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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Employee Engagement Video

As you are about to embark on your 2008 initiatives - we certainly hope you haven't forgotten about your MOST IMPORTANT ASSET - YOUR EMPLOYEES.

Check out this well-produced video on employee engagement, from McDaniel Partner's blog (The Employee Factor.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best Business Book Of The Year

Dan Bobinski, writing for Management-Issues, reveals "My end of year list of recommended reads."

According to Dan:

"I mentioned this first book about six months ago, but it's such a great tome it tops my list of best business books this year. The book is Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead, and Last, by Gary Harpst.

It's easy to read, well organized, and heavy on application – not theory. In fact, it's probably the best "how-to" book I've read in a long time."

Several other great business books also made Dan's annual list. Take a look here for the others.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

One Book Is Revolutionizing How Companies Execute Strategy

One Book Is Revolutionizing HOW Businesses Execute Their Strategies

Read about the breakthrough program that's designed specifically to be implemented and embraced by everyone in your company, in an on-going, systematic way.

This top-rated book (consistently ranked in the Top 10 in the Organizational Learning category on Amazon) is the how-to guide for business leaders who want to take their organizations beyond temporary success to pursue enduring business excellence.

A great Christmas gift for all the business leaders on your list: Six Disciplines for Excellence.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Aligning Action and Values

In a 1996 article from Leader to Leader, best selling business author Jim Collins writes about "Aligning Action and Values".

In the article, Collins states:

"Executives spend too much time drafting, wordsmithing, and redrafting vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, aspiration statements, and so on. They spend nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the values and visions already in place."

BOTTOMLINE: Discipline III. Align Systems, seems to some like a lot of discussion of technical and systems jargon. It is this unfamiliarity that is the proof that ALIGNMENT is something that needs to be mastered. Systems just "happen" all over your organization - and there's no way they're going to magically line up with the priorities of your company unless you diligently work to MAKE them line up. The more out of line your systems become, the more difficult is becomes to execute your strategy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Organizational Learning and Performance Management

Bersin & Associates, a research and advisory firm solely focused on organizational learning, completed a nine-month study on the direction of learning and performance management.

The study identifies a clear trend toward the increased demand for performance management systems, relatively new software applications designed to identify and develop employee skills and competencies.

According to president Josh Bersin, "The adoption and integration of these new applications will reduce the cost and time involved in completing and managing employee performance reviews, facilitate regulatory compliance, correlate training investments with top-priority skills and competencies, and give organizations the ability to assess available employee skills and cultivate new ones."

The drivers of this trend?

  • An aging workforce population
  • Highly decentralized organizations
  • Business expansion
“Whether you have to prepare for the replacement of an experienced plant maintenance manager or quickly assemble a team of employees to handle a corporate emergency – such as the renovation of a facility destroyed by a hurricane, you need the ability to quickly assess available skills and identify those that are missing or underdeveloped.

Without technology, this is virtually impossible for organizations with more than several hundred employees.” (Actually, it's virtually impossible for organizations with more than 40 employees!)

BOTTOMLINE: Execution systems (like the one that is part of the Six Disciplines program) that enable organizations to align execution with strategy, and enable individuals to align activities with organizational goals and initiatives, track and measure performance -- are a required component for organizational change and continual learning.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How To Read Six Disciplines for Excellence: Part II

How should you read Six Disciplines for Excellence?

“Read this book with a highlighter and/or a legal pad and pen nearby. You’ll need them.” (Bob Schuneman, Small Biz Matters)
“But don’t just buy it, read it and put it on the shelf -- implement the concepts into your business.” (Gary Whitehair, High Performance Business)

“The only down side I see is that it’s not a book to read and put on the shelf, (the down side is that many of us do just that) – it’s like the Bible for small business success and must be used daily for the plan to work.” (Dr. Robert Rausch, CEO 1 Executive Energy)

“There are few books that can be used as a "How To" manual; Six Disciplines for Excellence is one of them.” (Steven G. Lauck, CEO Refresher)

“It is definitely not a "read once and file away"; it should be on the desk in plain view and over time become worn with dog-eared pages from continuous review.” (Steven G. Lauck, CEO Refresher)

“But don’t just stop at reading it. This book is 20% principles and 80% “how-to.” It just screams practical. And for that reason, it would be great if the “how-to” sections became action items on meeting agendas. (Dan Bobinski, Workplace Excellence)

Execution Revolution: A New Book Coming in 2008

What keeps business leaders up at night? It all comes down to getting the job done. Meeting the plan. Delivering the goods. And doing so in a consistent way, year after year.

With all of the pressures successful business leaders have today, none is more urgent or challenging than learning the ability to execute.

While larger businesses have the luxury of budgets and resources to meet this challenge, it’s the small and mid-sized businesses that now have a tremendous opportunity to level the playing field, and leapfrog past the expensive, outdated approaches of the past, and attack the challenge of execution in a revolutionary way.

What these businesses need is a new way to solve an on-going challenge – a holistic program for planning AND executing strategy, which will provide them the competitive advantage in pursuing their ultimate goal: enduring business excellence.

Occasionally, truly new and synergistic approaches to solve old problems emerge. Supported by investments, progress, innovation and the convergence of trends from a variety of business improvement disciplines and technologies during the past two decades, the door is now wide open for a next generation approach for execution to emerge. At last, a profound change, a revolution if you will, in the way small and midsized businesses approach executing strategy -- is now possible.

Based on breakthrough research, field testing, proven best-practices and real-life stories from business leaders who have struggled with - and succeeded – in executing strategy, the thought-leading vision described by Six Disciplines founder and CEO Gary Harpst, in his newest book to be released in early 2008, entitled: "Execution Revolution: Solving The Problem That Makes All Other Problems Solvable"

In his first book, the top-rated "Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last," Harpst offered a practical, repeatable business-building methodology based on six fundamental disciplines. Experts and readers agreed: it's one of the best "how-to" books on pursuing business excellence.

In "Execution Revolution," Harpst sets a new course for how small and midsized businesses can finally confront the never-ending challenge of planning and executing their strategy.

Execution Revolution also resets the stage for an entire industry of solution providers who help small and mid-sized companies perform to their optimum potential, by offering a comprehensive manifesto for a fundamentally new approach toward executing strategy.

It’s time to roll up our sleeves and overthrow old, outdated and incomplete ways of getting the right things done.

It’s time for the Execution Revolution – to begin!

(Stay tuned to the Be Excellent blog - lots more coming about this important new business book release!)

Covey's Four Imperatives of Leadership

Dr. Stephen R. Covey offers a new post on his blog on what makes a good leader.

Covey believes there is a formula. They are what he calls the four imperatives of leadership.
  1. The first is to inspire trust. You build relationships of trust through both your character and competence and you also extend trust to others. You show others that you believe in their capacity to live up to certain expectations, to deliver on promises, and to achieve clarity on key goals. You don’t inspire trust by micromanaging and second guessing every step people make.
  2. The second is to clarify purpose. Great leaders involve their people in the communication process to create the goals to be achieved. If people are involved in the process, they psychologically own it and you create a situation where people are on the same page about what is really important—mission, vision, values, and goals.
  3. The third is to align systems. This means that you don’t allow there to be conflict between what you say is important and what you measure. For instance, many times organizations claim that people are important but in fact the structures and systems, including accounting, make them an expense or cost center rather than an asset and the most significant resource.
  4. The fourth is the fruit of the other three—unleashed talent. When you inspire trust and share a common purpose with aligned systems, you empower people. Their talent is unleashed so that their capacity, their intelligence, their creativity, and their resourcefulness is utilized.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What If...Part II

What if…

…with all the things you’re doing in your business today – you were still finding it elusive to pursue excellence?

…you are already good (perhaps even great!) at delivering customer excellence (e.g. quality, price, reliability, taste, options, speed)…but you also recognize the need to work on business excellence (e.g. profitability, growth, execution, predictability, satisfying stakeholders, making the business last)?

…an organization invested over 100 man-years and $20 million researching small and emerging businesses to determine what separates “average” businesses from those that are destined to be enduring, excellent organizations?

…you found that you and your business had this set of characteristics -- found only in the best-performing organizations?

…you and your leadership team have what it takes to become an excellent organization? (e.g. a passion for excellence, a sufficient size, ready to work on your business, a history of stability, a high trust culture, regularly attract and retain good people, and effectively use outside experts) organization chose only the essential elements of strategic planning, quality management, integrated learning, business process automation, people performance management and measure driven improvement – and optimized them -- just for small businesses?

…the result of that research was a very practical, systematic, and repeatable method?

…this systematic method was not YAMF (yet another management fad) – but instead,was based on proven, time-tested, established business principles and best practices?

…that same organization developed a very intuitive software system you could use every day – making it practical for everyone to use to become better at execution?

…for less than $15, you could read “Six Disciplines for Excellence" -- and find out what all the buzz was about?

BOTTOMLINE: Time to learn more about Six Disciplines.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hiring A Facilitator for Strategic Planning

A facilitator can make or break a strategic planning retreat. By using an experienced facilitator in the right situations, you will almost certainly accomplish more in your meetings, delve deeper into critical issues and resolve them.

Equally important, participants will leave with positive feelings, stronger cohesiveness, a sense of accomplishment, and a renewed belief in the team.

Why Hire an Outside Facilitator?

Strategic planning discussions can be painful and difficult. They involve personal values and goals, deeply held beliefs about the nature of the firm and where it's going, and maybe different perspectives on the marketplace. Some principals may have values or goals that conflict with those of other key members of the firm.

An outside facilitator carries none of this baggage. He or she can look at the firm, the management team, and the planning process objectively. An outside facilitator can say things like "that's habit talking" or "you're rationalizing," and can make sure that some people don't dominate the discussion. A facilitator knows how to keep the discussion on track while taking everyone's concerns into consideration.

BOTTOMLINE: Six Disciplines Centers offer facilitating services for strategic planning engagements. In fact, a requirement of becoming a Six Disciplines client is for the senior leadership team to go through a 3-day strategic planning retreat.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Communication and High-Performance Companies

Management-Issues reports on a recent study by the consulting firm Watson Wyatt in which they identified six communication practices that distinguish the top performers from the also-rans.

Mostly common sense perhaps, but companies with the most effective communication programs reported a massive 47 percent higher total return to shareholders from 2002 to 2006, compared with companies that communicated less effectively.

The six communication practices of high-performing companies identified by the research were:
  1. Focusing managers and employees on customer needs
  2. Engaging employees in running the business
  3. Helping managers to communicate effectively
  4. Leveraging the talents of internal communicators to manage change more effectively
  5. Measuring the impact of employee communication
  6. Branding the employee experience

BOTTOMLINE: Top-performing companies treat communication as a key business driver. Companies that communicate effectively with employees have an engaged workforce and superior financial results.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Six Disciplines CEO/Author To Speak at Atlanta Chamber Event

The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce will host its December Small Business Matters seminar on Thursday, December 6 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. This seminar will present specific issues of interest to small and mid-sized businesses in the Atlanta area, with a focus on how to do work and compete with big businesses.

The event will feature guest speaker, Gary Harpst, author of Six Disciplines for Excellence and CEO of Six Disciplines, a nationwide network of business excellence centers. Harpst will be revealing his upcoming book "Execution Revolution" (to be published in 2008), and will discuss the roles that strategic-plan definition, implementation and accountable execution can play in creating and sustaining a successful business environment.

Where: Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce 235 Andrew Young International Blvd.Atlanta, GA 30303
When: Thursday, Dec. 6, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Lunch provided
Registration: Online at Free for Metro Atlanta Chamber members, $50 for non-members

The Importance of Workforce Satisfaction Factors

According to a new study by Leadership IQ, the youngest workers are the least satisfied. Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, compiled these results after surveying a random sample of 11,244 employees ages 21-70 from 872 public, private, business and healthcare organizations.

Other results of the research:

  • Only 30% of workers ages 21-30 would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work.
  • By contrast, 47% of workers ages 61-70 would strongly recommend their organization as a good place to work, making them the most satisfied age group.
  • Age is positively correlated to workplace satisfaction, so the older you are, the more likely you are to have a high opinion of your company.
  • The biggest statistical driver of workplace satisfaction for workers between the ages of 21-30 is whether their boss recognizes and praises their accomplishments.
  • The biggest statistical driver of workplace satisfaction for workers between the ages of 61-70 is whether they can assess if their performance is where it should be.

BOTTOMLINE: Younger workers want praise and older workers want clear measures of their performance. From the research findings, managers are doing a better job with their older workers than with their younger workers. Managers cannot use one management style and expect success, because every age group is motivated very differently.

With Six Disciplines, measures, clear goals and accountable individual plans are active components to help individuals understand how their daily activities and performance support the organization's goals. Peer recognition of individual contributions within the Six Disciplines System provides an additional outlet for recognition and praise.

Monday, December 03, 2007

On Becoming A Learning Organization

Organizations with the best chance to succeed and thrive in the future are learning organizations.

Susan Heathfield (who references Peter Senge's work - author of The Fifth Discipline) describes the attributes of a learning organization in this article.

Here are some ways in which you can promote a learning organization environment in your organization:

  • Systems Thinking: The underlying structure and the interlinking components of each of our work systems, shape a great deal of the behavior of the individuals who work inside of the work system. Think about Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s admonition. When something goes wrong, rather than seeking someone to blame, ask, what about the work system caused that individual to fail?
  • Personal Mastery: States Peter Senge, “Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.” (p. 7) He offers that an organization’s learning can only be as great as that of each of its individual members. Consequently, personal mastery and the desire for continuous learning integrated deeply in the belief system of each person is critical for competitive advantage in the future.
  • Mental Models: These are the deeply held pictures each of us holds in our mind about how the world, work, our families, and so on work. Mental models influence our vision of how things happen at work, why things happen at work, and what we are able to do about them.
  • Building Shared Vision: By shared vision, Senge is referring to a process in which the original vision for an organization, probably determined by the leader, is translated into shared pictures around which the rest of the organization finds meaning, direction, and reasons for existing.
  • Team Learning: Senge finds that “teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations.” (p. 10) It is the dialogue among the members of the team which results in stretching the ability of the organization to grow and develop.
BOTTOMLINE: One of the major premises of the Six Disciplines Program is enabling the organization to become a learning organization. It's no coincidence that Six Disciplines for Excellence (which also references Senge's work) is now consistently one of the top-ranked books in the "Organizational Learning" book category on Amazon.