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Friday, March 30, 2007

Top 10 Most Used Management Tools

More interesting results from the Bain & Company's Management Tools & Trends 2007 study.

According to a survey of more than 1,200 international executives by the global business management consulting firm, the top-10 "most used" management tools globally in Bain's Management Tools & Trends 2007 study are:

  • strategic planning (1st place)
  • customer relationship management (2nd)
  • customer segmentation (3rd)
  • benchmarking (4th)
  • core competencies, mission & vision statements (tied for 5th)
  • outsourcing (7th)
  • and business process reengineering, knowledge management, and scenario & contingency planning (tied for 8th)

Other interesting findings from the 2007 study:

  • 87% of the 1200 surveyed executives agree that information technology can create significant competitive advantage, but not all are as confident about achieving that potential. One in three agreed that they rarely achieve paybacks from their IT investments.
  • 79% agreed that innovation is more important than cost reduction for long-term success
  • Just over half (53%) said that "unclear decision making authority is hurting our performance." This figures climbs to 58% among small businesses (less than $600M in sales)
  • Strategic planning is the most commonly used management tool, with 88% of respondents using it. It also rated highest in satisfaction, at 3.93 out of 5.

Over the past 14 years, 11 Bain Management Tools and Trends surveys have been completed - assembling a database that now includes 8,504 respondents from more than 70 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

(Hat tip to Chris Fox for providing more detail about the Bain study)

Corporate Culture Increasing as a Key Factor

Management Issues reveals a new survey of more than 1,200 international executives by management consulting firm Bain & Company has found that nine out of 10 believe that corporate culture is as important as strategy for business success.

While corporate culture, for example, is receiving considerably more management attention than in previous years, Bain research shows that fewer than 10 per cent of companies currently succeed at building high-performance cultures.

BOTTOMLINE: Organizational culture and so-called softer issues are now top of mind. Executives are clearly looking beyond cost-cutting for success.

Employee Engagement and Generational Differences

When it comes to employee engagement Watson Wyatt just released data to suggest that different generations share the same engagement drivers and that generational differences in drivers of engagement are not as wide as perceived.

If you want to read an informative book on generational influences at work, take a look at Jennifer J. Deal’s book discussing the research on the common ground between the young and old, Retiring the Generation Gap.

Here are the 10 key principles she developed in her book:

  1. All generations have similar values; They just express them differently
  2. Everyone wants respect: They just don’t define it the same way
  3. Trust matters
  4. People want leaders who are credible and trustworthy
  5. Organizational politics is a problem — No matter how old (or young) you are
  6. No one really likes change
  7. Loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation
  8. It’s as easy to retain a young person as an older one — If you do the right things
  9. Everyone wants to learn — More than just about anything else
  10. Almost everyone wants a coach.

(Hat tip to David Zinger on Employee Engagement! )

End of Q1 Questions

The first quarter of 2007 ends today.

Business leaders at all levels will spend the next few days or weeks collecting financial results and reporting on them.

Will all those reports help you manage your business?

Kent Blumberg offers a great list of "Questions for Leaders at the end of the First Quarter."

It includes:
  • Questions about you
  • Questions about your team
  • Questions about your customers
  • Questions about your business (or your part of the business)

Worth a good look!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

360-Degree Feedback Surveys

The 360-degree feedback survey was originally used to determine professional development needs, but quickly gained popularity as a performance appraisal tool.

The 360-degree feedback survey aims to provide employees with feedback on their performance from those above, below, and at the same level in the company.

With managerial support, employees are expected to analyze the feedback to identify their strengths and weaknesses and then develop a plan to improve their productivity and effectiveness.

If 360-degree feedback is of interest to you, download this document from ManyWorlds that describes the model.

BOTTOMLINE: In addition to built-in performance appraisals, the Six Disciplines System also includes built-in 360-degree feedback surveys, which can be sent automatically via email to those internally (above, below and peer-level), as well as to external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, etc.)

The Secret to Achieving Sustainable Business Excellence is..

....there IS NO SECRET.

Let’s face it. If there was a secret or shortcut to achieving lasting business excellence -- we'd all be doing it.

There's tons of great business improvement ideas out there...take your pick: "Good to Great", "Covey's 7 Habits", "E-Myth", "Built To Last".....and hundreds of others by best-selling business authors.

So why don't organizations use these ideas? Why don't these ideas turn into action? Most importantly - why don't these great ideas last?
What's missing in this picture?

At Six Disciplines, our research shows there are four key components for a complete business excellence program:

  • A holistic business-building methodology
  • Local accountability coaching
  • An activity management system
  • A shared learning community

BOTTOMLINE: Take out any ONE of these, and it just doesn't LAST. It's no secret!

Six Disciplines is the first sustainable business excellence program - optimized for execution - and designed specifically for small and mid-sized businesses.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Importance of Time Tracking

We have all heard the axiom "Time is Money."

With competition and pace at an all-time high, never has it been more critical for organizations to focus on how the asset of time is "spent."

But you're already saying "But I already keep track of my time...."

Do you? Really?

Not just talking about simple timesheets...but really understanding how time is spent, and on what activities the time is being spent - and are these the most important activities - tying back to your organization's strategy and goals.

Automated time tracking has its advantages. Consider the following:

  • Time tracking software reduces timesheet review by 80%. Average timesheet review takes 6 minutes; with an automated time tracking software system, a review takes 1 minute. (Source: American Payroll Association)
  • Time tracking software can have organizational policies and business rules integrated into the submission and approval process, validation is done at the point of entry.
  • Time tracking software monitors time by team and individual, helping to prevent budget and project overruns.
  • Time tracking software reduces time misappropriation (e.g. long lunches, early departures, late arrivals) which accounts for up to 4.08 hours per week. (Source: American Payroll Association)

The benefits of time tracking?

You'll have more flexibility
You'll have more precise estimates
You'll be able to identify why tasks/projects take longer than originally expected
You'll be able to isolate where you need to make improvements in your process

BOTTOMLINE: Time tracking is an integral component of the Six Disciplines program, specifically the Individual Plan. By knowing what activities are being planned, which ones are being worked on, how much time is being allocated, and keeping this updated in "real-time" during the day, organizations using Six Disciplines understand how their time is being "spent" - leading to better alignment of resources.

Common Sense and Execution

This blog entry from The Small Business Weblog entitled You Already Know What It Takes To Build Your Business...Just Do It reinforces "... the reasons most businesses fail is not strategy, it's execution.

"Knowing what to do is not the problem; doing it is!" (page 55, Six Disciplines for Excellence)

Unlike most business improvement books, the methodology described in Six Disciplines for Excellence is specifically designed and optimized for execution.

BOTTOMLINE: When it's diligently and consistently applied (with the coaching assistance from the Six Disciplines Leadership Centers, in conjunction with using the Six Disciplines System,) the Six Disciplines program transforms organizations into ones that can achieve sustainable business excellence.

You Can't Manage It If You Can't Measure It

From NFIB, (The Voice of Small Business) comes a great article "You Can’t Manage It If You Can’t Measure It"

This article reinforces what the Six Disciplines Methodology articulates about measures, as described here in Six Disciplines for Excellence:

Discipline II-A. Define Measures(page 95)
Discipline III-D. Align Measures(page 136)
Discipline IV-E. Monitor Measures (page 174)

BOTTOMLINE: You can't track progress if you don't measure change. Start tracking and measuring progress toward goals. It's the only way to measure effectiveness.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Organizational Behavior and Strategy Execution

To create the conditions needed for successful strategy execution, it should be understood that the attitudes and behaviours of people in any organization are driven by five dimensions of organizational behavior:
  1. Strategy Cohesiveness. Do your people really understand the strategy and what it means for their job? Do they buy into it and support it?
  2. Customer Focus. Do your people have an understanding of the customer relationship and the value proposition, even if they have no direct customer contact? Do they know how to deliver value to the customer?
  3. Leadership Behavior. Does leadership communicate a passion and excitement for the future? Is there the necessary style, motivation and commitment?
  4. Performance Management. Are your performance metrics in line with your chosen strategy? Are employees recognized, evaluated and rewarded according to these metrics?
  5. Organizational Culture. Do the attitudes, values and beliefs of employees match the organisation’s core values and core strategy?

The Challenge of Execution

Professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak, Wharton Business School, identified the following issues related strategy execution in his book "Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change."

All four of the problems mentioned below are people-related issues:

  1. Managers are trained to plan, not execute.
  2. Some top executives do not see themselves as responsible for implementation of the strategies they formulate.
  3. Strategy execution happens over a much longer time frame than strategy formulation.
  4. Strategy execution involves more people than strategy formulation.

BOTTOMLINE: Strategy Execution issues are mainly about People Alignment. The execution of a strategy very often fails because leaders do not focus on the critical issue of aligning the people to the strategy and the processes.

The Need for Organization-Wide Succession Planning

More than one quarter of U.S. businesses have failed to plan for the effects of the aging American workforce, according to the results of a new national survey by Boston College researchers.

Despite reports that the United States faces a shortage of millions of workers within the coming decade as baby boomers retire—taking with them years of experience, talent, and expertise and leaving fewer new workers available to take their place—The National Study of Business Strategy and Workforce Development, conducted by the Boston College Center on Aging and Work, found that many U.S. businesses are unprepared for changing workforce demographics.

Key findings of the research:

Key findings include:

  • Only 37% of employers had adopted strategies to encourage late career workers to stay past the traditional retirement age, despite the fact that late career employees "have high levels of skills and strong professional and client networks, a strong work ethic, low turnover, and are loyal and reliable."
  • 60% of the employers indicated that recruiting competent job applicants is a significant human resources (HR) challenge.
  • 40% indicated that management skills are in short supply in their organizations.
  • Only 33% of employers reported that their organization had made projections about retirement rates of their workers to either a moderate (24.1%) or great (9.7%) extent.
BOTTOMLINE: "Companies that do not plan for this aging workforce may find themselves suddenly faced with a loss of labor, experience, and expertise that will be difficult to offset, given the relatively small pool of new workers and the competition for new talent likely to result from so many companies facing the same problem," says Mick Smyer, codirector of the Center.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Employee Engagement - Part II

Research has shown that the average employee engagement figures for the United States are:

  • 30% Engaged
  • 54% NOT Engaged
  • 16% Actively Disengaged
Keith Ayers in his book, Engagement Is Not Enough, says that it is a leadership issue and the problem is critical.

According to the Gallup Organization, the problem usually begins in the first six months when an average of over 60% of employees switch off. This is basically due to the perceived realization that their expectations are not going to be met.

How to avoid disengagement?

  1. Don't obsess over financial results (vs. creating an enviroment that enables results)
  2. Don't obsess over control and micromanagement (vs. trusting them to get the job done)
  3. Don't obsess over avoiding responsibility (vs. your responsibility to lead)
  4. Don't obsess over logic (vs. emotion)

Best-Kept Secrets of the World's Best Companies

From Business 2.0, here's an article on "Best-kept secrets of the world's best companies."

What a great list!:

  1. Extreme Benchmarking. Compare everything you do against your rivals
  2. Bad News Folders. Keep a constant eye out for trouble
  3. Strategic Strategy Reviews. Turn going-through-the-motions meetings into no-holds-barred debates
  4. A New Office Pool. Use prediction markets to tap hidden knowledge
  5. The Tech Box. Create a lending library of ideas
  6. Outside-In R&D. Bring in experts to help spark new ideas
  7. Office Graffiti. Let workers speak their minds (brainstorm)
  8. Surgical Visits. Seek brutally honest feedback from customers
  9. The Contra Team. Appoint official devil's advocates to challenge the merits of deals
  10. Equity as You Go. Take no stake until you earn it
  11. The Chief Shareholder Officer. Head off shareholder trouble before it starts
  12. Always-On Board Members. Get the directors out of the boardroom
  13. The Corporate Beehive. Use office design to keep the queen in touch with the worker bees.
  14. The Job Audition. Turn the interview process into an all-encompassing tryout
  15. Peer-to-Peer Promotion. Let employees choose their leaders
  16. The Shrink Shrinker. Reward workers for keeping their hands off the merchandise
  17. The Anti-Star System. Determine pay using just two factors: Profits and seniority
  18. The Pyramid Scheme. Use kickbacks--the legal kind--to attract executive talent
  19. The Long Goodbye. Keep retirees in the labor pool
  20. The Three-Minute Huddle. Start each day with a lightning-fast, all-hands briefing
  21. Gainsharing. Pass cost savings on to those who achieved them
  22. Open-Source Ad Campaigns. Let your customers do the marketing
  23. Late-Night Recon. Turn employees into trendspotters
  24. The "Just Looking" Badge. Neutralize your customers' worst fears
  25. Phone Shopping. Become your own customer

BOTTOMLINE: Perhaps you've not heard of some of these practices -- but you may want to start implementing some - today.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The CEO's Role - And Succession Planning

The Hay Group recently revealed research about boards of directors - related to America's "Most Admired Companies (MACs)"

"Good boards understand that selecting the right CEO is probably the most important act that they will take," said Hay Group Vice President Ron Garonzik. "The consequences are too severe if they fail to do so, as recent turnover in CEO positions worldwide has proven."

It’s no surprise, then, that 91% of MACs agree that "We have a well defined plan to cover the emergency loss of the CEO that is discussed at least annually by the Board," v. 65% of the peer group. The MACs are also more likely (70% v. 57%) to "have developed a comprehensive profile for the CEO's successor that reflects our strategy and business model."

The study illustrates that Boards of Most Admired Companies are not only demanding a more significant role in the succession planning process, they are devoting much more time and effort to it than other Boards are.

Read the overview here.

Reasons Why Change Fails

It isn't inadequate processes, strategy or technology that lead so many organizational change programs to run into the sand.

The main reasons for failed change are all about people.

Management-Issues reports that a study from Deloitte Consulting suggests that change programs need to tackle issues in an integrated and focused way and, in particular, look at the people issues facing the business before, during and after the program.

The research has come as a conference of 165 HR directors organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers has separately predicted that a growing focus on people issues means there will be a chief of human resources on the board of most organizations by 2015.

According to the research, there are eight key people-related areas companies need to be addressing:

  1. People risk and impact management
  2. Leadership alignment and stakeholder engagement
  3. Communications
  4. Culture
  5. Organizational design and governance
  6. Talent requirements and HR programs
  7. Workforce transition
  8. Learning and capability transfer
BOTTOMLINE: "Companies don't transform themselves just for fun, but to stay competitive, innovative, and operationally effective."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Balanced Scorecard as the Next Big Thing?

Many corporate managers have been introduced to a corporate management system called the Balanced Scorecard. Developed at the Harvard Business School by David Norton and Robert Kaplan in the early 1990s, the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) represents the newest and most prolific performance measurement system since Total Quality Management (TQM) and Management by Objectives (MBO).

A growing number of organizations are achieving great financial success through the BSC framework, thereby solidifying the BSC a "here to stay" rather than just another passing fad.

According to studies, the BSC is being implemented in nearly two-thirds of North American corporations. Indicative of the system's growth, many of these implementations are less than six months old.

Thus, as a manager or business leader, if the system has not yet been encountered, it most likely will be in the near future.

According to the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative ( almost 75% of companies implementing a BSC will also implement a software solution to automate the process.

BOTTOMLINE: While balanced scorecards are an effective way to get alignment, by themselves are not enough. The solution needs to address the barriers of economic, expertise and human factors. Software is just one element - it helps to encourage new habits. Your organization also needs to adopt a systematic business-building methodology - one that is based on prove best-practices. And, we also need coaching/encouragement to continue to make the new change initiative "stick" - just like fitness or dieting, it's hard to do it by ourselves. Balanced scorecards are useful - and not surprisingly, they're built right into the Six Disciplines system.

The Changing Workforce - And Performance Management

According to an article in the Boston Globe, over the next 5 years, the 45-54 year workforce is projected to drop by 10%, and that number will continue to decrease.

The most shocking new is that at some companies, 30-40% of their workforce could retire over the next 10 years.

60% of employers surveyed already feel it is difficult recruiting competent workers.

With the Gen Xers primarily focused on self, and the companies focused on short term profits, how are we going to remain competitive?

What are the kinds of innovative performance management processes, systems and tools that must be embraced?

BOTTOMLINE: What is needed is a sustainable business excellence program. One that is focused on strategy execution. One that directly addresses the barriers to strategy execution, including economic, expertise and human factors. One that integrates a business-building methodology, accountability coaching, and innovative activity management system, and a shared learning community. The first sustainable business excellence program that is optimized for execution (and designed specifically for small and mid-sized businesses) can be found at Six Disciplines.

(Hat tip to the folks at Synaptus)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Employee Needs and Company Goals

Paul Allen (the Lesser), offers his take on "Employee Needs and Company Goals."

In his article, he explains " extremely revealing (it was) to me about how company goals don’t often align with individual employee efforts and how unempowered many employees are."

To help, he surveyed almost 100 employees and asked them each the following questions:

  1. What is your key goal/metric?
  2. What reporting tool do you use to measure your success?
  3. What resources are available to you to accomplish your goals?
  4. What dependencies might get in the way of you succeeding?

His assertions?

  • Every individual should have a personal scorecard that measures the results they are generating. And I believe in individual and team goals. (He found, however, that most employees didn’t have a goal that aligned with the company’s overall goals, or they didn’t have one at all.)

BOTTOMLINE: "It’s amazing what happens over time if you measure the right things every day and make sure employees are empowered and aligned."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Lost Art Of Long-Range Planning

According to InformationWeek, a panel set up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week recommended several steps to improve this country's competitiveness.

Some interesting findings and recommendations:

  • Small firms represent 99.7% of all employer firms and have generated 60% to 80% of net jobs annually over the last decade.
  • We're all used to the idea that the United States is number one. It's been that way for a long time and we don't expect it to change. The fact is, we've got competition and they are eager to eat our lunch.
  • We've been served a wakeup call. Now we have to answer it, while there's still time left on the clock.
  • This problem has its root in the North American way of doing business: focusing on the short term, the next quarter, to the exclusion of long-range planning.
BOTTOMLINE: While short-term results are important, we need to shift some focus from short-term results to long-term planning. Even with things changing as rapidly as they do these days, there is a place for - and a huge competitive advantage - for conducting long-range planning.

Taking Advantage of Small Business Advisors

In his article Small business: take advantage of advisors, Don Bobinski offers this advice to startups:

  • Startups can give themselves a better chance of surviving if they create a board of advisors to provide regular, outside perspectives on internal and external situations.
  • Short term planning should look like a road map, but "a 10-year plan is going to look more like a compass." It's simply a guide for making decisions.
  • Planning - it's not flashy, it's rarely fun (for an entrepreneur, anyway), and it fails the "does it make me money?" test. At least, on the surface it fails that test.
  • In reality, as the axiom goes, poor planning leads to poor performance.
  • But if any company - especially a start up - is clear about its values, has a focus for where it wants to go, and gets regular, outside perspectives about its internal and external situations, it can find ways to adapt.
  • That means that its chances for survival are greatly increased.

BOTTOMLINE: This advice isn't just for startups. It's for all businesses, in all stages of growth and maturity. Using outside advisors - the right ones -- can make all the difference. That's what our clients tell us every day!

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Six Disciplines Methodology

The identity of your business does not lie in current results -- it lies in what you do in the future.
The Six Disciplines Methodology is all about what you want your business to become.

There are many who "talk" about excellence, and there are some who achieve it for a moment, but there are a few who are willing to learn how to deliver excellence that lasts.

The Six Disciplines Methodology is many different things. It integrates proven best practices of strategic planning, quality management, organizational learning, business process automation, people performance management and measure-driven improvement.

BOTTOMLINE: Six Disciplines is a learning system. It's a systematic way for an organization to learn how to set, and more importantly, to execute strategy. By following its repeatable annual, quarterly, weekly and daily cycles, people within your organization continue to learn and grow at their own pace, aligning with the mission and strategy of your organization. And, it takes only 4% of your organization's time.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Execution: The Art of Following-Through

Be Excellent covers a wide range of topics, including strategy, planning, measurement, execution, learning and leadership.

While they all are important, we find that the "rubber meets the road" - at execution.

Interestingly enough, most of the business improvement thought leaders out there focus on all the other topics - but few touch on EXECUTION.

Not surprisingly, more than 80% of the focus of "Six Disciplines for Excellence" - is on execution.

Look for more about the coming "Execution Revolution" - from Six Disciplines.

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

CEO Confidence Continues to Rise

According to the results from a recent survey by Vistage, CEO confidence continues to rise in 2007.

The Q1 2007 Vistage CEO Confidence Index is a compilation of responses from 1,943 CEOs of small- to mid-sized companies, surveyed February 20 – March 2, 2007.

  • Smaller firms expect the economy to continue to improve throughout the year and they are betting on that with new hires and additional spending.
  • Once again, finding and hiring qualified staff was cited as the most critical challenge for more than one-third of all firms.
  • Increased revenues and profits were expected by the vast majority of firms but not at significantly increased levels.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Six Disciplines Helps Inc. 500 Company Manage Rapid Growth Amid Management Transition

Sharn Veterinary, Inc., a leading provider of vital signs monitoring equipment for animals used by veterinarians worldwide, searched for a way to harness the company's rapid growth to ensure success over the long haul.

Then they learned about the Six Disciplines Leadership Center in Tampa, a member of a nationwide network of franchised business excellence organizations that provide a complete program to engage the entire organization, enabling them to continuously learn how to achieve sustainable business excellence.

Read the entire case study here about how Six Disciplines helps Sharn to manage rapid growth amid management transitions.

Organizational Accountability and Discipline

From the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning comes this article:

In his book about great organizations, Good To Great, Jim Collins concludes:

"Sustained great results depend upon building a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined action, fanatically consistent with the three circles."

(The three circles for an organization are 1.) what it can be best in the world at, 2.) what its people are already deeply passionate about, and 3.) what drives its economic engine.)

He further states, "A culture of discipline is not just about action. It is about getting disciplined people...who engage in disciplined thought and...who then take disciplined action."

What are the qualities of disciplined workers?

  • They exhibit "training, especially of the mind or character," "a trained condition of order and obedience" and "the training effect of experience, misfortune etc."
  • They have a habit of self-discipline (the discipline comes primarily from within and it is "grooved").
  • They typically finish things they start.
  • They are capable of facing and dealing with brutal facts, even about themselves.
  • They are willing to adhere to the organization's systems for getting work done.
  • They have a passion for doing certain types of work or advancing certain purposes.
  • They possess unique skill sets.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Creating an Accountability-Based Organization

Bob Prosen is CEO of The Prosen Center and has been delivering exceptional business results for more than a quarter-century, first as a successful executive at a variety of U.S. corporations, and lately as a consultant, educator and speaker working with leaders of organizations throughout the US.

Prosen 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 on "Seven Steps to Creating an Accountability-Based Organization"

What is Employee Engagement?

In 2006, The Conference Board published "Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications." According to this report (published in Management-Issues), twelve major studies on employee engagement had been published over the prior four years by top research firms.

Each of the studies used different definitions and, collectively, came up with 26 key drivers of engagement.

At least four of the studies agreed on these eight key drivers.

  1. Trust and integrity – how well managers communicate and 'walk the talk'.
  2. Nature of the job –Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?
  3. Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company's performance?
  4. Career Growth opportunities –Are there future opportunities for growth?
  5. Pride about the company – How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with their company?
  6. Coworkers/team members – significantly influence one's level of engagement
  7. Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee's skills?
  8. Relationship with one's manager – Does the employee value his or her relationship with his or her manager?

But all studies, all locations and all ages agreed that the direct relationship with one's manager is the strongest of all drivers.

BOTTOMLINE: "Employee engagement is a very big deal. There is clear and mounting evidence that high levels of employee engagement keenly correlates to individual, group and corporate performance in areas such as retention, turnover, productivity, customer service and loyalty. While differences varied from study to study, highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged counterparts by a whopping 20 – 28 percentage points!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Eight Essentials of Communicating Change

Good advice on communicating change, based on the principles for developing and implementing an effective internal communication strategy:

  1. Ensure the CEO is the champion of communication and the champion communicator.
  2. Match actions and words.
  3. Ensure your communication is two-way.
  4. Place emphasis on face-to-face communication.
  5. Ensure responsibility for communication is shared.
  6. Deal with the bad news - as well as the good.
  7. Serve the audience's needs as well as your own.
  8. Design your communication strategy to suit your organization.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Managing During Change

Barbara Kay, an executive coach and trainer with Advantage Coaching & Training, offers her take on the key issues of change management (at Management Issues):

Barbara's assertions:

  • Change management is a hot topic. There are change management consultants, change management systems and coaches who help people handle change.
  • With all of that expertise available, it can still feel like we are just barely getting by during times of change.

The first battle of any change situation is harnessing a desire to succeed.

The second big win was their sincere appreciation for their staff and a keen interest in supporting staff needs.

The third victory was their realistic yet hopeful attitude.

Finally they had adopted a powerful change leadership attitude.

BOTTOMLINE: "Change is not easy. Dramatic and repeated changes are especially challenging. When you think that you are barely managing, take stock, because you may be doing much better than you realize. "

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Three Barriers Preventing Effective Strategy Execution

For small and mid-size businesses, there are three primary barriers to executing strategy more effectively:

  • Economics. While larger businesses can afford to invest significantly in resources like consultants, coaching, systems and software, small businesses simply cannot afford these expensive offerings – let alone the resources and expertise to integrate them into a single system.
    Expertise. While larger enterprises have access to resources, best-practices and expertise on individual disciplines like strategic planning, performance management, business intelligence, TQM, balanced scorecards, etc., small businesses lack the expertise, resources or understanding of how to tie their strategic goals to the day-to-day activities of their people.
  • Human Factors. Both large and small businesses have the same fundamental challenge: they’re run by people. For the most part, they know the right things to do. But the fact is, they don’t always do them. Organizational behavior, attitudes, motivation, habits, resistance – many human nature factors can contribute to poor execution – and are certainly barriers to sustainable performance improvement.

Even more important is: how to address these barriers in such a way as to make performance improvement sustainable - year after year.

So…what is the solution?

What is needed is a sustainable program for business excellence – one that is optimized for execution.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Five Whys Technique for Problem Solving

Problem solving requires asking the right questions.

If you're an engineer who's been involved in Six Sigma, you've heard of the Five Whys Technique for solving problems. It's a brilliant technique made popular by car-maker Toyota in the 1970s, but it has widespread application.

The Five Whys Technique says that it usually takes five questions to find the truth or the "root cause."

In industry, a Five-Whys conversation would sound like this:

  1. Why did that machine suddenly stop? Because a fuse blew.
  2. Why did a fuse blow? Because the fuse wasn't the right size.
  3. Why was the wrong size in the fuse box? Because one of our engineers put it there.
  4. Why did the he do that? Because somebody in the supply room issued the wrong size fuse.
  5. Why? Because the stock bin for fuses was mislabeled.

BOTTOMLINE: Try this technique next time you get a chance. You don't always have to say "Why." You can throw in a "Help me understand why" or "What was your thinking for doing that" or some other phrase that helps you peel away another layer of the onion. A great way to get the root cause of a problem.

(Tip of the hat to Stephen Meyer, B21 Publisher for his examples...)

The ABC's of Organizational Change

Dr. John R. Grinnell offers his take on The ABC's of Organizational Change.

Truly, one of the best summaries I've read on this topic! in a long time!

Things to Keep in Mind When Changing Beliefs to Change an Organization:

A. Some Ideas are Better than Others
B. Communicate a Compelling Reason for Change
C. Create a Change Action Map
D. Set Leadership Structure Early.......

Read the entire list and summary here.

The Strategy-Execution Gap

From a Q&A interview with David Norton (inventor of the Balanced Scorecard)

  • There have been a number of studies on the success rate companies have in executing strategy, and they generally conclude that something like nine out of ten organizations that have strategies fail to execute them. That's even true when those strategies have been well-formulated at the top and they have buy in from senior management. That's a pretty foreboding statistic.
  • Alignment is about creating an approach and a framework that lets the organization define what's important and then cascade that and communicate that to the lower levels of the organization so everybody understands what the strategy is and how they fit in.
  • If you don't link strategy management and operations management, then you're stuck in either a bottoms-up world, where you're focusing on operations and you don't really have control of whether it's impacting the strategy, or you come top down and focus only on strategy, but you can't make things happen. You've got to tie those two things together.

Read the rest of this Q&A here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Time for An Execution Revolution

Today in business, leaders are habitually underestimating the challenge of strategy execution-- and as such, nine out of ten strategy executions fail.

Just think about that figure for a moment.

  • Billions of dollars invested in creating strategies are lost.
  • Millions of man hours are wasted.Hundreds of thousands ideas evaporate.

It is a horrendous failure rate that unbelievably is tolerated around the world. Far too many leaders can more easily recall an implementation that failed – whether it was strategy, technology or marketing. It is time to correct this by putting the spot light on execution.

It is time for an Execution Revolution!

One of the largest contributing factors to the high number of failed execution is that when leaders return to their offices after creating their challenge, they are commonly left on their own to work out how to implement it.

They must figure out how to inform the people in their division of the imminent changes; explain what needs to change and why; review the way the team is working and the current rewards and recognition to ensure it supports the new strategy; motivate their people; assess the current measures being used and report back to their peers. It is a multitude of activities that creates a maze that many leaders become lost in.

BOTTOMLINE: Execution of strategy is not a single decision or action -- but a cluster of structured and sustained activities over a period of time.

The Benefits of Business Coaching

A recent study by the International Coach Federation (ICF) reported that most small business owners, who hadn't been coached, would like to achieve positive change in their business development, career, and financial and physical health. The top six professional and business development areas identified in the study were: productivity and effectiveness, planning, sales and marketing, business management, positioning their firm for the future and leadership.

Of those in the study that had been coached, their top four professional and business development areas were: productivity and effectiveness, leadership, sales and marketing and planning.

  • 69% of the coached business owners met with their business coach at least two times per month, mostly on a one-on-one basis in person or over the telephone, working on productivity and effectiveness, planning, sales and marketing and their leadership skills.
  • 49% of the business owners who were coached spent $500 or more in professional development and 42% spent $500 or more in personal development.
  • 47% of small business owners paid monthly coaching fees ranging from $250 - $3,000.

The most valuable results of the coaching experience reported in the ICF small business study:

  • 28% of small business owners said brainstorming was the most valuable result of business coaching
  • 28% of small business owners said independent viewpoint was the most valuable result of business coaching
  • 18% of small business owners said encouragement was the most valuable result of business coaching
  • 15% of small business owners said being accountable to the coach was the most valuable result of business coaching

Top Strategies for Embracing Change

Management Issues raises a post on the "Top Strategies for Embracing Change."

Their assertions?

  1. Today's rapidly changing technology has forced almost all of us to change, in some cases almost daily.
  2. Change is so difficult and is almost always resisted.
  3. The organization must create an environment that fosters new learning and behaviors - that "persuades" employees to change.

Below are their suggestions for embracing change. (I've indicated Six Disciplines' approach to each suggestion. You'll notice they align quite well.)

Motivation is essential. Before your employees are really motivated to work at change, they must be convinced of the personal and professional benefits to themselves, as well as to their organization. (At Six Disciplines, we cover this as part of Discipline II, Set Goals That Lead, in the Engage The Team process.)

Procedural and cultural changes require working with the latest tools of persuasion, negotiation and learning. Managers should coach and encourage rather than criticize or punish. Self-righteous, critical or condescending behavior will only frighten people back into their old tried-and-true behaviors. (At Six Disciplines Leadership Centers, our certified coaches work with individuals from all levels to explain how the change process works to their benefit, to break down old habits, and replace them with new habits and cultural changes.)

It pays to reward success. By rewarding success, you will create internal champions. Others will follow them more easily. (At Six Disciplines, we encourage our clients to include both recognition (unpaid) and reward (paid) as components to effective change.)

Promote changes with workshops. People respond better to workshop exercises that have "face validity" - that is, whose content is related to the work people actually perform. The workshop should combine process and content. (At Six Disciplines, we use workshops at all levels of the organization, to get total organizational engagement.)

Launch the change management program. While smaller companies might be able to just dig in and start the process, in larger organizations it may be necessary to create some drama. Involve everyone (At Six Disciplines, we refer to this as "engage the team.")

Alignment is necessary. Too often, alignment behind a company's goals, objectives, values and beliefs is taken for granted. (At Six Disciplines, that's what Discipline III. Align Systems is all about.)

BOTTOMLINE: "When all is said and done, change can be exciting, and if managed correctly, it will be a vital component in the vitality and continued growth of your organization. So go for it!"

Friday, March 02, 2007

Excellence Quotes for 3/2/07

"The secret of joy is contained in one word--excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." (Pearl Buck)

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

"Strive for perfection; settle for excellence." (Don Shula)

"Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do." (Jose Ortega Y Gasset)

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." (Aristotle)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Six Disciplines Leadership Center Franchise Webcast

Opportunities like this are very rare: the chance to own a Six Disciplines franchise and to be your community's exclusive provider of the first sustainable business excellence program --optimized for execution.

Click on a day/time below to register for a webcast that you attend straight from your PC. When you register, we'll send you a FREE copy of the top-rated book, Six Disciplines for Excellence, by author, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines Corporation, Gary Harpst.

Thursday, March 8th 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM EST
Tuesday, March 20th 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST

During the webcast, you'll learn the proven business benefits of owning and operating a Six Disciplines franchise and evaluate whether this opportunity is right for you.

You'll see how Six Disciplines offers countless benefits, both personally and professionally, including:

  • Tremendous Growth Potential
  • Coaching to Achieve Strategy-Driven Execution
  • Annuity-Based Business Model
  • Area of Primary Responsibility
  • Proven Support Systems
  • Comprehensive Training Including Online Learning

Entrepreneur Magazine named Six Disciplines to their Top 99 Franchise 'Top Guns' in 2006.

Six Disciplines is the premiere execution-optimized business coaching franchise opportunity, and we are looking for a select few passionate professionals. If you have executive level or business ownership experience, good business relationships with small to medium sized business in your territory, and want to own a business that helps organizations achieve sustainable business excellence, then Six Disciplines is the right business coaching franchise for you.

Now is the time to take advantage of Six Disciplines' investment of more than $20 million and 50 man-years of R&D developing the Six Disciplines program. Our expanding nationwide network of franchise operations called "Six Disciplines Leadership Centers," are locally owned and operated professional service businesses that exclusively offer the complete Six Disciplines business excellence program.

For more information, call 419.581.2821, visit or e-mail:

Confidence in Small Business Leaders Skyrockets

According to the Startup Journal, Americans are gaining confidence in the country's small business leaders.

When asked how much confidence they have in leaders of a range of public and private institutions, 54% expressed a "great deal" of confidence in leaders of small business, a new Harris Interactive poll found.

That put the small business sector atop the list of institutions in which respondents expressed the most confidence. The military came second with 46%, and major educational and medical institutions came next, with each sector notching 37%. The telephone poll of 1,013 Americans was conducted Feb. 6-12.

See how people responded to different sources here.

Managing Upwards Using 360 Feedback Surveys

Fast Company has a posting about "boss evaluations."

In the article, former Dell CEO Kevin B. Rollins told The New York Times that he had instituted a policy at the computer company in which all managers would receive periodic evaluations from their underlings. Including himself.

BOTTOMLINE: Managing upwards, or using 360 feedback surveys, is not a new people performance management practice. However, it may be foreign to some smaller businesses. The good news? 360 Feedback Surveys and Individual Performance Appraisals are built right into the Six Disciplines Activity Management System.

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Bud Bilanich, the CommenSense Guy, reposted a blog post from Bob Parsons (CEO with - formerly of Parsons Technology), who stated:

"One thing I learned early in my business career is that anything of significance that is measured and watched, improves."

Here's the rest of the article.

BOTTOMLINE: For organizations that want to achieve sustainable business excellence, significant activities must be measured and watched (monitored). A key design element of the Six Disciplines program is "if it can't be measured, it can't be managed."