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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Business Conundrum: Thriving on Mediocrity

Is your business "Thriving on Mediocrity?" Many are, and yours might be, too! The question is, do you know? How can you know?

Unfortunately, change in business comes hard, especially if your business is profitable. It's hard to make a case for change, especially when the work gets done (but with lots of work-arounds and extraordinary effort), customers "seem to be satisfied," and the bottom line is "okay."

Often, the need for change is only addressed when you are in a fight for your survival, after you and your business have experienced "a significant emotional event." At that point, it may be too late. Lay-offs and downsizing, shifting organizational leadership and harsh cost-cutting measures become the approach that many take. Typically, these efforts only increase the downward spiral into desperation and demise.

What to do?

We recommend that you take a cold hard look at your business, its systems and processes by asking some hard questions.

We recommend you start at the top of your business food-chain. Begin with your Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles. Are they meaningful to you and your employees, or are they just window dressing, for all to see but for none to aspire to?

Give them meaning, something that is emotionally inspiring. Think about John F. Kennedy's "Go to the Moon" address and how it inspired not only NASA, but the entire nation. It was simple, meaningful, and had emotional impact. It left no doubt about what the goals and objectives were. Many may have wondered how it would be accomplished, but few doubted that it could - and would - be done.

Does your culture enable or hinder achievement, with leadership that is actively involved, leading from the front, modeling the behaviors necessary for success? Leadership training, coaching and mentoring are the course to take.

Next, dive into your strategies and tactics for achieving the vision and mission.Are your strategies, plans and tactics aligned and congruent? Are they aligned from top to bottom - from the C-level Executives to the workplace? Do they impact across all aspects of the organization, with action plans and measures that allow for early warning signs that you're off track and need adjusting? Go to the Balanced Scorecard Strategy tools and methods to get the alignment you need. There, you will find useful enablers, including strategy maps, Hoshin Kanri and Quality Function Deployment for the answers on how to achieve alignment and congruency.

Are your systems and processes disjointed and fighting one another or are they working together, seamlessly, flawlessly, with no constraints and bottlenecks? No? Try Value Stream Mapping to identify where they are and how they are impacting your business.

Are goals and objectives being met or missed? Are you measuring everything with tons of data, but have little actionable information that enables your decision-making in a timely and effective manner? Pull out your scorecards and dashboards, give them a hard review for relevance and determine if they are leading or lagging indicators. You want the leading indicators, to give you early warning signals that things are going off-track.

Remember, your financial measures are likely to be lagging indicators, so look for the things that drive those indicators.

These are just some of the basic questions that every business owner, executive and manager should be asking themselves, each and every day.

To gain the answers you need, and much, much more, we recommend our book, Balanced Scorecard Strategy for Dummies, and our group on LinkedIn,Balanced Scorecard and Dashboard Group. There, you will find the means, the methods and the tools to stop "Thriving on Mediocrity."

2:35 am cdt          Comments

 The Business Conundrum:   Initiatives’ Death by Delegation


We’ve all heard that effective executives delegate to subordinates.  After all, senior executives are too busy to do it all by themselves, right?  Effective delegation is a force multiplier, making good businesses great.

 There is a distinction between management and leadership.  While it makes sense to delegate management tasks to subordinates, many executives often delegate their responsibility to lead initiatives, as well.   In our experience working with clients, we often see this happen with the Balanced Scorecard, Lean, Six Sigma, OPEX . . .   Name the initiative and it won’t take long to find reams of case studies on false starts and failures due to delegation – or abdication – of executive leadership’s responsibilities.

For those delegates caught up in this conundrum, it can become very uncomfortable, and even potentially career limiting.  You now have the responsibility for the initiatives’ success or failure, yet little or no authority to take the actions necessary for success.  Worse, you probably have little ability to address some of the major impediments to success, particularly in the elements related to the culture, teamwork, inter-organizational support, systems integration and flow.

From the executives’ perspective, they have effectively and efficiently handled things, and now they may sit back and wait for the review cycle to kick in.  The delegates will parade through the reviews, get either praise or wrath for the status, be given more direction on what to do, and then “Off we go to the Milky Way,” chasing their tails trying to stay ahead of a gathering storm, aimed at the initiative and potentially at them.

What can you do if you are caught in the middle of this?  How can you not only survive, but actually thrive and keep the initiative moving forward in a positive and productive way?  Sorry to say, there aren’t any “silver bullets” or “pixy dust” that will make everything alright.  You’re in for a rough and rocky road.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is, you can succeed.

First, look for pockets of excellence, led by those executives who are willing to sponsor – and more importantly – give their time to supporting you and your colleagues in the tranches.  Look for those who will lead, modeling the behaviors that are congruent with the initiative.  Are they empowering and supportive?  Do they understand the issues and work with you to bust the barriers and impediments?  When faced with problems, do they not only offer support, but alternatives and insights?  Are they willing to spend their political capital with their peers and superiors to educate, coach and mentor?

Like I said – there are no silver bullets and the journey will be rough.  In the end, the initiative may die.  Only you can assess your situation and whether it is viable, or not.  At least, you have some things you can do within your own sphere of influence and control.  Find those pockets of excellence where you can gain some wins, demonstrate how and why leadership is critical, and hopefully create the environment where it will grow.

2:07 am cdt          Comments

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Business Conundrum: “No Time Left for You”

Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t have time for . . .” (you fill in the blank)?”  Heck, we’ve all heard it, and we’ve all said it ourselves.  But, what are we really saying when we “Don’t have enough time?”

The undeniable truth is, time is the great equalizer.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  We choose how we spend that time.  So maybe what we’re really saying is, “That isn’t a priority for me.”

Think about it.   It all comes down to how and what we prioritize in our lives, be it work, family, friends, school . . .

So, the next time your hear or say “I don’t have enough time” for this or that, the real message is that it isn’t a priority worthy of that precious commodity -  time – at least for the moment.



2:38 am cdt          Comments

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