Why Alignment is Critical to Execution, Despite What HBR Says
Posted on Monday, Mar 2, 2015 by Michael Canic

The esteemed business publication, Harvard Business Review, publishes an article in its March edition about why strategy execution breaks down. The authors debunk so-called myths about execution including the myth that execution equals alignment.

Now, as a long-time proponent of ruthless consistency and organizational alignment, you can imagine my interest was more than just a bit piqued.

It turns out the authors' conception of alignment is limited to HR practices such as developing objectives, measures and rewards that are consistent with strategy. Sorry guys, there’s far more to alignment than that.

Organizational alignment is the idea that people, processes, structure and infrastructure all need to be consistent with an organization’s strategy. The right measures don’t keep the wrong processes from failing. The right rewards don’t help if the right boxes aren’t on the org chart. Any critical factor misaligned can cause execution to fail.

The authors go on to identify the lack of coordination across functions or units as a major cause of failure. True. Yet that doesn’t argue against organizational alignment, that is organizational alignment.

So, yes, alignment is critical to execution. And it means much more than simply goals, measures and rewards.

Your thoughts?


What the Shoeshine Guy Knows about Leadership
Posted on Monday, Feb 23, 2015 by Michael Canic

So I’ve got some extra time at the Calgary airport. I had just delivered a daylong workshop on Effective Leadership to 50 members of a trade association. I decide to get my shoes shined.

Franklin, the affable shoeshine guy, quickly engages me in a conversation and asks what brought me to Calgary. I tell him.

He immediately asserts, “Let me tell you something about leadership, my friend.”

Oh, maybe I should have attended his workshop.

“I manage four people. Soon, I’ll be opening another location here at the airport. And I will tell you that the most important thing about leadership, it doesn’t matter what business you are in … is respect. Always be respectful of your people.”

Well. Exactly right.

Maybe next time the trade association doesn’t need to hire me. They could hire Franklin.

Your thoughts?


What Consistently Growing Mid-Market Companies Worry About
Posted on Monday, Feb 16, 2015 by Michael Canic

Last week we looked at the traits of mid-market companies that consistently grow (according to Inc. magazine’s “Build 100” research). This week: what do those companies worry about?

Tellingly, the top external factor they worry about is not the economy, rising health care costs or other macro factors. It’s rising competition. These consistently growing companies are competitively focused and don’t spend time wringing their hands about things completely outside of their control.

The top internal factor that concerns them is training future supervisors and managers. Successful growth depends on employees who can deliver the brand experience. Which in turn depends on managers who can select, engage and develop the right employees.

Finally, what is the potential event they most fear? Not a security breach, not expanding too quickly … but the loss of a key employee. These companies know that having the right people is absolutely critical to success. They need to get and keep the right people.

Rising competition. Training future supervisors and managers. Losing a key employee. Are you worrying about these enough?

Your thoughts?


The Traits of Mid-Market Companies that Consistently Grow
Posted on Monday, Feb 9, 2015 by Michael Canic

Inc. magazine looked at over 100,000 mid-market companies (85-999 employees) to determine which ones had sustained growth from 2007 – 2012 (remember those years?). Of the almost 1,500 companies that qualified they chose to examine a representative sample of 100 – a group they called the “Build 100.”

What are the traits of those companies that stood out? More than anything else, CEOs identified customer service as their company’s top strength. In a world of interminable call wait times, and where finding a service employee is equivalent to a sasquatch sighting, successful companies realize that, yes, service does count.

What do these companies consider the most vital part of their business? It’s not the topics that dominate magazine covers – big data, design, or a flexible workplace. It’s branding – establishing and consistently conveying the integrity of a coherent, compelling brand.

Finally, what do they say sums up the secret to their success? Top answer: execution – the ability to get stuff done. Second: innovation. No other answer even came close. When you can get the right stuff done and get the right new stuff done, you’ve got a good chance to be successful.

Provide exceptional service. Convey a coherent and compelling brand. Execute. That’s what makes mid-market companies successful. What’s your next step?

Your thoughts?


When is it time for a CEO to move on?
Posted on Monday, Feb 2, 2015 by Michael Canic

John Montalbano didn’t like it, but it was the right thing to do. As the CEO of RBC Global Asset Management – Canada’s largest asset-management firm – he announced that he would be stepping down.

No, it didn’t have to do with poor results – RBC Global Asset Management has consistently been rated at or near the top of its category. And it didn’t have to do with falling out of touch – Montalbano was just 50. It had to do with a belief.

“After analyzing thousands of companies as a fund manager and as an analyst, I came to a view that CEOs have a due date of eight to 10 years. After that, they either become stale or start to close doors for people around them who are ready to step forward.”

“It didn’t feel good, but it felt right. To me, that’s how leaving should feel: it can never be about you; it’s got to be about your business.”

It can never be about you; it’s got to be about your business. Knowing when to step aside is just as important as knowing when to take the reins.

What’s best for your organization?

Your thoughts?


How to Attract Great Employees
Posted on Monday, Jan 26, 2015 by Michael Canic

I continue to hear about companies’ struggles to find top talent. In one company, over 800 resumes yielded just 5 employees!

So how can you attract great employees? Follow these four steps:

1) Attention
You are competing for their attention. And the competition is fierce so you don’t have much time to grab it. Ask yourself, ”Does our website immediately convey that we are a great place to work?”

2) Interest
You’ve got their attention. Now, is what you have to show or say interesting enough to hold it? Don’t make it about you! Make it about them and the people like them – your current employees.

3) Desire
They’re interested, but have you converted that into desire? Do the videos, photos, and copy make clear why you are a better place to work than other companies? Compete!

4) Action
Finally, have you provided a call-to-action, a quick and simple, do-next step to translate their desire into action?

The struggle to find top talent continues. Do you have an intentional, them-centered process to make it happen?

Your thoughts?


Customer-Empowerment: The Next Level of Innovation
Posted on Monday, Jan 19, 2015 by Michael Canic

There’s innovation. There’s customer-driven innovation. Then there’s customer-empowered innovation.

Five years ago, outdoor clothing retailer Eddie Bauer launched the First Ascent line for serious alpine use. Yet the market space was already crowded. How to stand out?

By empowering the ultimate experts: world-class outdoor athletes and guides. Empowering those experts not just to provide product input on the front end and feedback on the back end, but empowering them with go / no-go decisions about product designs they’ve tested in the field.

That’s right, the experts get to decide, not the company. Which means their tagline, “Guide built. Guide trusted.” is not just marketing fluff. It’s real.

As Ed Viesturs, a First Ascent guide and the first American to summit all fourteen 8,000-meter mountains, has said, “The really cool part about the process is that in the end, we have the ultimate stamp of approval. If we like it, BOOM, it gets made, and if we don’t, it gets canned.”

You can’t get much more credible than that.

How would empowering your customers strengthen your products and services … and credibility?

Your thoughts?


How Important is Employee Engagement?
Posted on Monday, Jan 12, 2015 by Michael Canic

Just in case you’ve any doubt at all about the importance of employee engagement (or you’ve just emerged from a time capsule), let me boil it down for you.

The Gallup organization studied almost 50,000 work units with over 1.3 million employees. How did units with top-quartile engagement compare to those in the bottom-quartile?

Profitability +22%
Productivity +21%
Customer ratings +10%
Theft -28%
Absenteeism -37%
Quality defects -41%
Safety incidents -48%
Employee turnover -25% to -65%*

(* depending on whether an organization was classified as “high turnover” or “low turnover”)

The debate is over, the issue is decided, the case is closed.

Engage your people!

Communicate purpose, vision and expectations. Demonstrate respect, trust and caring. Provide coaching and support. Acknowledge, recognize and celebrate.

It’s the winning formula.

Your thoughts?


How to be Successful in 2015
Posted on Monday, Jan 5, 2015 by Michael Canic

Welcome to 2015. You’re committed to being successful this year. Here’s a roadmap:

One. What is one goal you must accomplish this year? Got one? Now validate it by asking yourself: Why is it compelling? What is the pain if I don’t achieve the goal? Did your goal pass the test? If so, write it down.

Reflect. Be brutally honest with yourself. Which of your traits and behaviors are inhibiting achievement of the goal? Give each a label. Write them down.

Plan. Allow yourself time to think without distraction. What actions and steps are required to achieve your goal? And what must you do to overcome the traits and behaviors that are keeping you from achieving the goal? Write down the plan in the form of time-linked actions. Calendar them.

Track & Recalibrate. Regularly schedule time to track progress against your goal. Assess your performance along with why you met or didn’t meet the commitments made. Make adjustments based on your assessment.

Celebrate. Allow yourself to feel good about legitimate progress that leads to achieving the goal. Reward yourself for making progress.

This roadmap for success isn’t complicated. But it is proven. Focus, Motivation, Organization and Discipline.

Make it a successful 2015.

Your thoughts?


How to be More Effective in 2015
Posted on Monday, Dec 29, 2014 by Michael Canic

Patterns. If you’re serious about becoming more effective in 2015, then become a student of patterns. The patterns of behavior you exhibit when you are more effective and less effective. When you go to sleep, when you wake up, how you start your day, how you organize your day, what you say ‘yes’ to, what you say ‘no’ to, what and when you eat and drink, how you wind down your day.

Study what successful people do. (Success magazine is one of my preferred sources.) Identify the behavioral patterns they exhibit. Identify the patterns of thinking and feeling associated with those behaviors. Adopt or modify the patterns that are most relevant to your improvement.

There are patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that are associated with success. And there are patterns associated with mediocrity and even failure. If you want to change your future, then change your patterns.

Your thoughts?



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Why Alignment is Critical to Execution, Despite What HBR Says
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