percent of change initiatives fail because the organization is unsuccessful in managing the human reaction to change. (Resource: John P. Kotter, Leading Change, 1996)Obviously, the odds are not in your favor. You lose focus, priorities change, and the resolutions become once again, not worth the paper they’re written on.Faced with challenges from every corner, what can small business leaders do differently in 2008, to overcome the odds, in order to make their New Years resolutions “stick”?Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines Corp. and author of the top-rated book Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last, offers the following tips to help make your business resolutions endure (past January of 2010):Beware - the “answer” is not the best seller! Most small business leaders hunger for the most effective insights, yet many end up falling for the latest management fad – dragging their organizations through yet another approach – a symptom that has become known as MBBS – “Management By Best Seller.” Best-selling business books, by themselves, are not the silver bullet. To turn the odds in your favor, you’ll need to adopt a repeatable approach, a system for keeping you on track, and obtain outside help (an accountability coach) to keep you on track for sticking with the program.Use a repeatable method. Only a repeatable method, applied consistently, will enable change to stick. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, start by stepping back and assessing your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then, renew your organization’s mission, vision, values and strategic position, and create a list of the things you will stop doing. Next, set goals that are specific and measurable and ones that will lead your organization. Then, align all the systems within your company to ensure the resources are stacked to meet your goals. Next, create individual plans for everyone in the organization on a quarterly basis, so each person understands and aligns their daily activities with the goals of the organization. Have each person meet with the manager weekly, to keep on track and learn to become accountable for executing the strategy.Don’t look at it as “just a New Years resolution!” Look at your resolutions (the set of changes) as a continual pursuit – not as a short-term fad that just “fixes” an immediate problem. For change to stick takes an enduring approach, one that must be embraced and practiced every day, quarter after quarter, even year over year. To turn the odds in your favor, you’ll need to come to grips with the realization that short-term fixes are not the answer. Only a commitment to continual improvement will enable the changes you want – to stick, to endure.Advantages of an accountability coach. Having access to a business coach that can help hold you accountable for the changes you want in your business immediately improves the odds in your favor. Just like personal challenges of fitness, diet or weight loss, an accountability coach can help keep you on track, keep you motivation, and help hold you accountable for where you want to go with your business. It’s too easy to let the crisis of the day change your direction. Having an accountability coach provides that additional level of motivation you need to enable you to “do the things you know need to be done, but in the past, you just never got around to doing.”An execution system – to keep you engaged. What drives most business leaders crazy – what really keeps them up at night – is the greatest business challenge of all: execution. Getting things done. Meeting the plan. Delivering the goods. We call it so many different things – but it still comes down to one concept: execution. The pressure to get things done is nonstop, pervasive, and unrelenting. In business, as in our personal lives, we generally know what to do (strategy) – the hard part is just doing it (execution). Doing the things we say we’re going to do sounds so easy, yet each of us struggles with it every single day. To turn the odds in your favor, you need to use some type of automated execution management system that enables you to track how you spend your time, communicate effectively with others on how you’re doing, and to continuously align your daily activities with the goals of the organization.Change what? Look beyond the obvious! So, you’re “biggest” problems seem to be getting sales leads, or maybe it’s your customer follow-up procedures. First, face the facts: whatever you think is your biggest problem, is not. These problems, while looming large today, can be fixed, one at a time, until the next one pops up. The greatest problem business leaders’ face is building an organization that’s learning how to increase its capabilities to meet the next set of challenges.
Presented by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, here is The Definitive Guide to Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions.If you're one that finds change, and in particular, changing habits to be difficult or challenging (and, who doesn't?) - it's time to read...re-read...and read again.
Although businesses around the world are entering 2010 with an appropriately sober view of the business climate, too few companies have taken or plan to take the long-term, defensive measures necessary to survive and thrive during the economic recovery.The Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) survey of 434 executives from seven countries revealed28 percent say that reducing labor costs is a priority for 2010 26 percent have made managing cash flow a priority16 percent say that balance sheets and debt restructuring are a priority13 percent have put exiting noncore businesses on the list of prioritiesThe vast majority of executives see significant changes in the economic order:69 percent believe there will be negative attitudes toward Western capitalism 68 percent project lower profit levels 64 percent believe growth will be more difficult 71 percent anticipate an increase in labor protection 81 percent anticipate an increase in regulation87 percent see increased consumer price sensitivityBOTTOMLINE: "Companies seem quick to jump, but not to do the tough stuff. It is telling that the organizations most likely to be planning the hard, defensive measures are the market leaders, not the middle-level players."Additional survey findings are here.
In a survey by Quality Digest, the Top 10 Leadership Pitfalls are revealed:Past habits (35%)Economic climate or budget (29%)Company culture (23%)Way they work together (20%)Senior management team (18%)Customers (14%)CEO/president lack of confidence (13%)Technology (11%)Middle management (9%)Reputation, human resource management or employees (7%) BOTTOMLINE: Respondents indicated that the most important things to ensure successful strategy execution include creating a clear strategy, adding a specific plan, communicating what the plan is, rewarding employees for following the plan and continuing employee communication.However, even when companies do the alignment process well, their past and culture can derail execution, as the alignment of people and strategy isn’t enough for long-term success.
The Corporate Executive Board put together a teleconference called Executive Guidance for 2010, with the goal of helping companies with post-recession recovery.Their research offers Six Key Enemies of Post-Recession Performance:Changed Customer Needs - A shift in consumer buying behavior (e.g. increased emphasis on value, perceptions about pricing, etc.) should force organizations to actively revisit their customers' needs and adapt selling models to challenge their beliefs and educate them about their own business. Top Talent Disengagement or Flight - The average organization faces an imminent 7 percent productivity loss from the combination of departing top talent and undermanaged recruiting pipelines. Companies must carefully manage employee engagement and keep recruiting pipelines full to ensure that as economic conditions improve, key initiatives and projects are not crippled if even a small segment of high performers leave. With the prediction that as many as 30% of staff are looking to leave their companies when the economy improves, this becomes a critical factor in treating staff the right way - now.Increased Risk Velocity - While there is a need for faster, more agile risk management strategies, companies that build risk response capabilities stand to gain 20 percent higher revenue growth than those that focus only on risk assessment. Higher Levels of Employee Misconduct - Organizations already lose an estimated 7 percent of annual revenues to employee fraud, and CEB research shows that employee misconduct has increased at a rate of 20 percent. Organizations that take an active role in exhibiting corporate values can improve employee performance. IT Budgets Targeting a Shrinking Share of Enterprise Information - Today, 40 percent of the most valuable information created by employees is out of reach of corporate IT systems. Companies need to create policies to create productive exchanges and educate employees on the use of new mediums, particularly social media. Misplaced and Untrained Leaders - Companies seeking better leaders need look no further than their own organizations. CEB has found that correct reassignment and proper support of existing leaders can improve revenue and profit by more than 10 percent.
Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne from both the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and eePulse, Inc. released research examining how leaders (CFO) spend their time and how that time spent is associated with firm performance.The basis for the study is assessing manager and leader performance based on five roles. These roles have been found to be critical for understanding overall, individual and firm performance and include:• Job: Reflects the basic core job one is hired to perform and is often well described in the typical job description• Team: Reflects responsibilities for ongoing and project-based teams• Career: Includes responsibilities to enhance career and skills• Innovator: Covers work spent to develop new ideas, create new routines or improve on process• Organization Member: Reflects work done to support company overall, when it is not part of the other rolesThe study indicated the average, overall percentages of time spent in each role, from high to low, as follows:Job - 45%Innovator 19%Team 16%Organization 12%Career 8%BOTTOMLINE: “The average time spent by CEOs in particular in the job role, within a high performing company, is 36% versus 46% for the low performing firms. This is not surprising in that we know long-term competitive advantage comes from a workforce that is spending time doing things other than the ‘core' job. If employees are focused only on the job, everything that your company does can be easily copied by your competitors and replicated easily. Long-termcompetitive advantage comes from the right combination of core job and non-core-job roles.”
In the wake of the downturn, American workers seem more appreciative of their jobs and enthusiastic about their organizations, according to Modern Survey's Employee Engagement Index (as reported by Harvard Business Publishing.)The fraction of employees who said they took pride in their work rose from 71% in 2008 to 79% in 2009, and the fraction who said they would recommend their employers to other workers rose from 53% to 58%Their conclusion? --- "Employees Feeling More Engaged"Hold on..not so fast....Could there be other "conclusions"?Fear, perhaps? Gratitude of having a job, perhaps? More willingness to conform, perhaps?Not to be a Doubting Thomas....just sayin'...
Here's a major wake-up call!According to research commissioned by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, only 24% of employees know their firm’s goals for 2010.Other key findings:32% even doubted there was a plan for their business at all. Only 27 per cent of people said they were fully prepared for the challenges they would face at work in the year ahead. "This is just one example of how poor employee engagement can put the brakes on improved business performance. If leaders don't explain where the business is going and what it's seeking to achieve, how can people be motivated or know what they're meant to contribute? Clear goals are a key ingredient for achieving performance and productivity - but worryingly, this research suggests many employers haven't yet grasped this for 2010."BOTTOMLINE: Here are some specific steps you can take now to ensure employees are engaged and ready to do their part for executing strategy in 2010. Renew your organization's mission, vision, shared values, strategic position, create a short list of vital few objectives, and put together a list of things to stop doing. Develop a strategic plan that outlines a short list of key initiatives that will drive activity toward meeting those objectives. Assign responsibility, key targets, outcomes and create measures to track progress.Communicate the results of #'s 1 and 2 to everyone in the organization - in multiple ways, on multiple occasions. (That means two-way communication, which includes listening.)Align the organization's resources (people, technologies, processes, policies, measures) to support these initiatives. Have each person in the organization develop an individual plan of activities for the quarter, which align with the key initiatives they're working on. Hold short status meetings with team leaders weekly to track progress, to identify areas of risk, and provide enough time for continual course correction. Measure results quarterly (not activity), review individual performance (and use 360 feedback surveys), survey stakeholders' satisfaction regularly, and review internal strengths, weakesses and external opportunities and threats. (Want more specifics on how to accomplish these steps? Read Six Disciplines for Excellence.)
If one of the four required components of a complete strategy execution program is "a repeatable, business-building methodology" - what exactly is that?A repeatable business-building methodology is a holistic business improvement framework that can be used by an organization (guided by a licensed business coach) for continual performance improvement.The methodology described in the graphic above consists of six interrelated business improvement disciplines, each consisting of a number of specific steps (processes) that are practiced repeatedly (annual, quarterly, weekly, or daily.)The methodology consists of an on-going cycle of strategy formulation, planning, organization, execution, measurement and learning. Just a few of the benefits of using such a repeatable, business-building methodology? It can be scheduled on everyone's calendars (because, what gets on your calendar, gets done...)It fosters new organizational learning habits (encouraging continual improvement)It's flexible, yet consistent (not a cookie-cutter approached shoe-horned into every organization)BOTTOMLINE: Intrigued? The methodology described above is unveiled - in detail - in the award-winning business handbook, Six Disciplines for Excellence", which is available here from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from Six Disciplines Publishing.
In sports, no one questions the importance of having a good coach.In music, art, science, no one questions the importance of having a good mentor.If you're running a small business, why should it be any different?Yet, everyday, leaders of small and emerging businesses continue to waste thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars on ineffective means to the end: learning to develop a top-performing business.We hear it from our clients all the time: "I spent thousands on books, seminars, consultants; we've gone through planning sessions, brainstorming, etc. - and none of it has lasted."Frustrating? You bet.Common place? More than we all want to admit.For 2010, are you hoping for the best? Well, hope - is not a strategy.Well, there's always "business coaching" - but buyer beware: You actually need more than just a "business coach."You need a holistic approach - a complete program that includes a repeatable business-building methodology, an external business coach (for accountability), execution software that enages every person, every day, and access to a shared learning community for faster adoption and stronger organziational engagement.Do you - and your organization- need more than a business coach? Are you challenged with any of these?A lack of a solid strategic plan - mission, vision, values, strategic position, vital few objectivesA lack of well-defined goals - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible (deadlines and attributable responsible people)Wasted time and resources - your people are working on things that do not align with your strategyProcrastination, distractions and working on "urgent" things - rather than "vital" thingsLack of individual accountability - and organizational "entropy"Do any of these sound familiar? How about all of them? You aren't alone. Every client we talk to has one or more (and sometimes, all) of these challenges. It's time you looked into Six Disciplines....
(This guest post was authored by Eric Kurjan,President of Six Disciplines Ohio/Indiana. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to break from the status quo. For more information visit www.SixDisciplines.com, email email@example.com or call 419-348-1897)###As businesses are coming out of the economic downturn, they are starting to recognize that they need to do something different. However, that is a highly complex statement. What can you possibly do differently? Well, in most cases the list is enormous. There are plenty of things to work on.If you followed my advice in my October article, then you are headed down the right path. There is a long way to go to get to the final destination but if you have defined that destination at least you know where you want to go. Now, how to do I get there? The first step is to communicate that information to the rest of the team. Where are we going, what will we do to get there, how will we do it and who is responsible for the various steps and actions? Those four basic tenets are the key drivers of strategy formation and more importantly the execution. But there is something more.For some reason, asking CEOs/Presidents/Owners to share this type of information with their teams seems to be a very foreign concept. There is the unreasonable expectation that the team members/employees somehow already know where they are going and how to get there. Most folks are not great mind readers and then they end up doing whatever they think is best because as leaders we have not communicated what we need or want. As someone wise once said, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."In fact, the larger the organization is, the greater this illusion becomes. As organizations grow, communication challenges grow as well. These challenges will grow dramatically faster than the organization headcount. To illustrate:In an organization with 3 people, there are only 3 possible different interactions. In an organization with 25 people (8 times as many people), there are 300 possible different interactions = 100 times increase in the complexity of communications In an organization with 100 people (33 times as many people), there are 4,950 possible different interactions = 1,650 times increase in the complexity of communicationsGrowing organizations respond to increased complexity by creating layers (business units, divisions, departments, teams, groups, etc.). Add to this challenge -- 55% of communication really takes place through non-verbal body language (not phone, not email, not IMs, not video conferencing.)So, we have some pretty big issues to overcome to get people on the path we want. Unfortunately, we have leaders who don’t share the company message, direction or expectations with their employees, and then couple that with the complexity of a growing organization. In the absence of leadership, employees decide their own direction. Often times the intentions are good; however, they do not always align with what management sees as important.Gary Harpst, the founder of Six Disciplines, tells a very poignant story of “Susan”. “Susan” works for a very good commercial HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) contractor in the Midwest. She has been an excellent, loyal, hard working inside sales employee for the past seven years. This morning she has a conversation with her leader, the manager of inside sales. He tells Susan that the numbers on the commercial business are off for the month. Their normal commercial clients are not upgrading and new construction is terrible. He tells her that she needs to get more deals in the door, somehow. Seems pretty straightforward and probably a conversation repeated in organizations all across America. Being a creative and hard working person, Susan is looking for any new business she can find. In good times, the pipeline has been plentiful with commercial deals and anytime a residential sales/service call came in she turned them away. However, now based on the conversation she had with her manager this morning, she “decides” to take on a residential opportunity. She completes the paperwork, sends a service crew to the residence and thinks she has uncovered a new opportunity. However, she has created a nightmare. The work crew is not trained to work on residential HVAC systems, they do not carry the parts, the business model and cost structure are not compatible, and on and on. Susan’s decision is full of good intentions but her self-directed approach is fraught with issues. And it all started with a lack of clear direction and communication.This type of disconnect is very common, and it is all about the lack of communication.Communication also ties to overall employee performance. Yes it is true, not only do you need to tell your employees what they need to do and what you expect of them but you also need to share with them how well they are doing their jobs. SuccessFactors surveyed 3,600+ workers at 291 companies and found, among other things,• 51% of employees don’t know whether their performance is where it should be• 66% say they have too little interaction with their boss• 55% don’t get enough timely constructive criticismBOTTOMLINE: It all comes down to communication. You should try it. Set the direction, define the actions and measure the results. The investment is small, but the rewards are huge.
Business Development Arm of Greater Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce Sees Growth through Strategy Execution Coaching ProgramFINDLAY, OHIO – December 2, 2009 — Six Disciplines announced today that it has added ENTERPRISECORP, the enterprise development arm of Greater Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce, to its nationwide network of business coaching practices that offer the Six Disciplines® strategy execution program to its clients.Six Disciplines is unique in the growing industry of business coaching because of its completeness, which includes the synergy of a repeatable business-building methodology, execution coaching, an execution software system, and a shared community to accelerate organizational learning.“I can readily see the value that Six Disciplines will bring to our clients,” said Mark Crane, Executive Director of ENTERPRISECORP. “The Six Disciplines methodology, coaching and software will help them achieve their goals, not just through planning, but through focused execution.”“Six Disciplines is the perfect complement to our business advisory services,” added David Oetken, Director of Business Advising ENTERPRISECORP’s. “By using the Six Disciplines methodology and software tools, our clients will be able to connect their vision to their strategies, and align their plans and activities for more consistent and predictable execution.”“Forward-looking CEOs are starting to understand their biggest challenge is not what they think it is,” said Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines. “They’re finally figuring out that it’s all about the balance of strategy and execution. ENTERPRISECORP understands the tremendous opportunity ahead of them with Six Disciplines, and because of their expertise and proven success, we’re excited to welcome ENTERPRISECORP to our quickly-growing business coaching network.”About ENTERPRISECORPENTERPRISECORP is the enterprise development arm of Greater Louisville Inc., whose mission is to dramatically increase the number and quality of fast-growth companies headquartered in the Louisville region – companies that create the vast majority of new wealth, new revenue and new jobs. For existing businesses that want input and guidance on how to generate growth, ENTERPRISECORP offers Business Advising, which uses detailed assessments and case review by an advisory council of seasoned professionals to create custom recommendations on how businesses can take advantage of opportunities for growth. When a management team is ready to embrace change and pursue the next level of performance, we are the place to start. Visit www.EnterpriseCorp.com.About Six DisciplinesSix Disciplines offers a complete strategy execution coaching program, optimized for small and midsized organizations. The Six Disciplines program enables organizations to get better – and stay better – with less stress and more fun. The breakthrough program is detailed in the best-selling book “Six Disciplines Execution Revolution” by founder and CEO Gary Harpst. Six Disciplines is offered exclusively through a growing nationwide network of licensed Six Disciplines coaching practices. Visit www.SixDisciplines.com.
The latest (September 2009) survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder.com found that:40% of U.S. workers say they have had difficulty staying motivated at work in the past year Nearly one-fourth (24%) do not feel loyal to their current employer 23% of employers rate their organization’s current employee morale as lowTime to panic yet?BOTTOMLINE: Though the survey confirms that low morale levels are an unfortunate side effect of the recession, CareerBuilder.com contends that many companies are trying to address negative workplace issues with: 1.) better communications (more often, many different ways, and encouraging two-way communication) and 2.) programs to help employees feel "connected" - like valued team members (e.g., recognition programs, providing better work/life balance through flexible work opportunities)
A previous issue of the Harvard Business Review includes article entitled "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?"Their premise?"Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?"Their conclusion?"Very few executives can honestly answer these simple questions in the affirmative. And the companies that those executives work for are often the most successful in their industry."The downside?"Conversely, companies that don’t have a simple and clear statement of strategy are likely to fall into the sorry category of those that have failed to execute their strategy or, worse, those that never even had one. In an astonishing number of organizations, executives, frontline employees, and all those in between are frustrated because no clear strategy exists for the company or its lines of business."Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. They assume that the initiatives described in the voluminous documentation that emerges from an annual budget or a strategic-planning process will ensure competitive success. They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.Understand there are three critical components of a good strategy statement—objective, scope, and advantage. Then, create a great strategy, which requires careful evaluation of the industry landscape, a detailed understanding of customer needs, segmenting customers, and identifying unique ways of creating value for the ones your firm chooses to serve. Then, find the sweet spot that aligns your firm’s capabilities with customer needs in a way that competitors cannot match. Next, leave no room for misinterpretation and cascade the statement throughout the organization.BOTTOMLINE: "Words do lead to action. Spending the time to develop the few words that truly capture your strategy and that will energize and empower your people will raise the long-term financial performance of your organization."
From Strategy+Business magazine, comes their listing of "Our 10 Most Enduring Ideas."The number one enduring business concept? (drum roll please...)Execution (1,911 votes; 49.3 percent of the voters chose this concept). The rest of the top 10 most enduring business concepts of the past decade?2. The Learning Organization3. Corporate Values 4. Customer Relationship Management 5. Disruptive Technology6. Leadership Development7. Organizational DNA8. Strategy-Based Transformation9. Complexity Theory 10. Lean ThinkingBOTTOMLINE: It’s not just your strategic choices that drive success, but how well you execute them.
Strategy formulation, while extremely challenging and difficult, is usually not what concerns most small business leaders. In fact, it's not even planning that worried worries them. It's something even bigger and more problematic.It's the execution of strategy that keeps many small business leaders awake at night!Why is execution so hard?Because making the plan work is even bigger challenge than creating the plan: Making strategy work is more difficult than the task of strategy making.Execution is critical to success. Execution represents a disciplined process that enables an organization to take a strategy and make it work. Without a careful, planned approach to execution, strategic goals cannot be attained.Developing such a logical approach, however, represents a tremendous challenge - particularly to leaders of growing organizations.Here are the key take-aways:Making strategy work (execution) is critical - and much more difficult than strategy formulationEven the best plans still fail or don't meet expectations -- because of poor execution.Despite its importance, execution is often handled poorly by many organizations. The continual problem? Much more is known about planning than doing, about strategy-making than making strategy work. And business leaders still don't seem to understand a great deal about the execution of strategy. The obvious questions?If execution is paramount to success, why don't more organizations develop a disciplined approach to it? Why don't companies spend more time developing and perfecting processes that help them achieve their strategic goals? Why can't more companies execute strategies - consistently?The simple answer?Because - execution is extremely difficult. We're all taught to strategize, and to plan - but little time is spent teaching (and learning) how to execute!BOTTOMLINE: From the CEO on down, everyone within an organization must commit to and own the processes and actions related to effective execution. Everyone must learn to be accountable for their activities and projects, and these effort must relate to the goals, and ultimately the strategy of the company.
The best performing small businesses have five factors in common:A strong leadership teamThe ability to attract and retain quality peopleA disciplined approach to their businessThe ability to strategically use technologyThe wise use of trusted outside providers Top-performing organizations rate not just a little better in these five areas -- but at least 100% better. This whitepaper looks at the results of the research, and identifies five factors that the top 25% of all high-performing organizations have in common. Download the whitepaper here, compliments of Six Disciplines.
What would be your dream job? If money were not a consideration, what would you do?A recent Harris Interactive survey among almost 8,000 employees over the age of 18 found the following:45% of workers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs55% of workers said they were not satisfiedFurthermore...20% were passionate about their jobs33% believed they had reached a dead end21% were eager to change to something differentThe above statistics paint a vivid picture of how elusive passion can be in careers. Here are some more observations about dream jobs:Dream jobs are absolutely personal. Everyone has a different dream.Dream jobs are aligned with a person's core passion. Your passion is what you care most about in life. It is what attracts you and gives you energy. It is what inspires you, and what you can not live without doing.Dream jobs consistently leverage your core strengths and skills, draw on what you do best and most naturally, let you do what you are really good at doing.Dream jobs minimize the down sides, the things you don't like to do or don't do well. They accentuate the positive allowing you to focus your work time on activities you love to do.Dream jobs offer enough compensation to sufficiently support a life style that is acceptable and feels good. If a minimum level of income is not there, even an otherwise ideal fit may not be the dream job.Finally, dream jobs are not perfect jobs. Even when the fit is right, every job has some drawbacksBOTTOMLINE: Stop "dreaming" - start doing. Take stock in yourself, identify your core skills, research the market - and go back to your passion.
For better or worse, why do so many companies veer off their strategic plan?Look for a disconnect between strategy and how resources are allocated, say Harvard Business School's Joseph L. Bower and Clark G. Gilbert, in their article "What Really Drives Strategy?"Their assertion?"Organizations of any size are built around a series of building blocks, and the bigger the company the more responsibility in those building blocks. Today they are called SBUs—Strategic Business Units—or they are country organizations. If you add up what those people actually do, which ideas they choose to bring forward, and which of those get funded, the consequences of that activity is what adds up to the strategy of the company, not words on paper. And once you see that, you begin to ask questions such as: What determines which ideas get sponsored and funded? If I'm the top management, how can I shape that process, manage it, and give it direction?"That's what their book, From Resource Allocation to Strategy, is about.BOTTOMLINE: Interestingly enough, the "disconnect" between strategy and how resources are allocated, as identified in this HBR article, is precisely why it's critical to align your resources and systems. Since up to 90% of effectively formulated strategies fail due to execution, it's critcal to understand that it's after the goals are set that companies run into one of their greatest challenges - their own internal systems - processes, policies, technologies, measures and people.
The following six principles form the foundation for instilling accountability within your organization. Together they form a practical understanding of accountability, the transforming effect it can have on an organization, and its essential role in creating significant business results.1. Accountability is a Statement of Personal Promise. Accountability is both a promise and an obligation to deliver specific, defined results. Accountability, as we define it, does not apply in an abstract way to departments, work groups, or entire organizations. Accountability applies to individuals and their personal promise that these functions will deliver the agreed results. Accountability is first and foremost a personal commitment to the organization and to those that the organization serves.2. Accountability for Results Means Activities Aren't Enough .Everyone in an organization, from the CEO to the janitor, has some piece of the business and a corresponding set of results which are theirs to achieve. Distinguishing results from activities requires a shift in traditional thinking, built on an awareness of why we do what we do, and what activities we need to focus our attention on.3. Accountability for Results Requires Room for Judgment and Decision Making. If you're not allowed to use any judgment or discretion on the job, if you're told to follow the rules no matter what, if no decision is up to you, then your boss can only hold you accountable for activities. You can be held accountable for doing what you're told, but you can't be held accountable for the outcome.4. Accountability is Neither Shared nor Conditional. Accountability agreements are individual, unique, and personal strategies. No two people at the same level in an organization should have the exact same accountabilities. Separating each person's accountabilities can be challenging, but clarity results from the struggle to eliminate overlaps.5. Accountability for the Organization as a Whole Belongs to Everyone. Every employee's first accountability is for thinking about and acting on what is best for the organization, even if doing so means putting aside one's individual, functional, or departmental priority. The most successful organizations expect and allow every person to be of practical assistance in realizing the organization's goals.6. Accountability is Meaningless Without Consequences. In an accountability agreements, consequences need to be negotiated. Negotiated consequences that are personally significant to the employee in question are an essential element of accountability agreements and are fundamental to forging a fair deal. This is a key step in forging an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship with one's employer.BOTTOMLINE: Organizational accountability eliminates the tendency to make excuses and shift blame. When employees make clear and specific commitments for their own work, entire organizations become aligned and achieve specific measurable results.(SOURCE: Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. at Murphy Klatt Consulting. Adapted from a chapter of their book, Accountability: Getting a Grip on Results (2nd Ed.1997).
A SWOT analysis is a tool used to assess an organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.The purpose of using the SWOT tool is to uncover or reveal the organization's competitive advantages, and what opportunities (sales, profitability) to capitalize upon.It's also used to articulate the challenges an organization has, enabling contingency plans.An analysis of the organization's strengths and weaknesses is typically an internal examination process. It's typically based on a review of internal and external facts and assumptions about the organization and the marketplace in which it operates.Having trouble starting out your SWOT analysis?Consider exploring these key categories:Strengths and WeaknessesMarketing (company image, reputation, positioning, market share, growth)Products and Services (price, quality, Finances (stability, profitability, debt to equity ratio)Operations (facilities, capacity, distribution channels, supply chain, costs, use of technology)Organizational (leadership, accountability, commitment, engagement)Opportunities and ThreatsDemographic (customer trends - age, lifestyle, education, buying patterns)Economic (economic growth rate, stability, inflation)Political / Legal (government stability, controls and regulations, effects of terrorism)Social (lifestyle trends, communications, ethnicity)Cultural (values, ethics)Environmental (sustainability, conservation)Technological (pace and changes in technology)Competition (industry leaders, number of competitors, fragmentation/consolidation)
In their most recent study, Forbes Insights, in conjunction with SAP, surveyed executives to provide first-hand insights into how companies are managing alignment issues.Key findings of their research:Economic volatility has put companies under greater pressure to align strategy and operations. This alignment could be more important post-recovery as they ready their plans to capitalize on new market opportunities.Changing market conditions that affect strategy and operational execution are the number one barrier companies face in aligning strategy and operations. Other top barriers cited by executives include: added pressure from the current economy on short-term costs versus longer-term return on investment (ROI); lack of availability of timely, accurate data; lack of effective communication of strategic goals to operational employees; and operational risks and opportunities that are not incorporated into overall corporate strategy.Alignment gaps may also arise due to differences in strategic and operational goals. Asked about short- and longterm priorities, strategic functions focused on competitive differentiation, while operations is coming under increasing pressure to boost efficiency and manage costs.There are concerns that employee recruitment, retention and training are not aligned with strategy, or that resources are not allocated properly to ensure that the workforce can achieve strategic goals.Managing regulation and risk is another area of concern. Executives indicated that regulatory compliance issues frequently impact strategic execution. A failure to incorporate changes to risk models into strategic plans may further hamper alignment.BOTTOMLINE: "Successful alignment requires companies to have a clear view of strategy and operations, the plans and the activities. Only with increased visibility can businesses identify thebarriers to alignment and close the gaps that may be keeping them from competing more effectively."
The Employee Factor offers The Ten Rules of Engagement:Rule #1 - Employee Engagement is NOT an Initiative – It's a Way of Life.Rule #2 – Leaders Must Show Goodwill Toward Others.Rule #3 – Leaders Must “Know Their Employees”.Rule #4 – Leaders Must Have the Tools to Foster Engagement.Rule #5 – The Employee and Customer Experiences Must Be Mirror Images.Rule #6 – Companies Must Market to Employees to Engage Them.Rule #7 – Communication Builds Engagement.Rule #8 – Deal with any “Bad Apples”.Rule #9 – Engagement is More Than a “Pat on the Back”.Rule #10 – Measure the Right Things and Then Act.Feel free to click on the link to read each rule in more detail.
If you want to improve performance, or likewise increase capacity or capability, you need to track the one thing that you'll never get back: time.In order to improve effectiveness and efficiency, you must understand how your time is being used. With all of the technological advances over the past two decades, we're continually forced to do things "better, faster, cheaper." In other words, all of these advances have taught us how to be more efficient.But - have any of these advances (spreadsheets, email, cell phones, IM, etc.) made us more effective?The difference between the two?Being efficient is essentially doing things right. Being effective is essentially doing the right things. It's not enough to just do things right - we also need to balance it with doing the right things, doing the right things based on their priority.As Dr. Stephen Covey once said: "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”BOTTOMLINE: Take a good look at your calendar: Are you spending time on the most important things? Are you spending the appropriate amount of time on those activities that are the highest priority? How do you know?If you're not tracking how you spend your time, how will you ever know?The best way is to have an individual plan (we recommend quarterly) - of daily activities that you're responsible for, which support the organization's goals, initiatives and projects. Track your time against these projects daily, and review weekly. The goal is to spend the most time on the most important activities that get you closer to achieving the organization's goals..Now, consider this: multiply this daily/weekly time-tracking activity times the number of people in your organization. You'll be amazed at how much more productivity and results you'll begin to see (or, very frustrated, by how much time is actually wasted on non-productive, non-essential activities...)So.... if you're looking to improve your performance (or the performance of your organization) - how can you possibly improve, if you don't track your time!
Fall is a time for reflection, not just about business, but about life.About what is meaningful, vital and important.About what is useful, what can be...Take the time.... to watch the leaves.Fall is.... a Season of Inspiration.(Photo Credit: Thanks to Jeri ....for the Inspiration - and for 4 wonderful years!)
Watch this slidecast by veteran CEO, Gary Harpst, on the opportunity that management consulting firms have for adding a strategy execution service to their practice.Establishing A Strategy Execution Practice
During a recent podcast interview, Six Disciplines' CEO Gary Harpst was interviewed by Jim Blasingame (The Small Business Advocate) about one of the key traits of a true leader: the ability to train and encourage others to be leaders.Listen to this podcast as they talk about how to make individual workers more responsible and to become “self leaders.”
The following article was written by Eric Kurjan, President of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to break beyond the status quo. For more information visit www.SixDisciplines.com/Toledo, or call 419-348-1897.----In an article earlier this year, I wrote about the fact that setting strategy is a year-round opportunity. The message being, don’t wait to take action. For those of you who waited it is definitely time to get moving. The end of the calendar and perhaps fiscal year is rapidly approaching and planning for next year needs to begin.So what does an effective strategic planning process look like?Strategic planning is actually the easy part of the two-part process for business success – strategy and execution. Let’s discuss a couple of key thoughts about strategic planning starting with; it needs to be a repeatable process. This process should be one that can be used continually, without changing major elements based on management whims or MBS (Management by Best Seller).Here are the key steps in strategic planning:1) Step Back – Take a look around. We need to look at where we have been before we can decide where we want to go. Companies rarely track performance against long-term plans: less than 15% of companies make it a regular practice to go back and compare the business’s results with the performance forecast for each unit in its prior years’ strategic plans according to the Harvard Business Review. So the Step Back process should include a consistent method for reviewing external factors (i.e., economic influences, competitive trends, governmental requirements…etc.) as well as internal factors (i.e., achievement of current year goals, key performance measures, stakeholder satisfaction surveys, completion of a SWOT analysis) plus a process to prioritize a long list of actions into a reasonable, achievable list. I recommend using what we call the 100-Point Exercise to boil down the list to the top items. The 100-Point Exercise allows each participant in the planning meeting to apply up to 100-points (I like increments of 20 points) to the items on the SWOT or brainstorming list they see as the most impactful on the business or organization in the coming year. Then you add up the scores for each item across all participants and the highest scoring items are the winners. It makes a big list manageable and something you can actually work on and complete versus trying to work on a list of 10 or 15 items which is virtually impossible to complete. 2) Decide What’s Important - The process must include a predictable, repeatable method for assessing your organization’s mission, shared values, vision, strategic position, and vital few objectives (a.k.a. goals). In this step we are setting or renewing the vision. Vision is the picture of “where” we want the organization to go in the next ten years. It is defining our destination. It is also the step that helps us determine “what” we need to do to get to that destination. These are referred to as our Vital Few Objectives (VFOs). It does not happen by accident, well it might, but then that would be an accident.3) Set Goals that Lead - Also important is a process to determine and set goals that are measureable, allowing us a way to develop clear targets and deadlines. Nothing loosey-goosey here – hard numbers, revenue dollars, margin percentage, dates, units. Real goals have real outcomes by which we can measure our progress. Also, this is where we need to define the projects or initiatives that will help us get to our goals. If our Vision (where) is to have “regional geographic presence” and our VFO (what) is to “open five offices in the next five years” then our initiative/project is “how” to open the first “new office in 2010”. These initiatives are intended to change the trajectory of the business. We do many things to run the business but what do we need to do to change the business. These are the items that drive activities of “every person, every day.” Now that I know “Where”, “What” and “How” the next is “Who” will do the work.4) Work the Plan – This is the execution phase of the strategic plan. And this is the biggest failure point for organizations. The execution phase is setting the stage for “who” will do the work. This is where we must assign the work that needs to be done to help the organization achieve the goals to arrive at the destination. Set real tasks with real deadlines and real outcomes.To recap, strategic planning is not an annual event – it is an on-going process. While most organizations conduct strategic planning annually, that’s not enough. It needs to be revisited on a quarterly basis in order to measure progress, align resources and implement necessary adjustments. If you are not measuring, observing, and adjusting, the likelihood for success decreases rapidly. Just like driving a car on the highway, you need to pay attention to the key dashboard indicators and look out the windshield. You must continually adjust based on various internal and external inputs like the speedometer, the roadway, traffic, visibility, etc.Let’s not forget, however, that strategic planning is only HALF of the equation. While the CEO and leadership team “own” the strategic plan and are accountable for it, they cannot be completely responsible for its proper execution. Even the most well-crafted strategy is subservient to superior execution. And, most successful business leaders agree, they’d rather have a “B” strategy and an “A” execution, than the other way around. In fact 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully according to a survey by the BSC Collaborative.The tougher, more critical side of the strategy/execution equation is making it work - getting it done, measuring progress along the way, finding what doesn’t work early enough to make course corrections and aligning resources (people, technology, policies, processes, and measures) continually so that initiatives can support the vital few objectives (VFOs).It’s the delicate balance of both strategic planning and execution that separates good organizations from great organizations.In my next article, I’ll focus on this other half of the equation: Execution.
W. Edwards Deming was a supreme practitioner of quality management.He summarized his ideas in these Fourteen Points of Quality Management:Create constancy of purpose towards improvement. That means short-term out, long-term in. Adopt the new philosophy. From top to bottomCease dependence on inspection. You don’t inspect quality into products and services - you design it in.Move towards a single supplier for any one item. Playing many suppliers off against each other is wasteful.Improve constantly and forever. However good you are, you can always do better.Institute training on the job. The best place to learn. Institute leadership. Go well beyond supervision and its quotas and targets.Drive out fear. Makes for bad work - and bad management.Break down barriers between departments. No more “silos."Eliminate slogans. Non-meaningful slogans are counter-productive substitute for real management.Eliminate management by objectives. Relying on production and other targets is also counter-productive. Remove barriers to pride of workmanship. The key to superior quality lies here - and in the Fourteen Points, which all encourage performance.Institute education and self-improvement. Organizational learning.Transformation is everyone’s job. Everyone, from the bottom - and including the top.BOTTOMLINE: Simple, straightforward, not easy, but absolutely worth the effort. (Thanks to Thinking Managers for the tip!)