Why Do You Do What You Do?

imageMany people start their own business for a variety of reasons: extra income, want to be their own boss, freedom of when and when not to work, stay at home parent, and a whole host of other reasons. However, many of these businesses fail over time, often because the owner didn’t document, follow, and constantly update a strategic business plan. The often overlooked and seldom thought about aspects of any strategic and business plan, is deep down, why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you want it to go — the mission and vision. Sure, many companies have an idea and even some of them they write it down. But, how good are these statements for your company?

Join John Knotts, a strategic business advisor with over 25 years’ experience working with companies of all sizes to improve their business operations. The first questions he asks in any engagement are: what do you do, why do you do it, where are you today, and where are you going. These questions begin to form, what he calls, the ‘Strategic Bridge’, a visual representation of your strategy at work.

Bring your current mission and vision statements for you company and let’s examine, along with John, what you do and why you do it.

Bulverde Spring Branch Business Networking
Friday, August 18, 2017, 8:45 am
St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde (The Red Roof Church)
29797 US-281, Bulverde TX 78163
Free to attend


Four Types of Companies

When dealing with any organization, it is important to understand the things that are important to it and the employees. For instance, they may be focused on improving compliance or increasing revenue, but each company focuses on things that are important to it.

Knowing this when dealing with the company or their employees helps understand how they behave.

One way to examine any organization is through the lens of purpose versus process. When looking at organizations from this lens, there are four possibilities. The organization can be purposed-based, process-based, blended, or neither. How they are says a lot about how they operate.

Let me define what I mean by each of these types of organizations:

1. Purpose-based. A Purpose-based organization relies on a strong organizational purpose and reason for being. At the heart of what they do everyday is a greater reason everyone works there. Sometimes the organization defines this in their mission and vision statements and sometimes it is just known. Making money is NOT a greater purpose. A good example of a Purpose-based organization would be a philanthropic nonprofit or military organization. Their reasons for existence, even if not written down, are usually quite clear.

2. Process-based. Organizations that focus on perfecting processes to run an effective and efficient organization, are process-based. Strictly process-based organizations are focused on exceptional product or service delivery and not their reason for being. Money is normally very important to them.  Many commercial companies fall into this categor, more so in manufacturing.

3. Blended. A blended organization has a strong purpose or reason for being and operates with strong processes. Organizations with both are difficult to find, but can come from anywhere.

4. Neither. Many companies and organizations have neither a strong defined purpose nor effective and efficient processes. These organizations are quite easy to find because they are everywhere.

Leaders set the environment for a culture of continuous improvement

Everyone always wants to blame the failure to set a culture, or a bad culture, on leadership.  Leaders are responsible for setting the culture, but it takes more than leadership.  That being said, learn how leader set the environment that allows for a continuous improvement culture.


Facilitation of an Effective Strategic Plan Offsite

Strategic FacilitationStrategic planning, as a structured and systematic process, is successful when it is leader-led and overcomes the five reasons 70% of all strategies fail.  Learn how to see your plan through to success.  The strategic planning process is where leaders of an organization establish the vision of the organization’s future and then develop and implement the actions necessary to achieve that future.  This article expands on the strategic planning concepts addressed in Think Big, Take Small Steps and is designed to help you achieve success in your strategic planning process.

Getting the Most Out of Your Company’s Strategic Planning Offsite.

Especially for companies or organizations that have never really dedicated time to strategic planning, the first facilitation can prove to be a make or break experience for executives.

Up to this point, you have focused on developing the Organizational Assessment in my section on How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment.  Executive leadership have been involved from an interview perspective, but they haven’t been engaged to the level that we will expect during Leading Your Leaders to Develop an Effective Strategic Framework.

This is when it “gets real.”

As we discuss this part of developing the strategic framework, we will cover these two subjects:

  • Building a Strategic Plan from the Bottom Up.
  • Incorporating Scenario Planning into Your Strategic Planning Offsite.

This section is crucial for setting the stage and pre-planning a strategic planning offsite is almost as critical as holding it in the first place.  How you organize and what you do at the offsite is as important as the results.  This sets the experience that executives should expect from all strategic planning in the future.

If your offsite is boring, produces little results, feels conceived, and appears to be a waste of time, then your resulting strategy will undoubtedly fail to achieve desired results.

The organization of the event is critical.  Executives time is always at a premium and pulling them out of the office for even a half day session is met with resistance.  Getting buy-in from the senior leader on the importance of the offsite is critical.  You need to get their dedicated time and if they aren’t willing to dedicate time to setting strategy, you need to question their understanding of a leader’s purpose in a company.

My approach to an organization’s first strategic planning offsite takes one dedicated day.  If the organization has specific issues to deal with, like determining roles and responsibilities, working through a significant cultural issues, etc., then I might add a day or two where they will work specifically on these issues.

Of course, everything is planned in advance and the organizational assessment should already have highlighted additional offsite planning needs and activities.

This is how I normally organize a strategic planning offsite and why:

  • Set the Stage. Step one at the offsite is to ensure that everyone is present. If the senior leader can’t make it, then don’t have the offsite. This sends a message (regardless of the reason) that the strategy isn’t important. The senior leader kicks off the event and then introduces the facilitators. I like to have at least three people working a strategic planning offsite–two facilitators and a really good note taker. When the facilitator takes the stage, they should take charge. It is a job of the facilitator not only to ensure everything is completed in the allotted time, but to control the group. You will be challenged at some point and probably often by the executives in the room and you must be firm and tactful. Have rules of engagement and stick to an advertised agenda.
  • Level Set. Before you get into anything about the organization, level set the group on what strategic planning is. Get everyone to agree on terms and definitions that will be used. Everyone in the room has an opinion on what strategy and strategic planning is; what you want is one common definition that the organization will agree on. This eliminates ambiguity as to what the terms you use mean. Some organizations might call it a business plan, others might call it a campaign plan. Some use mission to reflect both the mission and vision, while some might call a mission a purpose. Regardless, get these things on the table and finalized up front to eliminate confusion later.
  • Organizational Assessment. The second level setting activity is when you explore the results of the organizational assessment with the entire leadership team. Prior to the offsite, I will have reviewed the results with the senior leader to ensure they are comfortable with all the findings being shown. If they are good, then they stand behind the results. Undoubtedly there will be significant discussion on some to several points. They will want to add information to the assessment, which you should capture on white boards or butcher block and keep posted throughout. This makes sure that everyone fully understands, at the same level, the issues that the organization faces and the strengths and opportunity the organization has at its disposal.
  • Mission Statement. I, using the knowledge from the assessment, lead the leaders through creation of a new or validation of an existing mission statement (or whatever they’re calling it). I will cover this in a few weeks in more detail.
  • Vision Statement. I, using the knowledge from the assessment, lead the leaders through creation of a new or validation of an existing vision statement (or whatever they’re calling it). I will also cover this in a few weeks in more detail.
  • Lunch. By this time, the leaders understand the current state and have a mission and vision to move forward. It is time to break for lunch and let them discuss and reflect.
  • Develop the Plan. Next week I will take you through the approach that I use to build a strategic plan from the bottom up. This activity is simple and ensures the resulting plan has an executable focus on fixing organizational problems and overcoming barriers to the organization’s vision. This series of exercises takes most of the afternoon.
  • Assignment of Ownership. At the end of the day, I get the leaders to assign ownership to the plan. The plan will have high-level goals (or whatever you decide to call them) and it is important that the leadership of the organization take ownership of these goals. So, before I close out for the day, each goal gets a person that will own it and will drive it toward implementation.
  • Closeout. At the end, I wrap up by covering what we discussed, our results, and discuss the next steps. Then, I ask the senior leader to close out the planning offsite with their thoughts and direction for the leadership team.

Thoughtful organization of your strategic planning offsite will ensure executive’s time is used appropriately and the result will be an effective strategy for the organization.

So, 70% of all plans fail to some level; however, by following these guidelines you can help ensure your strategic plan will be one of the 30% successes that everyone reads about.

How the mighty fall

Regardless of what your mission and vision statements says, if you focus only on making money, you will fail.

There have been instance after instance of organizations, especially the leadership, that focused on making money over doing what they were organized to do and then failed.

A lot of it boils down to corporate greed, but that isn’t always the reason.

I was just meeting with my country club’s manager and he experienced the result of the club focusing on the bottom line versus delivering great service and building relationships–their mission. For several years, club amenities were in serious neglect because everyone was focused on keeping their costs low instead of making the club a great place to be a member and thus making more money because people flock to the club. Two years ago, he came in and got rid of the bonuses to everyone for saving money and reinvested that money back into the club itself. This past year, they have made more money then they ever did.

Booz | Allen | Hamilton is one of the most recent mighty that have fallen to this focus on money over mission.

Several years ago, Booz Allen split their commercial and government lines. Commercial associates in Booz Allen made considerably more money because commercial accounts paid much higher rates. Government contracts required Booz Allen to hire lower paid employees doing the same work as commercial to remain competitive. The problem was that the government work was expanding at an alarming rate. This was the start of their demise actually…they just had no idea back then.

Booz and Company split off and became the commercial consulting firm and Booz | Allen | Hamilton continued as the government consulting firm. Their mission and vision was to “Solve their client’s toughest problems and deliver results that endured.” In a nut shell, Booz was a very high paid and effective solution provider and trusted advisor that put solutions in place that did not require the consultant to come back constantly, to have people in place implementing the solution, or require significant software warranties to keep the system running. You went in, fixed the problem, and left with it running without you.

You might imagine that, given how most contractors operate, many clients loved this model and would continue to call you back to help them solve your problems. In 2008, when I joined them, this was a great way to work.

However, the model was already changing. Even then I remember them telling us at Intro how they were different and that we were not a “butts in seats” contractor. The reason they were saying that then was because that is what we were becoming very quickly.

Over the next three years, their model evolved to building new work, building a team to support that work, maintaining the team, and then building more work. Basically, Booz wanted more and more steady income. This could have come from continuing to deliver the best work–what they were known for, but it was easier to hire people and put them in place as lasting solutions. This created quicker growth.

The problem with this model is it is just like everyone else’s out there. Unfortunately, when you compete with that type of model, the next time the contract is up for renewal, someone will always come in cheaper to win that work. Competing in this environment with this model is a downward spiral for the contracting companies, the employees, and the government…no one wins.

As you can imagine, people start fighting over work, cheaper employees are brought in with limited skills, they stop investing in employee talent development, and talented employees are pushed out the door.

You can only solve the toughest problems with really smart people and when you stop hiring, developing, and paying them, you fail to be able to deliver on your mission.

Regardless, the executives want to continue to make the same amount of money they always have, so they start cutting people from the bottom of the tier…the ones costing them money. Fancy layoffs, what they called furlough letters, started going out. The company stopped training. People got rid of others so they could rape and pillage their existing clients.

Out of the 60+ people I worked with on the Strategy and Organization team, about four still exist. Just this week, they made another drastic manpower cut and forced many people to take pay cuts and work longer hours. The mass exodus continuos.

Now there are those that will blame the economy, or government spending. I don’t buy that. When all other contractors were suffering in 2008/2009, Booz was growing at a double digit rate. They were growing because many people still focused on the mission and vision then. However, as the new model really took hold because it was how everyone was rated and promoted, their growth quickly came to a halt. This drove poor decisions and even some illegal activities, which they were caught doing. If they stuck to their mission and vision and their original model, they would still be very strong today.

This is the same old story played out over and over. What will actually happen is one of two things…

1. They will continue to thrash about like and tree trying to save the dying heart, cutting off limbs in spite of itself, until they simply go bankrupt and this 100 years old company dies.

2. Or, the CEO is replaced with an outsider who gets rid of all the crap executives, cuts everyone’s pay, and reduces the organization to a manageable amount so it can refocus on the original mission and vision.

Either way, people on all sides will lose because several years ago greed overcame mission and vision and the poison slowly took hold.

And this boys and girls is how the mighty fall.

Start With A Strategic Mindset

Leaders Think Strategically All the TimeLeadership is a dying art in the world today.  The great leaders of the past are found few-and-far between these days.  There are some that have been fairly successful leaders that have rose to an iconic status, but have they been truly great leaders or just really successful at running something?

Often there is contention between the skills that a leader needs and what a manager needs.  I believe, if you’re not a good leader, you won’t be a good manager, and if you’re not a good manager, you won’t be a good leader.  It is my contention that those who apply both of these talents expertly demonstrate what I call, “LeadermentSM.”  This is the expert combination of Leadership and Management together.

Leaders Think Strategically All the Time.

Great leaders don’t hold strategic planning sessions once a year; great leaders think strategically all the time.  They still hold strategic planning sessions annually and more than not, once a quarter.  Because great leaders know that their leadership team doesn’t always think strategically and they have to set aside time for them to think as the leader does.  But the leader–a true leader–is always mentally in the strategy realm.

This doesn’t mean that they are out-of-touch with reality.  If you understand strategy, then you then know it’s more than just visions and big ideas…it’s tactics and actions that make these things happen.

I don’t care who you talk to, everyone has a different definition of strategy.  It becomes even more difficult when you through in terms like strategic plan, strategic planning, strategic mindset, strategic, thinking, etc.

I’m sure I’ll get a lot of comments from “strategy experts” on this, but for this blog, thinking strategically, means you think always about your Mission Vision, Values, Goals, Objectives, and Action Plans–your thinking takes the form of a strategic plan.  To Develop the Leader Within, you must learn how to think like a leader–this is a skill all managers and leaders should develop.

“Stuff” happens at the Tactical-level with whatever you do.  This is where the day-to-day activities take place.  We “live” here mentally all the time.  That’s because it’s what’s front of our nose’s day-in and day-out.  It is very hard for managers and leaders to step out of this tactical-level because they feel that if they take the time to focus elsewhere, they will lose focus on the operation and things will fail.  This is human nature.

Normally, managers and leaders are promoted to the their position because they showed skill at the Tactical-level as an employee.  This sent a message to their leadership that they might be good managers and leaders.  This doesn’t always prove to be true, but mainly this is because the newly promoted person can’t get their mind out of the tactical-level.  Normally, they are too worried that mistakes will happen and the mission will fail, so they stay overly focused on the day-to-day.  This often leads to micro-management of the people and frustrates everyone.

Focusing on the Tactical-level is a failure of effective LeadermentSM.

Above the Tactical-level is the Operational-level.  Here, long-range objectives become your daily bread.  Almost everything in the Operational-level falls into the form of projects and programs.  For definition sake, projects are duration-based activities–in other words they have a beginning and an end.  Programs run for a long time–they may end at some point, but they last a long while.  Many employees initially have trouble transitioning from the Tactical to Operational levels because they still think day-to-day.  Non-exempt employees are used to being hourly and when they move to exempt status and find themselves in the Operational-level, they often have trouble reacting.

Formerly non-exempt employees tend to move in one of two directions, which defines their behaviors for the future.

  1. They treat everything as a day-to-day task.  Thus, they can’t think in long-term projects and programs.  They feel overwhelmed because they feel that they can never get their work done.  This is frustrating to them and their managers because often they are shying away from long-term necessary work and focusing on things they can get done during the day.  They look at their day as a eight-hour schedule and see what they can accomplish in that time frame.
  2. They become workaholics that put in excessively long hours to try to get long-term tasks done quickly.  Their focus is to get everything on their plate off their plate as quickly as possible.  Thus they stay late to work on a project and push things through.  They’re often not extremely collaborative on their projects, because others don’t move at their pace.  Their management tends to reward these “high performers,” but the employee burns out and eventually gets frustrated because no matter how hard they work, the work never seems to get done.

Neither of these behaviors at the Operational-level are desirable.  Focusing on the Operational-level is a failure of effective LeadermentSM.

Then we have those that literally live in Strategy Land.  They’re constantly dreaming up things to do, directions to head, and brand new ideas.  They’re the big thinkers and the dreamers and we’ve all worked with and for them.  Life is easy for them, because they never get their hands dirty.  They’re the ones pushing new projects and programs to the Operational-level that fit the purpose of the day and move with the winds of change.  Managers and employees who exist and operate at the Tactical-level never know what direction the organization is heading, so they burrow in and simply focus on the job.

Leaders that live in the Land of Strategy find themselves very frustrated that all their grand ideas never seem to get accomplished, especially in the time frames they envisioned them occurring.  They become more-and-more impatient and they tend to push their employees beyond their limits.  They stress the entire organization and frustrate even the hardest and most dedicated workers.

Focusing on the Strategic-level is a failure of effective LeadermentSM.

So, if thinking strategic, operational, or tactical is a failure of effective LeadermentSM, how should a Leader think?

Leaders Think Strategically all the time…

This doesn’t mean they live in Strategy Land…this means they think all the time like their strategic plan.  Refer to the image below:

Strategic Thinking

All Leaders and Managers, regardless of what level they work at, should apply Strategic Thinking every day.  When you think strategically, everything you do starts to change.  This means that you are always considering all three levels every day and with every decision.

Strategic Thinkers ground themselves in the values, principles, mission, and vision of the organization–regardless if they came up with them or not.  They are constantly evaluating every decision to ensure it fits within the values and principles, is it part of the mission of what they should be doing, and does it move the organization toward the vision.

Strategic Thinkers understand that nothing–I repeat NOTHING–happens at the Strategic-level outside of creating direction.  Things do not get done at the Strategic-level and if they think they will, they’re simply fooling themselves.  If you are waiting for something “strategic” to happen, then you’re going to wait a long time.  Things happen at the Tactical-level.

Strategic Thinkers ensure that their programs are aligned to the strategy of the organization.  Programs are long-term and very lasting, thus they should be 100% aligned with the mission.  Programs do not support the vision–I know that may surprise you, but they don’t.  Strategic Objectives, which are aligned to Strategic Goals, take the form of Projects.  Operational Projects, which are temporary in nature, should be primarily designed to evolve Operational Programs to move the organization toward its vision.

Projects are not always 100% aligned to the mission and vision of the organization, but for the most part they should be.  Occasionally, you might have to do something that simply doesn’t move the strategic needle.

Strategic Thinkers know that this means that Programs are mission-focused and Projects are vision-focused.  Thus, Strategic Thinkers don’t live in Strategy Land pushing down new idea after new idea.  They ensure the programs running in the organization support the mission 100%.  They also ensure organizational Projects are designed to move the organization’s Programs toward the vision.  If something isn’t supporting the strategic plan of the organization, it must be questioned.

At the Tactical-level, Strategic Thinkers know this is where the real work gets done.  However, there are two types of tactical work–Program and Project.  Understanding this helps those who operate at the Tactical-level connect to the mission.  Also, understanding this helps those that operate at the Operational-level better focus on how their day-to-day actions affect the bigger picture and thus relieves a lot of stress and frustration.

Additionally, Strategic Thinkers understand that the act of strategic planning is a tactical activity that should operate within an operational program–in other words, organizational strategic thinking is a strategic program that should always exist.  The problem is that it seldom does.

If you work at the day-to-day Tactical-level, your actions exist within a Program and sometimes they support a Project designed to evolve a Program.  Just thinking this way fully aligns what you do every day to the strategy.  If what you’re doing every day doesn’t support this, ask yourself why.

If your mind exists in one level–strategic, operational, or tactical–then you will fail to achieve effective LeadermentSM.  No matter where you operate, you must always think strategically–think like a leader.  Following this guidance will build your competence in the LeadermentSM YouniversitySM and prepare you for greater challenges.

When you think of great leaders think about what styles and concepts of LeadermentSM they employed.  What did they do that was so effective…that propelled the masses under them to great things.  As we can see, these styles vary in application, but an effective leader and manager should understand and apply all traits in a combined approach as appropriate.

LeadermentSM and YouniversitySM are service marks of Crosscutter Enterprises

Is outsourcing destroying your culture?

Tell me again why you are outsourcing your work? Oh, yea, it’s cheaper. But what are you losing?

Over the years many US businesses and the US Government have been outsourcing their work. This outsourcing comes with a cost…

Businesses outsource for one or more of the following reasons:

1. Capacity: They cannot hire anymore employees because of the color or money, because of lack of space, or because of the limited duration of the work, but they need more capacity to get the current or future expected work done. Outsourcing provides scalability.

2. Capability: They lack a specific skill set within their current pool of employees, like strategic planners, process improvement experts, education and training, scientists, project managers, etc. This requirement, although normally needed for the long term, is often sourced for short term engagements. Normally these people come in to provide a service, but the business can’t afford what they really need so they tend to accomplish much less than desired or required.

3. Cost: It is cheaper to outsource work to a third party on shore, near shore, or off shore. Why, because they turn the process that you have seasoned and higher-paid employees doing into a manufacturing-like process with high turn-over potential because of a low pay. These companies operate on a margin that is extremely tight, so they are focused on leaning out the work as much as possible. This is seen as efficient, but doesn’t always end up as effective.

4. Not Core: Sometimes, an organization wants to focus on only the core work that their company does and turn to experts in the non-core space. For instance, accounts payable is something that every company has to deal with, but a single company can only be so good at it. A third party that specializes in accounts payable work; however, does this for many companies so they have expertise in this work and know all the industry-leading and innovative approaches to the work. Outsourcing to them allows the organization to focus on their products and services versus some other common process across businesses.

So, as you can see outsourcing has valid and perceived lucrative reasons. However, what is the one thing that you’re outsourcing when you turn over work that will never exist in this line of work again?

Your Culture.

Let’s say your company today is all internal employees. Everyone of them is working’ theoretically for the benefit of the company and specifically for your customers. They are, hopefully, focused on your mission and vision and delivering value that your customer expects.

Outsource that…

You will not get a third party to buy into your mission and vision. They won’t connect with your customer. They have their own mission–normally it’s to provide whatever services you desire because they can always hire more people when you can. Their vision is to get bigger off of your work and the work of others. Their customer is you and every other company that has outsourced to them…not your customer!

Yes, there are benefits to outsourcing–especially short term benefits–and the reasons can be valid and strong. However, every employee or potential employee that you replace is one that could be focused on delivering on your mission, meeting your vision, and connecting with your customer.

Even if your employees today are not doing those three things, that can be fixed. It takes leadership to drive those behaviors, but you can still get that from your employees. Outsource them and you’ll never get that from the third party.

Outsourcing is a short term solution with long term effects. Beware!

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