Coming Events
From Cost Reduction to Value Creation:
Kick Start Your Continuous Improvement Initiatives with Value-Driven Six Sigma

Free Lunch & Learn on September 15 from 11:00 to 1:00
Sigmas Event and Conference Center, 1717 Babcock Boulevard, Pittsburgh
For more information email [email protected] or phone 412-821-2530


It�s Fall � Do You Know Where Your Strategy Is?

For many organizations, the arrival of fall means developing strategic or annual business plans in preparation for the next fiscal year or to meet board, bank, analyst or other obligations.

Think back on previous planning efforts. Do these statements describe your process?

  • It is efficient, inclusive and consensus building.
  • It focuses directly on factors related to growth.
  • It includes decision-making methodology based on market and business priorities.
  • It has contingencies for capitalizing on up-side potential.
  • It specifically addresses potential threats to the Plan.
  • It drives innovation.
  • Every employee knows his or her role in achieving the Plan.
  • It�s a living Plan that is regularly reviewed and updated.
  • The process has as a clear and positive ROI - it is worth the time and resources invested.

If not, it�s time for a process upgrade. Here�s some ideas to consider.

A comprehensive strategic plan can be developed in a much shorter period then typically expected. Don�t get me wrong, effective strategy work takes time and involves some expensive players. However, the time should be measured in days, not months. In addition, planning sessions must be fast-paced and focused but also get key stakeholder�s buy-in. The design of the process and the techniques used to lead these critical interactions must be spot-on. A carefully constructed process and disciplined facilitation can reduce the time typically spent in planning by 30% to 50%.

A study of innovation by IBM showed that outperforming, high revenue growth companies� most significant source of innovative ideas were (in order) employees, business partners, customers, consultants, and competitors. (Internal R&D and sales were further down the list.) What does this mean for strategy work? Get ideas from a diverse range of sources, particularly those not normally involved in business decisions.

The goal of strategy work is not to generate glossy credenza-ware. The outcome should be a detailed roadmap with priorities, time frames, assignments and resources that is subjected to regular progress reviews. Every strategy should also go through a �Protect the Plan� process. I like to think of this as applying FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) to planning. It involves identifying potential threats, assessing their likelihood of occurring and their potential impact, and then generating additional actions plans to prevent or reduce the threat.

For more information, download Keys to a Successful Strategy: How to Improve Strategy Development, Deployment, and Execution from our website.

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A New Psychology of Leadership?

I came across an article in Scientific American Mind entitled The New Psychology of Leadership that discusses the emergence of a new view of what it takes to be an effective leader. (It is also a great summary of leadership models from across the decades.) In my usual contrarian fashion, I don�t think that there�s much new in what the authors suggest. However, I do find that much of what they proffer fits my thinking on what it takes to be an effective leader.

The article defines leadership as �the ability to shape what followers actually want to do, not the act of enforcing compliance using rewards and punishments.� Effective leaders therefore �must try to position themselves among the group rather than above it.� This does not mean that leaders simply bend to the will of the group to be effective but rather that they influence the organization�s identity to fit their vision.

The importance of leaders being able to espouse a clear vision for their department, business unit or organization cannot be underestimated. The best leaders from my career were always able to put a challenge or opportunity in perspective or could lay out a strategy and its endgame in a way that anyone could understand.

Effective leaders are great influencers. Not in a snake oil, used car salesman way but in a way that builds long-term support and commitment. The Scientific American article cites Bernard Bass�s work that has shown that leaders �are most effective when they can induce followers to see themselves as group members and to see the group�s interest as their own interest.� However, effective leaders are more than just charismatic. History is rife with charismatic leaders who achieved great short-term results only to have the business fall apart when they left or when their team got tired of the showboating. Charismatic leaders generate compliance not engagement.

The �New Psychology� supports one leadership behavior that I�ve seen as a hallmark of effective executives. Leaders derail who are drawn to the role to enhance their own self-esteem and who are in it for their personal success. My favorite leaders were just as (if not more) excited about seeing others succeed. They judged their success in the capability they could create in others.

One leadership component that the Scientific American article did not highlight. It is difficult for any leader to shape, influence or position themselves with someone who lacks the ability to be shaped or who fights change. The department, business unit, or organization talent has to be right for any leader to achieve success. Before any New Psychology, this is where an effective leader must start. (Learn more)

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Why Waste A Good Recession

The Pittsburgh Business Times had a great article in the July 24 � 30 edition in which they asked the executives of the area�s fastest growing companies what lessons they learned from the recession. I did a quick affinity analysis of the exec�s comments and came up with the following four themes. Why not learn from success?

  1. Learn, Adapt, Adjust
    • Downturns can be opportunities.
    • Use this as an opportunity to change the way you do business
    • Look for ways to come out of the downturn stronger and tougher
    • Inspect the foundation of your business for cracks and improve your core processes
    • Be willing to accept change
    • Think critically and take responsibility for decisions
    • Changing plans isn�t a failure
    • Be cautious with costs but aggressive in your planning
  2. Focus on the Customer
    • Go back to your value proposition, Hone the message and its delivery
    • Look for ways to help customers demonstrate value to their customers
    • Get everyone involved with the customer
    • Come up with ways to build relationships without travel
    • Grow revenue by an emphasis on service excellence
    • Increase your base with new products and services
  3. Talent, Talent, Talent
    • Always look for talent that is willing to accept change
    • Provide additional coaching and mentoring when times are tough
    • Set a good example on work ethic and values
    • Keep you highly skilled staff during down turns
    • Let your key talent know they are appreciated
  4. Cash is King
    • Control expenses all the time, not just when business is tight
    • Keep an intense focus on profitability
    • Keep debt to a minimum. One executive was quoted as saying �Debt is not your friend.�
    • Keep overhead lean

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Bend and Break and Recreate
By: Tracy Fuller
Managing Director

If you're not getting the results you want, try breaking - or at least bending - the rules that guide your typical approach. For example,

Don't immerse yourself in a stubborn challenge. Distance yourself from it.

Creating physical or psychological distance can help us find creative solutions, by changing how we mentally represent things. Distancing from a time (projecting the challenge into the future) or probability (assuming success is more or less likely) perspective can also increase creative thinking.

Learn more about how psychological distance impacts creativity here.

Don't work to understand the challenge. Work to understand the context.

Design thinking helps would-be problem solvers avoid solving the wrong problem by immersing themselves in the world of the user before defining the problem to solve. Reading context clues and observing interactions within the environment can uncover more powerful needs.

Find resources and references for designing discovery strategies here.

Don't meet or exceed expectations. Recreate them.

If you want more of the same, keep doing and thinking what you're doing and thinking. Not everything needs to change. But if you want different results, consider ways to crack open new possibilities here.

Sign up for Quick Notes (here) or watch our website (www.compio.net) for updates on what we're learning as we bend and break the rules that have guided our approaches.

Here's to your success,
[email protected]

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