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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Strategic Position

Long-term business success is rooted in the ability to build and sustain a product or service offering that is different than that of its rivals, and different in ways that are important to customers.

The definition of this offering, and how it relates to the customer and competitive offerings is a strategic position.

For a strategic position to be sustainable, the detailed activities required to deliver it must be different. The offereings and activities must force competitors to choose between maintaining their current strategic position - or attack yours.

If you're not familiar with strategic position, we encourage you to read Michael Porter's Harvard Business Review article "What Is Strategy?"

  • Keep the description of the strategic position simple - just a few words.
  • Your strategic position should not change much - should last for at least 10 years.

Download an example of a Strategic Position from the top-rated book, Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Creating A High Performance Culture

Creating a high-performance culture with requires a systematic approach to managing the performance of organizations, teams and individuals.

While leadership and discipline are the defining elements of that approach, they are not the only elements.

Over at the Ivey Business Journal, these authors outline a road map for changing organizational behaviour and, ultimately, for implementing, promoting and sustaining a high-performance culture.

In order to make this disciplined performance culture work, organizations must have:
  • Openness and trust
  • Managed differences
  • Simplicity and focus
  • Playing to people's strengths

BOTTOMLINE: "Human performance is the function of many influences: accountability, feedback, motivation, skills and knowledge, rewards and recognition. It is the combination of these factors that results in the desired performance and the associated leadership
behaviors that support the performance culture."

Be Excellent™ Named A Top Blog for Entrepreneurs

Scott Allen, over at About Entrepreneurs posts his list of the Top Blogs for Entrepreneurs.

"Here are some of the best blogs with information to help entepreneurs succeed. These cover a wide range of topics and were selected for their relevance, quality, timeliness and consistency (very important in a blog). If you are only going to read a few blogs about entrepreneurship, this is where to start."

Humbly, Be Excellent™ is included on the list.

"Skip Reardon and the folks at Six Disciplines Corporation offer up an insightful mix of original content and commentary on leadership, strategy and personal development. I particular like the frequent "Bottom Line" comments which cull out the key points from the articles and news stories they coment on. Nice, concise reading."

Check out all of the Top Blogs for Entrepreneurs here.

What Makes Six Disciplines Work?

There are many business improvement methods out there. What we don't really need is YAGI (yet another great idea.)

But if you've been following our blog, you'll understand that the reasons most businesses fail is not strategy - it's execution.

More to the point: Knowing what to do isn't the problem - doing it is!

The Six Disciplines program is specifically designed and optimized for strategy-driven execution.

When diligently and consistently applied (with the help provided by Six Disciplines Leadership Centers), the Six Disciplines program will help organizations go beyond efficiency - and beyond effectiveness - to achieve lasting excellence.

The design requirements behind the Six Disciplines Methodology are:

  1. Make it easier than alternatives
  2. Think holistically about the business
  3. Be process-driven
  4. Establish business habits
  5. Promote life-long learning
  6. Instill constructive accountability
  7. Build a measurement culture.
  8. Encourage effective communication
  9. Leverage the Internet
  10. Proactively pursue alignment

BOTTOMLINE: It you've read Good to Great, E-Myth and others - and were left hungry for more - not how why companies can become excellent, but HOW they can be come that way, it's time to read Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Five Keys To Building A High-Performance Organization

A recent Gartner review , published in Business Performance Management Magazine, of the practices of successful companies in a variety of industries reveals five characteristics that are key to success. Emulating these organizations requires a focus on performance management.

High-performance organizations (HPOs) seem to understand the market earlier and more thoroughly than other businesses, retain the best staff members, and have less trouble responding to external pressures.

Gartner analysts found that HPOs share five characteristics:
  1. They set ambitious targets and consistently and continuously achieve those objectives.
  2. They display a strong sense of purpose through shared values both inside (among employees) and outside the organization (among customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders).
  3. They have a strategic focus and alignment so that employees know how they are contributing to the results of the organization.
  4. They have the agility to adapt to changing circumstances quickly.
  5. And, finally, they have a common and shared business model throughout the organization
(In a former life, I managed industry analyst relations for Microsoft. One of the analyst firms I worked with, and found of value from -- was Gartner Group.)

Small Business Trends Showcases Six Disciplines Podcast

On this Small Business Trends radio broadcast, Anita Campbell has as her special guest, Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines Corporation.

According to Anita:

"As the former founder and CEO of Solomon Software, Harpst’s company grew to over 400 employees, merged with their largest competitor — and eventually was acquired by Microsoft."

"Gary has a strong interest and passion for understanding how high-performing organizations develop and maintain culture. His presentations weave together the principles and strategies which are the foundation of the Six Disciplines™ Methodology."

"Gary’s work as an author, keynote speaker, television and radio guest, and executive mentor has created nationwide interest in applying the Six Disciplines Methodology for ready and able organizations that passionately want to be excellent."

Gary talks with Anita about why most businesses eventually lose their edge, and what are some things that can be done to keep their edge.

You can download the podcast (in Windows Media format or MP3) here.

Focused Strategic Planning

Marakon Associates published a quick review of the Harvard Business Review article from Michael Mankins and Richard Steele of Marakon entitled "Stop making plans; start making decisions."

Their premise?

  • Most executives view traditional strategic planning as worthless. Why? The process contains serious flaws.
  • First, it’s conducted annually, so it doesn’t help executives respond swiftly to threats and opportunities (a new competitor, a possible acquisition) that crop up throughout the year.
  • Second, it unfolds unit by unit—with executive committee members visiting one unit at a time to review their strategic plans.

The solution? How to improve the quality and quantity of your strategic decisions?

  • Use continuous issues-focused strategic planning. Throughout the year, identify the issues you must resolve to enhance your company’s performance—particularly those spanning multiple business units. Debate one issue at a time until you’ve reached a decision. And add issues to your agenda as business realities change.

BOTTOMLINE: Your reward? More rigorous debate and more significant strategic decisions each year—made precisely when they’re needed. Don't make strategic planning just an annual event!

Make The Choice to Be Excellent

Over at ThinkTQ, they offer up "10 choices you must make" chose EXCELLENCE over MEDIOCRITY:

  1. Choose to be ENERGETIC—instead of permitting yourself to become run-down and burned-out.
  2. Choose to be PASSIONATE—instead of permitting yourself to become aimless, apathetic and indifferent.
  3. Choose to be ENTHUSIASTIC—instead of permitting yourself to become half-hearted and discouraged.
  4. Choose to be SELF-DIRECTED—instead of permitting yourself to become directionless and uncertain.
  5. Choose to be PREPARED—instead of permitting yourself to become shortsighted and reactive.
  6. Choose to be FOCUSED—instead of permitting yourself to become scattered and impulsive.
  7. Choose to be SUPPORTIVE—instead of permitting yourself to become critical and judgmental.
  8. Choose to be SYSTEMATIC—instead of permitting yourself to become haphazard and disorganized.
  9. Choose to be TIMELY—instead of permitting yourself to become distracted and preoccupied.
  10. Choose to be PROACTIVE—instead of permitting yourself to become procrastinating and hesitant.

BOTTOMLINE: Within your organization, you have choices every day, every hour, every minute. Don't just choose to do things right (efficiency). Don't even stop at doing the right things (effectiveness). Make the choice to Be Excellent™.

Does Discipline Squelch Flexibility and Creativity?

Here's one from Inc. Magazine: Does Discipline Squelch Flexibility and Creativity?

"Can a business have formal disciplined systems, yet still provide a creative environment for employees while profitably providing responsive flexibility for customers?"

BOTTOMLINE: "The reality is you have a much better chance with disciplined systems than you do without them. How can that be? Because without discipline and systems, decision-making is more chaos than repeatable or reliable. Moreover, if there is no defined way for how things get done, any idea for an improved method merely means one more option for employees to ignore when they choose to. As they say in movie disclaimers, any resemblance between chaos and profitable responsive flexibility is purely coincidental."

Ready to read "Six Disciplines for Excellence" now?

Weekly Planning - Why We Resist

From Ricky Spears, comes this insightful piece called, "Why We Resist the Weekly Review and Plan (and What You Can Do About It)"

His assertion?

"Regardless of whether you are keeping your life organized using the Getting Things Done methodology or the FranklinCovey methodology, a central component of both systems is the “weekly review” or the “weekly plan”.

For many practitioners, this is the single most difficult discipline and yet also the most crucial discipline. Over the past few months I’ve spent some time thinking about why we resist the weekly review or plan, and what we can do about it. I trust that the following will help you in discovering why you are resisting the weekly review or plan and in discovering ways to overcome them.

BOTTOMLINE: Weekly planning - very critical to becoming more self managing. Read the entire, very useful article here.

(Tip of the hat to LifeHack.Org for this one!)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Five Actions for Organizational Change

Hal, over at Reforming Project Management, posts this entry on Five Necessary Actions for Organizational Change

  1. Be clear why change is necessary in terms that make sense to the individuals.
  2. Declare an initial set of standards for measuring performance and get agreement that people will set out to perform to those standards.
  3. Show how it is done.
  4. Measure, acknowledge, reward new behavior, and be clear on the consequences.
  5. Work with them on improving.
(This posting was abstracted from Lean Project Consulting's special report: Five Necessary Actions for Organizational Change, by Hal Macomber and Gregory Howell. You can get a complete copy by sending an email to You'll get a link to a 2-page PDF which you are welcome to share with your colleagues.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Examples of Excellence: Tiger Woods in Golf

So much has been written about Tiger Woods, that to wax on eloquently about his passion for excellence - would be superfluous.

But when you see headlines like: just have to sit and ponder about the level of excellence he has achieved already, at the ripe old age of 30.

Doing The Right Things Right

Successful companies execute well against their strategic plans and deliver against goals and measured expectations.

Simply put:

  1. Figure out what to do (doing the right things) - primarily effectiveness
  2. Then you need to do it (doing things right) - primarily efficiency
  3. Then, you need to (do the right things right) - combining effectiveness and efficiency

BOTTOMLINE: By doing the right things right - and doing it over the long-term, transforms your organization into one that learns, leads and lasts.

Change Is A Good Thing

Ann Michael, over at Manage to Change, offers this great thought provoker:

Change is offensive. It challenges the status quo.
Learning is offensive. It forces us to grow.
Decision making is offensive. It’s discriminating.
Leadership is offensive. We don’t always get our way.
Innovators are offensive. They challenge us.
Thinkers are offensive. They ask a lot of annoying questions.
Honesty is offensive. Sometimes the truth hurts.
Integrity is offensive. Its presence highlights where it’s absent.

Offensive: causing resentful displeasure; highly irritating, angering or annoying.

Culture and Passion Are Key Drivers

The new Inc. 500 is out. According to one new inductee:

"It's definitely an honor to make the 500, and a nice boost to the team. But it definitely signifies a transition from scrappy disrupter to growth-oriented execution company. What keeps me up at night? It's not cash flow. It's not marketing. If I'm going to rant on any topic, it's culture."

  • We did a Stop/Start/Continue exercise recently ("what's one thing we should stop doing, one thing to start doing and one thing to continue doing?"), and 75% of the team said that we need to continue our passionate culture.

The big question then is how do you combine your aggressive growth plans without losing the culture that has defined you? What are the best practices?

  1. Take interviewing seriously: We have a detailed, consistent, structured process for finding the right people, (consider using behaviorial assessments)
  2. Accept change: We need to embrace the growth process and understand that some changes are inevitable. We want to operationalize the elements of culture that are most important so they don't get lost in the process.
  3. Market the culture: We write down what makes our culture great. Then share it, live it, update it. Do some internal marketing that reflects our core brand to keep people fired up about why the company is great....and that the mission has never waivered.
  4. Hire athletes: Great people that don't have the specific skill set ("athletes") are much better for us than good people with the exact skill set ("experts"). Athletes can be trained, but we can't train passion.
  5. Keep the magic: It's not about money -- money is the air we breathe to help us chase our goals. It's about a bigger mission.

Ways To Stay Focused At Work

An individual's competence to execute strategy on a daily basis is key to a successful small business. But we all recognize how easily and quickly it is to be distracted.

Here are 18 ways to stay focused at work: are 11 more ways!

BOTTOMLINE: Decide what's important, set goals that lead, align systems, work the plan. Stay focused!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Planning and Execution

From the "School of Doing Business":

Running a small business can be boiled down to TWO activities:


There are only 4 possible combinations to the above formula, and two possible outcomes:

  • GOOD execution of a BAD plan ----> leads to failure.
  • BAD execution of a GOOD plan----> leads to failure.
  • BAD execution of a BAD plan----> leads to failure.
  • GOOD execution of a GOOD plan----> leads to success.

Top Six Drivers for Business Success

eePulse Inc. and the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business today announced the results of the Leadership Pulse, which reveals leadership energy trends, the importance of specific drivers for business success and undervalued drivers in select industries.

Out of 22 drivers, based on a study of long-term stock price and earnings growth conducted by eePulse, respondents indicated six “higher-order” categories in order of relative importance to their firm’s overall performance (1-to-5 scale was used, where 1 = not at all important and 5 = very important):
  • 4.34 Agility and Quality
  • 4.25 Strategy/Leadership
  • 4.12 Technology
  • 3.97 Human Capital
  • 3.91 Product
  • 3.82 Costs
Interestingly, the majority of respondents felt that human capital drivers (e.g. employee-development practices, the manner people are energized, overall culture and rewarding top-performers) are perceived as important but are underused and/or underrated business drivers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Strategy Execution Disconnect

OnPoint Consulting's recent survey yields insights into what causes the strategy-execution gap . . . and what might be done to close it.

Their assertions:

  • We discovered that almost half of the leaders surveyed—49%—do perceive a gap between their organizations' ability to develop and communicate sound strategies and their ability to implement those strategies.
  • 64% don't have full confidence that their companies will be able to close the gap.
  • "Vision" isn't the problem. The majority of respondents - 75% believe their companies have clear and inspiring visions.

So what is contributing to the strategy-execution gap?

Eight central factors set apart those companies whose employees have confidence in their company's ability to effectively execute from those with reported strategy-execution gaps:

  1. Change is well managed by top management
  2. Decisions and actions are well coordinated across different levels of management
  3. The actions and decisions of top management are consistent with their espoused objectives, values, and priorities
  4. Decisions and actions are well coordinated across different work units
  5. Effective human resource management systems and practices are in place for selecting, training, and compensating employees
  6. The current organizational structure supports the implementation of the business strategy
  7. There is a proper balance of centralized and decentralized responsibility required to achieve the strategy
  8. Top management appropriately involves people in decisions

What are the implications? Their survey yields several critical lessons for business leaders:

  • Successfully achieving execution takes more than clarifying and communicating the organization's strategic direction. You've got to come up with a common picture, clarify the focus and scope, before you can get to the actual behaviors. For many companies, this step—clarifying assumptions—is missing. (See Discipline I - Decide What's Important)
  • Few organizations appear to ask whether or not they have the proper management systems in place to support the achievement of the strategy. (See Discipline III - Align Systems)
  • It is also important to go beyond gaining understanding and acceptance of the strategy throughout the organization. Monitoring may be the most critical aspect of the process. (See Discipline III. Align Systems)
  • Leaders must behave in a way that is consistent with organizational values and priorities. (See Discipline I - Decide What's Important)

BOTTOMLINE: "Gaps between strategy and execution that are neglected tend to grow into chasms. Closing the gap between strategy and execution may be the most important thing you can do for the future of your company."

Knowing vs. Doing: Why Is It So Hard?

A key challenge for today’s small businesses – and for the team members within them – is to build a culture of execution.

It's not enough to know what to do (theory). It's doing it (execution).

Knowledge is only useful if you do something with it.

So...why is it so hard?

Today, there are plenty of management experts on everything, even on how to get things done.

But even those who focus on getting things done, focus primarily on efficiency.

But what about getting the right things done? What about effectiveness?

Perhaps even more important, what about getting the right things done....right?

BOTTOMLINE: "Your job is to do something today that’s better than what you did yesterday. And to do something tomorrow that’s better than what you did today."

Continual improvement. Doing things right (efficient) - AND - doing the right things (effective) - and doing the right things RIGHT.

(Hat tip to Jeffrey Pfeffer)

The Craft and Art of Running A Business

Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Owner's Manual for Small Business," and published a great article on "Put passion, soul in business in order to excel."

In it, she talks about the CRAFT of business:

  • To run a good company, you need to know the "craft" of business.
  • The skills you need to know to run and grow a business -- how to improve your marketing, hire employees, use technology -- are basic to running your company every day; they're the "craft" of business.
  • of what we do on a day-to-day basis is craft -- the workmanship of running a company.
  • The "craft" of business enables you to survive.

And...the ART of business:

  • To run a great company, you also need to practice the "art" of business.
  • The "art" of business propels you to succeed.
  • Exceptional companies infuse their workmanship with extra care. They put their heart into the process. They pay attention to the little things.
  • When you put yourself -- your unique vision, your talents, your creativity, your passion -- into your business, you can create something exceptional.

BOTTOMLINE: "Make no mistake, learning the craft of business is essential. Many decent businesses survive on craft alone by consistently doing the basic day-to-day tasks well. None survives on art alone. It's the difference between concept and execution, inspiration and perspiration. Even the most inspired business concept goes nowhere without hard-working execution.

But if you want an exceptional business, one that not only survives but excels, a business that provides you with exceptional rewards in both personal satisfaction as well as financial gains, that's where the art of business takes over. When you put your passion and soul into your day-to-day operations, then you've become an artist as well as an entrepreneur."

(Tip of the hat to Dane Carlson at Business Opportunities Weblog for the link!)

Entrepreneurs and Growth Opportunities

Visa USA and SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education recently published the results of a survey in which they found:

  • Sole proprietors, who make up three-fourths of all small businesses, lack the time and resources to focus on generating new business
  • 35% of sole proprietors say their primary challenge in maintaining and growing a small business is an inability to focus on generating new business
  • 27% cite stretching themselves across multiple roles and projects.
  • Other challenges mentioned by sole proprietors included:
    - limited resources (23%)
    - lack of time to focus on their passions (23%)
    - difficulties in running their businesses efficiently (23%)
  • 52% said that with the help of an additional employee, generating new business would become a focal point and personal priority

Why Most CEOs and Entrepreneurs Fail

"In an excellent article by Chet Holmes, he discusses the reason behind why so many CEOs and entrepreneurs fail.

The major reason he cites is that they fail to "tap into the incredible treasure trove of knowledge, harness the energies and then channel the efforts of your employees to help you become great."

When talking about the saying we hear that says "work on the business not just in the business," he says that you must ask three questions of your people:

  1. Where's the pain?
  2. What needs to be fixed?
  3. What can we do to fix it?

(Tip of the hat to Gary Bourgeault at Managers Realm for the link!)

Kauffman Foundation Mentions Six Disciplines

Always good to know we're getting the word out!

And in this entry on Kauffman's Entrepreneur's Viewpoint blog, we're humbled to see a link to the Six Disciplines web site -- from one of the best entrepreneurial resources on the planet!

(Thanks to the good folks at Kauffman!)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Change Options

Steve Rucinski, over at Small Business CEO, offers this insightful entry on "Change: Get Better or Get Worse – That’s It For Options."

His premise?

  • People and organizations have only two alternatives: get better or get worse, improve or decay.
  • Our choice is to manage this process and improve the things that can be improved, or ignore the process and decay. This idea is a key element in the concept of life long learning.
  • The question for us as individuals, and for organizations, is how to keep on the growth, innovation and improvement upward vector. It can be done, but it takes positive, continuous action and energy.
  • In almost all of these tasks, the required decision-making leads to changes. Therefore, change is what we are actually managing.
  • The point is the blanket comment; “I don’t like change” is untrue. We generally like changes that affect us positively and tend to resist changes that affect us in a negative way.

BOTTOMLINE: "We are on the threshold of an entirely new way of thinking about change. Soon, there will be a generation that will resist the lack of change. Are we ready to manage people who think that way? The challenge is to proactively manage change. Become the change agent and you are shaping the future."

Communicating The Mission

Even if you can't build a relationship with each of your employees in person, here are three ways to communicate your company's mission, as described in this Business Week article, showcasing the president of Travelocity, Michelle Peluso.

Stay remarkably connected with your team members by:

  1. Be Visionary. A mission must be both emotional and tangible. Employees need to be excited about the roles they play in making that mission a reality. The CEO's job is to make sure all employees understand how their work advances the mission. It's up to the leader to craft a compelling mission and to communicate the importance of everyone's role in fulfilling that mission.
  2. Be Genuine and Passionate. Be compassionate, yet aggressive and open. Communicate the facts as you know them and to craft a positive, energizing, and inspiring vision of the future
  3. Be Present. Great leaders are "present," or available. Answer or acknowledge emails directly. If you can get back to an employee immediately, employees, in turn, should be able to quickly respond to customers, colleagues, and vendors. By being responsive and showing appreciation, everyone wins—staff, customers, and investors.

BOTTOMLINE: CEOs are the the leaders. Act as the role model. Be available, present, and connected, and communicate the mission as often as you can.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Signs of Change Fatigue

Any change initiative, whether one with a specific focus or comprehensive organizational change, will reach a point when it stalls - a leader's will starts to sag and the minions, employees, start to tune out.

Mastering how to make mid-course adjustments will give new life and momentum to these change initiatives.

In this article, Eric Beaudan, a Principal with Healthy Companies International, a consulting firm based in Washington DC., describes how leaders can make those key midcourse adjustments.

Here are 6 Signs of Change Fatigue within Organizations:

  1. Outsiders increasingly question the value/objectives of the change effort
  2. Change effort leaders/coordinators are stressed out and/or leaving
  3. Reluctance to share or comment on data about the effort
  4. Budget and resources are diverted to other strategic initiatives
  5. Customer impatience with duration of change effort
  6. Key leaders not attending progress reviews
BOTTOMLINE: "All change runs into resistance. All change involves a shift of the
organization's power structure. Individuals who support change at the beginning may become neutral, passive or active resisters over time."

Top 10 Reasons Why Businesses Fail

Bobby Guy, an attorney in Nashville, practices bankruptcy law. How often do entrepreneurs get to hear from a person who understands business failure from the inside before they start their ventures? He likes to give a talk called “A View From Down-Under: The Top Ten Reasons Companies That Should Make It…Don’t.”

And here are his Top 10: (drum-roll please....)

10. Over-expansion
9. Poor Capital Structure
8. Failure to Control the Controllable Costs
7. Failure to Prepare for Volatility of Uncontrollable Costs
6. Add New Products or Divisions that Drag Down the Profitable Ones
5. Poor Internal Controls and Execution
4. Poorly Designed Business Model
3. Reliance on Critical Financing that Dries Up
2. Failure to Adapt to a Changing Market

AND THE #1 REASON? Top Management in Complete Denial......

BOTTOMLINE: Hmmmm.....What if an organization would use a systematic business-building methodology, designed to focus on execution - along with integrated Internet technologies to make the repeatable processes practical - along with a local business coach who helps the organization keep on track?

Not only would the organization be in a better position to avoid these Top 10 reasons, they'd have a built-in process to continually improve it.

(Thanks to Dr. Jeff Cornwall at The Entreprenurial Mind for this one)

Forbes Magazine On Business Planning

As mentioned before in Be Excellent, Tim Berry knows business planning. (He's the successful founder of Palo Alto Software.)

A few key points from the interview with Tim in Forbes Magazine:

  • "There is a myth that a business plan is about starting a business, getting a loan or attracting capital. But many businesses may not need to raise capital, so they think business plans are a waste of time. They use it once and stick it away in a drawer."
  • "Business planning should be a process that allows for regular review. A good business plan is never done. It is a projection of what you think you're going to do, after which it becomes a tool for comparing, month by month, what you did to what you thought you were going to do. It becomes a guide. "
  • " The plan contains as many measurable objectives as possible. Sales by product, cost by product, basic financial stuff. But we'll also look at other markers like the number of tech support calls every month, things that don’t show up in the financials. Maybe a couple dozen data points."
BOTTOMLINE: Business planning is just one key element of what Six Disciplines calls "business-building."

Business-building involves the integration of key management elements, including strategy, planning, measurement, execution, learning and leadership.

About Lasting Excellence And Decision-Making

To quote Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and Built to Last):

"Lasting excellence in corporations seems to stem less from decisions about strategy than decisions about people, and seeking consensus is not the way to make the tough calls."

In this Fortune Magazine article, (subscription required) Collins reveals the one theme discovered by looking at the decision-making process was:

"the greatest (business) decisions were not 'what' but 'who.' They were people decisions."

BOTTOMLINE: For an organization to achieve lasting excellence takes strategic decisions - the most important of which are those based on your organization's key asset - your people.

Interesting, though, that Collins' books are runaway best-sellers.....they focus on telling you what and why - but very little on HOW to make it happen in your OWN organization.

The Winning Spirit: Principles That Drive Performance Excellence

"Widely considered the best NFL quarterback of all time, Joe Montana personifies performance excellence and personal integrity both on and off the field. Since his retirement a decade ago, he has become a popular motivational speaker sought out by corporations nationwide, speaking to capacity audiences as large as twenty thousand.

Now making his message available to a broader audience, Montana teams up with performance coach Tom Mitchell to extend to all areas of life the truths of success on the field. " The Winning Spirit: Sixteen Timeless Principles That Drive Performance Excellence" by Joe Montana, shows that ultimately performance excellence is fueled by personal integrity."

A few examples from the book:

  • Know What You Want: First, identify goals, then turn clarity into action.
  • Strive for Excellence: Surpass expectations and reach new heights
  • Fail Fast and Move On: Take chances, learn from mistakes, and keep pressing forward–don’t let fear or regret take you out of the game.
  • Remember the “I” in Team: Make yourself the priority–because intense preparation is the individual responsibility of each member of the team.
  • Welcome Pressure: Want to be the best? Work with or compete against the best!
  • Walk Like a Champ: Your life is not just about achieving success, but also about having a purpose and creating significance.
BOTTOMLINE: Nothing against Joe or anyone who can write a good book. I'm always up for a good motivational read, but like they say with motivational speakers: "The motivation leaves -- when the speaker leaves the room." In this case, as with most personal motivation books, the motivation ends - when the book closes.

The Time for Action Is Now: Execution is the Key

Todd Sattersten, who works for business book vendor 800-CEO-READ recently published this short entry at on the importance of Action (i.e., Execution):

"The ever common debate is "What is more important -- the idea or the execution?" I have recently come on the side of action.

I have never found the idea part difficult. If you are a student of business, you can find inspiration all around you. Read the business media. Go to conferences. Good ideas are everywhere."
(Read the rest here.)

BOTTOMLINE: Ideas are everywhere. The key is to execute on the right ideas, continually, consistently and systematically. Execution is the fundamental design principle behind Six Disciplines.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Organizing To Execute

"Thankfully, organizational DNA can be changed or modified, a distinct advantage when the behavior of certain managers, for example, throws programs or goals off the rails. But like human DNA, the organizational variety has building blocks.

The latter, however, can be changed by manipulating and modifying those blocks. These authors explain how it can be done."

BOTTOMLINE: "Any attempt to address a business weakness or strategic opportunity must explicitly address the underlying organizational reasons the current strategy is not working.
The attempt cannot begin, as many traditional approaches do, with the conclusion that the problem lies in the strategy itself or the culture of the company.

While culture plays an important role in organizational performance, it is an outcome of the organizational system, not an input. Adjust the building blocks, and you change the system. Change the system, and you change the culture. Change the culture and you unlock strategy by enabling execution."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Strategy, Planning and Execution

Success in business is really not that complicated.

In business - there are only three requirements.

You need three things, clear and unambiguous, no less, no more and - in exactly this order.

  1. A Strategy. As Michael Porter conveys it: "What value are you to deliver to what customers and how are you going to be different?"
  2. A Business Model. As in "and how are you going to use your resources to deliver that value and how are you going to keep some of the value yourself?"
  3. A Way to Execute.

BOTTOMLINE: Sometimes... simplicity is best.

Motivating Team Members

From Entrepreneur Magazine comes this article on Motivating Your Burned-Out Employees .

If you have employees who've held the same job for some time, it's quite likely they're bored and their job performance is below par.

Frederick Herzberg, author of The Motivation to Work, said that employees can best be motivated by three techniques: job rotation, job enlargement and job enrichment.

  • Job rotation involves cross training employees, or teaching employees each other's jobs.
  • Job enlargement involves giving a wider breadth of tasks and responsibilities.
  • Job enrichment involves increasing the depth of your employee's responsibilities, not by increasing the number of tasks -- but by increasing the complexity of the tasks.

BOTTOMLINE: One of the most basic elements of improving performance is understanding what needs to be done, and how it ties to the organization's strategy and goals. Key to this understanding is the simple, yet very powerful tool called the Individual Plan, as described in Discipline IV. Work The Plan.

13 Keys To Keeping The Right People

These days, it's hard enough to find the right people.

It can be even harder to keep the right people.

Here are 13 must-dos to keep the right people - "the result will be long-standing workplace success. "

Management Styles and Small Business Growth

Fortune Small Business offers this short article detailing the results of a study by the Gevity Institute, a human resources outsourcing firm in Bradenton, FL.

The results?
  • Small businesses that granted workers more autonomy grew at more than four times the rate of those that relied on tight top-down controls.
  • Superior HR and management decisions could mean the difference between an explosive business and a sluggish one.
  • Companies that met all its criteria had an average revenue growth rate 22 times higher than those that didn't meet any, a profit rate 47 times higher - and one-sixteenth the turnover rate.
BOTTOMLINE: Paying attention to people and offering clear management direction from an engaged leadership team pays many dividends. Read the entire report here.

15 Warning Signs of A Company's Failing Reputation

From the folks at, comes this free 35-page e-book download "Cures for The Company Blues: 15 Early Warning Signs of A Company's Failing Reputation."

The early warning signs?

  1. There is low employee morale
  2. Internal politics are more important than doing the job well
  3. Top executives depart
  4. CEO celebrity displaces CEO credibility
  5. Employees speak of customers as nuisances
  6. Employees stop telling positive stories about the company
  7. Leaders stifle initiative
  8. Leaders talk about growth but focus on cost-cutting
  9. Bureaucratic procedures impede flexibilit
  10. There is a tendency toward superficiality
  11. Problem-makers outnumber problem-solvers
  12. Internal documents leak
  13. There are few rewards and recognition
  14. Management spends more time inside than outside headquarters
  15. Employees spend too much time writing internal memos

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Formal Definitions of Leadership

From LeadingToday.Org comes this article on Formal Definitions of Leadership.

Their premise?

Leadership is a term which is hard to define. Because of this ambiguity it is also often misdefined and abused. The modern media is usually guilty of labeling the term "leadership" on any individual or group that controls, commands others or maintains positions of power. To help us define leadership, it may be helpful to remember what Warren Bennis wrote almost 50 years ago…

"Always, it seems, the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. So we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it . . . and still the concept is not sufficiently defined."

Sadly, what was written by Warren Bennis in 1959 is still as applicable today as ever.

BOTTOMLINE: There is no single phrase or definition that incorporates all the traits or qualities of effective leadership. Yet, by examining these diverse definitions we can come to a better understanding of what leadership is, and how it influences others.

Some excellent definitions of leadership are reviewed here!

Strategic and Execution

At Six Disciplines, a core business process we have business leaders learn is that of strategy formulation - and, of course, execution.

But what exactly is strategy?

According to Henry Mintzberg:

"Strategies are to organizations what blinkers are to horses."

"Strategy doesn’t necessarily come first (‘think’ then ‘do’): it’s not that simple a divide. Strategy and Execution intertwine, so stop separating them in your head.

“Virtually everything that has been written about strategy-making depicts it as a deliberate process. First we think, then we act. We formulate, then we implement. The progression seems so perfectly sensible. Why would anybody want to proceed differently?" he writes.

He goes on: "While it is certainly true that many intended strategies are ill conceived, I believe that the problem often lies one step beyond, in the distinction we make between formulation and implementation, the common assumption that thought must be independent of [and precede] action…Smart strategists appreciate that they cannot always be smart enough to think through everything in advance.”

Why do so few other get this? Including some of those billed as the biggest experts on strategy in our time?

BOTTOMLINE: "Breaking the distinction between Strategy and Execution frees leaders up to be more agile and flexible."

The Advantages of Franchising

According to the 2006 FranData study published in Franchising World magazine, the franchising world is booming!

Here are some highlights:

  • Of the 18 industries covered, 17 saw an increase in the number of new business concepts being franchised.
  • Over the past three years, over 900 new business concepts started franchising their operations.
  • Not surprisingly, the fast food industry offers the most franchised units, followed by retail and service businesses.

Why franchise?

We can learn much about achieving excellence from successful franchises. The appeal of a franchise is rooted in two promises.

First, there a very clear promise to the customer that's reflected in their brand. (Think: Starbucks, JiffyLube, McDonalds.)

Second, there's a promise to the franchise owner of a well-considered and proven business model that delivers on the customer promise.

The result is two-fold.

  1. It delivers something of excellence to the customer (Starbucks - a steaming hot, fresh brewed cup of coffee; JiffyLube - quick oil changes)
  2. It also delivers something of excellence to the franchise owner (a predictable return on investment, established business procedures, training, staffing plans, physical location layouts, marketing strategies and interested prospects)

BOTTOMLINE: The point isn't that all businesses should be franchised; the point is that all businesses would benefit from taking the same holistic approach to excellence that franchises take. Franchised businesses recognize that there are really two products - the product or service that the customer buys, and the business which the investor buys.

A goal of Six Disciplines is to help business leaders work on their business so they can be as satisfied with their businesses - as their customers are with their products or services.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Strategic Planning - Time To Begin

When should you do your strategic planning?

While the answers vary, there's a trend toward doing the strategic planning about two - three months in advance of the annual budgeting process.

Most choose to do their advance strategic planning in the September through October timeframe, having a much clearer course to follow when you do your annual budgeting in November and December.

Many of the top-performing organizations we work with every day - have expressed a real need to not only develop a strategic plan” but also - how to implement it.” Take a quick minute – and consider the following key questions:

  • Is implementing a strategic plan your challenge?
  • Does your staff help develop a strategic plan and forget it the next day?
  • Do you have measures in place to know how you are doing compared to your strategic plan?
  • Do you believe an ill-defined strategic plan can be overcome by execution?
  • Do you know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) as they relate to your company?
  • Do you know what is important to improve your bottom line?
BOTTOMLINE: If you answered “NO” to any one of these questions, Six Disciplines Leadership Centers are holding timely half-day training sessions on "How To Conduct and Effective Strategic Planning Meeting."

Five Pillars of Organizational Excellence

H. James Harrington, CEO of the Harrington Institute Inc., offers his insights into what it takes to achieve organizational excellence:

Pillar 1: process management
Pillar 2: project management
Pillar 3: change management
Pillar 4: knowledge management
Pillar 5: resource management

According to Harrington, common threads that run across all five pillars must be managed to achieve excellence:

• Communication
• Teamwork
• Empowerment
• Respect
• Honesty
• Leadership
• Quality
• Fairness
• Technology

BOTTOMLINE: "To become an excellent organization, each of these resources needs to be managed in its own special way. The big question is, "How do you pull all these different activities and improvement approaches together and prioritize them?" To solve this question, you must have a very thorough, total-involvement approach to strategic planning--one that involves everyone, from the chairman of the board to the janitor, from sales to personnel, from development engineering to maintenance. This is a total-involvement approach to strategic planning; it is both bottom up and top down. A total strategic planning process (i.e., a business plan) includes directions, expectations and actions."

Hmmm....sounds like......Six Disciplines?

Monday, August 14, 2006

On Attitudes

One of the best short pieces on attitudes ever written (I've had this posted near my desk for over 20 years now.....)

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts.

It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill.

It will make or break a company…a church…a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…

We are in charge of our attitudes.”

-- Charles Swindoll

(Hat tip to George Ambler for the reminder on this one!)

Leadership In Sports: Knight and Krzyzewski Compared

Take two of the all-time best basketball coaches - compare their leadership styles, and what do you get?

Different styles, yes, but the results are similar: After long careers, both have similar win-loss records for their teams and are acknowledged as top coaches in the collegiate ranks. So what do Knight and Krzyzewski tell us about leadership?

In Harvard's Working Knowledge article "On Managing with Bobby Knight and "Coach K" you'll see key differences in leadership style, yet similar end results.

Great reading here!

Small Business Trends and Growth Opportunities

Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Owner's Manual for Small Business' and other books for entrepreneurs, and offers these insights into small business trends and opportunities as a result of her work with the Institute of the Future.

Here are the top trends and related growth opportunities for small businesses:

  • Retirement businesses
  • Continuing rapid pace of change
  • Rising health-care costs
  • Entrepreneurship education
  • Immigrant entrepreneurs
  • Reluctant entrepreneurs
Read her insights as to how to take advantage of these opportunities here.

(Tip of the hat to Dane Carlson at Business Opportunities Weblog)

Excellence - Sports Quotes of the Day II

Here's a recent interview with Joe Torre, manager of the New York Yankees, in which he offered these gems:

"Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It's about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result."

"I believe anybody who is not afraid to fail is a winner."

"Still, even with all the talent and resources we have here, having heart is what really makes a difference. As a manager, or if you're running a company, you want to know that you can ask somebody to do something and that they are going to find a way to get the job done. That's the essence of a competitor."

"A winner is somebody who goes out there every day and exhausts himself trying to get something accomplished. Being able to get the most from their ability. That's what characterizes a winner."

Making Business Improvement Last

It's surprising that in most professions, there are accepted methods and processes for being proficient -- even extremely skilled - or excellent.

Think of what it takes to become an expert engineer, cabinetmaker, architect, musician, athlete, lawyer or accountant.

It takes years of education, mentoring, coaching and on-the-job training.

Yet - shockingly - for small businesses, there has been really no practical way to learn how to build an excellent business -- and keep it that way.

That is, until now.

Unlike most business improvement systems, that describe WHAT the challenges are, or WHY your business needs to continually improve, Six Disciplines shows you HOW to get there.

Six Disciplines incorporates best practices of strategic planning, quality management, business process automation, people performance management and measure-driven improvement in a unique system that is optimized for smaller organizations.

It's a systematic way for the whole organization (not just the leadership team) to learn how to set, and more importantly, execute strategy.

By following Six Disciplines' repeatable annual, quarterly, weekly and daily cycles (as part of the Business-Building Calendar), team members continually learn and grow at their own pace.

Six Disciplines is a way for everyone in an organization to increase in understanding about about to work on the business, not just in it. And with that realization comes the understanding of the value of having a step-by-step busness improvement method that makes business improvement last.

Strategy Execution

One of the major arriers to achieving lasting business excellence is how little formal effort organizations put into learning how to execute strategy.

This capability is critical, because service offerings and product lines come and go, but the core competence to define and execute a strategy is forever.

Warning signs related to not being "strategy focused" within an organization include:

  • Team members don't understand the difference between working on the business and working in the business.
  • There's no defined process for working on the business itself.
  • Team members don't understand the strategy itself, and goals communication is infrequent and inadequate.
  • People, systems, processes, policies and/or capital are not aligned with the strategy.
  • Reward systems are misaligned with goals.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Small Business Organizational Entropy

Webster's Dictionary defines entropy as "a measure of the degree of disorder in a system."

When a small business makes plans, the chaos of everything changing around it gradually erodes those plans -causing unchecked organizational entropy or "decay."

Small businesses must have a systematic and ongoing way to to offset these forces or it will eventually become ineffective to the point that its survival will be at stake.

Here are some organizational entropy warning signs:

  • A lot of red tape is required to get things done (GTD) - it takes too long or costs too much
  • Inadequate tome is alloted for planning
  • People don't know what is expected of them
  • People aren't held accountable for their responsibilities
  • Results aren't measured, so decay goes unnoticed or unchallenged - and learning is inhibited
  • Inadequate resources are allocated to keep systems/processes working properly

BOTTOMLINE: Unchecked organizational entropy is one of the barriers to lasting excellence. The others are:

  1. Poorly understood strategy
  2. Weak strategy execution
  3. Lack of a systematic approach
  4. Impractical execution methods
  5. People are not engaged

Baby Boomers and Executing Strategy

According to this research from the Conference Board, the aging workforce and approaching retirement of the "baby boom" generation is changing how companies plan and execute their business strategies, with a greater emphasis on workforce planning as a way of improving competitiveness and boosting productivity.

The Conference Board has found more companies are spending more time and effort analysing and forecasting the talent they have or need to acquire in order to execute their business strategy.

Strategic workforce planning, in essence, is aimed at helping companies make sure they have the right people in the right place at the right time and at the right price.

To engage senior executives in workforce planning, the process needed to focus on understanding the strategic business plan and its broad implications for the company's workforce.

"Strategic workforce planning enables the organization to slice-and-dice its workforce data to discover critical issues, compare different groups, understand patterns and trends, home in on critical segments of the workforce such as mature workers and top performers, and customize its approach to managing different segments of its workforce."

"By enabling leaders to see across lines of business, workforce planning can leverage talent within a company. Ultimately, the same workforce planning database tools will enable employees to shop for new jobs, assess their own developmental needs, and prepare for career moves inside the organization."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Effectiveness Can Be Learned

According to Rob May, Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive offers ideas that are useful to almost anyone, particularly entrepreneurs.

Be warned that they are not easy things to implement, and require lots of practice and discipline, but all that hard work is exactly why you end up a more effective entrepreneur.

Drucker's premise?

  1. Know Thy Time
  2. Focus on Contribution
  3. Make Strength Productive
  4. First Things First
  5. Make Good Decisions

And the 6th?

6. Effectiveness Can Be Learned

"Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit; that is, a complex of practices. And practices can always be learned. Practices are simple, deceptively so; even a seven-year-old has no difficulty in understanding a practice. But practices are always exceedingly hard to do well."

BOTTOMLINE: "Drucker said there is nothing worse than doing something well that shouldn't be done at all. Be effective, and get the right things done."

(Tip of the hat to Rob May, the BusinessPundit for this one!)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Performance Management: The Next Breakthrough

DM Review offers this interesting look at the major breakthoughs in performance management.

From Alfred P. Sloan's take on customer segmentation to the most recent performance management issues, including:

  • Harvard Business School's Alfred D. Chandler Jr.'s Organizational Structure
  • Harvard Business School 's Michael E. Porter's Theories of Competitive Advantage
  • Total Quality Management from W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran and Phil Crosby
  • Michael Hammer's Business Process Reengineering
  • Peppers and Rogers' Customer Relationship Management
  • Peter Senghe and Organizational Learning
  • Kaplan and Norton's Strategy Maps and Balanced Scorecard

So what's next?

Professor Tom Davenport of Babson College authored a January 2006 Harvard Business Review article proposing that the next differentiator for competitive advantage will be predictive analytics.

BOTTOMLINE: "In conclusion, performance management is not just about better managing performance, but improving performance. Integrating systems and information is a prerequisite, but applying predictive analytics is quite possibly the critical element necessary to achieve the full vision of performance management."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Fundamental Principles About Organizational Change

Jerry Pounds of Management-Issues brings this great article about organizational and motivational change to the forefront.

His premise?

"Most organizational behavior experts, gurus and consultants weave their incantations from the motivational theories of "authorities". If you trace these back to source, you wind up reading B.F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Carl Rogers. "

"Alternatively, you can skip the primary theorists and move to their well-known translators - and the darlings of every college management class - Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor."

"Apparently, psychology's basic truths are known only by a privileged few – and they're not talking. Meanwhile, the field of applied psychology remains a battlefield where there are no victors but instead an endless conflict of assertion and rebuttal. "

For organizational change, herein lies the fundamental problem:

"If you review the history of any large organization you'll find that such a framework conspicuous by its absence. In its place is an eclectic mishmash of performance improvement programs, motivational initiatives and behavior change practices which are usually based upon mutually exclusive theories about human motivation."

"But don't expect the management gurus to clarify the disparities between these theories. After all, their stock and trade is the creation of entertaining perspectives on management and leadership. Uncertainty and ambiguity is the breeding ground for new books and the fads they produce. "

BOTTOMLINE: To understand organizational change, three simple laws emerge:
  1. Any work behavior (verbal or physical) that works (pays off, is successful, gets us what we want) is repeated.
  2. Any work behavior that avoids a negative experience (criticism, needless effort, appearing dumb, avoids something we don't want) is repeated.
  3. Any work behavior that leads directly to a negative experience (discipline, embarassment, needless effort) is not repeated.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

QLog Reviews Six Disciplines for Excellence

Thom Quinn, over at the QLog, offers his review of Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Some excerpts:

"The Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last by Gary Harpst is a different and much needed animal for several reasons. First, it was written specifically for smaller shops (including local non-profits) which intrinsically have fewer resources. Second, this book provides a very systematic approach for a company to follow in order to achieve all of its objectives. Third, it is based on real-world experience (vs. theory from a B-School Professor) as the author was CEO of Solomon (now part of Microsoft) and this company was a test bed for the ideas in the book."

"Unlike most business books which focus on a few techniques, The Six Disciplines provides a true recipe for success."

"I highly recommend this short, but very dense volume. A lot of valuable ideas are found here! The Six Disciplines can be used as a guide book for any small enterprise as the majority of the text is a ‘how to’ manual with very clear instructions."

BOTTOMLINE: Go read the entire review here, and check out the rest of Thom's very insightful blog!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Making Time for Strategic Thinking

If you want to make a difference as a leader, you've got to make time for strategy.

Michael Porter, Harvard's guru of strategic thinking, is covered in this FastCompany article.

Among the gems in this article:

  • Business keeps moving faster -- but you better make time for strategy
  • Of course strategy is hard -- it's about making tough choices
  • Technology changes, strategy doesn't
  • Strategy hasn't changed, but change has
  • Beware the myth of inflection points
  • Great strategists get a few (big) things right
  • Great strategies are a cause

BOTTOMLINE: "The chief strategist of an organization has to be the leader -- the CEO. A lot of business thinking has stressed the notion of empowerment, of pushing down and getting a lot of people involved. That's very important, but empowerment and involvement don't apply to the ultimate act of choice. To be successful, an organization must have a very strong leader who's willing to make choices and define the trade-offs. I've found that there's a striking relationship between really good strategies and really strong leaders."

(Tip of the hat to the good folks at MBA Depot)

Geoffrey Moore Returns

For those of you who were in technology marketing and strategy in the 1990's, who could possibly ignore Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" and "Inside The Tornado"?

Moore is back with "Dealing With Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution."

His new volume, aimed mainly at corporate strategists, cuts across all industries and geographies.

The book's central question is: How can companies innovate continuously?

"Evolution requires us to continually refresh our competitive advantage, sometimes in dribs and drabs, sometimes in major cataclysms, but always with some part of our business portfolio at risk and in play. To innovate forever, in other words, is not an aspiration; it is a design specification. It is not a strategy; it is a requirement."

BOTTOMLINE: Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully, embraces Moore's concepts. Dealing with Darwin is full of caveats about the difficulties in executing these strategies. It's left to readers to customize them to fit their own situations. So this is less a cookbook than a detailed menu of meals that can be prepared to turn your competitors into dinosaurs.

Secrets To His Success

Whether you like his controversial commercials aired during the Super Bowl, it's hard to argue with his success.

Bob Parsons, the serial entrepreneur who started LeaseAmerica, Parsons Technology, and most recently, Go, offers his 16 Rules To Live By:

Some really great ones in there!