Category Archives: Blog

Execution Checklist – Are You Following Your Own Best Practices?

Execution Checklist – Are You Following Your Own Best Practices?

A pilot should never take off on a flight without going through their pre-flight checklist to ensure they have everything prepared for a safe flight. With the right preparation, the pilot consistently takes off and lands safely. Similarly, a company should learn to employ its own checklist of critical activities that help it to plan the quarter and the year, and to ensure that the members of the team do what they need to do in order to make certain that the quarterly and annual objectives are accomplished with a minimum of disruption to the organization.

To be successful, organizations clearly need great people and a great strategy, but without the habits to consistently execute well, they get lost in the day-to-day and critical activities fail to get accomplished.

From Vision to Long Term Strategy

From Vision to Long Term Strategy

In the early planning stages, an organization needs to agree on its company purpose, its vision for the future, and the core values that will guide its actions.

Next, it has to undertake a complete situation and internal analysis to find a viable strategy that will leverage its core competencies, while also being compatible and aligned with the organization’s vision and values. This comprehensive assessment should detail target customers; markets to be served; key processes to be used; and competitive advantages that can be built into the strategy. Remember, your goal is to develop a strategy that creates a unique strategic position for your business.

Next, your strategy will lay out your actual course of action as well as the tools of measurement you will use to gauge success. It is in the development of this action plan that your operational processes must be carefully considered.

If I may share my “wisdom” with you, your 3-5 year strategic plan should be viewed as a process, and not merely a project. The more effectively you can craft your plan as a series of cause and effect relationships, the more effective it is likely to be. It is at this point that you will want to examine and consider any possible road bumps you might be likely to experience.

Do you have a clear sense of who you are as an organization? Or, are you happy to sell anything to anyone?

Do you have a clear sense of who you are as an organization? Or, are you happy to sell anything to anyone?

Once these fundamentals of identity and vision have been established, the strategic conversation can turn to more traditional elements of competitive planning. In what geographic territory does the organization wish to operate? Who is its core customer? What products and services does the organization offer? What are the tangible benefits of these offerings? What ultimately drives new business?

All of these (and more) are questions that need to be thoroughly and thoughtfully analyzed and discussed by the executive team. The more you commit to “drill down” to answer them, the more effective your organizational intelligence and direction will be.

Next, you’ll want to take a closer look at the information you’ve garnered to review your products/services and customers relative to their potential profitability to your organization. Which customer groups are most profitable? Which products? Are there subdivisions that are more profitable than others? The answers you get here will help you to determine which subset of your business deserves the most focus.

The People / Strategy Connection

The People / Strategy Connection

Once your strategy map has been created, it’s up to your people to execute on it. Who…will do what…and when? Your management team, and your entire staff as well, need to know what results you are trying to achieve. Then, they must clearly understand and accept their role in this process.

This is why it is so important that you have the right people on your bus. People who have a sense of pride and responsibility and will take personal responsibility for achieving results. Accountability is key!

Experience has taught me that successful outcomes are most easily achieved when those responsible for developing the strategy are also responsible for implementing it.

Strategy. People. Processes. All of these, when fully linked and aligned, are what make execution both possible and likely.

Putting Strategy Into An Action Plan

Putting Strategy Into An Action Plan

When you’ve carefully looked at all aspects of your business strategy, your next step will be to determine some tools to make the concepts actionable and some tools of measurement that will help you gauge the progress you are making in achieving your plans.

Given the volatility of the marketplace today, I have my clients rely a lot upon 90-day objectives. We call these their quarterly “rocks,” a term made popular by Steven Covey in his best selling book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” (“put the big rocks in first”). These “rocks” are the key objectives my clients are firmly committed to achieve. Each is quantifiable, and importantly, each will be “owned” by a member of the executive team, who will fully accountable for its achievement.

With an overall strategy firmly in place and the consistent achievement of these quarterly goals, your organization will have put a process in place designed to foster forward progress toward achieving your overall vision.

Only 10% of all business strategies are fully executed! Will yours be one of them?

Only 10% of all business strategies are fully executed! Will yours be one of them?

It’s one thing to develop a strategy and a plan, but at the end of the day all that really matters is how an organization implements and carries out that plan. This is why the ability to execute is so critically important. Organizations that execute well seem to operate effortlessly. There is little stress because things are done right the first time. Systems exist to anticipate peak and slack demand for resources, and the organization deftly adjusts to accommodate the needs.

Executives in organizations that execute well have time to think and plan. They are able to envision better ways of doing things and have good people to whom they can delegate to get things done. In the best organizations, the senior people manage calmly. (Unfortunately, most organizations have its senior people running around at a frenetic pace putting out fires, trying to accomplish things while the staff sits calmly watching the show and wondering when it’s time to go home.)

Companies that execute well run at two or more times their industry’s average profit margins and bottom line profitability. They make few mistakes, and have great relationships with their customers.

3 Execution Disciplines – John D. Rockefeller

3 Execution Disciplines – John D. Rockefeller

Companies can develop habits over time to help them become excellent at execution. We help them to improve in the three execution disciplines that Verne Harnish, founder of the Gazelles organization writes about in his book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits”:

• focus on the highest priorities
• gathering feedback from the organization and marketplace in the form of data and metrics, and
• establishing meeting rhythms that keep the lines of communication open from the top of the organization all the way to the bottom.

By consistently finding and executing on the highest priorities, organizations save time, energy and resources by not travelling down roads that become dead-ends. By keeping their antennae on alert monitoring both internal and external data and metrics, organizations see shifts more quickly and adjust to issues before they become fires. By building a healthy communication system, organizations keep everyone aligned and cognizant of what they need to accomplish, versus what the others on the team need to accomplish. Its’ simply remarkable what can get accomplished when the team works together!

Is your business where you’d like it to be?

Is your business where you’d like it to be? Establishing the foundation for sustained profitability & growth

As a business advisor, I meet so many business owners who tell me they are frustrated because they just can’t seem to get their business where they’d like it to be.

Some of the executives I speak with quickly place the blame squarely on the economic recession we are all living through. “I just can’t seem to find enough new business,” I hear. “Nobody out there seems to want to spend money or buy!?!!?”

Others business owners tell me that they have found new clients and that their organizations have grown over the past few years, but that their profits haven’t kept pace with this growth.

Still others indicate their problem is a lack of resources. They know what they want to accomplish but they don’t have the time or money to execute on their plan.

While all of these are valid reasons that can certainly impede achieving meaningful and sustained results, my own personal assessment as to why so many organizations are frustrated they can’t get their business where they’d like it to be is that they lack the proper foundation for sustained growth.

Companies that don’t have this solid foundation can get by in “good times,” but in difficult times, like we are now facing, their vulnerabilities become very evident.

These organizations are “susceptible” because they don’t know how to plan well; lack a clear vision; can’t effectively distinguish themselves from competitors; are missing the proper “talent” to execute upon their strategies; suffer from cash flow issues; or lack the critical alignment necessary to truly execute a strategy.

If any of this sounds a bit familiar, the good news is that ALL of these problems are resolvable!

Using this blog as a forum, I am going to be sharing some thoughts and ideas designed to help you optimize your business and maximize your revenues and profits, even in a bad economy. If you will take the time to read the information I’ll impart, you’ll gain some valuable insights that WILL serve to help you lay that “proper foundation” you need to grow and improve your organization. I look forward to sharing ideas and learning together as we explore the question “what are the best practices and guiding principals that make small businesses successful?”

Mastering The Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish and the Gazelles Organization

Mastering The Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish and the Gazelles Organization

Much of the information I share will espouse the many virtues of The Rockefeller Habits originally crafted by John D. Rockefeller as documented in the book Titan, and expanded upon by the founder of the Gazelles organization, Verne Harnish in his best-selling book, “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.”

“The Habits” I’ll be addressing revolve around setting the right priorities, having sufficient data to ensure your business is running properly, and knowing, with certainty, that your organization has a definable “rhythm” that fosters alignment and drives accountability.

You might also want to take a minute and review this video: A CEO Dilemna. Do you see anything that looks familiar?

Here are a few provocative questions to ponder:

- How is your organization now faring?

- When our long-awaited economic recovery finally comes, will you simply aspire to “rise with the tide”, or will you have crafted a strategy and an execution plan to ensure you’ll never again fall victim to outside influences?

- Do you have the right team in place to take your business where it wants to go? Is everyone in your organization full engaged, and “on the same page?”

Growth and improvement do not happen all at once, but with a sustained and well planned effort, any company can become competitive and profitable in their industry. The question is whether yours will be one of them.

Do you have a vision as to where you want to take your company?

Do you have a vision as to where you want to take your company?

Whether you want to get somewhere in business or in life, you need to know where you are going — and how you are going to get there. To achieve this, you need a strategy and a plan. Unfortunately, though, far too many businesses operate without either.

Developing a strategy is a focused and deliberate search for a plan of action that will help your organization determine its competitive advantages and leverage them. It begins with an assessment of where you are now and it creates a roadmap and a vision for your future.

When I work with an organization, I like to begin this process at the “macro” level by taking the business back to its very “essence.” Why does the organization exist? What is its “core passion?” Does the business have a deeper purpose and meaning? And why is that purpose important?

A company’s core competencies are the things the business does extremely well that serve to truly differentiate it. Its core values are its DNA (the moral, social and behavioral norms that drive both the company’s culture and decision-making). And its vision is a statement about where the company aspires to be in the future.

While talking about core values and vision may seem to be a bit esoteric, especially for small and midsize organizations, my experience has consistently proven that taking the time to articulate and then clearly communicate these things to the organization goes a long way in laying a rock-solid foundation for everyone to focus upon. It also helps to frame the culture of the organization.