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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Is Half Over - How To Improve Your Strategic Planning Process

Hard to believe - but 2009 is now half over, which means it's time to assess how your organization faired so far.

The most important thing to do is step back and improve your strategic planning process.

Even top performing companies undertake a time-consuming strategic planning process that unfortunately leaves many executives frustrated with the results.

This sense of disappointment was captured in a recent McKinsey quarterly survey of nearly 800 top executives:

  • Only 45 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the strategic-planning process
  • Moreover, only 23 percent indicated that major strategic decisions were made during the process.

The operative question for organizational leadership is: "how can you make your strategic planning process more effective?"

Here are five ideas you can use to make make your strategic planning processes run better.

  1. Start with the issues - conduct internal and external reviews and a SWOT analysis
  2. Bring together the right people - involve the most relevant people in the organization, and consider involving external resources for new insights
  3. Adapt planning cycles to the needs of the business - separate the strategic formulation process from the business planning process
  4. Implement a strategic-performance-management system - that assigns accountability for results of initiatives and projects established to meet company goals.
  5. Integrate human-resources systems into the strategic plan - include performance appraisal, 360 feedback surveys and incentive pay based on performance results

Linking Strategy And Execution - A Parallel Universe?

In their book "The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage" (Harvard Business School Press), Harvard professors Dr. Robert S. Kaplan and Dr. David P. Norton (creators of the balanced scorecard) offer their lastest insights concerning the "rules" of successful strategy execution.

  • The failure to balance the tensions between strategy and operations is pervasive.
  • Breakdowns in a company’s management system, not managers’ lack of ability or effort, are what cause a company’s underperformance.
  • By management system, they're referring to the integrated set of processes and tools that a company uses to develop its strategy, translate it into operational actions, and monitor and improve the effectiveness of both.
  • By creating a closed-loop management system, companies can avoid such shortfalls.

Interestingly, Kaplan and Norton's description of such a closed-loop management system closely parallels the detailed steps of the Six Disciplines Methodology, (which are revealed in the award-winning business improvement book "Six Disciplines for Excellence," as indicated below:

  • The loop comprises five stages, beginning with strategy development, which involves applying tools, processes, and concepts such as mission, vision, and value statements; SWOT analysis; shareholder value management; competitive positioning; and core competencies to formulate a strategy statement. (Discipline I)
  • That statement is then translated into specific objectives and initiatives, using other tools and processes, including strategy maps and balanced scorecards. (Disciplines II and III)
  • Strategy implementation, in turn, links strategy to operations with a third set of tools and processes, including quality and process management, reengineering, process dashboards, rolling forecasts, activity-based costing, resource capacity planning, and dynamic budgeting. (Discipline IV)
  • As implementation progresses, managers continually review internal operational data and external data on competitors and the business environment. Finally, managers periodically assess the strategy, updating it when they learn that the assumptions underlying it are obsolete or faulty. (Discipline VI)

BOTTOMLINE: While Kaplan and Norton's observations and recommendations specifically target much larger enterprises, Six Disciplines is the first complete strategy execution coaching program that is optimized for small and midsized businesses.

The Power of External Accountability Coaching

Let’s consider what accountability is, and how we can build an organizational culture that encourages it.

Be definition, accountability is being answerable or responsible for something. Accountability opens the door to ownership – not necessarily financial ownership -- but certainly emotional ownership, where someone acknowledges they’re responsible for some aspect of the organization.

Accountability is not something you “make” people do. It has to be chosen, accepted or agreed upon by people within your organization. People must “buy into” being accountable and responsible. For many, this is a new, unfamiliar, and sometimes, uncomfortable way to work. Most importantly: individual purpose and meaning comes from accepting responsibility and learning to be accountable.

To learn to be accountable means coming to grips with an element of discipline. Accountability is the opposite of permissiveness. Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they are more responsible. When they become more responsible, they can have more freedom. When they are more accountable, they understand their purpose and role within the organization and are committed to making things happen.

BOTTOMLINE: How can your organization become more accountable for its actions? Consider an external accountability coach, such as those who are certified to coach the Six Disciplines strategy execution program. Building organizational accountability requires not only a systematic method based on proven best-practices; it also requires technologies that make the framework practical to use and implement on a daily, weekly, monthly quarterly and annual basis. In addition, it takes an external accountability coach to hold you and your organization accountable and to help these cultural changes to “stick” – and to make the changes last. Find out more about how the Six Disciplines program works here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Simplicity of Strategy Leads To Action

Authors Dan and Chip Heath (Made To Stick) offer a FastCompany article titled "Analysis of Paralysis," in which they assert:

"If your strategy doesn't help employees act, it's not a strategy. You don't need to embrace simplicity just so your people can comprehend your message. The point of simplicity is more fundamental: Simplicity allows people to act."

Their observation?

Decision paralysis is the culprit. Every business must choose among attractive options: growing revenue versus maximizing profitability, quality versus speed to market. Too many choices leads to confusion, overload, paralysis. Too many choices debilitates an organization.

The solution?

BOTTOMLINE: Simplicity. A simple strategy can resolve decision paralysis. Or at least, it needs to be expressed and communicated simply. The simpler, the better, so that all employees can understand and embrace the strategy. Start with your organization's mission and vision. Then move on to your shared values and strategic position. Without simplicity, your employees will not understand the strategy well enough to align their daily activities toward executing it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Impact of Business Coaching

The International Coach Federation recently surveyed 210 coaching clients for demographic data and feedback /opinions about the value and use of business coaching. The survey was conducted by Amy Watson, Principal, PROfusion Public Relations, with survey design assistance by Jackie Rieves Watson, Ph.D., professor of Management and Statistics, Amber University.

Some of the more interesting survey findings:

Main role of the business coach:

  • 84.8 % sounding board
  • 78.1% motivator
  • 56.7% friend
  • 50.5% mentor
  • 46.7% business consultant
  • 41% teacher

Typical issues encountered during coaching:

  • 84.5 % time management
  • 74.3% career guidance
  • 73.8% business advice
  • 58.6% relationship / family issues
  • 51.9% physical / wellness issues
  • 45.2% personal issues
  • 39.5% goal-setting
  • 38.1% financial guidance
  • 11% creativity

Outcomes attributed to coaching:

  • 67.6% higher level of self-awareness
  • 62.4% smarter goal-setting
  • 60.5% more balanced life
  • 57.1% lower stress levels
  • 52.9% self-discovery
  • 52.4% more self-confidence
  • 43.3% improvement in quality of life
  • 39.5% enhanced communication skills
  • 35.7% project completion
  • 33.8% health or fitness improvement
  • 33.3% better relationship with staff
  • 33.3% better family relationships
  • 31.9% increased energy
  • 31.9% more fun
  • 25.7% more income
  • 25.7% stopped a bad habit
  • 24.3% change in career
  • 22.9% more free time

(Hat tip to Laseter Business Coaching)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CEO Fatigue and What You Can Do About It

“Well, Doc how bad is it?” asked Bob Bizibee, ABC Company’s CEO. “I’ve seen this before with other CEOs like you,” said Dr. Foster. “It starts out as a small rash, but before you know it, you’re not sleeping at night, you’re kicking the dog, and you’re yelling at your neighbors for looking at your grass.” “Hey I‘ve been busy, and the grass isn’t more than two feet tall,” screams Bob. “Bob,” said Dr. Foster, “I’m afraid you have NPNR - No Plan, No Results.” “Yep, Doc, that’s it – you nailed it,” said Bob.

Do you have NPNR? Do these symptoms fit you?”

  • Crazy-busy – yet, you don’t exactly know where your time actually goes
  • Overwhelmed - by the day-to-day tasks of running your company – but, you’re not spending enough time on building your organization
  • Frustrated - by unfinished projects and the lack of consistent results
  • Drained - by the energy it takes to make all the decisions – and want to delegate more
  • Disappointed - that your team doesn’t have the same passion for your vision
  • Exhausted - because you’re working too much, and playing too little

If misery loves company, then you’re in “good” company. Many CEOs just like you are fatigued from the pressures of managing the business during these tough times.

How do you know you might be suffering from NPNR?

Take the following quiz (4=strongly agree, 3=agree, 2=disagree, 1=strongly disagree)

  1. I don’t have time to work on what’s really important.
  2. We have a strategy, but no clear plan for executing it.
  3. We can’t seem to follow a consistent plan from year to year.
  4. We have great planning meetings, but lose all momentum within days or weeks following them.
  5. We have employees who waste a lot of time on non-essential activities.
  6. We don’t have a good way to know if we’re improving, getting worse or staying the same.
  7. We seem to know what to do, but we just don’t seem to get it done.
  8. We seem to make the same mistakes over and over again.
  9. We don’t have an easy or consistent way to do meaningful employee reviews.
  10. We don’t have a clear plan for leadership succession.

(If you scored over 25, stop what you’re doing and seek out professional business coaching help.)

Let’s face it – being the CEO (or president, or owner, or whatever title/role you have) – is a lonely job. And yes, the challenges of being the CEO are enormous – but, there’s good news: there IS a systematic approach to handle these ongoing pressures.

What if I were to suggest that there was a way for you and your organization to:

  • Get better (by “get better” – you can use whatever definition makes sense to you –revenue, profit, productivity, utilization, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction)
  • More importantly – stay better
  • And do all this - with less stress and more fun?

What does it take?

  1. The ability to accept and embrace change. Face reality. If you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, as the old saying goes: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”
  2. The ability to delegate. A big part of being a leader is to learn to trust your team. Be clear about your vision, provide direction and support, measure their progress - and let them do their job.
  3. The ability to spend time ON your business. Creating a culture of ownership and accountability within your business and making sure that systems and processes are in place so you can spend more time working “ON” the business – not just “IN” the business. Set a realistic plan in place and live up to the plan

BOTTOMLINE: Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing what, how, and why, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. In its most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it. Most companies and their leaders don’t face reality very well. That is the basic reason they can't execute. However, set a plan, communicate the plan, follow the plan and the business improves. (By the way, that rash will go away too....)

(Eric Kurjan is the President of Six Disciplines Northwest Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking break beyond the status quo. For more information visit, or call 419-348-1897.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Problems With Your Organization's Strategic Plan?

Need a sanity check on your strategic planning process?

Consider the following:
  1. Does your process produce a plan that's "real?"
  2. Is your plan "strategic?"
  3. Do you have adequate external focus?
  4. Do upi make sufficient use of outsiders?
  5. Does your plan really work for the organization?
  6. Is your plan actionable?
  7. Is anybody doing anything?
  8. Are you getting lost in executing tactics, but missing the big picture?
BOTTOMLINE: If your strategic planning process isn't producing the results you expect, it's time to contact Six Disciplines.

The senior leadership team of every one of our clients goes through an intensive strategic planning retreat - based on Discipline VI -Step Back, Discipline I - Decide What's Important, and Discipline II - Set Goals That Lead. We're so confident in our proven best-practices methodology, the 3-day strategic planning retreat comes with a 100% money-back guarantee (Watch Part III: How Can You Evaluate Six Disciplines?)

The result? Ninety-eight percent of our clients remark that this planning retreat is the most intense and valuable strategic planning process in which they've ever participated. Oh, that same 98%? They become fully engaged Six Disciplines clients.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Payoff of Company-Wide Performance Management

In an exclusive report from BusinessWeek Research Services entitled "The Payoff of Pervasive Performance Management,"researchers found:

  • Two-thirds of senior executives whose companies use performance management say it has a positive effect on shareholder value.
  • Organizations exercising world-class enterprise performance management, including widespread dispersal of the tools, enjoy 2.4 times the three-year equity market returns of typical companies in their industry.
  • The broader the distribution of business intelligence and performance management tools, the higher the potential return on the investment.
  • A successful performance management program realizes that not all employees need to view data in the same way—or to view the same data.
  • The biggest return on investment can come from extending performance management to front-line workers, like telemarketers and collections staff.

BOTTOMLINE: While these findings are for much larger businesses, the same rules apply for small and midsized businesses. When deploying any kind of performance management methodology or tool, it must be used by all team members, not just some.

It's what we at Six Disciplines refer to as total organizational engagement. Since strategy execution is the biggest challenge in business as it involves every person, every day, it only makes sense that everyone must be involved - not just those who create strategy.

Find out more by reading Six Disciplines Execution Revolution.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Business Coaching Webcast - June 25

If your professional service firm is involved in management consulting activities, you'll want to register for the June 25 webcast "Six Disciplines Business Coaching Opportunity" - conducted by CEO, strategy execution expert and best-selling author Gary Harpst.

During the webcast, Harpst will provide answers to the following questions:

  1. How can you can add a new, complimentary business practice - while increasing the value of your existing consulting services?
  2. How your can offer additional services to your existing clients - without a huge investment?
  3. What can you do to offer a new service - that will attract new clients?
  4. How can you substantially increase the market value of your consulting practice?

Invest an hour of your time, and you'll get answers to these questions, by discovering a unique business coaching practice called Six Disciplines.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Five Steps To Building Organizational Accountability

Here's a five-step process for creating organizational and individual accountability, which will help to achieve extraordinary results in any organization:

  1. Establish the organization's top three objectives. This means the significant few, not the important many. (This is what we at Six Disciplines refer to as Vital Few Objectives- VFOs). Once identified, these vital few objectives must be clear, concise, measurable, obtainable - and assigned to one individual to be responsible for achieving.
  2. Assign each of the objectives to a specific team member.
  3. Ask each team member what resources he or she needs to win. To help people win, team leaders must remove the barriers or roadblocks that stand in the way. Do this by having each team member identify three things they need to accomplish each objective. Have them put it in writing.
  4. Agree on what the team leader will do to help. Have the team leader meet individually with each team member to clarify the barriers and agree on what’s needed to achieve the objective and who will be responsible for making it happen. In all likelihood, the leader will assume some responsibility. Why? Because you’re responsible to people, not for them. Being responsible to people means helping them get what they need to win.
  5. Reward results. When objectives are achieved, ensure that recognition and rewards are disproportionate and highly visible. Those who achieve the most get recognized and rewarded the most—and everyone should know that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Execution Revolution - Now Available in Brazil

Now translated in Portuguese and available in Brazil through, the best-selling strategy-execution and business coaching book, Execution Revolution, by CEO and founder of Six Disciplines, Gary Harpst.

Execution Revolution - Free Download Available

Now available for downloading - The Introduction, and Chapters 1 and 2 of the best-selling business improvement book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, by CEO and strategy execution expert Gary Harpst.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Business Coaching Continues To Emerge

A major 2008 global study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and commissioned by the American Management Association reveals the following trends in coaching over the next decade:

  • The need for coaches will grow. The AMA/i4cp study indicates that coaching is continuing to grow as a corporate practice. In the coming decade, there will be a greater need for speed and effectiveness in developing the next generation of leaders, and coaching will be particularly well suited to handling the faster cycle times and more diverse management challenges associated with global business.
  • Executive coaching will mature as an industry. Coaching will become less of a cottage industry and will grow to include more credentialed professionals who are part of larger associations, such as consulting groups or coaching agencies. This maturation process will reveal itself in the ways businesses use and contract with coaches. There will be more standard contracts, vetting of credentials and methods of trying to determine coaching's return on investment.
  • The coaching industry will have more barriers to entry. More rigorous certifications and assessments will emerge, at least for the subset of coaches who work in corporate environments. As this occurs, there will be fewer unqualified coaches.
  • Metrics will become standard practice. Coaching agencies and companies that hire coaches will become better at measuring coaching performance. In some cases, client companies might want to determine specific results such as increased productivity or improved skill on the part of the person or group being coached. In others, companies will look more at issues such as engagement levels or levels of performance among work teams.
  • External coaching development sources will become more dominant. The AMA/i4cp survey shows that external development programs for coaching are more highly correlated with success than internal ones. This represents a market opportunity for universities and other institutions that provide education to those who wish to enter the coaching field. As the coaching industry matures, several institutions will become predominant "feeder schools" for organizations that wish to hire coaches
  • Coaching will become more virtual. Coaching will always be more "high touch" than other forms of learning and development, yet it is increasingly a multimedia event. By 2018, technological advances will allow "virtual" coaching relationships to feel more like face-to-face interactions, and professional coaches will be better able to prescribe certain e-learning development modules for their clients in order to help them develop outside of the coaching dialogue.

BOTTOMLINE: Business coaching, by itself, is only one part of the equation for continual individual and organizational performance improvement. For a description of a complete strategy coaching execution, read Six Disciplines Execution Revolution.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What If...Part I

What if...

…there was a way for you to know exactly where you where – everyday, on key organizational metrics like financials, customers, production, and people?

...there was a way to help you – and everyone in your organization – to stay focused -- and be aligned -- with your mission, values, vision, strategy, and goals --- every single day?

…there was a way to help you focus not only on strategic planning, but also on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual detailed execution of your plans?

…with all of the "systems" your organization uses today – you STILL don't have these competitive advantages?

...what if you read all the latesat business improvement books, attended all the seminars, listened to all the tapes, even implemented some new ideas - but there was still...something missing?

...what if ...after you read these books, attended the seminars, and implemented the new ideas - that the improvements still didn't last?

…you looked around, did the investigation and research, and found there was no complete program -- optimized for small and mid-sized organizations -- that had the right combination of “proven + practical + systematic + repeatable” - until now? found a complete strategy execution program that helped to do this for your organization? found a complete strategy execution program that included ongoing coaching and an innovate software system that made it easier for everyone in the organization to understand how their daily activities supported the organization's goals?

BOTTOMLINE: What if...for less than the cost of lunch, you could buy a best-selling business book that describes such a complete strategy execution coaching program?

Why Is Organizational Change So Hard?

Consider this new research from Michael T. Kanazawa at Dissero Partners:
  • According to a summary of over 40 research studies on change, the success rate of strategy execution and corporate change programs is 33%.
  • At the same time, a Conference Board survey of over 600 global CEOs revealed that the top two challenges they see are:
  1. Generating consistent revenue growth, and
  2. Strategy execution

This translates to weak performance on the top executive priority, a situation that needs to change. Because so many of these programs fail, some executives and managers start to believe the old saying that “people hate change” must be true. That is not true. In fact, employment surveys reveal that the top reason good employees leave companies is over a lack of new opportunities and boredom with stagnant, never-changing, dead-end jobs.

Other observations from the research:

  • People don’t hate change; they hate corporate change programs.
  • Think about this… is your goal to get the most out of people or the best out of people?
    You typically can’t get both.
  • There is no such thing as "buy-in." When people are engaged up front and are a part of generating the tactical plans, there is no need to get “buy-in” at any point. The ideas are already theirs.
  • Leaders who learn to share their power and control enable others to reach their full potential and effectively unleash organizational power.

BOTTOMLINE: "Consider one mindset shift that can unlock it all for you. If you believe that people hate change and that it is your job to change them, they will hate it. If you believe that people thrive on change and that your job is to unleash it, you will tap into a limitless source of ingenuity, energy and drive that will allow you to consistently take your big ideas into big results."

Download the complete PDF here, at ChangeThis.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Five Most Important Questions You Can Ask

In the book "The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization," Peter Drucker, one of the leading management practitioners of our time, offers a tool for self-assessment and transformation.

Answering these five questions will fundamentally change the way you work, helping you lead your organization to an exceptional level of performance.

Peter Drucker’s five questions are:

  1. What is our Mission?
  2. Who is our Customer?
  3. What does the Customer Value?
  4. What are our Results?
  5. What is our Plan?
The questions lead to action. By asking these questions, you can focus on why you are doing what you are doing, and how to do it better.

Answering the five questions will stimulate spirited discussions and action within any organization, inspiring positive change and a new levelof excellence.

Start the discussion in your organization - Today!

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics

For many organizations, strategy (the "why we're going to do what we're doing") is one of those mysterious, behind-closed-doors activities conducted annually by a small group of senior leaders. It's viewed as a superior mental and managerial activity.

In contrast, tactics (the "how we're going to do what we're supposed to do" - the execution element) is typically thought of as the grunt work, relegated to and performed by the rest of the organization. Yet, it's these tactics - the focused activities performed by every person, every day - which are the difference between organizations that perform predictably and consistently - and those that don't.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that:

  • Less than 10% of even well-formulated strategies are successfully executed
  • Only 5% of employees understand their organization's strategy
  • Only 3% of executives think their company is successful at executing their strategies
  • And that "excellence of execution" is the #1 top challenge of CEOs worldwide
Strategy forumation (selecting the right long-term objectives and envisioning a way to get there) -- AND consistent execution -- are the greatest sets of skills any organization can develop. And, successful organizations need BOTH skills.

BOTTOMLINE: Building an organization that can develop strategy, plan (formulating tactics) and execute is not easy. Developing and executing a strategy that's balanced in growth and profitability is extremely difficult - and is therefore rare. And what is rare, is considered valuable. It's time to seek out a revolutionary new approach to the oldest and most difficult challenge in business - one that focuses on the much harder of the two (execution).

Strategy Execution During Challenging Times

According to The Forum Corp., a consulting company that helps companies with strategy execution, organizations and the managers who run them are at increasing risk of being unable to execute their strategies due in part to economy-related jobs cuts and the uncertainty they create in the workplace.

Recent research by Forum into growing companies and high-performing managers shows that there are eight areas in which top managers out-perform their on-par peers.

According to the research, top leaders:

  1. Successfully manage organizational dilemmas as well as their personal energy to maintain focus on clear goals at times of upheaval. By contrast, their on-par managerial colleagues struggle with competing and changing priorities, and burn out in environments of uncertainty and ambiguity.
  2. Assign clear roles and accountability, enabling employees to understand their jobs and giving them the power to get them done. On-par managers speak without specificity, providing vague mandates with little decision-making authority.
  3. Challenge the current state of affairs when necessary in order to ensure the organization stays on track and achieves its goals. On-par managers accept the status quo, even if policies and processes get in the way of growth.
  4. Establish a climate in which employees are confident to act on ideas, and feel like they are important to the organization's success. On-par managers fail to provide recognition and connection, discouraging employee loyalty and 'above and beyond' behavior.
  5. Make the organization more responsive and agile by incorporating non-traditional, non-hierarchical, networked, and flexible management processes and structures. On-par managers, by contrast, overplay the authority card, relying solely on a traditional command-and-control approach that limits the organization's responsiveness to critical new opportunities in uncertain times.
  6. Manage the dilemmas presented by fluid situations by adjusting plans in response to changes while staying focused on overall strategic intent. On-par managers forget to flex, staying set in their plans and ignoring changing market conditions.
  7. Actively encourage experimentation to drive learning -- even in a down economy -- and recognize that experimentation and innovation will include failures. On-par managers inhibit innovation, failing to distinguish between poor performance and appropriate risk-taking and innovation.
  8. Have a profound curiosity about their customers and the markets in which they compete, not only understanding their customers' needs but also realizing which are being met and which are not. On-par managers fail to cultivate customers, neither understanding, nor seeking to understand, their customers' needs.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Introducing The Business Excellence Model™

The focus and capability of any organization can be understood in two dimensions:
  1. Strategy (deciding what to do)
  2. Execution (getting it done)

The Business Excellence Model™ above shows these dimensions using four quadrants of performance.

Organizations in Quadrant I exhibit strong strategy, which typically translates into a competitive advantage. They are characterized by periods of growth and market share gains.

Organizations in Quadrant IV exhibit strong operation execution, focused on doing things "better, faster, cheaper" They are characterized by periods of profitability.

Organizations in Quadrant III are typically weak in both strategy and execution, and frequently find themselves fire-fighting with daily issues.

Organizations in Quadrant II exhibit an appropriate balance between strategy and execution, and are characterized by consistent, predictable growth.

The ultimate goal is to grow the capacity of your organization to stay in Quadrant II for longer and longer periods of time.

This model is not about an organization's size. Every successful company once started small. The model does, however, offer leaders of every organization insight into where they are now, some of the forces that got them there, and anticipate what could happen next.

Execution Is Everything

In today's economy, execution is everything. If your organization can’t execute its plans, nothing else matters.

Think about it.

Vision isn't enough. Strong leadership isn't enough.

Even if you have a solid, well thought-out strategy, or an innovative business model, or even technology that could transform an entire industry, nothing is more important than execution.

Every organization grows until either its strategy or it execution fails, leading to fire-fighting until either the constraints are removed - or the business fails.

Executing plans, while overcoming the unending daily surprises and the complexity that comes with growth is the greatest challenge in business.

What does it take to create a culture of execution in your organization?

Because execution is far more difficult to manage than strategy (as it involves every person, every day), it takes nothing less than a complete strategy execution program. A long-term approach toward continual business improvement.

In fact, what it takes is a complete program to systematically increase your organization's ability to execute strategy.

BOTTOMLINE: Intrigued? Get the best-selling book: Six Disciplines Execution Revolution.

Strategic Planning Best Practices

Getting ready for your annual strategic planning meeting?

Here's a quick listing of strategic planning best-practices:

  • Pick Your Strategic Planning Team. Bring together a small team (six to ten people) of company leaders and managers who represent every area of the company. Don't pick based on seniority - pick based on contribution to the thought process.
  • Schedule an Off-Site Strategic Planning Meeting. Minimize distractions and maximize focus, conduct your strategic planning session away from the office. A well-run strategic planning retreat should take two days, three at the most. Don't schedule it so tight that you don't leave room for a little fun.
  • Get Commitment From Your Strategic Planning Team. You can’t do it alone. If your management team doesn’t buy into the plan, it won’t happen.
  • Use An Outside Facilitiator. The CEO should serve as the strategic plan's "spiritual leader," but he/she should not lead the planning retreat. Participate actively, but don’t dominate the session. To lead the session, hire a professionally trained facilitator who has no emotional investment in the outcome of the plan. An impartial third party can concentrate on the process rather than the end result and ask the tough questions that others might fear to ask.
  • Set Goals That Lead. To have any chance at successful execution, your plan must clearly articulate goals, action steps, responsibilities, accountabilities and specific deadlines.
  • Don't Put The Strategic Plan in a Binder, On A Shelf. Good strategic plans are fluid, not rigid and unbending. They allow you to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Your goals won’t change very often, but your initiatives and projects will.
  • The Strategic Planning Team Writes The Plan. The facilitator merely serves as a meeting guide to keep everyone on track.
  • Commit to The Plan. Before closing the strategic planning session, get team member "buy-in" pledge their commitment in writing to the plan and its successful execution. When you walk out of the room everyone must fully support the plan—even though they may not agree with everything in it.
  • Review the Plan Regularly. Review the strategic plan for performance achievement no less than quarterly and as often as monthly or weekly. Focus on individual accountability for results and have clear and compelling consequences for unapproved or missed deadlines.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Be Excellent Blog Sets a Milestone - 1,500 Posts

It started humbly back on June 29, 2005 (you remember? back when most people said "A blog? What's that??") - the Be Excellent blog was launched.

Today, we're humbled again to announce that this blog now boasts over 1,500 posts!

The blog is also syndicated by over a dozen blog content aggregators, and routinely receives over 5,000 visitors from all over the world every month.

Topics covered: strategy, execution, employee engagement, leadership, productivity, accountability, managing change, small businesses, CEO challenges, organizational learning, business coaching, entrepreneurship, innovation, continual improvement, and of course - excellence.

Look around - dig deep, you'll find something of interest! Let me know what you think!

Leadership Priorities Change With Economic Performance

A survey of a group of more than 700 accountants found that they see productivity as the top challenge facing leaders during poor economic times.

The survey found that leadership priorities change depending on the performance of the overall economy.

  • In good economic times, accountants say the top three most challenging decisions for leaders to make are: recruiting and retaining top talent (47 percent), pursuing growth opportunities (42 percent) and maintaining a competitive edge (42 percent).
  • In contrast, the top challenges facing leaders in poor economic times are productivity, or doing more with less (49 percent), motivating the workforce (44 percent) and pursuing growth opportunities (33 percent).

Other findings:

  • One-third (33 percent) of accountants feel an ability to inspire and motivate is the most important quality of leadership in the 21st century, followed by communications skills (15 percent) and people management skills (13 percent).

Project Failure: Is It The Team or Leader's Fault?

Over the years, numerous studies have looked at why projects fail.

Most of these studies conclude that common sense factors (better project management, communication, stakeholder involvement and change controls) would have reduced failure rates.

However, more recent research suggests that while best practices and better tools do indeed help - there is nothing more important than choosing the best qualified people to run the project.

Having the right people on the team makes everything easier. Great team members already understand the core competencies of project management - they know what needs to get done, and they are laser-focused on accomplishing the project's goal(s).

BOTTOMLINE: One of the most important assets an organization has - is its leadership. Without strong leadership to make the right decisions, it doesn't matter who you have working on projects, nor does it matter what best-practices and project management tools you use. Incompetent leaders can lead the best project teams, the best technologies and the best organizations with the most resources - into an abyss of total project failure.

#1. Leadership....#2. Project Teams....#3. Best-Practices and Technologies - in that order.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How Does Excellence In Organizations Degrade?

Gary Hamel is a management author and consultant, whose books include "Leading the Revolution," "Competing for the Future," and "The Future of Management."

In his recent WSJ blog post "GM: Why Good Companies Go Bad" Hamel asserts:

How does this happen? How do yesterday’s icons become today’s also-rans? How does excellence degrade? What are the causes of corporate dysphoria? These are important questions. When an organization stumbles badly everyone loses: shareholders, employees and customers. Through the years, I’ve seen a lot of companies lose their way. Here’s how it happens:

1. Gravity wins. In business as in biology, big things grow slower. Over time, it takes more and more effort to produce less and less in the way of incremental returns.

2. Strategies die. Clever strategies get replicated,venerable strategies get supplanted, and profitable strategies get eviscerated.

3. Change happens. Most businesses were never built to change—they were built to do one thing exceedingly well and highly efficiently—forever. That’s why entire industries can get caught out by change.

Procrastination and The Pursuit of Excellence

When we procrastinate, we get behind before we even start, and create a major time use problem.

If this sounds familiar, you may be one of the many people who procrastinates, and procrastination is probably the biggest time waster. Putting off the inevitable, sometimes until a deadline is staring you in the face, causes the highest stress level, and results in managing time by crises.

Why do people procrastinate?

Essentially, four reasons:

  1. Poor work habits
  2. Feeling overwhelmed
  3. Trying to be perfect
  4. Rather do something else

Perfectionists usually see their responsibilities as burdens, making it more difficult for them to accomplish tasks in a timely manner. They start tasks but put off completion until it meets their standards for perfection. However, these standards are most likely not recognized or appreciated by others, and thereby the perfectionist has wasted a lot of time to accomplish the unnecessary. The perfectionist should strive for excellence rather than perfection.

Excellence is defined as “very good of its kind” or "high-quality performance.” Perfection is defined as “the condition of being flawless” which is not impossible-- but most unlikely to achieve.

BOTTOMLINE: Focus on what is realistic rather than what is ideal. Do the best you can in the time allowed. The time investment should be appropriate to the magnitude of the task or project.

AmeriStride Joins The Six Disciplines Business Coaching Network

AmeriStride Joins the Six Disciplines Business Coaching Network

Tennessee-based Firm Sees Growth through Strategy Execution Coaching Program

FINDLAY, OHIO – June 2, 2009 — Six Disciplines announced today that it has added Tennessee-based AmeriStride to its nationwide network of business coaching organizations that offer the Six Disciplines® strategy execution program to its clients. Six Disciplines is unique in the burgeoning industry of business coaching because of its completeness, which involves the synergy of a repeatable business-building methodology, accountability coaching, an execution software system, and a shared community to accelerate organizational

“Six Disciplines is the only program that offers a complete approach extending from the corner office to front line personnel. It includes the technology to easily monitor and measure the progress from a management and coaching perspective. As the coach, I receive alerts and status reports, just as our clients do. No time is wasted on updates. Our efforts are focused on achieving a sustainable growth path by reviewing the execution progress and its impact on business performance. At the end of the day, it is about results; the Six Disciplines framework of strategy formulation, goal setting, initiative planning, leadership training, and 360 review process keeps strategy, policies and professionals aligned and focused on the target,” said Terry Massey, Partner with AmeriStride.

“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. AmeriStride understands the tremendous opportunity ahead of them with Six Disciplines, and because of their expertise and proven success, we’re excited to welcome AmeriStride to our coaching network.”

“Six Disciplines is the perfect compliment to our Microsoft Dynamics consulting practice,” added Jeff Epperson, Partner with AmeriStride. “By using the Six Disciplines methodology and 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. This, coupled with the strength of the Microsoft Dynamics application suite, enables AmeriStride to assist our clients in gaining greater insight resulting in better decisions and desired outcomes.”

About AmeriStride
AmeriStride, serving the Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga markets, is a business management and software consulting company. AmeriStride professionals specialize in strategic business planning and execution methodology, executive development, streamlining operational processes and Microsoft Dynamics business applications and implementation services. 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 franchised Six Disciplines coaching practices. Visit

Monday, June 01, 2009

Some Startling Employee Engagement Statistics

From the latest Towers Perrin Workplace Watch research come these startling findings on employee engagement:

  • A 7% drop in workers stating they can balance both work and personal responsibilities - in just the past quarter.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of employees agree their company’s structure facilitates efficient operations, up from 66% in the last quarter of 2008 and 58% in the first quarter of 2008, suggesting the latest rounds of restructuring have been done thoughtfully and in a manner that doesn’t automatically demand doing more with less.
  • 71% percent agree they’re not seriously considering leaving their current job, up from 64% in the last quarter of 2007.
  • Only 69% of employees agree that they clearly understand their company’s broad goals, down a striking 10 percentage points from 79% in the fourth quarter of 2008

To ensure employees stay engaged and connected, particularly in the current environment. the authors summed it up:

Companies need to focus on five things:

  1. Getting leaders out front to talk with employees about the business environment and how the organization is responding as well as the long-term vision and what the organization stands for.
  2. Involving employees in efforts to manage costs to help them feel like active contributors.
  3. Communicating consistently and candidly about both short- and long-term objectives.
  4. Listening and gathering input from employees.
  5. Promoting development opportunities so people can see a future for themselves worth working toward.