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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Delivering Performance Management Solutions

In a summarization from an article called: "Delivering Performance Management Solutions,"

"We all know in our hearts that Performance Management is not about software.

It is about organizational culture. And culture is all about beliefs and values, knowledge, attitudes of mind, customs, rituals, and artefacts. In the organisational context it includes leadership styles, company heroes, founders, and folklore. It considers such elements as the treatment of people, ethics and integrity, customer focus, innovation, and unwritten ways of working and behaving.

Complex stuff.

There is no such thing as a piece of software that fits this requirement like a glove.

Software is now moving beyond the boundaries of feature, function, and form. It is becoming a living breathing organic entity that melds to user needs and takes into consideration a complex set of human and organisation characteristics. It is up to the vendors to architect unique finely-tuned and people-sensitive performance management solutions that will be a source of sustainable competitive advantage for their customers."

Because for sure, the software alone will not deliver these benefits.

BOTTOMLINE: For the Execution Revolution to begin, the performance management solution must address the key barriers of expertise, economics and human factors. It must also include the requirements of a best-practices methodology, an activity management system (software), accountability coaching to address the human factors, and a shared learning community.

The Challenge of Performance Appraisals

Employers and employees often come out of performance review meetings having reached completely different conclusions.

There is often huge gap between what employees believe they are being told at performance review meetings and what their managers think they are telling them, new research has suggested.

Their findings:

  • Just two out of five workers believe the performance review process leads to an improvement in performance, compared with more than two thirds of employers.
  • Many of the gaps between employers and employees result from unclear communication and limited transparency regarding how the review process is conducted and its impact on the employee.
  • More than four out of five employers believed they provided clear goals to their employees prior to the formal performance review. Yet nearly half of employees felt their goals had in fact not been clearly communicated.
  • While more than eight out of 10 employers felt they included input from their employees in the process, just four out of 10 employees agreed.

Best Business Books of 2006 - Part II

Brandon, and the good folks over at Biz Book Talk have compiled the lists of top business books for 2006, including:

  • 2006 Editors Business Book Picks
  • Top Selling Business Books in 2006 for
  • 800CEORead’s Jack Coverts Best Business Books
  • BusinessWeek Best of 2006
Looking for some good reading to catch up on? Go take a look!

BOTTOMLINE: Also look forward to the second edition of the top-rated business improvement book Six Disciplines for Excellence, due in April of 2007, published by Synergy Books.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Passion: The Key Differentiator

Excellent organizations separate themselves from everyone else based on the passion of their people. You may think of it as “fire in the belly,” excitement, enthusiasm, or zeal for your life’s work. Whatever you call it, passion is the emotion that makes you jump out of bed in the morning, itching to get at it.

Passion drives the discipline you need to accomplish the big goals you set for your life, career, and relationships.

Passion is an impatient state of mind. Nothing moves as fast as you’d like when you have a burning desire to convert your vision into reality.

But if you can harness and apply your passion with rigor and discipline, it will lead you to discovery, then mastery and, finally, to excellence.

Without passion, you can muddle through, but success (and lasting excellence) will allude you. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, sooner or later that will become apparent to your colleagues and your clients.

BOTTOMLINE: Never settle for good enough. If you can’t keep your internal fire burning, you are in the wrong business. Passion is the key differentiator.

Managing Change - Part II

Managing change involves five key activities:

  1. Establishing the need for change. Be clear about the purpose and intended result of the change your organization needs to accomplish.
  2. Clearly identify your organization's culture and design a change strategy and process that aligns to that culture.
  3. Seek to understand the transitions that result from the change, looking for and dealing with any resistance that may undermine the change.
  4. Implement the changes, generating short-term wins and consolidating those wins to create more change.
  5. Use ongoing recognition of performance and success to permanently embed the changes in the organization.

A Season of Inspiration: Part III

Winter is a time for rest, for slower paces...

Time for being inside - safe and warm...

Time for understanding what is good, right, and important...

About what can be....what should be....

Take the time... to make snow angels...

Take the time.... to make... a heart of snow...

Winter is ... a Season of Inspiration.

(Many thanks to JB ....for the continued Inspiration)

Franchise Business Opportunities Showcases Six Disciplines

Looking for a franchise that helps small and emerging businesses to plan better and execute their strategies more effectively?

Dane Carlson's Franchise Business Opportunities has recently showcased Six Disciplines Leadership Centers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best Practices for Leadership Development in 2006

According to Chief Executive Officer magazine, these are the best practices for companies offering leadership development during 2006:

  1. Having leaders at all levels who focus on creating a work climate that motivates employees to perform at their best.
  2. Ensuring that the company and its senior management make leadership development a top priority.
  3. Providing training and coaching to help intact leadership teams, as well as the individual leaders, work together more effectively.
  4. Rotational job assignments for high potentials.
  5. External leadership development programs for mid-level managers.
  6. Web-based, self-study leadership modules for mid-level managers .
  7. Executive MBA programs for mid-level managers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

10 Principles for Sustainable Execution

From the Human Service Connections newsletter comes these "10 Principles for Sustainable Execution."

Grow Your Own Discomfort. All organizations experience a progression of conception, birth, growth, and decline. And then they do it all over again. Disrespect for this natural process leads to corporate and individual poverty. Comfort should be discomforting.

Don’t Make Me Yawn. You, your leadership team and company must consciously work to design and redesign your identity over time, or the marketplace will fall asleep while you’re on the TV. If you have no identity or brand you will struggle to succeed in your market, irrespective of your good intentions.

Lurve The Future. Understanding the past and appreciating the present are important, but lurve (Woody Allen’s combination of “love” and “lust” in the movie Annie Hall) of the future helps you to deal with the inevitable issues associated with moving the implementation ball forward. Implementation is the opportunity to increase the velocity of success, not the barrier to it.

Shoot For The Stars (Or Shoot Yourself In the Foot)! The mood of you and your team is critical to sustainable completion of projects, whatever the level. With alignment of intentions and ambition there are no limits, just possibilities for even more possibilities. Without aligned intentions or ambition you are likely in search of medication for your resentment and resignation. Mood management is as important as fiscal management.

Stop It Or Else! Unconscious confidence in old habits of business behavior creates performance quicksand. To break out of this trap you have to STOP your behavior first, then CHANGE your behavior, consistent with your intention. Only then can you can START implementing a new strategic plane or project. New Year’s resolutions do not resolve the fear of taking the next step and improving performance. They often make your situation worse.

It’s Not About You (Entirely). Successful business execution requires awareness of your personal style and consistent skill in understanding and speaking to the strengths and concerns of others. How can our individual strengths benefit our company, our team and ourselves? When do I “hand off” to someone else? Egoless yet performance- oriented behavior helps you and your teams to succeed.

Welcome Your Breakdowns. Breakdowns are inevitable, the price of experience for any team moving forward. They represent are the opportunity to reinvigorate your vision, that of your team and design constant recalibration on your organizational adventure. If your survival software continually pushes you to implement action that results in the same, recurring breakdown, then you will continue to suffer. And the market or funding source will not pay much for this self-destructive performance.

You Don’t Get There By Reading the Road Map. Implementation of decisions comes from your will and that of your teammates, not the 119 page strategic plan. The most effective teams progress with a rough topographic guide and a focus on their overriding direction. They are likely a disagreeable band of warriors with their armor in front, strong individual intentions, and a commitment to act interdependently.

Face The Market Or Face The Consequences. Too often organizations engage in exercises and training that focus on self concerns vs. those of the market place. Guess what? A magazine writer may feature you as a “progressive” company, but if you are not able to effectively respond to a market concern you have lost your way. How much is the fame and the glory worth? What bill will you pay with it? Your action must be coordinated with everyone facing the market together to execute, consistent with your vision.

V²=REV² + RISK/2. Following in the path of Einstein, it is evident that as you speed up your transactional skills (V2) you increase the probability of increasing revenue (REV2) and reducing risk (RISK/2). The old common logic of slowing down to reduce risk does not work – it increases the risk of bringing execution to a standstill and actually moving backward. The riskiest place is to stay where you are.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Strategic Planning and Strategy Execution

Strategic planning is vital to an organization's ongoing success, but many executives aren't happy with their company's approach to the strategic planning process.

In an online survey of 800 executives conducted by The McKinsey Group consultancy, fewer than half of respondents reported satisfaction with their company's development of strategic planning.

Key findings:

  • Of those who reported that their company implemented a formal strategic process, 79 percent were satisfied with strategy execution.
  • Only 23 percent of respondents said that a formal strategic process drives important decision making at their company.
  • The majority, at 52 percent, credited small senior groups with making critical strategic decisions.

Notably, there's a strong correlation between monitoring of strategic plans and executive approval of those plans, according to the study.

  • Still, only 56 percent of respondents overall reported that their company monitors its strategic initiatives.

What Is Six Disciplines? Part II

What is Six Disciplines?
If it were just another business improvement book, it could be called “the next Good To Great” or the next "Getting Things Done" for small and emerging businesses. (In fact, one reviewer has already written about Six Disciplines as being “what E-Myth wants to be when it grows up.”)

If it were just another business improvement methodology, it could be called “the next TQM, the next Six Sigma.”

If it were just a system or piece of performance management software, it could be called “the next killer app.”

If it were just business consulting or business coaching, it could be called "the next wave of strategic activity management services."

In fact, Six Disciplines includes elements of each of these – with a key difference: Six Disciplines is designed to last, to be sustainable.

The Six Disciplines program will have such a profound, transformational impact on the way small businesses operate – and continually improve, that there will be no going back.

Adopting Six Disciplines will become the new baseline standard for how small and emerging high performance organization execute their strategy, and how they will deliver competitive advantage.

It’s a paradox - it’s both simple (based on proven best-practices) – and it’s hard (something that is on the surface so complex, that making it simple has taken years and millions of dollars to observe, understand, and design a complete program to address the barriers.)

So what is Six Disciplines?

  • It’s a new category of performance improvement solution
  • It's a complete program for sustainable execution
  • It’s a convergence of efficiency and effectiveness
  • It addresses the key barriers of expertise, economics and human factors
  • And it couldn’t have happened until now

In the next several weeks, we'll be describing the Six Disciplines journey, how we’ve gotten to where we are, where we’re headed, and most importantly, what all this means in terms of being a major breakthrough for small business performance improvement.

Stay tuned!

Key Components of High Performance Organizations

According to research by Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn in their research on "The High Performance Organization:"

  • High performance organizations (HPOs) are designed to accentuate employees’ best performance and to “produce sustainable organizational results.
  • High performing organizations fundamentally underscore the importance of prioritizing people and intellectual capital.

A high performance organization is reflected within a company’s structure, management operating system and culture where everyone participates in a shared vision and innovative leadership, dynamic change, sharing of information, systems understanding, self-managed teams, cross-trained workers, customer focus and the on-going introduction of new technology is present.

The five components of a high performance organization include:

  1. Employee involvement
  2. Self-managed work teams
  3. Integrated production technology
  4. Organizational learning
  5. Total quality management

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Small Business Hiring

From Dr. Jeff Cornwell comes this great news:

Almost one out of five small businesses plan to hire new employees over the next three months, according to the latest survey from the NFIB.

With the exception of the "dot com" boom, the survey indicated the highest job-creation level in its history: during the next three months, 18 percent plan to create new jobs, while only 6 percent plan reductions, yielding a seasonally-adjusted net 19 percent (net 12 percent seasonally unadjusted) planning to create new jobs. Job-creation plans are positive in all industries.

In addition to these new job openings being planned, more than 50% of the small businesses surveyed report trying to fill existing positions. But, they continue to report difficulties, with 80% report few or no qualified applicants.

Strategy or Execution?

Bob Shuneman, over at Small Biz Matters, offers his thoughts here on the quandy most of us struggle with: strategy? or execution?

Bob's key observations?

  • Success is the fruit of action, not of potential or ability.
  • Most plans are really nothing more than a defined set of possibilities.
  • Nothing will ever come of a plan by itself.
On a humble note, Bob also offers the following:

"The best book I’ve read recently about planning and execution is Gary Harpst’s excellent book Six Disciplines for Excellence. Many of the business books published these days seem to focus too much on theories and not enough on practice. Six Disciplines differs in that respect – it’s all about teaching a system of getting done the things that we all know need to be done."

Innovation and Aligning Priorities

The Innovation Survey, from the Council on Competitiveness and New Economy Strategies released their survey which asked leading corporate executives to share their views on the changing nature of innovation.

The survey’s main finding---that innovation is going global---should come as no surprise.

However, the survey did uncover some fascinating results.

For example, when asked to rank the most important factors in their firm’s ability to innovate, corporate leaders cited access to a science and engineering talent pool, close supplier and customer relations, entrepreneurial managers, and a good communications infrastructure.

When asked to identify factors that would disqualify a region for new corporate investments, the list sounds pretty similar.

Executives were also asked to identify the biggest barriers to corporate innovation.

  • A majority (61%) cited competing internal priorities due to finite resources.

BOTTOMLINE: Corporate innovation, or simply another way of stating problem solving, can be further enhanced when alignment of internal priorities takes place.

Check out a step-by-step approach of identifying misalignments, aligning processes, policies, measures, technology and people, in Discipline III. Align Systems, in "Six Disciplines For Excellence".

Leadership Development and Succession Planning

Management-Issues reports that Development Dimensions International has recently published a study that suggests today's business leaders do not rate themselves highly -- or even feel up to the job, -- raising serious questions about the future profitability (and performance) of their businesses.

Their findings?

  • Strong leadership can increase the successful implementation of business strategies by 22%
  • Organizations with strong leadership development and succession planning generally reported higher returns on equity and profit margins.

The disconnect?

  • Too often, leaders gave themselves low grades when looking at indicators of leadership performance and potential.
  • Leaders rated themselves low on critical qualities of passion for results, adaptability and bringing out the best in people.
  • Leaders are barely giving themselves passing grades, and organizations are still graduating them to the next level, promoting them into leadership positions
  • One in four leaders had considered bailing out of their leadership position altogether, evidence of dissatisfaction with the leadership role.

BOTTOMLINE: A leadership crisis in the making? Most definitely. The majority of organizations are not preparing for the next generation of leaders. They should be growing leaders from within -- with succession planning in mind. People performance management (including leadership development) - one of the six management best practices that is integrated into the Six Disciplines Methodology.

The Role of The Individual Plan

Over at Gautam Ghosh on Management, Guatum brings the following positives to performance management (or the performance appraisal/review/people management process):

  1. It helps to review an organization/group/team or individual's performance
  2. It helps to reinforce behavioral and cultural norms
  3. It helps to plan and ready your workforce for the future business direction
  4. It helps to develop your team

Yet....he asks the pointed question:

"If it serves so many functions, why is it often such a de-energizing and negative process?"

My assessment?

BOTTOMLINE: Because most organizations do not institutionalize a systematic and practical method of executing the performance appraisal/review/people management process. Most organizations view the performance appraisal process as an afterthought, a necessary evil.

A key component of the Discipline III. Work the Plan, (a key aspect of the Six Disciplines Methodology) focuses on the best practices of people performance management, using the Individual Plan (IP) as the central planning and execution tool.

Simply put, when each Team Member develops their own IP for the coming quarter, and it is agreed upon with their Team Leader (meaning it is aligned with organizational goals), and the two spend 20 minutes each week to review status, looking for areas of completion and risk -- then the entire performance appraisal/review process becomes routine, automatic and no surprises.

The Six Disciplines Business System makes this IP status process practical - since you use it daily, just like you use Microsoft Outlook for email, calendaring, contacts, etc.

Discipline III. Align Systems

Although critical, deciding what's important and setting meaningful goals are not where most organizations fail.

It's after goals are set that companies run into one of their most challenging foes - their own internal systems (processes, policies, technologies, measures and people).

Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes Disciplines III - Align Systems.

Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead

No organization has the resources to do all things at once; goal setting, by itself, is not enough.

The purpose of Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead - is to help organizations formulate goals and initiatives that lead people to take action that's aligned with what's most important to the organization. .

Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes Disciplines II - Set Goals That Lead.

Coaching Future Leaders

Gallup Management Journal brings us this insightful piece about developing leadership within organizations. Gallup has been researching top-performing leaders for more than 40 years.

Their premise?

"Do you want to get the best performance from your organization's future leaders? Then start asking them direct questions that, when answered, will help shape and define the type of leaders they will become."

The disconnect?

"Many forms of leadership coaching attempt to teach future leaders "about" leadership. But relatively little coaching encourages leaders to concentrate on activities that will reliably improve their capacity to lead."

One crucial discovery has been that top performance is strongly correlated to seven main leadership activities or "demands."

Those demands are:

  1. Visioning
  2. Maximizing values
  3. Challenging experience
  4. Mentoring
  5. Building a constituency
  6. Making sense of experience
  7. Knowing self
BOTTOMLINE: Focusing each leader's growth on the seven demands can accelerate leadership development. Read the entire article here for questions to ask leaders in development.

Top 10 Rules for Startups

While developed for Web startups, this list can be easily thought of as key for "any" kind of startup organization.

The list?

  1. Be Narrow
  2. Be Different
  3. Be Casual
  4. Be Picky
  5. Be User-Centric
  6. Be Self-Centered
  7. Be Greedy
  8. Be Tiny
  9. Be Agile
  10. Be Balanced
  11. (bonus!): Be Wary

Read the explanations of each here.

BOTTOMLINE: OK, it's too easy for me not to add Number 12: Be Excellent™

CEO Refresher on Six Disciplines for Excellence

One of the top business book review web sites is CEO Refresher.

Six Disciplines for Excellence made their Recommended Reading list for 2005 .

Here is their review of "Six Disciplines for Excellence" by author and CEO of Six Disciplines Corporation, Gary Harpst.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Performance Management Survey Results

From a recent Business Performance Mangagement BPM Benchmarking Survey, which collected comprehensive information on the budgeting, forecasting, and reporting practices of over 800 finance professionals, comes the following findings:

  • An astonishing 60% of companies surveyed exhibited limited adoption of business performance management best practices
  • Less than 4% showed strong adoption of business performance management best practices

One of the most revealing findings was that the technologies that finance teams are using are woefully out of date. Across all companies, 78% of respondents are still using spreadsheets as their primary budgeting and forecasting tool.

More findings:

  • Only 41% are using graphical dashboards or scorecards in their reporting processes.
  • Fully 76% have not rebuilt their planning model in over a year
  • A shocking 45% that have not rebuilt their planning model in three years or more.

BOTTOMLINE: Out-of-date technologies and processes have a significant negative impact on business performance.

  • 49% of top performers used business performance management applications, compared with just 18% of the lower performing companies.
  • BPM were more than twice as likely to have highly accurate budgets (20% vs. 9%).

The profile of the top performing companies suggests that simple steps—replacing spreadsheets with BPM applications and embracing best practice processes—can lead to dramatic performance improvements and establish an advantage over their competitors.

USA Today Covers Six Disciplines Research

Thanks to Anita Campbell's Small Business Trends blog, USA Today has covered some research from Six Disciplines in Jim Hopkin's post "Among most prosperous, five factors in common."

Jim comments:

"The vast majority of the nation's 5.9 million small employers are privately owned. They aren't required under regulatory laws to maintain a board of directors, as publicly traded companies must. My hunch is that most small companies don't have advisory boards -- a missed opportunity, apparently, based on the Six Disciplines findings."

BOTTOMLINE: Download the white paper with the research findings from Six Disciplines here.

Top Six Workplace Myths

According to a recent survey from Sirota Survey Intelligence, specialists in attitude research, the most common misconception employers have about their employees is that:

  • Praise (recognizing contributions) can serve as a substitute for money when seeking to motivate workers

The second-most common misconception employers have is that immediate managers are the cause of most employees’ problems.

Almost three-quarters of those surveyed mistakenly think those two myths are fact!! Even more disturbing: six out of 10 respondents think all the top six workplace myths compiled by Sirota Survey Intelligence are true.

The top six workplace myths Sirota surveyed, and the percent of respondents who think they are true, are:

  • Praise can serve as a substitute for money in motivating employees:74 percent
  • Employees’ immediate managers are the cause of most workers’ problems:73 percent
  • Employees who complain about their pay are really unhappy about something else:67 percent
  • There are major differences between generations in what people want from their jobs: 67 percent
  • There are major differences between cultures and countries in what people want from their jobs: 63 percent
  • Profit-sharing is a major motivator of employee performance: 60 percent

BOTTOMLINE: Neither praise nor money alone are sufficient to satisfy employees — there are three basic goals that the vast majority of employees seek from their jobs. These are: pride in one’s work, positive and productive relationships with one’s co-workers, and being treated fairly in pay, benefits and job security.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Six Tips for Acing Your Year-End Review

With all the distractions the end of the year brings, it's easy to neglect your day-to-day work. But this might be the most important time of year to focus on your job and your career. Many organizations hold year-end performance reviews, and acing them is often your ticket to a pay raise or promotion.

This article from the CareerJournal how to prepare for a performance review so that you can garner glowing results:

  • Be prepared. Conduct a self-review before you meet with your manager. Be honest with yourself -- evaluate how well you managed your objectives, summarize what you accomplished and give yourself an overall rating.
  • Be sure to share one or two stories that illustrate how you've gone above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Study your weaknesses. Identify what you can do better, and have a plan prepared illustrating how
  • During your review meeting, take notes. It will be useful for you to have them so that you can follow up properly during your next review.
  • Keep the conversation focused on yourself.
  • By the end of your review, try to reach some kind of consensus about your overall performance. If you can't agree with your supervisor's assessment, ask for more time so that you may find information to back your claims

BOTTOMLINE: If you used Six Disciplines, the process would be automatic. You'd already know how your Year-End Performance Appraisal was going to be, since you had "mini-appraisals" each week, and at the end of each quarter. No surprises, and there's time every week to adjust your performance.

Doing What Matters to Get Things Right

Larry Bossidy has had a long and distinguished career serving on the boards of several well known corporations including US global giant General Electric, the aerospace and auto parts corporation, AlliedSignal, and multinational engineering corporation Honeywell.

More recently he has enjoyed a second successful career as an author. His first book "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done", co-authored with Ram Charan, was a wake up call to corporate America.

In his most recent book (also co-written with Charan), "Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right", Bossidy continues in the same pragmatic vein.

Read his interview here at Management-Issues.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Epiphany: The Idea Behind Six Disciplines

Ever had an epiphany?

A revelation?

OK, how about "a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization?"

Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes how the idea came about, for what was to become...Six Disciplines.

The Knowing Doing Gap

According to Roger W. Babson:

"Experience has taught me that there is one chief reason why some people succeed and others fail. The difference is not one of knowing, but of doing. The successful man is not so superior in ability as in action. So far as success can be reduced to a formula, it consists of this: doing what you know you should do."

And this from Bob Shuneman, over at Small Biz Matters:

"Many of the business books published these days seem to focus too much on theories and not enough on practice. Six Disciplines differs in that respect – it’s all about teaching a system of getting done the things that we all know need to be done."

"The best book I’ve read recently about planning and execution is Gary Harpst’s excellent book Six Disciplines for Excellence. Many of the business books published these days seem to focus too much on theories and not enough on practice. Six Disciplines differs in that respect – it’s all about teaching a system of getting done the things that we all know need to be done."

Tips for Effective Performance Appraisals

It's almost that time of year again!

All too often, we hear about performance appraisals being "like a mandatory exercise that provides little value to the team member or the organization."

Components of an effective Team Member Performance Review include:

  1. Past goals: Review the team member’s job objectives. Acknowledge the work he or she completed during the past review cycle. Communicate with specificity the team member’s success in surpassing, meeting or underperforming their responsibilities. Offer praise for accomplishments as well as suggestions for improvement.
  2. Company’s direction and goals: Discuss with the team member how his or her job responsibilities fit in with the company’s short and long-term goals.
  3. Set goals: Determine what is to be achieved (improved financial results, customer satisfaction or innovation) and how it will be measured.
  4. Team Member feedback: Allow the team member to voice his or her concerns and respond to your review.
  5. Career development: Identify professional development and training that will help team members reach their career goals and grow professionally. Discuss the requirements and skills necessary to earn a promotion.
  6. Follow-up: Write a summary of your review and document the goals for the coming year. Research and address the team member’s concerns and/or questions.

BOTTOMLINE: Provide ongoing feedback throughout the year, (20 minutes each week is what we recommend in Discipline IV - Work The Plan), so the formal performance review is not a drain, and will contain no surprises.

Six Disciplines: Integrated Best-Practices

The Six Disciplines Program can be thought of as an integration of business best-practices, combined with innovative software to make its adoption practical, along with the coaching and strategic advisory services offered by Six Disciplines Leadership Center coaches.

Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes the Six Disciplines Program.

Benefits of a Franchise Versus a Solo Operation

Startup Journal bring us this new two-part series about "Benefits of a Franchise Versus a Solo Operation," which looks at pros and cons.

I'd like to offer a few more facts about franchise operations:

  • There are an estimated 1,500 different franchisors (franchise companies) operating in the U.S.
  • USA Today reported, "The 750,000 franchised businesses in the US generate almost $1 Trillion each year.”
  • The franchising industry employs over 8 million people in the U.S.
  • A new franchise business opens every 8 minutes of every business day
  • Approximately one out of every 12 businesses in the U.S. is a franchise business
  • More than 75 different industries use franchising as a means to distribute goods and services
  • The average initial franchise investment is $250,000- excluding real estate.
  • A recent Gallup poll of franchisees found that over 75% would buy their franchise again if they had to do it over.
BOTTOMLINE: "We can learn much about achieve lasting excellence -- not only for our customers, but for ourselves, by taking a lesson from franchises. First, there's a clear promise to the customer that's reflected in the brand. Second, there a promise to the business owner (franchisee) of a well-considered and proven business model that delivers on the customer promise. The point is that all businesses would benefit from taking a holistic approach to excellence that successful franchises take." (From pages 20 - 21, Six Disciplines for Excellence).

Looking for a franchise opportunity with a lasting difference? Six Disciplines Leadership Centers were recently named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the Top 99 Franchise 'Top Guns' - and included as one of the top 10 in the Business Services franchise category.

Extending Entrepreneurial Passion

This article in BusinessWeek, "Rekindling Entrepreneurial Passion," asks the tough question:

"How can someone who had to give up a much-loved business conjure up the necessary enthusiasm for a new venture?"

The premise?

  • Believe in your mission. Owning a business is all about passion. Your enthusiasm for selling something is contagious. Entrepreneurship in itself is a fascinating, interesting, and -- one hopes -- profitable undertaking. So, try on the mindset that passion comes not from external events or circumstances but rather from a desire to meet a need in the marketplace, serve your customers well, and succeed both personally and financially.
  • Talk to peers. Sit down with some fellow business owners and seek counsel about how to successfully grow the new business. Rather than consulting with experts like attorneys or CPAs, seek out peers who have thriving companies and seem happy about what they do all day.
  • Make a difference. If you're in business primarily to serve your customers and make a contribution to their lives, then you can run any business with passion and dedication.

BOTTOMLINE: "Think about the profound difference you make in other peoples' lives and let go of your attachment to exactly what it is that you do. And if you're still not absolutely charged up about your current industry, remember that you don't have to stay in it forever. Build this business up, sell it, and find another industry that you prefer. If you're passionate about life -- and business -- in general, you won't have trouble doing just that."

Efficiency and Effectiveness - Two Different Things

Peter Drucker once defined the difference between efficiency and effectiveness as follows:

Efficiency is doing the job right. Effectivenees is doing the right job right.

Jeffrey Phillips, over at Thinking Faster, posts this entry "Doing fast things or doing things fast?" in which he looks at the differences between efficiency and effectiveness.

His assertion?

"Do we place too much emphasis on efficiency and not enough on effectiveness? To me, the difference between the two is that efficiency is doing a task with the least amount of effort required to complete it, while effectiveness is doing the right job at the right time with the right amount of resources. Too often I think we opt for efficiency rather than effectiveness."

BOTTOMLINE: "We should evaluate each task and determine - am I working on fast things or working things fast? If the former, that's ok. Some tasks and work can be worked quickly to completion. If you are working things fast, you are probably not living up to expectations down the line from you. One goal is speed, but other goals include accuracy and completeness. Don't assume efficiency is all that is required."

Video: Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully

Innovation is just another name for problem-solving, and everyone in the organization has the ability to solve problems.

Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully is unlike the other disciplines in that it provides tools and principles that are used throughout all the other Disciplines to help people set clear goals. These goals will align with company priorities, and then employees will use their innate creativity to meet or beat those goals.

Empowering principles such as Embracing Constraints and Taking Informed Risks, plus easy-to-use tools like the 100-Point Exercise and 5-Step Problem Solving are just a few examples of the practical exercises included in Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully.

Watch this streaming video of Gary Harpst, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines Corporation, as he describes Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully.

(NOTE: Video is in Windows Media Format )

Change Management - Communicating Change

Business improvement methods (regardless of which ones are approved, undertaken or adopted) involve an important element of change management that is often overlooked: communication.

According to this CEO Refresher article "Management's Guide to Communicating Change,":

  • When an organization embarks on any new project, or simply attempts to change established processes or procedures, inevitably it will encounter resistance from individuals as well as formal groups.
  • Resistance is a normal, not an abnormal reaction by human beings. does the leader assure that the strategies and plans have an opportunity for success?

One important piece of the puzzle is in putting together a communication/marketing effort that will do the following five things.

  1. Present the right message
  2. Present it to the right people
  3. Present it at the right time
  4. Present it using the right media (method of delivery)
  5. Present it with the right person (who delivers the message)

Sounds simple.....but it's a critical element of change management - and often overlooked, misunderstood, or ignored.

BOTTOMLINE: Read the rest of this important change management communications article here.

The Art of Self-Management

In high-performing organizations, team members can learn how to become self-managed --that is, they can learn how to manage their own activities and the activities that they are dependent upon in order to execute strategy.

Many people works effectively in this environment - they produce their work on time with high quality. The Six Disciplines program for strategy-driven execution empowers individuals within high-performing organizations to become self-managed.

Here's an article with 12 points on how to self-manage yourself and your projects.

Make It Great! Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

Good friend Phil Gerbyshak, over at Make It Great! has posted his review of Six Disciplines for Excellence.

A few excerpts:

"This book is a how-to primer for any small business owner. The sub-title is not only a sub-title, it is what this book is all about. You could call it "How To Build a Small Business That Learns, Leads, and Lasts...complete with diagrams, checklists, and practical application in a software company."

"....after reading it realize it'd cost me thousands of dollars to get this much knowledge from a consultant, and take me years of bashing my head against the wall, trying and failing, before I could build something close to what Gary shows us in this great book."

Read the rest of Phil's review of the book here......and as Phil says...."Make it a Great Day!"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Every Small Business Leader Must Know About Growth

Great article here on "What Every Small Business Leader Must Know About Growth" from the PeerSight Resource Center.

Their premise?

"Only 1 in 10 of all businesses ever achieves $10M in revenue, only 2,500 grow larger than $500M. Why is that? Is it something different for every business? Or are there common barriers to growth; rules of the road we can follow that can increase the likelihood of success and improve the potential of profitable growth."

Read the rest of the article here.

Crafting Mission, Vision and Values Statements

Mission/vision/values -- so many leaders spend days crafting them, but why?

In most cases, these carefully crafted words do little to inspire staff or improve organizational performance.

So what should leaders do instead to inspire, focus, and rally the organization?

  • Craft mission statements with clear definitions of every group's line of business.
  • Craft vision statements with a detailed description of how the organization should work.
  • Craft values with specific behaviors you can teach, model, and measure.
BOTTOMLINE: Words are cheap. It's actions that inspire change. And change can only occur when you change attitudes and behaviors.

No Excuses

From Accenture:

"The list of reasons why companies and executives shy away from pursuing high performance is long.

Accenture's extensive research into the characteristics of high performers, however, has revealed a number of powerful and counterintuitive reasons why making the effort is well worth it."

Check out their whitepaper "No Excuses: Five Reasons Every Company Should Strive to Achieve High Performance"

Small Business Trends Reveals Top Five Secrets of Business Success

The visionary Anita Campbell over at Small Business Trends, reveals some of the research we conducted here at Six Disciplines Corporation.

Her post Top Five Secrets of Small Business Success focuses in particular about the reliance on trusted outside advisors.

In addition, Anita mentions:

"Six Disciplines has a white paper outlining the research along with tips on how to use it to run your business better.

Download the whitepaper “Five Secrets of High Performing Organizations (PDF).”

Achieving World-Class Performance

While this article was written specifically for the insurance industry, (LOMA is an international association through which more than 1,200 insurance and financial services companies from over 80 countries), the author lists seven steps he says will lead to sustainable performance.

The seven steps are as follows:

  1. Establish Program-Centric Strategic Planning
  2. Build Resilient IT Architecture Designs
  3. Create a Results-Focused Communications Environment
  4. Adopt Portfolio-Based Project Management Planning
  5. Embrace Uninterrupted Business Redesign
  6. Assemble Cross-Cultural Workforce Inclusion Programs
  7. Embark Upon Continuous Employee Improvement
Not a bad list - for many organizations to consider!

Leading A Strong Organization and Accountability

Don Blohowiak over at Leadership Now offers this post called Promises, Promises:

The essence?

"To lead a strong organization you simply must make making and keeping promises central to your standard operating procedures. Likewise, honor the corollary tenets and practices of trust and accountability.

Start by making and keeping promises yourself. Insist on the same from everyone around you. Trust that others will honor their commitments, track your collective progress, and use the power of consequences to underscore your commitment to commitment."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Training on The Rise for 2007

Nearly half of U.S. employers plans to spend more time and money on supervisory and executive-level development next year, according to a survey of more than 2,046 senior HR executives by Novations Group, a global consulting organization based in Boston.

Their findings?

  • Leadership/executive development and supervisory/management skills ranked first and second among 11 categories of training.
Other categories of training included:

  • Sales/customer service
  • Technical training
  • Interpersonal/teamwork
  • Communications
  • Diversity/inclusion
  • IT skills/systems
  • Project management
  • Business practices
  • Basic skills

BOTTOMLINE: Where among all of these categories of training is the most fundamental core competency of business - strategy execution? Perhaps that is why 90% of strategies are not well executed??

How To Succeed in 2007

If you haven't yet read these, I'd encourage you to go take a look at Business 2.0's article on "How To Succeed in 2007."

Good advice!

The Importance of Purpose

Just read the first page of this manifesto, and you’ll understand exactly what it is to have purpose.

Read the subsequent pages and you’ll find just how to develop your own sense of purpose through discovery, excellence, altruism and heroism.

(Nikos Mourkogiannis is the author of of a new book, "Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies", He is a senior partner at Panthea and senior executive advisor on leadership to Booz Allen Hamilton.)

Creating An Effective Team Member Appraisal System

Creating a new performance appraisal system is a difficult undertaking. It's even more difficult if the organization doesn't have a logical, well-tested, step-by-step process to follow in developing their new procedure.

Here are ten tips that will help any company create a new performance evaluation system that will provide useful data and be enthusiastically supported by all system users.

  1. Get top management actively involved
  2. Establish the criteria for an ideal system
  3. Appoint an Implementation Team
  4. Design the form first
  5. Build your mission, vision, values, and core competencies into the form
  6. Assure on-going communication
  7. Train all appraisers
  8. Orient all appraisees
  9. Use the results
  10. Monitor and revise the program
Read Dick Grote's entire article here.

BOTTOMLINE: A company's performance appraisal process is critically important. It answers the two questions that every member of an organization wants to know: 1) What do you expect of me? and 2) How am I doing at meeting your expectations? Using these ten tips will help you develop or select a system to will give accurate and complete answers to everyone.

What Is Six Disciplines?

Often times, we're asked "Exactly, what IS Six Disciplines?"

Six Disciplines is many different things:

  • It is a "business-building" methodology that integrates the best practices of strategic planning, quality management, integrated learning, business process automation, people performance manangement and measure-driven improvement.
  • It is an integrated organizational learning system that focuses on strategy, planning, measurement, execution, learning and leadership
  • It is a systematic way for an organization to learn how to set, and more importantly, to execute strategy.
  • It is a practical way for organizations to use software on a daily basis that helps them to execute strategy.
  • It is a repeatable, cyclical approach to continual business process improvement.
  • It is a holistic way for an organization to transform itself into one that can predictably perform.
  • It is an unobtrusive way for an organization to continually improve - takes only 4% of an organization's time.
  • It is a transformational way to eliminate bad habits and incorporate new best practices.
  • It is optimized for use over the Internet.
  • It is specifically designed for use by small and emerging organizations.
  • It is a continuous way to have your organization become more accountable.
  • It is a pervasive way for your organization to learn to communicate more clearly.

Here are two more video clips from author, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines Corporation -- Gary Harpst:

Excellence Quote of The Day - 12/06/06

"When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur.

When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made.

Don't look for the big, quick improvement.

See the small improvements one day at a time.

That's the only way it happens--and when it happens, it lasts."

(John Wooden, award-winning UCLA basketball coach)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Best Business Books of 2006

Business+Strategy has just announced their Best Business Books of 2006.

Several deal with strategy....only one directly addresses execution.

BOTTOMLINE: Look for a new edition of Six Disciplines for Excellence to be published and released in early 2007. Also look for a new book to be published by CEO and author Gary Harpst, later in 2007 - that launches the next new category of business improvement solutions for small and emerging growth organizations - showing how the next generation of solutions will address the challenge of sustainable execution.

Common Sense Is Not So Common

Rob May over at BusinessPundit reviews a book by Emmanuel Gobillot's called, The Connected Leader.

In the book, Gobillot's offers his insight about common sense:

"Like you, I read business and leadership books. Probably like you, I am taken in by bold claims and disappointed once they turn out to be nothing more than 'common sense'. Most insights are common sense, mainly because, by the time we have heard them, they make so much sense that we think we have known them to be true all along!

In my experience, though, in organizations today common sense is not all that common. Many common-sense ideas contained in management books are seldom implemented. Therefore, my aim with this book is to translate the above proposition into something that you will see the value of and know how to implement."

BOTTOMLINE: Most business books don't offer much more than common sense. People who read Six Disciplines for Excellence often say "This was a great book - but it's nothing more than common sense!" Then, why is it not so common that what is common sense, is actually implemented - or executed???

Monitoring Strategic Planning Initiatives

In an online survey of 800 executives conducted by The McKinsey Group consultancy, fewer than half of respondents reported satisfaction with their company's development of strategic planning.

Their findings?

  • Of those who reported that their company implemented a formal strategic process, 79 percent were satisfied with strategy execution.
  • Only 23 percent of respondents said that a formal strategic process drives important decision making at their company.
  • The majority, at 52 percent, credited small senior groups with making critical strategic decisions.
  • Notably, there's a strong correlation between monitoring of strategic plans and executive approval of those plans, according to the study. Satisfied respondents were twice as likely to say their board checks the company's progress against the strategic plan.
  • Still, only 56 percent of respondents overall reported that their company monitors its strategic initiatives!!!

BOTTOMLINE: What is the sense in going through all of the effort to create strategic plans - if they're not being monitored while being executed?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Reshaping Leadership Development

Leadership priorities will take new shape in 2007, according to a new study by consulting firm BlessingWhite.

Their findings:

  • It’s no longer enough to be capable. Senior executives have to build an authentic bond with their employees, customers and other stakeholders, which is admittedly a daunting challenge for most leaders.
  • Leadership increasingly requires an essential balance between business competence and personal connection.
  • Employee engagement will demand the attention of senior management as never before.

Leaders will focus on the following issues in 2007, according to the forecast:

  • Executive Self-Development
  • Correcting Cultural Corruption
  • Re-emerging Focus on Retention
  • Driving Productivity Through Engagement
  • Connecting Individual Contribution to Strategy
  • Inspiring All Generations
  • Developing Leaders for Short — and Long-Term — Needs

Performance Management Systems

According to a recent survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, "Any organization that still seeks the one silver bullet that will revitalize its performance management (PM) system should forget about it."

"There is no single performance management practice that can transform an ineffective system into a good one. Performance management systems are just that: systems. They require the coordination of multiple key practices. The more of these practices that are in place, the more likely a performance management system is to be seen as effective.”

A performance management system is more likely to be seen as effective when it includes the following:

1. Plans for helping employees develop in the work period after the appraisal.
2. Ongoing goal review and feedback from managers.
3. Training for managers on how to conduct a performance appraisal meeting.
4. Metrics of the quality of performance appraisals.
5. Ways of addressing and resolving poor performance.
6. Appraisal information that isn’t limited to the judgment of supervisors.
7. A PM system that is consistent across the whole organization.
8. Some form of multirater feedback.
9. Employees can expect feedback on their performance more often than once a year.

Interestingly enough, when asked whether their performance management process is seen as contributing to individual performance, only 8% said their process contributes in a significant way.

Another 45% said their performance management process contributes but that more improvements are required, while nearly half (47%) are not sure whether their performance management process makes any contribution.

BOTTOMLINE: Something is still clearly missing. Even more so for small and emerging growth companies. The time is finally here for the convergence of a program that takes into account and addresses the three primary barriers of performance management systems: expertise, economics and human factors. The first sustainable program for business excellence: Six Disciplines.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rothacker Reviews - Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

Dave, over at the well-respected Rothacker Reviews (based in sunny Tampa), has just published his review of Six Disciplines for Excellence.

A few of Dave's observations:

  1. "The Six Discipline Methodology begs for help with facilitation. I think this is the root of the system's success.
  2. Six Disciplines For Excellence is what the E-Myth Revisited wants to be when it grows up. The impact of this thought hit home after reading Chapter Three: Align Systems
  3. A sense for what an incredible amount of work it was that went into developing the entire system. "

BOTTOMLINE: Read the rest of Dave's observations and impressions of Six Disciplines for

Biz Book Talk Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

Brandon, over at Biz Book Talk, posts his review of Six Disciplines for Excellence.

His take?

"This book is a must read for any small business CEO or leader who wants to take his company to the next level. You must note though, that the methodologies aren’t a quick fix solution. These are changes that are going to need some extensive work to implement into your company. Especially if you have a business that has been around for a while and has picked up ‘bad’ habits along the way."

Read the entire review here.

Business & Technology Reinvention Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

David Daniels, the astute business blogger over at Business & Technology Reinvention (and fellow Microsoft alum), has published his book review of "Six Disciplines for Excellence."

A few excerpts:

"As part of my quest for value add, I've read and participated in many "best practice" methodologies over the years. Unfortnuately most are skewed towards theory, with minimal attention to practice and implementation. Gary Harpst is the direct opposite. His Six Disciplines For Excellence delivers an effective way to build and grow a business."

"Most importantly this book is about execution."

Read David's entire review here.

Business Opportunities Weblog Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

Many thanks to Sarah Bosch, who has reviewed "Six Disciplines for Excellence," and has posted the review on Dane Carlson's industry-leading business opportunities and franchise blog, Business Opportunities Weblog.

A few excerpts:

"The problem, for most of us, isn’t knowing what to do - but doing it. This book sticks to this concept as it pushed though on the execution and implementation of the principles it covers."

"This hands-on book goes beyond the fluff that many other business books serve up, and offers a real world business plan. It is well tailored to small businesses and is great for those who want a strong framework to build or begin their business. It is a long-term business plan, not a quick route to success, but for those who take the time to read it, the payoffs can be astounding. I recommend this book for anyone who is serious about a better business."

Read the entire review here.

BOTTOMLINE: Perhaps the most interesting tie-in from the Six Disciplines book review being on Dane's blog, is that Six Disciplines Leadership Center franchises are being launched throughout the U.S. Six Disciplines Leadership Centers are a new category of coaching and strategic advisory services that assist organizations in achieving sustainable business excellence.

Rothacker Reviews - Reviews Be Excellent™

Dave, over at the very well-respected Rothacker Reviews, was too kind to offer these encouraging words about Be Excellent™.

It's very humbling and rewarding when a fellow blogger really "gets it" when it comes to understanding why we do the things we do.

OK....everyone, take some time to check out Rothacker Reviews, where Dave reviews "most excellent books, businesses and folks"

Thanks Dave!

Developing Excellence for Busy Professionals

Michelle Neujahr, over at Developing Excellence, offers her tips on Developing Excellence for Busy Professionals.

The most important?

Make excellence a habit. Make a commitment to do something each day to strive towards excellence. By adopting any one of these tips for six weeks or more, you will have created a new habit.

Take a look at the other tips here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Five Steps To Engaging Your Team Members

George Ambler, over at The Practice of Leadership, offers this take on Ram Charan's "Five Steps To Engaging Your Team Members."

Ram's advice:

  1. Spend time and listen. There’s no substitute for personal interaction. Even the most competent, motivated professionals can lose focus, energy, and commitment when their interaction with the boss dwindles.
  2. Help people see why their work is important. It’s hard to feel engaged when you’re working in a vacuum. You can help people see their individual contribution as part of a bigger picture.
  3. Give people honest feedback. It’s a human phenomenon: When someone is doing really well and you reinforce it with positive feedback, good performance becomes even better.
  4. Take an interest in people’s careers. People will be all the more committed to their work when they know you’re the kind of leader who is truly interested in their success.
  5. Take an interest in the person beyond the job. Not every conversation should be about work.
Ram Charan sums the issue up well stating:

"Sure, you can hire a motivational speaker to fire up the troops. But the effect will last 15 minutes. If you really want to get your employees fully engaged in their work, you must be fully engaged with them. It’s you who makes the difference. It’s in your daily behavior, and it’s your energy that creates energy in others. It’s that simple."

A New Approach to Organizational Alignment

Business Performance Magazine offers this new article entitled "How Companies "Find Themselves": A New Approach to Organizational Alignment."

It begins:

"Once upon a time there was a company, and its people were unhappy. They had no goals and nowhere to go. They lacked focus and alignment. Then it started to rain. It rained balanced scorecards. There was one for everyone. Now the people were focused and aligned. And they were happy."

This story sounds silly, of course, but it describes the mind-set of many deployers of business intelligence and performance management systems. Companies approach these technologies with the assumption that implementing the Balanced Scorecard will automatically bring organizational alignment. This is a very mechanistic approach to performance management that doesn't reflect how organizations really work.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers Recognized By Entrepreneur Magazine

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers were recognized in the November 2006 issue of Entrepreneur magazine as one of a select group of top “young gun” business services franchise opportunities in the U.S.

According to the article in Entrepreneur magazine:

“The more you research franchising, the more you’ll find you can tap into innovative, new concepts – maybe even ideas you’ve never heard of before – while still benefiting from all the systems, training and support franchising has traditionally offered. How do you find these hidden gems in time to get in on the ground floor? The following listing, which provides information on companies that have started franchising since 2005, is a good place to start.”

Read the entire press release here.

Mission Statements and Purpose

Jim Logan, over at BizInformer, poses the often-asked question: "Does Your Mission Statement Mean Anything to Anyone?"

His assessment:

"The problem with mission statements is they are overwhelmingly meaningless outcomes of multi-day offsite meetings....Once read at an all hands meeting, the company or organization can go back to whatever they were doing."

His suggestions:

  • Why don’t all companies define themselves and their organizations by the value and benefits they offer their customers?
  • Why not have a mission statement that means something to customers and guides employees as to their greatest objective?
  • Could your mission statement be used to actually grow your business?
BOTTOMLINE: A company's mission explains why an organization exists and what its purpose is. The most important attribute of purpose is authenticity. Purpose has to be something that comes from within - not based on what looks good to others.

Effective Annual Strategic Planning - Best Practices

The annual strategic planning process, when owned and driven by the CEO, can provide valuable guidance for your entire organization.

Here are some generally accepted best practices for conducting an effective annual strategic planning meeting:
  • Limit attendees to key decision makers — the CEO, CFO and key executives. (no more than 10 attendees. )
  • Recognize that the meeting(s) involve in-depth discussions - and schedule enough time.
  • Hold the planning meeting(s) off-site. This eliminates disruption and encourages focus.
  • Engage an outside facilitator to run and document the meeting.
  • Avoid combining annual strategic planning with budget discussions. (Short-term financial issues can take over the discussion, and restrict the creative idea-generation process.)
  • Hold your financial/budget discussions at another time of the year or once you have settled on the major strategic elements of your annual strategic plan.

BOTTOMLINE: In order for the annual planning process to have real value, the documented results need continual followup, which includes tying results to your plan. Continual measuring and monitoring is the key.

Strategic Planning - The Four Fundamentals

In a strategic planning process, there are only four fundamental questions:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. Where do you want to be? and
  4. How are you going to get there?

BOTTOMLINE: In this article, Helene Mazur from Princeton Performance Dynamics explores the "visioning" process in strategic planning ...

Business Strategy: What Matters Is Execution

If you take a look at business strategy under a microscope, you'll find one critical element come into focus:

Creating strategy is easy -- implementing it is very difficult.

So how do we bridge the gap between developing strategy and executing strategy?
First, we need to understand that making strategy work (execution) is more difficult than setting a strategic course (developing the strategy.) Execution - ultimately is also more important.
Only recently have people begun to realize that effective execution is a competitive business advantage. Companies are now seeing that if they execute better, they perform better.
Many business leaders dream up ambitious scenarios and strategies, but leave the execution of strategy to their team members.
BOTTOMLINE: When business leaders separate the strategic planning and the "doing" (execution) - they're missing the big point. Strategy requires buy-in at all levels, from corporate level managers on down. The greater the overlap of doers and planners, the greater probability of success. It's critical for business leaders to be thinking about execution as they are formulating the plans. Who's going to actually "do" all this work?? Execution is a process, and not an action or a step. And execution involves more people than strategy formation.

Ten Dangerous Myths About Strategic Planning

Owners of small businesses often seem to believe in myths surrounding the subject of strategic planning and implementation, myths that can prove dangerous to the health of the organization and their personal goals.

See the Ten Myths here.

BOTTOMLINE: There are six fundamental barriers to excellence; two of which are related to strategy: 1. Poorly Understood Strategy; 2. Weak Strategy Execution. See "Six Disciplines for Excellence" - pages 32-38.

(Thanks to Rick Seaman, of Strategy Implementation.)

Staying Focused During the Holiday Season

Kevin Eikenberry offers these suggestions to keep the focus and results high as the bells ring louder and the shopping days disappear.

Rather than avoiding the challenges or denying the distractions the season offers, ESCAPE the problems by applying the suggestions below.

  • Expect good results.
  • Share spirit.
  • Celebrate!
  • Acknowledge the challenges and distractions.
  • Present positive anticipation for the New Year.
  • Engage outside your organization.

BOTTOMLINE: "These suggestions individually can help you navigate the holiday season more effectively. Taken together, however, they will help you ESCAPE the pitfalls and make December a valuable and productive close to the year and a jump start to the new one. "

Discipline Quotes for 11/27/06

“If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” (John Wooden)

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

"We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit." (Aristotle)

"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)

"Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It's a state of mind-you could call it character in action." (Vince Lombardi)

"If we don't discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us." (William Feather)

"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)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Starting a New Business: What It Takes

According to this USA Today article "Starting a New Business: What It Takes," there are no definitive answers, but the entrepreneurs, private investors and academics USA TODAY's Jim Hopkins talked with suggested these experiences, traits and skills.

  • Childhood experience
  • Entrepreneurial genes
  • Family support
  • Money doesn't motivate
  • Passion
  • Pragmatism
  • Risk-taking
  • Strong ethics
  • Tech ease
  • Tenacity

The Passion For Greatness

Matt McCall over at VC Confidential, offers this excellent post on "The Passion For Greatness."

His premise?

"There has been a lot written and speculated about what is the source of greatness. The two groups fall into the innate greatness camp and the passionate focus camp. Study after study has failed to deliver many points for the “innate greatness” side, but a growing body of research supports the grueling, demanding practice position.

While innate ability is obviously a key factor in grouping competitors (e.g. a five foot person is not likely going to make it far in basketball), the difference between good and great is "Deliberate practice".

Read Matt's entire article here.

How The Best Differ From The Rest

Why is it that some companies perform better than others. Is it luck? Their people? Their products/ services? Their markets?

Manny Sequeira offers his insights into "How The Best Differ From The Rest" - based on his review of Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Leading With Questions

The leader of the past was a person who told, Peter Drucker once said.

The leader of the future will be a person who asks.

Want to know what questions to ask?

Here's 233 Really Good Questions Leaders Should Ask.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Overcoming Barriers To Change

To thrive, companies not only must identify the right strategy, but also must communicate it quickly and effectively so it reaches all levels of the organization.

However, we all know that personal and cultural factors are likely to get in the way of strategy execution.

Why? Human factors: "We don't always do what we know we should."

Knowledge of the strategy alone does not motivate action and cause execution. Employees’ emotions and habits can always cause resistance.

Consider these four strategies to overcome the emotional and cultural challenges of achieving strategic change in your organization:

  1. Employees must be confronted with the need for change. Bring them face to face with the external and internal pressures to change. Team members are more likely to participate in a change initiative if they understand how their work contributes to the company’s success.
  2. Converted some into “change champions." Team members who “own” and drive the change can serve as role models.
  3. Manage employee feelings. Help team members deal with their emotional reactions to change and decide whether they can thrive in the new environment. Listen, listen and listen some more to determine root causes for their feelings.
  4. Support the change with new tools and systems. Use incentives, recognition programs, measurement tools, monitor progress for change - all of which support the adoption of change.

(Adapted from a Strategy+Business article Four Antidotes to Change Resistance)

A Strategic Look At Strategy Execution

Strategy is sexy, but execution is essential.

That message was pounded into managerial skulls when Larry Bossidy beat the drum for execution back in 2002 in his book: "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done."

More recently, Lawrence Hrebiniak, professor at the Wharton School, in his newer book, Making Strategy Work, sets out a comprehensive, disciplined process model for strategy execution.

His assertions?

  • MBAs join companies with an uneven development of skills. They have been taught to develop skills in planning and strategy formulation, but are ignorant of “even the theory and the approach to execution.”
  • People must commit to and own the processes and actions necessary to effective execution, and this doesn’t happen when we separate planning and doing. Strategic success demands the integration of planning and execution.
  • Execution becomes even harder when an organization is growing rapidly. It's not enough to set objectives and make things clear at the management level - everyone must understand the strategy for it to be executed well.

BOTTOMLINE: Execution will not succeed without information sharing, knowledge transfer, and effective communication, as well as the right incentives and controls, and effective change management.

(Thanks to the folks at for this one.)

Team Building Quotes for 11/16/06

"The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team." - John Wooden

"It is amazing how much people get done if they don't worry about who gets the credit."- Swahili proverb

"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." - Michael Jordan

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." - Andrew Carnegie

None of us is as smart as all of us.- Japanese proverb

"A team with a star player is a good team, but a team without one is a great team." - Author unknown

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."- Henry Ford

"In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you've got a good team, you can't do much with the other two." - Lee Iacocca

"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I'. And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I'. They don't think 'I'. They think 'we'; they think 'team'. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit.... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”- Peter Drucker

"Individual commitment to a group effort...that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Disconnect Between Strategy And Execution

While all of us agree there's a disconnect between strategy formulation and strategy execution, the developers of the Balanced Scorecard (Robert Kaplan and David Norton) offer up this terrifying observation:

  • On average, 95% of a company's employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy.
Of course, it doesn't have to be that way.

Many companies have achieved performance breakthoughs by using systems, tools and technologies to help them guide and monitor the execution of their strategies.

BOTTOMLINE: For small businesses with limited resources, very few options exist that enable a top performing company to maintain its edge over time. One option that takes a holistic approach is the Six Disciplines Leadrship Center. It takes a systematic business-building methodology that is cyclical, repeatable and measurable. It also takes Internet technologies that make the method practical. Finally, it takes a local experienced business coach, one who is an expert in the business-building methodology who can help keep the team members within an organization on track, showing them how to have sustainable execution.

Working On The Business, Not Just In It

Anita Campbell, our good friend over at Small Business Trends, includes an article by John Wycoff, in which he describes an on-going challenge called "working on the business, not just in it." This phrase seems to have originated with Michael Gerber's "E-Myth" process. It is repeated and further described in Six Disciplines for Excellence.

In the article, John describes the essence of the challenge:

"Okay, so what would change if the owner started working on the business? First, he or she would not be the first one in and the last one out. He wouldn't necessarily come to the store every day. She would be circulating in the community making contacts with other owners of small businesses getting ideas. He would seek out organizations made up of like-minded business people in his community. She would be joining associations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the Lion's Club. Once a member the owner would be attending regular meetings to become an integral part of the community. The owner would be expanding his or her circle of associates and yes, even friends, outside the industry. He or she would be spending "think time," that quiet time spent thinking about the future and how to use all that knowledge bottled up inside but not exercised because of day-to-day pressures."

BOTTOMLINE: Business owners must make the transition from working IN the business... to working ON the business. It requires a formalized effort (a methodology) to learn how to execute strategy. This capability is critical - the core competence to define and execute a strategy is one that an organization needs - forever. Six Disciplines is the first complete program for sustainable execution.

What Is Six Disciplines? Part I

What is Six Disciplines?

Watch this short video by Gary Harpst, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines Corporation - and author of the top-rated organizational change handbook Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Organizational Procrastination

Research shows 90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution.

Procrastination - putting things off - important things -- is simply a lack of execution.

Procrastination can kill a career, a relationship, an organization.

Avoiding organizational procrastination involves developing constructive accountability -- which provides the focus needed to keep the "urgent" tasks from overriding the "most important" tasks.

BOTTOMLINE: If procrastination is a problem within your organization, an Individual Plan (IP) is a time-tested, proven method to correct the problem. When used by all team members, the result is an organization that has the most vital core competence of all -- the ability to execute its strategy - to be excellent. Read about Individual Plans in the top-rated book Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Be Excellent™ - Explained

In the post below, we took a slight diversion and "found" the explanation of WHAT we're doing with the Be Excellent™ blog.

Perhaps a more interesting question: What does the phrase "Be Excellent™" mean?

The phrase "Be Excellent™" is a trademarked tagline of Six Disciplines Corporation.

The long-term strategic position we are building at Six Disciplines is our ability to enable top-performing organizations to establish and maintain the discipline required to achieve LASTING business excellence - through sustainable execution.

The word “BE” conveys continuity -- a state of achieving and remaining excellent – lasting improvement. “BE” is a powerful, evocative word that speaks to an organization's or individual’s integrity – being what we say we are.

The word “BE” implies some level of attainment has been achieved that is not temporal. It is the opposite of "faddish" – try it, and then lose interest over time.