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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Questions to Address In Planning Retreats

In this Strategy+Business article, "Sharpening Your Business Acumen," the authors offer a six-step guide for incorporating external and internal trends into your strategy planning retreats.

They suggest the high-level questions to address include:

  1. What is happening in the world today?
  2. What does it mean for others?
  3. What does it mean for us?
  4. What would have to happen first (for the results we want to occur)?
  5. What do we have to do to play a role?
  6. What do we do next?
BOTTOMLINE: In Six Disciplines for Excellence, Discipline VI. Step Back, includes Step VI-A, Review Externals. It is one of the key steps used as input to updating your organization's mission, vision, values and strategic position.

All Six Disciplines clients go through this exercise as part of an initial planning retreat. Here are some client observations about the Six Disciplines unique approach to planning retreats:

"Retreats have generally been very frustrating in order to really come to consensus and agreement. Other times we’ve gone through this process even with board members and others, you come out trying to get a mission statement crafted or whatever and it is a year-long process. However, with Six Disciplines, we got more done in those three days than in any planning retreat I’ve ever been involved in." (Patrick Fitzgerald, WBGU)

"Before we went into this, we were lacking things like goal-setting and strategic planning...the retreat helped us to come together with some real ideas cross-departmentally of what we need to be working on. (Karl Hemminger, Findlay Publishing)

"When we went through the retreat process and brought our Six Disciplines plan back and shared it with our board, there was absolute unanimous support around that table: “You guys have done a great thing here." (Doug Peters, GreaterFindlay, Inc.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Small Business Advantages for Innovation

Intuit and Emergent Research recently released a research brief on small business innovation.

A key finding of the research is that small businesses have six inherent attributes that make them natural innovators. These include:

  • Personal passion: Personally invested, most small business owners are willing to try new approaches to make their business more successful.
  • Customer connection: A deep and direct relationship with the market and customers helps small businesses understand customer needs, identify new opportunities, and fix problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Agility and adaptation: Unlike large corporations, small businesses can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and implement new business practices.
  • Experimentation and improvisation: When pursuing new opportunities, many small business owners and managers aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise, accepting failure as part of the path to success.
  • Resource limitations: Small businesses are adept at doing more with less. And these resource constraints lend to their innovative mindset.
  • Information sharing and collaboration: Small businesses traditionally rely on strong social networks to share information and inspire innovative thinking. Online social networks extend and amplify this practice.

The entire report and related materials are available at

(Hat tip to Steve King, who published this post on the AppGap)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seek Perfection But Settle For Excellence

Congratulations to the University of Findlay's men's basketball team - 2009 NCAA Division II National Champions.

A perfect season (36-0) - culminating is a National Championship.

It doesn't get any better than this.

Want an even better story of leadership about game winner Tyler Evans? Read "University of Findlay basketball player a class act."

If that story doesn't get to you, check your pulse!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Management Tools for 2009

Over the past three decades, management tools have become a common part of executives' lives. Whether trying to increase revenues, innovate, improve quality, increase efficiencies or plan for the future, executives have looked for tools to help them. The current environment of globalization and economic turbulence has increased the challenges executives face and, therefore, the need to find the right tools to meet these challenges.

To help inform managers about the tools available to them, in 1993 Bain & Company launched a multiyear research project to gather facts about the use and performance of management tools.

Every year or two since, Bain conducted research to identify 25 of the most popular and pertinent management tools. Their efforts to understand the continually evolving management tools landscape have led them to add five tools to this year's guide:

  • Decision Rights Tools
  • Downsizing
  • Online Communities
  • Price Optimization Tools
  • Voice of the Customer Innovation.

Three of these tools are relatively new and two, Downsizing and Price Optimization Tools, may be increasingly relevant to managers in the current economic environment.

Download the PDF of the Management Tools 2009 Guide from Bain - here.

Why Is Strategy Execution So Hard - Part II

Effective execution of strategy seems to be an elusive goal. As Fortune Magazine noted in 1982, "Less than 10% of strategies effectively formulated are effectively executed."

After two decades of the application of modern business principles, the problem remained. Fortune again noted in 1999, "In the majority of cases - we estimate 70% - the real problem isn't bad strategy -- it's bad execution."

Consider these alarming research findings:

  • 90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. [1]
  • 85% of leadership teams spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy.[2]
  • Only 27% of a typical company’s employees have access to its strategic plan. [3]
  • Only 5% of employees understand their corporate strategy.[4]
  • 92% of organizations do not measure performance indicators.[5]
  • 75% of business improvement (change) initiatives to solve these problems fail due to lack of sustainability. [6]

BOTTOMLINE: So…what is the solution? Six Disciplines is the first complete strategy execution program for small and midsized businesses that focuses on the four required elements of a sustainable business excellence.

In his first book, Six Disciplines for Excellence author and CEO Gary Harpst describes the fundamental disciplines that organizations must learn in order to balance strategy and execution. In Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, Harpst's unveils the reasons why execution is much tougher than strategy, and presents a complete formula for attacking this biggest challenge in business.

Cited Sources:
[1] (R. Kaplan and D. Norton, Harvard Business School Press, The Strategy-Focused Organization, 2001)
[2] (R. Kaplan and D. Norton, Harvard Business School Press, The Strategy-Focused Organization, 2001)
[3] (Strategy & Leadership Journal, May/June 1999)
[4] (Renaissance Solutions Survey, 1996)
[5] (Renaissance Solutions Survey, 1996)
[6] (J. Kotter, Leading Change, 1996)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Spot the "Uncoachables"

In this Harvard Business Publishing article "How To Spot The Uncoachables" renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith offers his insight on which business leaders are - and are not - coachable:

  1. She doesn't think she has a problem.
  2. He is pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.
  3. They're in the wrong job.
  4. They think everyone else is the problem.

BOTTOMLINE: Marshall's take? "Save time, skip the heroic measures, and move on. These are arguments you can't ever win."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

COSE To Co-Sponsor Economic Acceleration Tour in Cleveland

COSE, one of Ohio's largest small business support organizations, with 17,000 member companies, is co-sponsoring the "Economic Acceleration" presentation by CEO and best-selling author, Gary Harpst.

For full details, agenda and registration information, visit:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Excellence of Execution Is Again The Top Challenge of CEOs

According to a November 2008 study by The Conference Board, (as published in The AICPA Journal of Accountancy), when asked to rank their greatest challenge from a list of 94 challenges, the sample of CEOs chose "excellence of execution" as their top challenge - for the second year in a row.

Other findings:

  • 46.7% of survey participants—up from roughly half that (24.5%) in a summer survey of the same CEOs—were most concerned about speed, flexibility and the ability to adapt to change.
  • There were no people-management issues in the top 10 of the year-end survey

Monday, March 16, 2009

Economic Acceleration Tour Comes To Louisville

CEO and best-selling author Gary Harpst will continue his 50-city speaking tour “Economic Acceleration: Breaking The 3% Speed Limit,” in Louisville, Kentucky on April 15, 2009 at the Marriott East in Louisville, from 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

The event is sponsored by ENTERPRISECORP, the enterprise development arm of Greater Louisville Inc., The Metro Chamber of Commerce.

“Louisville currently ranks 42nd in the nation among large metropolitan areas for its number of "high-impact" companies, those that produce both significant revenue growth and expanding employment,” said Harpst. “Yet only 3 percent (2.09 percent) or 1,251 out of Louisville’s 59,745 businesses are considered to be high-impact. Why does it have to be less than only 3 percent? And perhaps more importantly, what are we going to do about accelerating growth for the other 97 percent of businesses here in Louisville? That’s specifically what I’ll be revealing during the Economic Acceleration event on April 15th.”

About ENTERPRISECORP (sponsor of the event)

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. Contact David Oetken at

Four Fatal Flaws of Strategic Planning

Ed Barrows recently published an article on entitled "Four Fatal Flaws of Strategic Planning."

Here are four fatal flaws that consistently creep into strategic planning processes that, if avoided, can significantly improve both the process and the results.

  1. Skipping Rigorous Analysis
  2. Believing Strategy Can Be Built in a Day
  3. Failing to Link Strategic Planning with Strategic Execution
  4. Dodging Strategy Review Meetings

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CEO and Best-Selling Author Gary Harpst Sets April Speaking Schedule

After successful visits to Columbus, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, (as well as Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville in mid-March,) veteran CEO and best-selling author Gary Harpst will be continuing his 50-city speaking tour “Economic Acceleration: Breaking the 3% Speed Limit” in North Carolina, Southern Ohio and Kentucky in April.

To review the agenda and to register for these events, visit:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Exclusive Worldwide Webcast - March 26

As an exclusive event for all Be Excellent readers, CEO and best-selling author Gary Harpst will continue his 50-city speaking tour with a special worldwide webcast of his presentation “Economic Acceleration: Breaking The 3% Speed Limit”, sponsored by Six Disciplines, on March 26, 2009, from 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm Eastern Time.

Register here for this exclusive webcast.

The content of the webcast comes from Harpst’s newest book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution: Solving the One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier, which has been named a nationwide bestseller by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and BusinessWeek. The book details the elements of a complete strategy execution program, clarifies why it could only have happened now, and explains why such a program will soon become a mainstream requirement for all successful businesses in the future.

Register here for this exclusive webcast.

CEO and Strategy Execution Expert Gary Harpst To Speak in Raleigh

Veteran CEO and best-selling business author Gary Harpst will continue his 50-city speaking tour in Raleigh, NC on April 1, 2009 at the Brier Creek Country Club from 7:00 - 9:30 AM.

The event is being hosted by Business Clubs America-Triangle Chapter, Brier Creek Country Club, Six Disciplines North Carolina, and Gary Tomlinson of Tomlinson & Associates.

Cost is $25.00 for members and invited guests; $30.00 for non-members.

TO REGISTER, call 919-206-4600.


What is the biggest problem facing your business today? Is it the economy? Is it cash flow? Is it the competition? Is it strategy? Is it execution? Regardless of your answer, Gary Harpst believes what most business leaders think their greatest challenge is, isn’t. And, whatever their problems are today, they’ll be different tomorrow and they will be bigger too. Gary believes there is one business problem that if solved, will make solving all other problems easier.

On April 1, Gary will share his belief that excellence requires on-going balance between strategy and execution. Of the two, execution is far more difficult to achieve, but it is impossible without solid strategy. Join us on April 1 and hear Gary’s presentation about a next-generation approach to building organizations that learn to execute strategy in a fundamentally new way. It’s a message of hope!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Best Practices for Employee Performance Management

Bersin & Associates conducts dozens of meaningful research projects each year, specifically in the areas of organizational learning and workforce management.

Here's their Top 22 Best Practices for Talent Management" - a list of 22 talent management processes that drive highest business impact.

Of particular interest are those with the Performance Management tag:

#1. Coaching programs for employees
#6. Cascading goals - aligning individual goals with corporate goals
#7. Creating consistent plans across the entire organization
#8. Establishing clear and measurable goals for all employees
#12. Assessing performance (appraisal and evaluation)
#15. Performance-based compensation

Building Engagement in This Economic Crisis

Solid advice here from Jennifer Robinson with the Gallup Management Journal on "Building Engagement in This Economic Crisis."

Includes reference to one of Gallup's most significant management tool ever published: "The 12 Elements of Great Managing."

Also listed are six tips that can help managers keep employees focused and engaged in times of change:

  1. Tell employees what you expect from them
  2. Make sure employees have the right materials and equipment
  3. Give people the opportunity to do what they do best
  4. Don't forget to give recognition or praise
  5. Let your employees know you care about them
  6. Keep encouraging their development

Keeping Up with Workforce 2020

Strategy+Business recently published a thought-provoking article by Daniel Rasmus, "Keeping Up with Workforce 2020", in which he asserts:

"...success in the next decade will depend on how well they implement information technologies that transform when and how people do their jobs."

Daniel's key premise:

  • By 2020, innovative competitors — and inevitable gains in remote, mobile, and virtual devices — will make it impossible for most companies to deny that information technology is profoundly reshaping the workplace.
Rasmus established a number of likely scenarios that depict the workforce of 2020 and the strategic implications for employers looking not just to stay ahead of the curve but to shape it to their competitive advantage.

Insightful reading at the jump.

When Goal Setting Goes Bad

Harvard Business professor Max H. Bazerman and colleagues explored the hidden cost when stretch goals are misguided in the HBS article "When Goal Setting Goes Bad".

Key findings:

  • Used wisely, goals can inspire employees and improve performance.
  • But goal setting must be prescribed in doses, not as a standard remedy to increase productivity.
  • When employees care exclusively about reaching a goal, and bad things can happen if they fail, cheating goes up.
  • Goals are appropriate when you know exactly what behaviors you want, you aren't concerned about secondary behaviors, and unethical behavior is not a big risk.

Full working paper, "Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting" can be downloaded here.