.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Developing Leaders' professional competence

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Awaken Your Child Within!

Harry Southan is a guide for small business owners who whish to grow and develop their business in order to for fill their personal ambitions and desires. A prolific writer of articles for both web and print, he is currently working on a series of books.

In his own words Harry says:

Creativity is I believe, one of the major attributes of successful entrepreneurs. Being able to see opportunities, openings and viewing problems and concerns from a different angle or perspective enables them to have an edge that many of us lack.

Developing our creative nature can lead us to success, being able to view everything within our business with a new eye and helping us develop exciting and innovative approaches to solving problems.

But what if you are not creative by nature?

Before we develop the ability to write, we first start to draw, usually the world around us, though with time, we start to create the images within our heads, what we have read in books or seen on the big screen and TV. Due to the nature of education and the demands placed upon it to turn out people who can cope and succeed in a world of words and numbers, our creativity generally becomes stifled.

Ok, there are exceptions to this, we probably all know at least one graphic designer, artist or even a cartoonist, but on a whole most people have lost the creative nature of childhood.

Developing a more creative nature couldn’t be easier, simply start to be creative, draw, paint and doodle. Don’t focus on the end result, live with the fact you might not be the next Picasso, instead use these exercises as a means to awaken that creative side of the brain that many fail to use.

One of the big keys to developing a creative approach to problem solving lies in the Japanese word ‘Jishuken’ (sorry to any Japanese speakers if this is spelt wrong). Translated Jishuken means ‘A Fresh Set of Eyes’ and sometimes being too close to a problem or concern stops us from seeing what is wrong or what is going astray.

Many of the largest Japanese companies rely on Jishuken to resolve problems within their business and it is a fundamental to good Continuous Improvement and Lean thinking.

The more you concentrate on a problem the less it seems likely you will resolve it. So the first point of Jishuken is to walk away and stop worrying about it (its good for your stress levels too). I have something in the region of 90% of all my best ideas when I am walking my dog, having a shower or watching Question Time (don’t ask why).

Another great approach is to get other people involved in the process, especially if their skills base and knowledge is not within the same sphere as the problem you are looking at. Why? Well they will see things from a fresh perspective.

Some years ago, whilst working for a major international company, a problem occurred in manufacturing, a team of engineers was put together to resolve the issue and reported back “ that nothing could be done”. Not excepting this, I decided to create a new team to look at the problem; only one engineer appeared on the team. The rest was made up from Administration, Information systems and the shop floor.

This new team was allowed to explore every angle and idea regardless of how preposterous it seemed. From a tentative beginning and people having doubts about their abilities to contribute, we soon found ourselves in an idea’s factory.

Because we started to explore the problem from different angles and skills, we developed an idea that could resolve the concern quickly and effectively (cheaply too it turned out).

By building your own Jishuken team of friends, family, business contacts and above all a good coach (they question everything so well), it is easy for us to resolve our own problems, develop ideas and see new opportunities around us.

I must stop there, I feel an idea coming on and the dog needs a walk.


i-sensei — Business Performance & Profits

Saturday, October 08, 2005

25% success for change delivery - acceptable?

Abelard Management Services Limited was formed in 2004 to meet the specific needs of clients seeking to build on their track record of success to get and stay ahead of their competitors.

With significant experience of delivering complex strategy Abelard’s team works with it’s clients leaders to ensure that they have a dedicated and committed team who know and understand what, and how, to do what you need. Using the right tools to maintain unwavering focus on customer needs and with their depth of delivery experience you will minimise the risk inherent in implanting strategy and can face the future with more certainty of rapid success.

William Buist owner of Abelard Management Services Limited talks about Change Delivery in his own words:

I'm consistently taken aback by the results of survey after survey. I am finding that:

1. Just 25% of projects deliver or over deliver.
2. Over 25% of projects are cancelled before completion.
3. The remainder overspend or deliver less than expected, or both (and often are very late).
4. For those that overspend the average overspend is a whooping 189% of the original estimate
5. Benefit delivery averages 66% of original estimates.

So we spend more, take longer and get less than we expected when we start to implement a change – A lot more, a lot longer and a lot less on average. I was at a seminar on 3 March 2005 where Dr. James B. Rieley (who is a Principal at Carlton & Partners, the specialist management consulting group) said that in Mergers and Acquisitions the projected synergies are not realised in over 70% of cases.

I think this is a symptom of the same disease. I have looked closely at what makes change work, to identify what the systematic things that you need in place to get change delivered successfully. One thing is certain there are no "Magic bullets", no formulaic solution, but there are certainly things that can mess you up if you don't do them well.

The four things I see in successful change are (and in no particular order):

1. Executive Support – because people work on what they believe is the executive's highest
priority, ahead of other work.

2. Customer Involvement – because when customers have input throughout the change they are not surprised, and more importantly, neither are you. After all it's customer's that give you the only true measure of success, their continued business!

3. Experienced project managers – amazingly research shows that a massive 97% of successful projects have an experienced project manager at the helm. They will have learned hard lessons to gain that vital experience. Of course, have one doesn't guarantee success, there are plenty of experienced project managers who don't succeed every time, but not having one is an almost guaranteed recipe for failure.

4. Clear business objectives and defined project scope - A clear framework for the change in a simple to understood form ensures alignment to output goals and help the project(s) stay focused on the right things.

It's important not to bite off too much, if the scope focuses on achievable steps then the journey can be delivered well, elephants are eaten a mouthful at a time.Your competitors are working hard to make change in their business - why? I think that they want your customers!

Will your response bring the expected benefits? Businesses must be quick, they must be (successfully) changing as fast or faster than their competitors to get, and stay, ahead. Every customer is looking for more, and better, products and better, faster service - for less. They won't let you rest on your past success.

If you accept that even the most successful businesses only deliver project success in a quarter of project starts then there is a really good chance of stealing a march if you do the things that give you a better chance of being successful. If you want to know more, or discuss these points further, especially if you disagree then make a comment here or drop me a note.

William M Buist
Things done right... ... in half the time.

Aberland Management Services

Friday, October 07, 2005

Improve your performance in business

Every executive and business owner has one key objective – to improve performance. Behind every business objective, (whether it is, for example, to grow your business by 10%, increase ROI by 5% or become a better leader), is the desire to improve performance. It is this aspiration that makes us successful in our labours.

Performance Improvement can be defined in many ways. For example, the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction (2003) defines it as the process of designing or selecting interventions which may include training directed toward a change in behaviour, typically on the job.

I believe that performance improvement is any positive change that can be measured after you have actively decided to make a change in your current circumstances. This is why defining the improvement requirement and measurement method is all important.

If we assume therefore, that a key success factor in business is to improve performance, where would you start? A logical approach would be to decide which area of performance needs improving and look for experts in this field to enable you to achieve the appropriate improvement. For example, you may need to improve your sales so you engage a marketing consultant to enable you to achieve this.

I believe that the first step towards performance improvement is defining your goal. Following a goal setting process will ensure that performance enhancement is made.

Goal Setting Process

There are seven steps to setting the goals that will achieve your objectives and improve your performance. I will use the above example of improving sales to explain the goal setting process. The seven steps are as follows:

  • Define what you wish to achieve

  • Make sure that your goal is specific

  • State your goals appropriately

  • Record your goal

  • Check your priorities

  • Chunk your goals and make yourself accountable

  • Check and review progress

  • Define what you wish to achieve

    To begin the process, consider what it is that you broadly want to achieve. In this example you wish to improve your performance by increasing sales.

    Make sure that your goal is specific and time bound

    Once you have determined the broad area of improvement you will need to define your goal more specifically. What is it that you wish to achieve and how will you measure the change? What is the appropriate timeframe for the improvement? These are the first questions that you need to ask yourself. In my example I want to improve sales because I have realised that if I can increase the volume of my sales I can reduce the cost of production. I have also realised that I need to increase sales by 10% to reduce costs to an acceptable level, within the next 3 months. I will measure this by looking at management information that shows my sales figures before and after, as well as my production costs.

    If I am not specific in my goal then it will be difficult to achieve it, especially if I have not set a timeframe for achievement. Many of us work best when we have deadlines to work towards. This is another reason to ensure we set realistic timeframes and measurements so that we can assess our progress.

    State your goals appropriately

    It is very easy to sabotage yourself when you are setting yourself improvement targets. You may consciously wish to improve your sales but subconsciously believe that improving your sales will increase your profits. Increasing your profits may make you believe that you will be wealthy and wealthy people are never happy. You therefore sabotage your attempts to improve your sales. The annoying thing is you may have set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) objectives perfectly, but are not able to achieve them because you are unknowingly working against your core values. For example – I want to be happy and being wealthy means I will not be happy.

    To ensure that you achieve your goals you need to understand fully why you wish to achieve them and what has been stopping you from achieving them. It can take time to discover your subconscious motivations and realities but once this has been achieved you will be able to achieve your goals because you are not working against yourself.

    You are now ready to state your goals in a positive fashion. Goals should never be stated negatively, for example, ‘I will not fail to improve my sales’. The reason for this is because the subconscious mind cannot process negativity. It will look for the command in the statements that it ‘hears’. So in the above statement it ‘hears’ the command ‘I will fail to improve my sales, not’. This is another example of you sabotaging your ability to achieve. Your goal could be stated ‘I will improve my sales by 10% within 3 months’. To support this goal you could also assert the statement ‘I have improved my sales in July’. By believing that change is possible enables you to draw towards yourself opportunities to exploit positively.

    Record your goal and have leverage

    To ensure that you become fully committed to your goal you should record it. This will give the subconscious mind a detailed set of instructions to work on. The more information you give it, the more clarity the final outcome has. The more precise the outcome, the more efficient the subconscious mind can become. (Gene Donohue).

    Once you have recorded the goal you will need to write down the factors that will motivate you to achieve the goal. It helps to know whether you are motivated towards or away from things. For example, if you improve sales you will be able to retire early (positive motivation), if you improve sales you will not be bankrupt (negative motivation). If you are aware of how you are motivated you will be able to record a number of reasons why you must achieve the goal based on your motivation bias. You will have established leverage on yourself and make performance improvement more likely.

    Check your priorities and resources

    If you have more than one goal, you will need to prioritise them to ensure that they do not conflict with each other in terms of deadlines and values. Do not set goals that conflict with each other. For example, ‘I will improve my sales by 10% in 3 months’, and I will reduce production costs by 1 month’ when you have already decided that the only way to reduce production costs is by increasing sales. The increase in sales would take 3 months.

    Only set the number of goals that you can fully focus on. If that is not possible, then I recommend that you revisit the goal definition stage. This will ensure that you only tackle the key things that will improve performance in the timescale that you believe is appropriate.

    You must ensure that you have the right resources available to achieve your goal. Without this vital check you will not be able to realise your desired outcome.

    Chunk your goals and make yourself accountable

    It can be difficult to improve performance when you have provided yourself with a stretch target. Sometimes the sheer size of a goal can make it unachievable. In circumstances like this you need to chunk your goals into small more obtainable ones. For example, the goal to improve sales by 10% in 3 months can seem difficult to achieve. To achieve this goal you can chunk it down to smaller goals (ie increase the number of sales conversions. This can be done by increasing the number of targeted cold calls by 15%). This process will enable you to set manageable smaller goals that work towards the larger goal.

    Make yourself accountable, by telling someone of your goals. This will help focus you on achievement. You are more likely to achieve your goal if you have to explain to a third party why you have not completed your goal. If you feel that you cannot, find a third person who will be objective in this process, like a mentor or coach, then write your goal in a place where you will see it regularly.

    Check and review progress

    This is the final step. It is important to ensure that everything that you do is working towards the performance improvement. By checking and reviewing progress you will be able to adjust your performance accordingly.

    © Dynamic Transitions 2005