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Stop the merry-go-round, achieve results #resolveissues

How many meetings do you attend where you wished you were somewhere else?  You know the ones, a talkfest, nothing resolved, roadblocks and reasons why you can’t rather than how you can!

Yep, frustrating in the extreme.  Well here are some simple steps and tricks to make meetings more productive.

  1. Firstly avoid the tendency for discussions to wander off at tangents.  Keep asking “what is the issue we are here to address” and push to keep discussion around that issue.
  2. Seek out what the outcome would look like if everything was perfect.   Avoid the tendency for groups to jump to the solution right up front, usually it will be the wrong one!
  3. Work on all the options to solve the issue, there will be one that works the best, is easiest to get done and will have lasting effects.
  4. Choose the best option and get on with implementing it.

One of the great things about this approach is that everyone at the meeting gets ownership of the decision and hence ownership of the result.  So there is no excuse for anyone to disengage or refuse to participate in being part of the activities which will be undertaken after the meeting to resolve the issue.

If you allow a dominate player to force their idea on the group (usually they will try this early in proceedings) and don’t go through this collaborative approach then you will generally find the roadblocks will start to emerge early in the meeting and at some point either the group defers to the loudest voice or decides to defer a decision and meet again at some future time.  And the cycle repeats at the next meeting, you recognise this don’t you.

It is important to break this cycle, eliminate the impasse and gain consensus.  A productive use of yours and everyone else’s time and ultimately more effective and efficient business operations.

Doesn’t that sound like the type of meeting you would want to attend?



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Change – you can’t just bulldoze through #changemanagment

Firstly apologies in the time from my last post, too many flights, too many hotel rooms!

In this post I want to discuss more about change leadership.  I believe change is led not managed.  And this applies to any type of change from a new product through to a new process or a major shift in strategy or even a merger or sale.

Too many times I have observed change poorly implemented leading to frustration both on the parts of the managers and the staff.  Ultimately this leads to frustration across the whole ecosystem from suppliers through to customers!  Often managers think that by dictating change it will be willingly adopted and implemented.  Most underestimate the power of resistance at grass roots and middle management.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.  A well developed change leadership strategy is all it takes.

To effect lasting and efficient change you need three key steps; Preparation, Leadership and Reaffirmation.

In the first step you need to prepare well: work out what the changes will mean, who will be affected and determine the personal pain that will be caused and the potential personal gains that could be created.

Using this information develop a leadership model.  In this phase you need to develop a compelling case for change, ensure executives are able to articulate this story and to be able to address the common issues you determined from your analysis preparation.  You also need to engage those within the team who are “change ready”, provide them too with all the information and arguments to convince their fellow employees of why they are positive about the change, train them in change leadership, empower them to do what is needed to sell the change and eliminate the hurdles and last of all follow the golden rule, communicate, communicate and communicate.   Convert those easiest to convert and the majority will ultimately come on board.

Lastly be ready for slippage as people tend to fall back to their comfort zones.  You need to reaffirm the changes.  This can be achieved by monitoring outomes, rewarding desired behaviours, celebrating change and achieving quick wins.


Remember change is all about people.  Anyone can design new systems, new processes, new products or new technology.  It takes a leader to effect and maintain the change.  Let me know your own experiences, the good and the bad.

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When a team can’t change #changemanagement

Recently I have been helping a company formulate a new strategic direction.  The companies primary shareholder has had a major shift in their thinking and wants the company to shift their focus to a new customer segment, pretty much a 180 degree shift.

Now it is easy enough to develop a new strategy, objectives and milestones to meet the new mission but it isn’t easy to get the plan into action. Why?

Put simply the managment of the company has built a very strong culture, over more than a quarter of a century of existence, around the old product and market set.  They have engaged staff in that journey and employed people who fit well within that framework.  And they have used performance systems and rewards that are intimately linked to the old ways.  Unfortunately there is now a lot of resistance to what the shareholder wants.  Many companies have found themselves in such a position where a major change is required due to whatever pressures, have failed to adapt and have fallen by the wayside.  Polariod is an excellent case study.

How to solve the problem?

Well nothing can be done overnight, even though that is what their shareholder is expecting, indeed demanding.  Changing direction suddenly and with such a major impact requires fine tuning the engine of the organisation coupled with a lot of hard work and patience.  Just saying  what you want rarely makes it happen.  In fact in this case it is having the opposite, and not unexpected effect, denial, anger and head long resistance from some employees.  “Why change, we have been doing this for 20 plus years and it is working well.  The shareholder doesn’t understand, lets show them they are wrong!”

Well what I am sure of is that taking your key shareholder head on is certainly not going to be a winning strategy!

So here are the steps I have recommended.

  1. Establish the role of Manager Organisational Development (title is not that important but the power you impart to it is)
  2. Make the new role report directly to the CEO, and have the CEO give it strong and visible support.
  3. Pick the most patient, most persistent and most energetic manager to fill the position – certainly one who embraces the new direction and importantly one known for getting results.
  4. Establish the outcomes, timeframes and responsibilites for delivery of the action and execution plans – do this in a collaborative framework utilising staff from all levels, agree what must be done, by when and by whom.
  5. Have timeframes short and make goals as simple as practical – it is easier then to ensure no claw back to the old ways, changes are sustained.
  6. Establish transparent reporting arrangements – make it easy to know how the change is actually going.  This will conteract those peddling bad news.
  7. Communicate, communicate and communicate – the new direction, the reasons behind the change, the progress and the good news stories, have an open door so those seeking the real answers can get them and thus shut down the water cooler conversations.
  8. Celebrate the successes and reward those who make a positive difference.

This will generate energy and energise those who are ready to adopt the new direction.  New opportunities, new ideas and a penchant to try them can make for an exciting place to work.

Of course some people will never change.  Sadly, no matter how good they are at there job, it is best for them to move on.

Turning the ship requires a strong hand on the wheel and a close watch on drive train.

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Making strategy stick

I think it was Winston Churchill who stated something to the effect, strategic plans are wonderful things but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a look at the results.

What he was in some ways getting at is that one of the big problems all organisations face is getting strategy executed.  And if you don’t execute it is pretty hard to get results.

Jeroen De Flander, the author of Strategy Execution Heroes noted in his book that:

  • 15% of people believe the strategies are the wrong ones.
  • 30% don’t receive info on how to execute the strategy.
  • 40% believe strategic initiatives are not staffed with the right people.
  • 27% believe strategic initiatives are being managed correctly.
  • 18% are unable to explain how to translate strategy or set individual objectives.

Pretty poor numbers by any measure!

Now couple that to change leadership group Prosci’s research on the impediments to change and you can soon see why so many plans fail to get executed.

They found over many years of research that the biggest obstacles to change are:

  1. Ineffective change management sponsorship from senior leaders
  2. Insufficient change management resourcing
  3. Resistance to change from employees
  4. Middle-management resistance
  5. Poor communication

Major shifts in strategic initiatives require strong change leadership to get them through.  I have been advocating that the whole process can be made easier by involving those who will have to implement the strategies in the development of them.  Of course in large organisations or those widely dispersed over the globe this is not allways practical.  Sensitive change leadership will be a key skill that managers will need to get the strategies into place.

In my experience resistance at middle management has a major bearing on the success or otherwise of the organisation.   Engaging change champions across all levels and locations of the organisation and giving them direct access to senior management goes a long way to lessening this hurdle.   Harness the energy of those seeking change and make it easy for those sitting on the fence to come over to the new thinking.

So just because your team comes up with a great strategy, one that is going to help your business grow and prosper doesn’t mean that the entire team is going to welcome the new direction with open arms.  Have a look at the issues above, work out which apply in your organisation and start implementing activities which will give the new strategic direction the best possible opportunity of seeing the light of day.

The old cliche – failing to plan is planning to fail is only part of the story, failing to plan and manage the implementation is just as big an issue as having no plan at all.




#strategyexecution – yes it is all in the delivery

Developing a strategy is fine but if you are not going to implement it properly then it is as often quoted – “vision without action is just a dream”

I read a good summary by American Daniel Kelley when the question was proposed to him “What is the most critical success factor for strategic management”  and thought I should share it with you.

It can all be summed up in one word: Execution

Your Strategic Plan is where you DEFINE who you are, what you do and where you want to go. Strategic Goals are established; the Investment/Financial Plan is set; and innovation initiatives are identified and planned. Your Strategic Plan is your “call to action” which the company will follow to achieve your vision.

Your Operating Plan is your “action plan”. It is where your strategic plan is EXECUTED. It defines the measurable goals and their supporting initiatives, metrics, responsibilities and accountabilities are set in place for the next 3 years, 1 year and 90 days. Resources, human and otherwise, are planned and budgeted; innovation and growth strategies are funded; everyone in the company becomes aligned with your Core Values, and they support your Vision. Lastly, and most importantly, a Management System is put in place which focuses each department and each employee on their assigned priorities (which are tied to the Goals), measures and manages performance in real time, and demands accountability at the enterprise, department and employee level.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

So there it is, get the implementation right, then the vision will be achieved.

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How do you know if you have achieved success? #businesssuccess

Well you have what you think is a great business model, a sound marketing plan, believe you have got your pricing right and established the necessary channels, relationships, activities and resources to support your enterprise.

Success is assured, right?

History shows that what you think will work doesn’t always.  And you might think that things are g0ing well but are they?

Ultimately there is only one true measure of success.  Customers are the only true measure, if they are seeking your bundle of products and services to a level to allow  you to sustain  your business then you have achieved the first hurdle.  From there you want to grow your business or operation.

But there are other key measures of success that you can observe to help you in monitoring your progress.

On top of your customers there are four other groups you need to impress to achieve success:

  • your competitors:  the harder they try to take your customers, the harder they try to poach your staff the more successful you are
  • your suppliers: the more they want to be with you on your journey the more successful you are
  • your shareholders: there continuing investment support the more successful you are
  • your staff: the more they want to stay with you and encourage others to join with you the more successful you are

Of course this is only part of the story, but it is an important part.  Monitoring these five components of success is something all good managers do.

Building strategy and setting milestones that help deliver these successes are critical components to achieving your long term objectives.

Be wary of just taking a short term customer only view.


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The power of collaboration #strategy #visualmeetings

I love working with groups.  The energy that emerges, the ideas that flow and the fun that people have in these environments is very rewarding.

I have been doing this for a lot of years, with a wide variety of audiences and one thing is clear – talking heads at the front of the room isn’t the best way to get action happening.

If you adopt a collaborative model then coming together with a common purpose has already set the scene before you start.  Sure there will be some who don’t want to be there, some who are skeptical and some who want to see the process fail but inevitably those with the right mindsets prevail, they are the ones who get heard and get supported.

Ideas that are developed in a collaborative framework are generally both great, actionable and ulitmately actioned.  This is clearly a more effective and efficient way to develop goals, strategies and to plan.  It is what David Sibbet calls the learning cycle – imagine, engage, think, enact.

When I am doing this type of work I love to use visual aids, the type that the participants can use and can follow.  Not animated multi media power point aids, if I need to use AV then I prefer to use Prezi which builds energy and interest into the presentation.  No – what I really prefer is hand drawn visual aids.  Mind maps, post-it notes, large paper templates, colored pens and white boards.  Much easier to use, much easier to adapt to the flow of the meeting/workshop and easily transferred into the meeting notes that go out later. And given that either the participants or the facilitator is collecting the ideas of everyone who is participating then engagement from the attendees is a natural outcome.

Ideas feed of others, plans get built, people aren’t frightened to participate.

Outcome = progress and results.   Less defering items for decsision, less reasons for not doing something, less procrastination, more positive discussion, more go forward decisions.

This all adds up to productivity, positive energy and big picture thinking.

I bet y0u wished this was a description of the meetings and workshops that you have to attend!  It isn’t that hard – you should try it next time you get a chance!  Any questions, just ask.

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Why How What and the strategy model.

Readers of my posts will know that I am a big fan of Simon Sinek and his book “Start With Why”.  Groups, teams or organisations who struggle to articulate their WHY probably also struggle with how to stay ahead of the game, choose strategies and implement actions that support their beliefs.

SoI have been working on laying the WHY model over the Strategy Model and see where I believe they fit together.

I think that the WHY of the organisation or group can be covered by their whole ecosystem, their whole reason for being, their now and their future. 

When looking at your own situation if the desired WHY and the model don’t align then either the WHY isn’t what you thought you believed or your strategy isn’t taking you there! And vice versa. 

If you have alignment then the actions that you are taking to get you to your desired goals and objectives (thoses things most closely linked to your WHAT) will be easily articulated and more readily accomplished.

And finally HOW, these, I believe, are aligned to the enablers or pathways that help us make the actions happen.

So what do you think?  Do the WHY model and the Strategic Planning model interlink just like a puzzle coming together, or is there no need to complicate each with the other?  Let me know what you think?

#strategicplanning #simonsinek

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Time to Review and Renew – the 10 things envelope #plan #strategy

One of the things I encourage people to do at my workshops is to set personal goals.  It is a great ice breaker and gets people focused on the future.

I ask them to write down 10 things they would like to achieve in the next twelve months, place it in an envelope and date it.

There are no boundaries to what people are allowed to write, it can be professional development right through to relationships or financial gain.  And importantly it is private, no one is asked to share what they have written!

It is amazing how many of those objectives people find they have achieved when they break open their envelope after twelve months and review the year just gone.  Better than 50% of the objectives are usually met and a typical benchmark is closer to 80%.

So if you have been to one of my workshops where we have done this it may be time to Review and Renew. (And if you haven’t then start with an envelope now!)

Review how you went over the last twelve months and repeat the process so you Renew your objectives for the next twelve.

It only takes a few minutes, go on do it now before some pressing item comes across your desk! Oh, and put a diary entry in for twelve months time so you remember to Review and Renew every year!

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No team goals = no team mindset = no team outcomes #teams

Team leaders are often frustrated by their team not getting behind the goals and vision the leader has, not contributing to developing these goals and vision and the team not therefore reaching it’s full potential.

Executing any plan requires buy in from those who have to execute and deliver the plan. The best way to get buy in is to have the team develop the plan together.

Of course this is fine for small teams but is much harder to achieve where teams are large and / or geogrpahically spread.

There are a few key things to remember when executing with teams.
* teams are made up of people with various motivations, needs and mindsets. There will be those who welcome and race for change, the early adopters, right through to the recalitrants, those who will resist at all costs. Harness the early adopters!
* teams that develop the plan together are more likely to execute the plan. They will understand the case for change because they identified it. They will sell the case for change also.
* in large and geographically dispersed teams empower change agents within geographic or organisational areas and provide them with the training and information to sell the plan
* communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t let the rumours and water cooler conversations become the gospel. Open, honest and factual at all times is best.
* celebrate the wins
* focus on the end game, monitor progress and reward positive outcomes

Make plan execution a team sport, a fun activity and energise your team to be winners. Ask them the question, ‘how do you want others to see and speak about our team?’

And I am a firm believer that change is lead not managed!

So set the team energised in developing the team goals. Only with team goals will you have team behaviour.

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