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Friday, May 29, 2009

Defining Your Strategic Position - Video

Watch CEO and best-selling author Gary Harpst as he walks you through Discipline I -Decide What's Important - Step I-C, Renew Strategic Position (from Six Disciplines for Excellence.)

Hints and tips for creating your organization's strategic position:

  1. Keep the description of the strategic position simple. When you grasp it, it’s usually straightforward to express: Dell’s “computers direct”; Southwest Airlines’ “short flights”; Krispy Kreme’s “freshest doughnuts”; and Federal Express’s “overnight delivery".
  2. Although a strategic position is not forever, it should last 10 years or more. It provides a consistency to the annual planning and keeps the organization out of a constant reaction mode to competitors who have a different strategic position.
  3. Remind yourself and your organization that investing in activities outside the strategic position makes it easier for competitors to catch up.
  4. Understand that operational efficiency is about improving the processes and activities you have that support this strategic position.
  5. As Michael Porter says, operational efficiency involves “constant change, flexibility and best practices,” but strategy, on the other hand, “demands discipline, continuity; its enemies are distraction and compromise.”

BOTTOMLINE: The strategic position should fit on one page and contain the following elements:

  • A short phrase that embodies the two main ideas: (what business you're in, and what differentiates your approach (e.g., "computers direct")
  • A paragraph that explains what the short phrase means
  • A bullet-pointed characteristics list of the target customer (geographics, age, income, occupation, industry, etc.—whatever it takes to clarify who’s being targeted)
  • 5-7 strategic themes that identify the broad focus/investment areas required to support the strategic position

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Biggest Challenge In Business - Isn't What You Think

Think about it for a minute....what is the biggest challenge in business?

Sure, you'll come up with a long laundry list of challenges: competitive pressures, growth and expansion, talent shortages, price sensitivity, margins, R&D, industry consolidation....and the list goes on forever...

Interestingly, these kinds of challenges are primarily external - and they change over time. Once a challenge has been addressed or solved, it's replaced by another challenge.

While daunting, none of these seemingly critical challenges are the biggest.

The biggest challenge? It's building an organization that can execute strategy, while overcoming the unending stream of daily surprises. The problems keep changing, but the need to have an organization equipped to solve the problems - never goes away.

To make it even more urgent, overcoming today’s challenges leads to growth - which makes tomorrow's challenges even more difficult. It's what we refer to as the "Execution Paradox": the better you execute, the bigger the challenges you'll face!

BOTTOMLINE: Building an organization that executes its strategy is the greatest core competence an organization can have -- and doing so is its greatest challenge. Building an organization that can plan, execute and address daily surprises is not easy.

Strategy development involves a few people, periodically, but execution involves every team member, every minute of every day. And the more employees that are involved, the more complicated it gets.

Is this the way it HAS to be?

After years of research and field testing, Six Disciplines has developed a complete strategy execution program to help you solve this biggest challenge in business. It helps your organization to get better - and stay better - with less stress and more fun. (and who doesn't want that??)

Four Key Aspects of Performance Management

According to a research project by consulting firm Watson Wyatt (as reported by Management-Issues) many organizations are being let down by their approach to employee performance management at just the point when they most need it to work for them.

According to the Watson Wyatt research, organizations often fall down on performance management by overlooking four key aspects:

  1. The capability of line managers to manage poor performance and have "difficult" conversations, which can be addressed through coaching and training.
  2. Employees' capability to set objectives, and provide and receive feedback, which can also be addressed through training.
  3. Ongoing communication to ensure undue emphasis is not inappropriately placed on objective setting and end-of-year reviews to ensure that performance management is seen as the "way we do things".
  4. Ensuring that performance management is placed in the context of overall business performance to provide employees with a "line of sight" and help them to understand how achieving their objectives help to deliver organizational success.

Solve The Right Problem And Everything Else Gets EASIER

As the leader of your organization, what would you be willing to pay... if you could:

  • Get everyone on the same page (vision, mission, values, plans, projects)
  • Find a more productive and effective way of working
  • Ensure accountable results (fewer excuses, fewer surprises)
  • Increase employee engagement, (enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty)
  • Get a stronger return on investment from your workforce
  • Grow an organization that becomes more predictable, consistent, balanced
  • Reduce your risk, and lower the volatility of the rhythm of your business
  • Increase the market value of your business

How can you do ALL of these things - at once? What would it be worth it to you - if you could?

ANSWER: By solving the one business problem that makes solving all other problems easier.

That's the driving concept behind Gary Harpst's best-selling book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution. If you haven't read it, why not? It's not a matter of if, but when!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Truth About Productivity

According to research published in Forbes Magazine:

"The real key to productivity--and thus performance--is not maximizing it at all costs. It is maintaining a level of consistency."

Haig Nalbantian, labor economist at Mercer HR Consulting found:

"It wasn't the companies with the highest productivity that were most profitable. It was those companies that consistently maintained their productivity that built the most value."

In other words, "great businesses can't crank through a job at record pace this month only to fall down on the next. Options traders may love volatility, but customers, vendors and shareholders decidedly do not."

Volatility is an indication of ability to manage (or mismanage). It is another way to view risk.

Higher productivity essentially acts like an intangible asset that carries significant market value.

Put another way, companies that maintain a decent level of productivity are rewarded more than those that hit higher highs but can't sustain them.

Says Nalbantian: "Companies get obsessed on reaching a level of productivity, when they should really be focusing on how they're going to sustain that level."

BOTTOMLINE: Consistency, predictability, a strong balance of strong strategy and strong execution - these are what produces the firms with the most value.

For more examples of how to increase value, read Chapter 11: Making Solving All Other Problems Easier" - from Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by best-selling author and strategy execution expert, Gary Harpst.

The Impact of Organizational Coaching

Executive coaching has become as accepted in Fortune 1000 busineses as sports coaching is on the athletic field.

What is the ROI of executive coaching?

  • Manchester Inc. reported that a survey of executives from large (mostly FORTUNE 1000) companies found that those who had participated in a coaching program characterized the ROI to be in the order of 6:1.
  • In other words, a coaching program that cost $15,000 for six months would translate into $90,000 in cost savings for the organization.
  • This research was cited by Fortune Magazine as representing strong confirmatory evidence supporting the effectiveness of executive coaching
The conundrum is this: executive coaching typically focuses on a thin layer of senior management. And while the ROI seems strong, what about the rest of the organization?

While I'm not suggesting that every employee be assigned an executive coach, a greater ROI can be achieved when "organizational coaching" is applied to unlock the potential of improved performance of every person in the organization.

I'm not referring to the fluffy stuff here. I'm talking about the kind of organizational coaching that provides much more impact on the ENTIRE organziation's ability to improve performance. These are the core competencies of learning, growing organizations:

  • formulating strategy
  • developing goals that can lead an organization
  • creating initiatives and projects that support the goals
  • assigning dates, deadlines, measures and accountability
  • developing activity plans and monitoring progress
  • cultivating innovation
  • learning how to continually improve performance
Executive coaching has much to offer. Organizational coaching, however, is where real change occurs, and where the return on investment is the greatest.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Be Excellent Blog - Now Available for the Amazon Kindle

The Be Excellent blog, with nearly 1,500 blog posts on forumulating strategy, planning, aligning resources, executing strategy, innovation, employee engagement, and organizational learning, is now available for the Amazon Kindle - for only $1.99/month.

Kindle Blogs are auto-delivered wirelessly to your Kindle and updated throughout the day so you can stay current.

It's risk free—all Kindle Blog subscriptions start with a 14-day free trial. You can cancel at any time during the free trial period. If you enjoy your subscription, do nothing and it will automatically continue at the regular monthly price.

Find out more about the Be Excellent blog for the Kindle here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Six Disciplines Client A to Z Meats - Family-Owned With A Big Future

A to Z Portion Control Meats, Inc. of Bluffton, Ohio, has a small family-owned company history and a big family-owned company future, in part, thanks to Six Disciplines.

Read about A to Z, and how they use the Six Disciplines strategy execution coaching program here.

"Musts" for High Performance Organizations

According to Susan M. Heathfield, Editor for's HR blog, Six Disciplines contracted with market research firm, Research for Action, to survey 314 businesses that employ 10-100 people to determine the factors that were most important in their success. They found five factors that stood out as most significant. In fact, they found that “high performing organizations scored at least 100% better on these five factors than their competitors.”

These were the top five success factors:

•The strength of the senior leadership team.
•The organization’s ability to attract and retain quality people.
•The organization's ability to adopt a disciplined approach to the business including working “on” the business to create plans and align the employees to execute the business plans.
•High performing companies made strategic use of technology.
•High performing companies developed relationships with trusted outside providers such as attorneys, finance and accounting professionals, and insurance professionals.

You can read the complete research findings in this white paper, Five Secrets of High Performing Organizations.

Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) offers a good post on Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce.

Key findings:

  • The workplace has always consisted of many generations working at one time.
  • A new twist: The older generation is working past retirement age (23 percent of Americans age 65 to 74 are still in the workforce)
  • This has led to many workplaces with a generation gap of more than 40 years between the oldest and youngest workers.
So how does a manager go about understanding the needs and priorities of each generation—from the younger Generations Y (age 27 and younger), Generation X (ages 27-35) to middle-aged Baby Boomers (age 35-60), to the older Silent Generation (60+)?

Here are NFIB's three tips on managing your age-diverse workforce:

  1. Work with the communication styles of each generation.
  2. Find out what motivates each generation.
  3. Bridge the generation gap.
BOTTOMLINE: While these three tips go a long way to working with multi-generations, a baseline of daily activity planning for ALL groups is required. Individual planning of activities, done on a quarterly basis with status updates conducted weekly ensure that all planned activities that support the organizations goals are aligned across the organization - REGARDLESS of assumptions about communcation styles, personal interests, and motivations. Only then will you be able to assess progress toward goals, and be able to make corrections before it's too late. Individual planning reduces surprises, and reduces risk - helping to make your business environment less volatile - during times of uncertainty.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Execution Economy

A while back, Rob May (formerly the BusinessPundit), referenced this piece at Bubble Generation, on one of our favorite topics: execution.

The premise?

  • He's not saying that strategy doesn't matter.
  • He is simply pointing out that in the past, good strategic planning could separate the great companies from the weak ones, but that everyone has been doing it so long that strategic thinking is a skill most successful companies already possess.
  • That makes it difficult to say that your competitive advantage is a better strategy.

Rob's take:

"Creativity certainly helps, and definitely matters in the current economy, but my experience has been that poor execution is the single biggest downfall of most companies."

"It is just hard to get everyone to say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they need to do. Speed of execution is more important, and distractions are more abundant, so as a result, execution is usually subpar."

Rob added: "I think lower barriers to entry, the commoditization of more things that once provided competitive advantage, and increased access to information are leading us into an execution economy where the winners will be the people that can get things done. I suspect that Michael Porter may be replaced by David Allen as the guru of the next decade."

BOTTOMLINE: Strategy is important (Porter), as is Execution/Getting Things Done (Allen). However, the Execution Revolution - the balance of both strategy AND execution (Harpst) - may be the most holistic approach to tie it all together.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eight Rules for Adapting To The New Normal

In their new book “Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence,” authors Philip Kotler and John A. Caslione establish a new framework for dealing with a prolonged period of economic change and uncertainty.

In the book, they offer a system of new strategic behaviors for dealing with the uncertainty that comes from turbulence’s chaos. Here are their eight new "rules" for adapting to the "New Age Of Normal."

Rule 1 - Keep recruiting. Focus on the bigger picture of long-term growth. Be careful about layoffs, because it’s expensive to re-hire and could be fatal if your best employees get scooped up by the competition.

Rule 2 - Keep training. During downturns, people need new and more advanced skills and knowledge. Use the downtime to increase education and to re-tool for the changing business scene.

Rule 3 - Keep talking. “Be honest with employees about difficult times,” they advise. Rumors are toxic. Nip them in the bud with candor.

Rule 4 - The CEO can’t do it alone. C-level executives and line managers need to be mobilized to meet with staff in small groups to interpret corporate strategy for the operational level and to stay focused on key tactical objectives.

Rule 5 - Nail down your core clients and markets. Focus on your main source of revenue. “Turbulence is not a good climate for venturing into new customer segments,” they say. “It’s time to secure the home front.”

Rule 6 - Push aggressively to win market share. Look at weakened competitors as a source of new business.

Rule 7 - Listen to clients and stakeholders. “Chaos has a way of changing everyone, including your core customers,” the authors say. “Their needs and wants are in flux.” Stay close. Redouble market research and customer satisfaction surveys. And try new advertising ideas. “You don’t want to find yourself relying on old marketing messages that no longer resonate.”

Rule 8 - Don’t cut business development. Maintain the marketing budget. Increase it if you can. “With the market being buffeted, your customers getting whipsawed, and your competitors making bold moves on your turf, turbulence is the worst time to cut anything in your marketing budget that targets your core customer segments. In fact, you need to add to it.” Shift money out of new customer segments if you need to.

(Hat tip to Rick Telberg, at CPATrendlines)

The Knowing vs. Doing Gap and The Need for Change

One of the most persistent challenges we face is to narrow the gap between knowing what needs to be done, and actually doing what needs to be done.

In fact, as business leaders, we collectively know quite a bit about what needs to be done. We've read the books, taken seminars, and listened to management gurus. We've even earned business in understanding what needs to be done.

Yet the challenge to somehow bridge this gap - continues...."

In order to bridge this gap between knowing and doing - we must change. And to do so, we must admit to ourselves that resistance to change is a definite part of the hurdle we continuously face as humans.

Change is hard - very hard. And in organizations, it's compounded by the collective numbers of team members, each with their own unique differences, their need to communicate and have meaning and purpose.

BOTTOMLINE: For an organization to achieve its potential, it's workforce must understand the purpose of the organization, where it's headed, and have an appreciation for the role everyone has in helping it to get there.

(Excerpts from Chapter 5, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by Gary Harpst)

Clarity - THE Key to Employee Engagement

As reported in Management-Issues, HR consulting firm Watson Wyatt confirms research that indicates clarity and communication are key to employee engagement.

Their findings:

  • Managers who can clearly communicate where their company is going and why everyone is doing what they are doing - are generally much more successful when it comes to engaging their staff.
  • Companies that provide their employees with a clear "line of sight" when it comes to vision and direction - tend to have a much more committed, engaged and productive workforce.
  • The most important driver for ensuring employee engagement was strategic direction, with other key drivers of engagement being: employer communication, the attention given to customer focus within the organization, and performance management. (Perhaps surprisingly, pay and other rewards came to the bottom of the list.)

BOTTOMLINE: "Business leaders who articulate the business strategy give employees a clear 'line of sight' to how they can best contribute to the performance of their company. But the benefit goes beyond this. It helps to build trust in the company and its management, and creates a positive environment where all employees have well-understood shared goals."

Six Steps To Accountability

Obtaining commitment — or getting buy in — from your team members on new goals, procedures or methods remains one of the greatest day-to-day challenges for most business leaders.

Brian Cole Miller's book Keeping Employees Accountable for Results: Quick Tips for Busy Managers addresses this challenge square in the face.

The book offers solid advice to managers on how they can help employees to meet organizational goals by committing to them.

Miller’s book takes a very practical approach to obtaining commitment from employees; its many short, readable chapters are organized into a framework of six basic processes for obtaining commitment and holding employees to account:

  1. Setting expectations
  2. Inviting commitment
  3. Measuring results
  4. Providing feedback
  5. Linking results to consequences
  6. Evaluating your own effectiveness

BOTTOMLINE: Getting commitment (not compliance) is the first step in driving new culture changes to take place. Individuals can learn to become more accountable by understanding expectations, buying into the changes, measuring results, offering feedback and understanding both rewards and consequences of behaviors and activities.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Is Strategy Execution So Hard?

Poor strategy execution is the #1 reason why businesses fail in today’s marketplace.

Poor execution of the strategy is often the culprit -not the strategy itself.

Four reasons why your strategy execution may not be working:

  1. Your strategy fails to recognize the limitations of your organization.
    Strategy execution makes huge demands on an organization’s capabilities and resources. While your organization can certainly transform its capabilities over time, there is a limit to how far and how fast. Recognizing what your organization can realistically deliver before crafting a new direction is essential to your business success.
  2. Your employees don’t know how the strategy applies to their daily activities.
    Most companies don’t communicate strategy broadly or effectively to their employees. If your employees don’t know how the strategy affects their everyday activities, they aren’t likely to execute your company's strategy effectively.
  3. Your organization’s business systems or processes can’t support the strategy. It’s difficult to implement a new strategy without changing the way the organization works. Does the workflow across your various departments and divisions support your intent? Can your systems and tools meet the demands of the new strategic vision? Pursuing a new strategy with old capabilities is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Your performance measures and rewards are not aligned with the strategy.
    Are you creating measurement tools that make employees feel good about their performance but don’t really measure the company’s key success factors. Measurement and rewards must tie back to the specific employee behaviors and results sought – behaviors that support your company’s strategic vision.

Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance

According to research conducted by the folks at strategy/execution specialists Marakon (as published by the Harvard Business Review), companies typically realize only about 60% of their strategies’ potential value because of defects and breakdowns in planning and execution.

By strictly following seven simple rules, you can get a lot more than that.

  1. Keep it simple, make it concrete. Avoid long, drawn-out descriptions of lofty goals and instead stick to clear language describing what your company will and won’t do. (Discipline I. Decide What's Important)
  2. Debate assumptions, not forecasts. Create cross-functional teams drawn from strategy, marketing, and finance to ensure the assumptions underlying your long-term plans reflect both the real economics of your company’s markets and its actual performance relative to competitors.
  3. Use a rigorous analytic framework. Ensure that the dialogue between the corporate center and the business units about market trends and assumptions is conducted within a rigorous framework, such as that of “profit pools.” (The Six Disciplines Methodology, as described in Six Disciplines for Excellence)
  4. Discuss resource deployments early. Create more realistic forecasts and more executable plans by discussing up front the level and timing of critical deployments. (Discipline III. Align Systems)
  5. Clearly identify priorities. Prioritize tactics so that employees have a clear sense of where to direct their efforts. (Discipline II. Set Goals That Lead)
  6. Continuously monitor performance. Track resource deployment and results against plan, using continuous feedback to reset assumptions and reallocate resources. (Discipline IV. Work The Plan)
  7. Reward and develop execution capabilities. Motivate and develop staff. (Discipline VI. Step Back)

BOTTOMLINE: Now, you understand a little more why the Six Disciplines strategy execution coaching program works for small and midsized businesses - while other business improvement approaches fall short.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Growth Ideas For Times of Economic Uncertainty

The normal reaction of businesses during times of economic uncertainty is to pull back, spend less, and wait things out. The contrarian view is to use this time wisely as a strategic planning platform for future growth.

Instead of adding fuel to the economic "death spiral," smart business leaders see this time as one of increased resolve, focus and determination.

Thinking about what opportunities to look into - for the next wave of economic growth? Don't wait - consider one or more of these now, and you'll be in a better position than your competitors:

  1. Introduce new products or services to current customers
  2. Cross-sell existing products or services to current customers
  3. Sell existing products or services to new markets/customers
  4. Eliminate low-growth/slow growth products and services from your portfolio
  5. Anticipate changing customer needs/wants (for the next wave)
  6. Track your competitor's reactions and activities
  7. License your product or service
  8. Franchise your product or service
  9. Set up strategic alliances or partnerships
  10. Globalize your product or service

BOTTOMLINE: With all the doom and gloom, use this time period wisely. Focus on the internal activities and results you can measure and have a impact upon. Continue to execute your strategic plan, and look for appropriate activities to "stop doing" (that don't negatively impact your strategic vision.) If activity begins to slow down, use the time to research new growth opportunities and options.

Six Drivers of Organizational Change

Scott Anthony, president of Innosight, an innovation consulting and investing company, summarized six drivers of organizational change at Harvard Business Online, based on a panel discussion he moderated with CEOs from Dow Corning, Eastman Kodak and Procter & Gamble.

The six common themes of successful organizational change:
  1. The need for a crisis or some kind of “burning platform” to motivate transformational change
  2. A clear vision and strategy … that allows room for iteration
  3. A recognition that transformation is a multi-year journey
  4. A need to put the customer or consumer in the center of the transformation equation
  5. The critical importance of demonstrating to skeptics that different actions can lead to different results
  6. The need to over-communicate to employees, customers, stakeholders, and shareholders

BOTTOMLINE: In order for change to successfully begin in an organization, there needs to be a need - a reason. After all, "if nothing changes, nothing changes" (which is the inverse of "different actions can lead to different results.") Even Einstein said "“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Once a sense of urgency has been established, a clear vision and strategy must be created and, if anything, over-communicated - particularly to all team members. If every person in the workforce understands the goals of the organization, plans their daily activities to support those goals, and continually aligns their actitivities and monitors results, it goes a long way to supporting continual improvement and change within an organization.

(Hat tip to George Ambler over at The Practice of Leadership)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Value Of Continuous Business Coaching

Research bolsters our belief in the value of coaching.

Talent management analysts Bersin & Associates discovered the important role coaching plays in a survey of 750 organizations and 55 executives. Bersin wanted to get a feel for the top business problems today, challenges related to talent in our companies, and processes used to recruit, retain and develop employees.

Their research reveals that performance management is one of the most important things organizations can do for employees, because when we are managing performance, the most effective thing we can do is coach.

Among the organizations surveyed, coaching ranks at the top of 22 processes which consistently drive the highest business impact.

The results of continuous coaching? Higher levels of engagement, leadership, flexibility and performance.

BOTTOMLINE: Read Chapter 8, Accountability Coaching, in the bestseller book Six Disciplines Execution Revolution by Gary Harpst, for a complete discussion on the value of continuous coaching.

Executive Coaching - Worth The Money?

A recent Wall Street Journal article invited readers to comment on "Executive Coaching - Worth The Money?"

Wow! This one has people's attention!

Our views about it here at Six Disciplines:

  • Executive coaching is a good first step, but it’s kind of like treating the symptom, not the real problem.
  • What perhaps makes more sense is to work on solving the one business problem, that if solved, makes all the other problems – easier.
  • By it’s very nature, executive coaching implies that it’s just for the executive (typically, just for the CEO)
  • While this may indeed be necessary, focusing only on the executive of a small business does little/nothing for the rest of the organization.
  • The rationale is if you coach the senior executive on their key responsibility (strategy formulation) – BUT, what about all the rest of the workforce that is charged with executing the strategy?
  • What is really needed is a comprehensive coaching program that helps the CEO and senior executive team (on issues they need to focus on, i.e., strategy formulation, goal setting, choosing vital few objectives) – the middle management (on issues they need to focus on, i.e., initiative and project management) – and the rest of the workforce (on issues they need to focus on, i.e. aligning their daily activities to work on projects and initiatives that support the goals and overall strategy of the company.
  • This kind of coaching builds accountability across the entire organization – not just at the executive level.
    The payback/ROI is much stronger if the entire organization is engaged in program like this (as opposed to only focusing on the CEO/executive)

BOTTOMLINE: Executive coaching is a good start. Don't forget about the benefits of coaching -- for the REST of the organization!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Excellence Is An Enduring Pursuit - It Requires An Enduring Approach

Is excellence important to you? Do you want it to be?

Although leaders vary in their definitions of excellence, and how best to achieve it, most agree that excellence is a never-ending pursuit and that whatever their challenges and opportunities are today, they will be different tomorrow.

Leaders often face these ten challenges:

  1. Communication—people lack clarity and direction, limiting innovation
  2. Accountability—measurements of and responsibility for results are insufficient
  3. Engagement—people don’t seem to care as much or aren’t sure of their role
  4. Alignment—activities aren’t connected with mission and strategy
  5. Direction—disconnect between planning, strategy and execution
  6. Transition—a desire to “pass the torch” successfully
  7. Control—things “feel” out of synch
  8. Frustration—excessive friction in daily work
  9. Risk Management—profit variability versus growth rate
  10. Consistency - not sticking with an ongoing method, persistence

Your challenge at the moment is a symptom of a deeper need to systematically increase your capability to address future challenges.

Since excellence is an enduring pursuit, it requires an enduring approach. A business excellence program is an organized approach to grow a leader’s ability to deal with an ever-changing—and increasingly challenging—business environment. The program needs to grow with the business and enable leaders (and all employees) to align their plans and activities to support the strategies and achieve its goals. Over time, the practice of activity alignment becomes a habit, increasing your ability to continually learn and improve performance.

BOTTOMLINE: An enduring business excellence program has four components: 1) a repeatable methodology to drive leadership; 2) external coaching for accountability; 3) a system to align the activities of every team member every day; and 4) a community of like-minded people to accelerate learning. Only when these four synergistic elements come together can leaders expect to see enduring change in themselves and in their organizations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review: Six Disciplines Execution Revolution

"I really enjoyed this book for the simple reason that it addresses an issue which could very well be the decisive factor for any organization in pursuit of success—an illusive target in today's chaotic environment.

The author, Gary Harpst, is right on target with his sub-title: "Solving the One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier." Let's identify that one business problem right up front—execution.

Much of this book is everyday common sense that we've been hearing for years. The author has re-framed basic knowledge that is anything but new to today's business leaders. His approach is appropriate because this priceless knowledge has also been avoided like the plague for just as long."

Read the entire book review here.
(Harry K. Jones is a professional speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc.)

Is Your Mission Statement a Secret?

In a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) in conjunction with titled "Taking the Pulse: Mission Statement" the researchers found that, while almost 84% of organizations asked have a mission statement in place, only 62% of those companies said that just half of their employees could repeat the company mission statement if asked.

In some organizations the memory loss is more acute: Two of 10 companies said that just 10% could echo their mission statement.

Alarming? You bet!

Yet, apparently, the problem isn't the result of a lack of effort or a bland mission.

A full two-thirds said their mission statement has been effectively communicated to all employees, and almost half the companies surveyed said their mission statement "inspires" employees to a high or very high extent. Still, 35% of polled companies feel that their mission statement influences their employees' behavior to a high or very high extent.

"To really get your mission statement message across, leaders need to overcommunicate and, whenever possible, build elements of their mission statement into other correspondence. Without constant reinforcement, companies shouldn't be surprised if employees can't remember what their mission statement says."

BOTTOMLINE: To have your workforce understand how their daliy activities support the mission of your organization, they MUST be aware of and understand your mission!

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Great Strategy Execution Formula

Ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.


SO-SO- EXECUTION = $10,000
GREAT EXECUTION = $1,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

(Thanks to Derek Sivers for the insight)

Execution and The Middle Manager

According to vice dean of Wharton's Executive Education, Thomas Colligan:

"Many companies are seeing significant turnover in middle management ranks, and with significant turnover, they don't have the ability to execute strategy. Top management can spend all their time creating strategy, but without someone there to implement it, where are you at the end of the day?"

From the Knowledge@Emory article article: "Caught in the Middle: Why Developing and Retaining Middle Managers Can Be So Challenging," here are the key findings:

  • Middle managers are essential in organizations, in part because they link senior management and the rest of the company. They are "the glue across upper and lower levels as well as horizontally with other departments."
  • According to a 2007 Accenture survey of middle managers around the world, 20% reported dissatisfaction with their current organization and that same percentage reported that they were looking for another job.
  • If middle managers are so valuable, why would they report dissatisfaction and leave their companies? A primary reason is lack of advancement opportunity.
  • While most organizations don't readily admit to neglecting middle managers, it can happen because senior managers tend to be so consumed with strategy, particularly in today's rapidly changing markets.

Given the high cost of turnover and the importance of middle managers in executing strategy and change, how do you "do the right things" to help those people move up?

  • Individual plans that are connected to corporate goals, and access to educational opportunities can play a big role in increasing retention rates.
  • Another solution gaining popularity today is coaching: "You don't think you need a coach? Tiger Woods has three."They are mostly used for top managers, but you are starting to see them used for middle managers as well.
  • Participation can also be key in reducing turnover. "Really involving middle managers and allowing them to participate in a change decision, design and implementation will lead them to have more buy-in and ownership so when they have more accountability."
  • Communication is a key element for finding ways to engage midlevel managers in understanding a company's new strategic initiatives -- "helping people at the middle understand in more tangible terms what they need to do. This may include more concrete objectives, examples and messages so that people who interface with customers or run processes understand where the company is and what it needs to do differently."

Team Leaders - The Key to Employee Engagement

A recent global workforce study of 90,000 employees in 19 countries conducted by global professional services firm Towers Perrin reveal that it is the manager (team leader) who is the greatest catalyst for exceptional employee performance.

The evidence of managerial influence is clear:

  • Only 21% of the employees surveyed around the world are engaged in their work, meaning they're willing to go the extra mile to help their companies succeed.
  • Some 38% of employees are partly to fully "disengaged."
  • Firms with the highest percentage of engaged employees collectively increased operating income 19% and earnings per share 28% year over year.
  • Companies with the lowest percentage of engaged employees showed year-over-year declines of 33% in operating income and 11 percent in earnings per share.
BOTTOMLINE: The challenge for businesses is clear: To get and maintain a competitive edge, organizations must not only attract customers, they must attract and engage the most talented employees. Moreover, it is the quality of the relationship between managers (team leaders) and direct reports (team members) that defines an employee's level of engagement

People don't leave organizations; they leave poor managers. The quality of team leader-team member relationships depends on the quality of the management best practices each team leader uses. Effective team leaders:

  • Clearly articulate, measure and monitor job expectations
  • Uses fair, and regularly scheduled (1:1 status meetings) for measuring progress and performance
  • Uses both motivational and inspirational best practices for performance-related behavioral change
  • Uses multiple methods for communicating change, accountability, expectations and consequences

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What Do High-Performing Companies Track?

Want to be a high-performing company? Then track your talent. A new study on HR metrics by i4cp shows that higher-performing companies are more apt to measure talent-related metrics than lower performers. Common talent-related metrics include movement within the organization, quality of hires, quality of promotions and the cost of training/development.

Key findings:

  • 93% of higher performers measure employee engagement, compared with 79% of lower performers. In this economy in particular, engaging the workforce is of paramount importance.
  • 93% of higher performers utilize employee engagement surveys, compared with 78% of lower performers.
  • 90% of high performers report the use of satisfaction surveys for such measures, compared with 68% of lower performers.

The study - commissioned internally by i4cp - also found several other significant traits for high-performing organizations. For example:

  • 71% of higher performers measure compliance or completion of diversity plans (52% in lower-performing companies)
  • 61% of higher performers, compared with 39% of lower performers, consider employee referral rates.
  • 78% of lower-performing organizations measure total labor cost to cost revenue percentage, compared with 55% of high-performing organizations.

BOTTOMLINE: "The contrast is striking - it most likely reflects the attitude that low-performing organizations see their employees a mere expense and not a source of competitive advantage."

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Importance of Time Tracking - Part II

In this Harvard Business Publishing report, "Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?" we're again reminded how important time tracking is to productivity, and ultimately, to executing strategy.

Key insights:

  • Though most managers understand that time is their scarcest resource, few make the effort to gain a strategic perspective on how they spend their hours each week.
  • Still fewer make a regular practice of keeping track of how the priorities they say are most important align with the way they actually spend their time.


  1. Break your responsibilities into categories - both strategic and tactical—identify not more than six.
  2. Ask yourself what percentage of your time you should be spending in each category. To answer, factor in the competing claims on your time: the activities that enable you to generate the most leverage, the company’s strategic priorities, and the short-term needs of your supervisors, direct reports, and customers.
  3. Check for alignment with your manager. Check with your manager and key colleagues; ask them to share their time allocations, if possible. Sharing time allocations with a team gives a group focus and cohesion.
  4. Audit your time. Take out last week’s calendar, and evaluate it using your newly established time allocations for each category. This will give you a sense of how much adjustment will be necessary going forward. Record how you spend your time in a time-management log—for many, this very discipline is half the battle.

BOTTOMLINE: Now that you have a plan for leveraging your time, "all you need to do" is be ruthless in your execution of it. (Which of course, takes discipline...)

Five Keys To High Performance Organizations

According to research firm Gartner, high performing organizations (HPOs) share five characteristics:

  1. They set ambitious targets and consistently and continuously achieve those objectives.
  2. They display a strong sense of purpose through shared values both inside (among employees) and outside the organization (among customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders).
  3. They have a strategic focus and alignment so that employees know how they are contributing to the results of the organization.
  4. They have the agility to adapt to changing circumstances quickly.
  5. And, finally, they have a common and shared business model throughout the organization.
BOTTOMLINE: Emulating these organizations requires a focus on performance management. The journey toward becoming a high-performance organization is never-ending, and it's full of pitfalls and detours. Still, every step along the way is worthwhile because it improves the company in some manner. For the HPO, the journey is the destination.