Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

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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Three Fantastic Business Books

In this video I share with you three fantastic business books that I have read and used in my businesses. Two are very focused, detail-oriented books that will give you superb step-by-step instruction and lots of tools to help grow your business and improve your culture. The third book is one that I consider a true classic that focuses on how to make your business one of the best in the world in your category. I hope you find this video of great value!

 

Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t (Rockefeller Habits 2.0)

The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace

Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter


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Business Success Advice for 2013

As I sit here in my office surrounded by more than 2,000 business books it’s pretty tough to narrow it down to just a handful of the very best. However, if I were going to pick the top 50 books that I feel give the very best information, the most useful ideas and tools for how to run a business successfully this would be my list.

** In no particular order**

1. In Search of Excellence — Tom Peters
2. The Little BIG Things – Tom Peters
3. Good to Great — Jim Collins
4. Built to Last — Jim Collins
5. What Really Works — Joyce, Nohria, Roberson
6. The Leadership Challenge — Kouzes and Posner
7. Authentic Leadership — Bill George
8. Indispensable – Joe Callaway
9. Becoming a Category of One – Joe Calloway
10. The Discipline of Teams — Katzenbach and Smith
11. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team — Patrick Lencioni
12. Team Building (fourth edition) — Dyer, Dyer and Dyer
13. Lessons in Excellence from Charlie Trotter — Paul Clarke
14. Kiss Theory Goodbye — Bob Prosen
15. Mavericks at Work — Taylor and LaBarre
16. On Becoming a Leader — Warren Bennis
17. The Great Game of Business — Jack stack
18. The Starbucks Experience — Joseph Michelli
19. The New Gold Standard — Joseph Michelli
20. Customers for Life – Carl Sewell
21. At America’s Service — Karl Albrecht
22. The Northbound Train — Karl Albrecht
23. Leading People — Robert Rosen
24. The Definitive Drucker — Elizabeth Edersheim
25. What the Best CEOs know – Krames
26. Teaching the Elephant to Dance — James Belasco
27. If Aristotle ran General Motors — Tom Morris
28. The Rockefeller Habits – Vern Harnish
29. The Orange Revolution – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
30. All In – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
31. Nobel Enterprise – Darwin Gillette
32. Blue Ocean Strategy – W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
33. Primal Leadership – Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
34. The Leader of the Future – Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard
35. Execution – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
36. Love is the Killer App — Tim Sanders
37. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
38. Up Your Business — Dave Anderson
39. The 100 Best Business Books of All Time – Jack Covert and Todd Stattersten
40. Simply Better – Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan
41. Referral Engine – John Jantsch
42. Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch
43. Managing with a Conscience – Frank Sonnenberg
44. Six Disciplines Execution Revolution – Gary Harpst
45. Repeatability – James Allen and Chris Zook
46. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
47. The Thank You Economy – Gary Vaynerchuck
48. Crush It – Gary Vaynerchuk
49. Firms of Endearment – Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, Jagdish N. Sheth
50. Leading in a Culture of Change — Michael Fullan
51. Awesomely Simple — John Spence 🙂

I could easily recommend 75 or 80 more, but I think that if you were to read these books they would give you the best overall view on how to build, lead and grow a highly successful organization. If you do not see one of your VERY favorites, please send me a note in case I have not read it yet!!

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Radical Transparency

Recently I did some work for client in the healthcare industry where one of the employees is suing because she said it was an “abusive and aggressive environment” within the organization. After looking into the situation more closely I realized that what she was characterizing as abusive and aggressive was merely that she was being held 100% accountable for doing her job – and she did not like it. When she was told she was not meeting goals, not meeting deadlines, and not delivering the results she had agreed to – she took that as her manager being overly aggressive. I sat in on several mediations with this employee and her senior staff and at no time could I discern that she had actually been treated poorly, rudely, aggressively or abusively – she simply did not like being held accountable for actually doing the work she was paid for. It would be almost funny if it weren’t for the fact that I see this over and over again – in company after company – and in this particular company there’s a lawsuit being filed because an employee felt that  “pressuring her” to get certain projects done by a certain date was… unfair!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then I came across this Harvard blog article on “Radical Transparency” which to me is just another way of saying that it is critical to set exceedingly clear goals and then be 100% transparent in sharing that information with everyone in the organization so that everyone knows exactly who is pulling their own weight, getting the work done and delivering the results that will keep the entire company moving forward. I, personally, think this is absolutely the best way to run a business and the very foundation of creating a high-account ability culture – but I’ve also seen many, many employees fight back tooth and nail to keep anyone from ever knowing exactly what level of work they are actually doing.  To me this is an exceedingly important issue – here is the link…

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/why_radical_transparency_is_good_business.html

 Hope you find the HBR article of value – take good care — John

**** I have been working on seminars and workshops on this topic for last several months and have partnered with a company called RESULTS.com who has a dashboard system to achieve exactly what this article is suggesting; radical transparency of all key goals and objectives to everyone in the entire organization – I recommend them VERY highly if you need a dashboard system. Let me know if you need any help from me in this area – as I truly think this is critical for long-term business success.

 

As always, if you have not connected with me on LinkedIn — please send an invite!

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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!!!