The Six Disciplines blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to our new home. If that does not occur, please visit:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Challenge of Innovation? Executing on Strategy

According to findings of a recent survey published by Accenture, business strategy is driven largely by innovation, but corporate responsibility for the innovation process is highly fragmented.

Additional findings from the study:

  • Innovation is a top corporate priority, but it also indicates that more senior-level accountability, greater CEO involvement and improved speed-to-market execution can help companies deliver on their promise of innovation and boost their competitiveness.
  • 62 percent of respondents said that their organization’s business strategy is either totally or largely dependent on innovation.
  • The challenge of innovation for organizations is not commitment and intent but rather execution against the innovation vision.
BOTTOMLINE: "The role of the CEO in the innovation process has grown dramatically in its importance and needs to evolve from vision- and direction-setting to enabling and driving execution,” said Dan Chow, a senior executive in Accenture’s Strategy practice.

“CEOs need to properly align resources and action with the innovation vision and performance goals. However, simply having a vision for innovation and naming an executive to head innovation is not enough to make it work. Senior management must look at innovation as a core process to be actively managed; avoid a quick-fix approach; and focus their energy on execution.”

Enduring Business Excellence

Fortune Magazine recently published an article by management expert Jim Collins entitled "The Secret of Enduring Greatness."

Lessons learned:

  • The most significant business innovation of the past 200 years: systematic management development.
  • Just because a company stumbles - or gets smacked upside the head by an unexpected event or new challenge - does not mean that it must continue to decline.
  • Companies do not fall primarily because of what the world does to them or because of how the world changes around them; they fall first and foremost because of what they do to themselves.
  • When you've built an institution with values and a purpose beyond just making money - when you've built a culture that makes a distinctive contribution while delivering exceptional results - why would you surrender to the forces of mediocrity and succumb to irrelevance?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Genuine Curiosity's Review of Execution Revolution

Dwayne Melancon over at Genuine Curiosity, has published his review of Execution Revolution, the new book by Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines.

Here's an excerpt from Dwayne's review:

"This is a book designed to get your business to the next level. I loved this book, and I think the subtitle sums it up quite well: "Solving the one business problem that makes solving all other problems easier." What's the "one problem?" Execution."

"Harpst's book goes beyond platitudes, and his recommendations are meaty and actionable.
This is not a 'getting started' business book. It's a 'getting better' or 'getting results' book that is well-suited for established SMB's who are in the mids of (or in fear of) a plateu or decline in performance. If you want to jump the curve and get better results in leading an SMB, this book is one you should read."

Read Dwayne's entire review here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Finding and Retaining Top People

In a recent survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) in conjunction with, the companies responding to the March 2008 Tawere clear about their priorities: in a word - talent.

The top five HR growth issues in 2008, as indicated by survey responses, were all related to talent in one way or another:

  • Employee retention (72%)
  • Engagement (70%)
  • Recruitment (64%)
  • Development of high-potentials (64%)
  • Succession planning (56%)

BOTTOMLINE: Regardless of economic landscapes, finding, orienting, engaging and retaining top people continues to be a top growth issue for companies of all sizes. Combine the newfound struggle swith cross-generational challenges (Gen X, Y, Millenials, etc.) - and you have a new demand that prior workforce managers have never quite had to deal with.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Executive Coaching Survey Responses Revealed

The good folks at Sherpa Coaching have released data from their 2008 survey on Executive Coaching.

Some of the more interesting findings (responses from executive coaches only):

  • 62 percent said their development as a coach was primarily from classroom training and certification as a coach
  • 44 percent said they charge between $150 - $299/hour for business coaching
  • 77 percent said in-person meetings were the most effective for coaching
  • 45 percent said effective coaching is delivered twice a month
  • 45 percent said people at all levels within an organization should receive coaching
  • 54 percent said people who need leadership development need business coaching the most
  • 53 percent said business or consulting experience is the most appropriate background for business or executive coaching

Monday, April 21, 2008

Small Businesses: The Heros of the U.S. Economy

With all of the gloom and doom being spread throughout the major media about the economic sky falling, let's step back a bit and reflect on our strengths - specifically, the strengths contributed by small and midsized businesses.

In helping to celebrate National Small Business Week, consider the following statistics from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB):

  • Small firms account for 39 percent of the country's gross national product
    Small firms create two out of every three new jobs
  • Small firms are twice as innovative per employee as larger firms
  • Small, innovative firms produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms
  • 66 percent of the Americans think that small businesses "exert a positive influence on the way things are going in the country today"
  • 91 percent of small business owners contributed to their community in the last year through volunteering, in-kind contributions, and/or direct cash donations
BOTTOMLINE: "Even though small businesses collectively generate $5 trillion in sales in the U.S., the biggest challenge of an individual small business is "survival." At times, the 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." (from Six Disciplines for Excellence)

PRO-TEC To Receive Malcolm Baldrige Award This Week

PRO-TEC Coating Company of Leipsic, Ohio, one of only five organizations in the U.S., will receive the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award this week in Washington D.C. The award is the nation’s highest presidential honor awarded annually for quality and organizational performance excellence.

PRO-TEC was the only the only recipient of the 2007 Baldrige award in the “Small Business” category. Criteria for the Baldrige award include: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and business results.

About PRO-TEC CoatingPRO-TEC Coating Company, Leipsic, Ohio, provides world-class coated sheet steel in coil form primarily to the quality-critical automotive market. PRO-TEC is a 50/50 joint venture partnership of U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) and KOBE Steel, Ltd., of Japan. The company is privately held. PRO-TEC organizational culture blends the strong American steel-making tradition of USS and KOBE’s technical and analytical Japanese style with the strong work ethic and family values of rural Northwest Ohio to produce a superior product. PRO-TEC is certified to stringent ISO-9001, ISO/TS 16949 and ISO 14001 standards. Visit PRO-TEC at

Read the stories "PRO-TEC journey 'has just begun'" and "Pursuit of excellence pays off at PRO-TEC."

(DISCLAIMER: PRO-TEC has been a Six Disciplines client for three years.)

Execution Revolution: Now Available for Pre-Order

The new book by author, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines, entitled "Execution Revolution," is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

About Execution Revolution:

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

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

  • Excellence is the enduring pursuit of balanced strategy and execution.
  • Planning and executing, while at the same time dealing with the inevitable surprises, is the biggest challenge in business.
  • Overcoming this challenge is what we mean by solving the one problem that makes all others easier.
  • Failing to solve the problem destines your organization to a reactive, fire-fighting future.

Based on breakthrough research, field testing and proven best-practices, the thought-leading vision described by Gary Harpst in Execution Revolution sets a new course for how small and midsized businesses can finally confront the never-ending challenge of executing strategy.

As a follow-up to the success of Six Disciplines for Excellence, Harpst’s new book, Execution Revolution, details the elements of a complete strategy execution program, clarifies how it could only have happened now, and explains why such a program will soon become a mainstream requirement for your business.

(NOTE: The pub date has been moved up to July 1 -- not September as indicated)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

IndustryWeek Reviews New Book: Execution Revolution

IndustryWeek has recently published a review summary of the new book by Gary Harpst, "Execution Revolution."
"What's needed, says author Gary Harpst, is not only the discipline to learn how to develop a good plan, but more importantly the proper use of technology in execution. "
Read the entire review here.
(The new book will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Communicating The Need for Change

If there's one thing that's constant, it's change.

But the one thing that our employees need is a clear explanation of:

  • Why are we changing? (what's wrong with what we're doing now?)
  • What are the benefits of changing? (how will things be better if we do?)
  • What are the consequences of not changing? (what will happen if we don't?)

It's no wonder then, that:

  • 70 percent of all change initiatives fail -- due to human nature (people) issues

The reasons? Sometimes it's because of senior leadership's inability to lead or explain the reasons that changes are needed. Other times, it's a lack of understanding, or engagement, or unwillingness to deal with change, and so forth.

BOTTOMLINE: Keep in mind the following eight-steps of change, by John P. Kotter:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency- Examine market and competitive realities- Identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
  2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition- Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort- Encourage the group to work as a team
  3. Create a Vision- Create a vision to help direct the change effort- Develop strategies for achieving that vision
  4. Communicate the Vision- Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies - Teach new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition
  5. Empower Others to Act on the Vision- Get rid of obstacles to change- Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision- Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
  6. Plan for and Create Short-Term Wins- Plan for visible performance improvements- Creating those improvements- Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements
  7. Consolidate Improvements and Produce Still More Change- Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don't fit the vision- Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision- Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
  8. Institutionalize New Approaches- Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success- Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession

Monday, April 14, 2008

Twelve Different Ways To Innovate

MIT Sloan Management Review reveals the landscape of "The 12 Different Ways for Companies To Innovate":

But what exactly is innovation?

"Although the subject (or innovation) has risen to the top of the CEO agenda, many companies have a mistakenly narrow view of it. They might see innovation as synonymous with new product development or traditional research and development. But such myopia can lead to the systematic erosion of competitive advantage. As a result, companies in a given industry can come to resemble one another over time."

In actuality, business innovation is far broader in scope than product or technological innovation.
In fact, your company can innovate along any of 12 different dimensions with respect to your:

  1. Offerings
  2. Platform
  3. Solutions
  4. Customers
  5. Customer experience
  6. Value capture
  7. Processes
  8. Organization
  9. Supply chain
  10. Presence
  11. Networking
  12. Brand

BOTTOMLINE: And you thought you could only innovate with regard to products and technology! As discussed in Six Disciplines for Excellence, Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully is not an isolated event, nor is it isolated to just products, R&D and new technologies. It's a organizational learning mindset that permeates the culture of an excellent company.

The ROI of Employee Engagement

It is no surprise to hear that a highly engaged workforce improves an organization's performance.

But as global research has highlighted, the sheer scale of the improvement in bottom-line results can be remarkable.

An employee engagement study by ISR has found:

  • A gap of almost 52 percent in the one-year performance improvement in operating income between companies with highly engaged employees versus companies whose employees have low engagement scores.
  • High engagement companies improved 19.2 percent while low engagement companies declined 32.7 percent in operating income over the study period.

BOTTOMLINE: "Our research continues to show that a well-substantiated relationship exists between employee engagement - the extent to which employees are committed, believe in the values of the company, feel pride in working for their employer, and are motivated to go the extra mile - and business results," said ISR Global Research Director Patrick Kulesa. "This data reaffirms the remarkable ability of an engaged workforce to impact a company's bottom line."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Six Disciplines Program Streamlines Management Process

The Toledo Business Journal recently published a feature story about Kramer Enterprises, a Findlay, Ohio-based, family-owned business - which is also a Six Disciplines client.

"In order to help strengthen the company as it grows in size, Kramer Enterprises has also used the resources of Six Disciplines, a business excellence program."

According to Rich Kramer , “It (Six Disciplines) has created a lot of opportunities for us. It’s a good selling point to let people know that you’re focused and you have a plan.”

Learn more about Kramer Enterprises continued growth and their use of Six Disciplines here.

How To Thrive In A Down Economy

Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines, was recently interviewed on WTVG-TV (Toledo - an ABC affiliate) regarding his advice for business leaders during times of economic uncertainty.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Unlocking Your Company's Creativity

Forbes article How To Unlock Your Company's Creativity offers six steps to help unlock the creativity in your company:

  1. Let Everyone Contribute. Employees at every level should have a way to share their ideas. Begin by scheduling a group innovation strategy session - brainstorm ideas (no judgement) based on your organization's strengths. (Using innovating tools like the 100 Point Exercise from Six Disciplines helps to get ideas down, and prioritizes them quicker)
  2. Cross-Functional Ideas Teams. For the purposes of innovation, organize your company into cross-functional, creative teams with people from different departments, and with varying levels of experience, who meet on a regular basis.
  3. Prize Diversity. Sameness--of thought, background and experience--is a creativity killer. This is where multi-generational workforces can contribute.
  4. Rethink Assumptions. What has worked in the past may no longer work. And what hasn't worked in the past, may now be the innovative catalyst you are seeking.
  5. Identify Your (Truly) Precious Resources And Exploit Them. Conduct a SWOT analysis to determine what your organization's strengths are - and key in on them.
  6. Hammer It Home. Reward ideas that solve problems.

BOTTOMLINE: Remember - the point of unlocking creativity needs to be done in a purposeful way. Innovation is simply another name for problem solving. The creativity need to be focused on solving problems that will provide you with competitive advantage. Anything less is just... "ideation." (Thanks, IBM )

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gary Harpst Interviewed on Small Business Guru

Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines was recently interviewed by Kelly Brown of Small Business Guru.

Some takeaways from the podcast interview:
  • The best practices of larger organizations can (and should) be incorporated into small business
  • Leaders manage for the future - in lean times they’re preparing for growth, in busy times they’re preparing a slow down
  • Great managers down focus on firefighting, but they do focus on constantly improving they systems, looking for low hanging fruit.
  • With a recession imminent (or already here) the natural inclination will be to pull back and play it safe, but this is really a time of opportunity to:
  • Assess your competitive position
  • Re-evaluate & recommit to you corporate mission & goals
  • Expand your business by creating new products & new revenue stream

Find Gary’s Book on Amazon:Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last.

Gary’s newest book, Execution Revolution, will be available in the coming months.

The podcast is available here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Fundamental Opportunities During Uncertain Times

Small businesses are poised to weather the current economic downturn and plan to grow despite it, according to Intuit Inc.'s recent "Get Back to Business" survey results.

In a considerable showing of solidarity:

  • 90 percent of U.S. small businessowners reported seeing opportunities for their businesses in the current recession
  • More than 75 percent still expect growth
  • To make this growth a reality, small business owners say they'll rely on their experience and passion.
  • 70 percent of small business owners said their personal passion drove them to start their own company, and that the same passion will help them get through a downturn
  • Undaunted by the economy, 86 percent of respondents said they remain as passionate as the day they started

BOTTOMLINE: Focus, persistence, passion - all foundational qualities of smart, forward-looking business leaders.