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Monday, April 30, 2007

Managing Alignment as a Process

Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge offers this article on Managing Alignment as a Process, authored by HBS professor Robert S. Kaplan and colleague David P. Norton (the creators of the Balanced Scorecard....)

Their premise?

"To create synergy, we require more than a concept and a strategy. The enterprise value proposition defines the strategy for value creation through alignment, but it doesn't describe how to achieve it. The alignment strategy must be complemented with an alignment process. The alignment process, much like budgeting, should be part of the annual governance cycle. Whenever plans are changed at the enterprise or business unit level, executives likely need to realign the organization with the new direction."

BOTTOMLINE: Six Disciplines for Excellence - Discipline III. Align Systems, shows HOW to achieve alignment, by identifying misalignments, aligning processes, policies, measures, technology - and people within your organization. Interestingly enough, it is this step that most organizations do not do well. Some are great at strategy formulation, others great at operational execution. But it is the alignment of all the resources that tees up the ability for an organization to execute consistently - and sustainably - on their strategy.

Real Change Requires Real Effort

Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world's top thought leaders on organizational development, leadership and coaching, posts this entry on "Real Change Requires Real Effort."

"Leaders can help people set goals that increase their probability of lasting change—or they can help them set goals that may feel good in the short term but lead to disillusionment and giving up in the long term."

BOTTOMLINE: "Real change requires real effort. The quick fix is seldom the meaningful fix. Distractions and competing responses are going to happen. The higher the level of the leader, the more likely it is that they will happen. Improving leadership skills—like getting in shape—won't solve all of life's problems.

Deming and The Power of Purpose

Inc. Magazine had an article on The Power of Purpose, by Rebecca Morgan.

In the article, Morgan points to Deming's "14 Points for Management," -- one of which includes the classic:

"Create constancy of purpose to the continuous improvement of products and service, focusing on long range needs rather than only short term profitability, with the aim to become competitive, to stay in business, and to provide jobs."

BOTTOMLINE: "There are plenty of small businesses that struggle with making decisions that reflect an unwavering commitment to quality and the long term. Employees know when that constancy is absent -- and so do customers and suppliers. Constancy of purpose means that quality decisions are not situational. Constancy of purpose can only exist when leadership lives it, demonstrates it, and won't accept anything else."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Twelve Rules for Self-Leadership

Rosa Say, over at Talking Story has an excellent post "Twelve Rules for Self-Leadership."

Her wisdom based on years of experience and coaching result in this great advice for self-leadership:

  1. Set goals for your life; not just for your job. What we think of as “meaning of life” goals affect your lifestyle outside of work too, and you get whole-life context, not just work-life, each feeding off the other.
  2. Practice discretion constantly, and lead with the example of how your own good behavior does get great results. Otherwise, why should anyone follow you when you lead?
  3. Take initiative. Volunteer to be first. Be daring, bold, brave and fearless, willing to fall down, fail, and get up again for another round. Starting with vulnerability has this amazing way of making us stronger when all is done.
  4. Be humble and give away the credit. Going before others is only part of leading; you have to go with them too. Therefore, they’ve got to want you around!
  5. Learn to love ideas and experiments. Turn them into pilot programs that preface impulsive decisions. Everything was impossible until the first person did it.
  6. Live in wonder. Wonder why, and prize “Why not?” as your favorite question. Be insatiably curious, and question everything.
  7. There are some things you don’t take liberty with no matter how innovative you are when you lead. For instance, to have integrity means to tell the truth. To be ethical is to do the right thing. These are not fuzzy concepts.
  8. Believe that beauty exists in everything and in everyone, and then go about finding it. You’ll be amazed how little you have to invent and much is waiting to be displayed.
  9. Actively reject pessimism and be an optimist. Say you have zero tolerance for negativity and self-fulfilling prophecies of doubt, and mean it.
  10. Champion change. As the saying goes, those who do what they’ve always done, will get what they’ve always gotten. The only things they do get more of are apathy, complacency, and boredom.
  11. Be a lifelong learner, and be a fanatic about it. Surround yourself with mentors and people smarter than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something, learning what your triggers are.
  12. Care for and about people. Compassion and empathy become you, and keep you ever-connected to your humanity. People will choose you to lead them.
Now, if THAT doesn't make your Friday, check yer' pulse!

Also take a look at a related post from Rosa, entitled Twelve Rules for Self-Management.

Resistance To Change

Management-Issues reports on research by workplace consultants BlessingWhite, who found that leading teams through organizational change is viewed as extremely or very challenging by nearly half of those surveyed.

Their research findings:

  • The study suggests the usual approaches to leadership development aren't delivering solutions.
  • Organizations are meeting increased resistance to change, especially at middle-management level.
  • "The Board may pivot at any moment, and so can an agile CEO, but getting the next echelon to move proves to be a lot harder. There's always a call for resilience and flexibility, but not enough guidance how to go about it."

The recommendations:

  • Instead of looking at this as a leadership training or development issue, organizations must focus on substance and content. That's what is truly important. After all, the critical part is getting the top management team to have a clear fix on the strategic direction, and how that translates for different parts of the organization.
  • The strategy has to be communicated so people understand what they need to do, and care enough to do so even if it disrupts their routine.

Redefining Strategy for Survival

Todd over at 800-CEO-Reads reports on Chris Zook's latest book Unstoppable, which comes out from Harvard Business School Press next week.

The stunning results from their research showed:
  • 153 of the top 500 companies in 1994 did not even survive the following decade intact.
  • They either ended up in bankruptcy or were acquired and integrated into a larger company.
  • Of the 347 companies that survived and maintained independence, we judged that 130 had undergone a fundamental shift in their core business strategy and its key parameters.
  • In other words, nearly six out of ten companies faced threats to their survival or independence, and only about half were able to meet those threats by redefining their strategies.

The rest of his book gives strategies for how to redefine the core of your business by uncovering and growing hidden assets.

BOTTOMLINE: Discipline VI. Step Back, and Discipline I. Decide What's Important are reviewed by Six Disciplines clients during the annual planning retreat that define (or redefine) the core strategies of their businesses.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Destructive Habits of Good Companies - Part II

GM. Ford. AT&T. Sears. Firestone. Krispy Kreme. Digital. Kodak. Once, they were riding high, the exemplars of business excellence. Then, disaster.

Is your company headed for the same fate? How do you know? How do you change course?

Uncover your self-destructive habits before they destroy you

In his upcoming new book "Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies" author Jagdish N. Sheth identifies seven dangerous habits even well-run companies fall victim to–and helps you diagnose and break these habits before they destroy you.

The destructive habits include:

  • The “cocoon” of denial (Find it, admit it, assess it, and escape it)
  • The stigma of arrogance (Escape this fault that “breeds in a dark, closed room”)
  • The virus of complacency (Six warning signs and five solutions)
  • The curse of incumbency (Stop your core competencies from blinding you to new opportunities)
  • The threat of myopia (Widen your view of your competitors–and the dangers they pose
  • The obsession of volume (Get beyond “rising volumes and shrinking margins”)
  • The territorial impulse (Break down the silos, factions, fiefdoms, and ivory towers)

Download Chapter 1 from this book here.

Principles that Drive Lasting Success

Mark Thompson and Stewart Emery, co-authors of the bestselling “Success Built to Last," which they wrote with Jerry Porras (of "Built to Last" fame) offer these insights:

"We found that three fundamental principles drive lasting success; these need to interact with one another and also to be integrated and aligned. We describe them in our first chapter in a diagram with three intersecting circles — meaning, thought and action — and the bull’s eye is where they all come together.

We found that individuals across the spectrum of professions were striving to find something that mattered to them in a very fundamental way.

This prompted them to drive their thoughts to frame a way of producing those results — and then acting on those results…..

That fundamental step of finding meaning, finding the passion that matters to you and that drives your behavior, is often skipped.

….whether you are Jack Welch or the Dalai Lama, it is dangerous not to do what you love."

BOTTOMLINE: "If you don’t have a level of passion that drives your thinking about what you’re doing day in and day out, there will be others out there who are passionate who will overtake and outrun you.

People who care will take the initiative away from those who are half-hearted. So loving what you do is a competitive imperative, not simply a nice thing to have."

The Entrepreneurial Generation

In honor of National Small Business Week, I want to reference Dr. Jeff Cornwall, over at the Entrepreneurial Mind, who brings us the statistics on the "Entrepreneurial Generation"

Here are some other facts about today's small businesses:

  • Survival rates are now over 50%; with education and training this increases to 80-90%
  • They make up 50% of GDP
  • 5-6 million small business have employees
  • 99% of employers are small businesses
  • Over 50% of workforce now is employed in small businesses
  • 45% of total payroll comes from small businesses

BOTTOMLINE: "These businesses have become the engines of job creation for the US. In fact, entrepreneurs and small business owners are responsible for 77% of new jobs created in past twenty years. They have strong values, which for many are based on a very strong faith. They believe that they can build a better economy and help restore our culture."

The Next Entrepreneurial Wave

According to a Business 2.0 magazine article entitled "Building The Next Google," "It's a terrific time to be an entrepreneur. "

Here’s how you can create your own world-changing company.

Early On:
  1. Start Small
  2. Look for Angels
  3. Embrace Open-Source
  4. Use Off-the-Shelf Equipment
  5. Launch Early, Launch Often

Financing The Business:

  1. Bootstrap as Long as You Can
  2. But Know When to Tap the Venture Community
  3. ...Don’t Wait Too Long to Ask for More Money
  4. Think Beyond the Terms

Managing Growth

  1. Hire Smart
  2. Sell It Yourself
  3. Spread the Wealth
  4. Bring In the Big Guns
  5. Know When to Step Aside

Read the entire article here.

The Importance of Praise

In the Wall Street Journal last week, there was an article titled "The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work."

It talked about the generation of twentysomethings who have grown up on praise and the words "you're special." The generation where everyone became a winner on the soccer field, swim team, or drama club. Gold stars and ribbons abound their world - whether they won or not. In some ways, they received kudos for little more than showing up.

According to Bob Nelson, consultant and author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, each generation has different praise requirements:

  • 60+ years -- prefer public, formal awards but don't need constant praise.
  • Baby Boomers (40-55): are looking for "more self-indulgent treats" such as massages and new technology.
  • Under 40: need a bit more praise and "near-constant feedback."
Finding it tough to figure this out if you have a divergent workforce?

BOTTOMLINE: Institute an ongoing program that recognizes contributions. Combine congratulations and recognition with additional challenges to go above and beyond. Praise publicly - reprimand privately. Hold individuals accountable for their responsibilities and activities.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Salute to a Successful Small Business CEO

If you're a regular Be Excellent reader, you'll notice that I've mentioned before a fellow blogger by the name of Zane Safrit, the CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited.

He's one of those high-energy people with a genuine, positive attitude - and a PASSION for knowledge, business - and life -- to match. And, he extends that passion throughout the rest of his organization!

In addition to his personal blog, he also writes some great marketing entries here.

Together, we're working on a collaborative plan to bring you new content and practical advice for continual business improvement (look for it coming soon...)

BOTTOMLINE: (And not-so-shameless plug....) If you have needs for phone conferencing, web conferencing, podcasts or videocasts - there's only one place to go: Conference Calls Unlimited.

Small Business Advantage #6: Leveraging Advantages

The point of articulating small business advantages isn't that small businesses are better than big businesses, but that they're different from big businesses.

Learning to leverage differences is what competitive advantage is all about.

Yet, most small businesses don't consciously develop strategies that use their advantages.

BOTTOMLINE: The Six Disciplines program is the first sustainable business excellence program optimized for execution, that systematically enables small and mid-sized businesses to plan and execute their strategies -- and leverage the advantages of much larger enterprises.

Small Business Advantage #5: Attracting Team Members

Small businesses don't have to take a back seat to larger organizations when recruiting top people. The small business advantages already discussed:

  1. Connecting people to purpose
  2. Effective communication
  3. Timely decision-making
  4. Customer intimacy

....when explained very carefully to all candidates, can provide a great draw to the most talented prospects.

BOTTOMLINE: It's important to recognize that many people who haven't worked in large companies may not understand these advantages. Yet for people who are experienced in larger organizations, the advantages will be obvious - and often quite welcome.

Small Business Advantage #4: Customer Intimacy

In smaller organizations, a much greater percentage of team members work with customers directly.

This includes the leaders in the organization, who frequently are still involved in closing sales or supporting clients. This kind of closeness to customers means the people in the company know customer issues and they can spot changing market needs earlier.

BOTTOMLINE: In smaller organizations, decision-making is more timely, and both team leaders and team members can execute on those changing market trends earlier.

Small Business Advantage #3: Timely Decision-Making

In our continuing series of Small Business Advantages....

Decision-making is dramatically different in smaller organizations, as compared to much larger enterprises. As organizations increase in size, the leadership team moves generalists to specialists who are responsible for a particular business area or function.

Because top decision-makers in larger organizations are more insulated from day-to-day activities of the company, they no longer have the first-hand knowledge to make decisions without the input of several other specialists.

The result? Slower and often lower-quality decisions.

BOTTOMLINE: In smaller businesses however, there are fewer decision-makers, and they're so close to customers, employees, suppliers and daily operations, they can get a much more accurate sense of whether a decision is right or wrong (.....and can get this sense much quicker.)

Small Business Advantage #2: Effective Communication

"The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

The larger the organization is, the greater this illusion becomes.

As organizations grow, communication challenges grow as well. In fact, they grow dramatically faster (exponentially) than the organization headcount does.

To illustrate: In an organization with 3 people, there are only 3 possible different interactions.
  • In an organiztion with 25 people (8x as many people), there are 300 possible different interactions = 100x increase in the complexity of communications
Taking the analogy only to a 100 person organization:
  • In an organization with 100 people (33x as many people), there are 4,950 possible different interactions = 1,650x increase in the complexity of communications
BOTTOMLINE: Growing organizations respond to increased complexity by creating layers (business units, divisions, departments, teams, groups, etc.). Add to this challenge -- 55% of communication really takes place through non-verbal body language (not phone, not email, not IMs, not video conferencing.)

Small Business Advantage #1: Connecting People to Purpose

In honor of National Small Business Week, we'll be posting a series on small business advantages. Savvy small business owners understand these and take advantage of them aggressively.

Small Business Advantage #1: Connecting People to Purpose

The best performing team members want to belong to an organization that's on a meaningful mission - and, they need to see how their efforts contribute to that mission.

Small businesses have an enormous advantage (over larger enterprises) in their ability to help people connect to the mission and purpose of their organization - AND enable them to see what they're doing is contributing to that purpose, in a meaningful way.

BOTTOMLINE: Looking for a competitive advantage over larger enterprises in your same industry? Since you can't out-spend them or out-research them - how about considering to "out-purpose" them, by connecting all of your team members to the mission, vision and purpose of your organization.

Entrepreneurial Strategy: Measure Something

In honor of National Small Business Week, it's important to remember that a key aspect of small business success is measurement.

Rob May over at BusinessPundit raises something about measurement, that is KEY:

His assertions:

  • Business strategy is built in large part on probabilistic decision making.
  • No one ever knows with 100% certainty where markets are going or how customers will respond to changes and incentives, so you have to plan using a best guess.
  • The more information you have, the better that guess will be.
  • One way to gain more information is to be able to measure something that wasn't measured before.
At Six Disciplines, measurement is a fundamental requirement of our business-building methodology.

Without measuring results, there can be no way to understand improvement.

BOTTOMLINE: "Think about what needs to be measured at your work or in your industry. Ask yourself if measuring such a thing would help you make better decisions, be more productive, and be more profitable. Then develop a tool, a device, or some software that will do so. From there, execute (and) after a few years of hard work, you've got a very nice business."

Make Time for Strategy Formulation

According to Marakon Associates, top management spends less than three hours a month discussing strategic issues or making strategic decisions.

Marakon measured what everybody already knows:
  • A typical company’s senior executives spend less than three days each month working together as a team
  • In that time, they devote less than three hours to strategic issues.
  • Moreover, these three hours are seldom well spent.

Strategy discussions tend to be diffuse and unstructured, only rarely designed to reach good decisions quickly.

BOTTOMLINE: Marakon suggests the following seven techniques for exploiting the valuable time executives spend on discussions concerning strategy:

  1. Deal with operations separately from strategy
  2. Focus on decisions, not on discussions
  3. Measure the real value of every item on the agenda
  4. Get issues off the agenda as quickly as possible
  5. Put real choices on the table
  6. Adopt common decision-making processes and standards
  7. Make decisions stick

Monday, April 23, 2007

Small Business Trends Showcases The Two-Word Strategy

Anita Campbell, editor over at Small Business Trends, (and host of Small Business Trends Radio) showcases an interview with Six Disciplines' CEO and founder Gary Harpst, in her post Using a Two-Word Strategy to Get Employees on the Same Page.

Anita's interview asks Harpst:

  • What are some examples of famous two-word strategy statements?
  • Some people might suggest those are brand taglines. Why do you think they are more? What’s the value?
  • A business needs more of a strategy than just two words, correct?
  • How would you suggest entrepreneurs and business owners use the two-word strategy statement in their strategic planning? What’s the process?
  • Could you give us some examples of two-word strategy statements that might be applicable to small businesses in the following industries (just to prime the pump and get the thinking going)
  • What if you’ve tried and can’t come up with a two-word statement. Does that mean your business lacks focus and that your organization will be off track? What do you do?

BOTTOMLINE: Check out the answers to these questions about the two-word strategy exercise.

Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

In honor of National Small Business Week, the Small Business Development Centers of Ohio list some personality traits which successful entrepreneurs have and apply to their businesses:

  • Passion for their business. Loving what you do can leave you feeling exhilarated rather than exhausted.
  • Persistence. Entrepreneurs are willing to work longer and harder than others. That outlook is crucial to overcoming the challenges they face. The true entrepreneur has the discipline to complete the less enjoyable tasks properly and on schedule.
  • Good health and high energy are vital because starting a business takes a lot of effort and time.
  • Creativity is needed to develop innovative products and services and to solve problems.
  • Independence and self-reliance. Entrepreneurs like making their own decisions and carrying them out. They also are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with their freedom.
  • Intuition is the ability to see beyond the obvious. The intuitive entrepreneur has an uncanny ability to predict how a situation will affect his business and to make the right decisions in advance.
  • Self-confidence. Entrepreneurs believe in their ability to make their business prosper, even when those around them do not. They are optimistic and have faith in their own ideas, allowing them to be realistic and open to change.
  • Entrepreneurs are invariably hard-working people. How do you feel about working 12 hours a day?
(Hat tip for this list goes to Doug Peters, CEO of GreaterFindlay, Inc. - and a Six Disciplines client!)

Small Business Statistics

In honor of National Small Business Week, we'd like to offer up some interesting (and startling) facts and statistics about small businesses from different sources:

According to the SBA, small businesses:

  • provide 75 percent of the net new jobs added to the economy
  • represent 99.7 percent of all employers
  • employ 50.1 percent of the private work force
  • provide 40.9 percent of private sales in the country.
  • account for 39.1 percent of jobs in high technology sectors in 2001
  • account for 52 percent of private sector output in 1999
  • represent 97 percent of all U.S. exporters
Businesses start -- and fail -- in the United States at an increasingly staggering rate.

  • Every year, over 500,000 people start a business of some sort.
  • By the end of the first year, at least 40% of them will be out of business.
  • Within 5 years, more than 80% of them—400,000 people—will have failed!

And, if your business has managed to survive for 5 years or more, don’t breathe a sigh of relief.
More than 80% of the enterprises that survive the first 5 years will fail in the second 5 years.

BOTTOMLINE: What makes sustainability in business so hard? The top issues small businesses struggle with can be grouped into categories: financial, customer, production, people, limited resources, and growth. At times, these challenges can be daunting, indeed overwhelming. It's encouraging to know that the struggles we encounter every day are normal. All small businesses face them. And like other "heroes," we continue the fight - because the cause is worth it.

Entrepreneur Magazine Radio Interviews CEO Gary Harpst

Kick Start Guy, Romanus Wolter, interviews Gary Harpst, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines, LLC, and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, about how to conquer the biggest business challenges.

Reaching over 2 million visionaries and entrepreneurs monthly, Romanus is known as the "The Kick Start Guy." As the Success Coach for Entrepreneur magazine, the author of the popular Kick Start Your Success (Wiley & Sons) and Kick Start Your Dream Business (Ten Speed Press), he provides practical, proven action steps that close the gap between goals and success.

Listen to this interview with CEO Gary Harpst here on Entrepreneur Magazine Radio.

Be Excellent Honors National Small Business Week

Each year the President of the United States issues a proclamation calling for the celebration of Small Business Week. Each year National Small Business Week is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The celebration honors the estimated 25.5 million small businesses in America that employ more than half the country's private work force, create three of every four new jobs, and generate a majority of American innovations.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will mark Small Business Week 2007, with events to be held on April 23-24, 2007, at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

BOTTOMLINE: Consider that most people spend half their waking hours at work. To a business leader who takes the risk of owning and building a business, this is both exciting and awe-inspiring. It's exciting because of the great opportunity to do something meaningful in the lives of other people. It's awe-inspiring (and sobering) because of the responsibility it implies, derived from the understanding that oftentimes a single decision may significantly affect the lives of many others. Those who take this stewardship seriously truly are heros.

Six Disciplines LLC and all of the Six Disciplines Leadership Centers salute all of our small and mid-sized business clients - and all small businesses during National Small Business Week!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sustainable Change

There's a great manifesto for change over at Change This, called "Manifesto to Accelerate: 15 Truths."

In it, author Dan Coughlin offers 15 Truths about accelerating momentum in business, and advises:

"To achieve sustained greatness in any business endeavor, you have to play at it with a Sustained And Focused Effort (SAFE)."

BOTTOMLINE: According to Coughlin, "The only way to sustain your focus and your effort through this challenge is to have fun while you do it. Enjoy the journey. Play it SAFE. Make it a game, not a job. Finally, find what you’re passionate about and pour it into what you do everyday in order to accelerate."

Ensuring Successful, Sustainable Change

Most business improvement efforts (efforts that are introduced to change performance) are declared failures and abandoned before they are even given a chance to succeed.

In fact, 75% of all change initiatives fail - due to lack of sustainability. The changes just don't "stick."


Are we overestimating people's ability to learn to do things differently (learn new habits), and underestimating their resistance to change (unlearn old habits)?

The tough part isn't introducing change - it's making change sustainable - making business improvement last.

Here' are steps to ensure that change initiatives will stick:

  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Build a strong guiding change initiative team.
  3. Develop a clear vision for what you want the outcome to be.
  4. Ask the tough questions.
  5. Work the plan.
  6. Build in short-term wins.
  7. Embed change initiatives into your organization's culture.
  8. Repeat as necessary.

BOTTOMLINE: To enure that the results of any business improvemente change initiatives last, re-read these 8 steps often during the change process and measure your performance against them.

Destructive Habits of Good Companies

Over at 800-CEO-Read, Todd posts about a new book from Jagdish Sheth, who says his journey started as he tried to understand why so many companies that were highlighted in books like In Search of Excellence and Good To Great failed to have continued success. Sheth argues that companies acquire habits that lead to their fall.

His latest book is called The Self-Destructive Habits of Good Companies...And How To Break Them.

Sheth says there are seven deadly sins that are destructive to corporations:

  1. Denial
  2. Arrogance
  3. Complacency
  4. Competency Dependence
  5. Competitive Myopia
  6. Territorial Impluse
  7. Volume Obsession

Here's the chapter summary on Competitive Myopia.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Six Disciplines to Expand Into Austin, San Antonio TX

FINDLAY, OHIO, April 19, 2007 — Six Disciplines, LLC today announced plans to expand its award-winning Six Disciplines Leadership Center franchises into the Austin and San Antonio, TX regions.

Six Disciplines Leadership Centers provide a premiere class of business execution coaching services to enable small and mid-sized organizations to become accountable, to stay on track, and to achieve a sustainable level of business excellence.

“With Six Disciplines Leadership Center franchises already operating in Ohio, Indiana, Florida and North Carolina, we’re pleased to announce our plans to expand into the Austin and San Antonio areas,” said Rich Minder, Director of Franchise Development for Six Disciplines. Research with our clients proves that it takes an integrated business-building methodology, local coaching, and an activity management system to enable organizations to achieve sustainable business performance improvement. We are actively seeking qualified professionals in Austin and San Antonio to become franchise owners/coaches to small and mid-sized businesses using the revolutionary Six Disciplines™ business excellence program,” added Minder.

More than $20 million and 85 man-years of R&D have been invested in developing the Six Disciplines program, making it the most comprehensive execution-optimized business excellence program for small and mid-sized businesses in the country. Organizational development experts have likened Six Disciplines to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program, which is a comprehensive framework for measuring and ensuring performance excellence within an organization. The Six Disciplines Leadership Center advantage is that it not only provides a systematic business excellence framework, it also offers coaching services and an integrated activity management system that helps organizations execute their strategies in a sustainable way.

For more information about the Six Disciplines Leadership Center franchise opportunities in Austin or San Antonio, call Rich Minder at 317-691-4759, visit or e-mail:

About Six Disciplines
Six Disciplines, LLC, founded in 2000, has developed the first sustainable business excellence program – optimized for execution – specifically for small and mid-sized businesses. The Six Disciplines program integrates a proven, best-practices methodology, local accountability coaching, an innovative activity management system, and a shared learning community to enable sustainable business excellence. Six Disciplines addresses the barriers that prevent individuals from effectively executing their organization’s strategy, while creating a new culture of effective work habits and focused business processes.

The Six Disciplines program is offered exclusively through Six Disciplines Leadership Centers, an award-winning network of independently owned and operated franchises that provide accountability coaching and total organizational engagement services for small and mid-sized businesses. The breakthrough methods for planning and executing more effectively are revealed in the top-rated book “Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last,” by Six Disciplines founder and CEO Gary Harpst, available from bookstores nationwide and from Amazon by visiting Visit Six Disciplines on the web at

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Key Principles of Organizational Accountability

CEO Refresher has an interesting article on what it means to be accountable in organizations.

The authors (Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. are senior partners in Murphy Klatt Consulting) list the following six principles that form the foundation for negotiating and understanding accountability:

I. Accountability is a Statement of Personal Promise
II. Accountability for Results Means Activities aren't Enough
III. Accountability for Results Requires Room for Judgment and Decision Making
IV. Accountability is Neither Shared nor Conditional
V. Accountability for the Organization as a Whole Belongs to Everyone
VI. Accountability is Meaningless Without Consequences

BOTTOMLINE: Organizational accountability entirely subverts the tendency to make excuses and shift blame. When employees make clear and specific commitments for their own work based on clear expectations and proportional rewards, entire organizations become aligned and achieve specific measurable results.

Making Organizational Change Sustainable

Do you Have What It Takes To Create a Change-capable Organization?

Organizational survival requires rapid adaptation to a changing environment. If survival is at stake, why is it so hard for us to implement change -- and have it stick?

Why is there such a lag in our response to environmental changes? For more than twenty years the Pia Group has been studying organizations to find the answers to these questions and to identify successful paradigms for creating and leading change-capable organizations.

Unsurprisingly, successful lasting change is a rarity.

Here they list 12 requirements for lasting organizational change. The requirements include:
  1. A clear vision of your purpose and goal
  2. Flexible thinking
  3. Involvement and commitment
  4. An empowering culture
  5. Recognition of the human aspects of change
  6. Antidotes to fear
  7. Action – avoid paralysis by analysis and get started!
  8. Effective communication
  9. Talent management
  10. Positive reinforcement
  11. Meaningful metrics
  12. Passion for the change

BOTTOMLINE: When you read Six Disciplines for Excellence, you'll notice many, many similarities. Parallel genius? Perhaps. The Six Disciplines Methodology was developed based on the best practices of many different business disciplines - including strategic planning, quality management, business process automation, people performance management, measure-driven improvement - and organizational learning/organizational change.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Importance of Organizational Alignment

There are many simple analogies that can be used to define alignment within an organization.

Alignment can be thought of as "everyone being on the same page" or "rowing in the same direction" or "singing from the same song sheet."

Simply put, alignment is about three basic ideas:

  1. Defining and communicating (cascading) strategy throughout the organization
  2. Establishing clear organizational accountability (both team leader and team member)
  3. Managing initiatives and projects against the goals and strategy

BOTTOMLINE: In Six Disciplines for Excellence, Discipline III. Align Systems is all about the toughest discipline of all. Although critical, deciding what's important and setting goals that lead the organization are not where most organizations fail. Remember, 90% of effectively formulated strategies fail due to execution. It's after goals are set that companies run into one of their most challenging foes - their own systems and processes. Businesses are made up of processes, policies, technologies, measures and people - all of which need to be aligned with the companies goals. The term "alignment" means "close cooperation." So aligning systems means getting all of the components of the business working in close cooperation to meet the goals of the company.

Organizational Learning and Continual Improvement

Organizational learning happens when you are proactive about learning and improving instead of just letting it happen. You can accelerate your internal capabilities, expand insight and experience startling advances in your thinking - and in your organization's ability to do the same.

Effective learning needs to be conscious vs. unconscious, active not reactive. It must be something we actively do, not just "let it happen". If learning ability is not conscious, it can't be improved. It just becomes "another habit" without effective application to the circumstances in our business lives. do we become better learners, and subsequently, good change masters within our organizations?

The answer is simple. Become an active, conscious learner on a daily basis reviewing your Individual Plan (or log of your most important projects, tasks and initiatives.)

BOTTOMLINE: Set aside time daily to consciously learn from your experiences. You will discover a little-known secret that will put you on a course to life-long, continuous learning and improvement. You will be more able to focus, understand processes, eliminate non-productive habits, become more predictable - and more disciplined in your approach.

The end result? More confidence, more clarity, more accomplishment. What's wrong with that??

Hire for Passion

What's the key to finding the right team?

Hire people with a passion for your mission.

In a Entrepreneur Magazine article "Common Cause," the authors reinforce the theme mentioned in Collins' "Good to Great" book: "How do I find the right people? First, get rid of the wrong people."

BOTTOMLINE: "Hire people who are mission-driven--people who share your vision. If you don't, your business will struggle, or may never even get off the ground. Big business can afford to hire managers and employees. Entrepreneurs need to hire missionaries. Mission comes from the heart, not just the mouth."

Ideas for Improving Corporate Culture

Leadership advice from this article in Incentive Intelligence comes Performance Cultures the GE Way.

Their premise?

DARE TO DIFFERENTIATE. Relentlessly assessing and grading employees build organizational vitality and foster a true meritocracy. Employees are constantly judged, ranked, and rewarded or punished for their performance. There's nothing like a bit of anxiety and the knowledge that you're being measured against peers to boost performance.

CONSTANTLY RAISE THE BAR. Leaders continually seek to improve performance, both their own and their team members. "The one reason executives fail at GE is they stop learning," says Conaty. Continuous learning is so valued that GE training courses are considered high-profile rewards. Getting tapped to go to Crotonville, the 53-acre executive training center in New York's Hudson River Valley, is a signal that someone is poised to go to the next level.

BECOME EASY TO REPLACE. Great leaders develop great succession plans. Insecure leaders are intimidated by them.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. Most organizations require simple, focused, and disciplined communications. "You can't move 325,000 people with mixed messaging and thousands of initiatives," notes Conaty. Leaders succeed by being consistent and straight forward about a handful of core messages.

BOTTOMLINE: "Create a few simple performance metrics tied to a few simple company metrics, measure, communicate and publish success and failure with the appropriate rewards and you will have a performance culture. The key is that these things operate within a system. One missing link and the system fails. You can't measure and not report, you can establish goals and not measure, you can't report and not reward."

Google's Plan for World Domination

Time for a little Monday fun....check out this whiteboard, which enables you to zoom in on Google's plans for world domination.

Creativity at its best!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Zane's Review of Six Disciplines for Excellence: Part I

Zane Safrit, the CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited, is one of those high-energy people with a positive attitude - and a PASSION for life to match.

What he's done at CCU is amazing. Here's the 411:

"18 months ago Conference Calls Unlimited ceased investing in traditional advertising. Truth be known, it wasn’t an investment. It was a donation. And the ROI was that of a donation: A thank-you note, a towel and a jar of jelly-beans. We directed that budget to our customers’ experience and incentivizing our staff. It works. Customer churn is less than 1%. Close-ratio is over 75%. Profits tripled."

In addition to his personal blog, he also writes marketing entries here.

As you can tell from his entries, he's an incredibly sharp person - with a wide variety of interests (in particular - health care, sports -- and great taste in music as well!).

BOTTOMLINE: Zane is in the process of reading "Six Disciplines for Excellence" - his initial review can be read on his blog - here. Zane - any new insights??

A Season of Inspiration: Part IV

Spring is a time for personal renewal...

Recognize that your life is your supreme value, that it is too precious to waste or sacrifice to the unsound opinions or whims of others. Reflect, as calming and honestly and rationally as you can, on your own life, to take stock of yourself.
Ensure that your values and actions serve your life and your well being.

What are your priorities? Do the things you desire and spend time on truly give you the deepest, long-term satisfaction? Are you living up to your fullest potential?

Spring is ... a Season of Inspiration.

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

How To Engage Your Workforce

The Harvard Business School's HBS Working Knowledge published an article "Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation"

Their premise?

Business literature is packed with advice about worker motivation—but sometimes managers are the problem, not the inspiration. Here are eight best-practices to fire up the troops.

1. Instill an inspiring purpose. A critical condition for employee enthusiasm is a clear, credible, and inspiring organizational purpose: in effect, a "reason for being" that translates for workers into a "reason for being there" that goes above and beyond money.

2. Provide recognition. Managers should be certain that all employee contributions, both large and small, are recognized.

3. Be an expediter for your employees. Incorporating a command-and-control style is a sure-fire path to demotivation.

4. Coach your employees for improvement. A major reason so many managers do not assist subordinates in improving their performance is, simply, that they don't know how to do this without irritating or discouraging them.

5. Communicate fully. One of the most counterproductive rules in business is to distribute information on the basis of "need to know."

6. Face up to poor performance. Identify and deal decisively with the 5 percent of your employees who don't want to work.

7. Promote teamwork. Most work requires a team effort in order to be done effectively. Research shows repeatedly that the quality of a group's efforts in areas such as problem solving is usually superior to that of individuals working on their own. In addition, most workers get a motivation boost from working in teams.

8. Listen and involve. Employees are a rich source of information about how to do a job and how to do it better.

Video of Discipline III. Align Systems

One of the greatest barriers organizations face in pursuing their strategies and goals is - itself. For many organizations, the systems that make up their business (policies, processes, technologies, measures and people) are often at cross purposes with the priorities of the company.

While working on Discipline III. Align Systems, organizations take an organized, systematic approach to keeping their systems aligned with their strategy.

Watch this video of Gary Harpst, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines Corporation, as he describes Discipline III. Align Systems.

(NOTE: Video is in Windows Media Format )

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Importance of Alignment in Performance Management

What are the obstacles to successful performance management? What can you do to overcome those obstacles? And how can you move beyond managing performance to improving it?

As the first in a five-part series of articles, the folks at SAS reveal what they've learned from more than 1,100 business professionals about their performance management efforts.

Their findings so far?

  • In the past, performance management in a typical organization meant one of two things: finance managers scrutinizing company expenditures to track revenue against goals, or the human resources department prodding managers to evaluate their employees' job performance. Not anymore.
  • Now performance management has found its way across the organization. In the vast majority of companies surveyed, most areas of the organization are involved in performance management activities to some degree. In fact, only 16 percent of respondents indicate that performance management efforts are contained within one department.
  • Despite the broader use of performance management, enterprisewide initiatives are not the norm. Most efforts involve many departments, but only a third of these are aligned strategically across departments.
  • The problem? Large-scale deployments are often bogged down by their own weight.

BOTTOMLINE: Alignment is the primary benefit companies hope to receive from their performance management efforts. However, many companies admitted to struggling with alignment issues, such as collaboration, resource optimization and tying planning to strategy, and it appears that they are looking to performance management systems to help.

To overcome these challenges, companies must nurture a culture of commitment and collaboration. Leaders must effectively articulate the company strategy. Employees need to understand the benefits of performance measurement, and they need to know their role in the effort and how it maps to the success of the company.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Set Goals That Lead - An Overview

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

To be complete, a goal must include:

  • A Vital Few Objective
  • A Measure that indicates how to track progress
  • A Target that quantifies the measure
  • A Target Date that indicates the deadline for achieving the target
Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes Discipline II - Set Goals That Lead.

Decide What's Important - A Quick Overview

A fundamental requirement of a sustainable business excellence program is that it must be systematic, cyclical, repeatable.

Business improvement is not a one-time event - it is a long-term process.

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

Listen to this 60-second sound bite from Gary Harpst, founder, CEO and author of Six Disciplines for Excellence, as he briefly describes the purpose behind Discipline I - Decide What's Important.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Performance Objectives and the Individual Plan

Performance objectives establish how your company's goals will be achieved. Performance objectives also play a major role in defining the end results expected through your team member's hard work and dedication.

Performance objectives are a necessity in setting clear goals for team members. They also challenge team members to achieve maximum results to promote business growth and make continuous improvements to meet the challenges and changing demands of the marketplace.

Performance objectives must be clear and guide action.

BOTTOMLINE: You've heard of the SMART acronym before, make sure it's part of each team members' Individual Plan for accomplishing organizational goals.


How Top-Performing Organizations Differ from the Rest

Did you ever wonder why some organizations (businesses, not-for-profits, churches, etc.) just seem to perform better than others? Is it luck? Chance? More resources?

There are five key differences - all of which are described in detail in the top-rated book "Six Disciplines for Excellence"

At Six Disciplines Corporation, we conducted extensive research to determine how top performing organizations differ from the rest. We found several areas where the contrasts were significant between the highest- versus lowest-performing small businesses.

Here's the top five - in order of their importance:

1. Strength of the Leadership Team. Top-performing organizations rated 155% higher than the lower performers. The two primary factors were the ability of leadership to define a clear vision for the company, and the appropriate involvement of leadership in leading and supporting projects that were strategic to the organization.

2. Ability to Attract and Retain Quality People. Top-performing organizations rated 142% higher than the lower performers. The best small businesses have found that success in this area all starts with recruiting.

3. Disciplined Approach To Business. Top-performing organizations rated 114% higher than the lower performers. Top performers are also good planners, but are practical and are disciplined about the commitments they make.

4. Strategic Use of Technology. Top-performing organizations give more emphasis to using technology to impact the business in strategic ways (114% more) than the lower performers.

5. Effective Use of Trusted Relationships. Top-performing organizations rated 100% higher than the lower performers in their ability to utilize the expertise and talents of external organizations.

Other factors contribute to top-performing organizations and how they differ from lower performers (i.e., work ethic/attitude, teamwork, commitment, etc.). The five described above highlight the areas of greatest difference.

BOTTOMLINE: Understand further each of the characteristics of top-performing organizations by investigating the step-by-step Six Disciplines Methodology.

The Usefulness of the SWOT Analysis

Discover new opportunities. Manage and eliminate threats. That's what SWOT is all about.

SWOT Analysis is a powerful technique for understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and for looking at the opportunities and threats you face.

The purpose of looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in Discipline VI. Step Back, is to get your leadership team to use their experience and judgement to begin narrowing the focus of planning toward the most important strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The year's strategy should be based upon these.

BOTTOMLINE: The resulting SWOT statement is one of the primary input to Discipline I. Decide What's Important, where the same leadership team will begin to update the goals of the company for the next year -- as the Six Disciplines cycle begins again.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Excellence in Sports - Steve Rubel on Tiger Woods

Steve Rubel, a highly regarded blogger (and fellow PR professional) over at Micro Persuasion, offers his insights about following Tiger Woods' traits as an example in his tribute: Become an Online Influencer by Modeling Tiger Woods - and does so by taking a "closer look at the nine traits through a Web 2.0 lens:"

  • Identify and Develop Natural Talents
  • Create a Clear and Compelling Dream
  • Select Teachers, Heroes, and Teammates Who Guide, Inspire, and Support (Coaches!!)
  • Be Confident
  • Manufacture Magnificent Mental Models
  • Let Actions Do the Talking
  • Constantly Improve in Good Times
  • Be Likeable, Be Grateful, Give Back

BOTTOMLINE: Well done, Steve!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Leadership From Below

CEOs can't change companies on their own. The secret is to foster a leadership mentality throughout the ranks.

Leadership must exist throughout the organization in order for strategy to be executed thoroughly.

From the MIT Sloan Management Review comes this article on Leading from Below.

The Importance of Purpose in Organizational Strategy

Organizations that thrive over time do so by invoking and fulfilling a purpose: ideally one based on a moral tradition that has stood the test of time.

Leader To Leader offers insights in this indepth overview of the book Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies, by Nikos Mourkogiannis.

His premise?

  • While it may be tempting to think of organizations as being made up of instructions, processes, and resources, it should never be forgotten that people are their fundamental components.
  • One of the distinguishing features of people is that they have strong ideas about what is right and wrong. If you can resonate, collectively, with those ideas, then you can tap into people's commitment and creativity to a far greater degree

BOTTOMLINE: Many people who talk about organizational purpose are concerned either with accountability or responsibility--what the organization must do to fulfill its obligations. But if you are interested in promoting greater levels of success, then purpose must be considered as a form of choice: to what ends are the leaders, and the rest of the organization, willing to commit themselves?

Commitment - The Essence of Execution

By examining the commitments people make to colleagues and customers, executives can figure out why work (execution) stalls -- and how to get it moving again.

The Harvard Business Review offers this free article "Promise-Based Management: The Essence of Execution."

Their premise?

  • Most of the vexing challenges leaders face—improperly executed strategy, lack of organizational agility, disengaged employees, and so on—stem from broken or poorly crafted commitments.

BOTTOMLINE: Commitments are a two-way street. Leadership needs to commit resources, tools, encouragement - and team members need to commit to executing the strategy.

The 12 Elements of Great Managing

Kent Blumberg, a senior executive coach, has released a free e-book based on his new book 12: The Elements of Great Managing.

Download the free ebook here, but you'll want more after you finish with his summary, so be sure to buy the book too.