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Monday, March 15, 2010

Agility, High-Performing Leaders, and Embracing Change

A study from the Institute for Corporate Productivity i4cp shows correlation between leaders in high-performance organizations and agility, but fewer than half claim to be good at it.

Those companies that have consistently outperformed competitors in profitability, market share, revenue growth and customer satisfaction - dubbed high-performance companies by i4cp researchers - reported much greater agility than their lower-performance counterparts:

  • Almost 60% of high-performance organizations are adept at identifying and making needed incremental changes, versus only 35% of lower performers.
  • Nearly the same amount (58%) recognize and respond to strategic challenges in a timely manner, while only 30% of low performers do the same.
  • A little under half (49%) of high-performance organizations are proactive in anticipating and initiating the changes needed for sustained high performance, compared to only 20% of low performers.
BOTTOMLINE:  "Most organizations understand the need for agility; what they don't understand is how to create a more agile culture. Our research and work with our member companies has uncovered some important findings about creating a corporate environment that doesn't just "manage" change well, but instead embraces change as a competitive advantage."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Strategic Thinking vs. Strategic Planning

Are strategic thinking and strategic planning - the same thing?

While they certainly related and complementary, thinking strategically and planning strategically are two different concepts.

Let's first consider strategic thinking, which involves viewing your organization from a holistic perspective.

Research has determined that strategic thinking can be explained through seven dimensions:

  1. A vision of the future
  2. Strategic formulation and implementation
  3. Managerial role in making strategies
  4. Control
  5. Managerial role in implementation
  6. Strategy making
  7. Process and outcome

Strategic thinking is extremely effective and a valuable tool, and requires developing skills in creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. The good news?  It's a skill that can be learned.

Steps in building strategic thinking skills:
  1. Critically examine and evaluate the existing situation. Understand what is being done, if it needs to be done that way, and fight hard against the "we've always done it that way" mentality.
  2. Look at your business as a holistic system. Strategic thinkers view their businesses as a whole: its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  3. Focus on the future. Strategic thinking is future-oriented. Before considering the viability of ideas, consider their potential contribution to the future of your organization.  
  4. Continuously ask for feedback from your customers. Strategic thinking cannot be effective if done in a vacuum. 
  5. Get realistic data for confirmation. Strategic thinking requires making predictions about the future and forecasts must be realistic. Gather reliable data to justify and confirm your predictions. 
  6. Align your thoughts to your organization. Review your organizational structure to determine if the organization and key leaders are in place to fulfill your vision, otherwise it's a pipe dream.
  7. Be ready to consider change and unexpected challenges.  Flexibility is a critical element of strategic thinking.
Strategic planning, on the other hand, is a continual planning process that relies on strong strategic thinking. When done correctly, strategic planning  is not a one-time or annual event.  It's an on-going process, reviewed quarterly, that affects the organization's initiatives, plans, and activities. 

BOTTOMLINE: Both strategic thinking and strategic planning are important - even vital to your organization - and neither can be ignored.

(TIP: For more on strategic planning, search this blog for "strategic planning" - you'll find dozens of related posts, hints and tips are available to you!)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Execution – The Fine Art of Getting It Done (Part II)

(The following post is authored by Eric Kurjan, President of Six Disciplines Ohio. Six Disciplines brings “big company” process improvement to organizations looking to jump beyond the status quo. For more information visit


Execution – The Fine Art of Getting It Done

In last month’s newsletter, I shared the key processes for building the strategy (see the original post here) .  In this article I will share some of the finer points of bringing the strategy to life.

To start, the keys to a good strategy are found in the words, “Where”, “What” and “How”, which are an easy to remember summary of the Six Disciplines process for Disciplines I and Discipline II.  However, it is the next words of “Who” and “When” which turn the plan into action.  This is the crux of Disciplines IV – Work the Plan. This is where we need to engage the organization to do the “real work”.  If we can get our employees focused on what is most important and measure the activities then the results will follow.  The added benefit is that “who” and “when” are the cornerstones for creating a much higher level of accountability in the organization.  The concept we are trying to create is that the work which is assigned is a contract between the Team Member/Employee and the company.   In essence every quarter we are saying “I (name here) commit to do this work for Company X”.

 Without a doubt, execution is the tougher, more critical side of the strategy/execution equation - getting it done, measuring progress along the way, and finding what doesn’t work early enough to make course corrections, are the steps to insure individual activities support the Vital Few Objectives (VFOs).

The best way to drive the execution of the strategy is to create a plan for the specific assigned work for each quarter of the year.  We call this an Individual Plan or IP.   The IP consists of two key components.  First, the normal everyday tasks as described in your job description are called sustaining or “Run the Business” activities. Second are the tasks or activities which are intended to “Change the Business”.  These are the date-driven tasks that are supporting the initiatives/projects which we have chosen to implement to truly change the direction of the company and support the key objectives (VFOs).

Here is an example of a simple Individual Plan:

This example of an “Individual Plan” breaks the work into the two key components of “Change the Business” and “Run the Business” activities. It also sets due dates, defines priorities and approximates the hours it will take to complete the tasks assigned.  The “IP” also takes into account other activities like “Personal Development” and “Administrative Activities”.  We include one more segment called the “Parking Lot” which is a staging area for tasks that you are not committing to complete this quarter but if time permits you might put some work into them.

The tendency for most people and organizations is to over-commit.  Somehow everyone thinks they can achieve much more in a given timeframe.  A critical component is to place a “Weight” or priority on the key tasks.  The weighting allows you to be sure you are focused on those key items first.  The weighting is not intended to represent the item with the most hours but the items that must get done.  If trying to make a judgment on where to spend your time, the weight should dictate that decision.  A second critical component is time or the “Hours”.  This is the estimate of the hours required to complete the tasks in the IP.  These hours may not be exact but they at least give a range of the required time.  To gauge the workload we suggest you start with 520 hours per quarter (40 hours per week x 13 weeks).  The hours may vary by role in the organization but it is a good spot to start.

In my example, Susan is carrying 632 hours for her Quarter 2 IP.  That works out to be a little less than 50 hours per week which may be fine for Susan’s role.  What we are looking for are unrealistic hours – both total hours and individual tasks that would cause Susan to be unable to fulfill her commitment, her “contract” for the quarter. Even the best plans need to have room for adjustment.  Another important consideration is that since it is a “contract” between the employee and organization, the manager needs to sign-off on this contract too. To sign-off on the contract, the manager needs to agree with the tasks Susan plans to work on and that the hours are realistic.  This also means the manager cannot add more work on Susan’s plan after the quarter has started.  Although placing more work on employees is a very common occurrence it generally means that the original IP has little value and the “contracted” work will not be completed on time.

So how do we adjust for the changes that are likely to occur?  First, we always recommend including a “catch-all” bucket called “Unplanned Time” to account for the unexpected.  The second is that there is a trade-off.  If there is work/tasks that are truly more important than what has already been assigned then something needs to be reprioritized, the date pushed out or the current task replaced/removed.  This will be difficult for managers and leaders who are used to just coming up with “brilliant’ ideas and then dropping them on someone in the organization.  Unfortunately, many of these “brilliant” ideas do not even fit within the objectives set in the strategy.  So the IP actually helps prevent “brilliant” ideas from distracting the organization.

It is this lack of focus and commitment to the execution phase that kills most strategies.  It is like cheating on your diet.  If you remain true to the plan you will lose weight, if you cheat, you won’t. Living up to the contract by each person with an IP makes the strategy succeed.  Execution is a simple concept, but hard to live by.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Six Disciplines Business Coach Offers Advice To PGA Golf Professionals

Eric Kurjan is president and owner of Six Disciplines Ohio/Indiana, with licensed Six Disciplines business coaches operating in both states. He's also the president of a private golf club (Findlay Country Club).

In this article, recently published in PGA Magazine, Kurjan offers his advice and explanation of the Six Disciplines methodology to PGA professionals.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Top CEO Concern Three Years Running: Excellence In Execution

According to the latest results from the CEO Challenge 2010 Survey produced by The Conference Board, the critical issues of excellence in execution and consistent execution of strategy by top management once again remained at the top of the list.

In addition, this latest survey (which was fielded October-December 2009) revealed such growth-oriented challenges as sustained and steady top-line growth, customer loyalty/retention, and profit growth received higher ratings as "greatest concerns."

Also moving up were corporate reputation for quality products/services, and stimulating innovation/creativity/enabling entrepreneurship.

Here's links to their two previous surveys in which execution was named the top priority:

Executing Strategy - Once Again The Top Priority for CEOs

CEOs are Priming for a Return to Growth

According to results from the CEO Challenge Survey produced by The Conference Board, CEOs appear to be emerging from recession mode and priming for a return to growth.

Other key results from the survey:
  • The critical issues of excellence in execution and consistent execution of strategy by top management have consistently remained at the top of the list. 
  • Participants in the survey place such challenges as sustained and steady top-line growth, customer loyalty/retention, and profit growth among their top 10 challenges. 
  • Also moving up the list of concerns were corporate reputation for quality products/services, and stimulating innovation/creativity/enabling entrepreneurship.

Too Many Strategic Initiatives?

Is your organization "drowning" in too many strategic initiatives?

If you're evaluating far more opportunities than your team can realistically handle, it's time to do a serious screening of those initiatives.

According to Robert W. Bradford, President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, your organization should only take on between 3 - 10 strategic opportunities, depending on the size, breadth of your team and its resources. (We've found the fewer, the better.)

Bradford recommends a senior team exercise in which you simply ask the team to rate each opportunity on two dimensions – resource requirements and strategic impact on the organization.
  • For resource requirements, you may want to anchor the rating on a one to five scale.  In a medium sized company, a one might indicate resources commensurate with an individual employee’s initiative – requiring little management of either manpower or money.  A two could correspond with departmental level resources, a three with two or more departments, and a five would indicate a need for co-ordination of resources across the entire company. 
  • For strategic impact, we used one for “nice to do”, three for “important” and five for “critical to our future”.  Note that we do NOT rate on a purely financial basis, and in practice, opportunities with a strictly financial payoff were generally given a three impact rating – that is, a simple boost to profit is not enough to earn an opportunity high marks on strategic impact.
BOTTOMLINE: "If your organization is plagued by a surplus of incremental projects or “just do it” items that are overwhelming mid-level management, this approach to opportunity screening may give you one more way to rationally say “no” to things that will impede your strategic progress."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Benefits Of A Formal Strategy Execution Process

Scott Cleveland reported that a managing director of the Palladium Group (think: balanced scorecard) conducted a survey that compared two groups, one with and one without a formal strategy execution process in place.

A formal process in their terminology means "strategy maps, derived projects and process improvements from it, and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets reported in scorecard dashboards and cascaded down into the organization."

The results?

  • 70% of organizations WITH a formal process were exceeding the performance of their peers in their industry, while in contrast only 27% of those without a formal process were.

BOTTOMLINE: The overwhelming majority of businesses (and particularly, small and midsized organizations) do not have a formal process for strategy execution. They do not have strategy maps, derived projects, process improvements and associated key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets reported in scorecard dashboards and cascaded down into the organization.

What kind of strategy execution process is your organization using?

Welcome Business Strategy Execution!

Welcome Business Strategy Execution, Inc. to the growing network of licensed Six Disciplines business coaches.

If you're in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, and want to find out more about the services offered locally by Six Disciplines, contact Jim Crisafulli at 401-356-0030 or visit them on the web.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Companies for Leadership Reveals Differentiators

HR consulting firm Hewitt has released their "Top Companies for Leaders 2009" study, which reveals that leadership is more important than ever before.

Their research has found that the Top Companies for Leaders are never satisfied, and use a number of tools in their leadership and talent planning efforts. In short, they bring a "measurement mind-set" to the often inexact process of developing the next generation of leaders.

Click here to view the highlights of the report.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creativity and Purposeful Innovation

"Creativity, a quality more traditionally associated with artistic endeavors, has been slow to find its acknowledged place in the business world. "

So begins an article from the Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge site called "Getting Down to the Business of Creativity."

Key points:
  • Business leaders must manage and support creativity just as they would any other asset.
  • People have their best days and do their best work when they are allowed to make progress.
  • Their research suggests that most managers are not in tune with the inner work lives of their employees.
  • For the longest time, creativity was considered the work of a genius operating on their own, however, there's a construction of creativity that involves many other actors.
BOTTOMLINE: Creativity, when sought after and encouraged, MUST be done purposefully.

Innovation, which is really just another name for creative problem-solving, must be done in such a way as to support the overall strategy of the organization. Discipline V - Innovate Purposefully is a discipline that is detailed in the award-winning handbook Six Disciplines for Excellence. It is not an isolated event in an annual or quarterly cycle; it's a mindset that permeates the culture of an excellent organization.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How To Build Accountability Into Your Organization

Many of the top-performing organizations we work with every day - have expressed a real need to build accountability into their organization.

Take a quick minute – and consider the following key questions:

  • Does each of your team members understand exactly what they are responsible for?
  • Does your leadership team set consistent expectations for accountability?
  • Do your new team members know exactly what’s expected of them – Day 1?
  • Are all of your team members self-managing?
  • Do you have a standardized way of monitoring progress? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly
  • Does your hiring process focus on attracting individuals who can be self-managing?
BOTTOMLINE: Here are some steps to consider when considering organization-wide accountability:
  • Understand your company's core competencies
  • Validate your team members
  • Create a culture that grows and develops its people
  • Identify the systems and processes that are now in place throughout your company and rely on your team members to make the systems and processes more efficient and more effective
  • Get the right people in the right place
  • Get all team members to understand that what they do affects everyone else in the company
  • Build a strong second-tier management team that can take the company to the next level
  • Hold everyone, including yourself, accountable
  • Raise the bar by bringing in top talent

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Top Five Reasons Why Strategic Initiatives Fail

Next time you consider embarking on a strategic initiative, be aware of the following five factors that are common elements of failed initiatives (from IndustryWeek's article: "Top Five Reasons Why Strategic Initiatives Fail")
  1. Strategy is Not Clearly Communicated to the Stakeholders
  2. Lack of Support by Key Leaders in the Organization
  3. Decision-Makers Do Not Understand the Relevance or are Unable to Measure Progress
  4. Lack of Impact on Employee Compensation
  5. Technology Needed for Implementation is Not Available

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Achieving Sustained Growth - Take Two

As reported in the Harvard Business Review's Daily Stat, the consulting group Bain's updated global database of Sustained Value Creators found only 12% of companies worldwide managed to grow profits and revenues more than 5.5% over the 10 years and earn back their cost of capital. 

Here's another take on the same issue: 

As reported in the best-selling book Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, (How Big Is The Challenge, page 29), a recent McKinsey study concluded that few large global companies outperform their competitors on both revenue growth and profitability over a decade. The consulting firm analyzed 1,077 companies according to revenue growth, profitability, and both measures. This study concluded that thirty of these companies were superior, based on growth over this period. Ninety-nine were superior performers by profitability. And only nine (.008 percent) out of 1,077 companies were superior in both categories.

BOTTOMLINE: Achieving sustained, profitable growth is very challenging, and the odds of success are low.  Achieving such balance and predictability is extremely difficult, and therefore, extremely rare. While this fact may be viewed as a deterrent to some, it provides insight into an enormous opportunity for building a business that executes more predictably than most. 

Trends Affecting Leadership Development in 2010

The most significant emerging trends affecting leadership development, as identified in a Human Resources Executive recap of the 2009/2010 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report, are: 

  1. Impact of the Economy. It means that there is more pressure now than before to prepare leaders who can weather the storm and navigate their companies successfully through the turbulence.
  2. Bench Strength is No. 1. "Lack of bench strength" was identified as the second most influential factor impacting executive development and "Increasing bench strength" was the top key objective in executive development.
  3. Accelerate the Development of High Potentials. Respondents placed much greater emphasis on the identification and development of high potentials in the 2009 survey than in any of the prior surveys.
  4. Strategic Thinkers and Those Who Can Inspire. Areas in which the next generation of executive leaders are weak are the ability to think strategically, lead change, create a vision and rally others around that vision.
  5. Better Metrics. A standard for measuring participant outcome has become more universal. This is a notable shift from just four years ago, when evaluation metrics was a much more fragmented practice.
  6. Leader-as-Teacher Model. The use of leaders as teachers has become a best practice that is growing in popularity. Respondents noted that it is a particularly effective component in their executive-leadership programs.
Read a lengthy excerpt of the study here

Do You Need a Consultant, or a Business Coach?

What is the difference between a business coach and a consultant?

A consultant completes projects for you based on their own technical expertise. Often, a consultant will provide suggestions and direction for what needs to be fixed, however, rarely will they help the business leader actually implement the fix.

A business coach guides you in growing your business:
  • Business coaches provide business leaders with awareness, education, and accountability through regularly scheduled coaching sessions and other proven, best-practices business performance tools.
  • Instead of getting paid for billable hours or project work like consultants, business coaches get paid for the value they deliver to clients.
  • Business coaches help business owners become aware of their blind spots, and leads them to discover the possibilities in their business. 
  • Business coaches provide information to help build business best practices and close the gaps and accountability to meet performance objectives.
BOTTOMLINE: Not every business needs a consultant, but EVERY business needs a business coach.

New Leaders Need Coaching Too!

Only 23 percent of new leaders — or employees who have advanced from being individual contributors to supervising or managing others — receive the coaching they need to reach their full development potential, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, a provider of integrated human capital consulting services and solutions.

Key findings from the survey:

  • While organizations see value in providing coaching to strategic and developing leaders, coaching is not offered as frequently to new leaders.
  • Most new leaders advance in their careers due to their proficiency with technical skills, but they don’t necessarily have the leadership abilities needed for success in their higher-level positions.
  • New leaders would benefit most from coaching in emotional intelligence skills. “Coaching in emotional intelligence provides self-awareness, builds management and social skills, and assists one to become more empathetic toward others and more understanding of oneself.
  • New leaders don’t need coaching in technical skills as much as they need guidance in how to treat others.”
BOTTOMLINE: “New leaders need as much development as strategic and developing leaders. They are the future leaders of the organization. Smart organizations focus their resources to develop these individuals and ensure they deliver on their much-anticipated success.”

Monday, February 08, 2010

Identifying Growth Leaders In Your Organization

According to a Wall Street Journal article, "Growth leaders - most companies have managers who can turbocharge results. The trick is finding -- and nurturing -- them."

"Indeed, powerful catalysts for organic growth often exist deep within an organization, hidden and untapped. We're talking about a special breed of midlevel managers -- men and women who possess the vision, leadership and entrepreneurial talents that together make up what we refer to as a growth leader."

Find them, recognize them, and support them - or your competition - WILL!

How to Make Organizational Change Enduring

Here's a real shocker:

In a survey of 3,300 senior managers and human resource professionals reported by Rob Lebow in his Washington CEO magazine
  • 75% of all organizational change programs fail
Why is change so hard?

Most organizations say their most important assets are their people, but few behave as if this were true. Change initiatives typically devote most budgets to structural issues such as technology and processes, not staff issues. There is still a whole notion of focusing on tangible assets and their impact on the bottom line, rather than the intangible assets, which are people. Organizations don't adapt to change; their people do.

Constant change in the organizational environment mean that leaders must not only learn about change and its impact on people and systems, leaders must be able to master the process of implementing change, just as their employees must learn to accommodate change.

Why do most change efforts fail?  Here's an analogy: As with a transplanted flower, it initially wilts after the transfer. However, in time with proper care, it stands upright again. With continued good care, it blossoms. The same holds true with the introduction (transplant or transfer) of a new system (a new idea, business-building method, best-practices, business improvement processes), the productivity curve drops (wilts) - but given proper support and care, the productivity curve loops upward on a continuous positive trend.

Transition trauma is little understood by business leaders, but it is a fact of organizational change.

Some misread the downward curve (wilt) as failure, often triggering inappropriate actions; rather then understanding it as transition trauma that is a normal readjustment, realignment and adaptive phase of change that requires trust, patience and on-going support.

Replace Annual Performance Reviews? Where Ya' Been?

In his book, Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions, author Gary B. Cohen proposes a "radical practice": 

......replacing annual performance reviews with monthly ones. Monthly! The heart stops at the thought. And yet...take a look at the process the author describes. The reviews are conversations about the best way forward, not critiques of the past. Look in particular at the issue of timing. Might not this approach, if practiced regularly, lead to a whole different way — a much more mutually appreciative way — of looking at the job and the task at hand?

Sorry - but from my standpoint, regular reviews of performance need to be conducted even more frequently than monthly.  How about weekly (just a progress/synch meeting - but it's still better than monthly!)

An excerpt of chapter 2 of this book is pushed here at Strategy + Business magazine. 

Execution – The Fine Art of Getting It Done

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


Execution – The Fine Art of Getting It Done!

Most of the organizations I run into fall into one of two camps – the first and most common is the organization that does not have a strategic plan to guide their business. They have been meaning to build one but haven’t gotten around to it. They see it about as exciting as cleaning the leaves out of the gutters on their house.  The other camp is the organization that has a strategic plan but does not use it.  In fact, this document has not seen the light of day since it was neatly typed and added to the “Strategic Planning” notebook located on every leadership team member’s bookshelf.

So every organization needs to start with a strategic plan, the road map or blueprint of where we are going, what will we do to get there, and how we will do it.  Those three basic tenets are the key drivers of strategy formation. The following two disciplines of the Six Disciplines will lay-out the strategy and planning portions and give you guidance in building your plan:

Discipline I – Decide What’s Important:  The process must  include a predictable, repeatable method for assessing your organization’s Mission, Values, Vision, Strategic Position, and Vital Few Objectives (VFOs - a.k.a. goals or objectives).  In this step, setting the Vision is the single most important exercise in forming the strategy.  It is the picture of “where” we want the organization to go in the next five to ten years. Once we have defined our destination, we need to define “what” we need to do to get to that destination. Creating this “what” step is referred to as forming our Vital Few Objectives (VFOs). 

Discipline II - Set Goals that Lead: The next we need to determine and set goals that are measureable, allowing us a way to develop clear targets and deadlines.  There is nothing vague or squishy here – hard numbers, revenue dollars, margin percentage, dates, units.  Real goals have real outcomes by which we can measure our progress. Also, this is where we need to define the projects or initiatives that will help us get to our goals.  If our Vision (where) is to have “regional geographic presence” and our VFO (what) is to “open five offices in the next five years” then our Initiative/project is “how” to open the first “new San Francisco office in 2010”.  It is in this step we identify all the tasks associated with opening that office, including everything from locating space, working with a realtor, signing contracts, designing the build-out, selecting the contractor, hiring personnel, etc, etc. etc.  You get the picture.  There are tons of tasks for an initiative or project to be successfully carried out and these tasks need to be assigned and more importantly completed.  These Initiatives and the associated tasks are intended to change the trajectory of the business.  We do many things to “run the business” but what do we need to do to “change the business?” These are the items that drive activities of “every person, every day.”

Now that we know, “Where”, “What” and “How”, we can move on to the next component, execution. We will pass over Discipline III – Align Systems (aligning resources - people, technology, policies, and processes). Next, we need to define the steps to turn the plan into action. Experience has shown us that while the CEO and leadership team “own” the strategic plan and are accountable for it, they cannot be completely responsible for its proper execution.  Even a well-crafted strategy is subservient to superior execution.  And, most successful business leaders agree, they’d rather have a “B” strategy and an “A” execution, than the other way around. In fact 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully.  We also know lots of things control the success rate of execution in organizations including their ability to manage communications, accountability, discipline and focus.

Without a doubt, execution is the tougher, more critical side of the strategy/execution - getting it done, measuring progress along the way, finding what doesn’t work early enough to make course corrections so that Initiatives can support the Vital Few Objectives (VFOs).

Discipline IV - Work the Plan:  The execution phase is setting the stage for “who” will do the work and “when” will it be done.  This is where we must assign the work that needs to be done to help the organization achieve the goals to arrive at the destination. Set real tasks with real deadlines and real outcomes.

The best way to organize the execution plan is to create a personal plan for your specific assigned work.  We call this an Individual Plan or IP.   The IP consists of two key components.  First, the normal everyday tasks as described in your job description are called sustaining or “Run the Business” activities.  The second are the tasks or activities which are intended to “Change the Business”.  These are the date-driven tasks that are supporting the initiatives/projects we have chosen to implement to truly change the direction of the company and support the key objectives (VFOs). 

To re-cap, if one element of our Vision (where) is to have a “regional presence” and our VFO (what) is to “open five regional offices” and our Initiative (how) to support the VFO is to open the “new San Francisco office in 2010,” then the tasks to support this change of business trajectory are found in a team member’s Individual Plan (who/when).  In many cases these tasks are spread among several team members and hence, found in several different team members’ IP’s.  The project may extend over multiple quarters but we are most concerned with assigning the work we can or need to get done in this upcoming quarter.  We must build an IP which is practical, achievable and drives the business/organization in the time and direction we desire.

 It’s the delicate balance of both strategic planning and execution that separates good organizations from great organizations. But the bottom line is that even the best defined, designed and lay-out plan means nothing if you do not have a way to get the work done. Although, conceptually the Individual Plan (IP) seems logical and practical, the challenge is to stay focused on the work you have committed to for the quarter and not to be diverted, distracted or lured to do work which does not lead the organization to the destination. I will give you more hints and tips on strategic planning execution next month.

To Understand Strategy, Look At What People Are Doing

Here's a profound observation from management guru, Gary Hamel:

"If you want to understand the real strategy, look at what people are doing!”

Indeed, more often than not, there are disconnects or gaps between the strategy that is formulated by the senior leadership team, and how the strategy is executed by the rest of the workforce.

Why the gaps?

Could be for a number of reasons:
  • The strategy is not accessible/available to the workforce
  • The strategy is not sound
  • The strategy is not well understood
Most likely, the recognition and reward system that drives the daily activities and behaviors of each person in the workforce is not aligned with the strategy of the organization. How to combat this situation?
  1. Make the strategy as transparent as possible. The mission, vision, values and strategic position of the organiztion MUST be transparent and available to everyone within the organization.
  2. Establish Vital Few Objectives (VFOs). Most organizations have 2 to 5 times as many projects and initiatives going on than they can possibly address. Reduce the number of key objectives. Keep the VFOs simple - financial, customer, production, people - and let everything else go. Be very focused on a few things, and do them well.
  3. Make the VFOs measurable. Define measures, targets, and create a small number of initiatives that support the VFOs. Assign responsibility and accountability to someone for each VFO.
  4. Define an Individual Plan for each person. On a quarterly basis, develop a plan for every individual, assigning activities from each initiative. Have each person track time and progress toward achieving the stated outcomes. Measure progress and update status weekly.
  5. Align recognition and rewards based on the achievement of outcomes. Recognition and rewards systems are not to be based on activities, but results.
BOTTOMLINE: What people spend time on should be based on how well your strategy, goals and initiatives are articulated. Reward and recognize workers based on how well goals were achieved (results), not on how much activity took place.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Strategy Execution - The Scary Statistics

Most organizations suffer a major disconnect between strategy formulation and its execution.

And while it's more pronounced in larger enterprises because of complexity, smaller organizations need to make sure they do something (anything!) to remove the barriers to execution.

Unfortunately, the research doesn't bode well for most of us.  Consider the following:

  • 90% of well-formulated strategies fail due to poor execution. 
  • 60% of typical organizations do not link their strategic priorities to their budget.
  • Two-thirds of HR and IT organizations develop strategic plans that are not linked to the organization's strategy.
  • 85% of leadership teams spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy.
  • Only 27% of a typical company’s employees have access to its strategic plan.
  • 70% of middle managers and more than 90% of front-line employees have compensation that is not linked to the strategy.
  • Most devastating, 95% of employees do not understand their organization's strategy.

BOTTOMLINE: Strategy must be managed explicitly, like any other major process in an organization. In most organizations, this process either does not exist or is incomplete. However, 70% of organizations that used a formal process to manage strategy out-performed their peers.  What formal process are YOU using?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Stop Doing List

The essence of strategy is deciding what not to do. If your organization doesn't develop the discipline to do this, our wonderful free market system will.

BusinessWeek recently published an article entitled "Are You Losing Control of Your Business?" in which it advised: "No. 1 on your to-do list? Make a "stop doing" list"

BOTTOMLINE: As part of the annual strategic planning process, the Six Disciplines strategy execution program has, in Discipline I. Decide What's Important, a distinctive step called "Agree What To Stop Doing."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leadership Development: The Most Critical Issue Facing Organizations in 2010

For the 20 years that consulting firm i4cp has been conducting research, leadership development has always been a top issue.

In their 2010 research study, however, leadership development has increased in prominence, with a surprising 75% of organizations citing it as an important issue.

Other key findings:
  • only 23% said they were effective at developing leaders internally - a gap of over 50%.
  • only 14.3% of high-performance organizations have a process for identifying gaps in leadership development.
  • Only 25% of the study's respondents said leadership was effective at managing change, yet 74% said change management was important.
  • Strategy execution and alignment was another area of concern. Though 79% of respondents said aligning the workforce to business strategy was important, only 33% said they were effective at doing so.
BOTTOMLINE: "Companies should be treating leadership development as both an urgent survival tactic and a business opportunity. The companies that get it right - and several high-performing companies are doing it right already - have potential for great success."

How Google Sets Goals and Measures Success

Don Dodge (a former Microsoft colleague of mine) is now with Google, and writes about his experiences on his "The Next Big Thing" blog.

In this post "How Google Sets Goals and Measures Success", Don offers his insights into the goal-setting and measurement process at Google.

Worth reading!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Latest Trends in Executive Coaching

Sherpa Coaching's  5th annual survey shows that the executive coaching industry survived the downturn, and is looking toward radical change in the near future. 

Key findings from the survey:
  • When there is turnover in top management, there’s a need for leadership development. 
  • Emerging leaders must learn how to listen and communicate well, deliver clear expectations and make accountability a positive force in the workplace. 
  • Ideally, executive coaching creates those positive changes in business behavior in a limited time frame.
  • Executive coaching is seen, more and more, as part of succession planning.
  • Do executive coaches follow a published process?
    • 40 percent of executive coaches ‘develop a unique approach from one client to the next'.
    • An additional 40 percent have ‘developed their own process for coaching’.
    • Only 20 percent follow a published process that guides their coaching engagements.
  • Since 2006, the delivery of executive coaching services has moved decidedly toward in-person encounters. 
  • In this year’s survey, there's change in practice that goes against the tide: phone coaching held steady, while webcam coaching took a couple of percentage points away from in-person engagements. What stalled the trend toward live coaching? 2009 was an unusual year, based on budgets drawn during a stock market crash in late ‘08. The call for cost reductions favored remote coaching, hence an increase in webcam engagements.

Strategic Planning Going Away? Not So Fast!

The way this Wall Street Journal article portrays it, "the recession has changed the way business leaders think -- formerly reliable tactics no longer work and innovative strategies are becoming the new standards." 

One standby that may have gone out the window, the WSJ article argues: strategic planning.

In fact, NOTHING could be further from the truth!

If you really read between the lines of this article, strategic planning isn't going away at all.  Rather, it's becoming even more important - and will become an even more pervasive activity as we move ahead beyond the recession and into the recovery. 

"Old" practices, such as updating the company budget on a quarterly basis, are being replaced by monthly updates. One-year and three-year strategic plans are being reviewed and adjusted on a monthly basis as well, to faster respond to fluctuations in the market.

According to The Business Insider, "...even as the economy stabilizes, these new habits might just stick. Valuing flexibility over sticking to a long-term plan allows companies to better react to consumer changes and take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and that extra work and attention can result in better business overall."

Why Is Executing Strategy So Difficult?

In a post by Brian Lassiter, President of the Minnesota Council for Quality, a state-level Baldrige program, Lassiter poses the age-old question: "Why is executing strategy so difficult – especially during today’s tough economic conditions, when strategy is really so paramount to long-term success?"

He sites a recent study by Minnesota-based Digineer (conducted by Pat Salaski, a management consultant and a 2009 Minnesota Quality Award Evaluator), in which they found: 
  • 69% of the leaders surveyed are NOT confident in their organization’s ability to execute strategy.
  • When responding to the question of what was the number one barrier to effectively executing their strategy, most of the barriers reported by these leaders were INTERNAL issues, not external factors (the top two vote-getters: company culture and past habits. In fact, only two external factors listed in the top 10.
  • These tendencies seem to exist in good times and in bad (and maybe they have for decades or generations, which might explain why 70-90% of strategies are said to fail.
  • All contemporary methodologies for implementing strategy – Balanced Scorecard, Hoshin Planning, and others – really have five common elements:
    • Focus on a few critical strategic goals
    • Identify key prformance indicators that measure progress toward those goals.
    • Assess initiatives against a screen of strategic effect and cost benefit.
    • Execute programs that deliver the benefits.
    • Review progress against Key Performance Indicator targets in real time and adjust course quickly when necessary.
BOTTOMLINE: "In challenging times (and really in ALL times) a key role for leaders is to set and execute strategy – to set a vision for the future and align organizational resources to move (and adjust) toward that vision. The good news is that these internal factors can be addressed by senior leaders. The bad news is that they are the same internal factors that have been identified in multiple other studies on this topic for years."

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Are The Six Disciplines?

The Six Disciplines strategy execution program integrates the business-building elements of strategy, planning, organizing, executing, innovating and learning, and offers a systematic way for organizations to continually improve and achieve lasting business excellence.

You can think of the Six Disciplines Methodology as a series of annual, quarterly, weekly and daily repeatable cycles which, with each successive pass, helps individuals to be accountable, align their activities with organizational goals, and consistently execute on strategy.    

So, what are the Six Disciplines? 

Discipline I. Decide What’s Important. The foundation of all strategy formulation is deciding what is most important to your organization (and by implication what’s not important) so the allocation of resources—time, money and creativity—can all be aimed toward this end. In this discipline, organizations regularly review and renew their mission, values, strategic position, vision, their most vital few objectives, as well as agreeing what to stop doing.

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

Discipline III. Align Systems. One of the greatest barriers an organization faces in pursuing its goals is itself. For many businesses, the systems that make up the business are often at cross purposes with the priorities of the company. Why? Because most organizations do not have an organized approach to keep their systems aligned with their strategy. Discipline III, taps the knowledge of the whole workforce to identify the areas where the company will get the greatest return on its investment in policies, processes, measures, technologies and people.

Discipline IV. Work the Plan. One of the greatest organizational learning tools ever invented is the quarterly Individual Plan. In this discipline, every person in the company works with his/her team leader to develop Individual Plans for the upcoming quarter. These goals are reviewed and checked for alignment with company goals. This quarterly plan serves as a timesaving template for a Weekly Status report. The result is that every individual in the company learns how to set goals, understand company priorities, takes responsibility for their own activities, and reports progress regularly.

Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully. Innovation is just another name for problem-solving, and everyone in the company has the ability to solve problems. This discipline is unlike the rest in that it provides tools and principles that are used throughout the other disciplines to help people set clear goals and eliminate barriers to progress.. These goals will align with company priorities, and then employees use their innate creativity to meet or beat those goals. Empowering principles, such as Embracing Constraints and Taking Informed Risks, plus tools like the 100-Point Exercise and 5-Step Problem Solving, are but a few examples of what’s included in Discipline V.

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

BOTTOMLINE:  The Six Disciplines are described in detail in the award-winning book, Six Disciplines for Excellence, available here from Amazon

101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders

The InsideCRM guys posted this managerial cheat-sheet for those in leadership roles.

For easier reading, they’ve also split the 101 rules into several categories.

Review The Manager's Cheat Sheet: 101 Common-Sense Rules for Leaders here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Five Domains of High-Performance Organizations

According to The High-Performance Organization Survey that was conducted by i4cp in December 2009, one thing is clear: there is no single organizational element that is correlated with high performance. Rather, there are five.

For decades, the research team at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has studied what separates high-performing organizations from their lower-performing counterparts. The results of that research have consistently shown that companies that excel in the following five domains are typically high performers:
  • Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Talent
  • Culture
  • Market
The results were interesting, if not startling. The gap between higher-performing and lower-performing organizations has widened considerably from previous studies.

You can download their white paper here: The five domains of high-performance organizations

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Change Is Inevitable. Failure is Optional. What’s YOUR Plan?

As the old saying goes: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

People and organizations have only two alternatives: get better or get worse, improve or decay. And it’s a constant battle. Our choice is to manage this ongoing process and improve the things that can be improved, or ignore the process and decay. This principle is just as important in life-long learning as it is in organizational change.

The challenge for us as individuals, and for organizations, is how to keep on the “upward vector” of growth, innovation, improvement and continual learning. It can be done, but it takes positive, continuous energy and communication.

But first, we need to understand the dynamics of change.

Which Comes First: Process or Behavior?

Many leaders address the change challenge in a very clinical fashion, going first for the process, the policy or the procedure. Fixing or otherwise improving a process usually involves changing it in some way. But, which comes first: process or behavior?

Effective execution of strategy ultimately requires change first in the behaviors and attitudes of leadership – and of all employees –before processes can be changed. One failing in most business improvement approaches is the tendency to develop new or ideal processes on paper, without addressing elements of human behavior and human nature. Perhaps it’s an over-reliance on highly data-driven methodologies like Six Sigma or lean. In these scenarios, the expectation is if we can use good quantifiable data to demonstrate that a process change will result in an improvement, then people will automatically change their behavior. On the contrary, our experience and research tells us that behavior change requires time, effort – and most importantly – discipline.

For any enduring change to take place, behaviors (habits) need to change before processes can successfully be changed.

To understand organizational change, three simple behavioral laws emerge:

  • Any work behavior (verbal or physical) that works (pays off, is successful, gets us what we want) is repeated.
  • Any work behavior that avoids a negative experience (criticism, needless effort, appears inept, avoids something we don't want) is repeated.
  • Any work behavior that leads directly to a negative experience (discipline, embarrassment, needless effort) is not repeated.
BOTTOMLINE: The often used blanket comment; “I don’t like change” is untrue. We generally like changes that affect us positively, but tend to resist changes that affect us in a negative way. In other words, “We don’t resist change, we resist being changed.” What people need is a new perspective on change, and how it will benefit them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Six Disciplines Client BioFit Showcased in U.S. Business Review

In the 1960s and 1970s, BioFit Engineer­ed Products led the industry by introducing a line of ergonomic chairs for the industrial and laboratory markets. These chairs included features such as adjustability, lumbar support and specially designed seats to fit the user’s body as perfectly as possible.

The company became a success, President Ed Metzger says, but had yet to find a long-range plan that suited it.

With the implementation of a complete strategy execution program called Six Disciplines, however, BioFit has found a strategy for success that fits it as comfortably as one of its chairs.

Read the entire story about how BioFit uses the Six Disciplines strategy execution coaching program to execute its strategy, as published by U.S. Business Review, here.

The Top 10 Reasons To Measure Results

The need for measurement may seem obvious, however, more often than not, it's overlooked as being unnecessary by many leaders of small and midsized organizations.

Let's look at the top 10 reasons why your organization needs to measure its results:

  1. Measurement clarifies expectations. Measures are a the most transparent and clear means to communicate expectations to employees.
  2. Measurement directs behavior. Most employees consciously or unconsciously operate on the following assumption: “tell me how you'll measure me, and I'll tell you how I'll behave.”
  3. Measurement increases objectivity. Measurement is essential to “managing by fact” – otherwise you are left to lead with charm and personality.
  4. Measurement makes performance visible. If it’s not being measured, it simply can’t be managed.
  5. Measurement focuses attention. When people are faced with so many competing priorities for their time and activities, what is measured tends to get their attention – particularly when it is linked to a recognition/reward system.
  6. Measurement promotes consistency. Unmeasured systems tend to be highly variable systems, with all the negatives for quality that implies.
  7. Measurement facilitates feedback. Feedback in the form of timely, relevant measures is the basic navigational device of any individual or organization.
  8. Measurement improves decision-making. One of the major causes of failure in decision-making is poor or non-existent use of data. One accurate measure can be worth a thousand opinions.
  9. Management promotes understanding. Quality guru W. Edwards Deming thought that systematic process measurement led to the “profound knowledge” that was essential to top quality outcomes.
  10. Measurement improves execution. As former Allied Signal CEO and co-author of Execution Larry Bossidy has remarked “when I see companies that don’t execute, the chances are high that they don’t measure.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why Read Six Disciplines for Excellence?

Why read Six Disciplines for Excellence?

“…for those who take the time to read it, the payoffs can be astounding.” (Sarah Bosch, Business Opportunities Weblog)

“For pragmatists and those who love execution, I give this book a strong recommend. Buy Six Disciplines of Excellence.” (Sam Decker, Decker Marketing)

“Well done Mr. Harpst. You have created what I think will be a book and method that will be used for generations.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)

“The Six Disciplines book is a must-have addition to the small business owner’s library.” (Gary Whitehair, High Performance Business)

“This book is about real business, how to get it done, how to consistently improve, and how to achieve excellence using that time tested method called 'hard work.' (Rob May, The Business Pundit)

“Truly - one of the most well thought-out business books I have read in a long time.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)

“This hands-on book goes beyond the fluff that many other business books serve up, and offers a real world business plan.” (Sarah Bosch, Business Opportunities Weblog)

“Gary has found a way to comprehensively combine the best practices from Balanced Scorecards, Malcolm Baldridge and other frameworks into a world class approach.” (Glenn Gleason, Life, Work and the Pursuit of Excellence)

“I really liked this book because it is simple and practical. It is easy to read, relevant to most companies, and thorough.” (Rob May, The Business Pundit)

“One of the more enjoyable books I’ve read on small business success.” (Dr. Robert Rausch, CEO 1 Executive Energy)

“A Business Improvement Book with a Lasting Difference” (CEO Refresher)
“Six Disciplines for Excellence, by Gary Harpst is a great example of how to use common sense to build a business.” (Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy)

“Six Disciplines is unlike anything I've seen for small businesses. It's a book. It's a methodology. It's technology. It's a coaching system. It's something you'll be hearing a lot more about.” (Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends)

“There are very few people in this world that can consistently execute to get things done right. This book can help you become one of those rare execution-oriented individuals.” (Rob May, The Business Pundit)

BOTTOMLINE: Get Six Disciplines for Excellence from Amazon

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Accountability Works

There's a lot of talk going on these days about accountability.

For some, it's important for their professional lives (i.e., setting business goals, keeping on track, being responsible, etc.) For others, it's more personal (i.e., diet, weight loss, exercising, etc.)

Whatever the case, it's important to understand what accountability is, and ultimately, how it works. Here's a short course:

What is accountability? Why is it important? If you walk into a room and ask ten people what accountability means, you’ll likely get ten different definitions. To some, it’s something you make people do, as in “holding people accountable”. To others, accountability means accepting responsibility, but only when a project goes off course, or it’s too late to fix. When it’s all said and done, a workable definition of accountability might include the following elements: Taking responsibility for your own behavior; doing what’s right consistently; demonstrating personal integrity, and actively participating in activities and interactions that support the strategy of your organization.

Now that we understand better what accountability is, now consider what it isn’t. Accountability is not something you “make” people do. It has to be chosen, accepted or agreed upon by the 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 or live. Learning how to become accountable involves an element of discipline. Most importantly, individual purpose and personal meaning comes from accepting responsibility and learning to be accountable.

Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they learn to be more responsible. When they become more responsible, they earn more freedom. By being accountable, they earn the trust of managers and coworkers. When they are more accountable, they understand their purpose and role within the organization and are committed to making things happen

How can you learn to be accountable for yourself? In reality, it’s very difficult to be accountable to yourself. Depending on your frame of reference (professional vs. personal) you need to find someone who can help you to stay on track, to stay focused. Accountability can be the catalyst for unlearning old habits, and learning new habits. For weight loss, it's the reason that WeightWatchers is a multi-billion dollar business. It's also no secret that the tremendous growth in business coaching (for example, like Six Disciplines) due to its success in applying the benefits of external accountability coaching.

BOTTOMLINE: Accountability and positive organizational change come through a new set of conversations. So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, January 11, 2010

CEO Gary Harpst Discusses The Four Kinds of Leadership

There are four kinds of leadership development, according to CEO Gary Harpst, who joins Jim Blasingame at The Small Business Advocate, to talk about the way each one allows your small business to grow in a more sophisticated and therefore, more successful way.

Listen to the podcast interview here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Not Just Another New Year’s Resolution

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

The overwhelming majority of us have dismal success with our New Year’s resolutions. Yet, amazingly enough, despite our collective track records, most of us go through the same process every year.

We step back and review all the things we did poorly and how we can improve – eat better, exercise more, spend more time with the family, etc., etc., etc.. Then we vow to do better in the coming year. I am definitely going to avoid the fatty foods, I am going to lose weight and I am going to be a better father, mother, husband, wife, etc., etc., etc..

Every January, we boldly pronounce our resolutions, even if just to ourselves. Then, two weeks later, we find we’re already off course. Unfortunately, this process of making New Year’s resolutions is not much more than wishful thinking – a mere “hope” that we’ll do better. And, as I’ve written about before – hope is not a strategy.

We really do expect different results but we do little to break the cycle and we end up in the same place. We are fighting human nature. It is hard work to do the right things and more importantly to do the right things consistently.

Whether it’s for personal, professional or business purposes, I encourage you to stop making resolutions. That’s right – you read that correctly. Ditch the resolutions. This year, and from now on, I encourage you to set goals - not resolutions.

The Difference Between Goals and Resolutions
Resolutions are fun, but unfortunately, they’re typically meaningless – with little “teeth” or enforcement. In a word, they lack accountability. For example, some personal resolutions could be: to lose weight, or to exercise more, or to spend more time reading, or to spend less time watching TV, etc. If you examine your current approach to making resolutions (rather than creating real goals) you’ll discover much of the difficulty in executing them are due to barriers. These barriers may include:

  • The timeframe is too short (or so long that it’s not reasonable)
  • The involvement or dependency on other people
  • Poorly defined outcome or a vague strategy for how to get there
  • Unclear responsibility or accountability

The simple truth is most of us are trained to make plans, not to execute them. Our business schools are consistently top heavy when it comes to strategic planning, project planning, etc. But when it comes to execution? More often than not, we learned based on the "school of hard knocks."

No matter the goal, it requires us to formulate a strategy that helps us to achieve our desired results. And herein lies the problem. Formulating strategy is one thing. Executing it is another.

How to Set Goals – Not Resolutions

So rather than continuing on the path of low probability, I encourage you to make your goals that meet the following Goal Setting Criteria. (see below) Let’s look at that age-old resolution favorite “I am going to lose weight” but instead let’s make it a real goal “I am going lose 10 pounds by Spring Break 2010.”

  1. Be Specific – Be as exacting as possible. (Question: Is the goal well-defined, what does success look like? Yes, I will lose a specific weight by a specific date)
  2. Measure the Outcome – if you can’t measure it, it is not a good goal. We can track our progress during the timeframe in the number of pounds lost (Question: Will we know when the goal has been achieved? How will progress be measured? I will weigh 10 pounds less and I plan to lose 3 pounds per month)
  3. Be Realistic – you achieve the goal in the timeframe set or with the resources you have. (Question: Is the goal obtainable? Yes, based on the amount of weight I can afford to lose and the timeframe, it is achievable.)

Additional Goal-Setting Recommendations

What does success look like? What will it feel like when you have achieved a specific goal? Take the time to visualize when, where, and how the goal will be carried out. When you take the time to visualize exactly when and where you will do something, you’ll have a significantly higher probability of meeting those goals.

Passion trumps wishful thinking. You have to care about your goal. It has to be important to you. The goals that are most attainable are those that you want more than anything else.
Become laser-focused. A shorter list of goals is more likely to be achieved than a laundry list. If you set too many goals, it’s difficult to keep them all in mind and make progress. When you lose sight of a goal, you begin to drift. Pick one goal — or two, or at the very most three — and make these your highest priorities.

Make your goals public. You’ll find a much higher level of accountability if you’ve publicly committed your goals to someone other than yourself. This increases the probability you’ll reach your goals. Want additional assurance? Set a specific time (say, halfway through the deadline to achieve the goal) to meet with someone you trust to assess your progress. Share the goals with colleagues, employees, family members.

If you are looking for some good resolutions to turn into goals for 2010 – sample these:

  • Be a better leader
  • Improve your communications at work and home
  • Hold yourself and others accountable
  • Learn new/build skills this year
  • Grow your sales revenues or profits
  • Eat better, exercise, and lose weight

Remember, these are just resolutions until you apply the Goal Setting Criteria to it. Stay focused, stay discplined, get it done. Happy New Year!

A Resolution For Better Plan Execution

Kenneth Dodd, a marketing consultant and contributor for The California North County Times, offers his views on "A New Resolution For Better Plan Execution."

His premise:

  • Every year, we gather our thoughts and consider resolutions for the coming year.
  • No matter the goal, it requires us to formulate a strategy that helps us to achieve our desired results. And here lies the problem.
  • Formulating strategy is one thing. Executing it is another.
  • The simple truth is most of us are trained to plan, not to execute. Execution is all too often learned in the "school of hard knocks."

For any business caring about its brand's promise, becoming better versed in the ways of plan execution is a must. In fact, place it high on this coming New Year's resolution list. Do so and you gain a tremendous competitive advantage over your competitors who continue to ignore its importance.

BOTTOMLINE: "When developing your New Year's resolutions begin by establishing a strategy execution model as goal No. 1. Do so and you will have taken an important first step in making your upcoming planned strategies work as needed. How you execute your planned strategies is a key to strategy success. Clarify each and every step of an execution plan with your employees.

As you examine your current approach to implementing your plans, you will discover much of the difficulty of execution is due to the obstacles or impediments to it. These may include the requisite time frames needed for execution; involvement of various people in the process; poorly defined or vague strategy; conflicts in the organization or unclear responsibility and accountability."