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Tune-up time … do you have a handle on your “Inside Big 5” … probably not! February 19, 2010

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You can breakdown the internal workings of any company into five fundamental categories... The Inside Big Five.  Everyone in the company should know your approach in all of these critical areas.  They include how you interact with your people, the relative understanding of your  product and services, how you handle your ongoing business planning, how you manage your fundamental processes and finally the execution of  your day-to-day performance.

It all sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? … if you are indeed already attending to each of these areas.   Obviously it gets more complicated in the actual execution, but starting with these fundamentals is essential to understanding your business.  Frequently a professional business detective can more easily uncover the strengths and weaknesses in your business.  But this is only possible if someone has real access and you allow that person to come in and understand how you approach all of these areas.

Think of it as a surprise safety inspection… if your are really doing all of the things where you want to be performing efficiently, then a real check-up will validate your operation.  If not, then the worst that can be said is that you will begin to understand more about those areas where you need to direct your efforts.

This type of check-up really has little to do with changing your business plan or making radical adjustments in your corporate goals… or does it?  It really has meant that people begin to understand where and how and what they might need to be doing to actually improve productivity.  Too often we take for granted that what we did last year or how we did something for the past few years, will more than allow us to continue to make progress.

In this day and time if you are standing still… you are going backwards.  Call the Performance Detective for your first professional check-up and you’ll be surprised what you find.


What Really Drives Business Excellence? February 15, 2010

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Clambering for a new solution… everyone talks about the latest business guru or most recent business philosophy de jour.  We discuss the merits of what you should do to have your business improve its sales or expand its market.  It is frequently mentioned that we must communicate a new approach or instill a new spirit or establish a new set of goals in order to truly grow your business.  But for all of the books or authors or even latest fads it frequently comes down to two questions…  How do we get everyone on the same page?  And … How do we begin?

As the Performance Detective … I see people go to great lengths to try and understand what needs to be done.  The short of it, is that most people don’t know what has to be done and are prevented from doing it because they get lost in managing everything but the basics.  They either lack an understanding of how people are brought together with a well developed plan or product or they haven’t assembled a business team that can successfully implement a value-added strategy.

We have all read long ago about successes or heard about Tom Peter’s observations in his “In Search of Excellence” series, and we have listened to recent stories of success as identified by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”.    How do you capture all of the elements that these different companies and different people have in common?  Well in many respects it is very hard because people are creatures of habit and become locked-in a certain way of doing things or just in how they approach their jobs.  On the other hand it might not be as hard as you think to exact change in a positive way.

Several basics that help companies compete at a very high level; start with the approach of their people.  And it is quite important that everyone feel valued to bring their best to the table on a regular basis. An important element is to put people before policies and to insure that you communicate an atmosphere of positive energy and make no excuses for wanting the best.

High performance is not high maintenance and if you want customers-for-life you take the time to let your own people know that they are “your” customers for life and you believe in them and believe in their decisions.

You can establish the right team by both promoting managers and executives with a thirst for continual improvement and also weeding out people that are too caught up in the position itself.  Don’t even address strategy and policies and approach until you have the right team in place and you know how to successfully interact with one another.

Having a positive action oriented organization is the end of the beginning to develop an outstanding organization.  When your own people respect and believe in one another, you will have built an organization that will strive for the very best at every level.  You will excel from business planning and product development to valued sales performance to great customer service.

Understand that the small details mean a lot to the bigger picture.  But you will never get to that big picture unless you have the trusted team that can deliver in each area of your business.  John Miller identifies personal attributes in his QBQ work and then in his more recent book provides 47 ways to make your organization Outstanding. Without a team that is first knowledgeable on how to pursue excellence or simply expecting every member of their own group to interact effectively by osmosis … then the delivery of real company-wide Excellence is indeed impossible.  The real secret is in establishing a team which understands the team dynamic and one which believes in personal responsibility then being able to deliver outstanding service at every turn because it is part of the innate business culture you have consciously nurtured and bred.

The Performance Detective

Elementary my dear Watson… January 20, 2010

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Is it business-as-usual in today’s business climate?

Many would say … “far from it!”  But the basic information necessary for truly understanding your people, your process, your product and ultimate your Profit are still there… Albeit  that basic information can be hidden from you for a variety of reasons.  Possibly having fresh eyes like a Sherlock Holmes or maybe more importantly having an intuitive perspective that allows the appropriate discernment to take place. That’s what The Performance Detective provides.

All business, just like a good police department, not only need a set of  “fresh eyes” but also someone trained to gather and examine both the obvious facts and uncover the subtle clues at “the scene-of-the-crime”. We are frequently amazed that the resulting report or business summary seems so apparently obvious once the sum total of information is gathered and then appropriately presented.

We all need the chance to step-back from the immediate glare of both familiarity and a traditional expectation, and then try to look at all of the pertinent facts with a fresh set of eyes.  It is helpful to have someone gather that information who both possesses a wide variety of business experiences but also knows to avoid jumping to conclusions early in the gathering process.  It is also critical to relentlessly probe, and question, and examine, and look, and record, and then review ALL of the information and the people that make up the “scene of the crime”.

Too often this investigative task is colored by both intimacy and bias. The initial report or informative study needs to simply evaluate “what” has occurred and attempt to uncover the breadth of the “how“, but most importantly not delve into the “why” if you really want a productive understanding  of the case at hand.

Eventually developing an impartial report or organizing a set of marching orders for a new direction, or even deciding on a solid commitment to stay-the-course,  becomes an entirely separate and impartial effort.  It is quite easy to either simplify or gloss over the existing business environment or to complicate and over-study the issues.  In the case of  “good detective work” it really is important to clearly see and uncover as many of the facts as possible to ultimately know what is truly happening.  It’s surprising to learn,what any of us can really have missed, when it seemingly is right in front of us.

The Performance Detective wishes you good luck and good hunting, but … be careful out there!

What makes up Real Leadership? January 18, 2010

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I have had the good fortune to have worked around several influential  and successful people over the years.  I would say they represented themselves as great leaders in their areas of expertise and all for a variety of reasons and at different moments in time.  But what is the definition of leadership that  encompassed their actions or their impact on us.  If we go to a dictionary we would probably find something like…

LEADERSHIP is an interpersonal influence directed toward the achievement of a goal or goals.

We can always look for a formal description for a word, an action or even measuring the resultant  effect.  But the ultimate definition of real leadership , or our impression of a true leader, goes well beyond  just a notion of  some sort of  influence.  We would necessarily want to discuss attributes of Leaders that we all have known or have learned about.  We would probably want people to know or understand how those people have impacted us individually and collectively.  We may talk about not only their influence at a particular time, place or moment, but their ongoing impact in our own approach to people and circumstances.  Greater still… the ongoing impression that we have about a memorable leader probably has a lasting influence on how we would wish ourselves to rise up and act during a challenging event.

It is also right to consider multiple aspects as far as the situation or circumstance that the leader found themselves in and how we also perceived the breadth of those challenges.  We often speak about how   circumstances can dictate not only the leader’s actions but the response from the group or team that the leader is part of.   Winston Churchill was by most estimations a great leader at a pivotal time in history. When you  actually research the history before and after his most influential leadership moments, you also begin to see why it is important to consider all aspects of circumstance as well as the actual words or actions that a leader has been credited with.  He was very popular as a wartime leader but quite ineffective both before and after because of a wide variety of conditions.

So if we understand that the popularity of memorable leadership takes into account a set of conditions as well as actions we begin to understand the broader context of being a good leader.  My contention is that truly great leaders have basic personal character traits that transcend just the decision making moment.  The leaders or heroes that we should actually emulate understand character is not a sometimes thing.  They practice and live these qualities of  “who you are?” and ultimately “what you are?” on a daily basis.  I believe that these Character Traits include an approach that practices:

  • Confidence carried lightly
  • Leadership that engenders trust
  • Passion that’s contagious
  • Humor without derision
  • Integrity without guile
  • Character that commits
  • Loyalty that holds on
  • Desire that dreams
  • Interest that increases knowledge

I’ve borrowed these descriptions from Robert Beaudine’s The Power of Who,  because he aptly characterizes not only the trait but also the real action and attitude in delivery that accompanies an admirable trait.

The next time that you see a leader or a leadership action defined as being stellar… see if they have brought  that level of commitment to their actions or their business strategy.  This kind of approach is the true measure of great leadership!

The Performance Detective

Keys to Maintaining Business Productivity January 18, 2010

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7 Critical Elements of ongoing Business Productivity

One of the biggest challenges for most people, and for many companies, is to continue to stay alert and stay fresh in today’s fast moving marketplace.  Once a process, product or service becomes successful, we all have a tendency to become complacent in its continual execution.  We fall victim to it being routine  and after several quarters or several years of increasing results or even stable performance… we lose a quality edge.  In many cases this is not because we don’t have “quality control” metrics in place but rather something as simple as an ongoing vigilance to the market itself, or we have simply not considered a natural product life-cycle.

Any of us would be hard pressed to always be vigilant, or to be so  in every situation, but that is why it is important that we establish a company-wide approach to the “how” and “what” and even “why” of our execution.  The underlying issues are all intertwined with the entire process we have established and expect from every member of our team.  For purposes of a quick overview, it is possible to take a broad look at all of areas that a company needs to address and break them down into Seven Critical areas…

1.  PEOPLE :  Do you value your team, do you know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and do you encourage new contributions and tactical innovations.

2.  PRODUCT : Do you have a product or service that your customers want, and at a price that they can afford, and is it evaluated and updated on a regular basis?

3.  PROCESS : Do you have a process that delivers quality, encourages improvement and is consistently replicated?

4.  PERFORMANCE : Do you encourage a reliable performance by maintaining your best practices?

5.  POPULARITY : Does your business provide a memorable product, a system for telling your story and something that your customers believe in and recommend?

6.  PROFIT : Have you developed a pricing strategy and do you have proceeds to reinvest in the business, can update your support systems and are able to reward your team?

7.  PASSION : Do you communicate regularly with your entire team and does your business organization operate with a sense of urgency, commitment and excitement?

All of these elements have a fundamental thread, beyond just adherence to the Business Plan itself or the Tactical execution of our mission, it comes full circle with a comprehensive approach to what we have defined as a commitment to maintain business and employee excellence.  Many books have been written about what it takes to get to the top, like examples cited years ago by In Search of Excellence, and even what it takes to get your team self motivated  to actually stay on top, like A-Ha Performance.  But ultimately it takes a commitment to develop our people so that everyone has a hand in the process and feels motivated to continue.  When your business team is built with a commitment to the value of their individual ownership, then the processes and procedures necessary for continual vigilance, will be part of goals that the Business Team aspires to achieve on an ongoing basis.

— The Performance Detective