Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

The One-Page Strategic Plan

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I’ve read that somewhere close to 80 percent of strategic plans are never implemented. Or at a minimum, they are not fully implemented.

Why?

Because they’re usually dozens of pages long, clipped inside a binder, sitting on the bookshelf behind senior management’s desks.

If you can’t simply represent and communicate your strategic plan on one page, you don’t have a plan worth following. Go back and define it further, simplify it, clarify it, dig into it, and figure out what you really want to focus on.

I recently worked with an organization that spent a day in an executive retreat talking about and working on their strategic plan for the following year and beyond. At the end of the day I’m pretty sure there weren’t many who could have communicated what the real focus was, what the challenges and goals were, and what really needed to be done over the following 12 months.

A week later, I spent four hours on a flight across the country thinking about and writing out what had been discussed and by the time the plane was landing, I had written close to eight pages.

Over the next few days I thought a lot about what I’d written, then sat in front of the flip chart in my office and started making notes. Within an hour, I had created a picture in my mind of what this organization had to do to be successful – its goals. It then was clear to me that they needed just three strategies that would lead to achieving these goals. And from there, it was obvious what tactics were required. Well, mostly obvious. It did take a couple of conversations with others to ensure we had them all. But in the end what we had was a strategic plan – the goals, strategies and tactics – all on one page. At the top of the page we added what the real purpose of the organization is – the mission or “Why Statement” – as that cannot be over-communicated. It wasn’t quite a flow chart, but it did flow downward, was simple to understand, and was very clear.

One page. The mission, goals, strategies and tactics were there for all to see – and work on. It was something that people could post on a wall next to their desks and refer to all the time – not just management, but every employee. When a decision needed to be made, one could look at the One-Pager and see if it fit; whether it fit or not, the decision was easy to make. And everyone knew what needed to be done – they knew what the critical few things that would lead to the organization’s success were.

Do you have a one-page strategic plan?

Ultimately, I think the most valuable part of the one-page strategy document is the thought that goes into it. If you can define and refine your mission, goals, strategy and tactics to the point where they fit on one page, you’ve probably thought enough about your business to make it even more successful than it is now.

What’s Your Performance Strategy?

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I suspect your organization has a strategic plan, the plan of how it’s going to get from here to where it wants to be. If you’re like many organizations, it also has a marketing strategy, a sales strategy, a pricing strategy, a product development strategy, a human resources strategy, an R&D strategy… all of which rolls up into your overall strategic plan.

But does your organization have a performance strategy? You know, a strategy for ensuring that each and every individual and team performs at their best?

A number of years ago a study (“Public Agenda Report on Restoring America’s Competitive Vitality,” Yankelovich and Immerwahr, 1983) reported that only 23 percent of the workforce in America felt they were performing at their best. That means that 77 percent felt they could do more, and be more productive. In fact, 44 percent admitted that they do just enough to keep their job. And those were just the ones that admitted it!

While the study was conducted decades ago, it is consistent with my own informal surveys where I ask employees to rate their current performance on a scale of 1 to 10. At least 90 percent of the people I’ve surveyed rate their performance at no more than a 7.

Imagine if these employees were in your organization. Imagine if 90 percent of the people in your organization stepped up their performance from a 7 to a 9. What impact would that have on the overall performance of your organization?

One thing I know for sure is that hope is not a very effective strategy! Hoping that the individuals on your team and in your organization will improve their performance is really just wishful thinking. Unless there is a strategy implemented to make improvements, things will carry on just as they have in the past, no matter how much you or anyone hopes they will improve.

Oh, this applies to you, too. If you want to improve your performance, you need a strategy and a plan to implement it.

In these economic times, performance is more important than ever. It used to be that improving your performance was necessary only if you wanted to see some kind of promotion. Today, performance improvement may be the only thing between you and the long unemployment line.

From an overall corporate perspective, performance improvement may be what keeps your organization alive.

So, what’s your performance strategy?

Does Education Lead to Learning?

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

A good friend of mine makes the differentiation between education and training with a thought-provoking question: Would you like your daughter to attend a sex education or a sex training class? Points out the difference between education and training, doesn’t it?!

To me, learning is when there has been a change in a person’s mental programming. Education is often – but not always – the process of putting information into someone’s brain. Unfortunately, sometimes when you stuff that information in, it doesn’t stay there. How many times in your life have you studied for some type of exam, cramming your head full of information so you can regurgitate it for the exam, and then not be able to recall even 10% of it a month later?

Education, where information is simply given to the student, does not have a long-term effect on the person’s performance. If the student can’t even recall the information a month later, let alone use the information to change a behavior, then he or she truly has not learned it.

Learning is where the information has been internalized and has changed the student’s mental programming, and there is a change in behavior. Learning is programming, and programming is learning. Mental programming is when the synapses in our brain form a pattern, and we can then repeat the information, the skill, the behavior, or whatever, over and over again at the subconscious level. We know it. We do it. We act it. We perform it.

But, in the words of Harold Stolovitch, “training ain’t performance,” either (in fact, that’s the name of his excellent book, Training Ain’t Performance). Well, not necessarily. Sure, training can lead to a person performing what they were trained to do. But, how often have you sat through a training program and then not performed any differently than you did before the program? Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

If we want to change and/or improve a person’s performance – how they perform a certain activity – we need to change their mental programming. An educational program could do that. A training program could do that. But there is a good chance they won’t. Unless the education or training program does more than just provide information, theory, or knowledge, then any change in mental programming is more up to the individual than it is to anything else. In other words, if the individual doesn’t take the initiative to do something with the information, there will not be much change or improvement.

How many times have you read a book or an article and thought, “That’s good advice – I’m going to do that,” and then not changed? At least not any long-term change. Think of the millions of people who hear or read about a new weight loss diet, say they are committed to it, and are back to the same weight within 6 months. Until a person changes their mental programming of their self-image, and change their habits, it’s very unlikely there will be any long-term weight loss.

The same thing applies to performance in the workplace. Companies spend billions of dollars every year sending their employees to training programs. Unless there is some form of ongoing follow-through, such as coaching, performance improvements are typically small. The training has not resulted in a change in mental programming.

“Xerox Corporation carried out several studies on coaching. They determined that in the absence of follow-up coaching to their training classes, 87% of the skills change brought about by the program was lost. That’s 87 cents on the skills dollar. However good your skills training in the classroom, unless it’s followed up on the job, most of its effectiveness is lost without follow-up coaching.”
Business Wire, July 30, 2001

“A study featured in Public Personnel Management Journal reports that managers (31) that underwent a managerial training program showed an increased productivity of 22.4%. However, a second group was provided coaching following the training process and their productivity increased by 88%. Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of value.”
F. Turner, Ph.D. CEO Refresher

Decision-making

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Many great performances, and great performers, are hurt by the inability to make a decision. I have a process for making decisions I’d like to share – one that can positively impact your ability to perform.

Many great performances, and great performers, are hurt by the inability to make a decision. I have a process for making decisions I’d like to share – one that can positively impact your ability to perform.

Step 1: Clearly define the situation that requires a decision. Make sure you’re very clear on what you’re having to decide upon.

Step 2: Collect as much information and learn as much as possible. There are situations in which you have lots of time to do this, and other situations in which you have next to no time. No worries – just collect and learn as much as you can in the time you have available.

Step 3: Gut-check time. What does your gut tell you? Step 2 was aimed at providing your logical mind with the tools to make a good decision; now’s the time to check in with your instinct.

Step 4: Play out the future. Make a decision (temporarily), then imagine what you would feel like in the future having made this decision. Does it feel like it worked? Do you have any regrets? Now, try the other option(s), and imagine what the future would be like.

Step 5: Make the decision. If you’ve gone through the first 4 steps, you will likely make the decision based on some combination of logic and instinct.

Step 6: Make your decision the right one. This is, by far, the most important step. Once you’ve made a decision, do everything possible to make it the right one. Don’t second-guess yourself – just get on with making the decision you’ve made the best it can possibly be.

Step 7: Learn. No matter how your decision turns out, there will be something to learn from it, and from the process. The more you learn, the better your future decisions will be.

Optional Step: Make adjustments. There is no way that every decision you ever make will be the right one, so be prepared to adjust if it becomes obvious it isn’t working. That doesn’t mean give up at the first sign of a challenge or problem (see Step 6); just be prepared to learn and adjust if absolutely necessary.

What do you think – is this a good process? Well, is it? Make a decision on whether it is or isn’t.

Oh yeah, while deciding to not make a decision at this time is okay (if the situation suits a delay); avoiding making it is not an option.

Shrek Philosophy, Onions, and Checking Off Boxes

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Yesterday, I spoke at a Professional Risk Managers Association meeting. The attendees were people who specialize in ensuring safety and reducing risk within the workplace.

What surprised me was how many of them were looking for the quick fix. I suppose that shouldn’t come as a shock to me, since it seems to be human nature to look for the easiest solution for just about anything. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we often over-complicate things…

Yesterday, I spoke at a Professional Risk Managers Association meeting. The attendees were people who specialize in ensuring safety and reducing risk within the workplace.

What surprised me was how many of them were looking for the quick fix. I suppose that shouldn’t come as a shock to me, since it seems to be human nature to look for the easiest solution for just about anything. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we often over-complicate things.

However, these are people whose jobs depend on reducing risk, and you would think that if anyone would see the benefits of doing things right, they would. That’s not to say that everyone at this meeting was simply looking for a way to put a tick in the box saying they trained their employees (“There, I’ve trained them. Things should be good, now.”). No, I could tell that lots of them were motivated to do it right. But I was still surprised that so many of them weren’t this focused.

As I said, it seemed as though some of the people there just wanted to be seen to have provided a training course to their employees. The problem with this approach is that a training course does not necessarily change people’s behavior and/or improve their performance.

Think back to the training courses you’ve attended in the past. How many times have you walked away from one thinking, “Great information. Now what?”, and then not changed the ways you do things?

I like to quote the famous philosopher, Shrek. If you haven’t seen the first movie, see it – Shrek’s quite the brilliant thinker! In the movie, he likes to say that many things are like onions – they have layers. Thinking that a training course is going to change people’s performance is only looking at the outer layer of the onion. To really make a change, you need to peel back the layers to get to the core of the onion. Once you get there, you can then deal with it. If you simply work with the outer layer of the onion, you won’t really be addressing the issues.

While we shouldn’t over-complicate things, we do need to identify what the real issue is, then find the best solution for it – not just deal with the outer layer of the onion and put a tick in the box next to “Training Completed.”