Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

20 Questions To Make Better Business Decisions

8D9xPlllM2WzeTfM4McZ-Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBU8NzMXDbey6A_oozMjJETcYears ago I attended a class on Precision Questioning and Precision Answering, it was a tough class but I learned a lot. One of the most important things I learned, which I had experienced many times in the business world, is that very few people use a process in order to make important decisions, they just go with general ideas and a gut feel. Again, from years of experience, I have watched many senior executives make huge decisions, multi-million-dollar decisions, not using any kind of a formal process for organizing their thinking. Here is a list of 20 questions I use when helping organizations to make important business decisions.

  1. What is the real timeframe for this decision?
  2. Who needs to be involved in making this decision?
  3. Who does not need to be involved in making this decision?
  4. Can this decision be overridden by a person higher in the organization?
  5. If so, why are they not making this decision?
  6. Do we have the data necessary to support making a good decision?
  7. How do we know that the data is reliable and up-to-date?
  8. Do we have the financial numbers necessary to make this decision?
  9. If so, how do we know that they are accurate and up-to-date?
  10. Who else in the organization will be impacted by this decision?
  11. Do they need to be involved in making this decision?
  12. How, specifically, will we implement this decision?
  13. What metrics will we use to track success or failure?
  14. Who, specifically, will be responsible for the implementation of this decision?
  15. What is the real timeline for the overall implementation of this decision?
  16. What do we expect, specifically, as a successful outcome from this decision?
  17. Is there anything we would have to stop doing or change in order to implement this decision?
  18. Will this decision have a major impact on our brand in the marketplace?
  19. Well this decision have a major impact on our customers?
  20. What are the ramifications if this decision is wrong or poorly implemented?

If you have to make a major decision in your organization I strongly encourage you to use this list of questions in order to ensure that you are making a good decision. I can’t guarantee that the decision will work out perfectly, but I can almost surely guarantee that if you don’t go over this list and at least entertain several of the key questions, there will be a good chance that the decision will fail.

Are there any questions that I missed?

What is Your Leadership Philosophy?

8D9xPlllM2WzeTfM4McZ-Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBU8NzMXDbey6A_oozMjJETcIn the past several years I have taught numerous “Advanced Leadership” workshops to groups of senior leaders from $20 million to $1 billion+ organizations. At the beginning each session I always ask the attendees how many of them currently have a written list of their key leadership values, i.e. their own “personal leadership philosophy,” that they use to guide their decisions and behaviors on a daily basis. Out of a typical group of 100 to 150 executives, only one or two will raise their hands, prompting me to wonder how in the world the others successfully lead their organizations. I just have a hard time believing that if you’ve never taken the time to truly think through what kind of leader you want to be, what your leadership values are, what sort of leadership legacy you want to leave…and then write those things down so that you have a clear and focused guide for your self-leadership…that you would be a truly effective leader of others.

One of my very favorite quotes comes from Walt Disney,

“When values are clear decisions are easy.”

Put another way, in relation to what I just wrote above,

“When values are not clear decisions are difficult.”

So, for those of you who have not yet written down your personal leadership philosophy, I challenge you to take a few hours and thoughtfully develop a focused and concise list of the key attributes, characteristics, values and behaviors that you personally want to model in order to be a living example of the kind of leader you aspire to be.

To give you some examples, based on more than 15 years of teaching my advanced leadership seminar to thousands of people all over the world, here are some of the things I hear over and over again when people describe what they feel are the most important characteristics of an “Ideal leader.”

  • Honest / integrity/ character
  • Visionary
  • Highly competent
  • Excellent communicator
  • Team player/collaborative
  • Innovative/risk taker
  • Decisive
  • Fair and supportive
  • Creates clear goals and direction
  • Respect/recognition
  • Passionate/inspiring
  • Personally accountable
  • Proactive/action oriented
  • Customer/quality focused

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should serve as a good benchmark of what other leaders have identified as their key leadership ideals and competencies. I hope you will use this list to develop or refine your personal leadership philosophy and then use your philosophy as a touchstone to guide your actions, comments, focus and behavior.

Remember: People judge you by your actions not by your intentions and what you are speaks so loudly that they can’t hear what you say.

As a leader you live under a microscope, nothing is small, and to be effective you need to consistently lead based on your values, the organization’s values and what is in the best interests of your employees, customers, vendors and community. I believe creating a solid personal leadership philosophy will allow you to do all of that and do it well.

I very much look forward to your comments and feedback on this blog and if you find it of value I hope you’ll share it with your network.

Thanks so much – John

Change Is Changing

082For years I have implored my audiences to “create a culture that embraces change.” I even put together a custom program for the Apple Specialists Group on “Nimblocity” (that is being nimble with velocity) and tell clients that if they want to be successful in the future they have to be… Nimbolicious! But frankly, that is not true anymore.

To be successful in the future, the rate of internal innovation must exceed the rate of external innovation, in other words, you can’t simply embrace change – you have to be the one who creates and drives the change.

I challenge you to go back and read that last sentence and think deeply about how that will impact you and your business. That means that in order to win in the marketplace you must out-think, out-innovate and out-execute everyone you compete against – both as an organization and as an individual. This is a HUGE idea and an even bigger challenge. To me, there are a minimum of six key things you must do in order to be a game changer.

 1. Business Acumen

To even get on the playing field you must have a strong foundation of general business knowledge. This means constantly studying the fundamentals of business excellence such as strategy, finance, marketing, sales, talent development, technology / innovation, customer service… and keeping a close eye on local, regional, national and global business and economic trends. It’s also critical to look at best practices of top companies (inside and outside of your industry) to see what ideas you might be able to apply to your organization.

2. Industry Expertise

You must be an expert, and I do not use that word lightly, on your industry, your competitors and especially your products and services. There is absolutely no excuse for not being exceedingly knowledgeable about your industry and all of the factors impacting your business within it. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but I am constantly surprised how many people I meet that are clueless about even major trends in the field they work in.

3. Strategic Thinking

Once you have built a solid base of general business acumen and become an expert on your industry, then you must dedicate the time necessary to combine those two areas of knowledge and think about everything you are learning and what it might mean to you and your business. That is right, you need to dedicate 5-10% of your time to just sit and think, noodle, brainstorm and introduce random ideas to each other to see if they get along. The reason that so few people are great strategic thinkers, is that so few people invest the time and effort necessary to do serious strategic thinking.

4. Pattern Recognition

The purpose of all of this thinking is to find the patterns. Strategic insight occurs when you see something before others see it; when you notice a trend, an anomaly, a spike in the data that indicates a change in your industry. Netflix saw the trend in online movie delivery, Blockbuster did not. Apple saw the trend in smart phones, Blackberry did not. Nikon saw the shift to digital photography, Kodak did not. Those who succeed in business today do not just adapt to changes in the marketplace, they anticipate and then create changes in the marketplace.

5. Business Model Reinvention

For an insight to be of value to organization it must represent a major disruptive change to your industry that will give your business a clear (and hopefully sustainable) market advantage. However, this sort of change typically means that you will have to make some dramatic adjustments and innovations to the way you currently operate. What is required here is courage; the courage to take big, bold risks, the courage to abandon old ways and the courage to create a totally new path for your industry.

6. Disciplined Execution

Even the best strategies in the world are completely useless if they are not implemented effectively. Great ideas do not change an industry; taking great ideas to market better and faster than any of your competition does. This means that your management team must be superb at taking your strategic insight, turning it into a sharply-focused and well-communicated strategy and then ensuring that is implemented flawlessly. An easy thing to say, a devilishly hard thing to accomplish.

I have spent the last 25 years of my life running businesses and studying, writing and teaching about business excellence around the world and in no time in my career has the need to do the six things I listed above been more urgent. We are entering a new era in the business world, what many people are calling the Second Machine Age, marked by mind-boggling advances in technology, computer learning, robotics, medicine and many other fields that will fundamentally change business on a global scale. As I see it, you really only have two choices: drive the change or be run over.

John has also been recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America, one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, one of the Top 50 Small Business Experts in America and one of the top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. The American Management Association named John one of America’s Top 50 Leaders to Watch along with Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

You can learn more about his work at JohnSpence.com


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A Great Leadership Competency Model

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Ideal Leader?

I was recently serving as a lead instructor for the Florida Recreation and Park Association (my longest standing client at 17 years!!!) Joe Abrahams Academy for Leadership Excellence, an elite school for their emerging leaders. During the program I challenged the group to develop an “Ideal Leader” competency model and this is what the came up with…

Honest: authentic, humble, character, integrity to values, show and gain respect.

Communication: transparency, honesty, clear goals, collaboration, listener, storyteller, stakeholder input, open door policy, curious.

Compassion: community of caring, recognition and praise, shared credit.

Inspirational: positive attitude, accountable, passionate, lead by example, authentic.

Talent: empowerment, accountability, competency, training, lifelong learning, investment, get the right people.

Risk Taking: be decisive, have a shared vision, highly competent, innovative, embrace change, be connected, pursue the big idea.

That is a SIMPLE but very powerful list. Easy to talk about – challenging to live. Welcome to leadership! 24/7/365

I think they did a spectacular job of capturing some of the most fundamental and essential elements of being a truly successful leader. What do you think?  Did them miss something critical? I would LOVE your ideas and insights.

A.G. Lafley on Strategy

John Spence

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read A.G. Lafley’s excellent new book on strategy: Playing to Win  (I highly recommend it). A.G. is the CEO of Procter & Gamble and definitely knows a thing or two… or three… about setting corporate strategy. At the most simplistic level A.G. points out that strategy boils down to just five key questions (info in parentheses added by me):

(1) What is your winning aspiration? (Sort of like a BHAG)

(2) Where will you play? (What industries, niches, target markets, locations, countries…)

(3) How will you win? (What is your valued differentiator)

(4) What capabilities must be in place? (What resources, capital, people, partnerships are required)

(5) What management systems are required? (How will you structure your business – what is your unique business model)

But A.G. and his co-author Roger L. Martin also focus on an idea that is near and dear to my heart… EXECUTION!!! As I have said 10,000 times before, even the most impressive strategy in the world is useless if it is not effectively executed.  To me, it is just as important to spend equal time on a creating a focused and clear “Strategic Execution Plan” so that you can make sure you have the ability to turn your really cool ideas… into successful and profitable action in the marketplace!

Please take a moment to watch the brief  video interview with A.G. below, I think you will find it of value.

Your thoughts?

The Five Keys to Accountability

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What Do You Expect?

During the past several months I have delivered numerous workshops and speeches for clients who were all struggling with the same basic issue: Lack of Clear Expectations. Regardless of the size of the company or the industry in which they competed, I’ve noticed a pattern of three critical areas where failure to set clear expectations has had a significant negative impact on the organization. Continue reading “What Do You Expect?” »

How To Be a Successful Entrepreneur

During this week alone I will meet with eight different entrepreneurs who are all looking to start businesses. Some are building mobile apps, some are starting publications, some are going into manufacturing, and one is creating a TV show. Yet even though they’re all over the place with what they are focusing on as a business, my advice about how to be successful as an entrepreneur was just about the same to all of them. Here are some of the key ideas I shared with them for what I feel it takes to successfully create and grow an entrepreneurial business. Continue reading “How To Be a Successful Entrepreneur” »

Two Ideas About Employee Engagement