Posts Tagged ‘outcome’

Lists That Last

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

It’s funny how 2 unrelated events often come together to produce a completely unexpected outcome.Stay focused on the list of your company's set principles to maintain consistent success

In this case, the first event is that we recently decided to undertake a long overdue revamp of our web site. As a result, I’ve been thinking about the changes we need to make to our content.

The second is that I’m re-reading Jim Collins’ book “Built To Last” which employs his now familiar technique of contrasting Visionary companies with less successful Comparison companies.

One of the differences between them is that the Visionary companies all had a well-articulated core ideology.

Collins credits that core ideology with keeping the company focused on a set of principles that it practiced consistently through the decades. That focus was a major contributor to the Visionary companies consistent success.

That set me thinking.

When I started ProfitPATH 12 years ago, I had 2 reasons for doing so.

One was to share the tools and techniques I’d learned working for some remarkable companies, on 3 different continents. This didn’t mean I knew more than other people. I just knew different things.

The second was to do things differently to traditional consulting companies.

In fact, I made a list of all the things the consultants I’d hired over the years had done that had annoyed me and said – we’ll do the opposite.

I’ve often spoken about that list to colleagues and clients over the years, and I try very hard to live by it every day.

But, apart from the original scrap of paper I scribbled it on, I’ve never actually written it down or publicized it.

Now I’m going to change that.

That list is going to replace the outdated content that inhabits one of the pages on our current web site.

There are, of course, a couple of challenges.

Those of you who know me will agree that I have really bad handwriting. So, even if I could find the piece of paper on which I wrote the list, I probably wouldn’t be able to read it.

Fortunately, I remember most of the items quite well as I have verbally shared them often. The others will come back to me as I’m writing down the former.

I’ll share the list with you next week. And you can tell me what you think before I put them on the web site.

 

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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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Strategy – Don’t Think It, Experience It

Monday, February 14th, 2011

1. You need to feel the strategy.

Getting employees to buy in to a strategy is considered key to its success. To do that, business owners communicate their strategies so that each employee thinks about what it means for her or him.

But now there’s an argument that this isn’t good enough and that there’s a better way(1) .

The current approach hasn’t solved the problem of turning strategy into results. Execution fails because thinking isn’t enough.  Behavioural change is required in order for strategies to work and to get that employees need to experience the new strategy at an emotional level.

2. How on earth can you feel a strategy?

Strategies are intangible; they’re ideas and images of how to move from the current reality to a future state. So how can they be experienced?

For a start people seek out things that feel real to them – even although they know its part reality and part fantasy, for example, “reality TV” shows. Research says viewers aren’t looking for the truth, but the satisfying authenticity when reality interacts with desirable situations.

Next, remember that intangibles take on form and concreteness when they are expressed in words. So a strategic intent – combining the current reality and the idea of a better future – can be expressed as a story about the company’s future. Not entirely a new idea, I hear you say.

But a story isn’t enough to bring about behavioural change.

The story has to be strong enough and presented in a way that it can’t be ignored. It has to catch employees’ attention. Research shows that things people consider interesting gets their attention – and they don’t even have to be true!

People consider a story that combines the familiar with the novel interesting. Not because it states the obvious but because it offers the possibility of something not at all obvious. It can’t be too radical or employees won’t believe it – and the goal is to suspend disbelief. Employees have to want, or desire, the better future.

For example, when a new leader took over the New York Botanical Gardens he started the planning process by declaring “We are a museum of plants, not a park.” Employees easily understood the difference between the two and had the desire to change the Gardens from a park to a museum as a way of escaping from dogs, cars and picnics.

And it’s the shift from seeing the outcome as goals to be achieved to an emotional desire that drives the behavioural change required to execute successfully.

3. How do you develop a strategy you can feel?

Two things have to change. The argument goes like this.

The current strategic planning process stifles creativity and innovation because of its analytical approach and it favours incremental over substantive change. It is not in tune with the fast-moving, fast-changing world we live in. (Where have we heard that before?)

The process described above will enable employees to feel the company’s strategies are meaningful and compelling at a personal level. Once they care about the strategies they’ll adopt the new behaviours required to execute them.

4. Let’s sum all that up.

According to this new school, strategy as thought – effective communication of strategic plans that have been developed by top management and using metrics to measure the implementation of the outcomes – doesn’t translate into execution.

On the other hand, strategy as experienced – dialogue involving as many people as possible, using stories and metaphors, sustaining itself by the energy it produces – drives behavioural change.

I like the concept of strategy as experience but I’m having a hard time with the implementation.

What do you think?

(1) “Strategy As Experienced”, Jeanne Liedtka, Rotman Magazine, Winter 2011, page 29.

3 Reasons Why Consulting Assignments Fail – Part 2

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I mentioned the first of 3 reasons why I think assignments fail – Trying To Solve The Wrong Problem – last time. Here are the other 2.

• Reason # 2 – Failure to manage expectations.

If you don’t set expectations you can’t manage them.

I’ll begin with the money. The consultant has to accept the risks and estimate or quote a fee they can live with. The conditions under which the fee can be changed must be clearly understood by the client. Both parties must believe that termination conditions are fair. Most importantly, there can be no surprises. If there is even the possibility of additional charges the topic must be raised immediately.

If the consultant and the client don’t agree on clear, realistic goals and deliverables before the work begins, then neither will know what outcome the other really expects. The key word is “realistic”. The consultant has to avoid over-promising, which sets the stage for under-delivering. The client has to avoid asking for a $50 result on a $5 budget.

The assignment must be broken down into a series of steps or building blocks, each of which has clear deliverables. Each step must have a start and finish date.

When things get off track, and they will, the consultant must immediately draw that to the client’s attention. If the client is troubled by any aspect of the assignment she/he must bring that to the consultant’s attention. Alternatives must be proposed and agreement reached (no doubt involving compromise on one or both sides) on how to adapt and move ahead.

Phone calls, voice mail, email and ad hoc meetings are the communication tools we use most frequently. But they cannot replace regular face-to-face meetings, with a pre-arranged agenda and record of the follow up actions to be taken.

The consultant has to obtain the client’s agreement that the deliverables for a step have been met. There is no room for hesitation, if the client isn’t sure, the step is not complete.

• Reason # 3 – Changing the scope of the assignment in mid-stream.

It may be perfectly logical to make changes to the goal/deliverables of an assignment before it’s complete. For example, if new or unexpected questions arise as a step is completed it might be necessary to find the answers to them.

But it just as easily may not be. For example, deciding not to roll out a research project nationally based on input from customers in one Province, so that the money saved can be used for something else.

Even when changes are made for good reasons they may require time and other resources that weren’t considered in the original plan. Giving in to the temptation to complete more work with the same people usually results in underestimating the delays to the original assignment.

So both client and consultant have to objectively assess the impact and agree on the adjustments to the plan before making any change.

It’s certainly not fair to say that all business owners are anti-consultant. But it is fair to say that many have at least some degree of scepticism about what consultants can actually achieve.

When I asked some colleagues for their top 3 reasons why assignments fail, most said responsibility rests solely with the consultant. However, this can’t always be true.

But, unfortunately, it is true that we (the consultants) are often holding the gun when it shoots us in the foot.

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