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January 2013
 
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There is an old quote that goes like this: "The old sailors steered by the stars, not to get there, but to keep a steady course". This wisdom can also be applied by businesses. Our vision, mission and long term goals function as the stars. Even if you don't get there they help to keep a steady course for your company and to make sure you move in the right direction.

Nowadays companies are taken aback by the short term winds and streams in the "business oceans" - and start to diverge from their original course and purpose. New seamen are set as captains, and new routes are planned. But probably we should lift our heads and navigate by the more long term vision, mission and goals of your company and "trust" the stars. smiley

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.

 

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November 2012
 
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KPI Bazooka - are you measuring everything that moves - or are you measuring the KEY things?

KPI's (Key performance indicators) are a vital part of your Strategy Execution system. We should probably take a closer look at the three magic letters and see what they contain:

K - Key - remember only the important - the "key" - the few. I see many companies going into the KPI trap and measuring everything that moves. All things that "move" are subjects for measuring, but the question is still the same: is it the KEY? And KEY to what? Is it the Key to see that you are executing your strategy well?

P - Performance - are we trying to find out about the Performance? Or are we just gathering statistics, counting, and collecting all meaningless data?

I - Indicator - are we aware that what we are presenting as KPI's are just indications? If it was the "full truth" it would have been another abbreviation - KPT - Key performance Truth. But we are not trying to tell the "full and only truth". We are like doctors, only trying to make indications - good indications. If people say to me "this KPI is not measuring the 100% truth", I agree with them. It will tell them what the "I" is representing, and moves on from that. This makes the conversation between employees and managers much easier.

Good luck with your KPI selection and don't forget the three important letters K,P,I.

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.

 

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November 2012
 
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Meetings are a part of our daily life in corporations, but have you been questioning the value of meetings? Some love meetings, others hate meetings. I came across some interesting statistics* that I want to share with you.

  • 55% of all meetings are dominated by one or two persons
  • 32% of employees think that they can get sacked if they tell the truth in meetings
  • 39% of decisions made are taken after the meeting is over
  • 80% of discussions in meetings are about issues that people already agree upon
How can we avoid this?
  • The organizer of the meeting should make more people talk - not just one or two
  • Create a culture of openness
  • Have decision points in the meeting - and not leave it to until after the meeting, to decide
  • Cut through and ask "Do we all agree on this? If so – we don't have to debate this anymore".
  • Clarify the objective with the meeting. Is it for making decisions? Is it for informing people?
*2004 - Survey commissioned for IMS

 

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.

 

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October 2012
 
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There is a clear cause effect relationship between how engaged the employees are and the profit a company makes. A study by Hewitt Associates shows that those companies with an engaged workforce (where more than 65% of employees consider themselves as engaged) are doing better than the stock market even at times of crisis. The companies where people feel engaged also record a higher customer satisfaction, increased productivity, lower turnover and lower sick leave rate.

The reasons for engagement or lack of engagement cannot be found in the budgets, but are found in the way the management of the companies think. Research shows that the way the management think and behave are affecting how employees conduct their job. When a manager shows interest in employees and helps in creating a work environment characterized by security and predictability, the employees experience a high degree of motivation and engagement and do their utmost to perform.

There are probably many ways to inspire and get people engaged, but I will mention some of which I think is important.

  1. The best way to engage people is to be engaged yourself - Find out what inspires you as a leader and make sure that you keep yourself engaged.
  2. Have high expectations - Inspire and challenge people to do their best without thwarting all their inspiration due to too many high expectations.
  3. Focus on the positive - Employees know if you really care about your job and whether your company is doing well or not. Real engaged leaders cannot stay away from speaking about things that are going well.
  4. Do not ignore the negative Engaged leaders are not only concerned about the good days, but they also have a realistic view about the negative that happens and tries to find out how to solve it.
Good luck with finding your inspiration!

 

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.

 

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September 2012
 
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The power of execution is one of the qualities that I appreciate most in my employees. As it is in most companies, you have a mixture of "talkers" and "doers". Just think of the value creation your company could have if you could switch the "talkers" to "doers".

What can help us facilitate this "conversion" process? Can the balanced scorecard framework help being more targeted towards execution? I believe so.

Putting people responsible for strategic objectives, strategic themes, kpi's, and initiatives will drive people to take more responsibility and enter the execution mode. In addition to making people responsible you should aim for transparency, and conduct regular meetings to report status. This will also have wonderful effects and move people from "talkers" to "doers".

But I have one question to the balanced scorecard community. The balanced scorecard is a good model that explains how the business is built up through the 4 perspectives. On average, a regular balanced scorecard consists of approximately 4 perspectives, 10 objectives, 25 kpi's, and 50 initiatives per organizational unit. My question is: Is the balanced scorecard focusing too widely? Is an organization able to focus its energy on 89 things at once (4 perspectives, 10 objectives, 25 kpi's, and 50 initiatives)?. Are we losing our focus when everything becomes equally important? What about "highlighting" special target areas in the balanced scorecard and focusing on changing only this part?

I am reading a book now which contains a framework for focusing a company's energy towards a selected set of objectives and kpi's. The framework is called 4DX — Four Diciplines of Execution and it looks promising so far. Here they put all the energy on a selected part of the strategy map/ balanced scorecard model. Could this model be merged with the balanced scorecard to get more effect for businesses?

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August 2012
 
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According to recent studies, many companies are not realizing their full potential. Indications are that 40-60% of a company's strategic potential is not realized. There are probably many reasons for this, but today I would like to focus on one factor that I think is valuable.

This summer I hired a brand new Camaro. My friend was very impressed with the all the sensors the car had. Whenever I reversed, I could see where I went in a camera in the mirror. I could hear sounds indicating how close I was to the objects and I could see lines stipulating where I was heading. So based on all these sensors and a very good GPS we had a wonderful time in the US and made our way around. This made me think.

Do corporations have "sensors"? That tells them where to steer and maneuver in this fast changing business world? I was thinking back on conversations that I have had with people over the years. People telling me "I knew this would happen", "we all knew", "we tried to warn about this", "this was market knowledge that we had but the management did not act upon it".

There are people in your organization who are these "strategic sensors". They are all over the company and have valuable knowledge - knowledge about customers' needs, market development, drivers, and competition etc. – factors that are crucial for their company's future development. Make sure that you find your company's "strategic sensors". They might be disabled by managers who filter information on its way to the top.

Make sure that you engage most of the strategic sensors your company have. Of course there will be a lot of sensors giving wrong indications, but can you afford not checking them out?

In order to enable the sensors to function, you need to create a culture for sharing new ideas, forwarding new hypothesis, and also create arenas to share and establish a common language on how to debate on strategy.

Probably you should send your employees to the Strategy Debate University where the strategic sensors come to life?! Or maybe you could create this internally in your own organization?

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July 2012
 
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I have come across this quote several times in the last few months. I have been thinking about the reality of this quote. Why isn't it strategy that eats culture for lunch?!

If we just compare the power structure of it, you will see who wins:

Culture

Strategy

Why culture wins and eats strategy:

Emotional

Rational/ logical

Emotions are strong. Just think of the power that is released in people when it comes to the emotions of 'love' and 'heart'

Based on the past

Based on the future

Most organizations (read people) are making decisions based on past experience. You can never re-do your past - but you can certainly change your future.

People driven

Business driven

Most people tend to do what is best for them - not what is best for the company. We can ask "are employees working for the company to prosper, or is the company made for the people to prosper?". In most organizations people have enormous power (informal power)

So, when you see the power balance between culture and strategy - I think it is time that we take the "alignment" part more seriously. Not only aligning and giving part of the strategy to individuals, but really aligning the company’s culture with its strategy. If not done properly culture will eat strategy not only for breakfast but for lunch and dinner as well !

Enjoy your meal...

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June 2012
 
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I have been visiting several customers lately and have been seeing their scorecards. Among all, particularly in banking and finance I noticed that their scorecard is populated with up to 100 KPI's!

They might have an objective - "high uptime on our critical banking systems" with 50 corresponding KPI's that show the uptime status on each of the critical systems. The scorecard looks overpopulated and it is not easy to read how well they are executing their strategy.

My advice to companies that tend to fall into this "KPI Mania trap" is to consolidate. Instead of having 50 KPIs - one for each critical system _ you can make one KPI for "uptime critical systems" and show the status of all the 50 systems within that one KPI. You might want to put some rules that turn the KPI to red if one or some of the systems have had a bad uptime.

By doing this you can have a cleaner "first page" about your strategy execution and leave all the operational control parameters hidden "inside" the model.

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May 2012
 
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The Balanced Scorecard has been evolving since it was first mentioned by Art Schneiderman in 1987. Kaplan and Norton branded it and made it known to the world. They further developed it from a measurement system in to a management system, and connected strategy to the theory. Balanced Scorecard is still a widely popular concept around the world and new thoughts are evolving the theory.

As with any other theory, one day there will be a paradigm shift. The old beliefs will fall and new and better theories will arise. My question is "has the time come already"? When a new guru appears and introduces a new management theory that takes over the position the Balanced Scorecard has today?

The strength with the Balanced Scorecard is in the ease of communication around the words "Balanced Scorecard". The words cover much of the theory.

If you are thinking of becoming a new guru and of introducing a new and better theory, I would like to give you the ingredients for success:

  • -   Link up to Academia (well reputed business schools)
  • -   Build your own CV
  • -   Develop superb presentation skills
  • -  Turn on your charisma
  • -   Write business books (with a portion of your knowledge, do not write all at once)
  • -   Money and fame should propel you to move forward
  • -   Find industry players (Software, management consultants, and event organizers) to take you around the world so that you can evangelize your new theory. (the good thing with this is that they pay for you spreading the word, and it is well paid too)
  • -   Find some high profile company that can be your practical evidence that the new theory is right
  • -   Get articles published in the Harvard Business Review
  • -   Work with the leading business schools to get your word across to the new students
  • -   Find a unique name for the new theory
  • -   If your new theory cannot be told as an "elevator speech" (max 10 seconds) - forget it

 

If anyone sees the new "Management Messiah" - please send me an email. I would like to get in touch with him/her.

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.

 

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April 2012
 
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One of my favorite fairy tales from when I was a boy is Winnie-the-Pooh. He was once asked "where should we go?". "I don't know he replied". And then they ended up being there.

I see the same pattern with annual reports. It amazes me how companies with weak/no defined objectives and targets are writing their reports as they have had clear objectives and targets all through the year.

This made me do this cartoon. Companies with no objectives and targets are always reaching their goals. It is like they are "shooting the arrow" and see where it hits and define this as the objective/target.

Is your company shooting first and paint after, or do you have a target and a bulls eye to hit before you shoot?

I will leave it up to self-examination.

Author : Tor Inge Vasshus, CEO, Corporater, Inc.
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