By Nate on
12/5/2014 8:26 AM
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 bottom
- Cease 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.
By Nate on
12/5/2014 8:23 AM
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?
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.
- Being efficient is essentially doing things right.
- Being effective is essentially doing the right things.
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!
By Nate on
12/5/2014 8:21 AM
In a survey of 163 CEOs by Forbes Insights in conjunction with the Association for Strategic Planning and the Council of Public Relations Firms, chief executives report that one-third of corporate strategies fail, and they fail for five reasons.
The five reasons why strategies fail are:
- Unforeseen external circumstances (24 percent).
- A lack of understanding among those involved in developing the strategy and what they need to do to make it successful (19 percent).
- The strategy itself is flawed (18 percent).
- There is a poor match between the strategy and the core competencies of the organization (16 percent).
- There is a lack of accountability or of holding the team responsible (13 percent).
The whitepaper, "The Powerful Convergence of Strategy, Leadership and Communications" can be downloaded here.
By Nate on
11/7/2014 9:02 AM
Tough times require tough decisions.
During times of economic uncertainty, strategy refinement and execution need to become the top priority for business leaders.
How to start?
Begin by doing a SWOT Analysis. SWOT is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in your business.
The aim of any SWOT analysis is to identify the key internal and external factors that are important to achieving your strategy. SWOT analysis groups key pieces of information into two main categories:
Internal factors - The strengths and weaknesses internal to the organization. The internal factors may be viewed as strengths or weaknesses depending upon their impact on the organizations objectives. The factors may include all of the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) as well as personnel, finance, manufacturing capabilities, and so on.
External factors - The opportunities and threats presented by the external environment. The external factors may include the economy, technological change, legislation, and socio-cultural changes, as well as changes in your marketplace or competitive position.
BOTTOMLINE: While it's important to regularly conduct a SWOT analysis on your business, it's critical to revisit SWOT during times of economic uncertainty. In particular, it's essential that you focus on the internal factors that you can control; not the external factors you can't control. By focusing on internal factors, you'll be better able to unearth new opportunities for innovation.
By Nate on
10/31/2014 7:17 AM
Occasionally, circumstance and progress in seemingly unrelated areas combine to create an opportunity for solving old problems in new and exciting ways.
One of those breakthrough periods is upon us now, with regard to strategy execution.
This inflection point has developed primarily because large corporations have made huge investments developing best practices for effective management, strong leadership and strategy execution.
Built upon the results of these efforts, we believe the coming Execution Revolution will result in an order-of-magnitude change in cost that will allow small to midsized businesses not only to catch up, but to actually leapfrog, larger organizations in their execution management capabilities.
This is what the Execution Revolution is all about.
Leaders of small and mid-sized businesses now have an opportunity to go from almost no system to a new category in the excellence industry – a complete strategy execution program that puts everything needed for a balanced strategy execution together in one affordable combination.
The business excellence methodology component of this program is detailed in Gary Harpst's first book, Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last.
- Conditions are currently right to approach strategy execution in a radical new way.
- Seven key areas of business improvement advancements are fueling the Execution
1. Quality Programs
2. Business Process Best Practices
3. Personal Productivity Tools
4. Business Intelligence
5. Strategy Formulation
6. Virtual Community Development
7. Business Coaching
(Excerpted from Chapter 4, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)
By Nate on
10/24/2014 7:18 AM
In researching how to build a sustainable strategy execution program, we’ve uncovered three major barriers that have to be overcome if the program is to be successful. They are insufficient expertise, prohibitive economics and simple human nature. We’ve determined that these three barriers are actually the major design requirements any truly effective strategy execution program must be able to address.
The Expertise Hurdle:
To produce lasting results, any complete strategy execution program has to somehow help the organizations that use it to cope with the wide range of expertise required to employ the appropriate best practices that are available. It must also help these organizations recognize that this body of knowledge will keep growing and changing.
The Economics Hurdle:
Clearly, any strategy execution program developed for small and midsized businesses must consider how to deliver the expertise and technology required at an economic level that these organizations can afford. The only way this can be achieved is by integrating these essential components of the program – in a complete solution – and deliver them using an innovative model.
The Human Nature Hurdle:
Now, for the toughest hurdle of all: people. One of the most persistent challenges we face as humans is to narrow the gap between knowing what needs to be done, and actually doing what needs to be done. Another dimension of human nature that needs to be considered is resistance to change. Most of us resist change, unless it’s our own idea.
(Excerpted from Chapter 5, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)
- In order to build a sustainable strategy execution program in small and midsized businesses, three major barriers or hurdles need to be overcome: insufficient expertise, prohibitive economics and simple human nature.
- While larger companies have knowledgeable people with the necessary expertise in business improvement disciplines, small and midsized organizations don’t have equal
access to such a wide array of expertise.
- Developing mastery in even just one business improvement discipline requires a substantial investment. None of this comes cheap, and there are no shortcuts.
- Any strategy execution program developed for small and midsized businesses must consider how to deliver the expertise and technology required in a way that makes sense economically for these enterprises. The only way this kind of change in economics can be achieved is by integrating the essential components of such a program into a complete solution and delivering them using an innovative distribution
- One of the most persistent challenges we face as humans is to narrow the gap between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing what needs to be done.
- Other human nature hurdles to overcome include our resistance to change, our unique differences, our need to communicate effectively and our need for purpose in our lives, including meaningful work.
By Nate on
10/17/2014 8:07 AM
The critical question for every business leader is, “How do I build an organization that consistently executes its strategy?”
The answer: it takes a complete program. The reasons other approaches do not last is that they are missing key elements. Technology (i.e., performance mangement software) alone is not enough. Training, by itself, is not adequate. Simply reading best-selling books won’t do it. New leadership by itself is not the answer. Retaining better people won’t make the critical difference. Hiring an executive coach by itself will not overcome this challenge.
No, the answer lies in taking a more profoundly holistic approach.
BOTTOMLINE: Our field research has shown us that singular, piece-meal approaches just don’t last. Sustainability, the capacity of an organization to maintain the necessary balance between strategy and execution, and doing so while overcoming the hurdles, requires a complete program consisting of four tightly-integrated elements:
- A Repeatable Methodology to drive organizational learning and understanding.
- Strategy Execution Coaching to nurture and nudge to stay the course.
- An Execution Software System to engage everyone, everyday in real-time alignment.
- Community Learning to share and reinforce best practices and accelerate learning\
(Excerpted from Chapter 6, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)
By Nate on
10/10/2014 7:29 AM
A methodology, or method, is another name for any step-by-step approach to getting something done. A business-building methodology must include the steps that are essential for an organization to build and sustain a healthy, growing business. It must define how the organization sets its goals and priorities and organizes its resources to best achieve these goals.
It must teach the organization how to stay focused on what’s important, while dealing with the inevitable surprises that occur regularly in life. It must provide ways to identify where the organization is on plan (or off) and do so in real-time.
A business-building methodology must provide a framework for an organization to learn and grow as its size and complexity grows – a way to increase its capability to learn and grow faster than its challenges. Another priority of the methodology is to connect long-term goals with daily decisions. To do this requires connecting people’s activities to the company’s strategy – from the top to the bottom of the organization. It requires a clear process for defining strategy and goals that are then translated into team and individual goals.
Another benefit of having a repeatable and documented business-building methodology is the accumulation of knowledge by individuals and teams. Defining a process and then documenting changes to that process reinforces the learning that occurs so that you don’t forget it. When many individuals use a common methodology, the rate of accumulated learning that is shared is accelerated.
- The goal of a complete strategy execution program is to enable organizations to spend an increasing amount of time in Quadrant II. Here, their performance is more predictable and sustainable and execution of strategy becomes balanced.
- Achieving this goal requires thinking holistically about the business – how to make all the components, people, processes, policies, key measures, assets and strategies work together to meet the promises made to customers and other stakeholders and to repeat these in a predictable fashion.
- Be aware that reading about each discipline separately doesn’t make your business perform better instantly any more than taking five golf lessons makes you a good golfer. In the end, you have to learn how to use all of the disciplines together and the only way to truly learn is by doing.
- We are absolutely advocating this: every organization that is serious about excellence
and execution must practice some defined methodology as the foundation of its efforts.
- The absolute foundation of building an organization that is increasing its ability to execute is a repeatable methodology.
- In addition, the disciplines must be used in conjunction with the other three required elements of a complete strategy execution program: strategy execution coaching, an execution software system and the benefits of community learning.
(Excerpted from Chapter 7, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)
By Nate on
10/3/2014 7:23 AM
Most leaders fail to understand the implication of the human nature barriers. Our natural tendency is to do what we like doing, not necessarily what we should. The topic of coaching offers the most insight into what it takes to deliver a complete strategy execution program.
Strategy execution coaching implies that an accountability model exists. Employees in organizations will learn to be accountable – that is, they’ll do what is needed and expected – proportionate to the extent in which three factors are present:
- Expectations are clear.
- These expectations are perceived as credible and reasonable because the employees
were involved in setting them.
- Employees understand the impact of success, or lack thereof, on the organization.
When these three factors aren’t in place, employees can’t achieve their potential, no matter what kind of people they are. A critical element for creating company-wide accountability is to put appropriate focus on results, not activities. For most employees, it’s more motivating to be told what needs to be done and why, but not how.
BOTTOMLINE: Being accountable to ourselves is not enough. We clearly need others, preferably outside of our organization, to hold us accountable and to help us accelerate our learning. We need others to help us fight the continual battles against our own human nature and our tendency to do what we want to do, rather than what we need to do. We need others to challenge our way of thinking and acting. We need others to help us increase our capability to manage the next challenge. We need others to learn how to do this faster than we can do it on our own. Finally, we need others to help make change last within our organizations, to make the new way of working “stick.” That’s what strategy execution coaching is all about.
(Excerpted from Chapter 8, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)
By Nate on
7/11/2014 7:38 AM
In business, "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it."
When it comes to executing your business strategy, you must first translate the strategic plan into short-term operating objectives or metrics - and progress must be monitored and measured regularly.
To achieve strategic objectives, your organization must develop short-term measurable objectives that logically relate to the company's strategy, as well as a plan for how your organization plans to compete: how you will be different from your competition.
Unfortunately, this is where most strategic planning sessions end; in a 3-inch binder sitting on a dusty shelf.
What needs to occur next is translating your organization's strategy into actionable plans and initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, translate these plans into measurable gradecards or scorecards which are continually monitored. BOTTOMLINE:
Continual monitoring progress toward organizational goals (both short-term and long-term) helps to keep you focused on what's important, which is an integral and vital part of the execution process. The earlier that course corrections can be made, the better.
By Nate on
6/27/2014 7:05 AM
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?"
"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.
By Nate on
6/20/2014 7:10 AM
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 jobs
- 55% of workers said they were not satisfied
- 20% were passionate about their jobs
- 33% believed they had reached a dead end
- 21% were eager to change to something different
The 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 drawbacks
BOTTOMLINE: Stop "dreaming" - start doing. Take stock in yourself, identify your core skills, research the market - and go back to your passion.
By Nate on
6/13/2014 7:48 AM
"A brilliant strategy, blockbuster product, or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there. "
So begins the Harvard Business review article "The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution" written by executives from management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc .
According to the authors, "Execution is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by employees acting according to the information they have and their own self-interest."
Their research identified four fundamental building blocks executives can use to influence those actions:
- Clarifying decision rights (setting expectations)
- Designing information flows (making sure people are on the same page, have the right information to do their jobs)
- Aligning motivators (recognition and rewards consistent with attitudes, behaviors)
- Making changes to structure
By Nate on
6/6/2014 7:33 AM
The best performing small businesses have five factors in common:
- A strong leadership team
- The ability to attract and retain quality people
- A disciplined approach to their business
- The ability to strategically use technology
- The 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.
By Nate on
5/30/2014 7:54 AM
In general, strategic plans can fail for two types of reasons: inappropriate strategy and poor execution.
Inappropriate or ineffective strategies can occur due to:
- Failure to define objectives correctly
- Incomplete SWOT analysis with respect to the desired objectives
- Lack of creativity in identifying possible strategies
- Strategies incapable of obtaining the desired objective
- Poor fit between the external environment and organizational resources - infeasibility
More often than not, however, it's not that the strategic plans fail - it's theexecution that fails.
Here are some common reasons how or why execution falls short of the strategic plan:
- Over-estimation of resources and abilities
- Under-estimation of time, personnel, or financial requirements
- Failure to coordinate
- Ineffective attempts to gain the support of others or resistance
- Failure to follow the plan
- Loss of senior management focus and continued sponsorship
- Inability to predict reactions from competitors
- Over-estimation of resource competence
- Poor communications
- Failure to manage change
- Lack of focus
BOTTOMLINE: Failure to execute (following the plan) is the primary reason why strategic plans fail.
By Nate on
5/16/2014 7:12 AM
"The Keys to Strategy Execution: A Global Study of Current Trends and Future Possibilities", was a research study commissioned by the American Management Association and conducted by the Human Resource Institute.
The research identified the leading obstacles that hinder strategy execution and what companies can do to overcome them.
The following is a quick review of some of the main findings:
- Higher performers tend to be better at executing strategies
- Clarity is crucial to the execution of strategy
- Overall, organizations are not achieving clarity to the degree they should
- Higher-performing companies are much more likely than lower performers to provide clarity
- Alignment practices are widely used and highly valued
- Higher-performing organizations are considerably more likely to use certain alignment strategies
- Speed and adaptability are differentiators
- Decision-making speed remains a major problem
- Employee engagement is a concern
- Leadership development seems to be a deficit in the area of execution
- Customer needs/demands and worker capabilities are the most important drivers of execution today
- A lack of resources and the presence of government regulations are the primary barriers to strategy execution today
By Nate on
5/9/2014 7:11 AM
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 formulation
- Even 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?
The simple answer?
- 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?
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.
By Nate on
4/25/2014 7:20 AM
Why do most companies fail?
- Most companies fail primarily because they don’t have the right team of people
- The CEO might not be right, or the CEO hasn’t chosen the right people in the right positions
- Unfortunately, most new CEOs don’t understand the talent level required at each position and the teamwork needed to build a successful company.
- To have a successful company, most businesses need key people in several categories including research & development, manufacturing, IT, finance, marketing, sales, and HR.
BOTTOMLINE: Hiring right (from position description, to sourcing, to interviewing, to selection, to assessment, to hiring, to orientation, to development, to succession planning) - are all keys to building the right team. Done properly and repeatedly, the organization thrives. Ignore it, and the organization is doomed to failure.
By Nate on
4/18/2014 7:11 AM
A previous issue of the Harvard Business Review includes article entitled "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?"
"Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?"
"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."
"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."
By Nate on
4/11/2014 7:10 AM
The importance of business planning is frequently misunderstood.
Here are 9 commonly-held myths: about business planning:
- Most small and new businesses don’t need business plans.
- You need an MBA to write a convincing business plan.
- Business plans are only necessary when you need to raise money.
- Business plans need to be long and address every last detail.
- Writing a business plan makes your business less flexible.
- Writing a business plan takes too much time.
- All the details of a business plan are just too confusing for a first-time business owner.
- You can get funding on the strength of a great business plan alone.
- If you’ve already launched your business, it’s too late to write a business plan.
BOTTOMLINE: As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” He wasn’t actually saying that plans are worthless, of course. So what did the war hero and former President mean?
It’s the process of planning that is most important: where you consider opportunities and challenges and ways to meet them.
By Nate on
4/4/2014 7:33 AM
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.
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 objectives
- A 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 strategy
- Procrastination, distractions and working on "urgent" things - rather than "vital" things
- Lack 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....
By Nate on
3/28/2014 7:16 AM
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 happen
How 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?
By Nate on
3/21/2014 7:12 AM
The need for measurement may seem obvious, however, more often than not, it's overlooked as being unnecessary by many leaders of small and midsized organizations.
Let's look at the top 10 reasons why your organization needs to measure its results:
- Measurement clarifies expectations. Measures are a the most transparent and clear means to communicate expectations to employees.
- Measurement directs behavior. Most employees consciously or unconsciously operate on the following assumption: “tell me how you'll measure me, and I'll tell you how I'll behave.”
- Measurement increases objectivity. Measurement is essential to “managing by fact” – otherwise you are left to lead with charm and personality.
- Measurement makes performance visible. If it’s not being measured, it simply can’t be managed.
- Measurement focuses attention. When people are faced with so many competing priorities for their time and activities, what is measured tends to get their attention – particularly when it is linked to a recognition/reward system.
- Measurement promotes consistency. Unmeasured systems tend to be highly variable systems, with all the negatives for quality that implies.
- Measurement facilitates feedback. Feedback in the form of timely, relevant measures is the basic navigational device of any individual or organization.
- Measurement improves decision-making. One of the major causes of failure in decision-making is poor or non-existent use of data. One accurate measure can be worth a thousand opinions.
- Management promotes understanding. Quality guru W. Edwards Deming thought that systematic process measurement led to the “profound knowledge” that was essential to top quality outcomes.
- Measurement improves execution. As former Allied Signal CEO and co-author of Execution Larry Bossidy has remarked “when I see companies that don’t execute, the chances are high that they don’t measure.”
By Nate on
3/7/2014 8:30 AM
The Six Disciplines strategy execution program integrates the business-building elements of strategy, planning, organizing, executing, innovating and learning, and offers a systematic way for organizations to continually improve and achieve lasting business excellence.
You can think of the Six Disciplines Methodology as a series of annual, quarterly, weekly and daily repeatable cycles which, with each successive pass, helps individuals to be accountable, align their activities with organizational goals, and consistently execute on strategy.
So, what are the Six Disciplines?
Discipline I. Decide What’s Important. The foundation of all strategy formulation is deciding what is most important to your organization (and by implication what’s not important) so the allocation of resources—time, money and creativity—can all be aimed toward this end. In this discipline, organizations regularly review and renew their mission, values, strategic position, vision, their most vital few objectives, as well as agreeing what to stop doing.
Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead. Well-defined goals are among the most effective communications tools available to any leader—yet most leaders don’t know how to set goals that lead their people in the right direction. The purpose of this discipline is to produce annual goals that are clear and measurable. Pursuing these goals will lead the people in the organization to align their activities with the vital few objectives set in Discipline I. The result is a brief company goals statement that every team member can understand.
Discipline III. Align Systems. One of the greatest barriers an organization faces in pursuing its goals is itself. For many businesses, the systems that make up the business are often at cross purposes with the priorities of the company. Why? Because most organizations do not have an organized approach to keep their systems aligned with their strategy. Discipline III, taps the knowledge of the whole workforce to identify the areas where the company will get the greatest return on its investment in policies, processes, measures, technologies and people.
Discipline IV. Work the Plan. One of the greatest organizational learning tools ever invented is the quarterly Individual Plan. In this discipline, every person in the company works with his/her team leader to develop Individual Plans for the upcoming quarter. These goals are reviewed and checked for alignment with company goals. This quarterly plan serves as a timesaving template for a Weekly Status report. The result is that every individual in the company learns how to set goals, understand company priorities, takes responsibility for their own activities, and reports progress regularly.
Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully. Innovation is just another name for problem-solving, and everyone in the company has the ability to solve problems. This discipline is unlike the rest in that it provides tools and principles that are used throughout the other disciplines to help people set clear goals and eliminate barriers to progress.. These goals will align with company priorities, and then employees use their innate creativity to meet or beat those goals. Empowering principles, such as Embracing Constraints and Taking Informed Risks, plus tools like the 100-Point Exercise and 5-Step Problem Solving, are but a few examples of what’s included in Discipline V.
Discipline VI. Step Back. This annual discipline helps the whole organization to step back from the pressure of everyday business and gain perspective on the factors that affect business performance. This is achieved through a series of “discovery exercises,” exploring externals (competitors, industry, economic) and internals (goal performance, stakeholder feedback, measures, etc.). In addition to the organization as a whole stepping back, all individual team members are encouraged to do the same by providing input on each other’s performances. This is achieved by completing a 360° and an annual performance appraisal for each team member.
BOTTOMLINE: The Six Disciplines are described in detail in the award-winning book, Six Disciplines for Excellence, available here from Amazon.
By Nate on
3/5/2014 8:08 AM
Most organizations suffer a major disconnect between strategy formulation and its execution.
And while it's more pronounced in larger enterprises because of complexity, smaller organizations need to make sure they do something (anything!) to remove the barriers to execution.
Unfortunately, the research doesn't bode well for most of us. Consider the following:
- 90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution.
- 60% of typical organizations do not link their strategic priorities to their budget.
- Two-thirds of HR and IT organizations develop strategic plans that are not linked to the organization's strategy.
- 85% of leadership teams spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy.
- Only 27% of a typical company’s employees have access to its strategic plan.
- 70% of middle managers and more than 90% of front-line employees have compensation that is not linked to the strategy.
- Most devastating, 95% of employees do not understand their organization's strategy.
Strategy must be managed explicitly, like any other major process in an organization. In most organizations, this process either does not exist or is incomplete. However, 70% of organizations that used a formal process to manage strategy out-performed their peers. What formal process are YOU using?