Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Loose-Tight Controls for Business Success

37827-watches_teaserI recently presented several workshops for client company with an absolutely brilliant CEO, among the best I’ve ever met. He was a new to the organization and had been brought in to turn around the company, which was facing very severe financial troubles. This was very bureaucratic organization whose main customer was the government. They were slow to make decisions, reluctant to take any risks, complacent in their attempt to grow their business and keep margins strong, which landed them to more than billion dollars in debt. The CEO gave an impassioned speech about the need to be more entrepreneurial, while still having a culture of disciplined execution around the core strategies. He described it, much like Tom Peters did in his wonderful book In Search of Excellence, saying that the company needed to have “loose-tight controls.” They need to have elements of loose  control around entrepreneurship, innovation and prudent risk-taking, while maintaining areas tight of control around their values, strategy, alignment and accountability for positive business results. He told them that in order to be successful they would have to balance a strong entrepreneurial ethic while still embracing a focused culture of discipline – and summarized his idea in the graph below.

So, where does your company sit in this matrix?

Best Managed Companies graphic

Four Things That Kill Companies

business conceptI am doing a strategic planning retreat for a multi-billion dollar company tomorrow and another similar retreat next week. In 2015 I facilitated perhaps a dozen such meetings and here are four key things that I have seen companies struggle with time and time again as they looked at their current performance and began planning for their future success.

Lack of Focus: This has got to be one of the major issues that many businesses have a hard time with, trying to do too many projects, working in too many markets and trying to serve too many different types of customers with too many different types of products. Here is a phrase I just learned that sums up my thinking on this issue, “Simplicity Now – Fancy Later.” Heck, I wrote a book on this topic so it’s pretty clear I believe it is hugely important to keep the focus of your business Awesomely Simple. Another way to put this powerfully is:

Deciding what NOT to do is just as important in a strategy as figuring out what to do.

Lack of Execution: This is a problem I have been tracking for the last 15 years, and in the last five years it has become the leading issue in almost every company I work with. There is no shortage of cool, innovative, bold strategies, but there is a massive shortage of organizations that can take those strategies and execute them with discipline.

Lack of Agility: Let’s face it, the marketplace has never moved faster and it is not going to slow down anytime soon. When I began leading strategic planning retreats more than 20 years ago it was not uncommon for us to work on a 10 year planning horizon, today I rarely work with a business that looks out more than three years. Wildly volatile economics, changing customer expectations, nontraditional competitors, global competition and the incredible velocity of technological change are just a few of the factors that demand companies be agile, nimble and highly innovative – just to stay in business.

Another factor around agility is the failure to make decisions quickly. Too much hierarchy, aversion to risk, resistance to change and the need to get consensus on every major (and sometimes minor) decision is an all too common obstacle for many organizations.

Lack of Talent: It is one of the key themes in all my work, “The future success of your business is directly proportional to the quality of the people that you can get, grow and keep on your team.” However, I run into far too few companies that take this idea seriously and actually look at talent acquisition, talent development and talent retention as a strategic objective. Although it is essential to have a deep bench of talent in order to run a sustainably successful business, I have had too many clients tell me something like, “We are being held hostage by our worst employees, they know that we don’t have anybody to replace them with, so they feel secure that no matter how poor their performances is they won’t get fired.” It almost makes me cry.

So in working with dozens of companies all over the world those are the four major issues I see companies grappling with when attempting to create a thoughtful strategy that has a high potential for success. My advice to you? Make sure that you have a strategic plan that addresses these issues and makes them a strength in your business that creates opportunities not a weakness that exposes you to competitive threats.

Five Fundamentals of Business Success

I just taught a series of business success seminars to about 300 entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and wanted to send a super special “Thank You” video to my hosts and the attendees on what I felt were a few of the MOST important things to focus on in order to run a highly successful organization. Once I finished the video I thought the information was so powerful that I decided to post it here on my blog for all of my followers to benefit from. I truly hope you find this video of great value and I challenge you to take at least one or two key ideas and begin implementing them right away.


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

The 4 Ds of success

I recently read several motivational, success and self-help books and listened to a fantastic podcast by Brendon Burchard where he talked about the 4 Ds of Achievement. I agreed with 75% of his talk, but wanted the change the last D. So here is my take on the 4Ds of success, I hope you find this of great value, add your own ideas and share it with your network. I wish you every happiness and success – John

Incredible Resource for You

QVLKREMarshall-GoldsmithI am sure that you have noticed that I do not put out a blog every day. That is not because I am lazy – or too busy – it is because I want you to know that when I post something it will be good…really, really good… and worth a minute of your time to take a look.  Today is no exception, it actually proves the rule, as today I am sharing with you an incredible FREE resource that can have a dramatic positive impact on your business and career.

My good friend Marshall Goldsmith  is a recipient of the extremely prestigious Thinkers 50 Award for the top 50 management thinkers in the world. As part of the award he has been asked to post a series of videos with some of his best ideas. All of the recipients of the award have also done the same and this site has all of them for FREE. It is like the TED talks of management – the best business thinkers in the world sharing their best ideas. Here is a link – enjoy!!!!

Click HERE to go to the video page

PS — I was nominated for this award last year, if you’d like to keep me on their radar you can send them a note HERE — thanks!!!


 

Ten Business Success Ideas

John in Toronto_edited-1As I sit here in the lobby of the Marriott in downtown Vancouver, I am reflecting on some of the highlights of the past few weeks which have taken me to assignments in Charlotte, Baltimore, Vegas, Toronto, Barbados and now to Vancouver. The clients have ranged from Bank of America to small business owners, to a workshop for 1,000+ CPAs and a speech to 8,000+ of the top financial planners in the world. Also, with so much time on planes I have read 20+ books on various business topics. Here are some big business success ideas I have picked up  (or re-confirmed) along the way…

 

1. Accountability and disciplined execution are the MOST pressing issues in almost all of the companies I have been working for in the last 6 months. This is a HUGE issue and can negatively or positively impact a company’s success in significant ($$$$$$) ways!

2. Lack of clear, specific and well-understood communications is a CLOSE second!

3. The majority of businesses are NOT doing a good enough job of truly listening to their EMPLOYEES and CUSTOMERS. Whoever owns the Voice of the Customer (VOC) owns the marketplace — and if you run a business your employees are actually your customer – and then they go out and serve the final customer – so you have to own the Voice of the Employee (VOE).

4. McDonalds spends more time and money training their employees than the average “high-tech” business. Think about that – and then think about how much you truly invest in high-quality training for your people.

5. See the reading infographic below – it should blow your mind and motivate you to increase your reading. Especially the very last stat… 7 x 1 x 7 = International Expert. Hey, it worked for me!!!!

6. If you have a problem with accountability at lower levels in your organization, then it is the responsibility of the middle managers to hold their people accountable. If they will not, then the senior managers need to hold the middle managers 100% accountable – if they cannot then the CEO must hold the senior managers fully accountable. In other words – creating a culture of accountability ALL starts with the tone and example that the CEO sets. This seems very straight-forward and simple – but it is typically the root of the problem.

7. From the book: Difference – by Bernadette Jiwa. “The truth is people do not fall in love with ideas at all. They fall in love with the ways those ideas, products, services and places make them feel.” This is a really important branding axiom.

8. The reason that most people do not get a ton of high-quality referrals is simply this: They are NOT remarkable. They do not truly add enough value for their customer to want to “remark” about them to others. So the first step in getting referrals is towering competencies (ideas, products, services, experiences, information, suggestions, and innovations) that are exceedingly valuable to your customers.

9. The quality of your life is determined in large part by the quality of the questions you ask… to others and to yourself! Great leaders are expert at asking just the right question at just the right time – to their people and to themselves.

10. Culture = Cash. The number ONE factor in highly engaged, satisfied and loyal CUSTOMERS… is highly engaged, satisfied and loyal EMPLOYEES. Insanely successful companies all share this practice: Higher top talent, engage them through a winning culture, guide them with a sharply focused and well-communicated vision, values and strategy for growth – then empower them to go out and WOW the customer. That is about as Awesomely Simple as I can make it!

I hope you will share this post with your network – thanks – John

READING Facts!!!


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence

Thoughts on Strategic Planning

In this video I share some of my thinking around strategic planning, strategic planning retreats, execution of the plan and keeping your people focused and engaged around the plan. I hope you find this of value and will share it with your colleagues.

 

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?

Three Levels of Leadership

In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to work with three great organization on leadership development. I started the week at Duke University with the National Association of Federal Credit Unions for their Management Development Institute, then spent two days with the Florida Recreation and Parks Association for the Abrahams Academy Leadership School and finally I ended the week with the wonderful folks from the Florida Hospital for their Leadership Development Institute.  I learned a TON of great things and wanted to share them with you… this video is a little long (25 minutes) BUT – it has many very powerful ideas for being an “Ideal Leader” — how to be a great self-leader — and what you need to focus on in order to be a superb organizational leader. I hope you enjoy that video and please share it with everyone you feel might find value in the ideas I share.

Three Levels of Leadership from John Spence on Vimeo.

 

 PS — if you have not connected with me on LinkedIn – please send me an invite!!!