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Archive for January, 2016

2016 – What’s the plan?

If you have been reading me for a while you know January is the time of the year I write a little ditty about annual achievement plans.  Holding to the underlying principle that it’s always best to start at the beginning:

The first and most important thing about goals is having one. 

Geoffrey Albery

OK – I bet all businesses have established goals for 2016.  Good start.  What’s next?  Well, in the market today I’ve noticed there is a big emphasis (perhaps even an over emphasis) on all things “strategic”.  Strategic goals; strategic planning; strategic consulting; lots of strategic-oriented business activities out there, true?

Add to this the hyperbole around performance management software; dashboards; key performance indicators; predictive analytics; and while some companies are bathing in metrics, their competition is eating their lunch.

I’ve observed with the really great companies there is something more than just putting a business plan and performance management software in place every year.  I believe great companies add two more elements to their business planning process – underlying principles and tactical execution.

One of the great CEO’s I reference often, Josh Weston (now retired from ADP) used to say, “Let me address the second one first.”  In leading ADP from $350 Million to over $8 Billion in annual revenue, he and his leadership team leveraged tactical execution as a key, complimentary activity to their annual business planning process.  They called it the “Ops Review”.

Operations reviews – a “deep-dive” into how the tactical execution at a region-by-region; department-by-department; sales-rep by sales-rep level was unfolding.  At ADP, it was the tactical execution of their strategic plan that made the difference.  Josh used to say at every monthly Ops Review, “We are now one month smarter about reaching our annual goals.”

Performance tracking in the market today is nothing new – the software tools we sell for it might be – but not the tactical execution.  And excellence in the tactical execution of our strategic plan is a force-multiplier.

Of course, one challenge that gets in the way of this force-multiplier is the availability of performance data – lots and lots of data – “big data” as it is touted.  This challenge was acknowledged at a recent performance management software webinar I attended recently,

Time is scarce; information is endless. 

What can we learn from the great companies on how to deal with today’s “big data”?

Well, there is a second force-multiplier” for our business planning process – the power of underlying principles.   Frank Hayes, writer for ComputerWorld magazine, once offered evidence of the need for underlying principles:

Data isn’t information.

Information isn’t knowledge.

Knowledge isn’t manageable.

I suggest we add in the underlying principle of transparency to the tactical execution of our annual, strategic business plan.

Returning to ADP and the sales rituals I participated in during their growth years, we operated under a cadence of weekly sales performance results.  Transparency – percentage of quota; stack ranked; weekly – weekly (e.g. “no place to hide”).  Too much stress you say?

High achievers love to be measured … because otherwise they can’t prove to themselves that they’re achieving. 

Robert Nayce

Combining the principle of transparency with the principle of continuous improvement (aka “coaching”) forges the foundation of a championship team.

The breakfast of champions is not cereal.  It’s the opposition. 

Nick Seitz

Achievement in 2016 is a competitive endeavor.  To succeed, I’ll take the team that is battle-tested week in and week out; led by great mentors and coaches; all committed to excellent tactical execution.  How about you?


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By the middle of December each year, we can get pretty run down, yes?  Business stress often peaks at the December 31st year end; holiday stress – shopping; traffic; multiple gatherings with friends, family, and colleagues; winter weather; the Denver Broncos!  Yep, we can get pretty run down by mid-December.

How about you?  Did you extend your business hours and increase your stress levels?  If you felt this intensity, what did you do to recharge?

One of the “decompression”, holiday traditions my wife and I enjoy every year is going to the movies.  Our very first date was a movie.  “Catch 21” which we saw at Chicago’s Oriental Theater in 1970.  This past December, my wife and I continued our tradition.   Because 2015 was particularly hectic, we “decompressed” six times!  (You’re welcome Hollywood.)

To me, there’s no better form of entertainment (and recharging one’s “batteries”) than going to the show.  I can unplug from the Internet; turn off my cell phone; relax in a darkened theater; and escape from the realities of our daily grind into the surreal world of cinema for a couple of hours.  Invigorating!

This year however, I noticed a pattern of movie themes that reflected more closely to our real world than the usual fantasies we find during our holiday tradition.  Coincidence?  I’m not sure.

We saw “The Big Short”, which is a theatrical interpretation of the real-world disintegration of our financial markets in 2008.  We saw “Spotlight”, based on the real-world disintegration of the Catholic priesthood.  Of course, “Concussion”, is a creative piece based on the presumed deception (and predicted disintegration) prevalent in our American sports institution known as the National Football League.

In the movie “The Martian” we saw the fictional contentions of leadership at our NASA of the future struggling with the choice between public admission of mission mistakes and acceptance of personal/professional responsibility; vs. placing trust in the team and relying on the power of problem-solving skills to overcome adversity.

“The Heart of the Sea” is based on recorded events that reportedly preceded Herman Melville’s writing of the great novel Moby Dick.  To me, this movie highlighted man’s struggle between the ego-driven forces of pride and greed; vs. the kinder forces of leadership, responsibility and personal humility.

Speaking of forces, the fictional movie, “Star Wars, The Force Awakened” continues the saga of good vs. evil; “the Force” vs. the “Dark Side”.

Although our December tradition was physically enjoyable; on the psychological side I left the theaters wondering how our society came to the point of finding the real-world disintegration of leadership-morality into greedy, conscious-less, irresponsible culprits preying on the innocent; the unknowing; and the powerless, “entertainment”?  Not exactly the recharging, year-end experience I was looking for.

So I say all of that to get to this – what will each of us do in 2016 to restore one’s faith in the morality and underlying good in modern mankind?  What leaders will arise that stand-up for the common man?  How can each of us, individually, make a positive difference at work; at home; and in our communities?

The job of leadership today is not just to make money.   It is to make meaning. 

John Seely Brown

Looks like we will all need a bit more energy than usual to make 2016 a year we can all be proud of twelve months from now, true?

We might just have to start the traditional December, recharging, movie rituals in July to make it all the way to year-end.  Pass the popcorn please.


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