The Business Consultant’s Dilemma – Integrity or Pay Check

There are those consultants with the philosophy that as long as the cheques cashed it’s all good.  Where and how do you draw the line in the sand with clients?

Over the last 10+ years I have provided Business Consulting to over 60 businesses and senior leaders. Prior to this I held senior management positions in Finance, Operations and Marketing throughout North America. So I have been on both sides, as a client and as the one providing the consulting services.

Let’s begin with understanding The Consultant’s Dilemma.

  • As a consultant do you attempt to put things in the best possible light telling the client what they want to hear or do you tell then what they need to hear?
  • As a consultant do you gloss over sensitive business issues to avoid making the customer upset or do you risk being fired because your efforts are viewed as disruptive / uncomfortable to the organization?
  • As a consultant do you go along with a poor / or an incomplete plan because that’s what the client wants despite you knowing you’re facilitating failure, or do you openly challenge the clients assumptions and reasoning?
  • As a consultant do you continue showing up despite knowing that your client is failing or unwilling to take agreed upon actions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes, or do you terminate the assignment and part ways?
  • As a consultant do you perform the responsibilities of others to achieve success or do you identify organization deficiencies for resolution?

These real life situations are not uncommon and represent a significant challenge. The Business Consultants knowing when to invest more time and effort to facilitate a transformation versus knowing when walking away. Its essential consultants accept that change is not made it’s accepted and acted on.

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

Excellent article. By far failure offers the best opportunity to learn, improve and reach new success That’s how science and life works. Building character, taking responsibility, learning to manage risk its on great! Making small bets is a great way to test out you ideas you don’t need to bet the farm.

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

How to Turn Every Failure Into a Measure for Success

Originally posted by http://www.twitter.com/LollyDaskal

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.

 

Strategy –Finding Your Place

Without a winning strategy your journey has no destination and success would be an accident –they do happen but are unlikely.

At the foundation of strategy is finding a need for a good or service that is either solving a problem or creating a benefit that customers want and will pay enough for you to generate a profit.

Understanding a market by the fundaments is an important first step.

There are 4 questions:

  1. What is the Market?
  2. Why does the Market exist?
  3. Who are the Leaders?
  4. How will you carve out you niche?

What is the market answers the question of what is being provided to meet a need of consumers of such value that there is a demand. For instance farmers grow the food that people must have unless they grow it themselves or restaurants are a market that serves prepared food. Both meet a defined need.

Why the Market exists is about understanding why the need exists and how that need is addressed. Farmers are needed because in much of today’s society people don’t grow their own food. Restaurants exist to serve people that can’t or don’t want to buy food and prepare it for a variety of reason.

 

Who are the leaders is about understanding how the market is currently being serviced by the major players of each definitive market segment. This is understanding who, currently, are the major participants such as Kroger, WalMart or McDonalds. These players are market leaders in their respective category. There is great diversity on market segments, how providers service specific consumer groups, and who owns consumer mindshare within each category.

And finally how will you position your product or service to capture enough business to be successful by defining a unique offering and hopefully defendable position. By understanding the why the market exists the provider can position to meet the needs of specific consumer preferences. You don’t need to be the biggest to own a segment but, you have to be unique enough to carve out your dominance and meet your segments consumer’s preferences. For instance, Trader Joes does not compete with Kroger for selection or price but instead attracts and serves  a specific customer group.

While the questions are simple the answers can be very complex and challenging. Successfully understanding the questions is essential to the crafting of the winning strategy for your organization. Strategy is about making informed choices and commitments that must concisely define your organization’s vision before the execution can be undertaken to successful achieve the strategy. Yes there is order in the universe.

Look Backwards to Learn How to Move Forward -Learn From or Repeat Your History

Leaders must understand their organizations capabilities both good and bad. This assessment is crucial to the success of any change initiative. The best way to do this is to examine the past history of their organization’s ability to plan and execute.

“Leaders who use the let’s try it again approach expecting to achieve a different more positive result are true optimists but poor leaders.”

I like to say anything is possible and made more likely through proper planning and solid execution. Realism begins with a true understanding of the gap between the present state and the desired future state, specifically, what is the required time, talent and tools / processes to bridge the gap.

Change requires critical thinking and involves hard choices. Leaders must understand that resources are limited and the organizations ability to change will be limited by the choices of what needs to start, be continued or stopped. Truth is you can not keep doing the same things and expect change to successfully occur.

“Ambition will not become accomplishment unless you address the organizations shortfalls and mitigate them.”

While I firmly believe success belongs to those doing the work and short comings belong to the leader the successful leader must determine the way forward. It is the responsibility of the leadership to determine and address the performance gaps.

“Leadership involves hard choices and the responsibility to successfully sell them to the organization”

The organization that points fingers to avoid accountability will fail. Specifically when management blames the workers and the employees blame management accountability is ambiguous and non-existent. Leadership must have the hard conversations and forge mutual ownership of problem solving with the employees to understand and address the performance gap.

For employee engagement to occur two questions have to be asked and answered. First, what is in it for the employee to accept the change and secondly, what is the employee expected to do. It is with this clarity that leadership can sell the needed changes.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-strategic-plans-dont-succeed-execution-readiness-howell/

True Leadership Trumps

So true. True leaders find the path forward by inspiring their organizations to take the appropriate actions to push forward. In truth adversity inspires the creativity, innovation and determination that differentiates the winning organizations from those whom live on life support. It begins with having solid strategy https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-makes-your-strategy-real-stephen-t-howell/

2018 Strategic Planning

As you prepare for 2018 planning its essential you understand these 3 realities.  1. Time is your most valuable asset. 2. This coming year is not new its a continuation of this year’s efforts 3. Dynamic transformation is possible ( only If you have a real plan).

What Makes Your Strategy Real

What Makes Your Strategy Real

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-makes-your-strategy-real-stephen-t-howell/

Decision Making Awareness: Red Light / Green Light

 

Scenario One

You walk up to an intersection and the light is green. You have the right away. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car runs the red light and kills you!

Scenario Two

You walk up to an intersection and the light is red. You do not have the right away but you risk it. As you walk across the intersection a fast-moving car drives through the intersection on his green light and kills you!

Result

The result is the same you’re dead. And so it goes with decision-making, following the basic rules is seldom sufficient. In my experience, whether making the decision based on generally accepted principles or taking the risk and breaking the rules, both, can get you in trouble if you don’t see the blind spot. In the scenarios above neither considered the oncoming car, perhaps the most important variable. We made the assumption the car driver was playing by the same (our) rules.

Blind Spot

Avoiding the “blind spot” thinking trap means looking at all the variables and applying judgement. For instance, in the above scenario was the driver of the oncoming car acting appropriately? Was the vehicle slowing down? Was there any acknowledgement by the driver showing awareness that someone was crossing the intersection? This is basic commonsense, which often, isn’t so common after all.

Reliability and Awareness

The best definition of reliability is “understanding all the causes of reliability and mitigating them”. In decision-making this means understanding all the factors and considerations and remaining in a state of readiness.  Key assumptions or expectations need to be continuously monitored and updated based on results to date.

Real World Thinking –Airline Policy Example

As we have learned from the recent events occurring in the airline industry, operating by standard policy can be disastrous. In these events, the passengers, in some cases, were not playing by the assumed rules and while the airlines though they were in the right they were clearly proven wrong in the court of public opinion. Did the airlines plan for dealing with uncooperative passengers? If they did and I believe they do, did the actions taken in line with their policy? Obviously this policy needs refinement.

Agility and Adaptability Decision Making Guidelines

Following are five guidelines I recommend to ensure your decision-making is “Real World Ready”.

1.      Policies are guidelines that show a path / process to the desired results, they are not the unbreakable rules of engagement.

2.      Leadership must be aware of potential conflicts of interest of key stakeholders, and have mitigation protocols in place to allow for appropriate discretion to be taken.

3.      All decisions (guidelines) have four components: 1)The goal or outcome to be achieved, 2) Defined Strategy / Tactics to be used, 3) Deployment of the Process, 4) and an Active Feedback Loop. A formal process must exist where evaluation of the success of the decision / guideline / policy can be evaluated and lessons learned incorporated. I can guarantee you this was not the first time the airlines were made aware of the issues and concerns of the passengers to the existing policies. And to be fair the airline industry is certainly not alone here.

4.      Empowerment of the employees to allow for agility and adaptability to on the ground events. This means allowing the employees to make the final decision where discretion is required.

5.      Active communication loops to ensure awareness and process reliability can be assured. Successful organizations have to be ready and flexible to changing environments and factors, Remember what worked yesterday may not work today.

So the next time you make a decision to walk across that traffic intersection, red light or green, remember the yellow light and execute the caution and awareness needed to ensure you can remain agile and adaptable enough to reach the other side

What Makes Your Strategy Real

your strategic plan is comprised of two components. Part one is the vision which must be fully defined and vetted and part two is the requirement that the vision is supported by a realistic deployment / execution plan that is carefully managed. Vision without execution is a hallucination.

 

As a veteran Strategic Planner with 25+ years of progressive experience I have experienced first hand the keys to making your strategic initiatives real and achievable. Conversely, I have witnessed the common traps which many strategies fall victim to. The following image is a one page do’s and don’ts that will provide you a few top-level guidelines to which you may choose to use to evaluate you strategy’s realism.

Remember the your strategic plan is composed of two components. Part one is the vision which must be fully defined and vetted and part two is the requirement that the vision is supported by a realistic deployment / execution plan that is carefully managed. Vision without execution is a hallucination.

It is important to note a strategy is not just a great vision of a much desired future state, it’s that future state validated and driven down into to realist executable details and controls. Effective strategy is driven by passion and realized through alignment of focused resources committed to a structured and managed execution plan. Most strategies fail because they lack the way to make them real.

One final comment is trying to do too much too fast, “we know what’s wrong just fix it” approach is one sure way to kill any chance of success. Rome was not built-in a day and nor will you “fix” your organization’s issues /challenges / opportunities through wishful overly optimistic initiatives. The reality is real change takes real-time and focus. First step is the building the vision on a sound vetted platform, as discussed above, and then building a long view of how to realize the intended outcomes. My recommendation is to break the initiatives down into detailed project plans with 90 day review cycles.

As this slide suggest some, most significant strategies are multi-year in realization. That is why investing the time to build a solid plan is essential to keep the strategy alive and achievable. Breaking the plan into a first things first 90 cycle will help keep organization focus and accountability alive.

While this post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developing and executing business strategy it represents some important factors that must be strongly considered.

As always I welcome your comments and suggestions.