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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Much Does Execution Really Matter?

A number of independent studies performed over the past few years indicate that execution is the clear differentiator of company value, financial performance and employee engagement.

In this post , Max Goldman references Becker and Huselid’s “High performance Work Systems and Firm Performance" and Joyce, Nohria, Roberson' similar ratio in their 2003 book “What Really Works.”

How much does execution matter?

According to these researchers, 85% of your sustainable success depends on execution, and 15% depends on your strategy.

BOTTOMLINE: Execution of the strategy is 6 times more important than the strategy itself!

Going Into 2010 - Too Few Are Planning Ahead

Although businesses around the world are entering 2010 with an appropriately sober view of the business climate, too few companies have taken or plan to take the long-term, defensive measures necessary to survive and thrive during the economic recovery.

The Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) survey of 434 executives from seven countries revealed

  • 28 percent say that reducing labor costs is a priority for 2010
  • 26 percent have made managing cash flow a priority
  • 16 percent say that balance sheets and debt restructuring are a priority
  • 13 percent have put exiting noncore businesses on the list of priorities

The vast majority of executives see significant changes in the economic order:

  • 69 percent believe there will be negative attitudes toward Western capitalism
  • 68 percent project lower profit levels
  • 64 percent believe growth will be more difficult
  • 71 percent anticipate an increase in labor protection
  • 81 percent anticipate an increase in regulation
  • 87 percent see increased consumer price sensitivity

BOTTOMLINE: "Companies seem quick to jump, but not to do the tough stuff. It is telling that the organizations most likely to be planning the hard, defensive measures are the market leaders, not the middle-level players."

Additional survey findings are here.

Top 10 Reasons For Failed Execution of Strategy

In a survey by Quality Digest, the Top 10 Leadership Pitfalls are revealed:

  1. Past habits (35%)
  2. Economic climate or budget (29%)
  3. Company culture (23%)
  4. Way they work together (20%)
  5. Senior management team (18%)
  6. Customers (14%)
  7. CEO/president lack of confidence (13%)
  8. Technology (11%)
  9. Middle management (9%)
  10. Reputation, human resource management or employees (7%)
BOTTOMLINE: Respondents indicated that the most important things to ensure successful strategy execution include creating a clear strategy, adding a specific plan, communicating what the plan is, rewarding employees for following the plan and continuing employee communication.

However, even when companies do the alignment process well, their past and culture can derail execution, as the alignment of people and strategy isn’t enough for long-term success.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Six Enemies of Post-Recession Performance

The Corporate Executive Board put together a teleconference called Executive Guidance for 2010, with the goal of helping companies with post-recession recovery.

Their research offers Six Key Enemies of Post-Recession Performance:

  1. Changed Customer Needs - A shift in consumer buying behavior (e.g. increased emphasis on value, perceptions about pricing, etc.) should force organizations to actively revisit their customers' needs and adapt selling models to challenge their beliefs and educate them about their own business.
  2. Top Talent Disengagement or Flight - The average organization faces an imminent 7 percent productivity loss from the combination of departing top talent and undermanaged recruiting pipelines. Companies must carefully manage employee engagement and keep recruiting pipelines full to ensure that as economic conditions improve, key initiatives and projects are not crippled if even a small segment of high performers leave. With the prediction that as many as 30% of staff are looking to leave their companies when the economy improves, this becomes a critical factor in treating staff the right way - now.
  3. Increased Risk Velocity - While there is a need for faster, more agile risk management strategies, companies that build risk response capabilities stand to gain 20 percent higher revenue growth than those that focus only on risk assessment.
  4. Higher Levels of Employee Misconduct - Organizations already lose an estimated 7 percent of annual revenues to employee fraud, and CEB research shows that employee misconduct has increased at a rate of 20 percent. Organizations that take an active role in exhibiting corporate values can improve employee performance.
  5. IT Budgets Targeting a Shrinking Share of Enterprise Information - Today, 40 percent of the most valuable information created by employees is out of reach of corporate IT systems. Companies need to create policies to create productive exchanges and educate employees on the use of new mediums, particularly social media.
  6. Misplaced and Untrained Leaders - Companies seeking better leaders need look no further than their own organizations. CEB has found that correct reassignment and proper support of existing leaders can improve revenue and profit by more than 10 percent.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten Step Method To Continuous Improvement

From the QualityGuru, comes the Ten Step Method to Continuous Improvement.

Continuous improvement is a type of change that is focused on increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of an organization to fulfill its policies and objectives.

It is not limited to quality initiatives. Improvement in business strategy, business results, and customer, employee, and supplier business relationships can be subject to continual improvement.

Putting it simply, it means "getting better all the time."

Here are the ten steps to undertaking continuous improvement:

  1. Determine current performance.
  2. Establish a need to improve.
  3. Obtain commitment and define the improvement objective.
  4. Organize the diagnostic resources.
  5. Carry out research and analysis to discover the cause of current performance.
  6. Define and test solutions that will accomplish the improvement objective.
  7. Produce improvement plans which specify how and by whom the changes will be implemented.
  8. Identify and overcome any resistance to the change.
  9. Implement the change.
  10. Put in place controls to hold new levels of performance, and repeat step one.

Building A Strategy-Focused Organization

Robert Kaplan and David Norton are respectfully, the "fathers of the Balanced Scorecard."

In this article, Building a Strategy-Focused Organization, Kaplan and Norton land on a number of principle "truths" about strategy - and execution:

  • A recent study of 275 professional portfolio managers reported that the ability to execute
    strategy was more important than the quality of the strategy itself.
  • In the early 1980s, a survey of management consultants reported that less than 10% of effectively formulated strategies were implemented successfully.
  • A 1999 F ortune Magazine article, in a cover story of prominent CEO failures, concluded that the emphasis placed on strategy and vision created a mistaken belief that the right strategy was all that was needed to succeed. The authors concluded that “…in the majority of cases—we estimate 70 percent—the real problem isn’t [bad strategy]…it’s bad execution.

BOTTOMLINE: "Strategy must be understood and executed by everyone. The organization must be aligned around its strategy, and performance management systems help create that alignment."

Monday, December 14, 2009

How CEOs (Should) Spend Their Time

Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne from both the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and eePulse, Inc. released research examining how leaders (CFO) spend their time and how that time spent is associated with firm performance.

The basis for the study is assessing manager and leader performance based on five roles. These roles have been found to be critical for understanding overall, individual and firm performance and include:

Job: Reflects the basic core job one is hired to perform and is often well described in the typical job description
Team: Reflects responsibilities for ongoing and project-based teams
Career: Includes responsibilities to enhance career and skills
Innovator: Covers work spent to develop new ideas, create new routines or improve on process
Organization Member: Reflects work done to support company overall, when it is not part of the other roles

The study indicated the average, overall percentages of time spent in each role, from high to low, as follows:

  • Job - 45%
  • Innovator 19%
  • Team 16%
  • Organization 12%
  • Career 8%

BOTTOMLINE: “The average time spent by CEOs in particular in the job role, within a high performing company, is 36% versus 46% for the low performing firms. This is not surprising in that we know long-term competitive advantage comes from a workforce that is spending time doing things other than the ‘core' job. If employees are focused only on the job, everything that your company does can be easily copied by your competitors and replicated easily. Long-term
competitive advantage comes from the right combination of core job and non-core-job roles

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is It Really Employee Engagement?

In the wake of the downturn, American workers seem more appreciative of their jobs and enthusiastic about their organizations, according to Modern Survey's Employee Engagement Index (as reported by Harvard Business Publishing.)

The fraction of employees who said they took pride in their work rose from 71% in 2008 to 79% in 2009, and the fraction who said they would recommend their employers to other workers rose from 53% to 58%

Their conclusion? --- "Employees Feeling More Engaged"

Hold on..not so fast....

Could there be other "conclusions"?

Fear, perhaps? Gratitude of having a job, perhaps? More willingness to conform, perhaps?

Not to be a Doubting Thomas....just sayin'...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Communicate Your Organization's Goals - Or Else!

Here's a major wake-up call!

According to research commissioned by the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, only 24% of employees know their firm’s goals for 2010.

Other key findings:

  • 32% even doubted there was a plan for their business at all.
  • Only 27 per cent of people said they were fully prepared for the challenges they would face at work in the year ahead.

"This is just one example of how poor employee engagement can put the brakes on improved business performance. If leaders don't explain where the business is going and what it's seeking to achieve, how can people be motivated or know what they're meant to contribute? Clear goals are a key ingredient for achieving performance and productivity - but worryingly, this research suggests many employers haven't yet grasped this for 2010."

BOTTOMLINE: Here are some specific steps you can take now to ensure employees are engaged and ready to do their part for executing strategy in 2010.

  1. Renew your organization's mission, vision, shared values, strategic position, create a short list of vital few objectives, and put together a list of things to stop doing.
  2. Develop a strategic plan that outlines a short list of key initiatives that will drive activity toward meeting those objectives. Assign responsibility, key targets, outcomes and create measures to track progress.
  3. Communicate the results of #'s 1 and 2 to everyone in the organization - in multiple ways, on multiple occasions. (That means two-way communication, which includes listening.)
  4. Align the organization's resources (people, technologies, processes, policies, measures) to support these initiatives.
  5. Have each person in the organization develop an individual plan of activities for the quarter, which align with the key initiatives they're working on. Hold short status meetings with team leaders weekly to track progress, to identify areas of risk, and provide enough time for continual course correction.
  6. Measure results quarterly (not activity), review individual performance (and use 360 feedback surveys), survey stakeholders' satisfaction regularly, and review internal strengths, weakesses and external opportunities and threats.

(Want more specifics on how to accomplish these steps? Read Six Disciplines for Excellence.)

Monday, December 07, 2009

What is a Repeatable Business-Building Methodology?

If one of the four required components of a complete strategy execution program is "a repeatable, business-building methodology" - what exactly is that?

A repeatable business-building methodology is a holistic business improvement framework that can be used by an organization (guided by a licensed business coach) for continual performance improvement.

The methodology described in the graphic above consists of six interrelated business improvement disciplines, each consisting of a number of specific steps (processes) that are practiced repeatedly (annual, quarterly, weekly, or daily.)

The methodology consists of an on-going cycle of strategy formulation, planning, organization, execution, measurement and learning.

Just a few of the benefits of using such a repeatable, business-building methodology?

  • It can be scheduled on everyone's calendars (because, what gets on your calendar, gets done...)
  • It fosters new organizational learning habits (encouraging continual improvement)
  • It's flexible, yet consistent (not a cookie-cutter approached shoe-horned into every organization)

BOTTOMLINE: Intrigued? The methodology described above is unveiled - in detail - in the award-winning business handbook, Six Disciplines for Excellence", which is available here from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from Six Disciplines Publishing.

Why Your Organization Needs More Than A Business Coach

In sports, no one questions the importance of having a good coach.

In music, art, science, no one questions the importance of having a good mentor.

If you're running a small business, why should it be any different?

Yet, everyday, leaders of small and emerging businesses continue to waste thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars on ineffective means to the end: learning to develop a top-performing business.

We hear it from our clients all the time: "I spent thousands on books, seminars, consultants; we've gone through planning sessions, brainstorming, etc. - and none of it has lasted."

Frustrating? You bet.

Common place? More than we all want to admit.

For 2010, are you hoping for the best? Well, hope - is not a strategy.

Well, there's always "business coaching" - but buyer beware: You actually need more than just a "business coach."

You need a holistic approach - a complete program that includes a repeatable business-building methodology, an external business coach (for accountability), execution software that enages every person, every day, and access to a shared learning community for faster adoption and stronger organziational engagement.

Do you - and your organization- need more than a business coach? Are you challenged with any of these?

  • A lack of a solid strategic plan - mission, vision, values, strategic position, vital few objectives
  • A lack of well-defined goals - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible (deadlines and attributable responsible people)
  • Wasted time and resources - your people are working on things that do not align with your strategy
  • Procrastination, distractions and working on "urgent" things - rather than "vital" things
  • Lack of individual accountability - and organizational "entropy"

Do any of these sound familiar? How about all of them? You aren't alone. Every client we talk to has one or more (and sometimes, all) of these challenges.

It's time you looked into Six Disciplines....

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What We Have Here - Is A Failure To Communicate

(This guest post was authored by Eric Kurjan,President of Six Disciplines Ohio/Indiana. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to break from the status quo. For more information visit, email or call 419-348-1897)


As businesses are coming out of the economic downturn, they are starting to recognize that they need to do something different. However, that is a highly complex statement. What can you possibly do differently? Well, in most cases the list is enormous. There are plenty of things to work on.

If you followed my advice in my October article, then you are headed down the right path. There is a long way to go to get to the final destination but if you have defined that destination at least you know where you want to go. Now, how to do I get there? The first step is to communicate that information to the rest of the team. Where are we going, what will we do to get there, how will we do it and who is responsible for the various steps and actions? Those four basic tenets are the key drivers of strategy formation and more importantly the execution. But there is something more.

For some reason, asking CEOs/Presidents/Owners to share this type of information with their teams seems to be a very foreign concept. There is the unreasonable expectation that the team members/employees somehow already know where they are going and how to get there. Most folks are not great mind readers and then they end up doing whatever they think is best because as leaders we have not communicated what we need or want. As someone wise once said, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

In fact, the larger the organization is, the greater this illusion becomes. As organizations grow, communication challenges grow as well. These challenges will grow dramatically faster than the organization headcount. To illustrate:

  • In an organization with 3 people, there are only 3 possible different interactions.
  • In an organization with 25 people (8 times as many people), there are 300 possible different interactions = 100 times increase in the complexity of communications
  • In an organization with 100 people (33 times as many people), there are 4,950 possible different interactions = 1,650 times increase in the complexity of communications

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.)

So, we have some pretty big issues to overcome to get people on the path we want. Unfortunately, we have leaders who don’t share the company message, direction or expectations with their employees, and then couple that with the complexity of a growing organization. In the absence of leadership, employees decide their own direction. Often times the intentions are good; however, they do not always align with what management sees as important.

Gary Harpst, the founder of Six Disciplines, tells a very poignant story of “Susan”. “Susan” works for a very good commercial HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) contractor in the Midwest. She has been an excellent, loyal, hard working inside sales employee for the past seven years.

This morning she has a conversation with her leader, the manager of inside sales. He tells Susan that the numbers on the commercial business are off for the month. Their normal commercial clients are not upgrading and new construction is terrible. He tells her that she needs to get more deals in the door, somehow. Seems pretty straightforward and probably a conversation repeated in organizations all across America. Being a creative and hard working person, Susan is looking for any new business she can find. In good times, the pipeline has been plentiful with commercial deals and anytime a residential sales/service call came in she turned them away.

However, now based on the conversation she had with her manager this morning, she “decides” to take on a residential opportunity. She completes the paperwork, sends a service crew to the residence and thinks she has uncovered a new opportunity. However, she has created a nightmare. The work crew is not trained to work on residential HVAC systems, they do not carry the parts, the business model and cost structure are not compatible, and on and on. Susan’s decision is full of good intentions but her self-directed approach is fraught with issues. And it all started with a lack of clear direction and communication.

This type of disconnect is very common, and it is all about the lack of communication.

Communication also ties to overall employee performance. Yes it is true, not only do you need to tell your employees what they need to do and what you expect of them but you also need to share with them how well they are doing their jobs.

SuccessFactors surveyed 3,600+ workers at 291 companies and found, among other things,
• 51% of employees don’t know whether their performance is where it should be
• 66% say they have too little interaction with their boss
• 55% don’t get enough timely constructive criticism

BOTTOMLINE: It all comes down to communication. You should try it. Set the direction, define the actions and measure the results. The investment is small, but the rewards are huge.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ENTERPRISECORP Joins the Six Disciplines Business Coaching Network

Business Development Arm of Greater Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce Sees Growth through Strategy Execution Coaching Program

FINDLAY, OHIO – December 2, 2009 — Six Disciplines announced today that it has added ENTERPRISECORP, the enterprise development arm of Greater Louisville’s Chamber of Commerce, to its nationwide network of business coaching practices that offer the Six Disciplines® strategy execution program to its clients.

Six Disciplines is unique in the growing industry of business coaching because of its completeness, which includes the synergy of a repeatable business-building methodology, execution coaching, an execution software system, and a shared community to accelerate organizational learning.

“I can readily see the value that Six Disciplines will bring to our clients,” said Mark Crane, Executive Director of ENTERPRISECORP. “The Six Disciplines methodology, coaching and software will help them achieve their goals, not just through planning, but through focused execution.”

“Six Disciplines is the perfect complement to our business advisory services,” added David Oetken, Director of Business Advising ENTERPRISECORP’s. “By using the Six Disciplines methodology and software tools, our clients will be able to connect their vision to their strategies, and align their plans and activities for more consistent and predictable execution.”

“Forward-looking CEOs are starting to understand their biggest challenge is not what they think it is,” said Gary Harpst, founder and CEO of Six Disciplines. “They’re finally figuring out that it’s all about the balance of strategy and execution. ENTERPRISECORP understands the tremendous opportunity ahead of them with Six Disciplines, and because of their expertise and proven success, we’re excited to welcome ENTERPRISECORP to our quickly-growing business coaching network.”


ENTERPRISECORP is the enterprise development arm of Greater Louisville Inc., whose mission is to dramatically increase the number and quality of fast-growth companies headquartered in the Louisville region – companies that create the vast majority of new wealth, new revenue and new jobs. For existing businesses that want input and guidance on how to generate growth, ENTERPRISECORP offers Business Advising, which uses detailed assessments and case review by an advisory council of seasoned professionals to create custom recommendations on how businesses can take advantage of opportunities for growth. When a management team is ready to embrace change and pursue the next level of performance, we are the place to start. Visit

About Six Disciplines

Six Disciplines offers a complete strategy execution coaching program, optimized for small and midsized organizations. The Six Disciplines program enables organizations to get better – and stay better – with less stress and more fun. The breakthrough program is detailed in the best-selling book “Six Disciplines Execution Revolution” by founder and CEO Gary Harpst. Six Disciplines is offered exclusively through a growing nationwide network of licensed Six Disciplines coaching practices. Visit

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Christmas Gift for CEOs

If you're a regular visitor to Be Excellent, you're familiar with Six Disciplines.

Here's a thoughtful holiday gift idea for you - or for the CEO of a small or midsized business that you know.

Share award winning and best-selling business improvement books, written by veteran CEO and strategy execution expert Gary Harpst.

Both of Gary’s books, Six Disciplines for Excellence, and his newest best-selling book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, are now available on Audio CD - exclusively at Six Disciplines Publishing.

Audio books make the perfect holiday gifts -- for the busy business people in your life.

During the month of December, we’re offering a 25% discount on all purchases of Six Disciplines books, including the new audio books.


To get your 25% discount, visit, and use the coupon code “GIVE” when checking out.

Best Wishes for the Holiday Season, from the staff at Six Disciplines Publishing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Plans Are Nothing - Planning Is Everything

The importance of business planning is frequently misunderstood.

Here are 9 commonly-held myths: about business planning:

  1. Most small and new businesses don’t need business plans.
  2. You need an MBA to write a convincing business plan.
  3. Business plans are only necessary when you need to raise money.
  4. Business plans need to be long and address every last detail.
  5. Writing a business plan makes your business less flexible.
  6. Writing a business plan takes too much time.
  7. All the details of a business plan are just too confusing for a first-time business owner.
  8. You can get funding on the strength of a great business plan alone.
  9. If you’ve already launched your business, it’s too late to write a business plan.

BOTTOMLINE: As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” He wasn’t actually saying that plans are worthless, of course. So what did the war hero and former President mean?

It’s the process of planning that is most important: where you consider opportunities and challenges and ways to meet them.

Dale Carnegie Lives On!

Here's a well-done blog on Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends and Influence People."

Old school? Perhaps.

Common sense? Intuitive? Most-definitely. come more people don't follow these simple processes?

BOTTOMLINE: There's also an Introduction, the Basic Summary, the Comprehensive Overview (hey, isn't that an oxymoron?) - there's even a Cheat Sheet! Worth your time to read.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Current State of the Unmotivated & Disengaged

The latest (September 2009) survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of found that:

  • 40% of U.S. workers say they have had difficulty staying motivated at work in the past year
  • Nearly one-fourth (24%) do not feel loyal to their current employer
  • 23% of employers rate their organization’s current employee morale as low

Time to panic yet?

BOTTOMLINE: Though the survey confirms that low morale levels are an unfortunate side effect of the recession, contends that many companies are trying to address negative workplace issues with: 1.) better communications (more often, many different ways, and encouraging two-way communication) and 2.) programs to help employees feel "connected" - like valued team members (e.g., recognition programs, providing better work/life balance through flexible work opportunities)

Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?

A previous issue of the Harvard Business Review includes article entitled "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?"

Their premise?

"Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?"

Their conclusion?

"Very few executives can honestly answer these simple questions in the affirmative. And the companies that those executives work for are often the most successful in their industry."

The downside?

"Conversely, companies that don’t have a simple and clear statement of strategy are likely to fall into the sorry category of those that have failed to execute their strategy or, worse, those that never even had one. In an astonishing number of organizations, executives, frontline employees, and all those in between are frustrated because no clear strategy exists for the company or its lines of business."

Leaders of firms are mystified when what they thought was a beautifully crafted strategy is never implemented. They assume that the initiatives described in the voluminous documentation that emerges from an annual budget or a strategic-planning process will ensure competitive success. They fail to appreciate the necessity of having a simple, clear, succinct strategy statement that everyone can internalize and use as a guiding light for making difficult choices.

Understand there are three critical components of a good strategy statement—objective, scope, and advantage. Then, create a great strategy, which requires careful evaluation of the industry landscape, a detailed understanding of customer needs, segmenting customers, and identifying unique ways of creating value for the ones your firm chooses to serve. Then, find the sweet spot that aligns your firm’s capabilities with customer needs in a way that competitors cannot match. Next, leave no room for misinterpretation and cascade the statement throughout the organization.

BOTTOMLINE: "Words do lead to action. Spending the time to develop the few words that truly capture your strategy and that will energize and empower your people will raise the long-term financial performance of your organization."

Execution: The Most Enduring Business Idea

From Strategy+Business magazine, comes their listing of "Our 10 Most Enduring Ideas."

The number one enduring business concept? (drum roll please...)

  1. Execution (1,911 votes; 49.3 percent of the voters chose this concept).

The rest of the top 10 most enduring business concepts of the past decade?

2. The Learning Organization

3. Corporate Values

4. Customer Relationship Management

5. Disruptive Technology

6. Leadership Development

7. Organizational DNA

8. Strategy-Based Transformation

9. Complexity Theory

10. Lean Thinking

BOTTOMLINE: It’s not just your strategic choices that drive success, but how well you execute them.

Thanksgiving: A Time For Thanks And Reflection

At Be Excellent, we're proud and humbled to enable small and emerging businesses execute their strategies - every person - every day.

As we head into the Thanksgiving season here in the U.S., we'd like to give thanks to the hundreds of thousands of you who have visited Be Excellent, since we started the blog in back in mid-2005.

Special thanks also go to all of our coaches and clients, who have an incredible, synergistic passion for for continual improvement.

"Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song." (Konrad von Gesner on Thanksgiving)

Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels to all...

(Most of all, thanks to JB for her continued Inspiration)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Discipline vs. IQ: Which One Determines Success?

IQ has been the subject of hundreds, if not thousands of research studies. Scholars have studied the link between IQ and race, gender, socioeconomic status - even music.

Yet for all the interest in the study of IQ, there has been comparatively little research on other influences on performance in school (or, to extrapolate - in the workplace.)

Could a more robust measure of self-discipline demonstrate that it’s more relevant to academic performance than IQ?

Researchers found that self-discipline was a significantly better predictor of academic performance 7 months later than IQ.

  • Both IQ and self-discipline are correlated with GPA, but self-discipline is a much more important contributor: those with low self-discipline have substantially lower grades than those with low IQs, and high-discipline students have much better grades than high-IQ students.
SOURCE: Duckworth, A.L., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939-944.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Start 2010 Off Right - With Six Disciplines

2010 - another new year awaits us all. What will the new year bring in terms of your business? What will you do differently in 2010 to ensure success?

Consider adopting the Six Disciplines approach to strategy execution.

Think of these six disciplines as a series of annual, quarterly, weekly and daily repeatable cycles which, with each successive pass, helps leaders and their teams to more effectively execute in their pursuit of enduring excellence. Six disciplines are all it takes—but leaders and their companies must stick with them. Change initiatives generally don’t last, especially in small and mid-sized companies. This complete program is the "ultimate process" that most organizations don't have - it supercedes all other processes.

Discipline I. Decide What's Important. Decide what’s important (and by implication what’s not important) so you can aim the allocation of resources—time, money and creativity—toward this end. In this annual discipline, leaders systematically and regularly review and renew their mission, values, strategic position, vision, their most vital few objectives—and agree what to stop doing.

Then on to Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead

Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead. Set goals that lead. Well-defined goals are among the most effective tools available to any leader—yet most leaders don’t set goals that lead their people in the right direction. The purpose of this discipline is to produce clear and measurable annual goals. Pursuing these goals will lead people to align their daily activities with the vital few objectives set in the strategy. The result is a brief goals statement that every team member can understand and support in their daily activities

Then to Discipline III. Align Systems

Discipline III. Align Systems. The systems—policies, processes, technologies, measures, and people—are often at cross purposes with the stated priorities because most leaders lack an organized approach to keep their systems aligned with their strategy. This discipline taps the knowledge of the entire workforce to identify the areas where the company will get the best ROI in policies, processes, measures, technologies and people.

Then on to Discipline IV. Work the Plan.

Discipline IV. Work the Plan. One of the best learning tools is the individual quarterly plan. In this discipline, every person works with his/her team leader to develop Individual Plans for the coming quarter. These goals are reviewed and checked for alignment with company goals. This quarterly plan serves as a timesaving template for a weekly status report. Every individual learns how to set goals, understands company priorities, takes responsibility for their goals, learns to become accountable, reports progress, and uses their innovative capabilities to solve problems.

And continuously practice Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully

Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully. Innovation means problem-solving, and everyone has the ability to solve problems. This discipline provides principles and measurement tools that are used in the other disciplines to help leaders set clear goals and align daily activities to meet them. These goals should align with company priorities, and employees should use their innate creativity to meet or beat those goals.
Then, onto the final process, Discipline VI. Step Back.

Discipline VI. Step Back. This annual discipline helps leaders step back from the pressures of everyday business and gain perspective on the factors that affect business performance. This is achieved through a series of “discovery exercises,” exploring externals (competitors, industry, economic) and internals (goal performance, stakeholder feedback, measures, SWOT.) In addition to leaders stepping back, all team members are encouraged to do the same by providing input on each other’s performances, which is achieved by completing a 360° feedback survey and an annual performance appraisal.

Then we cycle back to Discipline I, and begin the repeatable process over again, year after year.

BOTTOMLINE: Get all the details of this repeatable business-building methodology by reading the award-winning handbook: Six Disciplines for Excellence (and visit

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coming To Your Organization in 2010: More Change!

Are you satisfied with the way your business is performing today?

Specifically, what are you doing to make 2010 a banner year for business improvement?

What are you going to do differently? What are you going to do - to change? The challenge is how to change, not if.

Following are seven steps for effective organizational change in 2010:

  1. Create a commitment to change. Define a shared vision of what you want to commit to it. Without a clear commitment, you'll create chaos for the change you want to achieve. Creating the commitment brings you back to what you want to achieve and allows you to measure your activities against this commitment -- and ensures that you stay focused on your vision.
  2. Engage the stakeholders. Not just your senior management team, but everyone that is involved with your company as well. That means both internal and external members of
    your organization (your team members, your suppliers, your customers, your advisors, etc.) Everyone needs to understand the upcoming change - and "What's in it for me?" Give stakeholders the time to understand that the upcoming change is in their own best interest to help make this commitment a reality.
  3. Visualize the changed future. Paint a picture of what your company will perform like as this journey begins - and understand, that the new direction, and all of the learning that takes place along the way - never ends. Many individuals will ask how the change is going to affect the company and, more importantly, how it will affect themselves. Use your imagination to visualize what you would like your company to be in one year, in 3 years
    -- in 5 years. Share this vision with everyone in your organization, and do it regularly.
  4. Begin the transformation. It's easier to paint a picture of your future than it is to get started on it. Put together a step-by-step action plan with dates, deliverables, milestones, and who's responsible for the achievement of each step. If you break down all the steps you need to take month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter, it can more easily become a reality. Have a clear roadmap in place that outlines the process, and monitor progress along the way. Run into roadblocks early? You still have time to change course.
  5. Embed the new change into your culture. Everything you're doing should be consistent with the commitment to change. With every action you take, ask yourself if it is consistent with what you want to achieve. Will it help you achieve the end results you want?
  6. Create a sense of urgency. It's important to recognize that most of us, in reacting to change, want to slow it down - or resist it fully. But, if we accelerate it, we can move ahead. Let your team members know that it'sokay to be uncomfortable with change, but that the winner in business will always be the one who most effectively adapts to the new environment.
  7. Continuously improve. There is no finish line. There is no final destination. There is no "are we there yet?" Improvement and change are a continuous process, not a one-time event.

What Companies Should Look for in a Business Coach

The business coaching industry, which is getting more exposure these days, is still filled with contradictions. Coaches themselves disagree over why they’re hired, what they do, and how to measure success. Here’s what you should know.

A few months ago, Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches in order to find out more about the business coaching industry. Despite the widespread use of executive coaches, little is widely known about who they are, what they do.

Here's what the coaches who were surveyed said companies should look for in a coach:

  • 65%: Experience of coaching in similar settings
  • 61%: Clear methodology
  • 50%: Quality of client list
  • 32%: Ability to measure ROI
  • 29%: Certification in a proven coaching method
  • 27%: Experience in working in a similar role as the coachee
  • 13%: Experience as psychological therapist
  • 2%: Background in executive search

BOTTOMLINE: Ask to see the coach’s methodology. If they don’t have one, find another coach.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Do Most Companies Fail? Hiring Is At The Core

Why do most companies fail?
  • Most companies fail primarily because they don’t have the right team of people
  • The CEO might not be right, or the CEO hasn’t chosen the right people in the right positions
  • Unfortunately, most new CEOs don’t understand the talent level required at each position and the teamwork needed to build a successful company.
  • To have a successful company, most businesses need key people in several categories including research & development, manufacturing, IT, finance, marketing, sales, and HR.

BOTTOMLINE: Hiring right (from position description, to sourcing, to interviewing, to selection, to assessment, to hiring, to orientation, to development, to succession planning) - are all keys to building the right team. Done properly and repeatedly, the organization thrives. Ignore it, and the organization is doomed to failure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Trust Is The Key To Execution

Much has been said recently about trust being a foundational principle for organizations to get the right things done.

Warren G. Bennis has said: "Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work."

Collin Powell has said: “You've got to trust people…you've got to let people make mistakes and not ground them off about it.”

Stephen M.R. Covey, the author of the the best-seller "The Speed of Trust" offers a free download of "The 13 Behaviors of a High Trust Leader".

The Toughest Part of Strategy? Execution!

Strategy formulation, while extremely challenging and difficult, is usually not what concerns most small business leaders. In fact, it's not even planning that worried worries them. It's something even bigger and more problematic.

It's the execution of strategy that keeps many small business leaders awake at night!

Why is execution so hard?

Because making the plan work is even bigger challenge than creating the plan: Making strategy work is more difficult than the task of strategy making.

Execution is critical to success. Execution represents a disciplined process that enables an organization to take a strategy and make it work. Without a careful, planned approach to execution, strategic goals cannot be attained.

Developing such a logical approach, however, represents a tremendous challenge - particularly to leaders of growing organizations.

Here are the key take-aways:

  • Making strategy work (execution) is critical - and much more difficult than strategy formulation
  • Even the best plans still fail or don't meet expectations -- because of poor execution.
  • Despite its importance, execution is often handled poorly by many organizations.

The continual problem?

Much more is known about planning than doing, about strategy-making than making strategy work. And business leaders still don't seem to understand a great deal about the execution of strategy.

The obvious questions?

  • If execution is paramount to success, why don't more organizations develop a disciplined approach to it?
  • Why don't companies spend more time developing and perfecting processes that help them achieve their strategic goals?
  • Why can't more companies execute strategies - consistently?
The simple answer?

Because - execution is extremely difficult. We're all taught to strategize, and to plan - but little time is spent teaching (and learning) how to execute!

BOTTOMLINE: From the CEO on down, everyone within an organization must commit to and own the processes and actions related to effective execution. Everyone must learn to be accountable for their activities and projects, and these effort must relate to the goals, and ultimately the strategy of the company.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Keys To Strategy Execution

"The Keys to Strategy Execution: A Global Study of Current Trends and Future Possibilities", was a research study commissioned by the American Management Association and conducted by the Human Resource Institute.

The research identified the leading obstacles that hinder strategy execution and what companies can do to overcome them.

The following is a quick review of some of the main findings:

  • Higher performers tend to be better at executing strategies
  • Clarity is crucial to the execution of strategy
  • Overall, organizations are not achieving clarity to the degree they should
  • Higher-performing companies are much more likely than lower performers to provide clarity
  • Alignment practices are widely used and highly valued
  • Higher-performing organizations are considerably more likely to use certain alignment strategies
  • Speed and adaptability are differentiators
  • Decision-making speed remains a major problem
  • Employee engagement is a concern
  • Leadership development seems to be a deficit in the area of execution
  • Customer needs/demands and worker capabilities are the most important drivers of execution today
  • A lack of resources and the presence of government regulations are the primary barriers to strategy execution today

You can download AMA's full research report here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Employee Engagement E-Book Available

David Zinger, the well-respected expert on employee engagement, has released a free 44-page e-book that includes 200 single-sentence "pieces of advice" assembled from hundreds of contributors about how to improve employee engagement.

Well worth your time to read through.

Download the e-book here.

Want even more? Join David's network about employee engagement on Ning.

Strategic Planning Retreats - Now In Full Swing

During the last quarter of the year is the time when most organizations dive into their strategic planning for the coming year.

For your convenience, here's a collection of "the best of" posts from Be Excellent related to strategic planning retreats:

Monday, November 09, 2009

Executing Strategy - Once Again The Top Priority for CEOs

According to recent research from The Conference Board, while executing their corporate strategy effectively is still the highest priority, the key concerns these days for CEOs are managing and securing finance, maintaining confidence and risk management.

While "excellence of execution" remained as the top challenge for the second year in a row, nearly half of the executives said they were now most concerned about speed, flexibility and adaptability to change.

Top Five CEO Challenges Due to Financial Crisis
  1. Excellence in execution
  2. Consistent execution of strategy by top management
  3. Speed, flexibility, adaptability to change
  4. Global economic performance
  5. Financial risk, including liquidity, volatility, and credit risk
Source: CEO Challenge 2008: Top 10 Challenges--Financial Crisis Edition (Conference Board.Org)

According to the report: "business leaders across the globe are focusing more urgently on execution and immediate bottom-line issues, and leaving the people management systems built up during the tight labor market of the past five years to operate how they are intended."

Making Strategy Execution a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

A survey conducted by the Cognos/Palladium Group, entitled "Making Strategy Execution a Competitive Advantage" included responses from 143 strategy-management professionals.

Their most interesting findings?

  • Most employers don't share company strategy
  • 95% of companies don't tell their employees what the strategy is

BOTTOMLINE: It's no wonder that 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies! How can people execute a strategy if they don't know what it is?

Make the strategy of your organization (mission, vision, values, strategic position, vital few objectives, stop list) visible to every person, every day - not just in a binder that sits on the shelves of the senior leadership team that created it.

Business Accelerators: Leading The Way Beyond The Recovery

Senior executives on the leading edge of IT adoption whose organizations have increased their IT investments in 2009—think differently than other business leaders.

Research firm Gartner, together with Forbes Insights, refer to these professionals as "Business Accelerators".

This study, the second based on input from more than 650 top-level executives at North American businesses, explores why Business Accelerators are more optimistic and confident than their counterparts. It examines their attitudes towards the eventual economic recovery, and how their ROI-oriented focus toward IT spending lets them view technology as an asset worth further investment. It also looks at their media consumption as well as their online activity.

Findings from their study of Business Accelerators:

  • They're confident in revenue growth for their organizations (and are preparing now for the recovery)
  • They understand the value of IT spending (particularly in digital communications)
  • They use technology to gain a competitive edge (in sustaining growth beyond the downturn)
  • They embrace technology to bolster the bottom line
  • They consume more media (including digital media and social networking)

Click here to download the whitepaper from Forbes Insights.

Why Is Change So Hard? (Part 4 of a 4 part series)

Let's face it - change isn't easy.

At some point, we’ve all vowed to make some big changes - at work, in our lives, perhaps about our health, our fitness, our eating habits, etc.

One thing is for sure - changing behavior is not easy. We generally know what to do, the hard part is doing it (the execution part.)

And lasting change - essentially what becomes new behaviors or habits - are some of the toughest challenges there are.

Some organizational psychologists suggest that it first takes "un-learning" of bad habits before new habits can be learned. Others say it just takes continual repetition - from as little as 3 weeks - to as much as 6 - 9 months!

BOTTOMLINE: Changing behavior is a matter of discipline. It's about learning habits that have purpose, meaning and impact. It's about attitude, persistence, determination and long-term gain. It's about continual motivation to not only do things right, but to do the right things. It's about continually measuring progress toward your goals. It's about being accountable to ourselves.

So....what are you trying to change? How are you tracking against your vision of what it will be like when (not if) you change those behaviors?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why Is Change So Hard? (Part 3 of a 4 part series)

The easy part in wanting to make changes (in business, or in your personal life) is identifying the problem or opportunity, and prioritizing what you might like to do about it.

The hard part is taking action and changing the attitudes - and equally important, the behavior.

Consider two key elements for making the change process happen: your underlying motivation and the decision process itself.

  1. Underlying Motivation - Centers on how dissatisfied you are with the current state of affairs, how strong is your vision of how things could be better or different, and the clarity with which you can see specific action steps necessary to move things forward.
  2. The Decision Process. The decision to commit to a new strategy or whatever the change may be is generally not a one-time event, rather it reoccurs each time you are faced with a conflicting choice and you confirm your original decision by choosing the new behavior and leaving behind the old habit behind.

BOTTOMLINE: Don't make resolutions -they're not clear or precise enough. Make a decision about something you would like to accomplish or change in your organization. Choose carefully, and then monitor how well you find your own and your team's attitudes and behaviors conform to the decision on a consistent basis. As you do this you will be practicing the discipline required for effective execution.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why Is Change So Hard? (Part 2 of a 4 part series)

So goes the phrase: "If nothing changes, nothing changes."

According to John Kotter, (A Force For Change: How Leadership Differs from Management) there are eight reasons why change initiatives fail:

  1. Too much complexity
  2. Failure to building coalition and support
  3. Not understanding the need for a clear vision
  4. Failure to clearly communicate the vision
  5. Permitting roadblocks and resistance to change
  6. Not planning for short-term results, and not achieving them
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. Failure to institutionalize changes in organizational culture

What to do about them?

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Build coalition (buy-in and support) for the change initiative
  3. Develop a clear vision
  4. Share and communicate the vision
  5. Empower people to clear the obstacles and roadblocks
  6. Secure short-term wins
  7. Keep moving ahead - stick with it
  8. Anchor the changes within your culture

Monday, November 02, 2009

Why Is Change So Hard? Part I

Many people don't like change. It creates uncertainty. People may instinctively feel that what's familiar is safe, and that change is risky - even when the opposite is true.

Change can make even strong people feel insecure.

Change, sustainable change is not easy to achieve.

Change requires leadership -- at every level of the organization. First, it starts with recognition of why change is needed. Next, the leader (typically the CEO) must clearly articulate a vision of the goal and how to reach it. Then it is time to move from theory to action, from strategy to execution.

This always requires making difficult decisions, which highlight the human factors barrier to change: the conflict between the way things have been in the past, and the way they must be in the future.

Companies that take on a complete program for sustainable execution begin with these best practices:

  • A clear framework to understand the change process
  • Access to a robust set of tools (an activity management system), along with coaching as needed
  • A program that reinforces and rewards the desired mindsets and change behaviors (habits)
  • Continual communication, reinforcement, and service in the areas where change is most challenging

BOTTOMLINE: "If you keep doing things the way you've always done them, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

Reasons Why Strategic Plans Fail

In general, strategic plans can fail for two types of reasons: inappropriate strategy and poor execution.

Inappropriate or ineffective strategies can occur due to:

  • Failure to define objectives correctly
  • Incomplete SWOT analysis with respect to the desired objectives
  • Lack of creativity in identifying possible strategies
  • Strategies incapable of obtaining the desired objective
  • Poor fit between the external environment and organizational resources - infeasibility

More often than not, however, it's not that the strategic plans fail - it's the execution that fails.

Herea re some common reasons how or why execution falls short of the strategic plan:

  • Over-estimation of resources and abilities
  • Under-estimation of time, personnel, or financial requirements
  • Failure to coordinate
  • Ineffective attempts to gain the support of others or resistance
  • Failure to follow the plan
  • Loss of senior management focus and continued sponsorship
  • Inability to predict reactions from competitors
  • Over-estimation of resource competence
  • Poor communications
  • Failure to manage change
  • Lack of focus

BOTTOMLINE: Failure to execute (following the plan) is the primary reason why strategic plans fail.

The Five Secrets of High-Performing Organizations

The best performing small businesses have five factors in common:

  1. A strong leadership team
  2. The ability to attract and retain quality people
  3. A disciplined approach to their business
  4. The ability to strategically use technology
  5. The wise use of trusted outside providers

Top-performing organizations rate not just a little better in these five areas -- but at least 100% better. This whitepaper looks at the results of the research, and identifies five factors that the top 25% of all high-performing organizations have in common.

Download the whitepaper here, compliments of Six Disciplines.

The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution

"A brilliant strategy, blockbuster product, or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there. "

So begins the Harvard Business review article "The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution," written by executives from management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc .

According to the authors, "Execution is the result of thousands of decisions made every day by employees acting according to the information they have and their own self-interest."

Their research identified four fundamental building blocks executives can use to influence those actions:

  1. Clarifying decision rights (setting expectations)
  2. Designing information flows (making sure people are on the same page, have the right information to do their jobs)
  3. Aligning motivators (recognition and rewards consistent with attitudes, behaviors)
  4. Making changes to structure

Also, check out their interactive "Organization Effectiveness Simulator."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CEOs Brimming With Ideas, Lacking In Organization

From Mick's Leadership blog, here's an insightful entry "CEOs Brimming With Ideas, Lacking In Organization."

The premise:

"The new study concludes that when it comes to creativity, CEOs have more than other executives -- they just don't have the organizational skills to take their ideas to fruition on their own."

  • High creativity, which includes innovativeness and risk-taking, was found to be the work-style behavior that most distinguishes today's presidents and chief executive officers.
  • The flip side is that company leaders are decidedly less organized than their team members. While CEOs may excel at addressing issues in an innovative, resourceful and imaginative way, they likely need a lot of support from others on their team to execute what needs to be done.

BOTTOMLINE: "'Unlike the CEO, managers at the next level may be more collaborative or orderly. The wise CEO would be sure to be surrounded by people with such essential work-style behaviors and skills."

20 Quotes from The Daily Drucker

Harry Joiner (@ecommercejobs on Twitter) over at Marketing Headhunter, posted his favorite Top 20 quotes from the Daily Drucker, with respect being paid to management thought-leader, Peter Drucker (who would have turned 100 years-young last week.)

Worth reading!!
  1. The critical question is not "How can I achieve?" but "What can I contribute?"
  2. There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. He alone gives employment.
  3. It is easier to raise the performance of one leader than it is to raise the performance of a whole mass.
  4. Leadership is not rank. It is responsibility.
  5. An executive should be a realist; and no one is less realistic than the cynic.
  6. You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers -- because without trust, they won't fight.
  7. Listening (the first competence of leadership) is not a skill, it is a discipline. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut.
  8. It is easy to look good in a boom.
  9. Luck never built a business. Prosperity and growth come only to the business that systematically finds and exploits its potential.
  10. The one person to distrust is the one who never makes a mistake. Either he is a phony, or he stays with the safe, the tried, and the trivial.
  11. There are keys to success in managing bosses. First, put down on a piece of paper a "boss list," everyone to whom you are accountable. Next, go to each person on the list and ask, "What do I do and what do my people do that helps you do your job?" And, "What do we do that makes your life more difficult?"
  12. Workmanship is essential: In fact, an organization demoralizes itself if it does not demand of its members the highest workmanship.
  13. A decision is a commitment to action. No decision has, in fact, been made until carrying it out has become somebody's responsibility.
  14. It's much easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge than to give it away. Nobody trusts you if you offer something for free.
  15. The ultimate test of an information system is that there are no surprises.
  16. Until a business returns a profit that is greater than its cost of capital, it does not create wealth -- it destroys it.
  17. The question has to be asked -- and asked seriously -- "If we did not do this already, would we go into it now?" If the answer is no, the reaction must be "What do we do now?" Very often, the right answer is abandonment.
  18. Freedom is not fun. It is a responsible choice.
  19. One can't manage change. One can only be ahead of it.
  20. Just go out and make yourself useful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your Dream Job - And Your Passion

What would be your dream job? If money were not a consideration, what would you do?
A recent Harris Interactive survey among almost 8,000 employees over the age of 18 found the following:
  • 45% of workers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs
  • 55% of workers said they were not satisfied


  • 20% were passionate about their jobs
  • 33% believed they had reached a dead end
  • 21% were eager to change to something different

The above statistics paint a vivid picture of how elusive passion can be in careers.

Here are some more observations about dream jobs:

  • Dream jobs are absolutely personal. Everyone has a different dream.
  • Dream jobs are aligned with a person's core passion. Your passion is what you care most about in life. It is what attracts you and gives you energy. It is what inspires you, and what you can not live without doing.
  • Dream jobs consistently leverage your core strengths and skills, draw on what you do best and most naturally, let you do what you are really good at doing.
  • Dream jobs minimize the down sides, the things you don't like to do or don't do well. They accentuate the positive allowing you to focus your work time on activities you love to do.
  • Dream jobs offer enough compensation to sufficiently support a life style that is acceptable and feels good. If a minimum level of income is not there, even an otherwise ideal fit may not be the dream job.
  • Finally, dream jobs are not perfect jobs. Even when the fit is right, every job has some drawbacks

BOTTOMLINE: Stop "dreaming" - start doing. Take stock in yourself, identify your core skills, research the market - and go back to your passion.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Really Drives Your Strategy?

For better or worse, why do so many companies veer off their strategic plan?

Look for a disconnect between strategy and how resources are allocated, say Harvard Business School's Joseph L. Bower and Clark G. Gilbert, in their article "What Really Drives Strategy?"

Their assertion?

"Organizations of any size are built around a series of building blocks, and the bigger the company the more responsibility in those building blocks. Today they are called SBUs—Strategic Business Units—or they are country organizations. If you add up what those people actually do, which ideas they choose to bring forward, and which of those get funded, the consequences of that activity is what adds up to the strategy of the company, not words on paper. And once you see that, you begin to ask questions such as: What determines which ideas get sponsored and funded? If I'm the top management, how can I shape that process, manage it, and give it direction?"

That's what their book, From Resource Allocation to Strategy, is about.

BOTTOMLINE: Interestingly enough, the "disconnect" between strategy and how resources are allocated, as identified in this HBR article, is precisely why it's critical to align your resources and systems. Since up to 90% of effectively formulated strategies fail due to execution, it's critcal to understand that it's after the goals are set that companies run into one of their greatest challenges - their own internal systems - processes, policies, technologies, measures and people.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Six Key Principles of Organizational Accountability

The following six principles form the foundation for instilling accountability within your organization. Together they form a practical understanding of accountability, the transforming effect it can have on an organization, and its essential role in creating significant business results.

1. Accountability is a Statement of Personal Promise. Accountability is both a promise and an obligation to deliver specific, defined results. Accountability, as we define it, does not apply in an abstract way to departments, work groups, or entire organizations. Accountability applies to individuals and their personal promise that these functions will deliver the agreed results. Accountability is first and foremost a personal commitment to the organization and to those that the organization serves.

2. Accountability for Results Means Activities Aren't Enough .Everyone in an organization, from the CEO to the janitor, has some piece of the business and a corresponding set of results which are theirs to achieve. Distinguishing results from activities requires a shift in traditional thinking, built on an awareness of why we do what we do, and what activities we need to focus our attention on.

3. Accountability for Results Requires Room for Judgment and Decision Making. If you're not allowed to use any judgment or discretion on the job, if you're told to follow the rules no matter what, if no decision is up to you, then your boss can only hold you accountable for activities. You can be held accountable for doing what you're told, but you can't be held accountable for the outcome.

4. Accountability is Neither Shared nor Conditional. Accountability agreements are individual, unique, and personal strategies. No two people at the same level in an organization should have the exact same accountabilities. Separating each person's accountabilities can be challenging, but clarity results from the struggle to eliminate overlaps.

5. Accountability for the Organization as a Whole Belongs to Everyone. Every employee's first accountability is for thinking about and acting on what is best for the organization, even if doing so means putting aside one's individual, functional, or departmental priority. The most successful organizations expect and allow every person to be of practical assistance in realizing the organization's goals.

6. Accountability is Meaningless Without Consequences. In an accountability agreements, consequences need to be negotiated. Negotiated consequences that are personally significant to the employee in question are an essential element of accountability agreements and are fundamental to forging a fair deal. This is a key step in forging an interdependent and mutually beneficial relationship with one's employer.

BOTTOMLINE: Organizational accountability eliminates the tendency to make excuses and shift blame. When employees make clear and specific commitments for their own work, entire organizations become aligned and achieve specific measurable results.

(SOURCE: Shaun Murphy, Ph.D. and Bruce Klatt, M.A. at Murphy Klatt Consulting. Adapted from a chapter of their book, Accountability: Getting a Grip on Results (2nd Ed.1997).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If You Can't Measure It, You Can't Manage It

In business, "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

When it comes to executing your business strategy, you must first translate the strategic plan into short-term operating objectives or metrics - and progress must be monitored and measured regularly.

To achieve strategic objectives, your organization must develop short-term measurable objectives that logically relate to the company's strategy, as well as a plan for how your organization plans to compete: how you will be different from your competition.

Unfortunately, this is where most strategic planning sessions end; in a 3-inch binder sitting on a dusty shelf.

What needs to occur next is translating your organization's strategy into actionable plans and initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, translate these plans into measurable gradecards or scorecards which are continually monitored.

BOTTOMLINE: Continual monitoring progress toward organizational goals (both short-term and long-term) helps to keep you focused on what's important, which is an integral and vital part of the execution process. The earlier that course corrections can be made, the better.

Some Ideas To Help Accelerate Your SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a tool used to assess an organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The purpose of using the SWOT tool is to uncover or reveal the organization's competitive advantages, and what opportunities (sales, profitability) to capitalize upon.

It's also used to articulate the challenges an organization has, enabling contingency plans.

An analysis of the organization's strengths and weaknesses is typically an internal examination process. It's typically based on a review of internal and external facts and assumptions about the organization and the marketplace in which it operates.

Having trouble starting out your SWOT analysis?

Consider exploring these key categories:

Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Marketing (company image, reputation, positioning, market share, growth)
  • Products and Services (price, quality,
  • Finances (stability, profitability, debt to equity ratio)
  • Operations (facilities, capacity, distribution channels, supply chain, costs, use of technology)
  • Organizational (leadership, accountability, commitment, engagement)
Opportunities and Threats
  • Demographic (customer trends - age, lifestyle, education, buying patterns)
  • Economic (economic growth rate, stability, inflation)
  • Political / Legal (government stability, controls and regulations, effects of terrorism)
  • Social (lifestyle trends, communications, ethnicity)
  • Cultural (values, ethics)
  • Environmental (sustainability, conservation)
  • Technological (pace and changes in technology)
  • Competition (industry leaders, number of competitors, fragmentation/consolidation)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Using SWOT During Times of Economic Uncertainty

Tough times require tough decisions.

During times of economic uncertainty, strategy refinement and execution need to become the top priority for business leaders.

How to start?

Begin by doing a SWOT Analysis. SWOT is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in your business.

The aim of any SWOT analysis is to identify the key internal and external factors that are important to achieving your strategy. SWOT analysis groups key pieces of information into two main categories:

Internal factors - The strengths and weaknesses internal to the organization. The internal factors may be viewed as strengths or weaknesses depending upon their impact on the organizations objectives. The factors may include all of the 4Ps (product, price, place, promotion) as well as personnel, finance, manufacturing capabilities, and so on.

External factors - The opportunities and threats presented by the external environment. The external factors may include the economy, technological change, legislation, and socio-cultural changes, as well as changes in your marketplace or competitive position.

BOTTOMLINE: While it's important to regularly conduct a SWOT analysis on your business, it's critical to revisit SWOT during times of economic uncertainty. In particular, it's essential that you focus on the internal factors that you can control; not the external factors you can't control. By focusing on internal factors, you'll be better able to unearth new opportunities for innovation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Closing The Alignment Gap Between Strategy and Operations

In their most recent study, Forbes Insights, in conjunction with SAP, surveyed executives to provide first-hand insights into how companies are managing alignment issues.

Key findings of their research:

  • Economic volatility has put companies under greater pressure to align strategy and operations. This alignment could be more important post-recovery as they ready their plans to capitalize on new market opportunities.
  • Changing market conditions that affect strategy and operational execution are the number one barrier companies face in aligning strategy and operations. Other top barriers cited by executives include: added pressure from the current economy on short-term costs versus longer-term return on investment (ROI); lack of availability of timely, accurate data; lack of effective communication of strategic goals to operational employees; and operational risks and opportunities that are not incorporated into overall corporate strategy.
  • Alignment gaps may also arise due to differences in strategic and operational goals. Asked about short- and longterm priorities, strategic functions focused on competitive differentiation, while operations is coming under increasing pressure to boost efficiency and manage costs.
  • There are concerns that employee recruitment, retention and training are not aligned with strategy, or that resources are not allocated properly to ensure that the workforce can achieve strategic goals.
  • Managing regulation and risk is another area of concern. Executives indicated that regulatory compliance issues frequently impact strategic execution. A failure to incorporate changes to risk models into strategic plans may further hamper alignment.

BOTTOMLINE: "Successful alignment requires companies to have a clear view of strategy and operations, the plans and the activities. Only with increased visibility can businesses identify the
barriers to alignment and close the gaps that may be keeping them from competing more effectively."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What We Can Learn From A 99 Year Old Basketball Coach

John Wooden turned 99 today.

I wanted to share this excerpt from the book Wooden on Leadership, written by legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.

Mr. Wooden's father gave him a card when he graduated from elementary school -- his father's "Seven Point Creed". Here is some great common sense advice.

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance, and give thanks for your blessings every day.

John Wooden, says that he tried to live up to this advice in his personal life, in his teaching and in his leadership responsibilities.

Pretty good advice - for the rest of us too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ten Rules of Employee Engagement

The Employee Factor offers The Ten Rules of Engagement:

Rule #1 - Employee Engagement is NOT an Initiative – It's a Way of Life.
Rule #2 – Leaders Must Show Goodwill Toward Others.
Rule #3 – Leaders Must “Know Their Employees”.
Rule #4 – Leaders Must Have the Tools to Foster Engagement.
Rule #5 – The Employee and Customer Experiences Must Be Mirror Images.
Rule #6 – Companies Must Market to Employees to Engage Them.
Rule #7 – Communication Builds Engagement.
Rule #8 – Deal with any “Bad Apples”.
Rule #9 – Engagement is More Than a “Pat on the Back”.
Rule #10 – Measure the Right Things and Then Act.

Feel free to click on the link to read each rule in more detail.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Importance of Time Tracking

If you want to improve performance, or likewise increase capacity or capability, you need to track the one thing that you'll never get back: time.

In order to improve effectiveness and efficiency, you must understand how your time is being used. With all of the technological advances over the past two decades, we're continually forced to do things "better, faster, cheaper." In other words, all of these advances have taught us how to be more efficient.

But - have any of these advances (spreadsheets, email, cell phones, IM, etc.) made us more effective?

The difference between the two?

  • Being efficient is essentially doing things right.
  • Being effective is essentially doing the right things.
It's not enough to just do things right - we also need to balance it with doing the right things, doing the right things based on their priority.

As Dr. Stephen Covey once said: "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

BOTTOMLINE: Take a good look at your calendar: Are you spending time on the most important things? Are you spending the appropriate amount of time on those activities that are the highest priority? How do you know?

If you're not tracking how you spend your time, how will you ever know?

The best way is to have an individual plan (we recommend quarterly) - of daily activities that you're responsible for, which support the organization's goals, initiatives and projects. Track your time against these projects daily, and review weekly. The goal is to spend the most time on the most important activities that get you closer to achieving the organization's goals..

Now, consider this: multiply this daily/weekly time-tracking activity times the number of people in your organization. You'll be amazed at how much more productivity and results you'll begin to see (or, very frustrated, by how much time is actually wasted on non-productive, non-essential activities...)

So.... if you're looking to improve your performance (or the performance of your organization) - how can you possibly improve, if you don't track your time!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Season of Inspiration - Part I

Fall is a time for reflection, not just about business, but about life.

About what is meaningful, vital and important.

About what is useful, what can be...

Take the time.... to watch the leaves.

Fall is.... a Season of Inspiration.

(Photo Credit: Thanks to Jeri ....for the Inspiration - and for 4 wonderful years!)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Six Disciplines Tampa Partners With Link To Expert

Link to Expert proudly announces that its Web portal offering professionals an exclusive, global destination for business collaborations, has partnered with Six Disciplines Tampa, a licensed team of coaches offering strategic advisory services.

The partnership will promote an expanded network reach for coaches, executives, and industry experts alike.

Six Disciplines operates a growing network of independently owned and operated professional business coaching organizations across the nation. The president of Six Disciplines Tampa, Sean Burke, has collaborated with Link to Expert to promote and uphold his company’s mission to support businesses in growing their ability to deal with an increasingly challenging business environment. He and his team combine systematic business-building methodology, practical Internet technologies, and strategy-execution services to help top-performing businesses tolearn, lead, and last.

"Six Disciplines is excited to partner with Link to Expert because the relationship extends our reach into a broader market of professional coaches and consultants,” said Burke, a certified Six Disciplines coach and strategic advisor. “The partnership will help us grow our network of certified coaches and will enable us to reach more companies who are looking for a solution to help them more consistently execute on all phases of their business."

Read the complete details of the partnership with Link To Expert here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How Management Consultants Can Establish a Strategy Execution Practice

Watch this slidecast by veteran CEO, Gary Harpst, on the opportunity that management consulting firms have for adding a strategy execution service to their practice.

Change Initiatives Directly Affect Employee Engagement

According to a recent global study by Right Management, 94% of employees who report that change was not handled well in their organizations - are disengaged.

Drawing from research of 28,000 employees in 15 countries, Right Management's key findings from the global study include:

  • Employee engagement is a key driver of organizational effectiveness and directly impacts productivity and profitability.
  • Best-performing organizations manage change nearly four times more effectively. In top-performing companies (defined as those achieving higher revenue and above-average customer loyalty profit results), 60% of employees responded that "change is handled effectively in my organization," compared to 16% of employees in below-average performing organizations.
  • Less than half (43%) of employees are confident in their organization's change process. One in three employees believes their organization does not handle change effectively.
  • The biggest downfall for senior leaders is the perception that they do not follow through on what they say they will do. Less than half (47%) agreed that senior leaders communicated change effectively; 54% of employees doubted senior leaders' ability to respond appropriately to changing external conditions.
  • Organizations that do not manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent. Twenty percent of employees who perceived change was not handled effectively indicated they planned to leave within one year versus only 5% of employees who held a favorable view. The latter planned to stay for at least five years.
  • Ineffective change management can lead to lower levels of job confidence. Of the employees who reported that change management was not handled well, 45% expressed favorable feelings about not losing their job within 12 months, while 32% did not. This is in stark contrast to organizations with effective change management, where 80% of respondents had positive feelings about keeping their job versus only 7% who did not.
  • Ineffective change management negatively impacts an organization's ability to attract talent. When employees reported that change was managed poorly in their organizations, 75% of respondents had concerns with their company's ability to attract talent.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

On Leadership and Training Others to be Leaders

During a recent podcast interview, Six Disciplines' CEO Gary Harpst was interviewed by Jim Blasingame (The Small Business Advocate) about one of the key traits of a true leader: the ability to train and encourage others to be leaders.

Listen to this podcast as they talk about how to make individual workers more responsible and to become “self leaders.”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Five Reasons Strategies Fail

In a recent survey of 163 CEOs by Forbes Insights in conjunction with the Association for Strategic Planning and the Council of Public Relations Firms, chief executives report that one-third of corporate strategies fail, and they fail for five reasons.

The five reasons why strategies fail are:

  1. Unforeseen external circumstances (24 percent).
  2. A lack of understanding among those involved in developing the strategy and what they need to do to make it successful (19 percent).
  3. The strategy itself is flawed (18 percent).
  4. There is a poor match between the strategy and the core competencies of the organization (16 percent).
  5. There is a lack of accountability or of holding the team responsible (13 percent).

The whitepaper, "The Powerful Convergence of Strategy, Leadership and Communications" can be downloaded here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Strategic Planning - 'Tis the Season (Already?)

The following article was written by Eric Kurjan, President of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to break beyond the status quo. For more information visit, or call 419-348-1897.


In an article earlier this year, I wrote about the fact that setting strategy is a year-round opportunity. The message being, don’t wait to take action. For those of you who waited it is definitely time to get moving. The end of the calendar and perhaps fiscal year is rapidly approaching and planning for next year needs to begin.

So what does an effective strategic planning process look like?

Strategic planning is actually the easy part of the two-part process for business success – strategy and execution. Let’s discuss a couple of key thoughts about strategic planning starting with; it needs to be a repeatable process. This process should be one that can be used continually, without changing major elements based on management whims or MBS (Management by Best Seller).

Here are the key steps in strategic planning:

1) Step Back – Take a look around. We need to look at where we have been before we can decide where we want to go. Companies rarely track performance against long-term plans: less than 15% of companies make it a regular practice to go back and compare the business’s results with the performance forecast for each unit in its prior years’ strategic plans according to the Harvard Business Review. So the Step Back process should include a consistent method for reviewing external factors (i.e., economic influences, competitive trends, governmental requirements…etc.) as well as internal factors (i.e., achievement of current year goals, key performance measures, stakeholder satisfaction surveys, completion of a SWOT analysis) plus a process to prioritize a long list of actions into a reasonable, achievable list. I recommend using what we call the 100-Point Exercise to boil down the list to the top items. The 100-Point Exercise allows each participant in the planning meeting to apply up to 100-points (I like increments of 20 points) to the items on the SWOT or brainstorming list they see as the most impactful on the business or organization in the coming year. Then you add up the scores for each item across all participants and the highest scoring items are the winners. It makes a big list manageable and something you can actually work on and complete versus trying to work on a list of 10 or 15 items which is virtually impossible to complete.

2) Decide What’s Important - The process must include a predictable, repeatable method for assessing your organization’s mission, shared values, vision, strategic position, and vital few objectives (a.k.a. goals). In this step we are setting or renewing the vision. Vision is the picture of “where” we want the organization to go in the next ten years. It is defining our destination. It is also the step that helps us determine “what” we need to do to get to that destination. These are referred to as our Vital Few Objectives (VFOs). It does not happen by accident, well it might, but then that would be an accident.

3) Set Goals that Lead - Also important is a process to determine and set goals that are measureable, allowing us a way to develop clear targets and deadlines. Nothing loosey-goosey here – hard numbers, revenue dollars, margin percentage, dates, units. Real goals have real outcomes by which we can measure our progress. Also, this is where we need to define the projects or initiatives that will help us get to our goals. If our Vision (where) is to have “regional geographic presence” and our VFO (what) is to “open five offices in the next five years” then our initiative/project is “how” to open the first “new office in 2010”. These initiatives are intended to change the trajectory of the business. We do many things to run the business but what do we need to do to change the business. These are the items that drive activities of “every person, every day.” Now that I know “Where”, “What” and “How” the next is “Who” will do the work.

4) Work the Plan – This is the execution phase of the strategic plan. And this is the biggest failure point for organizations. The execution phase is setting the stage for “who” will do the work. This is where we must assign the work that needs to be done to help the organization achieve the goals to arrive at the destination. Set real tasks with real deadlines and real outcomes.

To recap, strategic planning is not an annual event – it is an on-going process. While most organizations conduct strategic planning annually, that’s not enough. It needs to be revisited on a quarterly basis in order to measure progress, align resources and implement necessary adjustments. If you are not measuring, observing, and adjusting, the likelihood for success decreases rapidly. Just like driving a car on the highway, you need to pay attention to the key dashboard indicators and look out the windshield. You must continually adjust based on various internal and external inputs like the speedometer, the roadway, traffic, visibility, etc.

Let’s not forget, however, that strategic planning is only HALF of the equation. While the CEO and leadership team “own” the strategic plan and are accountable for it, they cannot be completely responsible for its proper execution. Even the most well-crafted strategy is subservient to superior execution. And, most successful business leaders agree, they’d rather have a “B” strategy and an “A” execution, than the other way around. In fact 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully according to a survey by the BSC Collaborative.

The tougher, more critical side of the strategy/execution equation is making it work - getting it done, measuring progress along the way, finding what doesn’t work early enough to make course corrections and aligning resources (people, technology, policies, processes, and measures) continually so that initiatives can support the vital few objectives (VFOs).

It’s the delicate balance of both strategic planning and execution that separates good organizations from great organizations.

In my next article, I’ll focus on this other half of the equation: Execution.