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Friday, May 30, 2008

Change Management - Why Is It So Hard?

A new Economist Intelligence Unit study investigates the state of organizational change programs, and asserts that an unstable economy won't dampen spending on change programs.

In Managing change successfully (March-April 2008), sponsored by Celerant Consulting, the researchers found that business leaders are responding to the economic slowdown by launching more change programs and spending more money on them.

Although change programs in the last year have had cost reduction as their primary goal, the survey found that, over the next year, the goal will be organizational flexibility for operational efficiency -- 57% of companies surveyed put this at the top of their agenda.

The problem?

  • In spite of this enthusiasm for change, few companies are consistently successful at it. Although change management, as a business discipline, has been around since the 1940s, most companies still struggle to put theory into practice.
  • Of the 607 senior executives polled for this survey, 58% say that, over the past five years, half or fewer of their change initiatives have been successful. The U.S. fares a lot worse, with 75% of respondents stating that half or fewer of their change initiatives have been successful.

Why is change so hard?

  • The element of change management that companies have the most difficulty with is "winning hearts and minds" (51%). This was followed, in second place, by "lack of management buy-in" (31%).
  • When change management initiatives fail, companies' blame "lack of clearly defined or achievable milestones" (24%). Next on the blame-list is "lack of commitment by senior management" and "poor communication" (both with 19%). In other words, the ingredients that are required to convince people of the case for change.
BOTTOMLINE: Human nature is one of the key barriers to effective change management, (along with economics and expertise) all of which are directly related to executing strategy.

Read Chapter 3, What Is It So Hard? - from the new book by Gary Harpst, Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution, for insights into why change is so hard, and a breakthrough way to overcome this ongoing challenge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Growing Businesses with Execution to Succeed

Six Disciplines Equips Growing Businesses with Execution to Succeed

New, current clients keep the recession where it belongs: external to business operations

Six Disciplines, headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, is empowering their clients to manage and build their business for success, no matter what the economic environment holds.

New customers, including Blue & Co., an Indianapolis-based regional CPA firm providing consulting and certified public accounting services, are being taught to build their business from the inside out with the aid of Six Disciplines.

The Six Disciplines® strategy execution 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 person, every day, and community learning to accelerate and sustain business excellence.

“While many small businesses tend to pull back, spend less, and wait things out in an uncertain economy, this approach disrupts current business initiatives and profits, as well as the culture and long-term financial success of the company,” said Gary Harpst, CEO and founder of Six Disciplines. “In times of economic uncertainty leaders must focus on what they can control – their internal business’ strategy and overall execution.”

Entrepreneurs remain unmoved by the current economic climate and refuse to be another negative statistic. Nine out of 10 U.S. small business owners reported seeing opportunities for their businesses in the current recession, and more than 75 percent expect growth, based on Intuit's recent "Get Back to Business" survey. Six Disciplines’ customers, as an entrepreneurial segment, are better equipped to deal with an economic downturn or external pressures.

“Incorporating Six Disciplines into our business allowed us to increase our focus and refine our strategy, regardless of outside economic factors,” said Paul Kramer, CEO Kramer Enterprises and two-year Six Disciplines client. “We’re growing and using the supposed economic slowdown as an opportunity to make sure every employee is on the same page and that our goals are well-defined.”

For businesses to stay one step ahead of the economy and successfully build and manage an internally stable business that can withstand external hardship, Six Disciplines leverages the following framework:

  • Better understand the competitive landscape. Take the time to research how competitors shift strategies and benchmark the activities for key learnings and to identify areas of opportunity to reach new customers.
  • Evaluate the corporate mission and goals. Unexpected and uncontrollable forces will always impact short-term business results. It is important to stay focused on the company’s ultimate mission and goals, regardless of external factors. Outside forces may change, but the mission and goals should remain steadfast.
  • Expand your business/revenue stream. Based on the competitive research and corporate mission/goals, identify new ways to reach a broader client base– while everyone else is tightening their business’ belts, leverage the opportunity to expand into new
  • Invest in technologies that serve long-term purposes of the organization.
    Because of the cost to integrate any technology, the decision to buy shouldn’t be based on a short-term fix. Look ahead several years to ensure that all technologies purchased complement one another for maximum efficiency and productivity.

Harpst created the Six Disciplines program based on personal experience, in addition to research resulting from professionals with more than 50 years combined business experience. His first company, Solomon Software, went through a recession and Harpst was forced to lay off staff.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “The worst part was I knew it was preventable if I had only planned and demanded more internally of our operations; I needed to run my business tighter from the inside out and keep environmental forces out of my business.”

After running the business for 20 years, Harpst sold his business to Microsoft, which implemented more than 60,000 business management systems in small and midsized businesses. Upon the sale, he vowed to create a methodology to aid businesses in achieving business success consistently at less cost to the business and staff while providing more value to customers. He founded Six Disciplines in 2000 to help small- and midsize businesses create ongoing strategy and success.

Harpst is the author of the top-rated book, Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead and Last and, scheduled for a July release, Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution: Solving The One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier.

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 or

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The AppGap Reviews Six Disciplines

Bill Ives, a contributing editor to The AppGap, recently interviewed Six Disciplines founder and CEO Gary Harpst in his review Six Disciplines - Providing Integrated Consulting, Coaching, and Software for Small Businesses

According to Bill, "Six Disciplines offers more than just how to use the new technology, but the concept is the same. There is a significant mind set transformation in play."

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Be Excellent Named To Best Blog List

According to Benjamin Jones, editor at entrepreneurial blog Ben-Means-Business:

"There are thousands of small business and entrepreneurship blogs in the blogosphere. Unfortunately, many of them are not at all useful to the experienced or aspiring entrepreneur. We've all seen them. The great majority of which are e-commerce "pros" masquerading as entrepreneurship experts. This makes finding solid, useful information for the traditional small business owner very difficult. Therefore in my frustration, I have decided to create what I like to think of as "The A-List" of entrepreneurship and small business blogs."

At Be Excellent, we're humbled to have made Ben's list.

Check out The 41 Absolute Best Blogs about Entrepreneurship and Small Business.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Strategy Execution Expert Gary Harpst Launches An Execution Revolution

In support of the upcoming July release of his newest book, Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution, successful serial entrepreneur, CEO, and author Gary Harpst forsees a revolution brewing within America’s small and midsized businesses.

“A revolution is about to start that will provide a leapfrog opportunity for small and midsized businesses in the way they execute their strategy,” said Harpst. “Knowing how to plan and execute, while overcoming today’s inevitable surprises, is the most foundational capability any successful organization can learn. To accelerate this revolution, we’ve established a publishing division and supporting websites designed to educate business leaders on how they transform their businesses and maximize their ability to execute strategy,” added Harpst.

Harpst’s newest book, Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution: Solving The One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier, is scheduled to be published in July 2008. In Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, Harpst details the elements of a complete strategy execution program, explains why it could only have happened now, and clarifies why such a program will become a mainstream requirement for successful small and midsized businesses. The new book is now available for pre-order from

Harpst’s first book, the highly-rated Six Disciplines for Excellence, received the 2007 USA Book News Best Books finalist award, and was rated the No. 1 business book for 2007 by The Center for Workplace Excellence. Six Disciplines for Excellence is also consistently ranked in the top ten books of the Organizational Learning category on Amazon, and is also available from Six Disciplines Publishing.

In addition, Harpst’s new website,, offers insights into Gary’s successful background, his companies, his books, videos, podcasts, his newsletter on strategy execution, speaking engagement calendar, and his personal blog on business excellence topics.

About Gary Harpst
Gary Harpst, a highly successful entrepreneur and CEO, spent twenty years as leader of Solomon Software, which implemented more than 60,000 businesses management systems in small and midsized businesses, before it was eventually sold to Microsoft. Today, as founder and CEO of Six Disciplines, Harpst and his team have developed the first complete strategy execution program for small and midsized businesses, which includes a repeatable business-building methodology, local accountability coaching, an innovative execution management software system, and the accelerated advantages of community learning.

Harpst is also the author of two highly-respected business improvement books, Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution and Six Disciplines for Excellence. A highly-regarded speaker, Harpst uses his 30 years of business leadership and entrepreneurial experience to provide a fertile inventory of hard-hitting, real-world examples that pepper his presentations and engage his audiences. Visit and

About Six Disciplines Publishing
Six Disciplines® Publishing, a division of Six Disciplines, LLC, is responsible for the creation and distribution of materials and media covering the broad topic of strategy execution. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Six Disciplines Publishing develops content across a wide variety of media: printed books, audio books, blogs, whitepapers, web sites, podcasts, speeches, presentations, and videos. With integrity, excellence and respect for lasting relationships, Six Disciplines Publishing, in conjunction with its Partners, creates a winning combination of design, publishing, production, distribution, publicity, public relations and marketing services. Visit

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Achieving Business Excellence

In a newly released PDF that you can download for free from ChangeThis, consultant John Spence condenses his years of consulting and research into six strategies that all great companies focus on, entitled Achieving Business Excellence.

The six strategies:

  1. Have a vivid vision: A clear and well-thought-out vision of what you are trying to create that is exceptionally well communicated to everyone involved.
  2. Hire the best people: Superior talents who are also masters of collaboration.
  3. Create a performance-oriented culture: One that demands flawless operational execution, encourages constant improvement and innovation, and completely refuses to tolerate mediocrity or lack of accountability.
  4. Encourage robust communication: Open, honest, frank and courageous, both internally and externally.
  5. Create a sense of urgency: The strong desire to get the important things done while never wasting time on the trivial.
  6. Encourage extreme customer focus: Owning the voice of the customer and delivering what customers consider truly valuable.

Download the Achieving Business Excellence pdf here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What You Think Is Your Biggest Problem, Isn't

As Karl Albrecht said in his book Corporate Radar, "The majority is not always right, the conventional wisdom is not always wise, and the accepted doctrine could well be flawed. The more fashionable an idea, the more it is likely to be exempt from critical evaluation. Breakthrough thinking sometimes calls for contradicting the most widely held assumptions and beliefs."

Consider what you think is your biggest business challenge. Is it growth? Competition? Innovation? Cost containment?

We'd like to challenge how you think about your biggest business challenge. In fact, what you think is your biggest business problem, isn't.

The foundational challenge - one that transcends all other business problems - is executing strategy. In other words, building an organization that has the ability to plan and execute, while at the same time, overcoming the inevitable surprises - is the biggest and toughest challenge in business.

The good news? This one problem, if solved, will make solving all other problems easier.

That's what the Execution all about!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Small Business Advocate Interviews Gary Harpst

Want to know how to thrive, not just survive during a slow economy?

Listen to this MP3 as author and CEO Gary Harpst speaks with Jim Blasingame at the Small Business Advocate, with some thoughts on what he thinks is the main characteristic of successful organizations, execution.

Gary Harpst - National Leader of The Month

LeaderNetwork.Org conducts interviews with the nation's top leaders. Previous leaders who have been interviewed include: Dr. Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, Lou Holtz, John Wooden, and Zig Ziglar.
For May 2008, Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines, has been named "National Leader of the Month" by LeaderNetwork.Org.

Harpst was interviewed by Brian McCormick, and the MP3 podcast is available for downloading here.

The written transcript of the interview can be viewed here.