Posted tagged ‘President Elect Obama’

Securing Early Wins

January 28, 2009

While it is important to secure early wins, it is equally important to avoid early losses. Common causes of early losses include the following:

  • Failing to focus. This appears as having too many initiatives. Identify the moist promising opportunities and concentrate on them
  • Not taking the business situation into account. What constitutes an early win in one situation can be a waste of time in another. See the table above regarding examples for each type of situation.
  • Not adjusting for the culture. Leaders who come from outside the organization naturally assume their old culture is in existence. Be sure to understand what the organization considers a win.
  • Failing to get wins that matter to your boss. Addressing problems that your boss cares about will go a long way toward building credibility and cementing access to resources.
  • Letting your means undermine your ends. Process matters. The early win must be accomplished in a manner that exemplifies the behavior you hope to instill in the organization.

Studies show that successful change is implemented in “waves” with distinct phases. These phases include acclimatization, change, consolidation, and deeper learning so people can catch their breaths. What follow are deeper and more thorough structural changes. The final wave is focused on fine-tuning to maximize performance.

Each wave ought to consist of distinct phases.

  • Learning
  • Designing the changes
  • Building support
  • Implementing the changes
  • Observing results

The goal of the first wave of change is to secure early wins that build personal credibility, establish key relationships, and identify and harvest low-hanging fruits – the highest-potential opportunities for short-term improvements in organizational performance. These targets should be consistent with your A-item business priorities and introduce the new patterns of behaviors that you want to instill in the organization.

A-item priorities should

  • Follow naturally from core problems
  • Be neither too general nor too specific. They must include measures for overall success so that wins may be recognized. In other words establish S-M-A-R-T goals but not goals that result in micro-managing.
  • Offer clear direction yet allow for flexibility when you learn more about the situation. This is an iterative process. Be prepared to test, refine, and restate the goals.

To realize A-item priorities, it is imperative to eliminate dysfunctional behavior. To alter culture, the new leader must define which behaviors are desired and which ones are not. Some organizations refer to this as the creation of a management philosophy but the key element is that the behaviors must be defined. It is also important to note that every culture has good points and faults. It is crucial that the good points are maintained so that people have stability in times of change. Elevate and praise the good points that already exist so that people have a bridge to the future.

In turnaround situations, bringing in new people from the outside and setting up project teams to secure performance improvement initiatives are a good fit. In realignments, it may be well advised to start out with less obvious approaches to behavior changes. The new leader can set the stage for collective visioning by changing performance measures and beginning to benchmark.

Once the A-items have been identified and behaviors have been defined, detailed plans for early wins may be created. During the first 30 days these wins are about building credibility and deciding where you will focus your energy to achieve early performance improvements in the next 60 days. The goal of a second wave of change, once this has been accomplished, is to address more fundamental issues of strategy, structure, systems and skills to reshape the organization. This is when the real gains of organizational performance are achieved.

To build credibility,

  • Determine what you want to get across about whom you are and what you represent.
  • Decide the best way to convey those messages.
  • Identify your key audiences (direct reports, other employees, and key outside constituencies). Craft messages tailored to each focusing on who you are, the values and goals that you represent, your style, and how you plan to conduct business.
  • Think about how you introduce yourself. Should you first meet with your direct reports as a group or individually? Will the meetings be informal get-to-know-you sessions or immediately focus on business and assessment? What other channels such as e-mail or video will you use to reach people? Will you meet people at other locations?
  • Remove minor but persistent irritants to your organization.
  • Focus on strained external relationships and begin to repair them.
  • Cut out redundant meetings, shorten excessively long ones, and improve physical space problems.
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Matching Strategy to Situation: The STaRS Model

January 21, 2009

Professor Watkins emphasizes the importance of matching strategy to the situation appropriately. The author says that there are essentially four types of business situations that new leaders must address.

Each business situation has different characteristics, challenges, and opportunities. Yet, every business has a portfolio of situations. A new leader must figure out which situations fall into each category. He calls this the STaRS model.

1)  Start-up: There isn’t much existing infrastructure to build on. The new leader must assemble the capabilities including people, funding and technology to get a project or business off the ground. Among other things, to be successful, he must do things right from the beginning, energize people about the possibilities and focus on learning about the technical issues, products, markets, technologies, projects, and strategies. Early wins are putting the right team together and achieving strategic focus as well as determining what not to do and building discipline within the organization.

2) Turnaround: Like the start-up, there isn’t much existing infrastructure to build on. The new leader should take on a unit or group that is in trouble and get it back on track. She or he accomplishes this by cutting it down to a defendable core fast and then beginning to build it back up. Among other things, to be successful, the focus should be on reenergizing demoralized employees and other stakeholders and handling time pressures in order to make a quick, decisive impact. The leader requires authority, backed by political support, in order to make tough decisions such as painful cuts and difficult personnel choices. In this situation, everyone recognizes that change is necessary, but not what changes may be necessary. Affected constituencies may offer significant support and a little success goes a long way.

3) Realignment: This type of organization has significant strengths as well as serious constraints on what you can and cannot do. Typically, there is some time before making major calls. As a result, you can learn about the culture and politics. The intention is to revitalize a unit, product, or process that is drifting into trouble. The major issue here is that the organization is in denial. It is essential to understand what made the organization successful and why it drifted into trouble. To be successful, the leader must deal with deeply ingrained cultural norms that no longer contribute to high performance and convince employees that change is necessary. The successful leader must secure consistent public backing and support to confront the need for change. The leader must teach people about the problem

4) Sustaining success: The organization has significant strengths and serious constraints on what you can and cannot do. In this situation, the successful leader plays good defense by avoiding decisions that cause problems. He should develop the financial and technical resources to sustain the core business as well as exploit promising new opportunities. He should find ways to take the business to the next level. Typically, there is some time before making major calls. As a result, he can learn about the culture and politics and work to preserve the vitality of a successful organization and take it to the next level. S/he will need to invent the challenge and redirect resources.

It will be interesting to view the actions of President Obama in the context of these models.

A Blueprint for the New Leader to Effect Change

January 18, 2009

The transition from one presidential administration to another is nearly complete and the country is visibly excited.

There is no doubt that part of this excitement stems from public’s sense that Mr. Obama has demonstrated extraordinary effort in planning his presidency. He certainly seems to be working diligently to avoid the consequences of the aphorism, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Our country seems to appreciate the efforts of the President-elect and this is reflected in his approval ratings which are remarkably high.

There have been numerous books written on how a new leader should take charge and this seems like a great time to look at how Mr. Obama should be approaching this important initial period. One of my favorite books on this topic is The First 90 Days by Harvard Professor Michael Watkins.

Watkins’ work is instructive for all of us, but in the context of this “new beginning” one can see the areas that Mr. Obama has been addressing and which ones he will likely be focusing on in the days ahead.

Here’s the short list.

1)     Promote Yourself. Psychologically break from your previous role in order to take charge of your new role. You are likely to need new skills to be successful at this new level.

2)     Accelerate Your Learning. Focus on understanding markets, products, technologies, systems, and structures as well as its culture and polities. Do this systematically.

3)     Match Strategy to Solution. Diagnose whether you are in a start-up, turnaround, realignment, or sustaining success situation. Each requires a different strategy. You may have different parts of your organization in different situations.

4)     Secure Early Wins. Early wins build credibility and create momentum.

5)     Negotiate Success. Figure out how to build a productive relationship with your boss and manage his or her expectations. This means critical conversations about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and personal development. Gain consensus on your 90 day plan.

6)     Achieve Alignment. This is a strategic role. The higher that you rise within the organization, the more that you have to play the role of strategic architect. This means evaluating strategy, developing appropriate organizational structures, and developing the systems and skills necessary to realize your strategic intent.

7)     Build Your Team. Inheriting a team frequently means restructuring it to better meet the demands of the situation.

8)     Create Coalitions. Develop supportive alliances, both internal and external. Identify them now as well as ways to line them up on your side.

9)     Keep Your Balance. Develop a network that can advise and counsel you so that you do not lose perspective. It can be difficult to look out from the inside.

10)  Expedite Everyone. Help everyone accelerate their own transitions to their new roles.

This week, we’ll talk more about the bottom half of this list.

* * *

Now some thoughts about President Bush as he leaves office…

Without a doubt, the Bush Administration left us with far too many challenges. We should, however, also acknowledge that there were no further attacks on American soil after 9/11. At that time, we were shaken and disheartened and scared and whether by intention or good fortune, the Bush Administration did keep us safe at home and helped us to reclaim our sense of balance.

We likely will never know if we were safe by design or by the Good Lord watching over us (or, of course, both) nor will we probably ever know how many plots to hurt our fellow citizens were thwarted.

Still, if we choose to discredit this Administration for the financial situation we find ourselves in today and the war in Iran, for our safety after 9/11, we should express our appreciation. The Bush administration also looks to have worked diligently during this transition period and that will, without a doubt, help the new president in moving us forward. Thank you, President Bush.

Let us also take a moment to remember that we are still blessed to live in a country that has the greatest opportunities and the most remarkable freedoms.

And now on to new beginnings and may the best be yet to come.

What I’m Telling My Clients – Part 2 (or how they can create their own economic stimulus package)

December 23, 2008

So what would a client referral meeting look like?  Here’s one possibility.

The underlying context to this meeting is the recognition that the greatest challenge that any business owner faces, particularly in these challenging economic times is to drive new business to the company. The second greatest challenge is to fix a problem or capitalize on an opportunity that they might see but don’t quite know how to address.

Each of these referral meetings would last an hour. Only a small number of clients, perhaps six to eight clients, would attend each meeting. Ideally, they would have complimentary businesses.

Each client would  discuss

  • What values his or her company provides,
  • Its ideal client and
  • A particular problem or opportunity that it is facing.

The idea is to try to get each a client new business via referral or find them a company that can help them meet a pressing need or opportunity.

That’s the whole agenda.

The only thing that is required is that each company approach the meeting with a mindset to offer a warm referral to any of the companies represented in the room. By doing so, this gathering of leadership would create more growth and value.

And each company will get more business and / or be able to grow its business more effectively.

What I’m Telling My Clients – Part 2 (or how they can create their own economic stimulus package)

December 18, 2008

As the bailouts and their discussions whirl about us and as the list of companies laying off or employees or shutting down operations grows longer and longer, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a small business version of an economic stimulus package that could be implemented.

And if there was a version of economic an economic stimulus package for small businesses, who could and would provide it?

It appears to me that there is such a “package” out there and the ones that can provide it may be small business themselves.

Arguably the greatest challenge that any business owner confronts, particularly in these testing economic times, is to drive new business to his or her company. Fundamentally speaking, as it always has been, the key to long term growth is to “grow the pie” and attract more business. Provide more appropriate services that make a difference and you will earn more business and a greater share of the customer’s wallet.

Many companies provide services to organizations and businesses that are in related fields. Others provide services to companies in a wide range of industries. What if, each company leveraged its customer list to grow their clients’ businesses?

Imagine, if you will, a meeting of six or seven of your clients who work in one industry but provide different services within that industry. More than likely, each of these clients knows other companies within the particular industry. Because each of these companies is your clients, you are related to them and a reservoir of trust has been established.

Suppose next that each one of your clients attending this meeting was asked to participate with the intention of referring one of its customers to one of the businesses represented in the meeting. The economic impact of these referrals would be profound.

Referring clients to one another would create a reciprocal relationship built on real economic value. Additionally, in effect, because your business would be in the upper parts of the minds of your clients, the number of people selling and promoting your value and services would grow geometrically as the trust that you have demonstrated in them would be returned in their discussions with their clients.

In a short time, you might discover that you have an army of salespeople selling your value.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the structure of such a meeting and how to make it work for you.

In the meantime, please write and share some innovative ways you are growing or helping others grow their businesses.

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action – Part 2

December 9, 2008

Let’s continue on our path to growing our leader. When our leader moves to this next level, he or she has become removed from communicating with the individual contributor.

From Managing Others to Functional Manager
Skill Requirements
  • New communication skills must be developed to reach all levels.
  • Understand and manage areas outside of one’s own work experiences.
  • Illustrate the maturity to take other functional concerns into consideration.
  • Become proficient at functional strategy and the ability to blend that strategy with the overall business strategy.
Time Applications Participate in business team meetings and work with other functional managers. Team play with other functional managers and management of competing resources is vital. Limit the focus on functional matters. Delegate functional responsibilities to direct reports.
Work Values Shift here is from talking to listening to not only direct reports but customers, vendors and industry analysts so that more facts and perspectives may be gathered. Adopt a broad, long-term perspective (three years). Focus is on pushing the technical, professional and operational envelope, looking for sustainable competitive advantage rather than immediate but temporary edge. Understand the relationship between the function and other functions as well as the overall corporate strategy. Appreciate the work that is outside one’s own experiences.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Favoring and concentrating on areas where the individual is most comfortable, thereby undervaluing the unknown.
  • Failure to make the transition from an operational-project orientation to a strategic one (e.g. more focused on short term, demonstrates a poor sense of how the business operates.)
  • Immaturity as a leader-manager (e.g. lack of a control or measurement system, need to control everything, doesn’t trust others especially subordinates in unfamiliar areas, isolates himself except for a few direct reports where he or she has relationships).
Management’s Role in this Transition Place these managers on task forces, teams and committees of managers from different functions or with different backgrounds, skills and experiences. This will allow them to learn about new areas of work, develop new relationships with people who use different skills and methods.

Create meeting opportunities with other functional managers to discuss how they can work better together and what other opportunities exist for synergies.

Watch for development of and reinforce traits of maturity such as humility (aware that others may know more about something), delegation, communication and strong information flows within their organization.

By now you have probably noted that the common theme is that the skills in each of these passages are not the ones that you will use to become effective at the next level.

Let’s see if this trend continues.

From Functional Manager to Business Manager
Skill Requirements
  • Significant increase in autonomy, unfamiliarity and complexity at this level with a clear link between efforts and marketplace results.
  • Where he or she had to understand different functions before, he or she must now rely and integrate the functions and their leadership.
  • Balance future goals and present needs and make appropriate trade-offs.
  • The issue is no longer can we do something technically but rather will we make any money at this and is this profitability sustainable.
  • Become skilled at working with a wide variety of people and become sensitive to diverse functional issues.
Time Applications Shift from doing time to thinking time.
Work Values Learn to trust, accept advice and receive feedback from all functional managers even though they may never have experienced these functions personally.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Uninspired communications that doesn’t allow them to get their message across. This is because they are used to motivating a group of functional people who shared a particular “language” and now must address groups with different “languages”.
  • Inability to assemble a strong team of direct reports
  • Failure to grasp how the business can make money. This manifests itself in the failure to develop expense reduction or profit building programs. .
  • Problems with time management particularly in working upward, with direct reports and customers.
  • Neglecting the soft issues such as culture, feedback or organizational belief systems.
Management’s Role in this Transition Help business managers to learn to value all functions and assemble and rely on a strong team of direct reports. Encourage the business manager to spend time with each of his functional mangers to learn. Have them set goals which can serve as early warning systems of problems. Suggest that the business manager take an appropriate functional manager on trips to become more attuned to the marketplace.

Our next post will address two critical questions:

  1. Who is most responsible for the success of your leadership?
  2. What influences the likelihood that your people will execute successfully?

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action

December 4, 2008

The “Leadership Pipeline” model can be scaled for small and large companies and includes six major leadership passages.  For example, in a small company of less than twenty people, the only real passage is a variation on the first one, Managing Self to Managing Others. The owner usually moves from individual contributor to managing others. It is only once you begin to hire others that these passages of leadership start to occur.

In the small business version of this model, the work within the group and enterprise levels is done by the Business Manager. The Functional Manager and Manager of Others levels are combined so there are really only four levels to address.

The small business model looks like this.

Level 1: Manage Self

Level 2: Manage Others

Level 3: Functional Manager

Level 4: Business Manager

Let’s take apart a couple of the levels and see how we can help our people become better leaders.

When one is effective at the “managing self” level, one’s skill requirements are primarily technical or professional. One contributes by doing the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives. From a time application standpoint, the learning involves planning (so the work is completed on time), punctuality, content, quality, and reliability. The work values to be developed include acceptance of the company culture and adopting professional standards. When people demonstrate an ability to handle these responsibilities and adhere to the company’s values, they are often promoted to first-line manager.

Managing Self
Skill Requirements Do the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives
Time applications Plan so work is completed on time, be punctual, deliver quality content and be reliable
Work Values Accept the company’s culture and adopt professional standards

This high performer is now ready for the first leadership stage. Let’s see what s/he needs to do to become effective in her/his new role.

From Managing Self to Managing Others
Skill Requirements Plan work, fill jobs, assign work, motivate, coach and measure the work of others. There are some individual contributions to the work product.
Time Applications Reallocate time so that one’s own work is completed and help others perform effectively. Set priorities for unit and team. Stop putting out fires, seizing opportunities and handling tasks themselves.
Work Values Delegate and get results through others. Value managerial work (rather than tolerating it) and the success of others. The passage begins a shift toward a great emphasis on planning.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Views questions from his or her people as interruptions
  • Fixes their mistakes rather than teaching them to do the work properly
  • Refuses to take ownership of the success of his or her people, distancing himself or herself from their problems and failures.
Management’s Role in this Transition Create measures so that these performers make the transition effectively. Survey the direct reports to get feedback. Intervene and coach extensively when problems are observed. . Reinforce the need to shift beliefs and guide the leader in becoming effective using the new skills that are required.

As you can see, to be successful at managing others, our manager will have to shift from many of the things that made him or her successful when he was accountable for only his work. There must be a shift from “doing work” to getting work done through others.

In our next post, we’ll look at the remaining levels of the small business model outlined in Ram Charan’s and Stephen Drotter’s book, The Leadership Pipeline.


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