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Posts Tagged ‘tools’

How to build scalability into any organization

In a January 23rd post earlier this year, I briefly mentioned the Horizon 1-2-3 framework originally developed by Mehrdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White, who authored The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise. In it they established a view that companies that are successful in the long term have growth initiatives in three stages. Subsequently, many consulting organizations worldwide have used dozens of frameworks over the years to analyze the trends which impede their clients’ ability to grow.

Allow me to summarize for you what I’ve been seeing as the #1 culprit for limiting the growth of organizations worldwide.

Premise; The H1-2-3 framework is built around the point of view that to sustain growth, a company must maintain a continuous pipeline of business-building initiatives. Companies considered sustainable & scalable are characterized by their ability to create new business opportunities by innovating from within their core business ares whilst building new off-shoots at the same time.

Challenge; With the limited resources that the majority of modern-day companies face today, where can you find the time, resources & funding to innovate?

Solution; Identify within your organization who’s ready to operate at each Horizon, and then stimulate their development by holding them accountable.

  • (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits)
    • Who in your organization is working at this day-to-day level?
      • Are they the right people / profile?
    • What monthly gatherings are you promoting to review & improve on the recently past activities?
      • How do (what proof are you collecting) these gatherings benefit your future activities, both immediate & mid-term?
  • (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities
    • Who in your team is ready to step-up to the next level?
    • What weekly questioning and periodic structured pulse checks are you committed to?
    • How are you fostering increased risk taking & the capability of the team in dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty & adversity?
  • (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed.
    • Who in your organization is passionate & skilled at seeding options today for the future?
    • What is the required business acumen for understanding the related research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc you’ll need to succeed & innovate?
    • How are you going to measure the practical implementation of the same, both immediately & on a continual basis?

Results; A client of mine is currently putting this model into effective use. The Managing Director is a visionary and he needed to break himself away from the daily routines that were keeping him from affecting the broader & longer term results of his organization. Last year he asked one of his next-line management to step-up & shadow his responsibilities. After one quarter, this 1st line executive had gained deeper knowledge & understanding of what it took to “play at the next level”.

Having also experienced professional growth & personal development, he was tasked to find someone one level down & do the same exercise. At the same time he was sharing with his immediate management colleagues the direct & indirect benefits of this experience. Each quarter the Managing Director rotated his direct reports through this process. Whilst he gradually freed himself to a level at which he significantly impacted the broader scope he desired, this exercise permeated throughout the organization giving more voice to many more layers of management & personnel in general.

Whether you’re staffing levels are 5, 10, 50, 100 or 1,000, what can you learn from this exercise? What are you holding onto that you should let go of? Who’s growth are you debilitating by continuing to carry on the way you do today?

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The best effectiveness tool I’ve used to-date

February 8, 2010 2 comments

I was looking for a cheap & easy “time tracking” tool, and so Google search began ;-), & then I ran across a tool last week that claimed to be “the world’s best time tracking application”, but what I found instead was so much more!

Before I share with you how Harvest has revolutionized my day-today effectiveness, let me preface this post by saying “it’s not always about the tool in itself, but what you do with that tool that can absolutely rock your world!”

I’ll proceed to explain..

  • I was looking for free, but effectiveness was the overriding factor
    • at $12 USD per month for the base subscription, given the added value, it’s better than anything you could wish for
      • reality check (!!), you can blow 12 bucks at Starbucks by just having a second cup of coffee
  • I was looking for a one dimensional tool, but wishing for more..
    • and I got more than I could ever have dreamt.. it’s quick, easy, pain free, educational  & very forgiving
      • a “triple threat” (on my apple environment) that equals “killer productivity, ease of use & pleasant experience”
        • dashboard synced w/ online app allows quick & easy start, stop & pause
        • iPhone app synced w/ online app allows my mobile/on-the-spot tracking w/ same functionality/ease of use
        • on-line app that is highly intuitive & easy to configure
      • the “forgiving tool” send you an e-mail alert if you’ve left a timer on too long, and allows you to easily & quickly go back & correct it
  • I was looking to track my time & client engagements and discovered how I was sabotaging my productivity
    • by stopping to review my day’s activities I discovered how much non-revenue generating activities I was doing, and therefore able to make an immediate adjustment
      • justified “investment” in client growth & building potential and therefore able to better quantify my cost-of-sale per client
        • helps me decide which clients to weed out in future
      • allowed me to charge for activities that I “giving away”
      • allows me to better value my time by understanding how much “real” time (much to my surprise) certain activities take
        • in turn allows me to identify hidden costs & better justify/have my client acknowledge true costs related to activities (thus additional revenue)
      • cheap, quick & effective way to accurately track my time on a project for immediate upload to invoices
  • I was able to increase my work-life balance
    • by setting up my family as “projects” I was able to allocate specific tasks/time that were important toward the education of my children, and I became conscious of how I was “unconsciously premeditatedly” boxing myself into a corner by not allocating enough time for my wife, and the necessary sleep to recharge my batteries
      • from a personal perspective, there is NO price that I could place on this benefit
        • it may sound “anal”, but it’s a simple process to make sure you think about the 24 hours you have in each day, and how to allocate that time toward your “true” priorities”!

As my wife would say in her “Aussie way” OMG (short for Oh My God) what a find! For what the tool claims to be, it’s “hands down” the best tool I’ve ever seen to seamlessly be able to track your time & ensure that you’re billing every available billable hour. The iPhone, dashboard & internet app inter-connectivity & inter-interoperability just blew my socks off & actually makes a traditionally painstaking & highly boring process, fun (something I enjoy) & emotionally rewarding!

The icing on the cake, is that it has a 30 free trial period with no intrusive credit card information required upfront, and what really blew my socks was when “Danny” (a Harvest Customer Service rep) pro-actively followed up via e-mail within 48 hours of my trialing the tool to see if I needed any help! WOW!!!!

I’ve only been using it for the past week, and this weekend I discovered how it easily, and again seamlessly inter-acts with my Basecamp app, and therefore upping my productivity by keeping me from having to perform multiple update to multiple application!

Whether you’re looking to get better control of your billable time, or looking for a great tool to help you quickly analyze where you’re allocating your time on an ongoing basis, I would have to say that I have found “a of gold at the end of the rainbow”!! 🙂

What are you doing this summer?

My friends back home in Europe & the U.S. might think me mad for talking about summer in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record, but considering that I’ve spent most of December / January on the sunny & warmer side of the Equator (Australia & Brazil), I find this theme very relevant.

So the question lingers.. where are you spending your summer vacation this year?

My wife, an inspired & driven entrepreneur herself, recently commented on how she thought it strange that so many entrepreneurs she knew, who’s businesses are struggling, still take time off this summer instead of leveraging the “lull” to sharpen their strategy’s & planning skills.

On the other hand, I have seen my fair share of entrepreneurs who have taken the opportunity of a summer to bring me in & help them prepare for a full-out assault in the remaining quarter or trimester of this year. In fact, we have found some businesses who traditionally run on quarterly rhythms, this year closing out the year with a switch to an extended trimester, with the specific intention of making that final push to close out their fiscal year in a strong fashion.

Whether you’re in a position to take immediate action, fine-tuning your business model, as well as the strategy needed to successfully execute on it, or whether that opportunity is still in the far off-distance, I would strongly recommend that you engage a neutral party to come in and help you get a holistic vision of the work required to achieve your goals & objectives.

And if that work is still 5-6 months away, then I strongly encourage you to start the process of recruiting that trusted partner immediately so as to ensure that you secure the person best suited for the culture of your organization.

Pivoting & “the art of accountability”

Anyone who’s ever played basketball knows the term “pivoting”. Basically, pivoting is the point at which a player stops dribbling and limits their subsequent movements & choices. The pivot foot (see embedded image to the right) is the one foot which must remain on the floor when a player has possession of the ball and is not dribbling. This is also the stage where the player must make up their mind as to the next definitive action, having one of two choices:

  1. pass the ball to another colleague
  2. shoot toward the basket and try to score

If the player makes a mistake whilst pivoting, one of the possible consequences is a “traveling” violation, and subsequent loss of the ball to the opposing team.

This also means that as the players are coming down the court, the offensive team in possession of the ball (in command of the strategy) are hypothetically following a pre-designed & practiced play (strategy). Can you see where I’m going with this?

These images came to me the other day as I went for a walk through the park and thoughts of team work and how it applied to some of the more effective clients I’ve worked with. In particular, I was thinking of some “team members” who take on more responsibility than they should, typically over-exerting themselves and/or taking risks that they’re not equipped (experienced) to take, and subsequently taking a bad shot, resulting in failing to score. Sound familiar?

Pivoting is also a “change in direction”. When a player makes a decision to stop dribbling, they will have to use their pivot foot to either find a better position to pass the ball to a colleague who can score, or they must take the responsibility of scoring on their own shoulders. In actuality, this is a great deal of responsibility and the entire team is counting on the right decisions to be made by the right players. Knowing what to do, when, where & how is a key part of accountability, which in turn means that someone is also willing to “be held accountable” to their actions. Interestingly enough, knowing what NOT to do, when & where can be equally important. Sound like a challenge you’ve faced recently?

On a basketball team, just like in a department within your company, every player has a unique set of skills and talents. There are the “go-to” players that you know have the higher probability of scoring & winning the game for you, just as there are the supporting players, less likely to be able to score & win on a consistent basis, but with their own purpose in defending and bringing the ball up the court, maneuvering it into a position for someone else to score. To secure success, every player on a team must know their roles, as well as their weaknesses & strengths so that they can make the most appropriate decisions for the relevant circumstances they find themselves in.

The coaches’ role is to transmit to the team how to play, thus giving the players a framework to work with, but still autonomy to “get the job done” on the court (where it counts). To do this effectively, the coach must communicate by articulating his vision. The team as whole must comprehend this vision, whilst understanding their mission. The players live by a set of values, which has them act accordingly, and they must execute with precision if they are to score & win the game.  In order to do this day-in day-out, in order to execute & win on a consistent basis, they must also practice repeatedly. Are you doing this on a consistent basis? Are you sure? Ask your team!

Remember seeing a coach call a time-out and huddle his players for a few seconds of critical instructions that will lead them to victory? The coach typically draws the play on an A4 sized clipboard, with every player focused on “the same page”. My version of this are 15 minute Daily Huddles or Pulse Checks and One-Page Strategic Plans.

They must train the bodies & minds to be strong and resilient. They must pace themselves during the game, ensuring they spread the ball around allowing everyone to contribute in a fashion that will have everyone still fresh enough toward the final minutes to not falter. Periodic performance reviews & adjustments? How “periodic” is your periodic? have you ever asked your team if they feel informed & empowered in regards to what it takes to get the job done right?

Obviously I’ve boiled down this example to it’s simplest format, and I’m hoping you’re getting the message about the importance of all of the “little steps” it takes to win. More importantly, how important it is that every team member (player) understand their role, limitations and takes accountability for their actions.

And when a team loses? They don’t bury their head in the sand, they watch the game film and learn from their mistakes or seek opportunities to improve their game so that they increase their probability of succeeding next time. All of these things pulled together represent accountability at every level, from the coach down to his players, and we could extend it to the back-office who need to contract new players, but I think you get the message. How often are you conducting formal “postmortems”? how do you expect to learn from your mistakes?

Any valuable lessons here that you might quickly apply to your business? Can you see how you could help your team become more accountable, or create he conditions that would have them step-up & shoot with more accuracy?

Content Rich & Implementation Poor (part 2)

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday I shared my concern over the recent focus & hype on content (tools & frameworks) in sacrifice of implementation & execution. In part 2, I’ll get into some examples of how I’ve gone about in some cases.

When I do finally engage in offering solutions, many times I start with recommending a book or seminar as parallel work before I can actually make serious progress with an individual. And once we do move forward with a collaborative relationship, then a recent first step I’ve introduced is the Extended D.I.S.C. exercise to better understand the person’s natural & non-natural states, as well as their lifetime and “adjusted behavior”. Sometimes before I can effectively share my experience & help someone “take their game to the next level”, they’ve got to do a little homework and therefore I’ve got to ask them to read something like Loving What Is by Byron Katie, The Lost Art of Listening, The Road Less Traveled or Synchronicity.

I’ve also been know to refer people, or their staff to, Landmark Forum, acupuncture or other forms of disruptive intervention that will have them look at their behavior in a different light. And even once they’ve recognized the need for change, that is only the first step. Just like in AA, you have to first admit that you are powerless over the force that is governing your behavior, and then ask for help before you can effectively change. AA & the 12 Steps are only the tools or frameworks, it’s still up to you to reach out and put those tools & frameworks to effective use. Let me share a frightening but awakening statistic with you. Did you know that on average only 10-20% of alcoholics stay in recovery over a lifetime? Why? Because only a few of them are able to consistently make the choice to walk down another street, one without a hole. The hole is symbolic, I believe, for the emptiness within that we try to fill with external stimulus.

What’s the relevance between personal/business coaching & AA? In order for an effective change to happen, one must (1) first recognize the need for change, (2) then have the desire to change for the right reasons, (3) followed by the appropriate & necessary steps for their particular situation, (4) including the appropriate network of support. Once you’ve tasted success, then it about (5) repeating the right new steps until you (6) reach your desire outcome. In short, this is a strategy.. a series of steps to facilitate a predestined/determined outcome.

And here is where I have a challenge with coaches who haven’t had real life experience. The best they can hope for is to be content rich & implementation poor. And when you head down this path, you’ll get exactly what you’ve paid for… 😦

Now, how do I measure impact on a client coaching/mentoring based or strategic consulting situation? Well, first there are the tangible business results or customer testimonials that are frequently available. A more recent example being a key-stakeholders in a client of mine, judged by his CEO at practically a zero, on a scale of 0-10, when I was first engaged. Just a few days ago I heard how he was now at a 7.5 just two days after attending a Landmark Education Forum. The previous 2 or 3 sessions I had with them were limited until I could reach this “breakthrough” point, but now we can make some serious progress, as long as they are willing to put in the hard & smart work.

The key message I’m hoping you’re taken away from this article is that if someone is going through a challenging time, the discipline that may need to be applied might not just be straightforward coaching. Depending on where the subject is “within their journey”, maybe they just need to read a good book, or have a great conversation before they can get to the next stage. Sometimes, unfortunately, they still need to feel a little more pain. In regards to business coaching, question the overload of frameworks & tools, without practical support with implementation. The next time you’re thinking about getting some help with a particular situation, I hope you will think as hard about the relative experience of the individual you’re about to engage, as much as the multitude of tools & frameworks at their disposal.

That’s when you’ll be better prepared to make the best decision possible.. for you, as well as the person you’re about to engage.

Content Rich & Implementation Poor

December 24, 2009 1 comment

I’m noticing these days that there seem to be more & more people declaring themselves “coaches”, yet I’m struggling to find the direct relationship they have on their client’s success!

Especially since landing in Sydney almost two weeks ago, I’ve had several conversations with at least 6 entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurial minded business men, all voicing in unison that their biggest challenge is in effectively implementing and executing the great ideas they get whilst attending thought leadership seminars & events. How many times have you walked away with a tool or framework that you were convinced was going to change your life, only to 3 years later see it still hanging on your wall and reflecting on how you were never quite able to implement that great idea? Indeed I have often thought that too much hype is often made around “tools”, and not enough dedicated into how to make these tools work for the individual or collective. Let’s face it, tools are just that.. “tools”.. mechanisms that should facilitate, instead of be the focus of a strategy. I’ve become more & more concerned with a generation of business leaders that have become content rich & implementation poor.

I’ve long struggled with the way many coaches have approached their clients, starting-out with the immediate assumption that the tools they have on offer will resolve any situation. For example, when I encounter someone in need of help, of any kind, it’s important for me to better understand his/her challenge. I like to ask lots of questions to ensure that I’ve got not only a better understanding of the “obvious challenges” the individual is facing, but more importantly, I’m actually more interested in identifying the non-obvious, or “subliminal/underlying challenges” they’re facing. Much more influential than the obvious, is the non-obvious, the gray matter which is our natural bias, in turn influenced by our lifetime of experiences which shape our views, perspectives & expectations. From ourselves, as well as from others!

One of my favorite points of discussion is around the theme of “common sense”. I like to think that common sense is nothing more than “accumulated experience”. A baby doesn’t know that fire, or a hot stove, is dangerous until they’ve burned themselves at least once. As human beings, we sometimes need to feel pain, sometimes more often than others, before it hurts enough to change a behavior and do something differently. Another of my favorite stories is about a man that walks down a street with a huge hole and ends up falling into a hole. The next day, he walks down the same street again, this time with more caution, yet manages to fall in the hole again. So when does the man finally stop falling in the hole? The day he chooses to walk down a different street! One without a hole!! 🙂

So how can you turn all of the rich content into practical & sustainable implementation? Implementation that will permeate through your organization and make you, as well as those around you more effective and impact results? Check back here for tomorrow’s installment (part 2) when I share some of the ways I’ve gone about it.

2009 – My Year in Review

December 23, 2009 2 comments

It’s that time of year again.. time to look back at the year that’s about to end and measure what’s worked, what could have gone better, and what New Years Resolution’s are appropriate.

The professional highlights were..

  • an e-commerce business who experienced 59% Year-on-Year Revenue Growth
  • an Art Gallery who experienced 50% Revenue Growth 60 days after a Strategic Planning & Alignment workshop
  • a PR agency that gained focus on “what really matters” & improved their sales processes
  • an illustration business that improved their gross margin by an undisclosed amount
  • an internet start-up that launched it’s first real product within 45 days after many failed efforts during it’s first 18 months
  • and another business that’s 15% above budget after a Strategic Planning & Alignment workshop in late September
  • and a host of accolades

The personal highlights were..

  • watching my wife’s “start-up” get significant market validation and secure another round of funding
  • my kids from my first marriage turning around their falling grades to get serious recognition on their improvement
  • my eldest son gaining greater self confidence and implementing serious change after attending Landmark Forum for Teens in October
  • my youngest son getting over the complex of wearing glasses & thus improving his self confidence as well as behavior in school
  • back in OZ building stronger bonds with new friends
  • growing a new business and still being able to maintain a healthy dose of work-life balance
  • supporting at least 3 friends in making significant life-changing decisions leading to their dream-life-by-design

These are just a snap-shot and they’ve made me even more sensitive for the need to record what’s working so that I can continue to “spread the love”.

Sure I had my share of set-backs, and with each one I was able to take significant learning’s to apply toward my development & growth. As my wife likes to remind me; every disciplined effort reaps multiple rewards, and the stronger the wind the stronger the tree!

Actually, “reviewing” is an exercise I do on a daily & weekly basis, as that’s the best way I find to keep pushing myself to learn & grow. How does that work? Well, I actually block-out 60 minutes in my daily calender at 19h00 to reflect back on the highs & lows of the day just passed.

And ask myself challenging questions such as..

  • On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about your day?
  • What worked well & why?
  • What didn’t work as well as you would have liked & why?
  • What could have worked better?
  • Were you busy or effective? (I actually ask myself this one throughout the day)
  • What could you have done differently to change the outcome of the day?
  • What are the key learning’s from today?

If you’re brutally honest with yourself & keep an open mind, seeking to understand, then this process becomes very powerful. Now, armed with this analysis of my day just passed, I’m ready to affect change into the planning of the day just ahead of me. I find this is the only way to consistently “up my game” from day-to-day. At the end of the week, on Friday afternoon, I do a very similar exercise, but broader in scope. More challenging questions reveal the underlying emotions that had me behave the way that I did, the results of which often reveal important patterns, some of which may even require 3rd party intervention to break. Typically however, a simple trusted circle of like-minded friends or professionals is enough to keep you honest & give you the necessary tools to “break through the glass ceiling” (a.k.a.. a good kick in the pants).

All-in-all I’m pretty satisfied with 2009. It’s had it’s ups & downs, highs & lows, but over-all, the year has been an overwhelming success! The biggest challenge I faced was the recent passing of my father just last week! Whilst it broke my heart to see him go, it also gave me even greater fervor to push myself even more, and continue to affect change & stay on purpose (to empower every relationship I touch)!

How about you? What’s the balance of your year? What do you need to do differently to make it a 10 out of 10?