Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 2

Rule Number One The first rule is always pick the right team for planning. It is crucial that planning team members are people who are committed to and can add value to the conversation about the company’s growth. The only exception is if there are key employees or managers you want to train. If you want them to better understand the strategic issues facing the company, it might make sense for them to be a part of the process. In addition, you can have members of the planning team who are outside the leadership group. These could be salespeople and other key employees. It is important that you vet them and ensure that they are of the quality and stature required for being a part of the planning group. A number of times over the years, I have seen the wrong leaders and key employees involved in planning. Their participation actually hurt the effort. Take Carla, an HR manager that was naturally included at a manufacturing plant’s planning sessions. After the planning sessions, she took employees into her office and gossiped about managers. Then she left. (Thank goodness.) After her departure, the plant’s CEO added Lucinda, the new HR manager, to the team. She was young, energetic, knowledgeable, and had a clear vision of what the company could be. Her role was completely different than the first HR manager’s was. Lucinda’s addition to the planning team was constructive and positive. The message here is to pick wisely and selectively. Members of the planning team must be able to maintain complete confidentiality and be fully engaged in the growth and...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 1

A few years ago I stood facing a group of well-heeled executives and CEO’s at a conference to deliver a talk on strategic planning. “Which of your companies plan on an annual basis?” I asked. Only a quarter of my audience raised their hands. I opened my eyes in shock. “To those of you who don’t plan on an annual basis, why not?” I pressed. In one way or another, they answered that they were too busy fighting fires to have time for that. This same group of executives then complained about low growth and no profits. They blamed the economy for their problems. With that, I suddenly understood: clearly, they were nincompoops. These CEO’s did not make the connection that planning helps you deal with the economy and the issues that challenge your business. Before we go further, let’s define what we mean by strategic guessing/planning. Rework, a book written by successful software entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, declares that planning has been replaced by guessing. There is something to this. The past several years have presented a very uncertain climate for most businesses. If guessing has become “as good as it gets”, then you absolutely need a process by which to look at the future and make educated and measured calculations about creating a bright organizational future. However, while tactics are a part of this process, strategic guessing/planning focuses executives on the strategy and future moves that the company will take to achieve its health and growth. The fact is that many small to mid-sized companies do not have a structured process from which to...

Raving Fan Customers: Creating Customer Focused Teams: Part 7

Points to Remember: Customer-focused teams and victims (people who refuse responsibility and accountability for their behavior) don’t go together. Members have to want to make the team successful. You cannot create a team with a group of victims. Enemies and customer-focused teams do not go together. Team members must have a basic regard for each other. They do not have to love each other, but at minimum they should have mutual professional respect. Expect conflict. Because performance standards are high, team members will have differing points of view for how to achieve performance standards. Open dialogue and discussion are useful to moving things forward. Remember that it does not matter who is right, but that the customer is served in an extraordinary fashion. Finally, do not be afraid to experiment. Customer service strategies need to be planned, but it helps to be flexible and try new ideas that will make your organization indispensable to the people it serves. Let us know what you think.  Leave a comment below or email...

Bruce’s Latest Article……Great Customer Service

Great Customer Service is a spot of bright Sunlight on a dark, stormy Ocean….                         This is a secret.  It is about having satisfied and loyal customers.  It is simple.  It always works, and it is so underutilized.  In the real world I find that my business service interactions are non-descript, tactical interactions.  Service gets delivered and you give money to whoever is delivering the service. It is all matter of fact without any kind of significance.  It gets done….it gets delivered…. Yet occasionally, I have service that puts a smile on my face, makes me more loyal, makes me more likely to come back.  It happens.  Not often, but occasionally. Some examples follow: A couple of months ago, it was four in the afternoon and I was at the Richmond Airport waiting for my flight to depart.  There was delay after delay. You can imagine how I was feeling.  At a non-descript airport restaurant, I sat my depressed derriere down. “Coffee please”, I said.  “We don’t have coffee” the server responded in a raspy voice.  There I faced a small woman with tattoos in her fifties.  We looked at each other; I sighed. A diet coke was Plan B.  Then without hesitation she said, “I will get you coffee at Starbucks, what do you want?”  OMG – I am stunned.  I am even more stunned that she followed through.  Five minutes later, as I drank my Americano I thought, “Great Customer Service is like a spot of bright sunlight  on a dark, stormy ocean…” Last year, in an...

Raving Fan Customers: Creating Customer Focused Teams Part 6

Developmental Stage Movement In time, Stage 1 teams arrive at Stage 2. Stage 2 teams will either get stuck in Stage 2 or move on to Stage 3. Stage 3 teams can slip back into Stage 2 or move on to Stage 4. Progress or slippage depends on whether the team builds on its momentum or rests on its laurels. In Stage 4, the team can move on through consistent improvement or slip back by becoming arrogant and overconfident. Keep in mind that none of these stages are good or bad. They are necessary stepping-stones in the process that leads to high performance. In the process of development, teams most often get stuck in Stage 2. In order to move to Stage 3, the team must hammer out the performance standards and commitment to achieving them. Also, team goals must become more important than personal agendas, which need to be congruent and in alignment with the group agenda.  In Stage 3, the group starts to take on a life of its own and begins to aggressively move in the direction of its performance standards. Stage 4 is where teams come into their own and truly create customer loyalty. If the team becomes relentless in providing superior products and anticipating the changing needs of the customer, it becomes possible to become indispensable to your customers. Equally important to customer focus is internal responsiveness for employees and shareholders who directly benefit from high performance with increased earnings. This is the win/win/win stage of development. Stage 5 is a bit tricky because it can occur at any phase of development and can...