The PGS Blog

Danger, Anxiety, Certainty and Arrogance

PGS’ Founder, Bill Dann, met recently with a friend and consultant David DiPerri of Prosper CI, to be interviewed for Mr. DiPerri’s new book for business owners. Bill touched on four concepts in his interview responses that all play off each other in a fascinating way, and that made for an interesting post to share

Leadership Series 5 – Connecting with Those You Lead

During this pandemic, we are all using virtual conferencing with video to try and stay connected.  Not long ago, I was asked to review a video produced by the CEO of a large organization.  Its purpose was to inform employees how the organization was performing and coping with the COVID-19 crisis.  The crisis has put

Thinking Beyond the Pandemic to Disruptive Innovation

By Andrea Garrels I am currently in a Master’s Degree program in K-12 education. It has been 35 years since I took a college course, and much in the realm of higher education has shifted tremendously in that time frame. I am reminded of those changes all around campus, from washing machine apps that tell

Leadership Series 7: The Choice Before Us

By Bill Dann This leadership series has explored what leadership is, what are the keys to success, who determines success and much more.  As I ponder what to write about this month, I keep thinking about the choice before myself and our readers who are US citizens – the upcoming November Presidential election. As we

Responsibility to Inform Stakeholders
Looking back over various projects these last few months has brought to the forefront memories of the many governing boards I have coached and worked with over the years. As we prepared for this month’s newsletter, I was reminded of a weakness that is common to many boards I have been involved with, namely, the
Replace Workplace Stress with High-Performance
In this post, we are bringing you some tools that can help you navigate the stress in the workplace. In particular for the time we are writing, we are focusing on stress caused by the pandemic, though stress at work has been a factor for far longer than COVID-19. Positive work environments support the building
The Parking Lot: Dealing with the Small Stuff can Net Big Results
We are in the midst of the world-wide pandemic, civil unrest and financial instability, both as organizations and as individuals. Whether you have been impacted dramatically or in small ways, there is no escaping an impact on some level. How do we counter the uneasiness?  We can’t fix everything. Frankly, we can’t really make even
Leadership Series 6: The Roots of Connection, Creating Followership
By Bill Dann As I have talked about earlier in this series, leadership is measured by followership.  Leadership is not conferred on you by title or position but rather earned and conferred upon you by followers.  Followers choose to be committed to you and your organization, they choose whether to be “engaged” (the term used
The Power of Rhythm: Navigating the New Normal with Employees

By John Gregoire There are moments when your expectations shift because everything is changing and is outside of your control. How you respond dictates the cost or benefit that moment will create in your own life and that of your work and organization. Change has abruptly happened to us all, and you can respond by

Implementing Virtual Lessons in Your Post Pandemic Organization

By Bill Dann Like all of you, we at PGS have been hunkered down. We have shifted delivery of our services to virtual platforms, using the phone or videoconferencing.  Surprisingly, the transition has been relatively easy for ourselves and our clients. Despite obvious limitations, working virtually has already taught all of us a good deal. 

Stay on Track with Your Strategic Plan during the Pandemic AND After

Strategic plans can be a challenge to keep active and at the forefront of a management team’s efforts in their day to day work. This is particularly true in the midst of all that has happened worldwide in the last few months with the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you inspire and motivate employees to continue

Board Micromanagement of the Organization’s Strategy

by Bill Dann Recently we had a leader in the banking world complete a micromanagement assessment on our website.  The question echoed one I have heard many times before, so felt the response might be valuable for sharing with our readers. The primary area of concern with the board in question was their failure to

Communication is Essential when Working Virtually

By Andrea Garrels, PGS Quality and Product Development Staff With the COVID-19 virus impacting schools, workplaces, travel, entertainment, etc. worldwide, there are many articles and tips floating about on how to successfully navigate working virtually. You can quickly learn how to set up your work station, how to separate home life from work life, the

A Message from the CEO: Overcoming Overwhelming Crisis

By John Gregoire, CEO Like most of the world, I entered my office two weeks ago to a completely changed business environment. At first, I did what any responsible business owner would do and cancelled or postponed all meetings and events for the next 30 days. Calling people to cancel resulted in a day of

Virtual Meetings for the Governing Board

The following post was originally a newsletter a long while back for our BoardGrowth subscribers.  We pulled it out, dusted it off and retooled it for today’s technology and the current COVID-19 crisis in which virtual meetings are a temporary requirement. We realize that, since this post was originally written, virtual meetings have become common,

Leadership Series: Managing in the COVID-19 Crisis

Many of you may be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Having to convert to virtual operations and loss of revenue are the most likely impacts. So, how does one survive this with the least amount of damage? The formula for how to manage during emergency or danger conditions is actually counter-intuitive. Most managers consider

The Synergy of Three Key Tools

In prior blogs and newsletters, I have made the case that having a “3 legged stool of effective governance” (comprised of the strategic plan, sound policy and the right data for evaluation) is the secret to avoiding the dreaded micro-management that derails so many board-CEO relationships. What I hadn’t talked about before is how these

Leadership Series: Understand Your True Condition

My consistent experience as a leader and consultant is that what I don’t see is what is killing me.  If I can’t or won’t see it, I can’t confront and solve it.  It continues to bedevil me. I first came upon this when trying out an organizational diagnostic tool I was considering using with clients. 

Leadership Series: Eleven Sound Tips for the CEO

This is the 3rd post in our current leadership series. To catch up with the previous installments check out “The Importance of Clear Accountability” and “Policy Setting and the Tyranny of the Minority”. Now on to this post, focusing on advice for the CEO. Though our author, Bill Dann, targets the new CEO, his eleven

Relationship Hygiene Between the Board and CEO

Hygiene? What prompted this? I recently spent a day with a board who had concurred with their CEO that the working relationship had deteriorated to a point that threatened the stability of leadership in an organization that had been prospering. I went through the usual steps of trying to assess what the source of the

The Dangers of Creating Enemies Within the Board

Disagreements among board members are healthy.  In fact, they support the purpose for having a board in the first place.  That is, insuring that multiple viewpoints are heard and that no vital viewpoints are missed in reaching decisions for the group being served. What keeps these differing viewpoints moving forward positively is commitment to common

Leadership Series – The Importance of Clear Accountability

Among the high priority weaknesses observed in organizations is poor structure, which encompasses the organization chart and job definitions.  Among the impacts of poor structure is a lack of clear accountability for results, which creates a significant barrier to performance. I will leave the subject of the gaps and missteps in the organizational chart to

Tracking Directives from the Board to the CEO

Your success as a governing body and the future of your organization will rise and fall based on the strength of the mutual trust between the CEO and the board. CEO’s that don’t trust their boards don’t bring them the truth. Board’s that don’t trust their CEO tighten policy to restrict CEO authority, don’t support

The Importance of a Strong Vision and What Makes It Fail

As I have expressed often in these posts, vision plays a critical role in an organization’s ability to achieve high performance. But there is a balance that must be maintained in order for the vision to fulfill that role successfully, whether the vision is on the organization’s strategic plan or a small departmental project. We

Leadership Series: Policy Setting and the Tyranny of the Minority

Bill is diving into a new series in our blogs. His topic: Leadership.  Here in post 1, he tackles Policy Setting. My take is that, if given a choice, we humans prioritize avoiding harm over taking a risk that could bring success.  For example, refusing to ask out the popular ladies in my youth for

4 Questions that Drive Board Members to Distraction

Recently, I delivered a workshop on governance. Attendees were board members, CEOs, and healthcare providers. I had the group think through the following: Recall a time when, as a board member, you were uncertain about what to do. Examine the circumstances surrounding the problem. Formulate and ask a question about it. Four major questions kept

Strategic Planning and Teams

Strategic planning continues to be the #1 topic of interest for our readers for a wide variety of needs and interests. Why? Our experience has shown that the investment in strategic planning is underperforming for many, and our readers are looking for help to turn that around. Naturally, as strategic planners both for our organization

Scottish Tales Issue 2: Upside Down Management, Continued

Following on from my recent blog regarding John Timpson’s approach to management, I wanted to relay some particular tips and innovative techniques that this highly successful businessman employed to take his organization to its full potential, as well as the pitfalls he tried to avoid. The following are the ones that particularly caught my attention.

Consensus vs Unanimous Consent in the Boardroom

What is consensus? Well, first, what is it not? Consensus does not mean agreement by everyone or unanimous consent.  Instead, the dictionary defines it as “an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole or by majority will.  General agreement or accord”.  So, there is no standard in terms of what percentage of

Six Solutions for the Board’s Strategic Plan Headaches

Bill was recently asked to identify the most common problems boards have with strategic plans, and how to solve them effectively. Below are his top 6 problems and, more importantly, the solutions. Problem: Looking backward, instead of forward – The first responsibility of a governing board is to assure that the individual they have selected

How to Fix Three Common Problems with Project Communication

In a recent article, we addressed the critical need for established communication cycles on a project and how you can do that well on multiple levels. In this post, we tackle what happens when communication goes wrong on a project and how to fix it. What are the key struggles in project plan communication?. Problem:

The Necessity and Value of a Regular CEO Evaluation

Completing a CEO evaluation is a basic fiduciary responsibility of a board of directors. It is also an invaluable tool for preventing micromanagement, maintaining the CEO/board relationship and avoiding a costly CEO transition. The CEO evaluation is a tool in which the board assesses and scores the CEO on his or her major duties, providing

Process Waste: How to Find It and Fix It

Is what you are doing truly adding value? Not long ago I came across a wonderful quote from Peter Drucker, probably our most noted management author. He stated “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Doing what should not be done at all is another definition

Scottish Tales Issue 1: Upside Down Management, John Timpson

A few years ago, my wife and I visited Scotland and stayed in the flat of some good friends here in Anchorage.  It was located in the small town of Monifieth (near Dundee).  We were advised to go to the Milton Inn for some excellent pub food. It was a great recommendation and we ended

Small Investments that Net Big Returns, Part 2
This post #2 sums up our recent post regarding small investments that net big gains. Both posts are the result of a meeting I was in where the speaker mentioned "small investments that net big returns". I was intrigued, so asked our staff for what they saw as small investments for big return. Not returns
Small Investments that Net Big Returns, Part 1
I was in a meeting the other day, and the speaker asked a question that sparked my imagination beyond the topic of the meeting.  He was discussing marketing, but the question really was relevant for any department or task in an organization...or your home for that matter.  The speaker asked "What are the small investments
Handling Emergencies without Micromanagement

One of the aspects of micro-management (the #1 complaint of CEO’s about their boards) is overreaction to a crisis or non-crisis. Frequent scenario: A juicy rumor is received by a board member, who contacts other board members, which then leads to a call for an emergency meeting. Is it a crisis? Now, there are conditions

Prioritizing Executive Time

Those of you who are or have been in a chief executive position know well that the demands are overwhelming. One of the major challenges for CEO’s is the demand that they simultaneously maintain a) an effective growth strategy, b) protection from external competitive, political and regulatory threats and c) assurance that operations are consistent,

A Different Take on Internal Customers

I ran across an interesting article in CIO magazine the other day that caught my eye, because it seemed to conflict both with what I have learned and what we teach our clients and blog subscribers. The article was titled 12 Best Practices  IT Should Avoid at All Costs, by Bob Lewis. What caught my eye

Managing Well, Part 2

We recently interviewed Bill Dann on his tips, tricks and lessons for managing your employees. His answers were terrific, and have been converted into two blog posts.  Here is the second of Bill’s thoughts on managing well. To read through the first set of questions, click here. Question: Where do you see the most challenges

Managing Well, Part 1

I sat down to interview Bill Dann on how to manage well, a subject near and dear to the heart of the author of “Creating High Performers”.  We covered a lot of ground, so have chosen to divide the interview into two blog posts. In each, he offers lessons, tools and thoughts you can apply

Your Highest and Best Use

Consultant Jen Jarvis, penned parts of the blog below for her website GoJenJarvis which she created in preparation for a month long sabbatical to pursue fitness and mixed martial arts training in Phuket, Thailand.  Though her post and her upcoming adventure focus on fitness, the theory behind the Highest and Best Use applies to many

Managing Up

The following is from consultant Jen Jarvis. When I was managing a local healthcare non-profit in Anchorage, I had some real struggles with my supervisor who was located in Idaho. I was fortunate to have a mentor who coached me through my new role as I both managed others and was being managed. I asked

Why Small Businesses Need Big Strategy

Guest post by Erin Sedor of Black Fox Strategy So here are some rather frightening Small Business Administration statistics that you may already know: 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail in the first three years. The primary reason cited by the SBA for small business failure is lack of management skills,

When Execution “Doesn’t Matter”

Did you ever hear the famous quote of Thomas Merton, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”  What about Stephen Covey’s extension of that thought, “If the ladder is not leaning against the right

The People Part of Strategy Execution

Doug Johnson has a marvelous quote he often shares.  “Plans don’t get things done, people get things done.”  It is a simple concept, yet is often overlooked.  Of course you need a good plan with solid rationale for the strategies you are embarking on – the mechanics of the plan. But you also need to

Strategy Execution: Don’t Stop Short

Many of us have heard the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” But if that is true, why do so many organizations with a sound plan in place still fail or at least struggle mightily? Having a plan is actually only half the battle, without sound execution of that plan, you

Why, How and When to Use a Priority Matrix

We wrote in a recent blog (Weighing Risks) “we recommend that leadership develop and adopt a policy on the criteria and standards it will use in considering new investment decisions”. We then briefly introduced a tool we use to do just that within PGS, the Priority Matrix. There was interest from our readers on learning

What is Strategic Planning Anyway?

I’ve previously written a series of articles on elements and keys to success in strategic planning, but mingling with the real world out there, I am finding that I need to back further out to discuss what exactly is a strategic plan. Why you ask? We continuously come across organizations that believe they have a

Using a Priority Matrix to Prioritize Opportunities

In a recent blog (Weighing Risks), we wrote “we recommend that leadership develop and adopt a policy on the criteria and standards it will use in considering new investment decisions”. We then discussed the tool we use both for ourselves and our clients, the Priority Matrix. There was quite a bit of interest from readers

Tips for Project Managers

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by those tasked to manage a complex project or strategic planning initiative is “what are your tips for good project management?” We decided that it was high time to offer some tips learned from working with project managers over the years. First, a framework for project

How Much Policy Should There Be?

Policy is critical, but… Policy is critical. Yet, there is a balance between too much and too little, and it’s essential that you understand this balance when you develop and implement policy. Too much policy stifles creativity, innovation, building of sound judgment and morale. It can sap the energy out of an organization.  Too little and

Weighing Risks

Level of risk Every individual, and thus every group, has a certain level of tolerance for risk.  For example, there are those of us who are gamblers, and there are those who hate to lose and never go near a slot machine or gaming table. Risk tolerance is usually determined by one’s experience with having taken

Facilitating the Truth

In my last post, I focused on the value of using a consultant, i.e., identifying the situations in which a consultant can come into the organization and truly add value.  I finished that post with a list of 10 results that would tell you that your organization did indeed get value from the consulting engagement.

What is the value of using a consultant?

There is nothing quite like meeting a stranger at a cocktail party and responding to the inevitable question, “What do you do for a living?”, with “I’m a consultant”. You can see the pictures of charlatans, snake oil salesmen and other vermin coming into their head. It usually is a short conversation. Why? Well, “consultant”

When SMBs Go to the Cloud, On-Premises IT Infrastructure Is Still Necessary

Capitalize on low hanging fruit to identify a ballpark value added activity to beta test.

Enforcing Ethics Policies with the Governing Board

In my experience, self-discipline tops the list of challenges for governing boards.  Discipline for what? Ethics violations, destructive behavior in meetings, and abuse of power outside board meetings, are the common ethical problems that only the board, itself, can identify and confront. Other issues, like poor decision-making, and the lack of clarity of direction, are

Planning Best Practices – You Need Bifocals

One of the promises that planning fulfills is making the seemingly impossible become possible.  When confronted with a challenging goal, if a team has had disappointments in past attempts to reach such heights, they may go into apathy at the prospect of tackling the challenge.  It is akin to staring at the summit from the

Using Experts in the Boardroom: Handling Risks

Duty of Care: def. – a legal obligation that requires individuals (board members, in this case) to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing acts that could predictably harm others. Why do we need experts? One element of the legal standard for duty of care is that board members follow the advice of

Getting Structure Right: Defining the “Job”

In the last several blog posts, we have covered the struggles with common organizational structure paradigms and described a linear system of defining and understanding the functions of an organization instead. This post, the last in the series, drills further down into the functions to the individual hats or jobs of the individuals tasked to

Getting Structure Right: Assigning Key Functions

In the first of our posts in this short series, I looked at the impacts of poor organizational structure. Next I outlined symptoms to help you diagnose if structure is a problem in your organization. In this post, I begin a 2 part examination of the fix to a structure problem. First step, and what

Getting Structure Right: Symptoms of Poor Organizational Structure

In the first blog of this series, I talked about the impact that poorly defined structure can have on an organization. Now, I want to turn attention to how to know that you have a structure problem.  Let me begin by stating there are two components to this discussion:  1) identifying that you have a

Getting Structure Right: The Impacts of Poor Organizational Structure

Simply stated, the management function of organizing entails determining how the work of the organization, both strategic and typical day-to-day tasks, is to be accomplished.  Organizing entails defining jobs, authorities, reporting relationships and the processes to be deployed to get the products and sub-products of the organization produced. In Creating High Performers, three of the 7

Middle Managers: A Key Leverage Point for Performance Improvement

Performance improvement is a much sought after goal of pretty much every organization. Unfortunately, the secrets to one organization’s successful performance improvement are usually as unique as the organization itself. However there are common themes throughout successful improvements that can be applied to a wide sweep of organizations. One of these is better utilization of

How Many Board Meetings Should You Be Having?

Boards are criticized by their CEOs and staff for holding too many meetings. They’re also criticized for holding too few meetings. How can this be?  What is the correct number of meetings?  How do you know? First, meeting requirements State corporate law generally requires only an annual meeting to remain in good standing. Your own

Answering Your Leadership Questions

In a recent post, we answered questions from a governing board on issues common to a board of directors. That exchange prompted us to look back over questions that have come in to us from our website and share them here.  We know that when one person shares a question, there are usually many others

Answering Tough Governing Board Questions

In honor of the Alaskan Federation of Natives Conference held in Anchorage this month, we are addressing questions posed to us by an Alaska Native Corporation board. The board participated in a Policy & Procedures and Robert’s Rules of Order training given by our own PGS Board Chair and designer of the training, Bill Dann.  The

Leading and Lagging Indicators: Metrics that Matter

As we work through metrics from top to bottom at PGS, and continue to pursue a data driven culture, we have had a lot of discussion about lagging vs leading indicators and how to use them to both understand and manage an organization.  We thought there would be value in sharing some of that discussion

Creating Meaningful Metrics Throughout the Organization

PGS is in the process of defining metrics for each division and hat in our organization. Why? We talked to Theo Hunt, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt expert, to explain the process and benefit of spreading metrics throughout the organization instead of keeping them all at the top. Here is what she had to

Becoming a Data Driven Organization – How to Manage With Metrics

I talked to consultant Jen Jarvis about a comment she made in passing once that intrigued me. Referring to her previous role as the executive director of a local healthcare non-profit, she said, “I credit a high percentage of the success we had to my drive to transform the organization to a data-driven culture. Empowering

Board Self Evaluations – the Tool to Increasing Value

Readers who have participated in one of my board training sessions or have read our previous board-focused materials know that I believe board development to be one of the best investments an organization can make.  The rationale is simple.  Boards that don’t add value are a drain on the organization. Research continually shows that boards

The Strategic Plan as a Powerful Communication Tool

Those of you who are already users of our Vision Navigation® planning system know that we advocate for using the plan chart as a communication tool.  Below are the best practices for effectively using your strategic plan to communicate with a wide range of constituents. Utilize one or more best practices to gain the most

Best Practices for the Strategic Plan Champion

We have written before about one of the essential keys to VN success – hatting a champion.  We take that one step further with this post with an interview on best practices of the champion with a past VN champion, Jen Jarvis. What is the most critical role of a strategic planning champion? The biggest

Operationalize Your Strategic Plan

The definition of operationalize is to put into operation or use. So what does it mean to “operationalize” your strategic plan? It means you have made the plan a living, valuable part of the way you operate your organization. From the C-suite down to front line staff, strategic plans are the back bone of organization

Changing Organizational Conditions and Your Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is designed to look out toward the horizon and visualize what your organization will be in 5, 10, 20 years, and then scale back to what you are going to do this year to start moving in that direction. You investigate a wide array of potential opportunities. Which will move you toward your

Handling a Hidden Succession Risk

Governance literature in recent years has moved succession planning and risk management to top priorities for boards.  Succession planning is now considered a multi-year and hefty initiative to avoid the risks associated with succession of leadership, e.g. loss of momentum, lack of continuity, etc. etc. What’s the Risk? But, there is a largely unexamined risk

What is Included in a Solid Succession Plan

A solid succession plan is much more than knowing who will replace your CEO upon retirement. It includes staff development, alignment to strategic goals, recruitment strategies, etc. Below is a quick look at the components in an effective succession plan and why each component belongs on the list. Component 1: A Strategic Plan What is

Are You Succession Ready?

Complete the following exercise. Consider the first person that comes to mind when you read the next sentence: Who is the most vital player in your organization?  Do you have her/him in mind? Now imagine you just received a phone call telling you this most vital player was gone without notice. Try to imagine the

Why Organizational Culture Can Destroy a Good Succession Plan

Succession planning is more than just “who takes who’s spot when they retire”. Change and loss are difficult no matter your position in the organization. Therefore, the organization’s ability to acknowledge the difficulty of change for their employees at all levels and to coach them through it is essential whenever there is a leadership transition.

The Organizational Culture that Enables Productive Change

This is our last post in a series of posts on systems and policies, how to implement them, revise them and communicate the changes. For this post, we touch on a few of the keys in the culture of an organization that make all this system and policy work possible. The following post is from

The Communication Tool to Help Change Stick

We are winding down the series on systems and policies and how to keep them evolving and improving in your organization. We began with a look at clearly defining systems and the policies to support them, then introduced a great tool for making changes in those systems as your organization evolves and grows.  Today we

Empowering Staff for System Change

We are in the midst of a series of posts on systems, policies and keeping them relevant and fresh. We are tackling the topic from 5 angles: Defining a system or process Outlining keys for sound policy to support your systems Improving and fixing established systems Clearly communicating changes to systems and policies so that

Keys for Creating Sound Policy

In our last post, we began a series on improving your organization from 5 angles: Defining a system or process Outlining keys for sound policy to support your systems Improving and fixing established systems Clearly communicating changes to systems and policies so that the changes stick Creating an organizational culture that supports all the above

Clearly Defining the Systems in Your Organization

We are beginning a short series of posts on fine tuning the internal workings of your organization, primarily the systems and the policies behind them. We worked with Bill Dann to create the series as he is the initiator of much of this work within PGS. Our series covers the topic from 5 angles: Defining

Overcoming the Board’s Basic Dilemma

The challenge facing board members in serving their organization is finding the middle ground between micro-management (too much control) and blind trust (not enough control). Why is this issue so important? Most boards aren’t in control. Why? Several reasons may be at play: they aren’t directly involved in operations they may not meet often enough

The Essential Components of the Project Plan Template

Bill’s recent post on the internal assessment has spurred us on to discuss other key elements for a solid strategic plan. Our last post looked more closely at the strategic assessment. In this post we focus on taking the internal and strategic projects defined in the two assessments and turning them into a set of

Orchestrating the Strategic Assessment

A good strategic plan incorporates two types of assessments with the ultimate goal of creating an organization that can has the capability and knowledge to move successfully toward the vision. Those assessments are the strategic and the internal. Bill focused on the internal assessment in his recent post.  The internal assessment is an essential part

The Value of the Internal Assessment Revisited

Since we first published our initial article on the value of an internal assessment, a couple hundred additional assessments have been completed for clients and some additional lessons and insights have been learned that are important to share. The Context You can think of an organization of any type as consisting of the following elements,

Operational Excellence: A Key in Realizing Your Vision

PGS is introducing a new service to our product line that meshes much of what we have learned over many years into one cohesive process, Operational Excellence or OE. OE is being rolled out at a beta test site over the next 6 months.  We are excited about the prospects for our clients to achieve

What Does a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Say About Data?

We interviewed Theo Hunt, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, to get a clearer understanding of what Lean Six Sigma is and how to take her knowledge and turn it into some steps our readers can take to move metrics forward in their organization. What is your designation, and what does it mean? Theo: I

Give Your Team the Wins – Giving Up Your Right to be Right

A recent experience at a meeting of the board of directors of a client gave me a fresh insight into how leaders in all walks, in this case a board chair, get into pickles. Also, how they get out of them. The chair of this group is very committed, well-intentioned and experienced, much like the

Knowing What to Measure – Selecting the Metrics that Matter

We have been targeting metrics that matter recently both in our blog and at PGS as an organization.  Last week, we spent three hours reviewing and improving our own internal Instrument Panel.  Out of that process, we are bringing you some keys on knowing what to measure within your own organization. How many measures? To

Correcting the Risks of Financial Projections

Occasionally we will see boards or leadership teams surprised because the financial performance of their organization is not matching the projections adopted in the plan/budget for the year.  Because they have not peeled below the projections to understand the assumptions behind them, they don’t know how to fix the problem.  “What did we miss and

Format for Presenting an Agenda Item

When moving through a board meeting agenda, effective use of time is crucial.  The board needs to be able to make quality decisions based on solid, complete information. When presenting an agenda item, therefore, an organized format is essential. The following is a sample of a recommended format for presentation. Agenda Item:  Change in health

Best Strategic Planning Practices – The Irony of Revisions

Ironically, one of the practices associated with a high completion rate of our clients on their strategic plan’s tasks and projects is that high performers revise their plans 3-4 times in their twelve-month plan year. When we explain this, however, some clients feel it is counter-intuitive.   Their view is that if the plan needs to

Dealing with a Downturn

Assisting the University of Alaska find its way to a more efficient, effective institution in midst of an economic downturn, and observing how the State of Alaska is approaching the same challenge offers up food for thought on how best to meet such a challenge. What is clear is that top down solutions rarely go

So What? Creating Clear Metrics for Trainings

PGS is welcoming consultant John Gregoire to the team. Below is a post from John on training metrics – one of the many areas of expertise he brings to the table. Hope you enjoy it! Early in my career I built the perfect training event. My participant feedback was excellent, it was a huge success,

How to Avoid Meeting Meltdown

Ever sat in a meeting or been part of a team where you suddenly felt the temperature in the room rise, the tension become thick and the air heavy?  So have we.  That is the reason behind this post. How do you handle difficult situations or challenging people in a meeting or workplace? Here is

Understanding and Fixing Board Member Attendance Problems

This post from Bill is directed to our many readers who are either on a board of directors or work closely with the board of their organization. Bill is focusing on fixes for an all too common issue with boards – attendance. Here is his look at the problem and solutions. Recently I was reminded

Strategic Planning Best Practices: Avoiding Leapfrog

For years, we have tracked the completion rate of our strategic planning clients on intended outcomes in their plan.  Our philosophy is that if we don’t positively impact that completion rate, then we have truly added value despite the quality of the plan/strategy itself. Improving the completion rate ultimately involves improving the time management and

Getting to No

“Getting to No” is a play off the title of a dated but excellent book on negotiation entitled Getting to Yes, by Bruce Patton, Roger Fisher, and William Ury.  It is about the importance of agreeing on principles that you share in common in a negotiation that can guide to an agreement vs. beginning with

Building Team Through Commitment to be Data Driven

I recently observed a phenomenon with a client that warrants sharing with you.  I would welcome hearing from you as to whether you have observed the same or contrary as this is a new insight for me. I have a client of long-standing that this year made a strong commitment to becoming more data driven

Two Key Rules to Achieve Healthy Discussion in a Meeting

Have you ever participated in an executive or board meeting when the conversation around the table became divisive or charged? Ever felt like you were watching a ping-pong match between two real enemies? Rarely is anyone declared a winner in such situations, except perhaps the loudest speaker. And usually everyone comes away with a distinct

Poor Organizational Communication and What to Do About It

Awhile back, we started a blog a month on the most common problems in organizations as seen on our clients’ internal assessments.  The internal assessment is designed to analyze the issues that employees and the executive team list as those that keep the organization from running optimally, i.e., the problems.  Then they prioritize those issues

Achieving Your Vision: Are You Moving in the Right Direction?

How do you know that the work you are doing is moving you toward your long-term vision, 15-25 years out? It’s a good question – one we have looked at in three sections: Knowing what to do today Staying motivated over the long haul Knowing that what you are doing is working We covered the

Board Member Recruitment and Retention

Both my reading of the governance literature and my own experience tells me that often board members and CEO’s agree that boards are not adding value to their organizations.  This is particularly the case in the non-profit arena.  However both for-profit and non-profits alike lament that there is high turnover of board members.  Some have

A Basic Line Chart vs a Basic Bar Chart

There is a wide variety of ways to display data for an Instrument Panel, but line and bar charts are straightforward, easy-to-understand tools for organizations that aren’t accustomed to using charts and graphs to help manage and make decisions. They are also the two most common charts on our client’s Instrument Panels. So, since we

The End Of The Annual Performance Review: Why is it a Flawed Practice?

There is increasing evidence that the annual performance review – as it has been practiced – is not only lacking value in companies, but is actually doing damage. General Electric, often cited as a prominent proponent of such review, has recently announced that they are abandoning them. The same is true for Deloitte, Accenture, and

Policy and Procedure Definition and Development

In one post each month, we are targeting the top internal issues that our clients have identified as preventing their organization’s ability to run at its best. In this post we examine policies and procedures. Policies and procedures are necessary for a smooth and efficient organization with less conflict and rework. However, there is often confusion

Staying motivated to reach your long-term vision

We started a short series awhile back on reaching your long term vision. Our first post focused on knowing what tasks to do today that will keep you moving in the right direction.  Today, we tackle motivation to reach your long term vision. In doing a little research to prepare for this post, we found

4 Keys to a Successful Training

A central component of our Vision Navigation strategic planning process is an internal assessment.  During the process, we ask the management team to identify those issues that are preventing them from optimizing the organization.  What issues are dragging them under or keeping them floundering?  (For an in-depth look at internal assessments, click here) Recently we

Micromanagement and Trust

Micromanagement, the absence of trust I define micromanagement as a pattern of someone in authority interfering with people, projects, or initiatives in a way that hampers progress — without adding any value. It can mean slowing down, or even losing, opportunities for progress. Where boards of directors are concerned, micromanagement causes this interference while failing

Mistakes and Failures

Much has been written on the impact of failures, but a recent interview got me to thinking a bit more about this and I thought I might pass along what I came to in my thinking on it. In an interview the other day, I was asked about mistakes I had made and what I

All a Matter of Scale

How do you look at your long term vision, 15 – 25 years out, and determine what you do today to make sure you get there in 25 years? It’s a good question – one that has three components to the answer: Knowing what to do today Staying motivated over the long haul Knowing that

Two Biggest Management Mistakes

Early this month I was interviewed on the Stu Taylor (www.stutaylor.com) radio show out of Boston.  He asked very good questions, among them the following, “what do you see as the two biggest mistakes that managers make?”  I hadn’t given thought to that particular question previously, but after wrestling with the question some more, wanted

The “Why” Behind a Metric

Those of you who have used our Vision Navigation® strategic planning process know that we include in each project the question of whether the effectiveness of the strategy can be measured. We call this part of the process “defining a metric”. What we are trying to do here is not measure whether or not you

Accountability and Responsibility

I have been spending some time lately researching how to help our strategic planning clients continue to improve the completion rates on the projects they set out to accomplish.  One of my threads of research had me looking more closely at the distinctions between accountability and responsibility. Depending on which website you look through or

Three “M’s” to Keep Your Strategic Plan from Becoming Obsolete

Here’s a valuable question to ask before you start your planning process: How do you keep the momentum of your strategic plan throughout the course of the year? The common criticism about strategic plans is that they become the book that “collects dust on the shelf” while the organization goes on about its day to

Supervision in the Public Sector

A recent meeting with a newly-appointed executive in the public sector reminded me of a subject I have wanted to write about for some time: How can one successfully supervise in the public sector? Before we look at public sector supervision, we need to consider two causes of supervisor apathy. First, the challenge caused by

Three Critical Elements for a Start-Up Organization

Doug Johnson, Executive VP of Professional Growth Systems, is joining our blog this week. He has great interest and passion for start-ups, so wanted to share some keys start-ups need to address when beginning their journey.  He writes: There are three critical elements that a start up company must address to insure success. The first

Trends in Strategic Agendas

The strategic agenda is that precious list of initiatives you believe are needed to insure a brighter future for the organization.  That agenda should be limited to 3-7 projects.  Why? Because the time and resources you have available for new initiatives is scarce indeed.  As one of our clients describes it, “one gets overwhelmed by

A Champion is Essential to Strategic Plan Success

Once your planning process is complete, how can you make sure you are successful at implementation?  We reviewed strategic plans within our own organization and those of our clients to find out.  Among the many themes that influenced success or struggle, one stood out.  A “strategic plan champion”. What is a champion for a strategic

Key Elements Every Strategic Plan Should Address

Bill Dann was interviewed recently and asked “What are five key elements that every small business owner needs to address in their strategic plan?”. We thought the question and Bill’s answers would be valuable to share with our blog readers.  We know many of our regular readers are looking to add value to next year’s

Servant Leadership Revisited

Servant leadership as a philosophy The concept of servant leadership was first talked about by Ancient Chinese philosophers such as Lao-Tzu, then found in the Christian teachings of Mark and was popularized in modern management writings by Robert Greenleaf in a 1970 essay. To me it is more of a philosophy of value system than

Focus on Results

An organization’s success is measured by the value delivered to its customers. How do you get everyone focused on the results that matter?

How to Build a Metric

From the numbers of folks who have downloaded our article on metrics,  we know it is a topic of interest to our regular readers. We have had the question asked several times “How do I build a metric”. So we thought it was time for us to tackle the steps. We will take you through

The Fragility of Change

Managers typically do well designing and managing the physical side of change, but lack tools and skills to manage the human side of change.

A Problem for Political and Business Leaders Alike – Execution

Over the last year, I have had extensive, first hand exposure to the inner workings of political leadership at the chief executive level, while simultaneously studying behavior via broadcasts covering political analysis. I have noticed a fascinating pattern at play that stagnates productivity – one that can be paralleled in the business world. This post

The Most Under-Appreciated Metrics

Recently, CEO Bill Dann was interviewed by the Alaska Dispatch News for a piece in their “Innovator Magazine” due out in July.  Many of the questions paralleled those that our clients have asked us over the years in reference to their organizations, so we thought we would share some of his answers in the next

The Perils of Ownership Change

Minimize the impacts throughout the organization from a change in ownership with communication, listening and a focus on culture.

Getting to the Truth

Honest dialogue with employees In this post, I discuss a frequent question that comes up for those trying to implement Dann’s 7 Questions as their key tool for manager/subordinate relations, particularly performance evaluations – how do you know when you are hearing the truth from your direct reports. (For more on the 7 questions, I

The Value of Data

Measure the key drivers of performance, and you will gain better predictability of future financial and organizational performance.

Sources and Cures of Leader Overwhlem

A recent discussion reminded me that I should jot down some thoughts regarding leader overwhelm (def. bury or drown beneath a huge mass). I have experienced this twice in my career and the effects can be debilitating. For me and other leaders I have known, it leads to an inability to act. One just sits

Maintaining Innovation in Process Improvement

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review echoed the theory we have in our Process Advantage® product, and I wondered if it rings true for you. The article is titled “Innovate Without Diluting Your Core Idea” by Jon Campbell, and the premise is that an innovative idea loses much of its luster as the

Reinforcing Core Values

A strong set of core values actively lived by an organization significantly improves performance and provides a much needed sense of purpose.

Distinctions Using the Questions Method

Recently, Bill Popp, President & CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, reported to me that he was “all in” with putting the 7 Questions staff evaluation method and recommended job description format from Creating High Performers to work. He had recently completed a round of meetings with his staff using the Questions, and I

Elements of a Job Description

I promised to tackle the elements of a good job description in my last blog post about structuring jobs in a start-up organization.  Although the focus in that post was on which jobs were key to success and which were overkill in a fledgling organization, this post addresses any and all jobs in both new

Starting New Employees on the Right Foot

How are new employees brought on board successfully?  Learn 5 key pieces to bringing your new employees on board and up to speed.

Structuring Jobs in a Start-up

There a numerous factors contributing to the high mortality of start-ups.  Two of them revolve around decisions on what jobs are needed initially and how those jobs are structured.  Mistakes here can lead to lack of execution or unsustainable overhead, both of which can be fatal. The challenge is to commit to the proper lean

The Power Behind the Vision

A post we added about a year ago, “A Stretch Vision“, recounted the story of a CEO friend of mine who blamed the organization’s tough times in part to an aggressive vision. As I read through it, I was reminded of another piece, a newsletter from several years back for governing boards, about the power

The Q’s: Performance Management for Creating High Performers

Some of you know by now that I recently self-published a book entitled Creating High Performers – 7 Questions to Ask Your Direct Reports. This is the story of how I came to write that book as well as how you can use the questions to improve your organization. How it started Well, first of

The Power of Theory U

Recently, thanks to good friend and associate, Sarah Barton, I was exposed to Otto Shermer’s Theory U model for reaching generative consensus from widely divergent viewpoints. The theory tracked my own experience and learning about how it is that people come to agreement. The model is depicted below and begins with openness and active listening

What is your REAL product?

Defining products based on your customer’s needs Our Vision Navigation® strategic planning process includes asking leadership to define the products of their organization. We do this because often organizations see their products through their own eyes rather than through the eyes of their customer. Growing a business or fulfilling the purpose of a non-profit entails

The Bewildering People Side of Change

Change impacting employees In 1992, I was selected to bring the Deming quality program to a small rural hospital in Alaska. Bill and Doug at PGS were my consultant coaches, and the leadership of the hospital was on board. Everything was positive from the outset. The program was fairly straightforward. I worked with teams of

A Values Wall: How to Reinforce Your Core Ideology

Without clarity and integrity of core ideology, no organization, plan or project will go forward successfully. Learn how to reinforce your organization’s core ideology here.

When Consultants are a Bad Memory

One of the phenomena I experience as a consultant is the response at a cocktail party or similar gathering, i.e. any networking opportunity, when I announce that I am a consultant.  The look on the face of those I am communicating with emanates, “Ah, a snake oil salesman”.  It’s more a look of aversion than

Responsiveness in our Tech-Ruled Culture

Recent experience has given me some insight, or rather affirmed what I knew instinctively, about factors that lead to improvement or deterioration in a work relationship. There are the usual suspects: being truthful, delivering on what you pledge to do, willingness to truly help, whether you enjoy working together, see the world in the same

Why Strategic Planning For Healthcare?

I recently did a seminar for CEO’s of a set of fifteen rural hospitals, specifically Critical Access Hospitals. I tried to make the point that true strategic planning is vital at this moment in the health care industry and then get into how they might enhance the value of strategic planning for their organizations. Unfortunately,

My Strategic Planning Doesn’t Work!

Has your strategic plan truly added value to the organization? We look at root causes and fixes to a suboptimal plan in this newsletter.

Essential elements for successful strategic planning

What does a successful strategic planning process include? In our experience, a strategic planning process absolutely must contain 3 key elements to be successful. Additional pieces certainly may add depth, clarity and ease – and they do have a valued place in strategic planning. But without the following 3 key pieces, your process and resulting

The Competitive Factor That Can’t be Emulated

Corporate culture is not linear and its not left brained or logical.  It comes from the heart, can’t be copied and makes you highly competitive.

Organizational Measure Selection Debate

The following is an excerpt from Bullseye by William Schiemann and John Lingle. The conversation here took place during a senior team meeting to determine the appropriate measure for “client retention”, identified as the key driver to revenue growth. The proposed measure being discussed was “percent of clients who renew their contracts each year”. Executive

The Importance of Partnership

Our company’s stated purpose is “To achieve extraordinary results with our clients”. One of our core strategies is to “…build relationships and partner with our clients”. We focused on the concept of partnering about ten years ago upon reflecting on what were the keys to really making a difference for our clients. Partnering with consultants

Mid-Course Correction

Strategic planning corrections at the halfway point For many of us, the dog days of summer mark the mid to waning months of a year-long strategic plan.  We have written before about how to maintain your momentum throughout the course of your strategic plan (see Maintaining Strategic Momentum). Now we turn our focus to a mid-course

The Express Lane to Organizational Success: Fixing Broken Systems

How would you define success in your organization? More revenue? More customers? Funding to expand services? More profit? Optimizing performance? I would suggest to you that the quickest route to many of these is to focus on optimizing the performance of processes through one or more successful change initiatives. Better processes translate to lower costs,

Employee Involvement in a Strategic Analysis

The obvious question: What’s a strategic analysis? Not only what is it, but why do you need one? The strategic analysis or assessment is an examination of the external environment the organization operates in, i.e., the economy, competitors, cultural dynamics, customers, etc. Why do you need this examination? Well, when planning, you first determine a

The Measure of a Man: Honoring Your Agreements

No sexist intention here, this also applies to women.  Just using the term of art.  Well, what am I talking about then? The Value of Honoring Agreements The failure of my wife’s nephew to show up for two promised sessions to work the yard reminded me of an axiom that I have found increasingly true

Eisenhower on Leadership

Following on the heels of my recent post on leadership – I was watching Fareed Zacharia’s Global Public Square (CNN) on Sunday. He was opining about Obama’s newly announced policy on use of military force.  Fareed then went on to talk about leadership in general and told a story. The story was one told by

Why Leadership Doesn’t Lead

The dictionary definition of lead includes “to show the way to by going in advance, to guide or direct in a new course, to guide the behavior and opinion of or to inspire the conduct of”. The first depicts the role of a scout, the second that of a commander and the last that of

Training Prerequisites

There is an old adage among trainers that the learner learns what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and from whom they wish to learn. National statistics on the success of training are not good. Why is that? My take is that it is because the prerequisites described in the old

Fact vs. Opinion

Data based decisions for management Fact: a real occurrence, event Opinion: a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement, was a statistician who believed management decisions should be driven by data. He opined that there are only two mistakes

Accountability for Results

How to accomplish the work of your strategic plan One of the challenges we see most often with completing the work spelled out on a strategic plan is that leaders don’t hold their team accountable for the results. Instead, they succumb to the old habit of accepting rational explanations for why things do not get

Small Ball – Great Leaders Take Big Risks

Great leaders are willing to take worthwhile risks, even at high cost Wikipedia: Small ball is a baseball offensive strategy employed in which high value is place on individual runs and attempts to score them without requiring extra base hits, or sometimes without base hits at all…. Well, maybe a great strategy for baseball, but

The Fulcrum – Middle Management

Do middle managers have a pivotal role in strategic plans? Absolutely. They carry the message to the employees and create alignment to the plan.

Managing Conflict

Successfully managing conflict in the workplace Recent experience completing conflict resolution work for a long-standing client brought to mind that I ought to write something about how this gets started, continues and ultimately gets resolved. It is my belief that with the exception of a small percentage of our race, we humans are largely well

Why Plan?

What value does strategic planning add to the organization? Often prospective clients end their initial phone call with the question, “What is this going to cost?”. My reply is always the same, I can’t tell you without meeting with you to understand what you really need and want, design a solution that fits, etc. The

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 7: Michael Porter

This post is the seventh in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. Michael Porter and his five competitive forces We have taken some detours, but it is finally time for our last installment of “Who Gave

Robert’s Rules of Order: Keeping It Simple

As Black Friday looms in the near future and the holiday rush kicks into full swing, I thought I would join the call of those wishing to “keep it simple”, but with a different spin. How do you keep it simple in your meetings or in the boardroom? Those of you familiar with my approach

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 6: William Bridges

This post is the sixth in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. Managing Transitions with William Bridges I can’t remember how I was introduced to Bridges, but it was a wonderful fork in the road. We

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 5, Gerry Faust

This post is the fifth in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. The next iteration of Lifecycles When completing due diligence on Ichak Adizes, his former partner, Gerry Faust surfaced. Because I was not comfortable entering

Disempowered Customers

Having worked with countless non-profit organizations over the years, I have noticed that they typically perceive themselves in a different light, one that can have a detrimental impact to their customers. Non-profits operate in a vastly less competitive world than for-profit entities. In fact, using the word “competitive” is outside the comfort zone for many

Maintain Strategic Momentum

Maintaining Strategic Momentum I decided to share one more blog post before returning to our “Who Gave You That Idea” series. Many of our clients are scheduling the work to create their next year’s strategic plan. So it seemed a good time to refresh folks on the keys to achieve what they set out to

Customer Service

Taking a short break from our “Who Gave You That Idea” series to tackle a topic dear to my heart – customer service. In particular, customer service in the healthcare setting. Now, if you aren’t in healthcare, don’t shy away from this post. I intend there to be customer-related takeaways for you. But if healthcare

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 4, Ichak Adizes and Corporate Lifecycles

This post is the fourth in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. The influence of Ichak Adizes and his work on corporate lifecycles The fourth in our blog series on “influencers” of PGS and our products

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 3, Gary Hamel

This post is the third in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. Gary Hamel and Innovation The third in our blog series on “influencers” of PGS and our products features a slightly more controversial management “guru”,

Dann Principle #9: Everyone Will Find Fairness Somehow

Fairness is an unwritten contract between employer and employee.  However, we are also prone to greed. Read about the interplay in business here.

Who Gave You That Idea? Number 2: Kaplan and Norton, The Balanced Scorecard

This post is the second in a series on management “gurus” who have influenced and shaped the products and services we offer at PGS. To start with post one, click here. How to best use metrics, charts and data in planning In order to successfully evaluate a key process or outcome, it is essential to

Objects or Team Members

Are your employees objects or team members? First, I need to say that I haven’t forgotten my interest in a “mini-series” of blogs sharing with you the influencers of the past 30 years that have shaped the work we are doing at PGS. If you missed my last post on Quality, Deming and Juran, you

Who Gave You That Idea? Deming, Juran and Quality

This is the first in a 7 part series on the key influencers who have impacted our work with clients over the years. At the end of this post, you will find links to our other “gurus”. Deming, Juran and the quality movement At PGS, we are indebted to some great leaders in organizational theory

When Not to Set Policy

Policy is critical. Yet, there is a balance between too much and too little, and it’s essential that you understand this balance when you develop and implement policy. In my last post, I covered when it is important to set policy. I wrote that the rule of thumb for more policy is when one of

When to set policy

What is too much vs not enough policy? My first management position was with a government agency, and I learned how setting too much policy stifles creativity, innovation, building of sound judgment and morale. It can sap the energy out of an organization. At the other extreme is Nordstrom, whose early success was built on

Building Effective Strategic Planning Metrics

What makes a sound strategic planning metric? A sound strategic planning metric is one that measures whether or not a strategy on your strategic plan is working. Is your project to enhance customer loyalty doing just that? Is your initiative to branch into new markets effective? How do you know? Metrics give you these answers.

Dann Principle #8: Two-Way Dialogue

Good two way dialogue is one of the most important attributes that employees use to gauge whether they are valued in their organizations.

A Planning Consultant’s Purpose

Is using an outside consultant for planning really necessary? This past week I was asked by an acting CEO for one of my clients how long I thought the organization would need to depend upon me to do strategic planning. “The organization should ultimately be able to do it on its own” was his comment.

How Purpose Impacts Culture

A strong sense of purpose impacts culture I spent the weekend conducting a strategic planning retreat for a client of long standing. We had defined a clear purpose years ago, and the organization has remained steadfast to that purpose ever since. Those of you with whom I have worked know that I place great importance

Importance of Venue

There are times when moving out of your regular meeting space enhances both the meeting and the results you achieve. Getting away from the office or boardroom setting is important when you are doing strategic planning or having a retreat on a major question that requires a different level of thinking or innovation. Having said

Dann Principle #7: Consistency

In a nutshell, consistency requires integrity. Would you take the same action for any employee?  If not, rethink your actions. Read more here.

Using Metrics

I wrote this newsletter for BoardGrowth, a governing board oriented site, but felt it had valuable information for anyone working to assess the health of an organization through using metrics. Therefore, I offer it to our blog readers as well. Hard data vs. stories Those of you with whom I have worked know that I

Dann Principle #6: Being Honest

In leadership and the rank and file, no one really likes getting away with dishonesty. Great relationships, work or otherwise, depend on honesty.

Board Engagement

We recently completed a survey of a governing board I am a member of. We were seeking to identify the unanswered questions of board members as well as their ideas on how the board experience could be improved. There is a good deal of national data that supports that overall, board members are dissatisfied with

Change Requires Stakeholder Support

Who are the stakeholders on a change management initiative? What happens when they do not support the change? Learn how to win your stakeholders here.

Leadership in a nutshell

Over the weekend, I had a chance to visit with one of the leaders I most admire; a man I have worked with for nearly 20 years. He was bringing me up to date on some of the players in his organization as I had not worked with them in six years. Some had blossomed,

After the “But…”

The Boston attack has us all deep in thought. One of the most profound commentaries I have seen comes from my beautiful and devout niece Elizabeth, who sometime ago converted to the Muslim faith and was expressing frustration with apologists for terrorist activities. She was railing against those who would explain away this attack by

Dann Principle #5: The Leader Truly Leads

An organization is only as great, and its employees only as committed, as they interpret the leader to be. What is needed? Leadership integrity.

Blaming Middle Management

Blaming Middle Management As a consultant, one often sees leadership blaming middle management for the ills of the organization, especially, when the culture of the organization is not what leadership desires. In fact, consultants make money on this trend, e.g. “Go train them to…”, “go fix…”. Recently a leadership group I was working with remarked

Cascading Planning

Designing a Cascading Planning System In designing planning systems for clients, I am often asked whether planning should cascade (def. a process whereby something, typically information or knowledge, is successfully passed on) up or cascade down. My answer; BOTH. At the level of strategic planning, the few changes (three to seven) that are vital for

Dann Principle #4: Performance Set By Example

Over time, employees will only work as hard as their ultimate leader and/or the lowest performer among supervisory or even peer group.

Effective Meetings

Effective Meetings Make a Difference Working yesterday with a management group, to build them as a team, reminded me of how vital effective meetings are to teamwork. The impact of meetings is never neutral, they are either building relationships and morale or eroding them. Meetings erode relationships when members don’t listen, don’t respect the opinions

Learning to Love the Lag

Learning to love the lag I can’t remember where and when I first heard this one. It is a somewhat dated adage about the need for leaders to be patient in making changes if they are to survive mentally and continue to confront challenges. I was reminded of this recently while working with a client,

Unique Form of Leadership
I have become a student of leadership as I have observed and coached leaders over the years. I have had the good fortune to support many who were highly effective. There were some patterns and similarities, but I also marvel at how many different ways there are to accomplish true leadership. Recently I had the
Dann Principle #3: There are Politics in Everything, Everybody

Organizations, like life, are full of “politics”, which employees assess every day. The result? Huge impacts to morale and commitment to work.

Reviving Leadership

Reviving Leadership A recent meeting with a client CEO reminded me of a story from my own journey as a CEO that I thought I would share. Among the many challenges for leaders is maintaining a positive outlook. Why challenging? Because leadership is a steady diet of a) risk taking (every decision represents a cost

Link Between Culture and Performance

Work recently with highly motivated cross-functional process improvement teams reminded me of the importance of corporate culture to gaining improvement in performance. Leadership had picked great team members; bright, committed, hard working. The two groups blazed through the tasks of documenting problems with the current processes, identifying innovative breakthrough strategies and then designing a detailed

The Pace of Change

We live in a world and a business climate that demand more and faster change from each of us. Keep up with technology, social media, competitive threats, changes in customer wants/needs. Do more. Do more. Do more. Well, there is a limit, and if you go beyond it, it can be crippling. I once was

Dann Principle #2: What is, IS

What is, is.  Leadership’s effectiveness is strengthened when they include other’s perspective on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership is Not a Democracy

At the end of the day, leadership is determining/deciding what must be done, and then assuring that it is done. Simple to say, challenging and draining to do well, to be sure. Throughout my leadership career, I have weathered challenges to this basic premise. Although I believe that effective leaders should focus on the personal

Dann Principle #1: There is Another Side to Every Issue

No matter how wise leadership is, they need to include the perspectives of their staff. When they are dismissed, valuable information is lost.

Walking on Eggshells – When Subsidiaries Overstep Their Bounds

When subsidiaries overstep their bounds Met with a prospective client today and heard some familiar and distressing themes. It involved what is functionally the equivalent of a family owned corporation, although in this case it involves shareholders from a given community, but it is a small community dominated by a few families. Their concern was

A Change in US Business: A look at corporate culture and passion

All the political noise re. Bain and Company as well as some recent experience with clients has prompted me to take a look at whether there, indeed, has been a shift in American business and how that might impact the success of U.S. businesses going forward. Source Energy Ichak Adizes in his seminal work (Adizes,

Overlooked Leadership

The most often overlooked facet of leadership There are three distinct leadership responsibilities to the role of the CEO: 1) assure market position or growth (for profit) or increased client/stakeholder satisfaction and sense of value (non-profit), 2) assuring that the organizational climate is safe for employees to grow and prosper, and 3) assuring that operations

Revisiting the Dann Principles of Management

What are the Principles of Management that remain timeless and true over the years? Here are our top nine. Do they ring true for you?

Keys to Professional Success

Dr. William Bicknell taught us critical lessons on true professional success throughout his career in public health. Here are my top twelve.

Keys to Performance on Strategic Plans

What are the strategies that lead to superior performance on your strategic plan? Our work on hundreds of plans has surfaced 7 keys.

The CEO-Chairman Team

Do you have a productive working rapport between your board and management? If not, look at the CEO-Chairman relationship to begin improving.

Putting Dann’s Questions Method to Work

How do you empower truly great work?  We have a key performance evaluation tool that answers that question while giving yourself keys to improvement.

The Root of Management Lapses

Why middle managers often struggle with leading their troops and a tool to overcome the struggle.

The Importance of Being Different

Execution of a strategic plan by leadership is as essential as its quality. What are the strategies to improve execution on your plan?

The Currency of Teamwork

Teamwork is essential for real results. But how do you build a culture of teamwork? Integrity and honoring your agreements

The Power of Accountability

Accountability means doing what I say I am going to do, and it starts at the top.  What happens when leaders are truly accountable?

The Role of Strategic Planning in Performance Management, Part 2

A key element linking performance management and strategic planning? Accountability. Learn how accountability in your plan impacts performance.

The Role of Strategic Planning in Performance Management, Part 1

The first of two newsletters on aligning strategic planning with performance management. This month’s focus is on the big picture, while next month targets accountability.

The Importance of Incentives

What incentives truly motivate employees? What does a lack of incentives cause? A recent trip to Europe drove home their importance.

Principles for a Strategic Planning Template

What keeps the work from getting done strategic plans? Often it is the tool itself. Try these keys to a great strategic planning template.

The Leader’s Contract with Followers

The strategic plan is a promise of management to its board, but there is also an implicit contract between a management and staff at play here.

An Overview of Performance Management

Good performance management is defined as making continual progress in positively impacting the key indicators of your business. Here’s how.

Implementing Change #14: Management Support of Change

Failing to have management support in a change initiative can derail the whole process. Learn what support looks like and how to gain it.

Implementing Change #13: The Human Side of Change

Managing the human side of a change initiative, i.e., helping staff through endings and new beginnings, is critical to improving a process.

Implementing Change #12: Sound Implementation Planning

Change Management article #12: one of the most valued tools in change management is a good implementation plan to coordinate the various tracks of work

Implementing Change #11: Grabbing The Low Hanging Fruit

Process changes that are quick to implement and bring a noticeable result are low hanging fruit. Find them in your change management project.

Implementing Change #10: Finding Breakthrough Strategies

Breakthrough strategies are those that reduce a process from 15 steps to 5 or 20 minutes to 4. Learn how to find and implement breakthroughs.

Implementing Change #9: Clarify Problems Before Innovating

Processes are full of variation and workarounds. For successful change, clearly understanding the current process is critical to improving it.

Implementing Change #8: The Importance of Data on Existing Performance

Most organizations have little or no data on the performance of vital processes. In change initiatives, this data is critical for success.

Implementing Change #7: Keys to Innovation

Most people are more stuck in their ways than they think. How do you then get real innovation in a change initiative? We will show you how.

Implementing Change #6: Secure and Maintain Stakeholder Support

In order for a change initiative to be successful, you must have support of those with authority, power or influence – the key stakeholders.

Implementing Change #5: Make Sure Everybody Wins

People will not actively work toward their own destruction or harm. Learn how to create a win for all staff in a change initiative for greater success.

Implementing Change #4: Let Those Who Do The Work, Design The Work

Empower employee teams now doing the work to design and implement the new process in your change initiatives. Watch your success rate go up!

Implementing Change #3: Define the Scope, Understand the Potential and Assess the Readiness

CEOs lose patience with change projects because of high costs, unknown returns, and their often slow pace. Fix this with a discovery process.

Implementing Change #2: The Importance of Selling the Big “Why”

One of the greatest causes of failure in change management is not getting the whole team on board. Sell the “Big Why” to gain commitment.

Implementing Change – Article #1: Putting Customer Data to Work

The first in a series of change management articles. The focus of this edition: overcoming resistance to change with customer feedback or data.

Vector and Velocity (i.e., Your Plan vs Your Processes)

Strategic Planning provides your vector, while your processes determine your velocity.  Want to improve?  Change management is the tool.

The Importance of Personal Planning

Personal planning is the last of 4 levels of a sound strategic plan. Learn more about this critical piece in executing the organization’s plan.

Superior Organizational Performance Key #4: The Final Secret – Cooperation

Final key to success? It’s the “I want to work there” factor. It’s about teamwork. This is the fourth and oh, so important, final secret to superior organizational performance.

Superior Organizational Performance Key #3: Continually-Improving Systems

This article addresses the third of the four essential keys to superior company performance: continually-improving systems.

Superior Performance Key #2: Results! Not Reasons, i.e. Accountability

Accountability is the second of four essential keys to superior company performance, i.e., excuses must no longer be an option.

Superior Organizational Performance Key #1: Clear Focus

The essential role of leadership during change is defining the gap between the current condition and the target condition.

Four Keys to Superior Organizational Performance

When a company makes real strides in becoming more productive, there are four essential factors present. I introduce these key factors here.