So What Exactly is Strategy?
Posted on Monday, Oct 20, 2014 by Michael Canic

For all that is said and written about strategy, it’s surprising how little agreement there is about what strategy actually is. Since the focus of my business is working with organizations to institute the structure and discipline of strategic management, I have some strong thoughts about this.

Some would say that strategy refers to the longer term intentions of an organization. Others emphasize that it must involve the organization as a whole, not merely a department, function or location. Still others maintain that the overarching goal is what is strategic, while executing towards it is tactical.

Yet imagine a small business on the brink, whose survival depends on the manufacturing department fulfilling a major order in the next 10 days. In such a case it’s hard to imagine anything more strategic. This, despite the fact that it isn’t long term and doesn’t involve the company as a whole. And the execution is very much strategic.

So what is strategy?

Strategy is a discipline, a structured and dynamic process that establishes why an organization must change, what it must achieve or become, how it intends to do it, and then acts to ensure that those intentions become reality.

That’s strategy.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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What to Expect of Your People
Posted on Monday, Oct 13, 2014 by Michael Canic

There are two things you should expect of your people: performance and conduct. Performance refers to how well they meet job expectations – what they do and what results. Conduct refers to how well they interact with others and the integrity with which they act.

Importantly, the two do not average out. Conducting one’s self impeccably does not excuse poor performance. And exceptional performance does not excuse toxic conduct.

Yet too often organizations rationalize the poor conduct of an employee who happens to be a top performer. The cost? It erodes management credibility and demotivates employees.

So what happens when a top performing, poisonous employee is held accountable for his actions? Morale jumps up. People regain faith in management. And organizational performance improves.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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The Power of Persistence
Posted on Monday, Oct 6, 2014 by Michael Canic

Sometimes the obstacles seem insurmountable. Sometimes the sheer volume of what needs to be done seems overwhelming. You ask yourself, “Is it really worth fighting this battle?”

All of us face times like this. It’s not uncommon. Maybe the battle is worth fighting or maybe it isn’t. But before we raise the white flag we should first ask ourselves a question:

Are we defeated by the obstacles or by our discomfort in striving to overcome the obstacles?

I’m reminded of the words of a small Indian man whose belief and persistence helped lead his country to independence.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” (Gandhi)

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Connect with Your Audience
Posted on Monday, Sep 29, 2014 by Michael Canic

 

I was attending a pre-conference social event. As an icebreaker they set up a fun competition between tables: Which table could correctly answer the most trivia questions?

One question provided a quote and then asked which famous business person said it. The options: Jeff Bezos, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, or Warren Buffet. At which point one of the younger people at our table asked, “Who’s Jack Welch?”

Hmmm.

So I don’t make any false assumptions about my readership … Jack Welch is the former CEO of GE who between 1981 and 2001 grew the value of the company by 4000%. He was lionized by many as the standard-bearer for CEOs.

But … Welch retired 13 years ago. His legacy is receding into history. For anyone under 35 – that is, for any millennial – the name “Jack Welch” is all but meaningless.

The point? To connect with your audience you must first know your audience and then use examples and stories that are relevant to them. Your frames of reference may be different from theirs.

Don’t start with you. Start with them.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Surmount the Insurmountable
Posted on Monday, Sep 22, 2014 by Michael Canic

It’s that time again … the biannual clash for golf bragging rights between the U.S. and Europe. Get ready for pressure, drama, joy and heartbreak.

In 2012 at Medinah, Illinois the Europeans trailed 10-4 on the second-to-last day. Clawing back two late wins they ended the day trailing 10-6. Not a promising scenario, especially considering the Americans have typically dominated the singles match format on the final day.

Still, European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal delivered a simple message to his players on the evening before the final day:

Believe.

That’s all. Just believe. As Vaclav Havel, the former Czech playwright and president noted, “Belief is not a prognostication. It’s an orientation of the spirit.”

The result? In what was dubbed the “Miracle at Medinah” the Europeans came back to win and retain the Cup.

When things in your organization look bleak do you still believe? Do you force yourself to believe? And do you exude nothing but relentless belief when you engage your people?

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Keep People Engaged in Meetings
Posted on Monday, Sep 15, 2014 by Michael Canic

Meetings often get a bad rap and, in many cases, justifiably so. Yet well-structured meetings can be an effective way to share information, get input, challenge assumptions, and promote collaboration.

Here’s a technique I find keeps people alert and actively engaged in meetings: At the start of a meeting I tell everyone I have one expectation of each person. That you make us stronger. So for every agenda topic each person is expected, if called upon, to provide their one best question or one best comment that will make us stronger. You might reinforce an idea that was presented. Or challenge it. Or provide an alternative. Or a caution.

I may call upon you only one time during a meeting. But when I do, you need to give us your best.

One expectation. Each person. Make us stronger.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Why You Don’t Want a Consultant Who Promises Results
Posted on Monday, Sep 8, 2014 by Michael Canic

Sometimes clients like to ask if a consultant guarantees results. Sometimes consultants are tempted to say, ‘yes’.

Wrong question and wrong answer.

Success in every consulting engagement depends on both the consultant and the client. Both need to do certain things – and not do certain things – to be successful.

If I’m asked whether I guarantee results here’s what I say:

Imagine you and I are handcuffed together in the desert. We’re on our own 25 miles from civilization. If I choose not to walk, you can’t drag me 25 miles which means we’re both going to die. If you choose not to walk I can’t drag you 25 miles which means we’re both going to die. So I can’t promise you we’ll get the result. But what I will promise you is that I won’t be the one to stop walking.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Pick the Right Consultant
Posted on Monday, Sep 1, 2014 by Michael Canic

Last week I covered what types of consultants to avoid. OK, so how do you pick the right consultant? This is what to look for:

1) Results-Driven
The consultant you want should be motivated by the opportunity to have impact. So they need to determine if that opportunity exists. It’s a good sign if a prospective consultant grills you to truly understand your situation, your commitment and if they are likely to have that impact.

2) Exceptional, Relevant Experience
Asking if the consultant has “done it before” isn’t enough. More importantly, was their experience relevant to your specific situation? What was the context of their experience? What actions did they take and why? What outcomes did they produce? Was what they did exceptional?

3) Glowing References
As good as the consultant might seem, it’s imperative that you check references. Does the reality match the story? Were there any red flags? A so-so consultant might get decent references but only an exceptional consultant will get glowing references. Look for the glowing.

At some point every growing organization will benefit from using a consultant. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can make a tremendous difference.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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How to Pick the Wrong Consultant
Posted on Monday, Aug 25, 2014 by Michael Canic

You’ve decided you need a consultant. Great. But consultants are a dime a dozen. How do you not pick the wrong one?

As a consultant for the past 20 years I’ve come across my fair share of consultants. As you might expect, they’ve ranged from terrific to terrible. Here are a few types to avoid:

1 The ‘Tweener

Many people between jobs want to show continuity on their resumes. So while they’re looking for the security of that next permanent position they call themselves consultants. They’re not consultants. They’re pretenders.

2) The Surfer

Not quite ready or able to retire but not wanting another full-time employment gig, some people decide to ride out the wave of their careers as a so-called consultant. Unfortunately, their motivation and commitment is all-too-often in inverse proportion to their experience.

3) The Dabbler

Then there are those who want something to do when they feel like doing something. The telltale signs of the Dabbler? No process, no methodology, no track record. They’re not in the consulting world. They’re just visiting.

Next week: How to pick the right consultant.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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Don’t Simply Ask, “Does the Person Fit?”
Posted on Monday, Aug 18, 2014 by Michael Canic

Yes, you want people with the right talent and right fit. Yet what if someone isn’t exactly right?

One thing that separates great coaches from ordinary coaches is how they answer this question. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, doesn’t simply look at a player and ask, “Does he fit?” Instead he asks, “What does he have that’s special?”

In other words, what talents, traits and/or skills does the person have that can help us win? Maybe the player doesn’t cleanly fit an established position or role. Yet is there a legitimate position or role the player can fill that can support the organization’s success?

The answer may point to something or it may point to nothing. But asking the question expands your thinking and ensures you don’t overlook what you shouldn’t.

Your thoughts?

Michael

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So What Exactly is Strategy?
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