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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spend Time Wisely

Time is of the essence....

  • There are 168 hours in every week...
  • 8,736 hours in a year...
  • The average worker works 40 hours a week or 2,080 hours a year...
  • That leaves 6,656 hours of free time each year...
  • Subtract out a generous 8 hours of sleep each night...
  • That leaves 3,744 hours of free time each year where you can do whatever you want...

BOTTOMLINE: Everyone is "allocated" the same amount of time. It's how you choose to spend it, that makes all the difference.

Becoming Self-Managing

An implied element of becoming an effective leader - regardless of your title or role within an organization - is self management.

BOTTOMLINEL If you want more ideas than you can shake a stick at to help you in this quest, here's 50 ideas for becoming more self-management effective.

It All Comes Down To Effective Execution

Gary Whitehair, over at High Performance Business (HPB), offers his assessment on Execution.

Gary's take:

  • Historically “management” was defined as control.
  • To advance and grow, some business owners realized that they needed new approaches to managing their businesses.
  • Those companies searching for a complete solution to their management problems by instituting the latest management fad have been disappointed.
  • Businesses have learned just how difficult it can be to put these techniques into practice.
  • Effective CEO’s of today’s HPB understand that to be effective they cannot rely solely on the latest management fad

BOTTOMLINE: "Rather than pursuing the latest management fad or searching for the “single solution fix” they focus on effective execution. They believe in their vision, develop a plan, take action, follow through and make things happen."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Management Lessons from the Basketball Court

We all have our passions. One of mine happens to be coaching youth basketball. Besides the fun the kids get, there are a wide range of fundamental management techniques that can be learned from the hardwood floor.

"Playing (and coaching) pick-up basketball is more than good exercise and camaraderie. It's a microcosm of society in general and the business office in particular."

This FastCompany article "Shirts and Skins," puts it all in perspective.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Importance of a Two-Word Strategy

Anita Campbell, over at Small Business Trends, offers her insights into the importance of boiling down your company's strategy to two words, based on her conversations with Six Disciplines CEO and founder Gary Harpst.

Here's her post on "The Importance of a Two-Word Strategy."

Here's Anita's more in-depth article "Can You Describe Your Business Strategy in Two Words?" over at Success Magazine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Competitive Advantages of Small Businesses

Here's a great list of 10 strategic planning-related questions from Life Beyond Code called "10 Questions to ask yourself when you are small" .

  1. Do you have a sound business model?
  2. Do you have the right resources to execute on the vision?
  3. Are you willing to change?
  4. Can you influence the influencers?
  5. Can you scale?
  6. Can you think "systems"?
  7. Do you have the right tools?
  8. Do you now how to market in the new world?
  9. Are you willing to kill your darlings?
  10. Is your business GYM-proof? (Google-Yahoo!-Microsoft)

BOTTOMLINE: "It's not always the right answers that help - it's asking the right questions."

Employee Loyalty and Change

Reminds me of the Clash: "Should I stay or should I go...?"

Communication Nation offers this shocking insight from a recent Communication Nation survey:

  • Chances are better than 50/50 that any employee will leave your company within the next two years

Are you prepared for that??

Here are some reasons:

  • Half of workers don't have performance metrics (a measures issue)
  • A surprising number of people (60%) don't think their boss is in the loop (a communication issue)
  • Most people (65%) don't know what their boss's job is (a communications issue)
  • Many (55%) don't know where they fit in the scheme of things (an alignment issue)
  • 65% say they don't have much to look foward to (a recognition/reward issue)

Take a look here for solid, actionable suggestions for how to deal with this trend.

Decide What's Important - An Introduction

The research conducted by Six Disciplines Corp. suggests that one of the biggest differences between the highest-performing and lowest-performing small businesses is the "strength of leadership."

This characteristic has two aspects:

  1. The ability of the leadership to define a clear direction for the organization. This includes explaining that direction so people can both understand it - AND - connect with it.
  2. Identifying and delivering personal involvement. Leaders must be personally involved in leading and supporting projects that are strategic to the company.

The purpose of Discipline I - Decide What's Important, is to get the leadership team to decide annually what its long-term priorities are - and are not.

This involves reviewing, renewing, revising and recommitting to the organization's:

  • Mission
  • Values
  • Vision
  • Strategic Position

...and identifying clearly what the absolute "short list" (or Vital Few Objectives) of critical priorities of the business are.

BOTTOMLINE: Regularly practicing the discipline of Deciding What's Important helps businesses sharpen their focus.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Decide What's Important - How It's Accomplished

As shown on the chart here, in Discipline I - Decide What's Important, the leadership team examines a summary of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), that were produced as a result of Discipline VI - Step Back.

Then, the leadership team reviews the Mission, Values, Vision and Strategic Position - and update them if necessary.

Next, they set the Vital Few Objectives (VFOs) for each of the four key views of the business: financial, customer, production and people (taking the core of the best practice from Balanced Scorecards).

Finally, they decide what initiatives they should STOP investing in, to free up more resources to focus on the VFOs.

BOTTOMLINE: These steps can be completed in a 8-24 hour retreat, held once each year. The first year may take a longer period, depending on whether some of the key strategy elements (e.g., Mission, Vision, Values, Strategic Position) have to be built from scratch.

Succession Planning: Are You Automated?

Most companies know the value of having a formal succession plan.

  • 73% have a plan, or have budgeted to start one within 12 months.
  • 26% do not have a plan.

But few companies have automated the succession planning process.

  • 62% use a paper-based process.
  • 32% have partially automated the process.
  • 7% have fully automated the process.
Too many companies still rely on a paper-based process. Here's how and why you should change—before your best people walk out the door.

From CIO Magazine, comes this article on Succession Planning: Are You Automated?

Their premise?

  • If employees can't see a career path for themselves and "they don't see anywhere to move within the company, they get jobs outside of the company.
Succession planning best practices:
  • Be proactive. Don't wait until someone leaves to look into his or her replacement. Once you have a succession planning program, review it regularly. If it doesn't positively affect retention, it's not working.
  • Combine efforts. Include talent and performance management and compensation in the succession planning process. Succession planning should be directly linked to areas like training. Invest in software that ties in these processes, and includes a reporting and analytics component.
  • Enact the plan across the company. Succession planning isn't just for executives anymore: Make sure the plan touches every level of the organization.
BOTTOMLINE: One way to automate succession planning as part of your strategic planning is to adopt Six Disciplines, the first complete business excellence program = optimized for execution. Among the many benefits of its Activity Management System - it automates the succession planning process for your organization.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Four Cornerstones of Clarity

Companies often lack clarity on fundamental things. A lack of clarity causes a lack of structure, resulting in a fog of confusion. The fog of confusion means slackers can hide between the cracks, and hard-working people either don't get noticed, or they focus on the wrong things because they don't know what the right things are.

If you want to bring clarity to your work environment you need to focus on four things which we call the four cornerstones of clarity.

The first two cornerstones are roles and goals:

Roles: Define the functional work that needs to get done and divide it up into clear "accountability sets" that can be owned by individuals. Develop a "one-pager" for every role. A role description should include a summary of the accountabilities, a summary of the activities involved and skill-sets required, and succinctly define how success in the role is objectively measured.

Goals: Starting at the top, define clear, objective, measurable goals that can "roll down" through the org chart. Create a "gradecard" where people can see how effectively the organization is performing against those goals. If the goals "roll down" effectively and roles are clearly defined, everyone's performance can be measured on the scoreboard.

The next pair of cornerstones are streams and teams:

Streams: These are the work streams connect the roles into functional flows; they define how the process works. To define your streams, you first need work with the people involved to depict the "as is" state; that is, how things functionally work today. It's very likely this will include many practical "workarounds" that are not defined anywhere in the company's manuals or documentation.

Teams: In this context, a team is a cross-functional group that can look at the organization as a whole, or view a work stream from end to end. Bring your teams together to look at the "as-is" state and map how it could be improved. It doesn't help to assemble a team until you have defined roles, goals and streams. Why? The team needs to have a clear starting point, clear objectives and clear building blocks to work with. The streams form the starting point, the roles are the building blocks and the goals form the objective.

BOTTOMLINE: Before you create your next grand strategy or install the next big technology, take a look at the four cornerstones of clarity and see if you can't engineer an outbreak of common sense.

(Thanks to Dave Gray at Communication Nation (XPLANE) for this one!)

Deming on Management and Measurement

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, arguably, some say, the world's authority on modern management practices, is often incorrectly quoted as saying: "you can't manage what you can't measure."

In fact, he stated one of the seven deadly diseases of management was "Running a company on visible figures alone."

Deming also realized many important things, that must be managed, cannot be measured. Both those points are important.

  1. You can't measure everything of importance to management
  2. You must still manage those important things

Interestingly enough, Dr. Deming is also often quoted as saying: "In God we trust, all others bring data." Besides being a memorable quote, it does imply a requirement of data, and is meant to encourage people to find a way to get measurable data -- when possible.

This adds to an understanding of Deming's thought on the purpose of an organization, which is: "Organizations are a means to improve the lives we live."

Weekly Individual Planning Meetings

In this day of every increasing options to replace face-to-face meetings with other options (email, teleconference, webcam, etc.), it's good to understand the benefits of a status updates face-to-face.
Management-Issues featured a recent study by the IRS Employment Review, which found that, while organizations do now use an extensive range of communication methods (online systems, intranets, handbooks, newsletters and memos, team briefings, executive briefing sessions, etc.) employers still value face-to-face sessions the most when it comes to keeping Team Members up-to-date.

But all is not well: The survey revealed that organizations rarely succeed in going beyond these face-to-face meetings to involve employees in improving the company. Just over 50%believe that engagement has improved -- and only 19% think that performance has gotten any better.

BOTTOMLINE: The power of having every Team Member in the organization to create, and work from an Individual Plan (IP) revolves around the weekly face-to-face status update meeting with the Team Leader. Given the importance of good internal communications, organizations should revisit the methods they use or consider introducing more formal planning, status updates and evaluation systems -- to help them execute the company's strategy more effectively - and achieve better results.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Barriers To Lasting Excellence: Weak Strategy Execution

To achieve lasting business excellence requires that you not only work IN the business, but you also work ON the business.

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers work locally with organizations that are already very good at working IN the business -- helping them to understand the importance and value of working ON their business.

We have found one of the major barriers to achieving lasting business excellence is how little formal effort most organizations put into learning how to execute strategy.

Whether you call it working ON the business, or what we refer to as "business-building" - this capability is critical to the lasting nature of your business.

BOTTOMLINE: Products and services come and go - but the core competence of how to clearly define and execute strategy - is forever.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Seven Leadership Checkpoints

Bud Bilanich, over at The Common Sense Guy, included this in his most recent email newsletter.

Robert S. Kaplan, coauthor of The Balanced Scorecard says that leaders should regularly ask themselves questions that target seven areas. Kaplan says that there are no “right” answers; and that some of these questions will resonate more than others. He is quite sure that you can continuously improve your performance -- and preempt serious business problems -- by stepping back and taking the time to interview yourself. (“What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” Harvard Business Review, December 2006).

According to Kaplan you should examine yourself in seven areas:

  1. Vision and Priorities
  2. Managing Time
  3. Feedback
  4. Succession Planning
  5. Evaluation and Alignment
  6. Leading Under Pressure
  7. Staying True to Yourself

BOTTOMLINE: "When is the last time you had a leadership checkup? You probably change the oil in your car every three months to keep it running smoothly. Take some time to keep your career on track and running smoothly by taking a hard look in the leadership mirror every six months."

(Hat tip to Bud! Check him out here.)

The Hard Factors of Change Management

Here's some excerpts from a great article on Change Management from the Harvard Business Review Online.

Change management involves both soft and hard factors. Examples of "soft" factors include culture, motivation, communication, and leadership.

Hard factors are measurable (directly or indirectly), their importance can be communicated easily, and businesses can influence these issues quickly. Examples of hard factors would include the time necessary to complete a transformation initiative, number of people involved in executing it, and financial results expected.

There are four key elements of hard factors, referred to as DICE:

  • Duration
  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Effort
DICE is a standard, quantitative, and simple framework for helping individuals communicate, engage the stakeholders, and help people do the right thing by change.

Read the entire article here.

On Attitudes and Excellence

I feel compelled to share this piece of advice, which I've carried around with me for over 20 years:

“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 successes, than what other people think or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.

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

The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday 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 one string we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you ...we are in charge of our attitudes.”

(Thanks to Charles Swindoll)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Avoiding the Competency Trap

According to Business 2.0 columnist Jeffrey Pfeffer, there's a 3-step process to Avoiding the Competency Trap.

His premise?

Organizations try things. If what they do succeeds, they "learn" that what they have done breeds success. So they persist, becoming ever more focused in what they do, and ever more specialized in the skills they acquire.

Two things invariably happen to undermine success:
  1. Competitors soon learn how to do the same thing, and conditions change, so that what worked in the past no longer applies.
  2. Companies have trouble adapting because they often build competencies that don't advance new products, markets, or strategies.

Hence the phrase "competency trap."

But three strategies can help avoid competency traps.

  1. The first is to avoid excessive specialization. Building a broader range of competencies and knowledge, so you can react quickly to changes in market conditions.
  2. Develop peripheral vision, "only the paranoid survive." Markets don't change all at once. Pay attention to the facts, not to what you want to believe.
  3. Finally, understanding that a company's greatest strength can become its greatest weakness when circumstances change can help build a mind-set of continuous learning and vigilance.

10 Ways To Know You're An Entrepreneur

Are you an entrepreneur? Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur?

You might be. Inside you there just might be an entrepreneur waiting to break out.

Here are the top 10 ways to know if you’re an entrepreneur.

(Tip of the hat to StartupSpark)

Adopting Six Disciplines and Organizational Change

What's it like for an organization just starting to adopt the Six Disciplines progam?

Coaches at each local Six Disciplines Leadership Center recommend the following to all new organizations that are just beginning to use Six Disciplines:

  • Let go of what no longer works. Recognize the fundamental truth in: “If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we always got.” Take time to decide what the next level looks like and be willing to give up what isn't working. When we stop doing what doesn't work for us, we can start doing more of what can work for us. Good habits can replace bad habits.
  • Change what you can. Put your action items in writing about what you would like to see and experience differently in your business and begin to take action. The Six Disciplines Activity Management System also becomes your document management system for change.
  • Change your thinking. What we say to ourselves is our reality. If we say, "I can't" then it won't happen. When you find yourself saying things like, "I can't," simply change your words to "How can I?" Work with your Six Disciplines Leadership Center Coach to uncover areas within your business that lead you to asking the question: "How can I?..."
  • Make a commitment. Commitments are powerful and can help you stay on track with what you are pursuing. From the Mission, Vision, Values and Strategic Position Statements -- to the Organizational Goals, Initiatives, and all the way down to the Individual Plans -- your Six Disciplines Activity Management System enables you to document your commitment - to yourself and to your organization. Six Disciplines Leadership Centers help you to stay on track - and to keep those commitments.
  • Be patient with the process. Allow change to take place over time. You may become impatient when you know what you want, are taking action to achieve it, and it's not happening… yet. Things take time. Achieving lasting excellence is not a one-time event. It is a long-term process. Trust time. Be willing to learn what you need to learn - and what your organization needs to learn -- while waiting for change to manifest into what you desire.
  • Be willing to take risks. Being willing to try new things and experience the discomfort and excitement of newness is important in moving to a new level. Risk taking is part of growing and changing. If you take risks in small ways, you can learn to take risks in all ways. Risk taking is a learned skill that can be developed over time.
BOTTOMLINE: Like any business improvement method, the Six Disciplines program is a catalyst for organizational change. Unlike other methods and approaches, Six Disciplines is the first complete business excellence program for small and mid-sized businesses - that is optimized for execution. Intrigued? Read the top-rated book Six Disciplines for Excellence.

More On Passion - And Business

BusinessWeek offers up this special report on Passion for Business.

"Everyone feels passionate about something. But invariably, some enthusiasts have the proverbial eureka moment, becoming convinced that they have a million-dollar business idea on their hands. So how can you tell whether or not your particular passion has what it takes to make it out of your basement and into the big leagues?"

STEP BACK. (Gee, sounds amazingly similar to Discipline VI - Step Back) "You've got to determine first if there's a market for it, then determine how much profit is in it."

FORGET UNDERCUTTING. "The question is: Is there something distinctly different between your idea and what's already available out in the market?" (Forget price as a differentiator.)

GOTTA LOVE INVENTORY. Do some thorough market research. But beware: Although seemingly straightforward, this is the stage where many passionate hobbyists fail. Aside from your passion, do you have any real interest in the business side of things? If not, you'll take something you really enjoy and mix it with something you really hate.

KEEPING THE SPARK. Doing what you're passionate about makes a big difference, but it's not just about your passion. The operative word here is 'doing it as a business. The trick is to do that while maintaining your passion.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

10 Common Reasons Why Improvement Programs Fail

10 Common Reasons why Improvement Programs Fail

  1. Taking a piece meal approach rather than extending the program across the entire organization.
  2. Limiting quality improvement efforts to production, excluding other areas like accounting, personnel or purchasing.
  3. Doing "business as usual", i.e., announcing a quality program but failing to follow up on the commitment and remaining focused on cost reductions and production volumes.
  4. Omitting structural changes in compensation (reward) and accounting systems resulting in behaviour that is contradictory to the quality effort.
  5. Adopting a "technique" focus. (Quality improvement is not so much about introducing new techniques as it is about changing attitudes and assumptions.)
  6. Engaging in hoopla without substance. "Hoopla" is fine, provided there is "meat" behind it.
  7. Failing to involve customers and suppliers who should be a natural part of the process.
  8. Putting too little emphasis on training which should be done as early as possible.
  9. Setting sights too low.
  10. Poor communication. Communication should not be an afterthought; good communication is necessary to make the program understood and accepted by all.

Seven Steps to Creating an Accountability-Based Organization

Bob Prosen, author of "Kiss Theory Goodbye" argues that the best way to produce extraordinary results within your organization is to create an accountability-based culture focused on producing results, not activities.

Download his manifesto "Seven Steps to Creating an Accountability-Based Organization" here.

Seven Steps To Effective Change in 2007

Are you satisfied with the way your business is performing today?

How about next year?

Specifically, what are you doing to make 2007 a banner year for continual business improvement?

What are you going to do differently?

What are you going to do - to change?

The challenge is how to change, not if.

Here are seven steps for effective change:

1. Create a commitment. Define a shared vision of what you want to commit to it. Without a clear commitment, you'll create chaos for the change you want to achieve. Creating the commitment brings you back to what you want to achieve and allows you to measure your activities against this commitment -- and ensures that you stay focused on your vision.

2. Engage the stakeholders. It's not only your senior management team, but it is everyone that is involved with your company as well. You must include both internal and external members of your organization. Everyone needs to understand the upcoming change - and "What's in it for me?" Give stakeholders the time to understand that the upcoming change is in their own best interest to help make this commitment a reality.

3. Visualize the changed future. Paint a picture of what your company will perform like when this journey and transformation are complete. Many individuals will ask how the change is going to affect the company and, more importantly, how it will affect themselves. Use your imagination to visualize what you would like your company to be in one year, in 3 years -- in five years. Share this vision with your group.

4. Begin the transformation. It's easier to paint a picture of your future than it is to get started creating it. Put together a step-by-step action plan with dates, deliverables, milestones, and who's responsible for the achievement of each step. If you break down all the steps you need to take month by month, it can easily become a reality. Have a road map in place that outlines the process.

5. Embed the new change into your culture. Everything you're doing should be consistent with the commitment to change. With every action you take, ask yourself if it is consistent with what you want to achieve. Will it help you achieve the end results you want?

6. Create a sense of urgency. It's important to recognize that most of us, in reacting to change, want to slow it down; but if we accelerate it, we can move ahead. Let your team members know that it is okay to be uncomfortable with change, but that the winner in business will always be the one who most effectively adapts to the new environment.

7. Continuously improve. There is no finish line. There is no final destination. There is no "are we there yet?" Improvement and change are a continuous process.

Developing Passion Within Your Organization

The greatest advantage a leader can possess is passion.

Skeptics might argue that a solid strategic plan or better products and services are of greater benefit, but that thinking is a bit too narrow. Certainly, both are critical to an organization’s success, but while many organizations have the technology and even the ability to succeed, few have a workforce with the sheer emotional force and commitment to be the best.

Tapping into the passion of people is a universal business strategy that can help drive performance.

Passion is the underlying force that fuels our strongest emotions. When passion is in force, we are carried away in our experience, losing track of time and effort, and performing otherwise-difficult tasks almost effortlessly

BOTTOMLINE: Before you can inspire and lead others, you must be passionate about your own work. If you don’t have passion for your organization, you don’t belong in it. As a leader, you have the potential not only to enhance your personal performance through passion, but also to help others do the same. Passion is contagious. An energized and committed workforce can accomplish remarkable things. Just as your own “passion-driven” leadership behaviors can turn a good employee into a great one, your efforts to incorporate and align passion across the organization can help turn an ordinary department, division or company into an extraordinary one.

(Thanks to Richard Chang, author of “The Passion Plan.”)

Transforming Learning Into Organizational Knowledge

Do good ideas go unused in your organization?

How many times do people withdraw or disengage because they think no one cares or is listening?

What innovative ideas are going un-executed because no one knew about them?

Increasingly, organizations are learning the value of harnessing the knowledge from within themselves to provide insight into marketplace trends, innovation and the identification of barriers to high performance.

Integrated Learning is one of the key tenents of the Six Disciplines program (the others being strategic planning, quality control, business process automation, people performance management and measure-driven improvement.)

BOTTOMLINE: The Six Disciplines Program provides small and mid-sized businesses with a wide range of organizational learning tools, supporting and recording activity management, individual plan creation and monitoring, document management, surveys, business process management, and innovative problem-solving. Good ideas are not only documented, they're tracked over time, as they become prioritized and acted upon, become part of initiatives and plans, and individuals are recognized for the contributions of their ideas/suggestions.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How Change Is Changing

Mike McLaughlin, who publishes the well-respected Management Consulting News website, recently interviewed change-guru John Kotter.

In Kotter's newest book "Our Iceberg Is Melting" he finds:

  • The good news is that most organizations have gotten better at managing and guiding change. The bad news is that the world is changing faster than organizations are getting better at it, and the gap may be growing.
  • Many organizations just can’t keep up with the speed of change.
  • Within the timeframe most of us must deal with, that is, one to ten or fifteen years, the rate of change is just going up and up.

Kotter's recommendations:

  • We need to get better at all of the eight steps that I identified for successful change:
  1. they must create a sense of urgency;
  2. build guiding teams;
  3. get the vision right;
  4. communicate for buy-in;
  5. empower action;
  6. produce short-term wins;
  7. never let up;
  8. and make change stick.

BOTTOMLINE: You can find out more about Professor Kotter at

Monday, February 05, 2007

Leading a Business Transformation

John Agno, a very reputable Certified Executive Coach, poses the following question:

"How can a CEO motivate a workforce during a major business transformation?"

Answer: By talking about transformation in the context of how an employee's job will change, what they will be held accountable for and how their performance will be assessed.

CEOs bear the blame for failed business transformations, yet many fail to realize the root causes of that failure. Frequently, a CEO will think he or she has made the case for a business transformation, only to find out later that no one bought the rhetoric.

BOTTOMLINE: Any major business transformation affects team member's work processes - their attitudes, habits and behaviors. Changing old habits is tough. But learning new behaviors is a human factors challenge we all do instinctively. All team members need to be engaged early in the process - otherwise it will never gain traction.

How Top Leaders Create Accountability

Bob Prosen is President and CEO of The Prosen Center for Business Advancement offers his take on "How Top Leaders Create Accountability," over at CEO Refresher.

Here is Bob's seven-step formula you can use to create accountability and achieve extraordinary results in any organization:

  1. Establish the organizations top three objectives. This means the significant few, not the important many. Once identified, objectives must be clear, concise, measurable and obtainable. Notice I didn't say easy!
  2. Assign each team member his or her respective objectives. Remember, when combined they must allow the organization to achieve its top objectives. In other words, the sum of the parts must be equal to or greater than the whole.
  3. Ask each team member what he or she needs to win. To help people win, leaders must remove the roadblocks that stand in the way. Do this by having each team member identify a maximum of three things they need to accomplish each objective. Have them put it in writing.
  4. Agree on what the leader will do to help. Meet individually with each team member to clarify the roadblocks and agree on what's needed to win and who will be responsible for making it happen. In all likelihood, the leader will assume some responsibility. Why? Because you're responsible to people, not for them. Being responsible to people means helping them get what they need to win.
  5. Follow up. Each direct report should schedule a 30-minute monthly update using a standard color-coded results report. Results at or above the plan are in green and any area behind plan is in red. Focus the conversation on what was done to achieve green and if the results will remain green for the remainder of the year. When discussing red results focus on what will be done to achieve green status, when it will be achieved and any help that's needed.
  6. Share lessons learned. Hold quarterly meetings with all direct reports present to discuss lessons learned, identify critical roadblocks and make specific offers to help any team member behind plan. Remember, the leader wins when everyone on the team wins.
  7. Reward results. When objectives are achieved, ensure that rewards are disproportionate and highly visible. Those who achieve the most get rewarded the most-and everyone should know that. It's just that simple. Ensure that people at the bottom are either improving their performance or being moved out. No one with poor performance gets to remain on the bottom for more than a year without action being taken.

BOTTOMLINE: It's amazing how common sense approaches really do make a difference. Why then, is common sense - not so common? Typically because the approaches don't take the human factor barriers into consideration. We all know that these approaches "should" work - but we still don't do them! Here at Six Disciplines, we believe it's time for an "execution revolution" to take place.

Leadership Development Best-Practices

In this Fast Company article, author Jim Bolt looks at how 100 top companies rated themselves on Executive Development Trends.

According to Bolt, the following is a list of common "best practices" used by companies to develop executives and leaders.

(Task: Try to list those in which your organization excels:)

  • Linked to Strategy
  • Top Management Driven
  • Strategy & System
  • Thorough Front-End Analysis
  • Custom Designed
  • Leadership Profile, Feedback and Individual Development Plans
  • Top-Down Implementation
  • Action-Oriented Learning
  • Succession Management
  • Integrated Talent Management System
  • Measurement
  • High Potential Identification and Development

The chart above shows how the they came out on their self-ratings.

BOTTOMLINE: Nearly 70% said they excel at creating custom-designed programs that address their unique, company-specific challenges and opportunities, and help create and/or drive their vision, values, and strategies -- that's the best of the best-practices. On the other hand, the "worst practice" relates to measurement or metrics for executive/leadership development. Only 20% say they excel in that area.

The CEO's Role in Leading Change

In a February 2007 article from McKinsey, management consultants Carolyn B. Aiken and Scott P. Keller offer their take on what the CEO's role should be when leading change initiatives, combined with research they have undertaken over the past decade.

Their research suggests that four key functions collectively define a successful role for the CEO in a transformation:

  1. Making the transformation meaningful. People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the CEO’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spot- light successes as they emerge.
  2. Role-modeling desired mind-sets and behavior. Successful CEOs typically embark on their own personal transformation journey. Their actions encourage employees to support and practice the new types of behavior.
  3. Building a strong and committed top team. To harness the transformative power of the top team, CEOs must make tough decisions about who has the ability and motivation to make the journey.
  4. Relentlessly pursuing impact. There is no substitute for CEOs rolling up their sleeves and getting personally involved when significant financial and symbolic value is at stake.

BOTTOMLINE: McKinsey's conclusion: "Everyone has a role to play in a performance transformation. The role of CEOs is unique in that they stand at the top of the pyramid and all the other members of the organization take cues from them. CEOs who give only lip service to a transformation will find everyone else doing the same. Those who fail to model the desired mind-sets and behavior or who opt out of vital initiatives risk seeing the transformation lose focus. Only the boss of all bosses can ensure that the right people spend the right amount of time driving the necessary changes."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Formal Approach Improves Performance

Carol Bergeron and Pat Kirton published their recent research findings in a Boston Herald article called "Formal Approach Improves Performance."

The study’s most compelling findings was that executives of successful firms use a methodical approach to improving organizational performance consisting of five critical components:

  1. Rallying around a clear vision;
  2. Setting expectations;
  3. Prioritizing and aligning projects, people, and resources to strategic goals;
  4. Measuring and monitoring progress; and
  5. Creating an environment of ongoing communication.
The study found that 79% of top performing companies have a more formal process in place for managing organizational performance.

The study also found that 82% of top performing firms use a formal mapping process to align the work force to strategic goals compared with only 65 percent of all others.

BOTTOMLINE: Top performing firms use a disciplined approach/methdology that integrates these five key components. Their rates of strategic goal achievement demonstrate that employing the process is worth the investment.

Business Coaching -- Not Just For Startups

BusinessWeek takes a look at the importance of business coaching....or mentoring. Here's a few key items:

  • "For a startup, a business mentor with a seasoned eye for pitfalls and opportunities can mean the difference between success and failure."

  • "Today's small-business owners -- whether amateurs or seasoned veterans -- are realizing that bouncing ideas off someone who has been there, done that, saves time, increases efficiency, and may even reduce stress and stave off depression."

  • His (the business coach's) assistance proved so valuable that even now, seven years later, Celeslie says they still consult with him on major decisions. "This isn't someone that you hire one time and never talk to again," she says. "A business coach is somebody that you build a relationship with."

  • "If the relationship works and it's beneficial to everyone involved, it can go on forever," Knox says. "It doesn't have to stop when the mentoring stops."

BOTTOMLINE: Of the four essential elements that enable small and mid-sized businesses to achieve lasting excellence -- it is the coach that makes it all happen. Six Disciplines Leadership Centers build long-term relationships with top-performing organizations by offering coaching on the Six Disciplines program, strategic advisory services and value-added services to help them achieve -- and sustain -- lasting business excellence.

Three Reasons Why Good Strategies Fail...Execution, Execution...

The good folks at Marakon Associates have republished an article from the
27 July- 9 Aug edition of Knowledge@Wharton entitled: "Why Good Strategies Fail...Execution, Execution, Execution"

A PDF of the article is located here.

BOTTOMLINE: Like everything else in business management, improving execution is an ongoing process. The article highlights these steps in the process:

1. Develop a model for execution. (A Methodology if you will?)
2. Choose the right metrics. (Can't manage it if you can't measure it)
3. Don’t forget the plan. (Plans are only good if people execute from them)
4. Assess performance frequently. (An Individual Plan perhaps?)
5. Communicate (Keep the mission, vision, values, strategic plan and goals - accessible - all the time)

More Than a Third of Working Time is Wasted!

Management-Issues reveals that an international study of business productivity performance by Proudfoot Consulting, which suggests that executives, unions and governments are placing too little emphasis on dealing with the most frequent causes of poor productivity in companies.

  • An astonishing 37% of all working time is effectively wasted, on average. Three-quarters of this wasted time is a result of basics such as poorly planned and managed work or inadequate supervision of workers.

  • As part of the study, Proudfoot Consulting rated 150 meetings in 50 companies against a 'best practice' scorecard. Almost half had no agenda and in less than a third were participants prepared, with minutes captured. Only 12% resulted in a clear set of next steps.

BOTTOMLINE: "Tackling ineffective management and work processes, and improving worker supervision may not be glamorous but they are certainly the fastest and lowest cost routes to higher output and financial performance. The report leads me to the conclusion that interest groups, however well intentioned, are nonetheless busy doing the wrong things."

Maslow, Self-Actualization and The Need To Be Excellent

Ah...Maslow. He did more than just study the psychology of human behavior - in particular, basic human needs.

The characteristics he studied were the results of 20 years of study of people who had the "full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc.."

Self-actualization implies the attainment of the basic needs of physiological, safety/security, love/belongingness, and self-esteem.

His work also transfers well to people needs within organizations, as depicted in this chart:

BOTTOMLINE: When the four basic needs have been satisfied, the growth need or self-actualization need arises: A new discontent and restlessness will develop unless the individual is doing what he individually is fitted for.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, a leader must lead -- in short, what people can be -- they must be.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why Top CEO's Get Fired

The T+D Blog has an interesting article on some of the real reasons why top CEO's get fired.

According to a four-year study from, CEO's were fired due to:

  • Mismanaging change (31%)
  • Ignoring customers (28%)
  • Tolerating low performers (27%)
  • Denying reality (23%)
  • Too much talk, not enough action (22%)

BOTTOMLINE: Each of these reasons has one underlying root cause: lack of alignment. When an organization is aligned (for example, by using the Six Disciplines program), goals are articulated, measures put into place, and individual plans are put into place to help insure alignment is taking place (Discipline III. Align Systems).

Procrastination and Human Factors

Pies Steel, a human resources professor at the Univ. of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, 95% of us procrastinate at times, with 15% to 20% being chronic offenders.

Three factors make us procrastinate:

  1. Lack of confidence about finishing the job
  2. Boredom with the task
  3. Human tendency to go for immediate reward over long-term gain. A common ploy for avoiding work at the office is reading each email, or IM, as it comes in.

How to overcome procrastination? Professor Steel believe the key is cut off distractions from the working environment. In his words, "millions of people-hours are spent making distractions as succulent as possible ... there are so many ways we could do something else ... convenient access to inferior choices is decidedly inconvenient."