Posts Tagged ‘change’

Recommended Reading – Summer 2015

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

After another rough winter, summer’s almost here! We’ll soon be reveling in sunshine, hot temperatures and blue skies as we enjoy water sports, barbeques, and relaxing in a lounger or hammock with a good book. Here are some of the personal favourites we’ve selected from the various “best books in 2015” lists recently published on 800ceo read’s blog:

1.  The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
     Henry Mintzberg, Free Press

If you follow our blog you’ll know that Henry Mintzberg is one of my favourite strategic thinkers. In this definitive history, he argues that the term is an oxymoron – that strategy cannot be planned because planning is about analysis and strategy is about synthesis. That is why, he asserts, the process has failed so often and so dramatically. He unmasks the press that has mesmerized so many organizations since 1965: strategic planning.

Mintzberg proposes new and unusual definitions of planning and strategy, and examines in novel and insightful ways the various models of strategic planning and the evidence of why they failed. Reviewing the so-called “pitfalls” of planning, he shows how the process itself can destroy commitment, narrow a company’s vision, discourage change, and breed an atmosphere of politics.

Henry Mintzberg is one of the most brilliant and original management thinkers and a great Canadian.

2.  Family Business: Practical Leadership Succession Planning: Exceed Your Expectations
     Ronald P. Smyser, Abbott Press

Less than 15% of family businesses survive to and through the second generation of leadership.

Smyser’s book provides valuable insights which demystify and simplify the process of succession; help ensure continuing financial security for the founder and his/her family; and enhance the effectiveness and balance of professional and private life.

Some of the topics he covers are:

  • How ownership transition without a clear, practical leadership succession plan can decimate your business’s chance of survival.
  • The fifteen key causes of leadership succession failure and how to avoid them.
  • What the next generation really wants but won’t tell you and what you should do.
  • The issues around choosing one of your children to succeed you, and how to avoid them.

Whether you already have a family business or are starting one, “Family Business: Practical Leadership Succession Planning” is a must read.

3.  Fewer, Bigger, Bolder: From Mindless Expansion to Focused Growth
     Sanjay Khosla and Mohanbir Sawhney, Portfolio

When it comes to growing revenues, not all dollars are equal. In company after company that the authors worked for or researched, they saw businesses taking on more products, markets, people, acquisitions – more of everything except what really mattered: sustainable and profitable growth.

In many of these companies – large or small, from America to Europe to Asia – every quarter became a mad dash to find yet another short-term revenue boost. There had to be a better way. The answer lies in “Fewer, Bigger, Bolder”, a market-proven, step-by-step program to achieve sustained growth with rising profits and lower costs.

“Fewer, Bigger, Bolder” crosses the usual boundaries of strategy, execution, people and organization. Its framework shows how you can drive growth by targeting resources against priorities, simplifying your operations, and unleashing the potential of your people.

“Fewer, Bigger, Bolder” challenges the conventional wisdom about growth.

4.  Business Strategy: A Guide to Effective Decision-Making
     Jeremy Kourdi, The Economist

A good strategy, well implemented, determines a business’ future success or failure.

Yet history is full of strategic decisions that were ill-conceived, poorly organized and consequently disastrous. This updated guide looks at the whole process of strategic decision-making, from vision, forecasting, and resource allocation, through to implementation and innovation.

Strategy is about understanding where you are now, where you are heading and how you will get there.

But getting it right involves difficult choices: which customers to target, what products to offer, and the best way to keep costs low and service high. And constantly changing business conditions inevitably bring risks. Even after business strategy has been developed, a company must remain nimble and alert to change, and view strategy as an ongoing and evolving process.

The message of this guide is simple: strategy matters, and getting it right is fundamental to business success.

5.  Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise
     J.-C. Spender, Oxford University Press

Emphasizing that firms face uncertainties and unknowns, Spender argues that the core of strategic thinking and processes rests on leaders developing newly imagined solutions to the opportunities that these uncertainties open up.

Drawing on a wide range of ideas, he stresses the importance of judgment in strategy, and argues that a key element of the entrepreneur and executive’s task is to engage chosen uncertainties, develop a language to express and explain the firm’s particular business model for dealing with these, and thus create innovation and value.

At the same time he shows how the language the strategist creates to do this gives the firm identity and purpose, and communicates this to its members, stakeholders, and customers.

Spender introduces these ideas, and reviews the strategy tools currently available from consultants and academics.

The book outlines a structured practice that managers and consultants might chose to follow, not a theory.

6.  Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change
     Jason Jennings, Portfolio

For most businesses, success is fleeting. There are only two real choices: stick with the status quo until things inevitably decline, or continuously change to stay vital. But how?

Bestselling leadership and management guru Jason Jennings and his researchers screened 22,000 companies around the world that had been cited as great examples of reinvention.

They selected the best, verified their success, interviewed their leaders, and learned how they pursue never-ending radical change. The fresh insights they discovered became Jennings’s “reinvention rules” for any business. The featured companies include Starbucks—which turned itself around by making tons of small bets on new ideas.

7.  The Moment You Can’t Ignore: When Big Trouble Leads to a Great Future: How Culture Drives Strategic Change
     Malachi O’Connor and Barry Dornfeld, Public Affairs

Culture not only affects how we think and behave, it’s the set of agreements and behaviors that drive how we act in groups and the decisions we collectively make.

Every organization now faces challenges it can’t ignore as new forms of work, communication and technology wreak havoc on the way we do things.

Malachi O’Connor and Barry Dornfeld provide powerful insights on how to confront the clash of old and new. They show how to ask the big questions that point the way to renewing a culture.

When people don’t know who’s in charge, are unsure of what their company identity is, and can’t get behind their leaders, they rarely have the ability or will to innovate.

Old ideas get rehashed. New ideas get squashed or lost. Initiatives that are designed to create an innovation culture or spur creativity go nowhere.

8.  Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
    Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, Crown Business

Finally – an old favourite – a book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results.

The leader’s most important job is selecting and appraising people. Why? With the right people in the right jobs, there’s a leadership gene pool that conceives and selects a strategy that can be executed, a strategy in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy, and the competition.

Once the right people and strategy are in place, they are then linked to an operating process that results in the implementation of specific programs and actions and that assigns accountability.

This kind of effective operating process goes way beyond the typical budget exercise that looks into a rearview mirror to set its goals. It puts reality behind the numbers and is where the rubber meets the road.

Putting an execution culture in place is hard, but losing it is easy.

For a full listing of best books in 2015, please visit http://800ceoread.com/

 

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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Avoiding Strategic Planning Failure

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

This week’s guest is Leslie Heller, a management consultant focused on business strategy, change management and growth initiatives. He has 15 plus years in consulting and business leadership roles, where he led teams of over 1,200 employees, held accountability for over $850 MM in sales and $36 MM in payroll, and implemented growth initiatives in diverse business lines. Leslie’s motivation is to create an environment where businesses can implement change and deliver value for their customers. Leslie also volunteers as a mentor with Enterprise Toronto helping young people build businesses.

 

The strategic planning process is the time to develop corporate direction and vision that create value and excitement for companies and their stakeholders. This article highlights three points to include in the planning process that increase the chances of implementing a successful strategy. While no exhaustive list of what it takes to avoid strategic planning failure exists, these points will help planning at the team, project, division, business unit and company level.

1. Strategy and Execution

We often hear that “Strategies most often fail because they aren’t well executed”, but how “right” could the strategy have been if it failed in execution? If a strategy failed in execution it is likely that one or more of the following three points was missed in the strategic planning process:

i.     Ensuring the right skill-set is in place
ii.    Ensuring adequate resources are available
iii.   Ensuring processes to track, highlight and resolve issues throughout the project life-cycle are implemented

The ability to execute a strategy is part of strategic planning. When strategy ignores internal capabilities or does not address how capabilities will be addressed there is increased risk in delivering the strategic objectives. Spend the time to honestly assess internal capabilities upfront to avoid frustrating time-consuming issues later on.

2. Beware the Fouled Up System

In the article “On the Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping for B” (Steven Kerr, Academy of Management Journal, 1975, www.ou.edu/russell/UGcomp/Kerr.pdf), the author addresses how reward systems influence behaviour, and highlights examples where the behaviour does not align with the intent of the reward system. You likely have your own examples; for instance, when next years’ expense budget is based on current years’ spend, do all managers strive to find one-time (non-recurring) expense saving opportunities? How about if they are already surpassing their Plan… near year-end? Or consider performance metrics that measure attendance and productivity when a company really wants to measure employee engagement and quality. The down-stream impact of mistaking attendance for engagement or productivity for quality is increased customer support and rework that is often difficult to address, correlate and impact after the fact. Perhaps worst of all is the risk of setting strategy on misinterpreted business unit performance.

Selecting the right tracking metrics to influence employee behaviour within the strategic plan can be tricky and needs to be addressed, not only by strategy teams but by operational leaders who are more likely to identify disconnects between the intent of the reward system and the anticipated employee behaviour.

3. Change Management

Corporate strategies result in projects and projects result in change. Even positive change creates anxiety and needs to be managed (think about the last time you upgraded your corporate coffee system!). Change management is the act of using a structured process to lead the people side of change to increase the likelihood of project success.

According to Prosci, the world’s leading benchmarking research and change management product company, the top issues that derail change initiatives are ineffective project sponsorship, employee resistance to change and not using a structured change management approach. Change management has gained considerable attention lately and change management offices have popped up in banks and other institutions over the past few years. Including change as a topic in strategic planning, and then managing change with structured processes and communication plans should be built-in to the strategic planning process.

Summary

In summary, (i) ensuring executional capabilities are part of strategic planning, (ii) figuring out the best metrics to use to align employee behaviour to a new corporate direction, and (iii) using change management methodologies, will help your organization avoid strategic planning failure. Ensure that you include these on your strategic planning agenda!

For further information on avoiding strategic planning failure and change management you can reach Leslie Heller at lheller00@yahoo.com (Note: this is a summarized version of Leslie’s presentation at the 5th Annual Strategic Planning for Boards conference held in Toronto earlier this year.)

ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Quarter 2015

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Lessons about successful business growth1.  3 Lessons About Successful Business Growth

Two books, published 19 years apart, yet saying similar things about a key aspect of successful business growth:
‘Built To Last’ was published in 1994. In it, Jim Collins analyzed 18 companies that he called visionary because they were the best in their industries – and had been that way for decades. Collins argued that the core values and enduring purpose of all 18 could be separated from their operating practices and business strategies. And that, while the former never changed, the latter changed constantly in response to a changing world.
In her book ‘The End Of Competitive Advantage’, published in 2013, Rita Gunther McGrath studied the performance of large, publicly-traded companies from 2000-2009. She found that only 10 of them grew their net income by at least 5% every year. All 10 had found ways to combine tremendous internal stability with tremendous external flexibility. McGrath argues that to win in volatile and uncertain times, companies must learn to exploit short-lived opportunities quickly and decisively. more

time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass...2.  3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or re-creation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

10 Commandments of Business Development3.  10 Commandments of Business Development

I’m not enjoying the after-effects of the 2007/2008 financial crisis. And I’m certainly not a fan of the banks, investment and other, which I believe were a significant contributor to the mess. But, while my wife may disagree, I like to think I keep an open mind. So when I saw an article talking about how Goldman Sachs grew from mid-tier firm to global player in a few decades I had to peek. John Whitehead, a co-head of the firm in 1970, wrote the following 10 commandments that guided their business development efforts. I love them. They’re full of common sense and they’re very practical. Written in 1970, these 10 commandments add to my belief that the basic, common sense principles of business never change. Here are 4 things that business owners today can take from them: more

4.  Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)¹. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment². Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.  6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.  The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

7.  6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

8.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015 – How to Use Them

I was asked a good question last week. “Loved your last blog post, Jim – but how do companies like mine do those things?” So here are some ways any business owner can implement the 6 tips in his/her company. more

9.  6 Tips For Growing Your Business in 2015

January is the month for New Year’s resolutions, freezing cold and, for many, a new fiscal year. Everyone wants to ‘do better’ in 2015 than in 2014 and, for business owners, ‘doing better’ is shorthand for growing. I don’t know how often, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asked something like “What are your top 6 tips for growing successfully”. The answer depends on a number of things. Here’s the rub. All 6 are much easier to talk about than do. But if you start on them now you can make some progress this year. more

10. 3 Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

I hate sweeping generalizations. Strategy is dead is one that I particularly dislike. To say that, it seems to me, is to say that it’s a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry, to have a strategy.
An article appeared in the Globe and Mail late last year, headline “Why Strategy is Dead In The Water.” It was based on an earlier article in Forbes magazine, headline “Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons The Answer May Be Yes.” We’d gone from strategy might be dead to signing its death certificate – in the space of two headlines. more

 

Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

3 Reasons Why Strategy Isn’t Dead In The Water

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

I hate sweeping generalizations.Is strategy dead, or dying?

Strategy is dead is one that I particularly dislike.

To say that, it seems to me, is to say that it’s a complete waste of time for every company, regardless of size or industry, to have a strategy.

An article appeared in the Globe and Mail late last year, headline “Why Strategy is Dead In The Water.” It was based on an earlier article in Forbes magazine, headline “Is Strategy Dead? 7 Reasons The Answer May Be Yes.”

We’d gone from strategy might be dead to signing its death certificate – in the space of two headlines.

Here are 3 of the reasons the Forbes author offers to support his argument.

1.  Incrementalism has been disrupted by disruption. The argument is that managers talk big but really focus on delivering incremental change. Hopeless now when, for example, companies like Uber disrupt an industry. Disruptive change isn’t new – otherwise we’d all still be driving horse drawn buggies – but is it realistic to expect it in every single industry, simultaneously?

2.  Innovation is occurring with high variance outcomes. Contingency plans are used to deal with the most likely market reactions to a strategy. Now, it’s argued, there are too many possible outcomes to anticipate, never mind plan for. Assume that intuition, common sense and gathering information can no longer help us isolate all of the possible outcomes. Does that prevent a business selecting one or two of the most likely ones and running with them in a controlled, limited way i.e. hedging its bets?

3.  The past is no longer a good predictor of the future. Because life expectancy has increased, consumer behavior has changed and we are able to quickly access data, it is argued that the future no longer looks anything like the past.

Could that not have been said about the rise of consumer spending in the 1950’s, the shift to low cost, offshore production, or half a dozen other seismic changes that have taken place?

Has the past ever been a good predictor of the future? The old adage is, if we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Isn’t adapting a way of learning?

Isn’t the entire argument that strategy is dead, or dying, rather like throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

I’ll comment further next week.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Strategy Working? Then Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

Recommended Reading – Winter 2014

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Hello, winter!  Snowflakes are dancing on the air and covering the land in a wardrobe of white.  A touch of arctic air is pinching our noses and cheeks.  Time to get comfortable and pick up a good book. Here are some of the personal favourites we’ve selected from the various “best books in 2014” lists published recently on 800ceo read’s blog:

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as mid-size companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: “What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?” Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the 21st century and beyond.

Obviously, there are lots of things that matter now. But in a world of fractured certainties and battered trust, some things matter more than others. While the challenges facing organizations are limitless; leadership bandwidth isn’t. That’s why you have to be clear about what really matters now. What are the fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead? Hamel identifies five issues are that are paramount: values, innovation, adaptability, passion and ideology. In doing so he presents an essential agenda for leaders everywhere who are eager to…move from defense to offense, reverse the tide of commoditization, defeat bureaucracy, astonish their customers, foster extraordinary contribution, capture the moral high ground, outrun change, build a company that’s truly fit for the future. Concise and to the point, “What Matters Now” will inspire you to rethink your business, your company and how you lead.

A guide for protecting your wealth in an age of turbulent business cycles. In “Prosperity in the Age of Decline”, Brian and Alan Beaulieu offer an informed, meticulously-researched look at the future and the coming Great Depression.

Surprisingly, most companies fail not because demand is low or conditions are difficult, but simply because they don’t know how to manage, nurture, or even maintain their own growth and success. At each developmental stage, they become vulnerable to chaos, no matter how strong or expert their leaders. Most leaders feel a sense of isolation, assuming they have to know it all and end up making critical mistakes. Dando calls these critical mistakes the 12 Warning Signs of Success, and he helps leaders across industries identify, anticipate, and avoid them on the way from startup to Fortune 500. Maybe you’ve hired the wrong person, have too many direct reports, or say yes to everything; you might believe your own hype, incentivize failure, or lose track of your core values. Dando, known in leadership circles as the Company Whisperer, encountered all the same challenges as a C-level executive in a high-growth billion-dollar business, and he knows that these moments of truth determine whether the leader and the company become a strong, mature, and sustainable organization, or drift toward an uncertain future.

If you’re aiming to innovate, failure along the way is a given. But can you fail “better”? Whether you’re rolling out a new product from a city-view office or rolling up your sleeves to deliver a social service in the field, learning why and how to embrace failure can help you do better, faster. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents design their innovation projects with a key idea in mind: “ensure that every failure is maximally useful. In “Fail Better”, Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn show how to create the conditions, culture, and habits to systematically, ruthlessly, and quickly figure out what works, in three steps:
1. Launch every innovation project with the right groundwork
2. Build and refine ideas and products through iterative action
3. Identify and embed the learning
You may be a “Fortune” 500 manager, scrappy start-up innovator, social impact visionary, or simply leading your own small project. If you aim to break through without breaking the bank–or ruining your reputation—“Fail Better” is for you.

An insider’s look at how a successful leadership pipeline can make or break a company Starting out at GE, where he headed up the company’s leadership institute and revamped the leadership pipeline under Jack Welch, Noel Tichy has served as a trusted advisor on management succession to such leading companies as Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia, Intel, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Merck and Caterpillar. Now Tichy draws on decades of hands-on experience working with CEOs and boards to provide a framework for building a smart, effective transition pipeline, whether for a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, a family business, a small start-up, or a non-profit. Through revealing case studies like Hewlett Packard, IBM, Yahoo, P&G, Intel, and J.C. Penney, he examines why some companies fail and others succeed in training and sustaining the next generation of senior leaders. He highlights the common mistakes that can generate embarrassing headlines and may even call an organization’s survival into question, and reveals the best practices of those who got it right. Tichy also positions leadership talent development and succession where they belong: at the top of every leader’s agenda.

The market for business knowledge is booming as companies looking to improve their performance pour millions of dollars into training programmes, consultants, and executive education. Why then, are there so many gaps between what firms know they should do and what they actual do? This volume confronts the challenge of turning knowledge about how to improve performance into actions that produce measurable results. The authors identify the causes of this gap and explain how to close it.

According to a study published in “Chief Executive Magazine,” the most valued skill in leaders today is strategic thinking. However, more than half of all companies say that strategic thinking is the skill their senior leaders most need to improve. “Elevate” provides leaders with a framework and toolkit for developing “advanced” strategic thinking capabilities. Unlike the majority of books that focus on strategy from a corporate perspective, “Elevate” gives the individual executive practical tools and techniques to help them become a truly strategic leader. The new framework that will enable leaders to finally integrate both strategy and innovation into a strategic
approach that drives their profitable growth is the Three Disciplines of “Advanced” Strategic Thinking:
1. Coalesce: Fusing together insights to create an innovative business model.
2. Compete: Creating a system of strategy to achieve competitive advantage.
3. Champion: Leading others to think and act strategically to execute strategy.
Every leader desperately wants to be strategic – their career depends on it. “Elevate” provides the roadmap to reach the strategic leadership summit.

“Escape Velocity” offers a pragmatic plan to engage the most critical challenge that established enterprises face in the twenty-first-century economy: how to move beyond past success and drive next-generation growth from new lines of business.
As he worked with senior management teams, Moore repeatedly found that executives were trapped by short-term performance-based compensation schemes. The result was critical decision-makers overweighting their legacy commitments, an embarrassingly low success rate in new-product launches, and a widespread failure to sustain any kind of next-generation business at scale.
In “Escape Velocity”, Moore presents a cogent strategy for generating future growth within an established enterprise. Organized around a hierarchy of powers: category power, company power, market power, offer power, and execution power, this insightful work shows how each level of power can be orchestrated to achieve overall success.

In this work, noted consultant Erika Andersen helps the reader approach business and life strategically, explaining why it is important, what’s involved in doing it, and how to do it. 

For a full listing of best books in 2014, please visit http://800ceoread.com/

 

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts.

 

Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

7 Ways to Hold Consultants Accountable Now

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

7 ways to hold consultants accountable nowMy wife will tell you I like giving other people advice.

That’s probably why I’m a management consultant.

But even consultants have to take some of their own advice – and change in order to grow.

For example, we must find a process for linking our compensation to our results in a meaningful way.

There’s no doubt this is hard to do. But that’s no excuse for refusing to try.

However, at the risk of making a huge understatement, it’s going to take time.

So, while we’re waiting, what can a business owner do to make sure the consultants they hire actually deliver results?

1. I talked about our own solution to linking compensation to results last year in a post called “Let’s Hold Consultants Responsible For Results”. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the traditional model.

2. Four years ago I suggested how owners can keep control when they work with consultants.

3. Around the same time I highlighted 3 reasons why consulting engagements fail. It’s really not difficult to avoid making them.

4. Look for consultants who have had practical, “hands on” experience operating a company. They have 2 clear advantages over consultants who have spent their entire career in consulting roles, as I pointed out in 2011.

5. There are also clues that you can listen for. Consultants who are effective tend to say certain things.

Here are 2 more things that I thought about this week.

6. Yesterday I was talking to a business owner who had been referred by an existing client. He asked if I would go out and meet him. I agreed immediately because that’s the only way to determine if there’s any chemistry between us.

Some people might consider the idea of “chemistry” to be foolish. But I can tell you from experience, that without it, the risk of a project failing increases dramatically.

7. Ask what success will look like. It’s more than just a description of what the consultant’s going to do and the services they’ll deliver. It’s about knowing how, when and what they will do to help you get the results you want.

Success, they say, comes not from doing one big thing well, but from doing many little things well. Perhaps change is like that too.

We at ProfitPATH, and lots of other consultants, are chipping away, doing the necessary things that will bring change to our business.

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Jim StewartJim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

ProfitPATH’s Top Ten Blogs – First Half 2014

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

 

1.   6 Challenges Fast Growing Companies Face

I’ve mentioned Inc. magazine www.inc.com several times before. It’s a great resource. There’s a well-researched article in the current issue about 6 challenges fast growing companies face. They’re all about execution – and if the owner doesn’t deal with them well any one of them can be fatal. more

 

 

Strategy is not planning and the importance of knowing the difference2.   The Difference Between A Strategy And A Plan

I want to talk briefly about what I think is one of the worst mistakes – confusing strategy and planning. Roger Martin wrote a post for the HBR last month in which he dealt with this very topic. I frequently hear business owners talk about the need to do “strategic planning” in order to create a “strategic plan”. Some talk – every year – about holding a “strategic planning meeting”. more

 

3time for a change in the direction you are heading, focus on center of compass....   3 Times When You May Need To Change Your Strategy

Changes to a well thought-out, well-crafted strategy shouldn’t be driven simply because it’s been in place 1, 3 or 5 years. A strategy shouldn’t necessarily be changed even if it isn’t producing results. In this situation I always look at how well (or badly) the strategy is being executed before I look at the strategy itself. So when should a company review its strategy? And what makes that review and any subsequent adaptation, revision or recreation necessary? Here are three occasions. more

4.   Adaptive Strategy – A Way To Profits In The New Normal?

Adaptive Strategy is an alternative developed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)1. Here’s how I think it applies to owner managed businesses. Adaptive strategy is built on the 3 R’s required in a changing environment2. Can adaptive strategy be applied in owner managed businesses? more

5.   6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

I wrote last week about the relationship between Strategy, Culture and Leadership. As a result we’ve had some questions about how a business owner can influence the culture in his/her company. Here, in no particular priority, are 6 ways that it can be done. more

6.   6 Things We Can All Learn From Family-Owned Businesses

The 6 things I’m going to talk about come from a study of 149 large, publicly-traded, family-controlled businesses. However, stay with me because we’ve seen the same characteristics in the successful family-owned businesses we’ve dealt with – and none of them are publicly traded. Another thing – the study looked at 1997 – 2009, covering some good and some very tough times. Guess what? The family-controlled businesses, on average, turned in better long-term financial performance than non-family businesses – in multiple countries. So what are the 6 things we can learn? more

7.   6 Tips For Finding The Right Buyer

Last week I was one of three speakers at the Toronto Star’s Small Business Club event, “Exit and Succession Planning”. My talk included 6 things a business owner can do to ensure she/he finds the right buyer or successor. more

8.   3 Ways Human Nature Sabotages Strategy

Ask 10 people how long it will take them to complete a task and I’d guess 7 or 8 of them will underestimate the time required. That proportion might increase if the 10 are all type A personalities – i.e. business owners or entrepreneurs. We see this when we take teams through our strategy and business planning processes. For example, at a specific point, we prioritize the things they need to do to close the gap between their company’s current state and where they want it in 3 years’ time. Typically the teams want to tackle more items than is humanly possible given their resources. There’s no ideal number of items – the complexity of each item is only 1 of the variables – but we’ve seen time and again that completing a few key tasks produces better results than taking on too many. more

9.   5 Traits Effective Business Owners Share

I believe the single biggest thing that separates companies that grow from those that don’t is the owner’s awareness of the need for change and their willingness to do so. So, I was interested in a recent post about traits that effective entrepreneurs share. Sure enough, it contained a quote saying that if owners commit to learning more about themselves and becoming the best that they can be, they’ll find that challenges are really opportunities. But what other traits, according to the post, do effective entrepreneurs have? more

10.  Strategic Planning – 3 Things That Are Wrong With It

We all know that picking a strategy means making choices. But that means making guesses about that great unknown, the future. What happens then if we make the wrong choice? Could we destroy a company? That’s why, according to Roger Martin¹, we turn choosing a strategy into a problem that can be solved using tools we are comfortable with. And we call that strategic planning. But, Martin says, companies make 3 mistakes when they confuse strategy and strategic planning. more

 

 

Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

Targets Are Targets, Results Are Reality

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Hubris can be the first of the 5 stages of decline.In the last few days, the weather, in the parts of Canada I’ve been in, has gone from chilly to hot.

About time, too!

It’s almost the end of May. The golf courses are open.

Another month and the schools will break up for summer and vacation time will begin.

And, just in case it’s overlooked in the excitement, companies with a calendar fiscal will reach the mid-point of the year. I know. I’m a dour, Scottish buzz kill.

Some business owners will go off on vacation pleased that results are ahead of expectations. Others will not be so satisfied – and some will be unhappy.

But all 3 types of owner share 1 thing in common. They know more now than they did when they set their expectations for the year.

Why is that worth mentioning?

We live in an achievement-oriented society. So we’re programmed to focus on the latter 2 types of companies – those that haven’t made their targets and those who are barely doing so.

They’re the ones who are underperforming. So they need to figure out why because they need to do better.

And that’s where our thinking often stops.

However, what about the companies that are doing well against their targets?

Is it possible that’s because their targets were low? After all, they were set around 6 or 8 months ago.

And, despite having been in the consulting business for over 12 years, I have yet to meet someone who can consistently predict the future.

Some of the owners, whose companies are doing well, will take the time to review their performance. And, if needed, change their activities to drive for even better results based on what they now know about this year’s performance.

In fact, I notice that the owners who take the time to step back and review their performance regularly, tend to have successful businesses.

The alternative, simply accepting the results as good fortune or, worse, as being their “due”, is a sign of complacency born of hubris.

And, as anyone who has read Jim Collins book “How The Mighty Fall” knows, hubris can be the first of the 5 stages of decline……..

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Too Early To Tell If It Will Be A Good Year? Think Again!

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

The Three Cs of Strategy Execution

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

This week’s guest is Dick Albu, the founder and president of Albu Consulting, a strategy management consulting firm focused on engaging and energizing leadership teams of middle market private and family business to formulate robust business strategies and follow through on execution of key strategic initiatives.

 

 

 

What is one of the most common missing links when it comes to successful strategic planning? Most CEOs we speak to will agree its strategy execution. You can have developed a mediocre plan, and an exceptional execution process will lift that average plan to new heights. Without a solid execution process in place, strategic plans are useless documents that sit on shelves collecting dust. More importantly, without a formal strategy execution process, organizations fail to achieve their goals.

At Albu Consulting, we believe that strategy development and strategy execution work hand-in-hand. They are partners in a dynamic, continuous and collaborative process. Strategy development does not end after a two or three day offsite and execution is not just project management. Rather, joined together strategy development and execution act as a strategy management system of continuous improvement to achieve the results you want.

How can you provide the leadership to make strategy happen? Consider these three Cs of strategy execution that can help you achieve your long term strategic goals.

Communicate – All too often strategy is kept a secret by the CEO only to be shared with a few members of the leadership team. Often it is implicit, lacking a written document that articulates the specifics of the strategy. Unfortunately, if people down through the organization don’t know about the strategy, it is hard for them to connect with it. Strategy needs to be the fabric of how everyone in the organization makes decisions. It should be a part of everyone’s day-to-day responsibility. Strategy is the link that defines “what” needs to be done, “why” it is important, “how” it will be executed.

Commitment – We are always amazed at how engaged managers and employees become once they are brought into the strategy management process. When employees participate in the development of the strategy and better understand how they can contribute to its success, their level of commitment increases. Collaboration within departments and across functions improves, and the result is both top-down and bottom-up cooperation and feedback. Once you have made the case to everyone in the organization, and included them in the strategy management process, translating strategy to action becomes much easier.

Change – Business is dynamic and unpredictable. It is difficult to imagine it any other way. Flexibility in business is absolutely necessary, but it needs to have purpose. Without purpose, organizations tend to “chase” opportunities that are off strategy. Your strategic plan should define and guide business decisions and help your organization stay focused and on task. By managing change through one-on-one coaching, team meetings and leadership reviews, you will embrace change with confidence. Change is necessary and organizations become better for it, but it needs to be on strategy.

Strategy execution is an integral part of the strategy management equation. The pace and complexity of business isn’t getting any easier. Effective strategy execution should not be viewed as additive work, but rather the centerpiece of what the organization needs to accomplish to achieve and exceed its long term goals.

Dick can be reached at 203-321-2147 or RAlbu@albuconsulting.com. For more information on Albu Consulting visit www.albuconsulting.com.

Successful? Your Company Still Has To Change

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Two statements that we often hear are:Change your attitude to the future for successful growth

• “Why change? We’re successful and what we’ve been doing has got us to here.”

• “What got us here won’t get us to where we want to go.”

Business owners who make them have two things in common. Their companies have been profitable and throwing off cash for a number of years. And they’re successful – in their own, and everyone else’s, eyes.

But their attitude to the future is completely different.

Who is right and who is wrong?

Getting an answer means either waiting for several years to see how things turn out, or trying to make an informed guess about what will happen.

Let’s start with the fact that a company doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Are there things that affect results that a company can’t control? Yes, and a couple of easy examples are the economy and the firm’s competitors.

What are the odds – the probability – that those things will behave differently in the future than they did in the past?

Will, for example, the recession continue to ease or get worse again; or a competitor introduce a new technology, change their pricing, promotion or distribution strategies?

Does it really seem likely that these external influences will behave in exactly the same way in the next 5 years as they did in the past?

What about things the company can influence? For example:

  1. Will the people who held key positions during the growth continue to be as effective as the company gets bigger?
  2. Will the company’s existing processes and technology be able to handle increased volume? Can either be changed without disrupting operations?
  3. Does the company have the financial resources to fund continued growth? Or will it need to take on debt or find an investor?

Here’s my point.

Growth is the result of the complex interaction of many factors. Most of them are constantly changing, some at a faster pace than ever before. The timing and extent of the change is often beyond the control of owners and managers.

Is it reasonable to assume that by holding constant the factors which can be influenced – even if that’s possible – the net outcome will be the same?

I don’t think so. I’m firmly in the “what got us here won’t get us to where we want to go” camp.

 

If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Fast Growth in a Slow Economy

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Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn

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