Friday, December 26, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
While many other business guru's come and go like the latest fashions, Deming's teachings are always important. There is so much of his work that one can cite in a post. Art mentions his theory of Profound Knowledge and 14 Points as good starting points. I agree.
The W. Edwards Deming Institute offers some great materials, including a nice summary the theory and 14 points. For a nice review, go to The Deming System of Profound Knowledge at the site. I've reproduced the 14 points for review.
- Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
- Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
- Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
- End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
- Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
- Institute training on the job.
- Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
- Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).
- Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
- Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
- Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
- Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (see Ch. 3).
- Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
- Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody's job.
It is easy to blame others about the crises we face, but the recovery will begin only when each of us takes personal responsibility in providing thoughtful leadership within our organizations and communities. Using Deming's teachings as a road map is a great start. Now it us up to us!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
It seems, as things were getting tougher, management was pushing sales to "go out and get more deals!" In an effort to keep their funnels full, the sales people were chasing bad deals. They were deals in which the customer had no real interest, urgency, or funding to go forward with a project. Deals in which my client's solutions were marginally competitive. Deals that were the wishful thinking of hungry sales people.
- The lower quality deals have significantly lower win rates, yet consume significantly more sales, pre-sales, and management time.
- The few times those deals were won, the cost of supporting those customers was much higher. Customer satisfaction was significantly lower--impacting the perception of my client in the market, customer support costs were higher, decreasing profitability, and too much sales and management time was involved in dealing with these situations.
- The "inflated" funnel set the wrong expectation in the business. Management could not really determine the real performance or expected performance of the sales organization and the gap to plan. Consequently, they were not implementing the right recovery strategies.
- The time spent chasing bad deals, robbed the time sales people have to prospect and find quality deals. They were missing good opportunities, simply because they were spending too much time managing low quality opportunities.
Maintaining a quality funnel in very tough economic times takes courage, but it is the only way sales professionals and management can optimize their business results. No individual or organization can afford to waste any time or resource on non-productive activities. Maintaining or increasing the quality of the funnel, is critical to maximizing results and sales productivity.
The fastest way to increase sales productivity and building quality funnels is to get sales people to focus on vicious disqualification. They must focus on deals where customers have an urgent need--in today's economy, organizations will only invest in the most urgent, highest return areas. Sales must focus on deals that hit their organization's sweet spot---these are deals that have a higher probability of winning. There may be real deals out there, but if they don't fit your capabilities and sweet spot, you probably have little chance of winning them.
If sales people focus on vicious disqualification, the quality of the funnel will improve dramatically. Win rates and productivity will soar. Management will be able to accurately forecast the state of the business and develop strategies to address gaps. Sales people, with lean, but quality funnels will have more time freed up to prospect and find more quality deals.
It may seem counter intuitive, but vicious disqualification and the highest quality funnels are the best way to maximize business and profitability in a down economy. Your thoughts?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I'm often called upon to speak about Value Propositions! Every time, I do some quick research about the topic. It continues to be one of the most popular subjects:
1. Yesterday's Google search on "Value Propositions" yielded 4,140,000 hits, up from 2,900,000 in January.
2. It continues to be a "hot topic" in blogs and in consultant pontification (I guess I need to include myself on this).
3. In our own web marketing (SEO) programs, it is the second highest performer, just behind strategic alliances and partnering.
4. When we talk to our clients' customers, one of the biggest issues they have is they don't understand the value their suppliers bring.
5. In these tough economic times, everyone is searching for value.
I believe one of the reasons this is such a "hot topic" is that most of us are remarkably bad in developing and communicating meaningful value---whether it is to our customers, colleagues, employees, employers, or communities.
There is a lot of good stuff that has been written on the topic of developing and communicating differentiated value. For this post, I won't repeat it. However, there is one area that I never see any mention of:
In every interchange -- particularly those we initiate and whether it is with customers, colleagues, or others, it is critical to think: What value will I create in this interchange?
If we can't define the value we will create, then we are wasting time---we're wasting the time of the people we are meeting with, we are wasting our time.
If we can't define the value we will create, we are best off cancelling the meeting until we can define the value.
Imagine what would happen if each of us started doing this in just our professional lives. Imagine the number of useless meetings that would be cancelled. Imagine the number of thoughtless phone calls or conversations that would be eliminated. Imagine the time that would be freed up to really accomplish things that create value.
Creating value starts with each of us. We can improve our own productivity and effectiveness by making sure in every meeting, phone call, conversation or other interchange we create value for everyone involved.
It isn't tough, creating value is not about solving world hunger. The test of whether you have created value is: Can the person or people you meet with say, at the end of the meeting, "That was a worthwhile investment of my time." If we design all our meetings and conversations to achieve this goal, then we have created real sustainable value.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
All around, I see erosions of trust---little things, here and there, a commitment made and missed, a confidence betrayed, selfish or thoughtless actions. A close business friend took many months to pay a large invoice and decommitted on a project, in the middle of the project --- costing me thousands of dollars. He has told my how badly he feels, but it was a rather large betrayal. Another friend made a commitment to meet with a major client --- then backed out at the last minute. In reality, none of these was malicious, but each represented a lowering of standards by these individuals I had trusted.
I was starting to feel a little down about things, almost feeling like pointing a finger and blaming all the people that were no longer trustworthy. Then I start to think, am I trustworthy? In the everyday rush of business, have I started to lower my standards? Am I starting to betray trusts, unconsciously, and certainly not maliciously, but am I no longer trustworthy.
I thought of the colleague that, over the past several weeks has left several telephone messages --- I've failed to return a single one. I'm embarrassed and ashamed, my standard it to return every call within 24 hours. I thought of the report a client was waiting for, I delivered it several days after I had committed it. I had good reasons --- maybe excuses, but I still caused him great difficulty in meeting commitments he made to others.
I've made a decision, I can't control what others do, but I can commit to being trustworthy. I where I have betrayed trust, I must start to repair it. If I start taking personal responsibility for being trustworthy ... and someone else (perhaps someone reading this article) ... and someone else ... and so on, collectively we might make a difference.
Several years ago, Stephen R. Covey, wrote a great book, The Speed Of Trust. I've been re-reading it recently. It's a powerful and important guide. Everyone should read it.
In the end trust starts with me, I can't be angry or bitter about others. I have to focus on being trustworthy, I know it will have an impact on me, perhaps it will on others.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Trust is at the core of all relationships. It can take years to build trust and only a fraction of a second to destroy it. Maintaining trust in the face of tough business or personal circumstances can be extremely difficult. Too often, as leaders we succumb to behaviors that destroy what we seek to preserve.
The Slow Leadership blog has one of the best articles I have read recently. I won't repeat it here, but I have copied their list of 30 leadership behaviors that create mistrust. Make sure you read their article!
1. As leader, you fail to keep your promises, violate agreements and ignore commitments.
2. You look after yourself first and others only when it is convenient.
3. You micromanage and resist delegating.
4. You demonstrate inconsistency between what you say and how you behave.
5. You fail to share critical information with your team and your colleagues.
6. You choose to not tell the truth.
7. You resort to blaming and scapegoating others rather than own up to your mistakes.
8. You judge and criticize rather than offer constructive feedback.
9. You betray confidences, gossip and talk about others behind their backs.
10. You choose to not allow others to contribute or make decisions.
11. You downplay others’ talents, knowledge and skills.
12. You refuse to support others with their professional development.
13. You resist creating shared values, expectations and intentions in favor of your pursuing own agenda.
14. You refuse to compromise and foster win-lose arguments.
15. You constantly remind everyone of your status and make it clear that you will not be questioned or criticized without inflicting punishment in return.
16. You refuse to be held accountable by your colleagues or subordinates.
17. You resist accepting your vulnerability, hide your weaknesses and won’t admit you find anything a challenge.
18. You practice sarcasm and put-down humor and rationalize off-putting remarks as “good for the group”.
19. You fail to admit you need support and prefer to mess up rather than ask anyone for help.
20. You take others’ suggestions and critiques as personal attacks.
21. You fail to encourage openness in team meetings and allow others to avoid contributing constructively.
22. You refuse to consider the idea of constructive conflict. In fact, you usually avoid conflict at all costs.
23. You consistently hijack team meetings and move them to your personal agenda.
24. You either ignore or fail to follow through on decisions agreed at team meetings.
25. You secretly engage in back-door negotiations with favored team members to create cliques and political alliances.
26. You refuse to give others the benefit of the doubt.
27. You judge people without allowing them to explain their position or actions and won’t reverse incorrect decisions.
28. You refuse to apologize for mistakes or misunderstandings.
29. You use your position to indulge in inappropriate behavior.
30. When things go wrong, your first response always to defend yourself and protect your reputation.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Today, we seem to see so many executives essentially saying "Do As I Say...." Their personal behaviors and actions within the organization go contrary to what they are saying. Is there any wonder, why their organizations are confused and maybe do the wrong things? Leaders must set the example for their people in their own behavior. If the leaders can't demonstrate the behaviors, attitudes, or values expected, then how can they expect the organization to do so?
In "Leading By Example", John Baldoni addresses these issues head on. The book is mandatory reading for any executive, but a good summary can be found in the Leading Blog.
Our first responsibility as leaders is to demonstrate what we want through the personal examples we set for everyone around us.
• An unclear vision that causes confusion
• A history of poor implementation
• No consequence-management system developed to accompany the change
• Too little time to implement the change
• Lack of synergy
There are a number of other reasons that people resist change, but it is important to recognize this resistance as natural. The moment leaders start thinking "What's wrong with them?" the change efforts will fail.
Underestimating people's natural resistance to change is precisely what derails a lot of business strategies and initiatives. Ignoring this, failing to recognize the legitimacy of people's resistance to change, or using a "sledgehammer" to impose change will create the opposite of the intended results.
One of the key jobs of leaders is managing change. This means effective leaders must manage people's resistance to change---they must prepare the organization for change, communicate and reinforce the goals, reasons, and people's roles and responsibilities in contributing to the change efforts. Without this, it will take longer, cost more, produce less.
While the housing, finance, and automotive industries seem to be the most visible,there are very visible examples in every sector.
We all strive for success, frankly it brings on such a rush. The rush keeps us pushing for more success. At some point, however, too many of us are seduced by success. We forget the hard work, focus, discipline and other things that caused us to be successful.
Many times, we stop listening, we stop learning, we start to think we can do no wrong. In many growing, successful organizations, I also see the newcomers or hangers on -- those who have had no hand in the original success, but now because they are part of a very successful organization, think they are successful and can do no wrong.
The blindness and arrogance the success creates can be devastating to individuals and organizations. It's important that all successful people not be seduced by this. It's great to be proud of success, but at the same time we can't become complacent or overconfident.
It seems to me that all successful people and organizations need to maintain some level of paranoia (Andy Grove was right!) and humility. We have to remain dissatisfied and hungry. We have to continue to listen and learn. We have to look around at others, we have to examine ourselves and continues to change and grow.
I am a great admirer of Jim Estill. Recently, he wrote a blog on this topic -- the Paradox of Success. Jim provides great insight and clarity on this topic.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
This past weekend, I participated in the MS150 Orange County to San Diego ride. It's one of the most fun events I've every participated in ---- plus we raise a lot of money to fight MS. So far, we have raised close to $2 million.
On Saturday morning, our team, the Derailleurs, left Irvine, California at 7:30 in the morning---for a delightful ride down the California Coast with over 2000 others committed to fight this disease ---- Can anything be better? The first day, we rode 107 miles. Great weather, but strong headwinds made the last 30 miles a bit of a challenge. On Saturday evening, we had a great celebration event and barbecue.
Sunday morning, we resumed the ride in Carlsbad California and had an easy 45 mile ride down the coast to Mission Bay in San Diego, ending with a celebration lunch.
It was a great event! The fundraising continues until the end of November, 2008. We still have to do more fundraising to meet our goals!
I'd like to invite you to make a difference in the lives of everyone who suffers from MS, their families and friends. Please donate---help us meet our goal. Donation is easy, just follow this link and have a credit card handy: I Want To Help In The Fight Against MS!
Thank you so much for your support!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
There is a great post in the Slow Leadership blog on "Connecting Versus Relating." It speaks to the breakdown of relationships, transforming them into transactions conducted through impersonal channels like email, messaging, Twitter, Blackberry's and cellphones. I would also add many of the social networking media.
While these "tools" have made all of us much more accessible and available--the emotional connection is lost. Relationships---at least meaningful relationships are built on trust and emotional connections. The new ways we "connect," while convenient, strips away that connection. It seems to me, the more we substitute these convenient ways to stay visible and "connected," the more the true nature of the relationship erodes. Ultimately, we lose the connection, probably without knowing it and we continue the transactions.
These tools also create a shield that enables us to do things that are unthinkable in a real relationship--we can start shading the truth--which gives way to outright lying. We can avoid addressing tough issues head on, or we can do it in terribly insensitive ways. Not having to look someone in the eye, talk to them voice to voice, to understand the reaction limits us terribly.
Research indicates that 70% of communication is non verbal---most of us interpret this as "body language," and other subtle clues we pick up in face to face communications. It would stand to reason the more we come to rely on maintaining relationships through non-direct ways, the more we lose in communications --- and the more we lose in relationships and our ability to trust.
Our worlds, whether business or personal, are increasingly complex. We are all time poor. The new social tools and means of "connecting" add some convenience and speed to communication, these tools are only a complement to building and maintaining meaningful relationships.
We all fall victim to this. It is so easy to send a quick email or SMS. I recently reconnected with a colleague, responding to her invitation over Facebook with an message "glad to reconnect." I got no response and started wondering why aren't we really connecting ---- and the answer is so simple ---- I should pick up the phone.
I am having some "challenges" with a client---who also happens to be a good friend. We seem to be waging electronic war, or at least I seem to be, to resolve a difficult business issue. The other day, he yelled "uncle" electronically ---- I got an email --- "Dave, a phone call would work.... "
We are actually both guilty. We both let the safety of hiding behind email help us avoid a difficult conversation -- but one that will quickly resolve the situation. Doing that has damaged our relationship --- but hopefully not irreparably. I need to give Bill a call!
Monday, September 22, 2008
1. It is typical for executives to blame outside-uncontrollable causes (the economy, etc.). Research shows that companies that blame poor results on internal controllable factors see greater subsequent stock appreciation than those who blamed their problems on external factors. Apparently the market appreciates executives taking responsibility for identifying and addressing challenges.
2. Pfeffer identifies the First Rule Of Management: Don't act like a victim. There are always things you can do to make things better. So stop whining and take responsibility.
The article goes on to examine issues about identifying what the real problem is and how to address them, providing examples of both good and bad practice---using the usual suspects. It's good to read!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Now I have to apologize, I don't like to bash the work of other consultants and professionals, particularly some that I respect, as in the case of the authors of this article. I also realize the constraints a short article puts on an author in expressing ideas on very complex topics.
However, the authors display a bias and a lack of understanding, that I also once had, about the Commodity or Transactional Sale. I think it's a bias that any one who comes from a complex selling environment, particularly those of us from the cowboy environment of high technology sales.
They mis-characterized the Commodity --- Transaction Sale as the following:
• Simple product or service—perceived as a commodity by the buyer
• One or two calls—perhaps telemarketing
• One or two apparent decision makers
• Low risk
• Relationships less important—buyer views the sales professional as vendor
• Technique selling
• Price quote
• Price and availability more important
By contrast they characterized the Complex Sale as:
• Complicated product or service
• Multiple consultative calls, demonstrations, and presentations—perhaps technical sales support
• Multiple decision makers—executive committee or board-level decision
• High risk
• Relationships very important—buyer may view the sales professional as a business consultant
• Value-based selling
• Proactive sales proposal or response to a Request for Proposal (RFP)
• Return on investment (ROI) very important or required
In the past several years, I have worked extensively with organizations selling commodity products in transactional processes. I have come to respect the complex issues and processes involved in selling commodity products and services. A consultative approach is every bit as important in these processes as in the complex sale, but the process and the manner in which the sales professional creates and communicates value is different.
I agree with the authors that a commodity sale involves a product or service that is largely undifferentiated from the competitive alternatives---at least when focusing on the product itself.
After that, I disagree with virtually everything the authors claim characterizing commodity sales. Most of the organizations I work with are dealing with very large transactions, typically in the $10's of millions, sometimes in the $100's of millions. While some telemarketing (by the way, professional telesales is neither distinguished by the complexity of the selling process or the value of the deal--I have seen extraordinary telesales organizations selling very complex solutions, executing difficult transaction sales, all of high value). I have seen many of these large commodity transactions take many calls --- all with rigorous discovery, solution development, and business justification.
The majority of these deals have very high risk to the customers. Imagine, buying a commodity product--something that may be a component of your own products and not getting the deliveries on time. The whole revenue stream of a company may be at risk. Or imagine quality problems and the impact they have on customer satisfaction, profitability, and revenue. As a very real example, consider the plight of most of the major Notebook manufacturers with the battery problems they have faced. Those problems had tremendous costs--financial, reputation, and other wise. In fact one of the major considerations in many of these commodity transactions is second sourcing because customers cannot afford to put their companies at risk in case a supplier fails for any reason.
The authors also characterize the relationship as less important---they view the sales professional as a vendor. Any sales professional that does not create value for their customer, regardless of a commodity or complex sales process is a vendor. Relationships, establishing trust and confidence with the customer is critical in any sale. Making sure that you are creating value and addressing the customer needs is the hallmark of any sales professional--regardless of whether it is a commodity or transaction sale.
Perhaps the area where I disagree the most is the authors characterize the commodity sale as "technique selling" where the complex sale is "value-based selling." Are we to believe that sophisticated buyers of high value, important commodity products are more susceptible and willing to be closed on the "puppy dog approach" than by sales professional who demonstrates real ROI on the transaction.
This is one of the most misunderstood part of value based, consultative, or solution selling. The sales professional must ALWAYS create VALUE. What customers value will vary from customer to customer, deal to deal---regardless of whether it is a commodity or a complex sale. In the so called commodity sale, things like quality, timely delivery, management of the supply chain or logistics processes, facilitating and improving the procurement process and many others are critical elements of value in the commodity sale.
Pricing is important in commodity sales just as it is in complex sales. Building a business case that produces superior return at acceptable/manageable risk is mandatory for all sales cycles.
I can appreciate the mis-impression the authors have about commodity -- transaction sales. I suffered from a similar ignorance until some valued clients showed me how mistake I was.
There are complex and commodity selling processes. They are different, they buyers and their needs are different. Each carries its own challenges, success in each requires great sophistication on the part of the sales professional in building relationships, understanding the customer needs and presenting solutions that represent real value in addressing those needs.
She covers the topic very well, I won't repeat it. I am constantly amazed, however, about the number of sales people that are too busy or too rushed or too sloppy to present their solutions, pricing, and value to customers.
It's never the customer's responsibility to figure out what value they will get from a solution and to develop the ROI themselves.
It's the obligation of the sales professional to demonstrate and prove the value of their solution to the customer. Not doing this is not only sloppy and unprofessional, but it demonstrates tremendous disrespect for your customer.
The job of the sales professional is to help customers achieve their goals, objectives, and solve problems. If you don't take the time to help them understand how they will do this, then you haven't earned the business.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I think many people underestimate the importance of corporate culture in executing strategies and driving change. Culture is one of those "soft" things---it's hard to define specifically, it's hard to develop specific action, worse yet it involves connecting with people in a genuine fashion.
It's so much easier to deal with the "harder" issues like developing strategies, executing programs and action plans, and so forth.
Having been involved in a number of turnaround situations and clients facing major challenges, culture can trump everything. Harness the culture positively and you can dramatically accelerate things, accomplishing things the organization never believed possible---Oh, and by the way reinforcing and strengthening positive elements of the culture. Ignore it, dismiss it and accomplishing anything can be painfully slow or impossible.
Even worse, for change agents, become seduced by it overwhelms you and makes you ineffective. Years ago, I was involved as a senior executive in a major corporate turnaround. My boss, the CEO, and I were reflecting on the progress we were making and the challenges in continuing to move aggressively in changing things. He taught me a great lesson, he stated: "One of the most difficult things about change is underestimating the impact of corporate culture and being seduced by it---when it leads you in the wrong direction. If you succumb to it, you have failed."
One of the greatest challenges leaders face is learngin from and harnessing the corporate culture in a positive manner. One of the most difficult things to correct is a bad culture. Bad culture outlasts managers and shapes the company far longer than we ever guess.
Read the article, it's worthwhile!
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
They claim that nearly half could have been avoided (not surprising), and that the avoidable failures were primarily the result of flawed business strategies, not poor execution (somewhat surprising).
They summarize seven key reasons: The Synergy Mirage, Faulty Financial Engineering, Stubbornly Staying The Course, Pseudo-Adjacency's, Bets On The Wrong Technology, Rushing To Consolidate, Roll-ups Of Almost Any Kind. Each reason is accompanied with case studies illustrating the point.
The article is provocative and stimulates thinking. While, it is worth reading and there are good lessons to be learned, I questioned the research methodology somewhat. It appears to be primarily based on secondary research (news coverage, case studies, other document) rather than primary research (interviews and in depth original research).
For several of the cases they highlight, we have some insight that would not be readily available in public information. In those cases, extremely poor execution, lack of commitment to the strategy, and other factors were also key factors to the failures. However, I may be nit picking with a "chicken-egg" argument.
In spite of being slightly troubled with the analysis, the article is certainly worth reading.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
"Do not let form triumph over substance."
I sometimes get discouraged, I see so much effort going into form: Saying the right words, writing the proper letter/email, having the right action plan/project plan, doing the right meetings, having the right appearance. On the surface, everything is polished, professional, things look fantastic.
Dig a little bit, and you find nothing behind it. People move from meeting to meeting, forgetting the action plans and commitments they have made. They move from conversation to conversation, crisis to crisis. They have meetings and conversations about things that haven't been done, agree to do those things, then have more meetings and conversations about why those things weren't done.
In the end, it's all been done in the right form, there's been a lot of activity that we can point to proudly, but nothing is accomplished.
We all get caught up in this behavior, it is seductive, easy to succumb to. I look at myself and see all the things where I have done and said the right, astute, insightful things, but not stepped up to the follow through and creating real meaning and substance behind this. In the end, it's just lip service.
I need to constantly remind myself to do a little less, talk a little less, meet a little less, but execute and create real substance and meaning in those things that I do
Friday, August 29, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The process is easy and doesn't cost you anything other than your time and a vote. Follow the link: Saving The Lives Of Malnourished Children. Follow the instructions and vote for their project!
I started this blog on making a difference. Most of the time, I focus on business issues. This is a simple way that each of us can have a profound impact on the lives of children around the world. Please take this chance to make a difference.
Monday, August 25, 2008
A sense of urgency is critical to executing any strategy. However, it is important to note that a sense of urgency is different from activity. In John Kotter's A Sense Of Urgency, he describes much of what is done under the name of speed, urgency, or activity is actually a false urgency which is "unproductive flurry of behavior built on a platform of anxiety and anger."
Kotter describes a true sense of urgency as being externally focused and expressed in daily behaviors that move relentlessly to the target, ever alert to changing conditions and weeding out superfluous activity.
A true sense of urgency requires thoughtfulness, focus and disciplined execution. Often, it requires one take time to think and review. Often it takes patience and discipline to follow through to see what results are produced and to take corrective action. Finally it takes courage. So much of the meaningless activity we encounter produces a facade of moving forward, but when you look behind it, nothing is happening and no results are produced.
The blog is worth reading and I've put Kotter's book on my reading list.
I have argued that value is in the eye of the buyer and to truly present value, sales and marketing professionals need to understand their what their customers value and address those needs specifically. Value is personal, each individual involved in the buying decision is different and the job of sales professionals is to determine and present value for each of those people.
In the latest issue of Business Solutions Magazine, Chris Loringer has written an outstanding sidebar article on "Sell Using Value Propositions." It should be required reading!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
- Set your own time limits to email.
- Let calls to your mobile phone roll into voicemail---don't interrupt what you are doing to answer it.
- Let text messages queue up, look at them periodically, but not instantaneously.
- Take some joy in looking around, watching what is going on around you, engage in the real world.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
- We expect perfection and are afraid that execution may show we are wrong. We have to stop thinking about developing perfect strategies. Plans give us a road map to our goals, but we have to adjust those, based on our experience in execution.
- Embrace failure and mistakes. They just help us know whether we are on target or not. They provide real world feedback that enables us to adjust our plans and goals.
- Write it down. Write down your first few steps or actions. Set clear goals and metrics. Writing it down does two things. First, there is something about writing it down that makes something more real. I'm sure there are lots of studies about this phenomenon, but writing something down makes the plan concrete. Second, when we execute the actions, we get to check it off on our list. The act of checking or crossing something off, gives us a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
- The first step is always the most difficult. Don't focus on the entire action plan, it can be overwhelming. Focus on the first step. Once you get past this point, somehow the next steps seem to come easier. When I assess failure in business strategies, very often it's because the organization never got started, they never took the first step. As a corollary, anticipation is always worse, Nike has the right idea, "Just Do It."
- Share the results with your team. Good or bad, you've learned something, now the team has something to work with in continuing to move forward.
- Don't over think things, keep it simple. Business schools, consultants, guru's, and all sorts of experts thrive complexity. It keeps us gainfully employed. However, over thinking things and making them too complex keeps us from taking action. Over thinking also starts us on that destructive path of second guessing ourselves.
- Don't take yourself too seriously, have fun. Somehow we take ourselves very seriously in executing business plans. When you focus on executing each step, even for the biggest plans, there is little that you can do that is not recoverable or fixable. Laugh when you make an error, have fun as you learn and correct the plan/strategy. Keep it fresh, keep it light.
- Execute your plan and give it a chance to succeed or fail. Every plan I have ever seen has obstacles. Don't abandon your strategy at the first obstacle -- worse yet, don't abandon your plan before you start. At the risk of being repetitive, we learn, we adjust, we move forward.
Remember, without taking action, all our planning and strategizing are just wishful thinking.
There are lots of resources out there in planning and execution. A couple of recent blog posts provide some additional hints on execution. Harvard Management Update's "Execute Your Strategy Without Killing It," and The Glue's "Top 10 Reasons Strategies Fail To Be Executed" are worth reading.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Here's where the problems started (you might say they started with the absence of thoughtful planning), but the announcement was a wild success! Within 30 days, we had responses from over 200 organizations wanting to partner with my client. We didn't know about these response for over 30 days because the person getting the responses 1)Didn't know what to do with the responses; and 2)Didn't inform management of the responses.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
He recounted driving to the customer with the sales person. The sales person was briefing Paul on the account and proudly stated he had just sold a system to this customer. Paul responded with the question, "What did you sell it for?" The sales person quickly responded, "Oh, about $10 million."
Paul expressed his frustration to us, stating the sales person's response, while typical, was devastating to him. Paul wanted to know "What did you sell the system for?" That is, How is the customer going to use it? What value will they get from it? How will it help them serve their customers? How will it help them grow their business? The sale was a transaction to this sales person, the individual had no idea what the customer was doing, just that the customer had paid IBM $10 million to do it.
Unfortunately, over 20 years later, times haven't changed---particularly in many high technology sales. Too often, I speak with sales people, managers, and executives about what they sell. I ask the question, "What Are You Selling It For?" Too often, the response has nothing to do with satisfying a customer need or creating value for them. It is about beating a competitor, often at the lowest price, and winning a transaction.
This isn't just the problem of sales, to many of our businesses are focused on the product. Many lose focus on what the product/service does for the customer, the value it creates for them.
As business leaders and professionals, as sales professionals, as people seeking to server our customers, growing our mutual businesses, the question Paul Rizzo posed over 20 years ago, is what we must ask ourselves every day:
"What did you sell that for?"
If we can't come up with the answer, we will fail to succeed.
Unforced errors are the things we do to ourselves. They have little to do with the opponent or the competition. As stated in the blog, unforced errors result in us throwing away our advantages.
For the most part, unforced errors are avoidable---high performing people and organizations set themselves up to eliminate unforced errors.
Effective teams, working well together, completely aligned in purpose, strategy, focus, roles/responsibilities, make fewer unforced errors in executing their strategies.
Organizations and individuals that slow down, taking the time to think and organize make fewer unforced errors.
Planning and attention to details, understanding everything that needs to be done, beforehand, reduces the chance for unforced errors.
The quest for speed in execution is not inconsistent with this theme, but speed is useless---damaging---unless it is part of a well developed and sharply executed plan. We produce too many unforced errors focusing on speed as the end, not a means.
"Busyness," high activity levels, and multitasking increase the likelihood that we will make unforced errors.
Wimbledon is on now, the Olympics are coming up. Whatever your sport of choice--look at the world class performers in the sport. Look at their forced and unforced errors. Look at how they plan, focus, and execute. Look at how teams work together a one. Look at the speed at which they execute well thought out plans and strategies--maximizing their advantage and minimizing the unforced errors.
Take these lessons into your lives and businesses to improve everything you do.