November 2010


Putting Strategy Before People

Two of the most common complaints that I hear from companies about talent review/succession planning process are:

  1. Not in My House - Functional managers protect talent that reports to them, see them as �their employees� and do not offer them as candidates for advancement or development opportunities. They may even get upset if other managers talk to �their people� about opportunities. The result: talent pools do not reflect the real bench strength of the organization and high potential talent becomes frustrated and exits.
  2. Lists for Lists Sake - Spending time in talent discussions just to have a back-up list that does not get used. I find that the actual hit rate on back-up lists is typically only about 15%, contributing little to improving organization capability and providing a low return for this effort. The true capability of the total organization is not assessed. Talent that is critical to maintaining a company�s core competencies is overlooked.

Sound familiar? Worried that this might happen in your talent reviews?

If so, the key to avoiding these complaints is to build a strong business case for talent from the beginning, driven by your organization�s strategy. Talent has value only if it makes a difference in executing the strategy so, if you want to have a meaningful review of talent, you must start by having a meaningful review of the business. Talent discussions then become directly linked to achieving key business results. Once you�re at that point, it�s very tough for managers to horde talent or to just waste time making up a lists.

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Learning from Projects

I am working with a client to evaluate the success of a large-scale project that had cross-functional involvement and impact. I applaud them for taking this rare step of determining the �lessons learned� from a major change initiative, with a focus on improving future projects.

Here are some of my thoughts on the factors to consider and the process to follow for a successful project debrief.

Assess Overall Results

Begin by getting an overall assessment of the project�s success from the perspective of key stakeholders. (If you did not do a stakeholder analysis as part of the project, do one.) A project is generally considered to be successful if it:

  • Comes in on schedule,
  • Comes in on budget,
  • Achieves the goals originally set for it, and,
  • Is accepted by the clients for whom the project is intended.

The ultimate success criteria comes from the end-user/customer so sufficient time should have passed for the end-user to experience the project results.

Assess Why the Project Was or Was Not A Success

This step could be completed in a survey of project stakeholders or completed in a facilitated group discussion. Consider all the factors that could affect a project. Research conducted by Jeffrey Pinto and Dennis Slevin defined 10 empirically derived project success factors. These are a great outline for your survey content or good �kicker questions� for a facilitated session. The ten factors are:

  1. Project Mission - Clearly defined goals and general directions
  2. Top Management Support - Willingness of top management to provide the necessary resources and authority for project success
  3. Project Plan - A detailed specification of the individual actions steps for project implementation
  4. Stakeholder Consultation � Consultation and input from impacted parties
  5. Personnel - The knowledge, skill and ability of the team members; Recruitment, selection, and training of the necessary personnel for the project team
  6. Technical Tasks - Availability of the required technology and expertise to accomplish the specific technical action steps
  7. Client Acceptance � Rolling out the results of the project to its intended users
  8. Monitoring and Feedback �Gathering, reviewing and acting on information at each stage in the implementation process
  9. Communication � Planning for communication to all key stakeholders in the project implementation
  10. Troubleshooting - Ability to handle unexpected crises and deviations from plan

It may be useful to review what was to happen at each stage of the project, confirm what actually happened, and determine what caused any gaps. If the project was not defined in stages (such as a Stage Gate process), then consider the standard project life cycle stages:

  1. Conceptualization: The initial stage when a project is determined as being necessary. The project charter is created and preliminary goals are established as well as the possible means to achieve the goals.
  2. Planning: This stage involves establishing a formal set of plans to accomplish the goals often called a work breakdown structure. Includes scheduling, budgeting, and allocating resources.
  3. Execution: The actual work of the project. Action is taken, resources are procured, milestones are completed, deliverables are produced and capabilities are verified.
  4. Termination: Once the project is completed, resources are released, the project is transferred clients and a debrief is completed.

Lock-In the Learning through Specific Follow-Up Actions

Based on the output of the project assessment, identify specific actions to take to make sure that future projects are improved. A facilitated session is the best way to do this so that you can build commitment among the parties and assign immediate accountability for follow-up. The action plans should include a communication plan to make sure that what was learned is disseminated widely.

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Twelve Universal Sales Management Truths

By Larry Lewis
Client Builder Sales & Marketing, LLC

There are many books out there on the topic of sales management. However, you can boil much of their content down to 12 universal sales management truths. These truths will prove to be effective for any sales organization, anywhere, because they are exactly what we are calling them � universal truths. These truths were articulated by the late Bill Brooks, founder of the Brooks Group:

  1. A sales organization will never be any stronger than the salespeople who are recruited, selected, and hired to be a part of it.
  2. Invest your time where it counts: with the best performing salespeople and with those who hold the greatest potential for superior performance.
  3. A sales organization cannot be led from behind a desk.
  4. The best sales executives and sales managers are the most skilled at judging talent and placing the right people in the right place.
  5. You can�t lead where you won�t go any more than you are able to teach the things you don�t know.
  6. Salespeople must be hired with caution, launched with clarity, and the underperforming ones replaced with dispatch.
  7. Pay plans are essential to sales performance and should ultimately determine how much of what is sold.
  8. Turnover in a sales force is normal and to be expected. Zero turnover is bad, but too high a turnover is even worse.
  9. Sales executives must never allow digital solutions to dominate a sales force�s life, stifle creativity, or curtail proactivity.
  10. You cannot motivate salespeople; you can only create an environment that rewards the things they are most motivated by in the first place.
  11. No salesperson will ever reach any meaningful level of performance if expectations are not clearly established, communicated, and verified for their acceptance and total understanding.
  12. Performance counts in sales, but it is accountability that really pays.

Larry Lewis
Client Builder Sales & Marketing, LLC
Practical, Hands-on, Sales & Marketing Training
Phone: 888.625.2477 [email protected]

For a FREE copy of Larry�s report on the "The Power of Process for Increasing Sales�, please visit his website at www.ClientBuilderTraining.com

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