Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 4

  Rule Number Three For the third amazing rule, it is important that you complete the previous year. A powerful completion process will allow you to put that year behind you as you welcome a new one. It’s important for the organization to distinguish the previous year and discuss what occurred during that time, good and bad. At the very first session of the planning process, the past goes into the past. When I coach these sessions, the group lists the previous year’s information on flip charts. The past is broken down into a number of categories, such as BREAKDOWNS FOR THE YEAR, BREAKTHROUGHS, FIASCOS, DISAPPOINTMENTS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, and the like. One of the great aspects of this exercise is that the executives and key employees of the organization get to review all the work that was accomplished during the past 12 months. What aspects of this year are we taking into the next? What aspects are we leaving behind? It’s all included in the meeting minutes and brings completion to the year. One season completes and the next opens up. Excuse me while I get a little weepy. This exercise is worthwhile and useful; everyone is now ready to invent the organization’s future. For more information about CMI’s strategic planning process click...

Seven Rules of Strategic Guessing: Part 3

Rule Number Two The second golden rule of planning is to make sure the design of the planning is one that will yield a good result. I am not a believer in leadership teams locking themselves in a room at a resort for two or three days. This type of planning may be sprinkled with some golfing, gambling, or other “fun stuff.” From this design, a strategic plan is supposedly born and created. The problem with this design is that it curtails critical thinking. This process begins to smell of “Plan-In-Binder Syndrome”, which is exactly what it sounds like: the leadership group ends up developing a “plan” that then ends up securely contained in a nice plastic binder that is then lost and forgotten. These binders tend to become nestled in executive bookcases. After the year begins and the fires start raging, no one looks at the plan. Poke me in the eye with a hot stick; “Plan-In-Binder Syndrome” is such a waste of time and resources. In addition, if you do all your planning during one session, you risk just doing more of what you are currently doing. There is no opportunity for research or involving other employees within the organization who are not at the planning session. I find that these plans run the risk of superficiality and being UN-implementable. Is that a word? Here is what to do. The process should take place over two to three months and take three to four days. It is predicated on white papers and dialogue. Listening and understanding are critical. Better research ensures better debate and thinking. “What is...

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...

Raving Fan Customers: Creating Customer Focused Teams – Part 5

A Normal Process for Team Development Like people, teams go through different phases during their development. This is normal. A two-year old human is very different than a 16-year-old. Likewise, a team that has been together two months behaves very differently than a team that has been together 16 months. There are five stages of development for customer focused teams, each with its own distinct characteristics: Stage 1 – Getting to Know You Feeling that this customer service stuff could be fun combined with some anxiety about how to do it A degree of excitement about the concept of a team Figuring out who is in charge Clarifying the rules and developing standards Dependence is on the coach/leader Coach/leader uses a directive approach Stage 2 – Wish We Weren’t Here Feeling that this is not fun Leadership and/or members are all screwed up Feeling that “something is definitely wrong here” Feeling uncertain and incapable Performance standards not being met and a lot of finger pointing Little agreement among team members regarding standards Customer focus is rhetoric only A lot of internal strife and no sense of mutual accountability Task driven but a lot of individual agendas Performance standards are not agreed upon Stage 3 – Getting Behind the Game Performance standards hammered out Increasing ownership of those standards Decreasing hostility as the team begins working out personal differences Focus on customers Starting to like and feel comfortable with mutual accountability Positive feedback from customers starting to come in More honesty among team members Failing forward — learning and improving from trial and error, with rapid recovery from mistakes Enthusiasm...

Elevate Your Effectiveness Giving Constructive Feedback by Keith Weedman

Effectively giving constructive feedback is a learned leadership skill. When effectively given, the feedback is appreciated by the recipient as being helpful and the experience is empowering to both parties. The giver elevates their skill and commitment to generously give constructive feedback while the receiver utilizes the feedback received to elevate their performance. In this article, I will share ideas you can utilize to significantly elevate your skill to effectively give constructive feedback. I invite you to utilize these ideas to elevate your skill to a level that is highly uncommon and in great demand today. How effectively do you give constructive feedback? How do you measure your effectiveness? How do people typically respond to receiving constructive feedback from you? How consistently do people get maximum value from your constructive feedback? As a leader within your organization, you are always influencing how people around you perceive constructive feedback. Yet in many organizations, constructive feedback is given in less than effective ways, as if you, as the giver, have no influence as to how your feedback is received. In this article, we will first explore some of the common reasons why constructive feedback is given less effectively. Then we will consider a few useful assumptions you can utilize to elevate your effectiveness. Then we’ll review a step by step process for effectively giving constructive feedback. Most people have had past unpleasant experiences receiving constructive feedback delivered in an ineffective way. It is too often understood as a criticism or a critical judgment. Because of their past experiences, you can unintentionally trigger a defensive reaction from someone when you are giving them...