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Monday, March 31, 2008

Changing The Way You Think About Strategy Execution

A revolution is coming in the way that small and midsize businesses can solve the oldest and biggest problem in business.

What most business leaders think is their greatest challenge -- really isn’t. All business leaders face new challenges each day and are tempted to think of the latest problem at hand as their “biggest.” No matter what the problems are today, however, they’ll be different tomorrow and they will be bigger.

There is one business problem that, if solved, makes solving all other problems easier.

Knowing how to plan and execute, while overcoming “today’s surprises,” is the most foundational capability any organization can have.

The inability to do this is the problem that business leaders must solve. With the capability to execute continuously, you gain control of your business. Without it, your business will be relegated to a reactive, firefighting existence.

For any business to sustain success, it has to have an clear strategy and the organization must be equipped to execute that strategy. Between the two, execution is always the hardest part of that equation.

In Execution Revolution, the new book by CEO Gary Harpst, he explains the new way that is coming to attack this really old and big problem;a way that has never been accessible to small- and midsize businesses - until now.

(Execution Revolution: available on Amazon in late April!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Execution: The Great Unaddressed Issue In Business

Ram Charan is one of the leading management consultants in the world. One of his books, co-authored with Larry Bossidy, is Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. More than one million copies have been sold and it is one of the best-selling business books of all time.

Stephen Bernhut, the editor of Ivey Business Journal Online, interviewed Ram Charan in Toronto, where he recently spoke at the annual meeting of the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario.

Some key excerpts from the interview (ED NOTE: italics are mine):

IBJ: It’s now more than five years since you wrote what is considered to be “the” book on execution. Is it still as important as it was when you wrote the book?

RC: Execution is the great unaddressed issue in business today. Too many leaders today still place too great an emphasis on high-level strategy, on intellectualizing and philosophizing, and not enough on implementation. The fact is that the real difference between a company and its competitor is the ability to execute.


IBJ: In your book on execution, you say that many people equate execution with tactics. You also say that’s wrong. Why?

RC: Execution is a discipline and a system, it’s not only tactics. It must be built in to a company’s culture, strategy and goals. It’s a leader’s most important job. But many leaders today don’t do that. They spend time learning and deploying the latest management techniques. Execution is a discipline of its own, and today it is the critical discipline for business success.


Read the entire interview at Ivey Business Journal here.

Coaching for Total Organizational Engagement

Management-Issues reports that seven out of 10 British employers now use coaching within their organizations, compared with just under two thirds last year.

The reasons?

  • Nearly eight out of 10 employers that offered coaching to all their employees used it for "general personal development", with three quarters saying they used it for "helping poor performance".
  • More than half of the organizations polled believed that coaching by line managers was the most effective learning and development practice, with nearly half anticipating that even greater responsibility would fall on to line managers in the next five years.

Most significant change?

  • More than two fifths of organizations now offered coaching to all employees, with some four out of 10 offering it only to directors and senior management and a third offering it to senior managers and line managers or supervisors.

According to Dr John McGurk, the primary researcher: "Coaching is not just a popular technique but an immensely powerful one for supporting personal development. There is no doubt that coaching is having a significant impact both on individual and organizational performance. As coaching helps people to develop, it's a perfect fit for the fast moving knowledge economy in which we operate," he added.

BOTTOMLINE: "Organizations face significant challenges in drawing up frameworks that ensure value for money and that are aligned with their organization's strategic objectives," says McGurk.

One of the key components of the Six Disciplines strategy execution program is accountability coaching, which is used to improve both individual and organizational performance.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Business Best Sellers - Are They Really That Bad? many business best-sellers have YOU read?

The April issue of FastCompany has an article by Elizabeth Spears, Library of the Living Dead, in which she warns: "Embrace a business best seller at your brain's peril."

Sure, there's the typical diatribe about business books that feature overused/misplaced metaphors, jargon and so forth.

Then comes the stunner: the "well-intentioned hope that the books will provide a useful framework for solving problems"...and that "they create the illusion of progress simply by adding another layer of busyness."

Well, ideas for business performance improvement have to start somewhere, and business books are one such method. More important than the business book itself, however, is what action you take as a result of reading the best seller.

If you succumb to the widespread practice of MBBS (Management By Best Seller), causing you to continually change direction and focus, then yes, the worst is still ahead.

However, if you understand that books - in and of themselves - are not to be used as a replacement for consistent, repeatable action, then you've already won at least half the battle.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Six Disciplines for Excellence, and the soon-to-be-released Execution Revolution (both written by Six Disciplines founder and CEO Gary Harpst) are both examples of the business book category.

What makes these business books different is that they're not ends unto themselves - it's how these two books are being used by business leaders.

Execution Revolution sets the stage for business leaders to view their biggest problem (executing strategy) in a breakthrough way. It then reveals the first complete strategy execution program, which consists of a repeatable business-building methodology described in detail in Six Disciplines for Excellence. When combined with local accountability coaching and innovative software tools for real-time activity alignment, the complete program helps companies to build these ideas into performance-changing organizational habits on a daily basis.

"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Managing More People - With Fewer Managers

"Since the 1930s, business researchers have maintained that bosses optimally should manage about seven to 10 people."

Today's Wall Street Journal, however, included an article "Overseeing More Employees With Fewer Managers" (subscription required) in which it showcases the trend of companies to reconsider the maximum team size.

Most notable, "researchers in Europe suggest that a manager can oversee 30 or more employees, in part, by using technology to communicate and help monitor work."

BOTTOMLINE: By giving frontline workers more responsibility, you need fewer bosses. The research above suggests that technology can help address the challenge.

The Six Disciplines strategy execution program includes a technology component, which we refer to as an execution system. This breakthrough system is optimized to:

  • Automate a repeatable business-building methodology
  • Address time management
  • Enable real-time activity alignment
  • Support weekly progress reviews
  • Encourage total organizational engagement
  • Measure and monitor strategy execution progress for each individual and team

The Six Disciplines execution system directly supports the ability to have fewer managers by "using technology to communicate and help monitor work."

Six Disciplines Becomes Corporate Sponsor of American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE)

Six Disciplines Becomes Corporate Sponsor of American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE)

Six Disciplines Named Titanium Sponsor of 2008 ACCE Convention in Pittsburgh

FINDLAY, Ohio, March 24, 2008 —Six Disciplines, the first complete strategy and execution program for small and midsize businesses, announced today that it has become a corporate sponsor of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). The Six Disciplines program is designed to help small and midsize businesses improve their ability to balance strategy and execution and to accelerate and sustain business excellence.

With the agreement, Six Disciplines plans to become a primary resource for local chambers interested in offering their respective memberships access to tangible and accountable methods to create a strategy and continually execute on it through all levels of an organization. Rooted in research and testing, Six Disciplines executives have a deep background as small-business owners and partners to thousands of rapidly-expanding businesses, a process that has produced a wealth of data about what keeps businesses from achieving business excellence.

“The ACCE and its members are the premier national organization focused on strengthening business in America,” said Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines. “In this era of global competitiveness, it’s vital for the U.S. to accelerate the development of new and better ways of doing business. This is especially true in small and midsized organizations, which are the lifeblood of our economy. Six Disciplines is proud to be a corporate sponsor of ACCE because our goal of revolutionizing business performance aligns with the mission of chambers perfectly.”

“ACCE is delighted to welcome Six Disciplines not only as a corporate sponsor, but also as the lead sponsor of our annual convention taking place this summer in Pittsburgh,” said Mick Fleming, ACCE president. “We look forward to introducing our chamber members to this award-winning company and their business excellence program.”

Six Disciplines also is the titanium sponsor of the ACCE National Convention. The agreement provides for exposure of Six Disciplines through advertisements in the ACCE’s industry magazine, Chamber Executive, as well as via the organization’s Web site and e-newsletters.

The annual ACCE Convention, to be held in Pittsburgh July 30-Aug. 2, will host more than 1,000 Chamber CEOs, CFOs and management staff to keep pace with the latest issues affecting businesses and their communities. Harpst will speak at the ACCE Convention, with a presentation titled “Solving The One Chamber Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier.”

About American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE)
Established in 1914, ACCE serves the professional development needs of chamber executives throughout the United States and Canada. Representing more than 7,000 individuals, ACCE enhances the knowledge, leadership skills, and management effectiveness of chamber executives and their staff through education, benefits programs, trend analysis, benchmarking, and network development. ACCE supports and develops chamber professionals to lead businesses and their communities. Visit

About Six Disciplines
Six Disciplines, founded in 2000, has developed the first complete strategy execution program, specifically for small- and midsized businesses. The Six Disciplines program integrates a repeatable methodology to drive organizational learning, ongoing external coaching to ensure accountability, an execution software system to align daily activities of every stakeholder, and community learning to accelerate and sustain business excellence. The program is offered exclusively through a growing national network of locally-owned Six Disciplines Centers. Businesses that have implemented the Six Disciplines program include those from the Inc. 500, ISO-9000 certified companies, and a 2007 Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award recipient. Visit

Jump-Start Your Plan of Strategy

Eric Kurjan, president of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio, brings us this article called "Jump-Start Your Plan of Strategy," as published in the Toledo Free Press.

An excerpt of the article:

Clearly, it takes more than an annual meeting to lead a company toward its goals. A 2007 survey by the American Management Association found only 3% of executives said their companies are successful at executing strategy. Over 60% admitted only moderate success - or worse - at strategy execution.

For small and mid-sized organizations, executing strategy is hindered by three primary challenges:

1. Economics. While larger businesses can invest significantly in resources like consultants, coaching, systems and software, small and mid-sized businesses cannot afford these investments.

2. Expertise. Larger enterprises have experts in disciplines like strategic planning, performance management, business intelligence, and balanced scorecards. Small and mid-sized businesses don't have access to this wide array of expertise.

3. Human Factors. All businesses have the same fundamental challenge: they're run by people. We know the right things to do, but we don't always do them. Organizational behavior, attitudes, motivation, habits and resistance to change are just some of the factors that contribute to poor execution.

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Balancing Strategy and Execution

Excellence is the enduring pursuit of balanced strategy and execution.

Strategy requires choosing what promises to make to all stakeholders and a roadmap for delivering on those promises.

Execution requires getting there, while overcoming unending surprises.

Of the two, execution is far more difficult to achieve, but is fruitless without solid strategy.

Learning how to balance these two is the key to excellence, and excellence is a journey that never ends. It’s an enduring pursuit that requires an enduring approach.

Somehow on this journey we often lose sight of what the real problem is. And surprisingly, it’s not what most business leaders think it is.

Most describe their biggest challenge as the issue(s) they’re facing right now (growth, control, communication, productivity, generational transition, hiring, competitors, and many others.)

Whatever issues an organization faces today, they will be different and bigger tomorrow.

Planning and executing, while at the same time, managing the unknowns of the real world, is the biggest challenge in business. Overcoming this challenge is what we mean by solving the problem that will make solving all other problems easier.

It builds an organization that is preparing for an ever increasing set of future challenges that are the natural result of overcoming today’s challenges.

Given the pace and unpredictability of the business world, we leaders often feel there’s not much that we do control. This book, however, describes the first complete program for a business to take control of the one thing it can, so that it is better equipped to deal with all the things it can’t. It’s my hope that the real-world experience of our team, the investment that’s been made, and the completeness of the program will help you realize this isn’t just another book. It’s the beginning of a revolution – an Execution Revolution.

(Excerpted from EXECUTION REVOLUTION: Solving The One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier, by Gary Harpst)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Impact of Balanced Scorecards

The balanced scorecard, which is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide, was originated by Harvard professors Dr. Robert Kaplan and Dr. David Norton as a performance measurement framework that added strategic non-financial performance measures to traditional financial metrics to give executives a more ‘balanced’ view of organizational performance.

According to recent survey of more than 1,000 organizations:

  • 80 percent of the organizations that regularly use the balanced scorecard (BSC) reported improvements in operating performance.
  • 66 percent of them also reported an increase in profits.
  • 61 percent, a significant majority, reported improvements in bottom-line financial results.

“Employing the balanced scorecard leads to new business processes that can be used to link long-term strategies to short-term decisions,” concluded Dr. David Norton, the founder and president of Renaissance Solutions, a global consulting organization. “But in order to implement the balanced scorecard successfully, a business unit must effectively communicate the organization’s strategies for increasing shareholder value to all employees. That helps to get everyone behind the overall strategy.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

Engagement Powered By Strengths

In an interview about the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 for the Gallup Management Journal, Tom Rath discussed the strong link between a leader’s focus and employee engagement.

The three powerful conclusions from Gallup’s research on conversation, engagement, and strengths:

  1. If your manager primarily ignores you, your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%
  2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses, your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%
  3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%
BOTTOMLINE: "How could we not be talking to each other, all the time, about our strengths?"

(Thanks to David Zinger, and his great passion and work over at The Employee Engagement Network!)

Gary Harpst Interviewed On

Gary Harpst, CEO founder of Six Disciplines and author of the soon-to-be-published book "Execution Revolution," says execs must balance day-to-day tasks along with planning and execution.

Here is Gary Harpst, being interviewed on Tech Talk: What's Biggest Problem Facing Execs Today? on WRAL Local in Raleigh, NC.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Overcoming The Obstacles To Effective Execution

Formulating strategy is a difficult task. Making strategy work—executing or implementing it throughout the organization—is even more difficult.

Ivey Business Journal has published an article entitled "Making Strategy Work: Overcoming The Obstacles To Effective Execution" featuring Lawrence Hrebiniak, professor in the Strategy Group, Department of Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Hrebiniak's latest work on execution is a book by the same name (Making Strategy Work Wharton School Publishing, 2005.)

Six Disciplines Featured in The Toledo Blade

Eric Kurjan, president of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio, is shown coaching clients and is featured in the Toledo Blade article "Findlay firm offers ways to improve businesses" written by business reporter Ted Fackler.

In the article, Kurjan and Six Disciplines founder and CEO Gary Harpst talk about what makes Six Disciplines different:

  • The Six Disciplines program advocates action for company strategy, planning, organizing people and processes, execution management, innovation, and organizational learning. It's based on years of field testing and a $20 million investment.
  • "The biggest difference between us and other [management services] is that we're execution focused," explained Mr. Harpst. "It's easy to produce a plan. It's not easy to implement it."
  • The typical Six Disciplines fee is less than that of a client's single employee pay, and is available long term.
  • Within 10 years, Mr. Harpst said, his company will have annual revenues of $250 million to $350 million, employ nearly 700 workers, and be in 70 cities.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Employee Reward Programs of The Most Admired Companies

Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, and FORTUNE magazine, recently released the eleventh annual rankings of The World’s Most Admired Companies list and America’s Most Admired Companies list, prepared in collaboration with FORTUNE.

Hay Group also conducts supplemental research each year to identify business practices that distinguish companies on the lists from all others. This year’s analysis focused on how these companies manage their employee reward programs, and found that they do a much better job of leveraging their reward investments than their peers.

Some of the research findings include:

  • 79% regularly provide employees with total reward statements, versus 53% of peer group respondents
  • 82% regularly reinforce the company’s reward philosophy in communications with employees, while only 64% of peer companies do the same
  • 74% state that their employees understand and appreciate that rewards consist of both tangible and intangible components, compared with 61% of their peers
  • 41% say that line managers in their organization create a positive work climate, whereas only 21% of peer companies respond similarly
  • 28% state that line managers utilize financial and non-financial recognition programs, compared with 16% of peer companies
  • 41% believe that their reward program is internally fair, while only 27% of their peers believe the same
  • 48% report that their reward programs support efforts to retain their best talent, versus 28% of their peers
  • 45% say that their reward program allows them to attract the talent they need, compared with 25% of their peers
BOTTOMLINE: Companies that make these lists haven’t stumbled on a silver bullet for making employee reward programs work more effectively. They are simply able to execute more successfully on a number of basic HR best practices, and tend to have a cultural understanding and recognition of the value brought to their organizations,” said Hay Group Insight Senior Consultant Mark Royal. “Implementation (execution) is really the primary differentiator between employee reward programs at companies on America’s Most Admired Companies list and their peers – communication, aligning reward programs with business priorities and operationalizing the pay for performance relationship.”