Posts Tagged ‘planning’

But Is It Innovation?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The trouble with talking about innovation is that we’re dealing with the opposite of potatoes. The old Gershwin song reminded us that whether we call it a po-tay-to or a po-tah-to, it’s the same tuber. With innovation, however, the same word has two very different meanings. You say innovation and I say innovation, and we might as well call the whole thing off.

Because it’s not a trivial miscommunication. Read the rest of this entry »

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5 Questions to Answer Before Starting a Social Media Campaign

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Social media experts are popping up like mushrooms, and most have a program to sell you. I mean no disrespect. Many of their programs are very good. But before you buy any social media program – or begin any marketing campaign, for that matter – please do yourself a favor: Answer these 5 questions.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The 3-Dimensional Customer

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

It’s easy to talk about being customer-focused. It’s less easy to focus on specific customers. There are so many, and so many different types! Here are three customer dimensions to consider when selecting your growth strategy. It’s not a trivial exercise: wrong focus, no growth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Measuring the Right Things – the Right Way

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

[This post is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Peter Drucker, the grand old man of management theory, famously wrote, “What gets measured gets managed.” In other words, Metrics determine what you focus on. After all, who wants a bad report card? If you are tracking your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) regularly, you’re likely to find ways to improve them.

Which can be good or bad.

Because if Drucker is right (and he is, he is, trust me on this if nothing else), consider the implication: if you choose the wrong KPI’s, you or your organization will end up getting better at the wrong things. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Keep Employees Accountable for Results

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

[This post is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Have you ever gone to bed smiling because you knew that in the morning someone would hand you an urgent report or confirm a critical meeting or handle a crucial situation? Then not been able to sleep the next night because the big event didn’t happen?

Happens all the time. Schedules slip and no one tells you. People promise to do something and forget. Or maybe hope that you’ll forget.

That’s where Accountability comes in. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Leaders Manage the Unforeseeable?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

[The following is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Great leaders have a bias towards Action. They plot their course, set their sails, and point their helm at their destination. They strike a noble pose, appearing to all as masters of their fate.

Except that even the best sailors get blown off course with great regularity.

The Bad News: No matter how good your preparation and decision making, plans never, ever, ever go according to plan. Build your plan knowing that something else will happen.

The Good News: You can correct your course. Read the rest of this entry »

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Making Useful Business Models

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Economists, consultants, theoretical physicists, and many others in the thought leadership business couldn’t function without models. Models facilitate communication by simplifying the complex. But is there a model of making models?

Here is a simple 4-part model for modeling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Got a Great Product? Now Make a Great Business (Pt 2)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

As discussed in Part 1, having a great product, insight, or vision is a fine starting point for building a great business. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough. We continue analyzing what else you will need if you’re not going to end up begging your former employer to take you back. Read the rest of this entry »

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Got a Great Product? Now Make a Great Business (Pt 1)

Monday, October 18th, 2010

In the 80’s, Procter & Gamble invented a superior shampoo technology that could obsolete the need for a separate conditioner. It worked great in the lab and in-home-use tests. The company was convinced it represented the future of their haircare business.

Except consumers didn’t care. P&G couldn’t sell the stuff.

Sound familiar? How many brilliant engineers have built a better mousetrap only to find that no one wanted one?

Maybe you’re one of those for whom creating something remarkable is satisfaction enough. But most of us aspire to generate income, make a difference in the world, or both. Read the rest of this entry »

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Successful Journeys Begin at the End

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Way back in the 80s, when dinosaurs and your author roamed the earth, Stephen Covey advised us to Begin with the end in mind. Good advice then, good advice now.

Every successful journey starts with a decision about where you want to go. But destinations are not one-size-fits-all. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can’t Decide How to Decide? Here’s How – Part 2

Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Many leaders stumble when they need to make decisions. Some undermine team engagement by being too authoritative, thus endangering the quality of implementation. Others are so considerate to the feelings of others that decisions don’t get made at all or too slowly, or are dumbed down to the least objectionable compromise. Here we continue our series on How to Decide.

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Numbers, Business Owners, Blindspots, and Long Levers: How to Move the World

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
The first focus area for many of my small business clients is numbers. Strategy, planning, research, personal and organizational effectiveness…nothing else matters if you aren’t in control of cashflow, margins, and so on. It’s a matter of needing to survive before you can learn to thrive.
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Planning and the Entrepreneur

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Last fall (Nov 9, 2009), there was a provocative posting in The New York Times titled “Why Don’t All Entrepreneurs Write Business Plans?” The author, Scott Shane, reviewed the literature and summarized some theories. Worth reading, but even more interesting to me were some of the comments:

  • “A business plan is never finished, so at what point while writing one do you actually begin? That has been my challenge.”
  • “[Entrepreneurs] feel their time is better spent working hard and putting in long hours to ensure the business succeeds.”
  • “Honestly the concept of a business plan confuses me, unless it is used in search of seed capital. If it isn’t, what good is a plan?”

Each of these comments reveals a misunderstanding of the basic process of business. Business is about managing continuous change. It never stops. That leaves you with two choices: floundering in a sea of chaos (reacting), or staying mindful of your goal and making regular course corrections (proacting).

The business plan is never finished? Well of course! Business is never finished. The plan is a snapshot at a point in time. It should be developed with full awareness that it will be obsolete the moment it’s finished. But by exercising the discipline of identifying the key issues and selecting the key strategies that will drive success based on today’s conditions, you will have a clear understanding of what needs to be adjusted when conditions change tomorrow.

Time better spent working hard to ensure success? I used to have a pet rat that worked real hard running in a wheel. It never got anywhere. I’ve found that managers who regularly get off the treadmill to take a long view of their business are the ones who succeed long term. And are happier. And get more done.

No specific purpose for the exercise? That’s missing the point. The purpose is to provide purpose. A good plan identifies goals and shows how all the pieces fit together. A good plan helps employees understand how their efforts contribute to the whole. Teams become stronger. The company ceases to be about the whims of the management and becomes about working together for a greater good.

Now, do companies frequently misuse business plans? Absolutely. They treat the plan as written in stone. Instead of becoming an enabler of nimble change, the plan becomes a straitjacket. Or they overwork it, take it down to the tiniest detail, forgetting that conditions change. They spend way too much time chiseling a masterpiece, then feel stuck with it.

I once worked for a mid-sized company that turned the business plan into religion. Months were spent building and collating vast spreadsheets, as if the sums of numbers based on assumptions about assumptions were Truth. Of course it was way too complex to revisit all those assumptions as the year unfolded, so there was a blind focus on the plan’s metrics and how to achieve them rather than what should be done to manage to actual conditions (always different from the original assumptions).

So yes, business planning, like any tool, can be misused. But I believe that virtually any organization can achieve superior results with a balanced planning process build around proper expectations.

As Stephen Covey says, to be effective you need to be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first. That’s what building a business plan is about. It takes you out of reactive mode, identifies the watch-outs, sets the goals, and outlines the steps.

And one more thing: today’s plan is only a plan. Expect reality to be different. Be nimble. Keep the plan simple enough that revisiting it is simple.

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