The Six Disciplines blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to our new home. If that does not occur, please visit:

Monday, October 31, 2005

What Does It Take To Achieve Lasting Excellence? Part Deux

Achieving lasting excellence is serious business.

Perhaps you felt you needed to be a "genius" or something to figure it out?

No longer!

BOTTOMLINE: I'm sharin' the fun. Go here, and make your own custom Einstein chalkboard.
(Thanks to Scobleizer for this one!)

On Attitudes and Enthusiasm

Jeffrey Phillips, over at Thinking Faster, offers his perspective on Contagious Attitude.

His premise:

"One person with a positive attitude and optimism about where our strategy can make a real difference. A positive attitude can be contagious and spread to others. Positive attitudes and outlooks correspond to greater productivity, efficiency and innovation. This one's a no brainer."

"One solid reason for being skeptical of inspirational posters on the wall and management slogans is that they often espouse something and management actions often contradict those messages. For true positive attitudes, the management team must walk the talk. Be excited about the company and it's future, help others to see the same vision and constantly reinforce the values and goals. Real excitement and commitment will filter down."

BOTTOMLINE: Nothing wrong with Successories - don't just talk about it - live it. (Or you could just chuck it all, and have a little fun over here at )

OK...back to work!!

On Small Business Trends Radio - November 1

Join Small Business Trends Radio host Anita Campbell this Tuesday November 1 at 1:00PM Eastern Time at VoiceAmerica Business Network, as she interviews Torsten Jacobi of Creative Weblogging.

Find out more about the Small Business Trends Radio program on VoiceAmerica, by going to

(Small Business Trends Radio, published over the VoiceAmerica Business Network, is sponsored by Six Disciplines Corporation)

Small Business Indicators Remain Strong

MyBusiness Magazine reports Small-Business Labor Markets Are Strong

Current leading indicators:
  • The U.S. economy continues to roll along, just as small-business owners predicted.
  • Analysts are now marking up their forecasts to match the predictions of small businesses.
  • Hiring plans strengthened and inventories were reported relatively low, while plans to add to inventories as we go into the fourth quarter strengthened.
  • Capital spending plans have remained steady as have actual capital outlays, reported each month by about two-thirds of the owners.
  • Inflation, the top worry of the Fed, has lost some steam in the small-business sector.

Read the entire update here.

BOTTOMLINE: Owning an leading a small business is a noble cause. The idea of a small business owner being a "hero" hits home even more, when you think of the impact made on a smaller scale. Business owners give individuals -- real people with names and faces -- an opportunity to provide for their families, and an environment where people can learn and grown and express their God-given creativity and talents.

Make It Great! Reviews Be Excellent™

Phil Gerbyshak, good friend over at Make It Great!, offers this review of the Be Excellent™ blog.
Phil - we're humbled....

Keep up the excellent work -- you're an inspiration to others to... Make It Great!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Time for A Career Change?

Many executives reach a point in their careers where they've accomplished all they set out to achieve.

With decades of experience building their companies, managing staff and allocating resources, they have learned countless lessons on:

  • How to run a thriving business
  • How to grow a business
  • How to help a business perform better over time

If this sounds like you, perhaps now's the time to share that knowledge, to spread it around like fertile soil so others can grow their own enterprises.

BOTTOMLINE: Consider the possibilities of becoming involved with Six Disciplines Leadership Centers. You can use your experience, and help top performing business leaders and entrepreneurs to benefit from your experience, expertise and passion for success. To find out more, take a look at the Careers section of the Six Disciplines Web site.

Perfection? Or Business Excellence

Skip, our good friend over at Random Thoughts from a CTO, has some interesting and intriguing perspectives on the challenge of seeking business perfection.

He starts out with:

"What does it mean to be perfect or to obtain perfection? Some may say that to be perfect is to not have any flaws. Others may say not to make any mistakes. Still others may say that there is no such thing in the world as perfection.

Can one truly reach perfection? It depends on the definition. In an organization, people expect perfection - customers, vendors, managers, and those good-ol-fashion perfectionists out there. It's demanded from us. But can we deliver on those demands?"

Read the entire entry here.

BOTTOMLINE: Skip's definition of business perfection? "Perfection to me is to provide the very best value that is possible given the abilities and constraints that are put upon the team."

Sounds like a good definition of business excellence, to me!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Role Of Optimism in Entrepreneurship

Worthwhile Magazine offers up this letter from an MBA student from Northwestern's Kellog School of Business.

The optimistic - very inspiring letter -- can be read here.

BOTTOMLINE: "The point is having a career focus on doing good in the world. The point is not not how to make millions of dollars -- but how to change the lives of millions of people."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Small Business Trends Radio Program

Steve, over at Small Business CEO, posts this listing on SMB Trend Wire of what the upcoming Small Business Trends Radio program, on the VoiceAmerica Network, will be featuring:

Coming soon - 13 straight weeks of new, highly relevant small business content. Here is a sneak preview of our upcoming conversations:

  • Torsten Jacobi will be speaking on the unprecedented changes in online media.
  • Frank Griffith will be speaking on the how savvy entrepreneurs are developing recurring revenue streams.
  • Gary Harpst of Six Disciplines will speak on how to not become a statistic of business failure.
  • Gayle Watson of NAWBO will tell us why we can’t afford to ignore 6 million business owners.
  • Jeff and Rich Sloan of Startup Nation will talk about the top trends in business startups.
  • Mike Siefert will discuss the top trends in web-based business applications.
  • Hector Barreto of the SBA will speak on todays trends in small business.
  • Charles Jolley will talk about web 2.0 and why you should care.
  • Barbara Payne will talk about cutting through the hype of business blogging.

Stay tuned for more coming soon!

Bill Gates - And MTV ?

Perhaps you've seen Bill Gates in a variety of venues - new product launches, financial analyst questioning, and yes, legal proceedings.

Want to see Billg in a new, refreshing environment? How about among sharp, super-smart high school and college students?

Check out this new series of videos from - yes, MTV Video. Very enlightening...

(Healthy broadband necessary to watch the videos..)

Six Disciplines On VoiceAmerica Network

Six Disciplines is coming soon - to the VoiceAmerica Network.

Beginning on November 1, Six Disciplines will be sponsoring the "Small Business Trends Radio" program, hosted by our good friend Anita Campbell, (from Small Business Trends) on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel of the VoiceAmericaNetwork.

The Small Business Trends Radio program will be aired live on the VoiceAmerica Business Network on Tuesdays at 1:00pm EST. Anita and her guests encourage and welcome callers during the live broadcast.

Every show rebroadcasts exactly twelve hours later.

On November 15, Anita's special guest for the show will be Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines Corporation, and author of the top-selling book "Six Disciplines for Excellence."

Looking forward to having you join us there!

Feld Thoughts on Entrepreneurship

Brad Feld, over at Feld Thoughts, was recently interviewed by The Milestone Group.

Here's an except from the entire interview, where Brad offers his experience and perspective on entrepreneurship:

Milestone: "What two to three key pieces of advice would you give an entrepreneur starting a company today?"

Feld: "Every entrepreneur that I have ever worked with, including myself when I was starting companies as an entrepreneur, was doing something you are incredibly passionate about. If you are really excited about the domain and the thing that you are working on, your probability or chance of success is dramatically higher than “well I am just starting a company because it seemed interesting or important.” Look for something you are really passionate about because it is going to consume you and it should consume you.

Secondly, surround yourself with awesome people. It sounds trite but that is the biggest, driver of success, especially early in the life of a company. If you are an experienced entrepreneur you have been through that cycle, you have a collection of people. If you are not experienced, if this is the first time you are doing it, go find people that are experienced. Check them out carefully because you are going to have to live with them for a while. Make sure that you get the best possible people on your team early on."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Baby-Boomer Transitions

IBM recently announced new consulting services to help organizations prepare for the potential loss of highly valued skills and knowledge as the baby boom generation reaches traditional retirement age.

These new consulting services are being launched at a time when workforces around the world are aging. For example

  • In the European Union, the number of older workers (50-64 years) will grow 25%, while younger workers (20-29 years) will decrease by 20% over the next two decades.
  • In the United States, by 2010, the number of workers between ages 45-54 will grow by 21%, the number of 55-64 year-olds will expand by 52%, and the number of 35-44 year olds will decline by 10%.

BOTTOMLINE: As these workers become eligible for retirement, organizations risk losing major skill sets and their competitive advantage in the global economy. IBM's services will enable companies to better manage workforce skill sets, enhance mature-workers' productivity and job opportunities and fill the gap retirees will leave by developing new business processes based on open standards, changing the nature of work for many groups as a result.

Leadership Development for High Potential Team Members

This one from Chief Learning Officer:

High-potential employees (HIPOs) are characterized by a fast rate of movement through various roles in a company and a carefully monitored career path. As the future leaders of their organizations, HIPOs embody passion, receive special coaching and mentoring, move quickly into new positions, and are expected to deliver superior performance.

A recent Corporate Leadership Council survey found that approximately 75 percent of companies worldwide are not confident in their ability to effectively staff leadership positions over the next five years. Moreover, only 34 percent of companies are effective at identifying capable leaders early in their career.

Companies that identify and develop HIPOs are showing dramatic shareholder returns. According to a recent Hewitt Associates study surveying large U.S. companies, just over half consistently use a formal approach to identifying HIPOs, and those that do, perform in the 75th percentile or higher for total shareholder return (TSR). The heightened results and shareholder returns increase even further when these organizations go on to formally develop and track the performance of their HIPOs.

Who ever said being called a HIPO was a bad thing??

Executive's Top Business Issues

Accenture conducts an annual survey of several hundred top executives around the world to identify their top business issues.

Shown in the chart are the Top 10 Issues of 2005

(Source: Accenture Executive Issues 2005 research report)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What Does Be Excellent™ Cost You?

This just in from AdAge:

U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

About 35 million workers -- one in four people in the labor force -- visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them,

Forget lunch breaks -- blog readers essentially take a daily 40-minute blog break.

BOTTOMLINE: Technorati, a blog search engine, now tracks 19.6 million blogs, a number that has doubled about every five months for the past three years. If that growth were to continue, all 6.7 billion people on the planet will have a blog by April 2009. Imagine the work that won’t get done then!

Reasons To Be Glad You're An Entrepreneur

Inc. Magazine just published their collaborative list of "75 Reasons to Be Glad You're an American Entrepreneur Right Now".

Some of my favorites:

Number 64: Make it simple, and I'll pay you for it. Simple requires a breakthrough. Simple is entrepreneurial work.
Number 32: Because this time, experience counts.
Number 27: The broadbanded, Wi-Fied, video-enabled, international-boundary-eradicating, cost-reducing, market-expanding, ever-stereophonic, and cyber-educating Internet.
Number 15: Because you can build a team, your team, at a time when creating communities that nurture and sustain us may be more important than ever before.
Number 11: Because we're not rookies anymore. In 25 years of entrepreneurial expansion there have been experiments tried, experiences learned from, discoveries made, and notes taken.
Number 2: Because the stupidity is over. So the real miracle--building a real business--gets respect.

And now, the best:

Number 75: Because, in the end, being an entrepreneur is more than ever the way you can choose your path and find the deep satisfaction of walking it. You can earn your days without being beholden. You can make something, affect the world, leave something behind where once nothing stood. You can turn work into meaning for yourself and for others. You can be proud. You can leave a wake. Come good or ill, you can assume responsibility for yourself, and be whole, and be who you were meant to be.

The Newfound Focus on Employee Productivity

A recent survey published by Inc. Magazine finds that employers prefer to grow with their existing staff, but question their ability to meet company goals.

A study released by Softscape, a workforce management consultancy, found that only 35% of 650 companies surveyed plan to add staff to help meet their company's existing goals. The majority expects existing employees to drive growth and development.

Aaron Dun, an author of the study, said that companies have spent the last five years trying to squeeze costs out of operations, suppliers and assets like information technology. Now they are focusing on employee productivity to complete restructuring of the business as a whole.

But over 60% of the managers surveyed worry that their current employees lack the skill sets and competencies to help the company grow. "The survey revealed that many managers found a mismatch between the skills their employees have and the skills needed to take the company where they want to go," said Dun.

BOTTOMLINE: For small businesses, the survey indicated that mentoring and individual training are the most effective methods for matching employee skill sets with company goals.

High Expectation Entrepreneurship

This just in from Babson College: The first global study of high expectation entrepreneurship has found that just 9.8% of the world’s entrepreneurs expect to create almost 75% of the jobs generated by new business ventures.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (“GEM”) international research consortium (co-directed by Babson College and London Business School) has examined high expectation entrepreneurship in a new GEM special topic report.

The report defines high expectation entrepreneurship as all start-ups and newly formed businesses which expect to employ at least 20 employees within five years. These ventures have far reaching consequences for the economies in which they operate, particularly because of their impact on job creation and innovation.

The report’s key findings:

  • Among country groups studied, more high expectation entrepreneurial activity occurs in North America (USA and Canada) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) than in any other country group
  • High expectation entrepreneurial activity is highest in the USA -- roughly twice the rate in the UK and Germany
  • Worldwide, 9.8% of entrepreneurs expect to create 74.1% of all jobs born out of new business ventures

Copies of the summary report and full report can be accessed via the GEM website:

(Thanks to Michael Chmura at Babson College for this tip!)

Creating Momemtum for Lasting Excellence

George, over at Leading Forward, offered up this one on "Life is about Creating Momentum!."

An excellent piece that has many implications for organizations wanting to move ahead, continually improving, and working toward achieving lasting excellence.

Some key takeaways:

  • Momentum is built through time and effort.
  • This is how it works in the real world, it is going to require hard work, you will need to persevere before seeing any results, you will feel like giving up. But remember, you're creating momentum, it will become easier and something is changing!
  • What are you chipping away at on a daily basis (momentum is created incrementally), seeking to develop momentum?
BOTTOMLINE: George's final comment: "Are you committed to invest in building momentum in these areas daily?" To make changes in life or in an organization, you have to be committed to making incremental changes - and do them every day. It is like learning a new habit - a good habit - and that takes time.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Business Scorecards and Business Intelligence

Microsoft is getting ready to launch on November 1 a new product called Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005.

The new product "enables users to optimize business performance through strategic decision-making."

The notion of "business intelligence," or easy access to critical company data, is one of the key areas for improvement that Microsoft has identified for the next version of Office. Executives at Microsoft say all of the improvements are designed to broaden the number of workers who have access to the needed numbers to understand their business.

"Until now, Business Intelligence software has been too complex, costly, and disconnected from the software tools people use every day to do their jobs," Jeff Raikes, Microsoft Business Division president, said in a statement.

The Business Scorecard Manager will cost $5,000 for the server software plus a $175 fee for each user that connects to the server.

BOTTOMLINE: Enabling users to optimize business performance through strategic decision-making is a very worth goal. But what about small businesses? The Six Disciplines Business System is optimized for small business execution - integrating your mission, vision, values, strategic position, organizational goals - and aligning them with team member individual plans. (...and if you're interested in "what's under the hood", we developed Six Disciplines using Microsoft technologies -- including the Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft SQL Server and OLAP Services.)

Tips for Strategic Decision-Making

Rob, over at Business Pundit had the opportunity last week to be blogging about entrepreneurship with a number of successful executives. He ran into one such person in the airport, who offered to send him a list of questions he had built-up over the years to help with strategic decision-making.

Some examples include:

  • What are the success metrics?
  • What's our rollout strategy if we hit them?
  • What's our exit strategy if we don't?
  • Can we take advantage of this initiative across other business units?
  • Does the story "hang together?" That is, do the key metrics all move in the same direction?
  • Do initiatives proposed all seem to be prioritizedappropriately and match up well to strategy/identified needs?
Read the entire list of questions here.

BOTTOMLINE: When making strategic decisions, ask yourself these kind of tough questions. Make sure it "feels right" before moving forward. It's better to find out for early (and privately) that something is wrong with your strategy instead of waiting until you have poured significant resources into it -- and your competition can watch you fail.

(Thanks to Rob at Business Pundit for the tip!)

Retirement Is An Attitude For Small Business Owners

A recent research study conducted by NFIB reveals the following about small business owner/entrepreneurs:

  • 68% of small-business owners have given at least “quite a bit” of thought to retirement, financial planning for retirement, and their relationship to the business at retirement
  • 46% of small employers intend to never fully retire
  • 60% percent of those intending full retirement at some point expect to phase-out, rather than to retire abruptly
  • 50% of small business owners plan to dispose of their current businesses through sale or closure at or prior to retirement
  • 29% percent expect to pass their businesses on at retirement
  • 22% expect neither to sell nor to relinquish their operation
BOTTOMLINE: Business succession plans are important for those who are looking to retire and pass their business on. For other small business owners, retirement continues to be an attitude, not a stage of life.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Email Turns 34

To someof us, email is a relatively recent phenomenon. But the first e-mail was sent more than 30 years ago, after a programmer came up with the "@" symbol format for e-mail addresses.

It's difficult to pin down the exact origin of email, but in October 1971, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email.

So, the next time someone sends you an email - "that's so 1971"...

Forbes Magazine - 200 Best Small Companies

Forbes Magazine recently published their 200 Best Small Companies list.

As is typical for Forbes, their definition of "small" is more like "Wall Street small" - from $21 million up to $745 million in annual revenue.

According to Forbes, "If you're looking for a list of the hottest sensations of the moment--you've come to the wrong place. Our list of the 200 Best Small Companies doesn't do flashes in the pan. It does, however, feature solid and consistent hitters that have performed well when measured over the last 12 months and the past five years, and are poised for another growth spurt."

BOTTOMLINE: Want to be considered a "best" company - the keys: being a solid, consisten hitter that has performed well over several years. That is also part of the definition we use at Six Disciplines for a "top-performing" organization. It's all part of achieving lasting excellence.

Business Performance Management (BPM)

Business performance management (BPM) is a set of processes that help organizations optimize business performance.

BPM is seen as the next generation of business intelligence (BI). BPM is focused on business processes such as planning and forecasting. It helps businesses discover efficient use of their business units, financial, human, and material resources.

BPM involves consolidation of data from various sources, querying, and analysis of the data, and putting the results into practice. BPM enhances processes by creating better feedback loops. Continuous and real-time reviews help to identify and eliminate problems before they grow.

BPM provides key performance indicators (KPI) that help companies monitor efficiency of projects and employees against operational targets.

BPM integrates the company's processes with CRM or ERP. Companies become able to gauge customer satisfaction, control customer trends and influence shareholder value.

BOTTOMLINE: Interesting to note throughout this definition that, while not explicit, BPM does not seem to address the most critcal element of performance management - execution.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Honesty and And Your Boss

OK....a bit of levity for a Friday..

Everyone know that honesty is a hallmark of a good manager, a good boss.

Here we have an interview with a very, honest boss.....well, enjoy...!

Leadership and the 3 P's

Leadership must combine Passion with Patience and Professionalism.

Leading a company must be more than a hobby, and certainly more than fun. Leaders must demonstrate realism, maturity, knowledge, and a little wisdom.

"A distinguishing mark of a ripe human being is his sobriety," the sixth-century monk St. Benedict pointed out. He went on: 'Sober is the one who sees things as they really are, not as he would like them to be.' We can only hope that sobriety is now molding the thinking of future managers.'

BOTTOMLINE: In these times of consolidation, inflation, and scarce funds, nobody should underestimate the importance of combining passion with patience and professionalism."

Adventures in Entrepreneurship

Anita, over at Small Business Trends, has been blogging about the American Express-sponsored event in Florida on Entrepreneurship.

Anita and Rob May (Business Pundit) had the opportunity to interview entrepreneur and billionaire Sir Richard Branson, (famed CEO of Virgin Atlantic):

Here's a few of his comments/recommendations to entrepreneurs:

  • On Branson's style of management: "I make sure that I spend most of my time out and about and experiencing my businesses...."
  • On competition and striving to be the best: "Anyway, there were 12 other airlines and they were all much, much bigger than Virgin Atlantic and we were not out to topple them, we were out to survive. They toppled themselves and every single one of them disappeared. And I think the -- the thing to learn from that is the best -- you know, the best never -- never -- never disappear."
  • Branson's views about the Internet: "I think if companies are not embracing it they're making a big mistake."
  • On the advantages of choosing entrepreneurship very very young: "One of the advantages of leaving school at 15 or 16 is you don't have a steady relationship. You don't have a mortgage to pay. You've got nothing to lose."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Seven Purpose Questions

An important element of personal excellence is understanding your purpose.

John Stanko offers these seven questions to help you identify your purpose:

  1. What do you do that brings you the greatest joy?
  2. What are your gifts and talents?
  3. What gives you joy and excites your will?
  4. What would you do with your life if you had all the money you needed?
  5. What do you do that causes you to forget what time it is and to not notice that you're hungry?
  6. What compliments have you heard regularly that surprise you?
  7. What is your life-defining passage of Scripture or wisdom literature?

BOTTOMLINE: "Quality questions lead to a quality life." Take these quality purpose questions and use them to develop and clarify a quality sense of purpose. Then go out, armed with your purpose, to make an impact on your world.

Annual Planning Process - Training Seminar

Six Disciplines Leadership Center of Northwest Ohio will be conducting a half-day training seminar for CEOs, presidents, and leaders of organizations who are about to go through their annual business planning process.

Annual planning meetings should provide an opportunity for you to step back, see where your organization is headed, and adjust that direction if necessary. They should be conducted to keep the emphasis on considering major alternatives and new initiatives and re-examining the ways your organization is currently doing its business.

Unfortunately, many organizations waste this precious opportunity because they don’t have a repeatable framework for the participants to follow each year.

This training session will show you how to apply a practical framework for your annual planning process that focuses on the most important strategic items.

The "How To Conduct an Effective Annual Planning Meeting" training seminar will be held November 15, 2005 8:00AM–12:00 PM at Lourdes College - Franciscan Center - Boardroom.

Cost is $75.00/person (50% discount for 3 or more persons per organization) No charge for undergraduate and graduate students.

TO REGISTER: Call Rebecca Byerly at 419.350.2044 or email Rebecca.

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers to Exhibit at ICF

Attention all business coaches!

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers will be exhibiting at the 10th Annual International Coach Federation (ICF) Conference in San Jose, CA, November 10-12.

At the Conference, we'll be talking to participants about the business opportunity of a Six Disciplines Leadership Center, which are now launching throughout the U.S.

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers are a new class of small business coaching franchise operations that transforms coaching to the next level. Six Disciplines integrates a systematic business-building methodology, practical Internet technologies, and local business coaching and strategic advisory services, to help the best performing organizations to achieve lasting business excellence.

Come by Booth 174 - we're looking foward to meeting with you!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

VC Fundraising Still Strong

Venture capital fundraising for the first three quarters of 2005 is already ahead of total fundraising for all of 2004 according to a new study released by the National Venture Capital Association.

In just the first three quarters of 2005 there has been well over $17 billion raised for venture capital and $54 billion for buyout and mezzanine financing.

Accodring to Dr. Jeff Cornwall at The Entrepreneurial Mind, "the money flow has slowed down a bit since Sarbanes-Oxley has all but shut down the IPO market for small to mid-sized firms. However, the funds have had an overhang of cash for almost a year, so their coffers are getting really full of cash."

"What this means to entrepreneurs looking for funding is that the already cash rich venture capitalists have even more money to invest. That makes money more plentiful and terms a little more favorable for ventures looking for equity financing."

BOTTOMLINE: Its is more likely that a VC looks to fund a top-performing organization -- one that has a strong leadership team, attracts and retains quality people, is disciplined in their approach to planning and execution, uses technology strategically, and effectively engages trusted outside advisors.

The Be Excellent™ Blog - Explained

Dave Gray, the CEO at XPlane, focuses a lot on clarity, writing and graphic explanations of business processes.

Here he talks about writing things down, which helps most people to solidify their approach, to articulate their rationale, and to ensure clarity.

He also offers this:

"This is also one of the reasons having a blog can make you a better manager. By writing down your management philosophies and recording your best management conversations you can make your blog a database of best practices and ideas."

Perhaps THAT'S what the Be Excellent™ blog is all about?

(Thanks Dave for the explanation!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The 10 Faces of Innovation

"Innovation is all about the roles people can play, the hats they can put on."

At Ideo, they've developed 10 people-centric tools, talents, or personas for innovation.

The 10 personas are explained here.

Perhaps most importantly, the first three roles in The Ten Faces of Innovation are about learning. Because one crucial ingredient in a culture of innovation is being able to LEARN faster that the competition.

To which, Fast Company Magazine offers the following:

How to accelerate the learning in your organization?

  1. Tap into the power of The Anthropologist, and gather first-hand insights from the field about how people REALLY use your company's offerings. Watch for places where customers stumble, where they hesitate in confusion, ESPECIALLY where they swear in frustration over the status quo. Use that "ground truth" from the field to inform the next iteration of your products and services.
  2. Rely on The Experimenter to increase your organization's rate of enlightened trial and error. If you learn from each experiment, and run those experiments quicker and cheaper than others in your industry, you can accumulate more insights and convert them into value at a faster pace.
  3. Encourage The Cross-Pollinators on your team, who look far afield--to different divisions,different industries, even different countries--for ideas, and then translate that new-found knowledge for application to your unique circumstances.

BOTTOMLINE: Flexibility is the new strength. Find a way to learn faster.

What Makes or Breaks a New Company?

In their new Harvard Business Review book, "Startups that Work: Surprising Research on What Makes or Breaks a New Company," authors Joel Kurtzman with Glenn Rifkin look at the factors that are most responsible for a start-up’s success. Their book looks at sophisticated research conducted with PricewaterhouseCoopers into 350 companies primarily in telecommunications, semiconductors, software, services, and biotechnology. Dell, Amazon, Staples, and Home Depot are just a few of the companies profiled.

Value, unsurprisingly, turned out to be one of the main drivers of success.

BOTTOMLINE: The companies that have done well in the marketplace have created value through their products and services -- and by expanding the value creation theme with their team members and business partners.

What Is Six Disciplines?

Based on the popularity of the previous post, here's two more video clips from author, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines Corporation -- Gary Harpst:

You Need to LISTEN!

"You need to LISTEN!"

(How many times did you hear that when you were a kid?)

Ron, over at the Leadership Advantage, offers these insights from the International Listening Association:

  • We spend 45% of our waking time in listening, yet we forget 50% of what we hear
  • 85% of our learning is derived from listening
  • Listeners are distracted, forgetful and preoccupied 75% of the time
  • Most people only remember about 20% of what they hear over time
  • People listen at about 125 to 250 words per minute, but think at about 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute

With listening being such an important skill, why is so much of our learning based on reading?

What can we learn from listening? Can we even learn more from hearing - and seeing?

Here is Gary Harpst, author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, describing what kinds of organizations are "ready & able" to use Six Disciplines.

Profit Drivers

One of the toughest challenges smaller companies face is learning how to manage their financial performance. Entrepreneurs often think that great financial results just "happen," but that is seldom the case.

Following is a list of the key profit drivers (from the Accounting Blog) for most companies and an explanation of why one driver in particular (price) is far more important than all the others.

For most businesses, there are four major profit drivers:
  1. Price
  2. Variable Costs (i.e. those costs that vary in direct proportion to revenue, typically represented by cost of sales)
  3. Fixed Costs (or overhead)
  4. Sales Volume
In other words, these are the underlying issues that directly determine your company's financial performance. If you want to increase profitability, then you have to work on these areas.

BOTTOMLINE: Far and away the most effective strategy for maximizing your company's profit is to aggressively price your products or services, elect to deal only with those customers who see the value that you deliver to them, and not allow price-sensitive customers or competitors dictate your company's pricing strategy across the board. Revenue does not pay the bills or give you the resources you need to grow- that comes from profit.

Productivity. Recruitment. Retention

The folks over at Management-Issues offer up this report from Deloitte Consulting, which reveals what HR professionals see as the greatest threat to their competitiveness:

70% - attracting new talent
66% - inability to retain key talent
34% - incoming workers having inadequate skills

Deloitte's new research points to an inescapable conclusion: the widening skills gap is a global phenomenon, particularly among the categories of key workers who disproportionately drive an organization's performance," said Deloitte partner Cormac Hughes.

"This trend will leave behind companies that do not begin to rethink their approach to talent management," he added.

BOTTOMLINE: "Rather than fight a futile 'war for talent', business leaders should 'build talent' by looking within their organisations for the critical skills, knowledge and attributes required to execute their company's most important roles, while continuing to seek to attract the best people."

Monday, October 17, 2005

Execution is Key

Over at Reflections of a BizDrivenLife is an entry about one of our favorite topics: execution.

Here's the main points:

He just came back from a meeting with one of their principals. They recently named a new director in charge of a specific business segment. The reviews for the last quarter were not only great, but nothing short of spectacular. This new director was able to almost double their business last quarter compared to same period last year. That, in an industry that at best estimates, grew by less than 20 percent.

BOTTOMLINE: Was there new strategy? No, there was not. The company basically used the same strategy that they have been using the same few years, but with simply more focus on execution. When you see great companies and not-so-great companies, more and more , you see the difference is in the execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If you have new initiatives being undertaken, and you are not getting the results you need, maybe it is not that the idea was no good. But maybe it was really a great idea, but just not executed well.

Great Companies Aren’t Born - They’re Grown

Here's a great one from the folks over at Signal vs. Noise (37 Signals)

Apple started in a garage. Dell started in a dorm room. Starbucks started with a single store. Nike started out of a car trunk. Crate & Barrel started with a single store without budget for displays so they used shipping crates and barrels to display their products. Anthony Maglica started making Mag Lights in his garage. Google started as a thesis. eBay and Amazon share similar stories.

BOTTOMLINE: Great companies need to grow into great companies. They need room to make mistakes. They need room to go unnoticed for a while. They’re just like people. Be ambitious, but grow into it.

Organizational DNA and Unlocking Great Performance

The big management book for the fall appears to be Results: Keep What's Good, Fix What's Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance.

Gary Neilson from Booz Allen makes the case that companies have personalities or "Organizational DNA". He says it is important to understand the business' DNA before you can optimize performance.

An organization's DNA is made up of four building blocks—decision rights, information, motivators, and structure—and this largely determine how a firm looks and behaves, both
internally and externally.

Based on these four building blocks, Neilson profiles organizations into one of seven broad types—four unhealthy, and three healthy:

Passive-Aggressive. “Everyone agrees, but nothing changes.”

Fits-and-Starts. “Let 1,000 flowers bloom."

Outgrown. “The good old days meet a brave new world.”

Overmanaged. “We’re from corporate, and we’re here to help.”

Just-in-Time. “Succeeding by the skin of our teeth”

Military Precision. “Flying in formation”

Resilient. “As good as it gets” This is the organization that inspires both awe and envy . . . because everything seems to come so easily to it: profits, talent, respect. Like the popular kid in high school who got all As and lettered in track, the Resilient organization seems destined for greatness; it fires on all cylinders. Resilient organizations are flexible, forward looking, and fun, and they attract team players. While it may hit a bump in the road—as all companies do—the Resilient organization bounces back immediately, having learned from the experience. The Resilient organization is the healthiest of all the profiles, precisely because it doesn’t believe its own press; rather, it is always scanning the horizon for the next competitive battle or market innovation.

You can download the TOC and first chapter here.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Identifying the Real Root Cause

What is the best way to identify the root cause (major cause) of variation in the process creating a defined problem?

Some use Pareto Diagram, others using a questioning method (ask "why" 5-7 times), others use brainstorming, voting, etc.

Mike over at Got Boondoggle offers this recommendation:

Because all these methods are widely used to help identify or organize potential root causes or "the most likely cause." However, none of them actually can identify the real root cause.

The only way and best way is by testing and verifying. Without data to prove that it is a root cause, you only have a list of possible root causes. The root cause will be verified when you can pull it in and out of the process resulting in the problem appearing and disappearing. Think of it as a light switch that can turn the light on and off on command.

Dell's 2005 Small Business Excellence Award

With all the advances in technology, sending e-mail isn't exactly brain surgery … or is it?

If you're Dr. Timothy Kriss, a rural Kentucky neurosurgeon and winner of the 2005 Dell/National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Excellence Award, the two are often part of a day's work.

Furthermore, Dr. Kriss is providing old-fashioned customer service by relying on what he knew least about -- information technology.

"Never before have so many entrepreneurs combined their creative energy with a smart use of IT to achieve their dreams," said Michael Dell. "Dr. Kriss exemplifies the drive, innovation and customer focus that helped Dell grow from its small-business roots over 20 years ago."

BOTTOMLINE: As the 2005 winner, Dr. Kriss will receive $30,000 in Dell technology and services, a lifetime NFIB membership and will spend a day at Dell's headquarters to learn best practices from Michael Dell and other senior Dell executives.

High Percentage of Executives Considering Career Change

Korn-Ferry International, a premier provider of executive search, outsourced recruiting and leadership development solutions, recently conducted a survey that found that more than half (51%) the 1700 executives questioned would change careers if they could.

More findings from the executive survey:

  • 21% would be highly likely to make a different choice.
  • 30% would be likely to make a different choice
  • 62% anticiplate making a major career change before retirement as being "highly likely"
  • Another 36% consider making a major career change before retirement as being "likely"
  • 62 percent would "definitely" recommend their profession to somebody embarking on his or her career

BOTTOMLINE: Leading organizations can best address this shift and retain key talent by better understanding the career motives of their executives and creating professional development plans for emerging executives that support these motives.

Disney - and How Learning Impacts Excellence

More advice is packed into this paragraph that in most:

“We do what we are.

We are what we think.

What we think is determined by what we learn.

What we learn is determined by what we experience and what we experience is determined by what we expose ourselves to and what we do with that experience.”

Mike Vance, founder and Dean of Disney University

Saturday, October 15, 2005

College Football - And Persistance

Two amazing examples of persistance - from NCAA Football.

1. Michigan vs. Penn State - with .01 seconds left, Michigan, who drove down field, scores the winning touchdown, and defeats unbeaten Penn State, 27-25.

2. USC vs. Notre Dame, with .03 seconds left, USC, who drove down field, scores the winning touchdown, and USC remains unbeaten by winning 34-31.

BOTTOMLINE: Persistance - never give up, never saying I'm done, I quit. It doesn't get any better than this...!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Discipline Quotes of The Day - 10/14/05

"Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways."
(H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

"You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself."
(Jim Whittaker)

"Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers. If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny."
(Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus. VISA International)

"Nothing is more harmful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army superiority over another."
(George Washington)

"I think the guys who are really controlling their emotions ... are going to win."
(Tiger Woods)

"There are no short cuts to any place worth going."
(Beverly Sills)

"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power."
(Lao Tzu)

"Leaders aren't born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."
(Vince Lombardi)

"The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might and force of habit. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him—and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires."
(J. Paul Getty)

"A successful career will no longer be about promotion. It will be about mastery."
(Michael Hammer)

Ernest Hemingway - And Excellence

Few can argue with excellence, when it comes from the written word.

Even fewer can argue with excellence, when it comes from a great writer.

This, from Ernest Hemingway:

"It's enough for you to do it once -- for a few men to remember you.
But if you do it year after year, then many people remember you and they tell it to their children, and their children and grandchildren remember and, if it concerns books, they can read them.
And if it's good enough, it will last as long as there are human beings."

And this, from Glenn Gleason, with Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence:

"You have created what I think will be a book and method that will be used for generations."

And this, from Sam Decker, with Decker Marketing

"For pragmatists and those who love execution, I give this book a strong recommend. Buy Six Disciplines of Excellence."

Gates - On Microsoft and Continual Innovation

On a recent visit to the University of Michigan, Bill Gates spoke to about 1,000 high school and college students at Rackham Auditorium.

Regardless of what you think about Microsoft, you have to appreciate these takeaways:

  • Every morning when Bill Gates gets up, he thinks of pioneering high-tech companies like Digital Equipment Co., Wang and Control Data Corp. that in the early and mid-'70s were seemingly as invincible in their day as Microsoft is today. The lesson on what happened to those once top companies -- all now defunct -- has not been lost on Gates.
  • The strength in Microsoft, Gates said, is variety and constant innovation. "If you look at Microsoft, about half the things we do all by ourselves ... and we have no competitors," he said. "The other half of the things we do we succeed in by being super-good competitors. It's great to have that mix."
  • "You wake up each day and say, 'Wow, Google's doing a good job on this and Sony's doing a good job on that,' " he says. "You want to be forward-looking and always basically fearful. You better prove yourself every time."

BOTTOMLINE: Don't think Gates has lost his momentum. As Microsoft's new products roll out and people see the impact, there will be a "self-correcting reality," he predicted. In other words, the company isn't over the hill quite yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Majority of Workers Are Seeking New Jobs

According to a recent survey by the University of Phoenix, which polled 2,500 workers in diverse industries, we have the following observations:

  • Two-thirds of workers are on the lookout for a new job
  • Almost half have been working for the same employer for five or more years
  • 29 percent have stayed with their company for 10 years or more

BOTTOMLINE: With 2/3 of workers looking for a new job, are there really enough "new" opportunities out there - or is this a situation of "the grass looks greener..."? Perhaps these folks ought to get together for a day -- or even better, a week -- and job-swap. THEN let's re-survey these same folks and see what they think.

Better idea? Look for ways to make you own job, your own career, your own company - even better. Every single day.

Entrepreneur-Friendly States

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) just released its tenth annual rankings of the states according to their respective public policy climates for small business and entrepreneurship in the ‘Small Business Survival Index 2005.’

According to it's author, "The ‘Small Business Survival Index’ aims to gauge, state by state, whether public policies help or hurt the entrepreneurial sector of our economy, which of course is so important for economic growth, innovation and job creation."

In terms of their policy environments, the Top 10 most entrepreneur-friendly states under the ‘Small Business Survival Index 2005’ are:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Nevada
  3. Wyoming
  4. Washington
  5. Michigan
  6. Florida
  7. Mississippi
  8. Alabama
  9. Indiana
  10. Colorado
For a copy of the ‘Small Business Survival Index 2005,’ visit SBE Council’s website at SBE Council is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit small business advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management

William Swanson, Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Corporation, spent his entire career at Raytheon, and was later asked if he could put his rules down on paper. So he did: in 3-inch-by-5-inch spiral-bound notebooks handed out to executives and customers.

For those of you who haven't seen them, here they are for your review:
  1. Learn to say, "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be often.
  2. It is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.
  3. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
  4. Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what isn't there.
  5. Viewgraph rule: When something appears on a viewgraph (an overhead transparency), assume the world knows about it, and deal with it accordingly.
  6. Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.
  7. Constantly review developments to make sure that the actual benefits are what they are supposed to be. Avoid Newton's Law.
  8. However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.
  9. Persistence or tenacity is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference. Don't be known as a good starter but a poor finisher.
  10. In completing a project, don't wait for others; go after them, and make sure it gets done.
  11. Confirm your instructions and the commitments of others in writing. Don't assume it will get done!
  12. Don't be timid; speak up. Express yourself, and promote your ideas.
  13. Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up with the assignment to get it done.
  14. Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
  15. Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.
  16. Don't overlook the fact that you are working for a boss.* Keep him or her informed. Avoid surprises!* Whatever the boss wants takes top priority.
  17. Promises, schedules, and estimates are important instruments in a well-ordered business.* You must make promises. Don't lean on the often-used phrase, "I can't estimate it because it depends upon many uncertain factors."
  18. Never direct a complaint to the top. A serious offense is to "cc" a person's boss.
  19. When dealing with outsiders, remember that you represent the company. Be careful of your commitments.
  20. Cultivate the habit of "boiling matters down" to the simplest terms. An elevator speech is the best way.
  21. Don't get excited in engineering emergencies. Keep your feet on the ground.
  22. Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
  23. When making decisions, the pros are much easier to deal with than the cons. Your boss wants to see the cons also.
  24. Don't ever lose your sense of humor.
  25. Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work. No one likes a grump except another grump.
(Thanks to Leadership Minute for publishing Swanson's "unwritten" rules)

Innovation: A Key To Sustainable Growth

Every company needs to grow, and innovation is one of the keys to sustainable and profitable growth.

What decisions can we take to increase the probability of successfully building innovation-driven growth businesses?

Many are convinced that it is impossible to predict with confidence whether an innovation will succeed, so they feel they need to place a number of bets -- with the hope that some will be winners.

Professor Clayton M. Christensen of the Harvard Business School has another way: He suggests using theory.

Wait....before you nod off thinking this is one of those ivory tower academic discussions, let me offer this definition of "Theory": A theory is a statement of what causes what and why. Whether team leaders know it or not, they are voracious consumers = and executers - of theory. Every action a team leader takes, every plan a team leader makes, is based on some belief of cause and effect.

Listen to Professor Christensen's podcast here where he explains how to use theory in addressing the innovation challenge.

Seven Traits Of Success

Gary, over at High Performance Business, offers these seven unifying concepts that seem to run through each successful High Performance Business (HPB).

  1. Become Customer Oriented
  2. Plan
  3. Embrace Technology
  4. Monitor Your Costs
  5. Improve Productivity
  6. Hire The Best People
  7. Solve Problems

Interestingly enough, many of these traits seem to be aligned with our own research at Six Disciplines that describe how high-performing businesses differ from low-performing businesses.

Our research indicates that the top 5 areas where the contrasts / differences were greatest include:

  1. Strength of the senior leadership team
  2. Attracts and retains quality people (aligns with #6)
  3. Disciplined approach to business (aligns with #2 and #7)
  4. Strategic use of technology (aligns with #3)
  5. Effective use of trusted relationships

These are all outlined in the chapter "How The Best Differ From The Rest" in Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Little Company That Could: A Case Study in Excellence

Melvin Wilson, 46, a marketing manager for Mississippi Power, was reviewing next year's advertising campaign when Hurricane Katrina turned toward Mississippi.

A day later, the marketing man was "director of storm logistics," responsible for feeding and housing 11,000 repairmen from 24 states and Canada.

When Katrina hit, Mississippi Power management responded with a style designed for speed and flexibility, for getting things done amid confusion and chaos.

The key elements to success:

  • A can-do corporate culture
  • Clear lines of responsibility
  • Decentralized decision-making

Read the story of true inspiration here - an example of innovative excellence.

Seven Early Warning Signs Of A Company In Trouble

Management consultant Douglas J. Enns started assembling a list of such signals after he noticed that companies that get into difficulties share common moments of blindness.

Here, in Enns’s words, are seven of those early warning signals:

  1. New competitors are discounted
  2. In-house empires arise
  3. The sales cycle lengthens
  4. Key people start to behave differently
  5. Expansion abroad is used to compensate for slow domestic business
  6. There’s profitability without free cash flow
  7. The company buys a competitor to restore earnings

Read all the details here - and see what happened when companies missed acting on these seven early warning signs of trouble.

Surveys of Corporate Board Members

Speaking of corporate boards of directors, the number of boards and their members that regularly undergo formal evaluations has climbed significantly since 2002, according to a survey by Corporate Board Member and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

This year 84% of the respondents say their boards conduct such a process, up from 33% three years ago.

In 2005, 67% of those being evaluated rate the full-board evaluation process either “very effective” or “effective.”

The big exception: strategic planning. For the second year in a row, a majority of the respondents—59%, compared with 58% in 2004—put strategic planning at the top of their list of things they say need additional discussion time. And a greater percentage than last year want to spend additional time discussing their company’s competitive position (42% versus 36%)

100 Ways To Be A Better Entrepreneur offers these 100 Ways to be a Better Entrepreneur.

Among them are some of my favorites:

4. Franchising and Licensing
10. Why You Should Never Stop Learning
19. Leave No (Paper) Trail (move from paper to digital)
22. Take Time for Marketing
27. Preparing for Tomorrow, Today
46. Keep in Touch
52. Why Recognition Is a Must
61. Get Others Organized
65. Get in Control!
69. Learn From Your Mistakes
87. Create a City Where People Want to Live
88. Share the Riches of Your Business
95. Keep 'Em Coming Back for More

and of course, 100. Plan for Success

View the entire "100 Ways to be a Better Entrepreneur" here.

SWOT and Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve

Only 4 our of 10 companies regularly brief their Board of Directors on emerging technology strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, according to a global survey of 127 senior executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and sponsored by Dimension Data and Oracle.

The survey, published in an Economist Intelligence Unit report called "Staying ahead of the technology curve," sheds light on how effective companies are identifying and exploiting emerging technologies.

While the majority of companies (73%) say they have people monitoring the emergence of new technologies, only 52% of companies regularly keep track of competitors' technology initiatives, and surprisingly, only 44% measure the value of technology once it is implemented.

Angel Investors - Funding More Deals

According to Red Herring magazine, Angel investors are funding more early-stage startups this year than at any point since the Internet boom....Innovators who meet with angels are twice as likely to get funding this year than two years ago, a study shows.

In 2005, angel investors backed 21.8 percent of the companies they investigated, up from 10.3 percent in 2003, according to a study by the Center for Venture Research.

BOTTOMLINE: Angel investors are back into it - but they're not into trend investing (no repeats of the dot com era here.) They're smarter, more careful - investing in high growth, "long-tail" ventures. If you're a start-up, one way to ensure long-term viability is to adopt (from the start) a business-building methodology, practical Internet technologies and seek the advice of experienced professionals who can help coach you to keep you on track...hmm, sounds like you need a Six Disciplines Leadership Center perhaps?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Right Words Can Make All The Difference

Words are powerful - and the powerful words can help move you in the right direction.

When it comes to filling out job applications or applying to colleges or universities, there are two rules that are generally observed:

  1. Highlight your strengths
  2. Brush over those weaknesses

The top 10 words found to "stand out the most on application forms" include:

  1. Achievement
  2. Active
  3. Developed
  4. Evidence
  5. Experience
  6. Impact
  7. Individual
  8. Involved
  9. Planning
  10. Transferable skills

Want some key words to include on your resume? Check it out here.

Do You Have The Right Entrepreneurial Stuff?

In BusinessWeek's simplistic eight-question entrepreneurial quiz, you're quickly assessed as to whether you have the "right stuff" of not.

Here's another one from the EnCompass Group.

While they're both interesting exercises using Macromedia Flash, you're much better off going into much more depth, such as:

I'm sure they're lots of them out there....if you know of one that is very in-depth, and provides good direction, let me know!

Excellence of Purpose

Fortune Magazine published their "The 25 People We Envy Most" list.

Most intriguing was their inclusion of Rick Warren, pastor and best-selling author of "A Purpose-Driven Life".

Their take on Warren:

"Look, if anyone is going to heaven, it's this guy. Saddleback Church, which he founded in his living room in 1980, is now a 120-acre campus with an average weekend attendance of 21,000. His book The Purpose-Driven Life has sold over 25 million copies and is among the bestselling nonfiction hardcovers in U.S. history. Apart from the Rolling Stones, not many middle-aged white guys can fill a stadium with adoring fans, but Warren can, and his are actually sober. The most influential evangelical since Billy Graham preaches in Hawaiian shirts and sandals. As if that weren't enough: Warren gives away 90% of his income. And he'll never wake up wondering if his job has meaning."

BOTTOMLINE: Understand your purpose...make a others understand their it as well as you can. Repeat as necessary.

Execution Without Excuses: How Dell Does It

According to this Harvard Business School interview with Michael Dell, the success of Dell is based on more than its business model (essentially: computers-direct).

High expectations and disciplined, consistent execution are embedded in the company's DNA.

To double its revenues in five years, the company had to adapt its execution-obsessed culture to new demands. They had to reignite the spirit of the company to retain its top team members.

They implemented a team member survey, whose results led to the creation of the Winning Culture initiative, which defined the "Soul of Dell":

  • Focus on the customer
  • Be open and direct in communications
  • Be a good global citizen
  • Have fun in winning

BOTTOMLINE: Dell changed as individuals and as an organization. They are not only creating a "great" company that not only performs consistently both financially and operationally, they are creating a culture that makes people stick around for reasons other than money.

Look for Excellence in Others

This, from Fast Company:

"I had dinner with a friend who has owns a successful ad agency in New York City. At one point we got to talking about what has made him a successful leader.

I asked him, "If you had to boil it down to one thing, what would you say is the most important thing you do?"

He reflected for a minute and then gave an interesting answer.

He said, "For me it comes down to 3 words - Look for Excellence.

The one thing I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is that when I'm actively looking for the excellence in others, things always work better.

Creative ideas just flow and new possibilities come out of thin air.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Identifying Poor Performers - And What To Do About It

How do you work with team members - particularly those whose performance?

Performance management is about the importance of measuring and recognizing accomplishments rather than activities. To overcome performance obstacles, you need to develop elements and standards that center on what your employees achieve, not what they complete.

Improving substandard performance can be a daunting task. A one-size-fits-all solution to resolving poor employee performance does not exist. There are some common issues that result in poor performance, and ways to overcome them.

Every organization has its fair share of poor, or at least, suboptimal performers. But even though the employee may be partially responsible for the poor performance, there are other contributing factors. Some issues that directly affect the performance of employees and eventually -- the entire organization include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Not clearly defining performance objectives
  • Lack of support
  • Inconsistency from superiors
  • Inadequate tools
  • Not having a clear direction
For more on this topic, including what difficult questions to ask, and how to handle poor performers, check out the entire article here.

The Key to Bottom-Line Business Performance

This, uh, rather "obvious" piece of research reported in Workforce Performance Solutions magazine.

Professionals in human resource management (HRM) always have intuitively known that better-managed people work harder and more efficiently, and therefore achieve better results for their employers.

But HR leaders have often struggled to convince cynical business leaders of this fact. But the 1990s was a good decade for those making the case for the HR profession.

During this time, evidence began to crystallize that proved once and for all that people really are the key to bottom-line business performance.

For people to perform better—beyond the minimal requirements of the job—they must:

  • Have the ability to do so because they possess the necessary knowledge and skills, including how to work with other people.
  • Be motivated to do the work, and do it well.
  • Be given the opportunity to deploy their skills, both on the job and more broadly by contributing to work-group and organizational success.

BOTTOMLINE: The research leaves little doubt that people really do make the difference to business performance. However, the relationship is complex, and therefore, ready-made solutions or prescriptive approaches are of little value. Organizations need to be able to analyze their processes in the light of the evidence that is now available to identify the triggers for discretionary effort among their workforce. If they can understand this, they can then make an informed judgement about the HR process model that is likely to bring them the most significant performance gains.

Rewarded for Excellence

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (known by many as sponsors of National Public Radio) recently named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2005.

Each received a phone call from the Foundation informing them that they will be given $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.

MacArthur Fellows are selected for their creativity, originality, and potential.

Some of the recipients this year included:

  • a molecular biologist
  • a sculptor
  • a pharmacist
  • a laser physicist
  • a violinmaker
  • a photographer
  • a fisherman

BOTTOMLINE: Achieving excellence - whether in business or any other area of life, is a long-term process, and should be recognized. Isn't it great to see examples of those doing work worthy of such high praise?

CEOs and Innovation - The Big Disconnect

A recent BCG survey shows a disquieting gap between CEOs and their top managers over the criticial issue of innovation.

Here's a peak at some of the results:

  • 81% of CEOs believe innovation is a top priority for their companies while only 63% of lower-level execs share this view.
  • 76% of CEOs believe their companies foster a culture of innovation, but 51% of lower level execs and employees disagree.
  • 66% of CEOs say their senior management teams share a common view on managing innovation but only 53% of non-CEOs agree.
  • Some 56% of CEOs believe their companies have the right organization structure already in place to generate innovation, while 56% of lower-level people do not agree.

Why the disconnect?

It looks like many CEOs are naive when it comes to operationalizing innovation in their own companies. They're not getting it -- and perhaps not providing the resources (Discipline III - Align Systems) to develop it.

And many managers many don't understand how imporant innovation is (Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully) as a strategic imperative . It appears that senior managers of most companies are out of alignment (Discipline III-F Align People) when it comes to innovation.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

What Makes A Good Leader?

No one can argue that a great leader can boost an organization’s growth and performance in much the same way a poor leader can run one into the ground.

According to Jim Kouzes, lecturer and author of seven books on leadership, including the best-seller “The Leadership Challenge,” the qualities that make an effective leader have two distinct perspectives:
  1. What followers look for
  2. What research from the past few decades has shown
Kouzes lists three consistent characteristics that people most look for in a leader:

  1. People want a leader who’s honest, trustworthy and has integrity.
  2. People want a leader who's forward-looking, who has a vision of the future, foresight and thinks about the long term.
  3. People want a leader who is competent, has expertise, knows what they’re doing, and fourth is inspiring, dynamic, energetic, optimistic and positive about the future.”
Research on how leaders execute those qualities or how leaders put those attributes into action, has produced five practices that successfully leaders indulge.

  1. They model the way. They set an example with their own behavior, and they are clear about what their values and beliefs are, as well as the values and beliefs of the organization.
  2. They inspire a shared vision. They are forward-looking and envision an uplifting or ennobling future and then enlist others in that.
  3. They challenge the process. They search for opportunities to change and innovate, to grow and improve, and then they also experiment and take risks.
  4. They enable others to act. They support individual development, and they also foster collaboration.
  5. They recognize and reward individual achievements and they also celebrate team accomplishments.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The E's Have It

Mike R. Jay, Master Business Coach, published an article in his Leadership blog about the E's.

For Jack Welch at GE, here were his 4 E's:
  1. Positive ENERGY
  2. The ability to ENERGIZE others
  3. The 'EDGE that enables managers to take unpopular decisions
  4. The ability to EXECUTE decisions

For Bill Gates at Microsoft, here were his 5 E's:

  1. EMPOWER people to undertake tasks for which they are competent and to see those tasks through from start to finish.
  2. Adopt an EGALITARIAN attitude towards everybody, and insist that they do likewise.
  3. Place an extraordinary EMPHASIS on performance, first making clear precisely what is expected.
  4. Use E-MAIL to send and receive messages to and from anybody, maintain continuous, open, constructive debate on issues of interest importance.
  5. ENRICH people with rewards for success, using not only financial rewards but also praise and recognition.

Anyone have any additional E's?

Leadership in a High Performance Business

Gary, over at High Performance Business offers up these leadership requirements for a CEO of a High Performance Business (HPB):

  • Create a vision
  • Create opportunities for your team
  • Be the tie that binds
  • Develop dedication and self-assurance
  • Maintain your perspective

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Teleworkers - And The Pursuit Of Excellence

This just in from our friends in the U.K.: the number of people working full-time from home in Britain has more than doubled in eight years to almost 2.5 million.

The rapid rise in what are called "teleworkers" saw them accounting for 2.4 million people in spring 2005, some eight per cent of the UK workforce and double the figure in 1997. Most of these – 1.8 million in 2005 – work in different locations using their home as a base, whereas 603,000 work mainly at home.

Last month's Broadband User Survey from research firm Point Topic found that almost 5.5 million Britons now spend some or all of their week working remotely from home

BOTTOMLINE: Given the right tools and technologies, proper direction, individual planning and measures - why "wouldn't" more workers use remote connectivity (regardess of where they are....) to execute their Individual Plans? (He says, as he blogs from home...)

More on Mission Statements - and Mantras

Apple alum Guy Kawasaki offers his take on mission statements.

He advises his audience instead to make a mantra -- a three- or four-word description of why you exist.

His beef with mission statements? "A mission statement has to serve the needs of the customers, the employees, the shareholders, and—because it's all encompassing—the whales, dolphins, and everything. "

His example continues: "This is a $20,000 mission statement: 'We exist to professionally build long-term, high-impact sources so that we may endeavor'—I have to take a little breath here—'to synergistically leverage existing effective deliverables and stay competitive in tomorrow's world.'

BOTTOMLINE: At Six Disciplines - ours is quite simple: Be Excellent™.

What’s the Difference Between Mission and Vision?

Rosa Say, at Talking Story, discusses "What’s the Difference Between Mission and Vision?"

She comments: "At times I run across companies which don’t bother to distinguish them at all: They have a separate Values Statement (thank goodness), but if you ask them to tell you of their Vision, and then of their Mission, they’ll give you the same answer for both questions. So what is the difference?

Does it matter?"

BOTTOMLINE: The short answer is that it only matters if you use them. Make them both available and accessible to everyone in the organization - every day.

(Thanks to for the tip)

Excellence in Sports - A Culture of Winning

Examples of excellence abound in literature, music, art - and sport.

In sport - excellence can be defined in many ways - however, it is frequently equated to winning - over a long period of time.

In the Wall Street Journal, the Atlanta Braves GM explains how and why the Braves have won 14 straight Divisional Titles.

The five tips for transforming a culture of losing - to a culture of winning:
  1. Gather everyone, communicate the plan and preach it daily.
  2. Constantly remind them it works.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get rid of people who don’t buy in.
  4. Make the lowest level employees feel as important to success as the top level executives.
  5. Show trust in everyone to do their jobs well.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Developing Capacity for Large-Scale Change

Todd over at 800-CEO-Reads reviews a new book, "Rapid Results: How 100-Day Projects Build Capacity for Large-Scale Change.

According to authors Robert Shaffer and Ronald Ashkensas, are small, quick projects that build into company-wide change. For this strategy to work, they are very specific about the qualities these "100-day projects" need to have:

  1. Focus on an Important Goal - Everyone from the CEO to the front line worker recognize the need.
  2. Produce a Measurable Stretch Result - Pushing for what many consider impossible creates a buzz when it is achieved.
  3. Works in the Short Term - Short term focus completely changes the dynamics of the project
  4. Pinpoint Clear Accountability - One person needs to be responsible for the success or failure of the project
  5. Drives Experimentation - The message needs to be that this is not going to be business as usual.
  6. Is Planned and Disciplined - This may seem counterintuitive, but with speed, you need a good plan and good communications.
  7. Make Learning a Deliberate Outcome - The project should be a springboard for more projects and more change.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Learning From Napster - What Went Right / Wrong

Don Dodge, (On The Next Big Thing) who is now with my former employer (Microsoft) - formerly with "bad-boy" Napster, offers this detailed description of what Napster did right - and wrong.

Lots to be learned here:

  • Never get too far ahead of the market.
  • Understand who your customer is, what problem you solve, and how much they are willing to pay for it.
  • Never start a business focused on solving a big company’s problem.
  • Test your assumptions before spending lots of money.

BOTTOMLINE: Good luck on your search for The Next Big Thing.

Transforming The Annual Performance Review Process

With Q3 over, I've heard lots of people talking about the "dreaded" Q3 review.

There is a way to transform the process.

Taking time now to note the accomplishments and problems of each person who reports to you will save time later. Instead of starting from scratch in January when you have to write a year-long review, you'll have your Q3 summary ready for cutting and pasting.

BOTTOMLINE: If you make weekly performance reviews a habit, your quarterly reviews will be a snap. With quarterly reviews in hand, your annual performance review writing session will be a snap instead of a long, drawn out ordeal.

With the Six Disciplines People Suite, each team member's Individual Plans are updated and reviewed each week (no more than 30 minutes), making the Quarterly Review seamless, and the Annual Review - automatically documented.

The Seven Key Principles of Effective Leadership Development

A new book, "How to Grow Leaders: The Seven Key Principles of Effective Leadership Development" has been released and reviewed by the Harvard Business School -Working Knowledge group.

The seven key principles referred to in the subtitle are:

  1. Training
  2. Selection
  3. Mentoring
  4. Gaining the chance to lead
  5. Education
  6. Strategy for development
  7. The chief executive

John Adair's authored close to fifty books, and How to Grow Leaders serves as a fine entry point because it encapsulates his many observations.

Branding - Is Common Sense Strategy (Rebranded)

With all the hype about branding, it's important to remember that branding is really just a restatement of the obvious. It's common sense strategy - revisited.

This new Fast Company article focuses on branding, and comes away with this gem:

"To successfully build a brand, says INSEAD marketing professor Amitava Chattopadhyay, "is to communicate your key value proposition to the key customer segment, and do so in an integrated and consistent way."

BOTTOMLINE: Once your organization takes the time to craft your mission, vision, values, strategic position - you're in a better position to understand what it takes to conduct branding. It's all about common sense strategy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Perception of Leadership Leads to Customer Retention

According to results of new ISR employee opinion study, U.S. companies that place an emphasis on nurturing strong leaders are reaping benefits through improved customer retention and an improved bottom line.

These findings support an earlier ISR study which revealed the relationship between improved business results and employee engagement. Employee engagement is defined as the extent to which employees believe in the values of a company, feel pride in working for the company, are motivated to go the extra mile and are committed.

The study of 41 companies revealed that high engagement companies realized a difference in operating margin and a difference in net profit margin versus low engagement companies, offering further proof that companies that are able to strengthen the engagement of their employees will realize a direct or indirect influence on business performance.

BOTTOMLINE: From Six Disciplines' Discipline II-D, Engage the Team, "...the ultimate core competency for any organization is realized when 'all individuals make strategy (execution) their everyday job."

Small Business Facts for 2005

Small businesses continue to drive the U.S. economy, according to the updated 2005 Small Business FAQ, released by the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small business statistics highlighted in the 2005 Small Business FAQ include:

  • Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Over the past decade, small business net job creation fluctuated between 60 and 80 percent.
  • Two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years after start-up, and 44 percent survive at least four years.
  • Small businesses employ half of all private sector employees
  • Minorities own 4.1 million firms that generate $694.1 billion in revenues and employ 4.8 million workers.
  • Women own 6.5 million businesses that generate $950.6 billion in revenues, and employ 7.2 million workers.

BOTTOMLINE: Small businesses have distinct advantages over larger enterprises. Three key advantages are the connecting of people to purpose, more effective communication, and timely decision making. "Those who take this stewardship seriously (of owning and running a small business) truly are heroes!" (Six Disciplines for Excellence, pages 39-45)

(Thanks to Dr. Jeff Cornwall, at The Entrepreneurial Mind)

Strategic Planning for 2006 - Start It NOW

Kevin Myer (Evolving Excellence) and Bud Bilanich (

Sunday, October 02, 2005

What Does It Take To Achieve Lasting Excellence?

By integrating the proven, time-tested principles of strategic planning, quality management, organizational learning, automated business processes, people performance management and measure-driven improvement, Six Disciplines is a method to help the best performing organizations make the transition from product-building to "business-building" using an approach that includes four essential elements:

  1. A Methodology to make business-building systematic.
  2. Technology to make business-building practical.
  3. Coaching to make business-building last.
  4. A Ready & Able Organization to make business-building work.

BOTTOMLINE: No matter what method is used for business improvement (what we call "business-building), if you leave out any one of these essential elements, the likelihood of lasting - sustainable -business excellence, is significantly diminished.