Want Results? – Get Serious

The problem is obvious. Merely going through the motions of business planning won’t get the desired results, it will get the obvious ones.

Imagine you paid good money to see a professional sporting event and the participants sauntered onto the playing field looking out of shape and under prepared. They go through the motions lacking the significant passion or commitment obviously required and not really caring if they win or lose. Clearly this would not be acceptable.

Similarly, when you take the time and expense to take your “key” staff offsite you should NOT accept such behavior. It’s the leader’s role to inspire and harness the passions of their staff by providing a vision bigger than the individuals and requiring collaboration, innovation and collective purpose. It’s the senior staff’s responsibility to create a culture of accountability and commitment to one another, their employees and the company in pursuit of the desired results.  That’s how teams work and results are achieved.

 

Here are the wrong signs:

  1. You plan the event weeks in advance and people reluctantly show up unprepared.
  2. Presentations requested show up late of the requested deadline and are incomplete.
  3. Participants take every opportunity to get their phone out and keep in touch with the office.
  4. The event is all fluff and form but lacks substance.
  5. No one believes anything of value will result from the exercise. Often based on past experiences.
  6. AND I AM SURE YOU CAN ADD FIVE MORE OF YOU OWN!

 “You get what you accept so expect more and get more”

So how do you solve this –you get serious!

Let’s begin!

  • Define the purpose of the event and what success looks like.

Make it clear that the purpose of the event is to discuss the issues or initiatives required to address the critical needs of the business. Be specific in advance and charge your people to come to the meeting prepared with answer and solutions. Create the expectation that this meeting is of upmost importance and requires participants to bring their “A” game.

  • This is not a 1 -2 day event, it is the launching plan of the key business initiatives the organization will commit to successfully achieving. Defining both the strategy and execution in actionable specific steps is a must. These are not optional nice to haves and failure to achieve then is not an acceptable option, so debates and commitments made are real and achievable.
  • Check your distractions at the door. Ensure the office knows these people are unavailable for the duration of the event. They can check in after the event. If the staff can’t manage without then for the day ask why.
  • Make the event real. Deal with real issues or real opportunities. I will add several links at the conclusion of this post for those who want clarification. Walking out of that event without full understanding and commitment is not acceptable. Make your Strategy Real.
  • Strategy without execution is of no value. If you have a goal you need a realistic plan to achieving it. Poor execution is almost always the leading cause of failure of strategic plan initiatives. Most goals are achievable given focus, passion, commitment and enduring commitment. The execution plan needs to be a living document that guides and measures your progress throughout the year.
  • If at any time during the meeting inappropriate levels of attention, intensity or lack of effort or commitment / buy in is observed, stop the meeting and address the causes before proceeding. Don’t let the meeting deteriorate.

In summary, the difference in producing and executing a successful Strategic Plan is setting and maintaining the expectation that the organization will commit to, and realize the stated business initiatives by taking the actions to make it real.

Make Your Strategy Real

Look Back to move forward

 

Creating and Sustaining Urgency

As leaders we need to create a sense of urgency in our organizations to harness the collective energy of our workforce. It is important that the organization is always being enabled and challenged to improve, and indifference and apathy get rooted out. This is best accomplished through the establishing, and robust execution of key business initiatives developed during the annual planning process and the development of a  results orientated culture differentiating your business to customers and employees alike.

Leaders must inspire action not demand it.”

Employee buy-in is best accomplished through enablement and not coercion. Coercion creates rebellion / pushback and anxiety. When employees feel pressured to perform they look for ways to reduce it and this may result in low performance, withdrawal or departure. Any gains through coercion are short-lived. A good leader will challenge but will not dictate.

As a leader we must create an environment where purpose is clear and where employees are actively involved early in the process.

“Don’t tell me what to do ask me to how to achieve the desired result.”

 Engagement occurs when employees value the accomplishment of the goal and feel connected to the achievement of it through their efforts and contributions. Ensuring roadblocks and obstacles are removed is a key management support action in ensuring employee efforts are not unnecessarily hampered with unneeded bureaucracy or other business inefficiencies. As examples these two disruptors a) unclear responsibilities / ownership creates unnecessary power struggles orb) indecisive management decision-making are real de-motivators.

Keys to Building Engagement:

  1. Employees understand the goals and buy into their accomplishment.
  2. Employees feel empowered to a goal ownership level.
  3. The Plan is real and achievable.
  4. Success / rewards / recognition are distributed to those contributing to the attainment.
  5. Failure is understood and not punished.
  6. Leaders enable and don’t interfere.
  7. Trust and respect are real and not just slogans.
  8. Underperformance and inefficiencies are understood and resolved.
  9. Expectations are reasonable and sustainable.
  10. Accountability is clear for execution purposes not blame assignment.

As leaders we must step back and see things for what they are. I call this curb vision. This is looking at your business without bias and seeing things as they really are not as you would like them or accept them. Identifying where opportunity is and seizing it will ensure urgency is consistent and ongoing. Any Thoughts?

 

50 Reasons Why You Lose Customer

Customer retention matters more than chasing new ones. If your business leaks customers adding them won’t help in the long run. Finding out the reasons why they are leaving you and mitigating it is smart business.

I jotted down 50 ways you can lose them. Recognize any? Sure you could add 50 more.

Here’s my list enjoy!

1)     They got me and they have stopped looking at others.

2)     My deal is the best available.

3)     I know exactly what they want.

4)     Understanding stops at my door not at my customers.

5)     Of course they see me as critical.

6)     I don’t want to bother them so I leave them alone.

7)     I let them know I care –I send them some chocolates at Christmas.

8)     I guess my products and services are useful to them –they buy them right.

9)     Complaining customers just want too much and  I wish they would just go away.

10)  Another complaint just like the others oh well.

11)  So it was late – it got there.

12)  Jack the price they’ll pay.

13)  Customer visits are expensive and unnecessary.

14)  Lose 3 gain 3 all’s good.

15)  Competitors are a fact of life just ignore them and most go away.

16)  My revolving door sales force is just another inconvenience to me.

17)  My hard working employee Jack represents my company but the client is loyal to me right.

18)  I don’t need non-competes it makes employee think I don’t trust them.

19)  Let hire this guy he’s worked for 3 of our competitors over the last 3 years

20)  Put them on hold they won’t mind.

21)  Hey Jack at our large customer X apparently went somewhere else who knows.

22)  Jacks replacement –whoever he is will keep buying right.

23)  Anybody follow up with that pissed off customer yet.

24)  Price is only important if you’re not the best.

25)  Good service always results in price not being important.

26)  Technology is expensive and doesn’t help me.

27)  Customers usually won’t change if I don’t screw up.

28)  Tradition is important I’m in so I’m good.

29)  Value is in the eye of the beholder and my customer is color blind.

30)  Never trip a race horse -leave well enough alone.

31)  Disruptive what!

32)  Sears has been around for 50 + years.

33)  You dad used us so should you.

34)  Cadillac is a ultimate sign of success.

35)  What do the kids know anyways?

36)  Mom’s home baking why appeal to her

37)  Everyone wants us no point paying attention to our customer demographics

38)  Sales are down its seasonal I guess.

39)  Let’s jack up the price and offer a sales promotion.

40)  Value is in the eye of the beholder but I know what my customers want

41)  Let’s try this -maybe our customers might like it.

42)  Market research is for those who don’t know -we do.

43)  Sales are down let’s save some money cut marketing spending back.

44)  Some many large players – where they getting the business

45)  Amazon really?

46)  Online shopping why?

47)  “Why” Simon Sinek  -think they care?

48)  We don’t allow our employees to waste time looking at stuff online.

49)  Better to react than anticipate.

50)  Once you are on top the games over -you win.

A United Mind , Body and Spirit

This article is for anyone wanting more. Turning ambition into accomplishment requires focus and dedication but they alone without structure, often lack the substance to become reality. This article tells the story about how I set a goal to pedal my road bike 3000 km and the reasons why and how this challenge delivered so much more.

Life is what you make it. Being the person you aspire to be requires your passion, your committment and your dedication. To rise and maintain the quality of life you desire is a worthy challenge . The higher the standard, the greater the struggle, the more satisfying the achievement . The key is to understand why your goal is important to you. Goals that aren’t inspired with passion and personal meaning are difficult to attain and maintain.

I pursue my personal goals much as I would for my business goals. The crafting of a strategic plan, managing the implementation, and executing an ongoing committment to deliver the capabilities and realize the desired outcomes. While not as formal, the thinking is the same.

Achieving your personal or professional goals requires focus on mind, body and spirit collectively.

My 2017 initiative was to ride my bike 3000 kilometers. At 61 I felt I needed to attempt this challenge as an effort to challenge and re-energize myself. This was a very physical effort over a 5 month period that required determination, focus and undying desire to achieve. Challenging my body required harnessing the power of mind and spirit.

I felt it was such an important journey because it was a goal that entailed commitment over a five month period. It required me to invest and maintain a disciplined schedule. Because of the physicality of the goal there was a need to get in the mindset that I could do this and realize this was so much more important than the ride itself. I steeled myself against the body strains and pains, the scorching summer heat, the incessant insects and their bites, and the mental challenge not to succumb to the long rides / steep hills. The spiritual growth of achieving this new challenge had meaning in that it reconfirmed my core belief that given time and commitment almost anything is possible. In addition, enjoying the quiet solitude of being in nature and experiencing it’s awesome beauty was spiritually uplifting.

As with most new endeavors, doing it poorly until you get better meant my initial rides were short and challenging. As I continued I learned to do things better like how to pedal for distance. My early rides were around 20 km but gradually increased to 50 and 70+ kms rides. This also reminded me that I needed to pace my professional initiatives to perform better for longer as well. My first rides were short so the early progress was disappointing but I stayed committed. My emotions and personal will to achieve my goals, along with the tremendous sense of accomplishment kept me committed. This also transferred into my professional work. Things I knew I needed to get accomplished, but were not done timely due to procrastination, were now being completed.

While I realize that this accomplishment may be beyond other’s capabilities due to physical demands, interest or time constraints, and may be far beneath the accomplishments of others, it was a personal challenge appropriate to me. It is my attempt here to emphasize, to myself and others still reading, that the benefits and connectivity of mind, body and spirit is important and crucial. It truly helped me to get back in touch with myself and I sincerely hope you’ll consider these benefits as well.

As you can see below I did reach my goal just as the weather deteriorated to less desirable riding conditions here in Calgary. This was a personal victory along my path of self discovery and growth, a life long journey. I would also like to mention that while it is me pushing the pedals, I have a lot of support by those around me in my quest. My wife encourages me and allows me the time to pursue this and other initiatives. It is so incredible how others respect and encourage you when you make the goal public. Perhaps the whole humanity of helping others is the foundation of helping one’s self.

I am including brief lessons learned below…

Lessons Learned

  1. You must believe in yourself before you can turn your ambitions into accomplishments.
  2. It’s important to understand and resolve any obstacles to your success. Avoiding these is an invitation for a future occurence.
  3. Even though you may not be up for the ride you need to make it because consistency and self-discipline are essential components to success
  4. Measurement is essential and it’s motivational to track your performance towards your goal.
  5. Get your team involved, you’ll need the support and they’ll be inspired by your success.
  6. Perserverance is very important on the hill climbs, which are perhaps the biggest challenge. It would be easy to give in and stop, but these are must win battles that test your resolve and validate your passion and purpose.
  7. Never settle. Today’s accomplishments are tomorrow’s baseline.

 

Change is going to do you good! If?

Change management is indeed messy and often frustrating, but is an unavoidable reality. At some level people want it, need it, and perhaps desire it if only they could take a pill to make it happen.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in making change initiatives successful is accepting the reality of the situation by both the change facilitator and the leadership team. Perhaps the best way, my preferred approach, is to build awareness of the “current state”. I believe you must look back before attempting to go forward.

Looking backwards into what has worked and what hasn’t, in the recent past initiatives, is so revealing and builds an understanding of the organizations strengths and opportunities. I am not talking about the traditional SWOT analysis, which will come forward as the process evolves, I am referring to the debriefing of the prior attempts and identifying what lessons have been learned or need to be learned and identifying the true capability for change in the organization.

Building this awareness is necessary for the organization to accept responsibility and accountability. It’s pure insanity to repeat the same processes until the known causes of failure are understood and mitigated. Change involves making tough decisions about people, processes and purpose.

Every organization is unique and by understanding their capabilities, commitment and discipline levels, the change facilitator and leadership team can build a realistic path forward. And yes the change facilitator cannot be positioned as the champion but merely as the resource of best practices.

Time and Profitability

Time and Profitability

Time waits on no one and once spent it is lost.

For most organizations time is its most important asset. Waste it and it’s gone and with it the profits to keep your organization viable. How an organization spends its time can be the difference between success and failure.

Below is a tool to help assess how your organization spends time and the associated impact on profits. The tool is designed to bring awareness and understanding of the usage of time into four different quadrants.

Quadrants

1.       Planning             5- 10%

2.       Execution             85% +

3.       Fire Fight            <   5%

4.       Crisis                    <   1 %

Planning

Time in this quadrant is spent on defining how and what the organization will deliver. Activities such as strategic planning, competitor analysis, product/service development, procedure definition, process mapping, performance measures and problem solving are done here.

Time spent is this quadrant is extremely valuable to your organization and should ensure your business has a focused plan for success.  Depending on the size and maturity of the organization I recommend spending somewhere between 5 – 10% of the time here. The right amount is determined by the time needed to ensure the organization remains successful.

Execution

Time used here is spent delivering the products and services of your organization. In high performing businesses time spent here will be 85%+. This means 8.5 /10 or better the transaction is to standard.

To qualify as time spent in this quadrant, time must be used to meet performance standards.  For instance, the time required to take a customer order and ship the product or perform the service should be in compliance with the process standard/job definition. If the required customer order information is missing or incorrect, the product is not available, you use excessive labour or other disruptions occur, that time is captured and allocated to time spent in quadrant 3 or 4. I have included an example below.

Fire Fight

Time spent here is the incremental/reactive (Fire Fight) time spent to redo or correct for a failure. In a struggling organization time spent here can be moderate to excessive. For instance, a construction project with a 25% labor overrun, a capital project severely over budget and behind schedule or a failed service delivery would be an example of this. Any event where more labor, especially management intervention, is required than would be expected qualifies here.

Here is an example of a personal experience. I recently ordered 500 new business cards. The original order arrived and there was a minor error on the card. I called the company and, as promised, they agreed to correct it at no additional cost to me. While the original order was online it now involved a customer service representative and took approximately 20 minutes.  The reorder was shipped express mail and was received about a week later. I opened the shipment and found they shipped me only 100 cards. Back on the phone again and another 20 minutes later they apologized and agreed to ship the order a third time and because they only ship in 100, 250, 500+ order sizes they informed me I would receive 500 more business cards. So now I have 1100 new business cards and this vendor spent their profit and more fulfilling the order. This could be a onetime occurrence but I doubt it!

I see these things go on everywhere. Redo’s can crush an organization’s profit and can be a leading cause of business losses. No business can sustain prolonged under-performance and the associated overspending on labor. Take a second and consider instances that occur inside your business.

Crisis

To qualify as time spent in crisis, the circumstances are dire and the resulting cost/business impact would be considered extreme. Events here can be classified as internal and external.

Internal crisis are or should be controllable, whereas, external events are caused, arguably, as events beyond the control of your organization. I will explain why I say arguably, shortly.

Internal events are things like chronic labor overruns, major inventory mismanagement, extreme excess non valued added labor spending or simply failure to maintain a healthy organization culture and efficient customer focused workforce.

External causes include changes in government policy, major changes in economic conditions, changing customer preferences, disruptive competitive offerings or actions including anything from new entrants, price actions or new technology:

My arguably comments is relevant to the extent of your organization’s responsiveness to addressable events. The best example of this might be Yahoo, an undisputed market champion that fell prey to Google and others due to lack of focus and failure to correct course.

 Action

By classifying the time your organization spends in each of the quadrants, you can raise awareness and take the appropriate corrective action. This tool is intended to start conversations that will lead to addressing required changes as opposed to accepting that this is the way things work around here. Most organizations have standards; however, often the prevailing practice becomes the de facto standard. In some case an organization is knowingly underperforming and accepts this as acceptable due to weak leadership. Say for instance our standard is to return customer calls within 2 hours but call routinely don’t get make until 6 or more hours and no corrective action is initiated. Or more severe would be no investigation into labor overruns.

I recently led a strategic planning session for a client where – during a mid morning break – several managers began a conversation identifying several inefficiencies that we’re occurring and had been occurring for a long time. As I listened each manager shared their displeasure with the situation. As the break ended the conversation dropped.

Based on my observation I offered the following. First off all, you agreed this was a clear case of unnecessary disruption that was causing ongoing fire fighting to overcome these efficiencies. No one has taken ownership of any of the issues and no one has committed to addressing this issue for resolution. In short, they had accepted this as the way things were done. Reluctantly these issues were added to the ‘To-Do List’ by the leadership team.

This is not an isolated example. I have had similar experiences in many companies I have worked with. This is the low-hanging-fruit that successful organization harvest. Failure to identify and harvest the fruit results in decay and waste.

In my next post I will address how to best deal with undesirable findings in Time Management.

Stephen Howell

Horizon Executive Consulting