The Olympian Effort and Our Work

Some people have no interest in the Olympics – but I’m not one of them. Instead, every four years I am again drawn into the spectacle, captured by the storylines, caught up in the competition for a fortnight. I’m not exactly sure why this is, or why I invest my attention watching sports I know (and care) nothing about. (I can’t imagine planning a normal Saturday afternoon of watching the biathlon, speed-skating, or (yikes!) ice dancing. But with the Olympics, I did all of them. This week I’ve wondered whether this experience says anything about work – our organizations, our […]

Time to Change the Game?

Imagine that you’re running in a race (a marathon) and doing well. You’re at least four miles ahead of your nearest competitor, and with only a half a dozen miles to go. Things look pretty good. But then (all at once) you’re passed, by someone bounding along at nearly twice your speed – on some sort of high-tech, futuristic springy shoe-thingys. And then she is gone. Or imagine the opposite: you’re running the same race, but now it’s you that is more than ten miles behind, and with only a couple left. It’s clear that, as long as things stay […]

A Business Plan in Your Back Pocket?

How long should a business plan be to be useful, actionable, and effective?  My answer:  three pages. You’re skeptical.  After all, if your 20, 50, or (with one former client) 300 page business plan (yikes!) isn’t working, then how can a three page plan even begin to address the … right? But your business is different.  It’s more involved, convoluted, complex.  There’s really no way to simplify your planning process. You have to do it this way (as you have for years) even though it isn’t really delivering the results you want. I’ve been at this business planning thing for […]

What Are You Measuring, and Why?

No doubt about it, measurement is popular today. At seminars and conferences, and in the management trade press, the subject of metrics is everywhere. The idea of quantifying business performance (and managing investments in business improvement) is very attractive – especially to technical types who strive for accuracy and precision in their work.  It’s a compelling objective. Moreover, measurement is also important to business focus.  There’s good sense in the old truism that “what gets measured, gets done.”  (And it’s clear that the opposite is true as well: objectives desired but not measured usually don’t happen – or happen well […]

Firm Success from the Inside Out

Last week the Gallup organization released a new report on the State of the American Workplace: . According to this new survey, 70% of American workers don’t like their jobs. About 50% of workers are ‘disengaged’ – they punch the clock and put in their time, but aren’t inspired by the work they do. More disturbing, 20% of workers are ‘actively disengaged’ – meaning they are gossiping at the water cooler, stirring up trouble, and even sabotaging the firm’s success. This is astounding. And the fact that this new report isn’t stirring up more serious outrage is itself an […]

Choosing the Path Forward

In a strategic planning retreat a few years back, we were debating the appropriate mix of client focus, between acquiring new business and growing the firm on the one hand, and internal initiatives improving the organization on the other. I sketched a picture on the whiteboard similar to the one below, and suggested there were two possible pathways around the firm’s primary obstacles. We called the first of these paths “grow, then fix,” and the second path “fix, then grow.” Before the recession, most professional services firms rode solidly along path #1, employing the ‘grow, then fix’ strategy. Business was […]

Running the Race and Running It Right

A week ago Monday, I was in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood with my family and thousands of others, there to watch and celebrate as my son John completed his sixth Boston Marathon. It was a beautiful New England spring day, and we’d just sat down for lunch at a local restaurant when everything changed. We heard the first explosion and felt the second (later learning that it was just 700 feet away). Almost immediately we saw the crowds, walking and then running from the area. Their expressions reminded me of 9/11. Through the window someone mouthed the word “bomb”. It […]

Predicting and Planning for the Unexpected

In our business (and our life), we often mistake those events unplanned but not improbable, with those truly unexpected. For example, it’s certainly not unexpected that we’ll have snow each winter in New England, especially here in the hills of central Massachusetts. And yet, I’ve heard many times over the years some version of “we weren’t able to make our plan in the first quarter because of all the snow we had in the northeast.”  It rarely sounds convincing. That said, most of us don’t plan for snow days in our business, like they do at the local school.  We […]

The One Thing You Really Must Have

Success in business (and in life) is a function of many things, but short of luck, there is one ingredient we all must have.  Growth, profit and success – for individuals and for organizations – requires a plan. This isn’t news. We all know and understand that a script is necessary for clarifying objectives (mission, vision, strategy) and for detailing the action agenda. We’ve learned and used this before, and pundits and advisors (like me) are constantly reminding us of the importance of the business plan, marketing plan, weight loss plan, and such. So, if planning is so critical, and […]

Strategic Business Planning Won’t Help You, If …

Over the years I’ve worked with scores of companies on strategic business planning. Some firms were really in to it. Others it seemed were just moving through the motions – as though strategic planning were something they simply had to do, to check off a list. Today I’m frankly more choosy about whom I work with. There’s no point in investing the time, money, and other resources necessary for long view planning – unless senior leaders are truly invested, and all in. Successful strategic planning requires two parts: first, crafting a compelling and energizing future vision for the organization; and […]