Archive for Plans of Action

Dumping Efficient Inefficiency

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. ~Peter Drucker

That is one of my favourite quotes. Many of us enter positions, companies, roles, where things have been done a specific manner for years. We sometimes forget to take a good hard look at many of our actions and worry about efficiency in those tasks rather than thinking about whether those tasks should be done at all.

Strategy sessions often take a good hard look at ‘where do we need to go’ but forget one important component. ‘What are we doing that is not working or has no effect on our goals or direction. How can we eliminate it?’

In this post I would like to suggest you as a leader take a look at your own actions and do a little self analysis:

  1. Take a few minutes every week, find some quiet time and look carefully at your actions from the previous week.
  2. Identify those actions into which you have been trying to build efficiency.
  3. Using careful analysis of those actions, determine if you truly believe they are necessary to your role and the important goals in front of you.

Time is of a premium, demands are high and the economy has you working harder for less money. It’s important to ensure every action you take as a leader is effective to the success of the company and the people within that company.

Once you have a little practice in your leadership role, I encourage you to take this same exercise out at the management levels of the company rather than wait for a yearly strategy session. Build a What are we doing that is not working?” item into the agenda and truly work to eliminate those things which are unnecessary or take too much time for too little return.

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Strategic Sense is a Leadership Development, Plans of Action and Facilitation organization who’s mission is to change the world for leaders and their employees everywhere. We believe each individual comes with their own unique talents and skills that can be enhanced and utilized to help them become the very best leaders only they can be.

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A Personal Note From The Company President

Farewell to 2008. Welcome, 2009.

It was a fantastic year this year, much learned and great beginnings for my entire family. I wanted a chance to share a little story with you.

We had a very different Christmas this year, as a family we pledged not to buy presents for each other and instead we would take a day and do something together for the less fortunate.

It isn’t that we didn’t want to give nor were we insensitive to the retail economic situation, we were simply being responsible to ourselves in a year when all three kids started College and I began tending to the business full time. It wasn’t a Scrooge Christmas, either. We still maintained many of our traditions and kept a strong sense of family, friends and food. It did provide some unique blessings, though.

· I can honestly tell you that none of us missed the crowded malls or crazy shopping insanity.

· We were all provided the gift of simplicity, no need to “find room” for the new gifts.

· We thought more about each other than about inanimate objects.

· We did not feel stressed, pushed or otherwise short of time.

· Our focus was on gathering, singing, cooking and being together.

So what did we miss?

· Giving, we are a family who loves to buy and do for others. We are generous with as many as possible and each gift is given from the heart.

· Wrapping – my oldest daughter is like myself, we love to carry a theme, match a tree and turn the gifts into a work of art.

· Our Annual Shindig – over 75 people last year, we’re not sure we’ll skip it again!

Overall, it was a great experience for each of us. In some cases, we received gifts from people who knew in advance of our pledge, and we tried (probably failed) to be gracious in accepting gifts when we were not giving in return. Again, thank you.

Because of our many schedules and locations, we are still coordinating our plan for doing something for others less fortunate. We will take a full day together outside of any “special occasion” and give when our giving is most needed.  I believe this will be where we all receive our true gifts this season.

Visit us in 2009 and learn more about Strategic Sense’s Direction for the coming year and our Actions to change the world. 

Yours in Leadership, Plans of Action, and Communication,

Patti Dragland

 

Feel free to pass this blog on to friends!

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Top Ten Lessons From 2008

Top Ten Lessons from 2008

It has been quite a year of change for Strategic Sense; change highlights the adaptive skills inherent in every individual and business! From the tail-end of a boom in Calgary to the significant change in business due to a recession, many lessons have been learned. We wanted to highlight a few here with thanks to each and every one of you for contributing to our early success.

1. It is a very small world on the internet we have been visited from as far away as Indonesia. Seeing the many countries who have visited the website certainly prove we are in a global age.

2. Web 2.0 has significantly changed the face and the means of doing business. We can’t wait for what’s next.

3. Exceptional Leaders are needed in bad market times, especially if they want to get the people rallied around company success.

4. Many people understand how to define a goal, but are not quite certain how to apply the actions for getting results.

5. Employees often tell us they wish we would work with their leaders. Those same leaders often tell us they are doing all the right things. (disconnect)

6. Business can be done from anywhere, but meeting face-to-face is the only way to learn the passion the other individual has for the topic.

7. PayPal is brilliant.

8. The people within a company and the customers they serve are the two most important things to focus on. Internalized self-serving executives will kill a business.

9. Leaders who have employees with bad attitudes are responsible for attitudinal change.

10. The most difficult leadership position, is adequately and responsibly leading yourself!

We wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May prosperity find you and may you recognize that YOU are in charge of you, YOU are in charge of changing your own world and of making a difference in the lives of others. Happy 2009 from the nice people at Strategic Sense!

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Take Action To Change The World!

Most of us who blog understand how small the world can be, we’ve offered across-the-world acknowledgement for each other’s work, we have been blessed with global collaboration and we have been given the opportunity to share with others on a significant scale.
The world, while small, is also jam-packed with people, many of whom are in need. Given that thought, can you define what you do every day that contributes to the world to make it a better place?
Favourite Quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”
-Margaret Mead
Over the next few weeks we will be presenting some areas in which actions can make a difference. This week we start with the topic: Humanities. In a break this down this translates to 4 ways you can take action this week to help humanity; home, work, community and world.

We all have to work, we all need to accomplish tasks that support us, our families, our responsibilities and our friends, but many of us also choose a cause that is important to us and we support it in one way or another. I would love to hear about yours!
Humanity, as defined by Wikipedia, (Mankind) is the whole human species, human nature (e.g., compassion and altruism), and the human condition (the totality of experience of existing as a human).

  1. Home: This week I am cleaning rooms for others!
  2. Work: This week I have brought on a very creative and energetic business partner and plan on coaching him forward with a new project.
  3. Community: Sitting as Board Chair, supporting Providence, a health, education and therapy preschool for children with disabilities.
  4. World: We are looking at several projects, all a fit for our company as well as being something I can get passionate about. When we choose, you will be the first to know!

Share your ACTIONS with us – and help us change the world!

You can find us at: www.strategicsenseinc.com

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Tidy-Up Corporate or Execute: That is The Question

This week I was on the website ‘TED Ideas Worth Sharing’ (Technology, Entertainment and Design). This website hosts the world’s most brilliant minds sharing some of the world’s most brilliant ideas and research. While on the site I watched a video of Ursus Wehrli who shares his vision for a cleaner, more organized, tidier form of art — by deconstructing the paintings of modern masters into their component pieces, sorted by color and size. It is a brilliant piece and if you have time to watch it, please do so.

This artistic virtuoso in comedic tidiness brought my thoughts back to many of the world’s latest and greatest corporate techniques for creating efficiency and order. Being a bit linear at times, I tend to like order and have investigated a few of them while in corporate to see if they are adaptable to my work and certainly have pulled some fantastic pieces from them to use myself. Thankfully, however, I have a good balance of right-brain/left-brain and am also very good at creative solutions and seeing the big picture at the same time admiring the existing talent and efficiencies already working well in the workplace.

The tendency in corporate is to search for that silver bullet in a perfect process, the best system or the most reasonable answer to increase productivity while reducing hours and resources in order to obtain the highest functioning teams possible and ride that profit horse to success!

Here is the stickler, investments are made, people are trained and many thousands of dollars are spent in the adoption of a new process. (I’ll pick two as recent examples; Six-Sigma and ITIL.) Both of these are exceptional methodologies for working-efficiency processes and both of them offer years of research, development and a great deal of hard work in order to provide the tools necessary for creating that efficiency and improved process design. For those of you who’ve adopted these in your organization, how are they working for you?

In their book, Execution the Discipline of Getting Things Done, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan discuss the main reasons companies fall short of their promises. It is not because of the lack of talent, knowledge or inspiring visions, especially since companies will typically bring in the brightest consultants and the most talented and knowledgeable leaders onto a project such as the examples above. Bossidy and Charan say strategies most often fail because they aren’t executed well.

When you hear Strategic Sense talk about action, the words we use are “Plans of Action” – Action being the focus here! We made the switch from using the expression “action planning” to “Plans of Action.” This was done at the advice of a very wise friend who clearly understood the difference between what we do and a typical action plan. The focus needs to be in the Action, if the focus sits in planning and the execution of the plan has received little or no play, you might just as well pack it in, fold up your Six-Sigma and go home.

Not unlike Ursus Wehrli who likes to put order to art, things are missing when you adopt process or make significant changes without understanding how to execute them. According to Bossidy and Charan, the job begins at the top! The Leader (usually CEO, CFO or President) is responsible for making it all happen. They need to put the right behaviours into play, they need to be the ones who build the framework for cultural change and they must be responsible for having the right people in the right place. Only after this can the core processes of execution begin.

I like how these authors lay it out, because they suggest working diligently at the plan, but also suggest you ensure a good plan is followed up with action, they set the stage, framework and processes necessary to learn how to execute. If this seems fuzzy to you, imagine it this way:

  • You are planning a trip to hike the West Coast or Appalachian trails. You know the terrain is rugged, there are many dangers and there are no amenities. You hire a consultant who is an expert in this kind of trekking. The consultant gets you excited, offers you lists and reading materials and helps you obtain all the right supplies. The consultant describes the weather to you, helps with the terrain mapping and even gives you hints and tips that you could not find anywhere but from someone who has been there before. You have spent your life’s fortune planning this adventure. You are organized! Everything is stacked and ready to go and so you take off on your greatest adventure yet.
  • After day 5 you are air-lifted out by helicopter when another hiker has found you laying half naked in the snow. So what went wrong?
  • Your planning was amazing, however, you left out a whole load of steps necessary for the execution of that plan. You did not train or exercise prior to the hike. You did not prepare for the emotional mind-set necessary for days alone in the woods where everything is unfamiliar, scary and many things can go wrong. You did not train for the weight of the supplies on your back and the physical strain it would cause for such a grueling hike. You were in no way prepared for the altitude sickness that takes over your brain making you do crazy things once you reached the top of the highest climb, and so you began to feel hot and sweaty and warm and began taking off the layers of clothing you’d put on at the base. You suffer from hyperthermia, your trip is ended, it was costly, and you went home without success.

Just like Ursus Wehrli you had order, you were prepared in your tidy plan, so you thought, but you could not see the overall picture, you could not see the beauty of what lay ahead in un-ordered chaos that is the real world, and you had not prepared your mind, your behaviors and the execution process to reach your target. You fell short!

Think carefully about what you are adopting when you decide to spend a fortune on the latest and greatest, for the potential to improve your company does indeed lie within the tool. However, if you are not able to understand the necessary requirements for execution of those tools, you may have wasted a great deal of money, training, employee time and missed the truly beautiful picture of what your company is capable.

Find us here: www.strategicsenseinc.com

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Dying Fridges – Scary Markets!

My Fridge died this month. It’s of far less significance to those of you who suffer very real and very devastating loss, but in the spirit of convenience and comfort – it was a considerable pain in the neck!

What does this have to do with the current market? Read on…

My first thought was this, careful what I wish for! I’d looked at the fridge earlier in the week and thought to myself, “That fridge looks pretty cluttered, I should tidy up the junk magnetized to the front and get rid of old information.” Well, there I was busy getting EVERYTHING off the front of that fridge and out of the freezer then trying to figure out where I was going to put it all.

I knew this was coming, last year it began by kicking in and out with a large devastatingly loud “clunk” and only a few weeks ago I noticed the vegetables sporting lovely ice crystals on them. Yet, did I go scouting high and low for a decent new fridge? No. Instead, I let it keep on clunking and freezing in all the wrong ways and hoped for it to keep living! Unfortunately the fridge had other ideas!

Suddenly one night, it began its long, loud and slow journey to the fridge recycling program. First with a motor that sounded like a jet-engine powering up in my kitchen and preparing for take-off, then it started to slowly and painfully lose its ability to maintain that rigorous and noisy struggle for past efficiency… and it quit.

Sound familiar? How about within your company? Let’s take a quick look at the market in the United States. Being Canadian witnesses we have seen the decline; we have watched the nightmare as financial outlooks continually offered more and more bad news. We were wildly aware of the many trickle-down effects that would reach the rest of the globe. Yet what, if anything, did we do to prepare?

Like my small freezer full of meat, are you trying to determine what to save and what can be discarded as perishable? Talk about forced priorities!

Do you have a backup plan for the time period between the initial financial hit and recouping your losses?

Like with my fridge, are you in reaction mode and making it up as you go along?

Take a few quick tips on how to deal with sudden (or seemingly sudden) reactions to difficult times.

1. Find The Pain and Solve It. Remember that during a market slump or fall-out, you are not alone. Your customers are living in the same world you are, and they’re also affected. Pay some compassionate attention to their needs. Find an opportunity to help ease their pain and solve a problem, even while buried in solving your own. Focus on the customer will get you out of your slump much faster than singular focus on your own troubles.

2. Remain Calm. Your company needs the loyalty and the efficiency of a team rallied to a cause more, now, than ever. Being motivated, positive and passionate and getting the troops lined up for doing good-business will prove your leadership in tough times.

3. Ask For Help. No one knows better than your staff how to save costs in their every day actions. Rather than a top-down message for tightening the boot-straps, consider asking for suggestions, ideas and out-of-the box solutions for creating efficiency.

4. Be Genuine. Integrity, accountability, and open honesty for the position you find yourselves in will give staff a reason to want to help find solutions. Don’t show a phoney “everything is okay” without giving them the appropriate information needed to help your company make it through tough times.

5. Save your Money, Get Creative. This doesn’t mean you can’t have that team lunch everyone depends upon for camaraderie and stress-relief. Consider a pot-luck in-house party to celebrate the launch of your new ‘rally the troops” efforts. You can even pick an agreed upon theme for sharing laughter to ease the stress.

When things improve:

6. Find a Common Cause. Your staff came through for you. When the company finds its feet again and things are beginning to pick-up, remember to pay attention to the heroic efforts of a team mobilized and energized for the company. If fear or even tragedy brings people together, then there must be a way to find positive and non frightening ways to mobilize your people and help them meet short term objectives in a similar fashion.

7. Show Gratitude. You’ll have witnessed a miracle. A group of people with different reasons for being at a company pulled together in the name of a common cause. Be ever grateful for their time, attention, creativity, and efficiency. Remember to thank and praise them individually for the unique traits they brought to the table in helping the company.

8. LEARN SOMETHING. If you were ill-prepared, if you were shocked and surprised then you were not paying attention! Learning means doing something different next time to avoid suffering the same kind of pain. When things are great is the BEST time to define a strategy plan for your company in the event it hits lean market times and stats say you will likely see that every 6 years in one degree or another.

 

 

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4 Steps to DIY Action

On the weekend, one of the rare occasions I watch television, I turned the TV on for noise and tuned in to a show about a fellow who fixes do-it-yourself renovation disasters for people. The woman he came to save had taken a skill saw and cut a window into a wall between her kitchen and dining room for more light. Consequently, she cut through a copper pipe and water poured everywhere including onto the newly opened up electrical boxes.

This is one of those occasions we can honestly say ACTION was not her friend! The entire show carried the theme that ‘action without a plan’ is not only fool-hardy, but can be down-right dangerous depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Effective Plans of Action are the means to reach any goal or objective but a careful balance between how much to plan and when to act needs to involve information from all the stakeholders. Here are 4 ways to ensure you are managing the balancing act between planning and acting:

 

1. Define the Stakeholders. These are the people significantly affected by any and all change. Consider:  if other departments are affected; if your department provides a service to another group; if this will affect any vendor relationships; if there will be an impact on the customer; definitely look at how you will be affecting the employees who are not in the decision-making levels. Gathering as much information on stakeholders and how they might be affected is integral to evaluating change.

 

2. Build Your Scenarios. You might think it’s a step worth skipping, however, without a clear imagined idea of the impact and response you will receive from each and every stakeholder, change management of the restructure may prove disastrous. A great leader understands the effects of change and is prepared to deal with any and all possibilities in advance.

 

3. Build the Plan. You now have a good idea what to expect from each and every stakeholder so begin to build your plan. Keep in mind the scenarios you deem acceptable and those which are not. Ensure your plan is detailed, that it can be clearly understood by everyone and it contains not only your objective, owner and final date, but the steps to get there and from whom you’ll need help along the way.

 

4. Take Action. A plan is simply a plan until you have taken action to make it happen! Building a plan without taking action is an exercise in futility! I would not ask my employees to build any plan if I were not willing to see it through, steps 1 & 2 above help you decide if it’s worth building. At this point you’ll need pretty strong leaders to help make change happen. You’ll need:

 

a. A top leader who will back the approved plan through to the end

b. Middle managers who are willing to do what it takes to see it through.

c. A GREAT communication strategy.

 

Throwing any kind of change top-down without first communicating the why, how, what and where may very well end in mutiny! Help the staff understand you are there to hear their concerns and offer them good reasons why this is better for the company; how it will make a difference in the working lives of each person; what it will do for the employee and customer experience; where the changes are to occur. A clarified Communication strategy combined with Plans of Action that are well defined, and excellently executed will make the difference between a GREAT initiative and a mediocre initiative.

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