(This is Part III of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

 

Each of the architectural elements plotted below warrant their own detailed explanations, however, in this article I am attempting to provide only the “framework” to build a prosperous integrated business operation capable of achieving Next Level Accountability.  

THE PROCESS

A Leader must insure his team distinguishes how to operate with competence and consistency in order to harvest a level of “competitive:” quality which outstrips the anticipations of

-

clients.  The Team must appreciate “who does what when” and possess the competency to produce impregnable outcomes.  The formation of a rock-solid Plan and investment of a superior Platform is squandered without a proficient, smooth, trustworthy, Process to carry it out.

Process improvement is one of the most conversed necessities for any business attempting to advance performance.  A pure and present Plan and an organizationally supportive Platform momentously intensifies the likelihood that Process improvement will have an evocative and enduring impact.

Reengineering and Continuous Process Improvement programs employed by a fixated Leader require a company-wide effort to scrutinize all tasks and their relevancy in achieving Strategic Goals.  Team based approaches which gather information, seek out solutions and accumulate buy-in should be used as an imperative portion of Process Development.

Since most organizations lack resources to apply a complete re-engineering approach, Leaders must look at set systems and develop Processes generating more resourceful and operative results.

As a part of the planning process, measurements should be developed to determine progress to the plan.  A Leader must also fix metrics that can be effortlessly and habitually monitored for results of the Process Improvement Program.

The Process

Re-engineering

A Leaders commitment to the continuous advancement of Quality is indispensable to long-term Customer Value Proposition.  Involvement and solutions for these advancements should be pursued throughout all expanses of the company.  Process Leaders should acquire proficiency and usage in Kaizen based events to ascertain and implement these improvements.

A Street Smart Leader preserves an “external focus” on improvements which are driven by customer needs to pilot the organization to a leading industry position. The conveyance of a performance based organization must be cultured continuously to insure costs are driven down and the competitive position is enhanced.

Quality improvement programs should be examined to determine if customer satisfaction is the driving force behind any new processes and ideals.  An introverted quality program that focuses only on reducing costs without regard to customer impact will produce a company which profitably goes out of business. The effectual organization is able to conceive methods of accomplishing more with less.

The Re-Engineering

Systems

Deliberations of Systems tend to be framed in terms of information processed on computers and through the Platform Structure.  But often much of the information vital to the realization of an organization’s project or strategic plan is processed through a multiplicity of people and offline systems.  These offline systems can vary to a wide degree depending on the individual in control, possibly creating serious fissures in productivity and quality.

Often these online and offline systems are treated as separate entities resulting in a “disconnect” throughout the entire process.  Leaders must work with their teams to map both process types into one all-inclusive exploration.  Once this is completed all team members involved will now understand the entire picture.

Understanding where online systems and offline systems intertwine with each other is a Leaders first step setting the groundwork for process improvement.  Once understood, he can then begin to construct connections safeguarding check and balances are built-in to the systems to prevent the “ball from dropping” thus creating true widespread organizational productivity.

The Systems

Metrics

The establishment of a resilient Metrics program conveys accountability upon an organization.  Performance gains are based on knowing where one is starting from and where they desire to go.  Comprehensive Measurement is the best methodology to track and communicate headway.  A Leaders challenge is in determining what to measure, how to measure it, and what the results really conclude.

Developing a “root cause” mentality from the onset of Strategic Planning sets the stage for determining what to measure.  Your team will focus attention and effort in the areas the company measures.  Therefore, it is imperative to insure Measurements support goals directly without creating conflict within the organizational factions.

Leaders should concentrate Measurements in the areas of Quality (external measurements), Productivity (internal measurements), and Growth (financial measurements).

The Metrics

THE PEOPLE

A Leader’s greatest Plans, Platforms, and Processes will spiral into a tailspin without an A-Team in place.  And probabilities are, his customers will notice it before he does.  Becoming a performance based organization is reliant on people strength at every position within the organization.

Team members must unmistakably apprehend the big picture strategy and their roles within it to realize triumph.  The quality of their character, drive and skills must consistently meet the highest standards.  And the Leader must generate and sustain a workplace in which team members surpassing these criteria excel to heightened levels of personal and professional culmination.

A-Players are the “competitive advantage” of the future.  The ability of a Leader to attract the “best” and provide them with ongoing inspiration is reliant on a Vision and Plan which is stimulating, a Platform that does not get in the way and a Process which allow the A-Team to deliver superior results of which they can be proud.

People focused Leaders must evaluate the capability, drive and character of their team.  Leaders also need to assess the future probability of success each team member is likely to attain in the organizations “next level’ and determine if they are adept to “step up and grow”.  The cultural elements that positively and negatively affect performance must also be evaluated and acted upon by the Leader.

The People

Roles

The performance based organization desires to recognize the needs of customers more piercingly than customers themselves. They not only strive to comprehend what is imperative today but also what will be compulsory tomorrow, and the day after.  Leaders must work with their teams to see they become ultra-sensitive to the essentials of the customer.  As management, sales, and marketing uncover customer desires a system must be in place to disseminate this information throughout the team so that all team members accept responsibility for satiating these requirements.

Every team member must become personally engaged in customer fulfillment.  Each team and function must apprehend the customer’s needs and be devoted to delivering only the best they have to offer; not only understanding their role but also the role of others who they are responsible for functioning with and supporting.

Leaders must instill in their team that performance based service must be recognized as an imperative consequence everyone partakes in.  It is not just the job of some other department. Politics, the Blame Game, shifting and other disastrous behaviors must be sought out and eradicated.  The “common goal” of delivering Customer Value Proposition must be the focus and stand as the pinnacle for company integration.

The Roles

People Quality

A performance based organization must be strenuously unyielding in communicating the Customer Value Proposition to each team member.  Education and training must be carefully planned to insure all team members are capable of conveying customer value.  This training and education must go beyond job function and include elements that teach team members about the needs and requirements of the customer from their perspective.  Teams should then be given an understanding on the company as a whole and how each area’s goals contribute to the Customer Value Proposition.

There are many ways in which to communicate, train, and educate employees, from formal classes and seminars to on the job activities.  The strongest bond in developing team involvement is to have a strongly oriented performance based culture that creates a tidal wave of positive attitude towards the company’s Mission and wins.  A Leader must lay the foundation for this cultural strength.

World Class Organizations demand the best from each team member.  For this phenomenon to perpetually renew Leaders must be committed to the personal and professional development of each team member.  A learning environment must be created in which team members feel free to grow their careers without risk.  At the same time it must be understood that performance problems will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and professionally.

People Quality

Morale

The most effective plan will not flourish without stout Team Morale.  Perhaps nothing is more telling of the climate of the company’s culture than to perform an employee audit.  Leaders should look for outside assistance to perform a credible audit as a part of the internal analysis.  Leadership should address problems creating low morale before long-term performance improvements are affected.  In areas where Leadership cannot enact changes due to external forces (such as challenging economic times), strong internal communications and support should be provided to fortify the understanding and acceptance of the team.  No organization can move towards “being the best” without a exceedingly motivated work force.

The culture should be one that strives to deliver the Customer Value Proposition.  It should strive for internal effectiveness and constantly search for areas of improvement.  Since quality of work becomes a reflection of the quality of working conditions, a Leadership must commit himself to providing top working conditions for his A-Team.  Everywhere quality becomes the top priority for delivering value.  Team members should have a fundamental understanding of the importance of the customer and the direct correlation of the customer’s fulfillment on their personal career and future prosperity.

The Morale

Developing proficient Processes and building a fantastic A-Team of People allows a Leader to catapult off of the prodigious Plan and Platform they have developed and achieve previously undiscovered summits as a Performance Organization.  Leaders capable of building an organizational architecture on the principles of the 4Ps will establish an enduring, prosperous, and mounting organizational model.  The Performance Plus process is a comprehensive hands-on approach into your organization’s depths to gather information, solve problems, create new ideas, and discover breakthrough possibilities while directly leading your people “into the fold”.  A Street Smart Leader knows the Performance Plus Process is about realizing results.  In striving to create Next Level Accountability, he moves past the conference room “feel-good” banter and materializes real Deliverables to propel his Performance’s progress and Teams success.

4P Deliverables

THE PERFORMANCE PLUS SYSTEM

NEXT LEVEL ACCOUNTABILITY

The Performance Plus System

Advertisements

(This is Part II of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

 

Each of the architectural elements plotted below warrant their own detailed explanations, however, in this article I am attempting to provide only the “framework” to build a prosperous integrated business operation capable of achieving Next Level Accountability.     


THE PLAN

Building an impenetrable organizational architecture originates with the development of the Plan.  The construction of a cohesive interconnected Plan establishes the underpinning of a framework which all future decisions

Planning

can be grounded upon.  With a robust and resilient Plan an organization can productively move forward toward the attainment of innovative and sophisticated goals.  With the exception of the “lucky few”, every successful business I have ever known has inaugurated its growth cycles and built future opulence through an unswerving devoutly managed Planning Process.

Leaders must collaborate with their A-Teams to cultivate a comprehensive Plan so the organization comprehends why it is in business in the first place.  Establishing a Vision pinpoints what the business “will be” and what it should be endeavoring to deliver to the marketplace.  Next, a sturdy Strategy should be created to provide a business track that is clear and provides significance to the effort of performance based activities.  The efficacy of the Strategy should be centered on driving internal Tactics toward external Benefits to the customer.

In mounting an operative Plan, an assessment of customer value should be amassed to focus and prioritize the organization’s deliverables necessary to attract and retain customers.  Strategy formulation must be persistently reevaluated to insure it is aligned with the emerging needs of customers and is incessantly placing the organization in a position of competitive advantage.

The Performance Plus key to success is in the implementation of your plan.  Objectives and initiatives must be set with accountabilities and timelines.  Integration of Tactical plans is the crucial element to the Plan’s overall success.

Let’s take a look at the three structural elements of the Plan: Vision, Strategy, and Tactics.

The Plan

Vision

The facades of Vision and Mission have become central thespians in the false piety we are accustomed to these days.  But courageous principled Leaders sustain the practice of these tools to powerfully direct and stimulate their organizations.  A vibrant Vision of the company clearly and precisely affords an understanding of what your business is all about. Establishing the elementary principles of how you are going to accomplish your Vision defines the Values of the organization.  Without Values in place, the company is unable to induce clear and directional decisions based on the long-term prosperity.  For the Plan to flourish, Leaders must be prepared to become walking, talking exemplifications of the company’s Vision and Values.

Building on the Values of the organization, a Leader should proceed to composing a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement’s resolve is to provide a directional beacon that shapes and guides business Strategies. Through an efficient definition of the Mission, Leadership is enabled to determine the Unifying Goals which inevitably bring strategic factions together in a comprehensive progressive resolution.

The development of Visions, Values, and Missions, provides the organization with a Strategy compendium from which to create a performance based organization that creates Value for the company, its employees and customers.

The Vision

Strategy

A Street Smart Leader understands the prominence of “Culture” in satiating the customer and he is resolved in shaping the values, beliefs, philosophies and understandings of his team. Therefore, he must create a performance based program which surpasses slogans and converts his values to a “way of life”.  The goal is to lead people to not only “talk the talk” but “walk the walk”.  Without the proper determinations devoted to Culture, Leadership is fighting an arduous battle in creating change. The proper Culture for a performance based organization concentrates on the human element of the business.  Factors such as inspiration, enthusiasm and morale are major opportunities.

The Strategy articulates to the organization what is compulsory to accomplishing the company’s Mission.  All employees in the company must fluently appreciate each Strategic Element.  The Strategy should provide an interrelated concept that allows different teams and functions to accomplish collective goals together. And each Strategy should be centered in the significance of conveying incomparable Value to customers through action oriented deliverables.

A Leaders goal is to generate balance within the Strategy between short term goals and long term requirements.  The Balanced Scorecard, developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton provides a focus on establishing objectives that meet the customer, financial, internal and growth perspectives.  When each of these perspectives is kept in balance with the others, an organization avoids the trappings of short term gains at the risk of long term exposure

The Strategy

Tactics

Tactical Plans create the linkage between Strategy and Action.  Leaders should base each strategy/tactic link or initiative on a “cause and effect” relationship to gain root level sustainability.  With this structure mindset Leaders are able to methodically disaggregate each strategy with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and create the building blocks for successful strategy implementation.

The execution of Tactical Plans should next be plotted and reviewed to insure cross-functional alignment exist between organizational factions.  Most importantly, Accountability must be driven into the plan through assigned responsibility and timeline stipulation.

“What gets measured gets done”.  A key to the development of a thriving Plan is in deciding what to measure and how to measure it.  Once the proper metrics are determined, they must be communicated to everyone in the organization and a meaningful review process should be established as a tool for Leadership to monitor the Plan’s progress.

 

The Tactics

 

THE PLATFORM

The most ingenious Plans are doomed to catastrophe if they are not bed-rocked on a solid Platform which supports the fluid implementation and sustainability of Strategic Initiatives.   Without a solid Platform day-to-day operations become sluggish, ineffectual, and impotent leaving a diluted and discombobulated workforce struggling to perform.  Any attempt to build a high performing organization must be predicated on a fundamentally stable and flexible network of interconnected systems which provide sustenance to the strategic drivers.

Leaders committed to building superior performance based organizations dedicate energies to systemize their customer offerings.  This is best accomplished in preparing an integrated methodology that drives a prolific deliverable Platform.  All the Mission, Values, Strategies, and Process elements will not achieve a dynamic organization without each of these components functioning in tandem with each other.  The implementation of a Strategic Platform is the most impregnable method to establishing a framework for an integrated solution.

The relationship between the cross functions of your organization must be analyzed and investigated in developing an integrated framework.  Department Silos must be torn down and barriers to the synergistic workflow and common interest eliminated through a restructuring of the organization to meet strategic goals.

Beyond mere organizational charts, the Platform also includes technologies and policies that affect the daily interaction of employees and the manner in which they accomplish assignments.  A Street Smart Leader reviews the organizational structure, technologies, and policies to ensure alignment and provide an infrastructure capable of supporting the Strategic Implementation.

A reliable, productive, and enduring Platform is based on the elements of Structure, Technology, and Policy.

The Platform

Structure

Structure is made up of the networks of people, physical facilities and resources that support the delivery of customer value.  This is where most expenditure in performing organizations takes place. The development of the structure must be carefully planned along with other strategies.  A structure built with solid principles set in the Values and Missions from the Leadership is a main ingredient in establishing the performance based Culture.

Leaders must generate an integrated approach to performance by building the Structure as an important entity within the organization.  A powerfully concentric Structure provides an organization with a resilient competitive advantage.  An enlightened Structure is built around essential customer fulfillment and is capable of quickly reacts to changing marketplace demands.  It also increases the company’s growth and profit prospects by capitalizing on existing potential and creating new business revenue sources.

A Leader committed to maintaining margins while providing customer value must take careful steps to insure the Structure is an efficient and effective organism.  He must implement a program that is suitable to the needs of customers and at the same time create a highly flexible Structure capable of dealing with any economic shift or new customer demand. A poorly managed infrastructure that is haphazardly providing costly service can drain company profits and threaten the competition position.

The Structure

Technology

Technology is no longer the differentiator we once depended on.  Available to everyone at a relative cost it has become a commodity in the business world.  In most fragmented industries, major systems development for the delivery of services does not exist and few independent solutions have developed, leaving these industries highly dependent on people skills to get the job done.

This, however, does not mean that technology does not play an important role in the accomplishment of improved productivity and customer value.  Rather the alignment of business systems with people systems becomes a key integration opportunity.

An effective Platform drives coordination from your back end systems, PC applications, processes, and people skills into a productive and value drive solution by taking the pieces apart and putting them back together in an innovative order.  Leaders deficient of substantial gains in this area are forced into having their employees working “for the technology” instead of towards the attainment of company goals.

The Technology

Policy

An effective Leader apprehends the importance of setting pure unswerving policies and compulsory standards which can be easily understood and communicated to his teams.  The establishment of policies and standards provides the organization with touchstones reinforcing the organizations Mission and Goals.

The performance based organization must stretch beyond internal processes when striving to improve productivity and quality.  Improvement on the service front is only truly defined and measured by the customer.  Policies and standards should be based on customer fulfillment criteria.

Your teams must understand the correct path to be taken in ambiguous situations where the rules are not exact.  Policies are the “glue” which keeps a Leader connected to the needs of his customers, employees, and shareholders.  They require serious thought and deployed properly, set the stage for Next Level Accountability.

The Policy

The creation of an unconquerable Plan and an unshakeable Platform are the foundations for a Performance Organization.  Leaders who possess the insight to develop and implement these key architectural elements provide their organizations with unsurpassed competitive advantages.  Not only do they strengthen their product and service offerings but they build an environment where A-Players excel in their pursuits. Our recent challenging economic times have resulted in the “shelving” of Strategic Plans and has left many Platforms tired, ragged and in need of an overhaul.  Leaders are confronted with rebuilding these foundations through unstable and unpredictable times ahead.  A Street Smart Leader will devise methods to beat the competition off the line by not waiting for the economic turn.  He will innovatively exploit the scarce resources available and initiate the rebuilding process now!

(This is the Introduction of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

As a young manager, I engulfed every business book I could amass with a voracious appetite. I was determined to master my craft and ascertain knowledge at a rate outpacing

my years.  The gurus of the time fascinated my interest and fostered my ambition.  I envisaged the day when I would be able to mark major initiatives, beyond my localized teams, with the concepts of strategy, marketing, customer service, and organizational structures which enthralled me.  As my roles expanded and my responsibilities grew into executive management realms, I eventually realized my place at the table where guiding and driving decisions about the company were formulated.  As a Leader, it was now my duty to construct the essential decisions which would shape our future.

Consultants often brought with them abundant theories to be deployed for the improvement of our business issues. But over time, I came to rely more on my direct experience as a “business operator” to increase performance through specific and actionable plans followed up with impactful execution.  In developing overall strategies it became vital to set foundations, implement strategies and systems and then train management teams to become effective directors of these programs ensuring short term challenges were met while setting the building blocks for the long term vision.

Through the years, I developed my own methods of organizational architecture for building stronger, more robust, more results driven companies.  With each success these systems evolved into a comprehensive architectural planning program for the development of a synergistic business unit.  The result is a Planning Tool I have dubbed Performance Plus which strives to drive Next Level Accountability through the development of the “Four P’s” –Plan, Platform, Process, and People.

Integrated Organizational Architecture

PERFORMANCE PLUS – Performance Based Service Organization

 The Performance Plus Model strives to build a Performance Based Organization as the preeminent defense against competition.  Nothing else can realize long-term growth and profits in the way a steadfast relationship with customers can.  Inventions and technological advancements are quickly tracked by the competition.  Lower costs are a never-ending duel constantly being pursued in the marketplace.  Superior marketing efforts will not compensate for inferior products that are not supported at every turn.  Even new product development becomes yesterday’s news and fails alone to “attract” a customer following over the long term.

As a Leader you must mold your organization to deliver the highest quality products bundled with incomparable customer quality if you are to position your company for permanency and prosperity.  Performance based service can become the “make or break” component for any industry.  For the company that excels at fulfilling the requirements of its customers, customer satisfaction becomes an offensive weapon allowing the organization to define the industry standards and their place in it. The Leader that decides to sit back and wait for the game to be defined by the competition and then follow minimum expectations is assuming a dangerous and vulnerable position.

Ron Zemke, co-author of Service America, states “extensive research leads to the obvious conclusion that those organizations willing to commit to superior customer service, profit on the bottom line. Those unwilling or unable to meet that standard do not and will not thrive – and possibly may not even survive.” Therefore the question becomes not one of whether a Company should strive for service excellence but how to properly go about it.

Planning and prioritizing – setting strategic and tactical plans – understanding the characteristics and elements of performance based service – implementing strategy with employee support – timing and available resources – These and many more are the decisions that need to be carefully planned and implemented by Leaders. It is an ongoing tough challenge in which a company’s culture must be able to undergo necessary transformations.      

Many Leaders understand the powerful impact of performance based service to the overall quality effort of providing the customer with a Total Value Proposition.  Tomorrow’s successful organizations must tear down the distinction between product quality and service support. Strong Leaders will integrate these concepts into a homogeneous organization focused on the customer while meeting corporate objectives.

 

TODAY’S ORGANIZATIONAL CHALLENGE

 Leaders are facing a turning point in organizational development.  As industries emerges from the severe recessionary impact of the last few years pressure will be placed on organization to deliver higher volumes of sales at lower margins on the product.  It is necessary for the models that have existed for years to change if they are to survive.

 Over the last several years customer knowledge of the supplier process has improved, placing further pressures on the supplier for higher levels of performance while at the same time expecting the best pricing the market will bear.  Clients are becoming less attached to product standards and shifting towards decisions that provide perceived value at the moment of purchase.

Leaders must compete in a future environment of driving volume, reducing margins and providing excellent customer service.  The following organizational capabilities must become core competencies in developing the model of the service driven company of the future.

  •   Ability to power Growth and Profit.
  •   Creation of a plan clearly identifying to all employees where the company is going and how it will get there.
  •   Balance in the planning process to ensure short and long term goals are accounted for.
  •   Cause and effect methodology that will take the strategy past the “talk” and into action mode.
  •   Defined tactics and accountability to deliver real results.
  •   Structural alignment to provide a platform for success.
  •   Teamwork to create meaningful and lasting change.
  •   Improved process flow for better service and efficiency.
  •   People strength to gain a competitive advantage.
  •   An integrated Management Team with shared responsibility, working together to reach all organization goals in unison
  •   Reach the “next level” Accountability and gain a competitive advantage driving market share and customer loyalty

INTEGRATED ORGANIZATIONAL ARCHITECTURE

 Leaders must build a program which founds a synergistic connection integrating an organization’s Plan, Platform, Process, and People.  Programs focused on creating vision and accountability through significant cross-functional results will determine today’s competitive advantage.

 The lack of success in the implementation of performance based service architecture is often in moving forward without a plan for the introduction and integration of each step.  Leaders often get excited and rush forward in a ready, fire, aim manner.  The strategy must been seen as a complete effort.  If viewed as a set of individual tasks, gaps appear in the system through which customer’s needs, productivity and employee satisfaction fall.  If goals are disjointed in the organization, internal workings become confused and departments fail to understand the entire picture.  The focus must persist on the overall goals and refrain from the mentality of task specialization for efficiency.

 Many improvement programs have yielded disappointing results due to fragmentation or focus on achieving specific economic outcomes without a linkage to the organization’s overall strategy.  Breakthroughs in performance require major change in the measurement and management systems used by an organization.  Being more competitive and capability driven cannot be accomplished by merely monitoring measures of past performance.

 Leader’s ability to move employees towards working together in harmony ensures customer quality is delivered, shareholder return is maximized and employee satisfaction continually rises all at the same time.  The achievement of this balance propels organizations towards lasting performance and the ability to reach the “next level” of success.

Performance Plus System


It is Time for Leaders to unshackle the survival mode of the last few years and begin to aggressively embark on developing the Strategic Strategies that will propel their growth and profitability forward in the next economy.  When building an organization for competitive effectiveness a Leader must focus on Plan, Platform, Process, and People.  Each of these structural cornerstones must be properly planned, integrated and implemented if a company is to be successful in both the short and long run.  Today’s Leader must be capable of dealing with the immediate needs of his business’ survivability while constantly working towards the “big picture” strategies of tomorrow that will insure stable, replicable performance.  A Street Smart Leader knows when the Four P’s emanate to generate a holistic, result driven accountable business model, many other P’s spring forth such as Profitability, Prosperity, Popularity and Perseverance!

LUKE
Yeah, they sure do make a lot of
cold, hard, noise, Captain.
The Captain feeds his fury staring, then reaches out his
hand and Boss Paul lays the blackjack in it. As the chain
guards finish and stand up, trembling with rage, the Captain
takes a convulsive step forward and brings the sap down behind
Luke’s ear. As Luke tumbles down the littered embankment
toward the men:
CAPTAIN
Don’t you never talk that way to me!
You hear? You hear? Never!
His rage subsides and his voice becomes calm, reasonable.
CAPTAIN
(to the men)
What we got here is failure to
communicate. Some men you can’t reach,
that is they just don’t listen when
you talk reasonable so you get what
we had here last week, which is the
way he wants it, well he gets it,
and I don’t like it any better than
you men.

Click for Movie Clip

Many of you will recognize these famous lines from Stuart Rosenberg’s 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman.  For those of you under the age of 35, you really should check out this classic from Netflix.  Cool Hand Luke is the moving character study of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner who bullheadedly resists authority and the Establishment.  One line of the film’s dialogue from Strother Martin, who plays the prison warden called Captain, is often quoted: “What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.” Anyone seeing the movie realizes that Luke is very aware of what Captain is communicating; he just doesn’t accept it.

For years there has been a colossal focus around the concept known as a Lack of Communication.  The prevalence of the so-called communication deficiency has become a magnetic reason for which to attract every problem.  The more heed I give to this issue, the more I am convinced there is no such thing as a “lack of communication”.  This vague ambiguous term has been propagated to justify every fault from why the paperclips ran out, to the Strategic Plan’s failure, and the company’s underperformance.  The communication failure movement has become one of the great “cop-outs” of our time.  As a Leader, you must eradicate this excuse from your business.  The elimination of this one term from your business will immediately improve cooperation, attainment of goals, and your overall business performance.

I recognize the implication of my position.  It concludes all of those classes and seminars you have participated in, from all of those communication consultants were an immense waste of time and money.  And even worse, rather than aiding problematic situations, they have been harmful.  Yes, that is exactly my conviction.  Communication facilitators who have come to your company and lectured about listening, personality styles, diversity, the role the sexes, etc., were misguided.  Sure there is value in being a better listener and understanding others perspectives and traits, but the basic premise, that if we just learn to “talk” to each other correctly everything else will work itself out is vastly erroneous.  Communication experts and consultants are today’s business “snake oil” salesman.

Anyone who works with me will hear me refer to the concept of “root cause” analysis. The root cause is the underlying reason a problem exists.  In my article, Creating Great Ideas by Exercising Your Mind, I compare root cause methodology to a four year old asking, “Why?”  If you’ve studied and implemented this concept, you already realize that unless you get to the root cause of situations, you really are just putting impermanent Band-Aids on potentially permanent problems.  You are reacting to fires and creating the subsequent emergency.  The idea or concept of “communication problems” is about as far away from a “root cause” analysis as you can get.  Communication problems are only symptoms at best.  If you are going to be a Street Smart Leader you need to realize that communication is never the problem.  You need to start asking “Why?”

Let me give you an example: Joe and Sally have a project assigned to them.  They both go off and begin to work on the project.  Two weeks later the project is due and after reviewing their work you discover you are completely disappointed with their product.  Their work is inconclusive, incomplete, inaccurate, and you are baffled by their inability to have concluded the assignment properly.  As you expound your frustration to them, they begin to ponder the excuses as to why they should not be held accountable.

First, they remember the communication consultant who came to the company last quarter.  And since it was made clear in the classes that communication problems are the “root of all evil”, they quickly go there.  They assert there must have been a communication problem between you and them for the work to be so far off from your expectation. Somehow you didn’t explain the task properly or they took away the wrong information or concept of the task. Now you know better, and although it would be uncomplicated to concur with them, endorsing the communication consultant’s viewpoint, your stomach binds into a knot.  As a leader, you know this isn’t right.  You know they were furnished clear concise directives.  You expected them, with their level of experience and competency, to fill in the blanks and perform; because after all it is not your job to hold their hands through every step of an assignment. You make this clear.

Next, they look at each other and begin to discuss the communication failure they must have had between themselves.  Apparently they didn’t have enough time to meet, or when they did meet couldn’t agree, or maybe they just miss understood what each other’s was going to be doing in terms of completing the task.  Regardless of the excuses, they are trying to avoid accountability on the basis of a communication problem.  As a leader you must crush the notion that communication problems can be used as the excuse for non-performance.

If you want to propel beyond communication problem excuses and solve issues, you must drive down to “root cause” analysis.  Often the root cause is simple; Joe and Sally just don’t like each other and so they can’t work well on a project together.  This is remedied by sitting them down and enlightening them on the realization that their personal disputes are the reason why their communication broke down.  Clarifying how petty differences will not constitute a motive for underperformance in their jobs and that regardless of how they feel about work towards each other, you expect them to leave-it-at-the-door and do their work professionally.  If this reoccurs you need only make it clear that if they cannot perform, irrespective of conflicts, you will find someone else who can.

The root cause of communication difficulty can often be a more complex reason such as the constraints of poor organizational structure or a non-cohesive gravely designed process.

Organizational difficulties can be one of the more impenetrable root causes of poor communication.  Most likely, you do not possess the authority to reorganize the company.  But you can understand where organizational breakdowns are occurring and why.  For example, does your company have a highly compartmentalized structure with different departments pursuing diverse goals and incentives?  Is the structure counterproductive to the pursuit of inter-departmental cooperation?  You may not be able to change the structural drivers that are reinforcing uncooperative behavior, but you are able to reach across those departmental walls and build bridges which heighten your team’s attainment of goals.  Some of those bridges will be from personal bonds with the leaders of other groups, grounded in mutual respect, trust and concern for the mutual welfare of each other.  Some bridges may just be the result of creating win-win situations completely motivated by the self-interests of both people on either side of the wall.  Regardless, you must find a way for your team to succeed with whatever organizational challenges exist.

Let’s take a moment and look at where a process problem is sometimes blamed on communication.  Process improvements and re-engineering efforts are major subjects and there is an abundance of books and expert programs which can be engaged to streamline your company efforts.  One of the simplest and most effective tools to evaluate your processes is a Deployment Chart.  A Deployment Chart is a matrix based flow chart showing the relationships between process participants. Learn to examine how you are asking people to do things to determine where the breakdown is originating.  Evaluating and redefining your processes to ensure a smooth flow can eliminate what may appear to be a communication problem.

There are many other “root causes” that disguise themselves as communication problems.  Some of them are complex and multilayered and require in-depth analysis.  More often than not, they are the progenies of lack of commitment, lack of focus and lack of creativity.  Once you barricade “lack of communication” as an excuse for non-performance and demand to understand the root cause of your team’s failures, you will activate an immediate acceleration in accomplishment. I realize there may be some communication consultants out there, who upon reading this, will conclude that I just do not understand communication issues.  I would contend it is the superficial ideology of these consultants that is at the “root cause” of many communication issues.  I challenge you to think seriously on this subject and dismiss the tide of brainwashing which has overcome us in recent years.

You need to be a Tough Leader and deal with the hard subjects behind your problems.  You need to scrape back the artificial answers such as “lack of communication”, and excavate your genuine challenges.  Only then are you going to discover tangible solutions. Avoid the “feel good’ fallacy of better communication. Deal with the material issues and produce substantial results.  Those real results will be the building blocks for your Winning A-Team.  And one more thing… it is amazing how well a Winning A-team can communicate!

My truly worthy ideas usually come to me as a very clear concise image in the predawn moments between when I awake and before my eyes open.  They flood into my consciousness from their nightly hovering in the same way, a moment later, my eyes open and my vigilant puppy, Buck, pounces to ravenously lick my face.   Great ideas!  Where do they come from?  How do you know they are great? Or that they will even work?   A successful manager must be able to create ideas.  Ideas which move his team forward and establish higher levels of performance and competitiveness.  He must develop thoughts that can be believed in by others and successfully executed.

All managers depend on their experiences and what they have been taught to make decisions and deal with difficulties.   As trusted as this concrete footing may be, it limits the possibilities of breakthrough concepts which can markedly create advancing change initiatives.  Situations become trapped by repeating the same solutions to the same problems.  We have all been dared to “think outside the box” as if this is a reflexive response.  If divergent spontaneity was indeed simple, abundant development would emerge continuously.  Good ideas require work.  Even “Eureka” moments of brilliance are the result of thoughtful substructure.

A Street Smart Leader continually sharpens his skills of Abstract Thinking.  Abstract Thinking involves thinking about situations that are removed from the facts of the “here and now”.  Abstract thinkers are able to reflect on events and ideas, and on attributes and relationships separate from the objects that have those attributes or share those relationships.  Strong Leaders move beyond concrete thinking based on only seeing the facts and instead focus on ideas under the surface and their multiple meanings.

The study of abstract thinking is a vast subject which I will leave to the expertise of others.  But there are some very straight-forward pragmatic concepts that you can employ to strengthen and shine your ideas.

You need to begin to think of your problem solving methodology as a creative process.  And unless you are just a naturally gifted creative person, you will need to stretch and exercise your brain to be more creative.  I am amazed at the amount of time people will dedicate to mindless pursuits such as watching television, reading gossip magazines, or sports activities.  How much time are you spending training your mind?  Gain an understanding of the basic propensities of your mind.  Are you an intuitive or a structured person?  Do you prefer direct or indirect action?  There are many profiling tools to help you gain insights to your natural strengths.

If you are going to stretch your thoughts, you must train your brain to be more versatile.   Embark on specific exercises and courses of study which will expand your mental capability.  Learn to play an instrument or a foreign language.  Do crossword puzzles or learn a new artistic skill.  Find ways to look at the same situations differently.   For example, one of my predispositions is towards “directness”.  I am inclined to approach problems head on and compete with a “take no prisoners” mindset.  Although I can win many encounters with these natural tactics, there are time when these strengths work against me; especially if I am crusading from an inferior position.  So for several years I have been endeavoring to master the game of GO.  It is a 4000 year old ancient Chinese board game centered on indirect battle strategy.  It focuses on acquiring territory in addition to capturing opponents.  It is the anti-Chess game and forces a different train of thought for me.  It takes me out of my comfort zone.  If you want to create, you must dedicate yourself to discovering a way to exercise, strengthen and tune-up your brain every day.

With your brain sharpened you are ready to create great ideas to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities.  But it is important to begin by asking the Right Questions.  Many failures are the orphans of misplaced efforts.  Dig into your situation deeply and understand what problem or need you are attempting to solve.  Do you have a productivity problem or a morale problem?  They could both show the same symptoms.  Do you need more customers or better customers to improve profitability?  Different strategies would relate.  Verse yourself in the methods of “root cause” analysis; the tactics of drilling down on a situation until you understand what are the real drivers behind the complications.  There are many six sigma courses and tools to assist you in sharpening this skill.  But if you don’t have the time for them, just let a four year old train you by asking you questions.  They will keep asking, “Why?” until they get to the root cause.  Why did we give up this vital inborn instinctive programming to the impatience of others?  Crystallize what you want to do.  Start with the Right Question!

You’re still not prepared for creative ideas yet.  Next you need to craft a vivid Vision of your successful outcome.  Your Vision is more than setting a new goal.  You must be able to visualize what the outcome will look like, how it will feel, what will be different.  Your mind must be crystal-clear as to the Vision it wants to achieve for it to become a reality. Those of you who are Stephen Covey fans will recognize this philosophy as his habit of, “Begin with the end in mind”.  Too many meetings are adjourned with managers rushing off to solve a problem they do not unequivocally understand without a thought to what the “winning” outcome would really look like.  The concept of “something is better than nothing” is erroneous.  False-starts and band aid fiascos only ruin your reputation and shut down your future creativity.  Construct your vision of success before you begin thinking of ideas to get there.

Along with your Creative Thinking, you should possess a strong groundwork of Critical Thinking.  Critical Thinking involves logical thinking and reasoning.  As ideas surface, you will need to critically scrutinize them for soundness.  Understanding principles of inductive and deductive reasoning as well as logically fallacies are valuable tools with which to build your thoughts.  If you begin with an invalid premise you will find yourself pursuing a lost cause.  The application of critical thinking to your creative process will result in reality based attainable solutions that work. Find additional checks and balances to your thought process.  If you are a natural critical thinker, find an intuitive person and ask them how they “feel” about your idea.  And if you are intuitive by nature, find a logical person and ask them what they “think” about your idea.  Your idea will be tested – either before implementation or after.  You choose.

Are you ready to begin your Creative Thinking?  You should make time each week in a place where you can concentrate on thinking.  Great thoughts do not come in between the hurry of hectic activities.  When is the last time you took an hour and just went off by yourself to think?  Sometimes when I am doing this, someone will walk up on me and hesitate wondering if they should interrupt.  They always have a surprised look on their face when I look up from my concentration and say, “I was just thinking.”  Isn’t it peculiar how little quality time we make for one of the most important activities we have as Leaders?

Now get away and think.  Remain focused on the “right question” and keep your Vision in the forefront.  Challenge the existing prevailing thoughts.  Imagine possibilities.  Develop every option and re-think your preconceptions.  Trust your feelings as you look down every path.  Look for relationships with seemingly unconnected resources.  Open up your mind and let everything on the topic pour out.  Do not settle for a quick fix.  You are looking for a breakthrough.

The preeminent tool I use to get the abstract juices flowing is a personal brainstorming session known as Mind Mapping.  Mind Mapping provides a flexible, fluent, image based methodology to elaborate on associative and metaphorical thinking.   Mind Maps start with a central topic and then branch out into possibilities.  They allow the freedom to start new and divergent ideas anywhere in the thought process and provide a visual format to link and weave commonalities.  Mind Mapping technique is easy to learn but takes practice to master.  Create Mind Maps for everything.  Flush out all of your thoughts, experience, lessons, advice and intuitions.   Remember you have a vision, a destiny, to fulfill with a new and original thought.

MIND MAP EXAMPLES

To become a prominent Street Smart Leader you must, Learn – Think – Lead.  Learning to Think is a part of your craft.  Become dedicated to the ideology of expanding your mind and thinking great thoughts.  Not every idea seeking venture will end with a brilliant result.  Often you will leave your creative sessions with only an exasperated and scribbled Mind Map.  But if you commit yourself to critical and creative thinking, someday, just before you feel that lick on your face, there it will be, Eureka, a Great Idea!  And guess what?  If you only have five or six Great Ideas in a year you will run far ahead of your competition and you will be a Superstar.

For Mind Mapping software go to mindjet.com or thinkbuzan.com

As a young Vice President I found myself continually positioned to present my ideas.  I was running meetings involving those who worked for me, collaborating with team members on my level, and most importantly partaking in Executive Meetings.  I had surpassed the stage of my career where just accomplishing tasks was my main source of recognition.  No longer did people just want to know what I could do; they wanted to know what I thought.  My profession was beginning to transform from actions to ideas.

Luckily one of my most important mentors was my Mother.  She spent her career as an Executive Assistant and started to groom me for business early on.  She saw from the inside what made the difference between respected successful leaders and those who were quickly discounted.   From Junior High School on, she encouraged, forced, and cajoled me to participate in public speaking classes and speech competitions.  As painful as it was, she made sure anytime there was a family gathering I was strutted out to give a speech for all of the relatives.   If you thought your niece’s dance routine was trying last Christmas, you should have been there to hear one of my original speeches or my rendition of General  Douglas Mac Arthur’s Farewell Address.  Through public speaking, debate club, rhetoric studies and extemporaneous presentations, I learned to hold my own in a discussion.

Equipped with these tools, I thought it would be effortless in the Boardroom to reap the same praise for my ideas as I graciously received from my aunts and uncles in years before. But instead,  I discovered that I was not the only one with ideas and I certainly wasn’t the only one who knew how to talk about them.  I found my ideas competing in a battle with other manager’s agendas.  Unfortunately, I quickly realized the best idea in the room didn’t always “win the day”.  Often the survival of an idea was dependent on the quality of the presentation.

I would see some colleagues present great thoughts in a utterly boring fashion, only to be flattened by better orators.    Or I would watch the financial gurus present brilliant analysis (spreadsheets were still relatively new) while sideline discussions broke out and everyone clamored impatiently to get to the “bottom line”.  I listened to the post meeting gossip as we left those conference rooms.  And more often than not, Bob who gave a great presentation was being talked about as an “up and comer” and people were questioning what Tom was even talking about.  The dirty little secret was that often the opinions had more to do with persona and presentation skills than with content.  I knew I worked hard on my ideas and realized my career as a Leader depended on getting them on the table, focusing other’s attention on them, and bringing them to life.

I began to study presentations and what I noticed, was how everyone stopped and gave their attention when a picture or graph was put forward.  The graphic captured the conversation and immediately added credibility to the idea being presented.  So, I set to learning everything I could about graphic presentations.  This was in the days before Powerpoint and the only programs available were some mongrels named Freelance and Harvard Graphics.  But their primitiveness forced me to learn about graphic presentation from the ground up.  Armed with my charts and graphs, I walked into the Executive Conference Room and watched my ideas become realities.

WORD CLOUD GRAPHIC

To be a Leader you must be able to build supporters for your ideas.  The most effective way to accomplish this is to be able to “show” the idea to someone and create a picture of it in their minds.  Exceptionally crafted graphics in your presentation allows you to create these visions.  In some ways good graphical presentations have become much more difficult than when I started.  They are no longer unique.  We have become over-run with poor mundane Powerpoint Presentations and the same over-done templates.  The problem is presenters just pop open the program, pick a template and begin a brain dump of bullet points.  Do not confuse fancy bullet points with good graphics.  They are polar opposites.

Good graphics are a visual pictogram of an idea.  They focus attention and bring clarity to the conversation.  When you present a quality graphic on the screen, people stop their shifting, quiet down and stare.  When you try and switch to the next slide, they ask you if you can wait a second while they absorb the image.  They say things like, “that makes sense”, or “I get it now.”   Worthy graphics grab imagination and elevate your message.  They are Billboards for your ideas and they sell you as a Leader!

In your search to improve your graphics begin with simple things.  Look at your spreadsheets.  Do you use color and borders?   Is attention immediately centered on the points you are trying to make as compared to a data dump?  Next start concentrating on the graphs and charts you encounter.  Spend time at a bookstore on a Saturday and page through all of the books in the Management Section.  You will see hundreds of professional examples.  Copy them in a notebook like an art student sketching in a museum; this is your artistic medium.  Get serious about drawing ideas and practice.  Look at the different charts and ask yourself, “How could I use this one or that one.”  Make a scrapbook of the charts you come across.  Duplicate the interesting ones you see in other’s presentations.  Understand and learn the tools necessary to create these charts yourself.  Know what a Venn diagram and PERT chart are.

As an example, I have been doing this for about 25 years and I am still finding new and interesting ways of graphically presenting my thoughts.  A few months ago I ran into a new concept called Word Clouds. And just the other day, I came across this Bubble Chart below.  I can’t wait to incorporate these into my future presentations.

 

BUBBLE CHART

Here is your challenge.  Next time you have a great idea, do not open Word and start writing about it.  And please don’t open Powerpoint and start making bullet points.  Instead take out a blank unlined piece of paper and “draw” your idea.  That s right!  See if you can get your idea graphically displayed on one piece of paper.  If you can do this, you will have something to talk or write about.  Then see if you can make your next presentation without using any bullet points at all.

These days there are great programs to help you make your ideas look professional.  Actually if you stop using bullet points, Powerpoint has strong graphical capabilities most people never use.  In the end, what counts is your ability to get your idea into a picture.  You should be able to make a convincing presentation on a blackboard … or more importantly, on the back on a napkin.

I am amazed at  how when I catch up with former colleagues, they are often able to recount a diagram I drew for them in the past.  Very few talk about the prodigious 50 page White Paper I wrote.  Your ideas are your lifeblood.  You need to create a Vision of them and give them life.  My Mother was right.  Having strong verbal communication skills and being able to write about your ideas is a mandatory leadership requirement.  But if you want to control the room, make a great impression, display your expertise, and get people enthusiastic about your idea, show them a picture.  A Street Smart Leader knows there is a competition for ideas in the world and learns how to guarantee his ideas win!

To make your own Word Cloud go to wordle.net.  Click the create button and type in a group of words and hit “Go”.  The number of times you repeatedly type a word determines its size.  Now just click the randomize button to see dozens of variations.  Have fun!

How many meetings do you attend over and over again where the same topics are discussed but nothing changes? If you’re like me, you find these  maddening.  Once we decide we are going to do something, why is it so often the idea is left to die on the conference table? Great ideas that can make a constructive difference to our business are just buried with the assumption our idea is now working because we talked about it.  It is D.O.A. and we do not even realize it!

Here is why.  Ideas cannot be implemented!  Yes those strokes of brilliance, no matter how earth shattering, no matter how dazzling, cannot be executed.  It would be like saying, let’s make a great dinner tonight, and then going over to the table, sitting down and waiting for the food to show up.  Your idea starves to death.

Great ideas, by themselves, are useless.  Everyone has them (or thinks they do).  The “genius” lies not in the idea but in the ability to implement one.  Your job is to take that flat-lined idea and breathe life into it so it can walk and talk and become an agent for change in your company.  We call this, “making things happen”.  With smaller ideas, you usually need only to take disciplined action for implementation.  Larger ideas, often called Strategies, take a more complex approach if we are to see them survive and thrive.

We have been taught to start by taking our Strategy and establishing goals, understanding objectives, and identifying the initiatives.  We have all heard of these things, and have used them.  If these traditional techniques are effective, then why are our Big Ideas and Strategies still on meeting agendas from year to year?

 

Years ago, when I was serving as the U.S. President of a large multinational, we created a Big Idea.  Our new Strategy was going to significantly shift our market segmentation through a redefined sales focus and new product introduction.  If successful, our strategy would deliver additional gross profit without any increase in costs.  It would turn around the financial performance of this “barely getting by” company.  We set objectives and tactics, knew we had to hire different salespeople, establish a new structure, re-train, revamp our marketing plan, develop new compensation plans, the new product, etc.

I was very excited regarding our new Strategy.  I knew we had developed a breakthrough idea and I was ready to go.  I prepared my slides, boarded an airplane and took off to present the plan to my boss, the North American CEO.  I delivered an inspired and passionate presentation.  Instead of the enthusiastic reaction I had expected, my boss looked at my slides on the table as if they were dead already.  He asked me one question, “How do you plan to execute this?”  With a little sweat forming on my brow, I quickly started to explain how I was planning a meeting with my Vice Presidents and Regional Managers.  They would be so excited with the great idea; they would take it back to the field and implement it.  We would have monthly progress reports and follow ups.  He stopped me, looked at the slides again, looked back up at me and said, “You need to take a Project Management Course.”  Then he left the room.

My flight back home was a frustrating trip, to say the least.  I knew he completely understood the Strategy.  We had talked about it together for months.  He was one of the smartest men I had ever worked for, so why wasn’t he excited we were moving forward with this plan?  I was the President, what did I need with a Project Management course?  I’ve been getting things done my entire career. I could make this work.  I wasn’t erecting a building or an aircraft carrier.  Project Management?  What did that have to do with anything?  In turmoil, I walked up and down the airplane aisle, took out paper and wrote everything I recollected from the meeting and drew up some new diagrams.  I knew there was something I was missing here.

Before we landed, it came to me.  He wasn’t questioning the Strategy at all.  But he didn’t think I had a chance in hell of executing such a wide sweeping imperative plan which would challenge our culture and traditional mindset in an absolutely new way.  So after getting over the fact I had traveled over twelve hours to get a two-line response, I hypothesized, maybe those two lines were pretty important.  And yes, the next day I enrolled in a pretty intense Project Management training program.

I learned many things about Project Management including, critical paths, sequencing, resource deployment, task constraints, GANTT and PERT charts, etc.  But the jewel I took away to facilitate implementation of our Strategy was the Work Breakdown Structure or WBS.  I learned a vital methodology for getting things done, especially immense and complex strategies.

Remember, Ideas and Strategies cannot be implemented. So you must find a way to “breakdown” the Strategy into “actionable accountable tasks”.  Many people develop the Objectives and Tactics we discussed above.  But they don’t necessarily connect the dots and pull the Strategy together.  They are often times just smaller disassociated ideas which also go nowhere.  You need to get past the Idea and get into the action.  A comprehensive integrated plan of attack that will create action and accountability must be developed.

At first glance a WBS looks like an Organizational Chart.  You begin with the Strategy in the top box and then list the objectives immediately underneath in a branch-like structure.  Then you take the objectives and break them down into initiatives.  Like the traditional model above we still aren’t at a place where action can be taken!

 

Next you take each initiative and breakdown the actual “actionable” task that someone is going to do.  You breakdown these with as much detail as possible, working further and further down the branch..  When you feel you have broken down all of the actionable tasks ask, “If I do all of these, will the box above on the chart be completed”.  If the answer is no, return and put more work into your WBS.  Go over and over it until there are no holes.

Here is an example of breaking down just one initiative.

 

Now here is the WBS secret formula.  The items on the bottom of each branch are called “Terminal Elements”.  Since Terminal Elements are “actionable”, this is where responsibilities and timeframes for delivering results are assigned.  As the results come in, they are checked off in the Terminal Element boxes as complete.  Accountability is driven at the Terminal Element Level.

If each terminal element is accomplished the next highest box above (the parent) is completed.  Do this across the entire chart and everything continues to roll up completing your project.  What does this mean?  All that is necessary to implement a big idea Strategy is execution of the smallest Terminal Elements.  The Terminal Elements become your deliverables.  And if your WBS is built correctly, they are all that is needed.  The rest of the chart can be in the background.

 

Practice! Practice! Practice! It takes practice to build proper WBS charts.  It takes practice to develop your career.  I have been at WBS charts for over fifteen years and it is still the first tool I reach for when I need to implement great ideas.  Start using them for everything.  Your WBS charts will get better and better.  Make a WBS for doing the laundry, washing your car, or preparing the meal we mentioned earlier.  I am often amazed how much time managers will spend practicing their golf swing or teaching their kid to kick a soccer ball.  And how little time they spend practicing their real craft (which by the way, most likely paid for the golf clubs and soccer ball).  Practice building WBS charts until they are second nature; until they are the foundation for how you think about implementation.

In case you are wondering how that first WBS application turned out for me.  I had our entire management team take the Project Management course.  We built a strong sales program and were successful in shifting our market segmentation.  The resulting 7% growth per job created a margin climb which increased pretax profit from .9% to 5.2%.  Using these implementation methods we took an underperforming company which was in the bottom six of the 42 world-wide companies and brought it into the top eight performers within three years.  A twelve-hour flight, two lines of hard-hitting wisdom … Project Management for a President, a Strategy; who would have thought?  What a great mentoring moment for me.

Learn to use a WBS with expertise and you will go to the “head of the class” and become a true professional implementor, a rare specialty among most Management Teams.  Put your WBS on the wall in your office so everyone can see the plan and the progress you are making.  You’ll be surprised at the attention it receives.  You will be known as a Street Smart Leader who can take those dead ideas lying on the conference room table and give them life.  Once you see those ideas walking and talking throughout your organization, you will have something to be proud of!

for more info on Work Breakdown Structures see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_breakdown_structure

87MWNF54WQ3E