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Archive for September, 2013

Have you given much thought the need to adjust your strategy to adapt to changing dynamics in your business environment? I have been, prompted by a recent call with one of my mentors who brought up Kodak.

You remember Kodak, don’t you? For a while, it was Eastman Kodak, then just Kodak, and anyone with a camera — the ones that require actual film — will remember Kodak. Back then, we had to go to the store to buy rolls of film; then, when we’d taken our pictures, we took them back to the store or a film shop and dropped off the role of film to be developed…which often took a week to 10 days! Eventually, someone invented the 1-hour photo developing system, and that revolutionized photography (for us amateurs, anyway), for a while. Then along came digital photography. No longer did you need to buy film or have it developed; now the market was all about memory cards for your camera, and the pixel capability of your camera.

Clearly, this new business model didn’t fit with Kodak’s old model — sell film, photo paper, and developing services. So, how did Kodak respond?

At one point, albeit way too late in the transformation of its industry, the former giant attempted to reposition itself as the Memories company, with print-at-home photo paper and systems…but it was too late. Kodak had missed the boat and ended up filing for Chapter 11 Reorganization.

Are you even aware of what Kodak is up to — if anything — these days? I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if the company was even in business any longer. Turns out, a simple search indicates it is. Today, “Kodak has transformed itself into a technology company focused on imaging for business.”

According to its web site,

“Kodak sharpened its focus to commercial markets as part of a 20-month Chapter 11 reorganization in which it successfully removed large legacy costs, streamlined a complex infrastructure, and exited or spun-off businesses – including its remaining consumer imaging and document imaging businesses – that were no longer core to its future. People around the world will continue to see the Kodak brand through its commercial businesses and licenses with select business partners.

As a result of its reorganization, Kodak today is leaner, financially stronger and ready to grow – poised to take advantage of the digital transition underway in packaging markets; the growing demand for graphic communications products and services in emerging markets; and dynamic growth in the market for printed electronics, sensors, fuel cells and other printed products with functions beyond visual communications.”

This is a prime example of the need to adapt one’s strategy as the dynamics of business and industry shift, and they are constantly shifting. The point: One must adapt to survive, and this is as true for you — as leaders — as it is for your organizations.

Today, spend some time reflecting on the changes you’ve experienced in your industry in the past few years. What were some of the most dramatic? And what adaptations were required for your organization to remain relevant?

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Good morning and Happy Friday! It’s been a great week for me; I’ve been productive and focused and moving forward. This progress didn’t simply happen, and it certainly wasn’t immediate. It’s taken a lot of work over many days, weeks, months, and I am building momentum. It feels great! So nice to be centered in my purpose, operating in my passion zone, and focused on what matters most.

So, as I prepare for my weekend, I know exactly what I need to focus on: First, family time. I think we need a field trip to the farmer’s market or the WV Zoo (yes, I was surprised to discover this, but apparently there is a zoo in WV). Second, preparation for a couple of workshops I have booked  mid-October — one focused on communication fundamentals and one on Laws of Growth and Laws of Leadership. Third, catch up on bookkeeping. Fourth, some reading, writing, and studying. Oh, and yoga!

Next week, I will spend time planning for an upcoming team building and communication workshop, hold several coaching appointments, and prepare for a new Mastermind Group on John Maxwell’s newest book (to be launched October 10th with a live webcast — more on this in a separate post) Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.

You know what’s coming next, right?

What’s your plan for the weekend?

Whom do you need to spend time with?

What do you need to do for yourself?

Do you need to focus on work, learning, projects, or rest?

What do you need to do to prepare yourself for success on Monday, in the coming weeks, and even months?

How much better do you feel when you are intentional about how you spend your weekend time and how you prepare for the coming days and weeks?

I would love to hear if you are following this practice and what affects it’s having on your life.

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As part of the growth plan I am working my way through, I have recently spent some time reflecting on my association with the John Maxwell Team and the value it’s brought to my life.
Several people have told me they wished they could do some of what I’m doing and asked me about my experience with the John Maxwell Team. After returning from Guatemala my (already great) opinion about the JMT is at a new level. What we took part of in Guatemala was “Historic.” John’s Influence and his team at Equip ( his other company) along with two other organizations ( LaRed and Guatemala Prospera) are the reason this amazing Transformation has begun in Guatemala.
Think about this: Three people trained 150 of us coaches over two-and-a-half days. We were then deployed, along with a translator, to go out and teach four-hour work shops sitting in small circles with military, city and country government officials, faculties of schools, clergy, hospital administrators, doctors and nurses, business men and women, and community leaders; we taught them how to facilitate interactive roundtable discussions on the the topics of Laws of Growth and Values, like forgiveness, listening skills, and others.
Gua Natl Civil Police June13 sm  (Me with the National Civil Police, Guatemala City, Guatemala, June 2013, at the end of our session)
In three days we reached ~19,000 people and left them trained and equipped to facilitate a 30-week follow-up using this same process in their areas of influence and with their families.
It was an amazing, life-changing experience! I don’t know if you can imagine but each one of the participants (captains & generals of armies in uniform, city mayors, doctors, clergy, etc) had to get “real” and be “transparent” rating themselves from 1-10 on how they were at, for instance, “listening” or “forgiving others. ” Then they had to say aloud what specific action steps they were going to take in the coming week to improve their performance in that area.
I’ve never seen such transparency. The stories of what happened were crazy-awesome! When people get real and want to grow, TRANSFORMATION begins.
As of mid-August, 45,000 (yes, 45,000!) others were going through this transformation process in small groups led by the people we taught in June.
I’m still on ‘cloud nine’ about the whole thing. Our own country could so benefit from this process. Third world countries don’t have the distractions we have and they want help to bring hope to their future generations. From the president down to the young people, the whole country is in pursuit of hope. Although this was not a faith-based effort per se, all the principles, laws, and values we taught come directly from the wisdom found in the pages of the Bible.
If you are looking for a personal leadership growth track (speaking, coaching, teaching, etc…), want to move toward growing a business, or be a part of a transformational, powerful organization, you can make that a reality for yourself by joining the John Maxwell Team. Give me a call. I can walk you through the process for enrolling, the investment, and the amazing benefits of joining this team.
It truly is the best thing I’ve done for myself in at least 10 years!
I look forward to hearing from you.

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There are two key components to a strategy — the vision and the plan to achieve it. It truly is that simple.

As a leader, its your responsibility to not only dream the vision and be able to articulate it to your team / organization, but also to create the plan and inspire your team / organization to achieve it.

This is another area in which it is important that your level of self-awareness is high. In all honesty, are you better at the dreaming part or the achieving it part?

Explain your answer to that question.

Now that you are focused on your personal strength, and have been giving thought to the importance of strategy in achieving goals, what are the keys to an effective strategy?

What are your weaknesses around strategy?

How do you compensate for them?

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.   ~Sun Tzu

Having spent a considerable amount of time and energy reflecting on this, and having undergone a broad variety of personal assessments and 360 reviews, I can easily say I’m good at creating a vision and laying out the strategic plan. From a tactical standpoint, I am perfectly capable of defining specific tactics and carrying them out, but this part of the process is not my primary strength, consequently it is a much more taxing part of the process for me. I, as well as my team or organization, am better served if I have within my resources someone whose strength lies in the tactical work.

What about you?

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Today, examine the core strategies your organization or team  is following. Are they easily explained and when written, do they fit on one page? If not, it’s time for some review and simplification. Challenge your team to do the same — simplify the core strategies each member of your team will follow in their specific roles that will allow them to support the organizational strategies — and fit them on one page.

Again, if they are too complicated and difficult to explain, understand, or follow, no one will use them.

Then, bring your team together and evaluate each person’s revised strategy. This exercise will allow you to determine whether individual members really understand the overall organizational strategies, and if they are on track to support the bigger picture goals.

This is a great opportunity to address any adjustments that need to be made and to refine individual and team-level strategies to ensure your team is on track to meet organizational goals.

Take some time, right now, to get started.

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The best strategies are simple; make them too complex and they will fail because no one will follow them.

To begin, you need to define a clear destination; what are you trying to accomplish and where will you be when you arrive? The strategic plan will help you identify the significant milestones you will achieve along the way to your final destination. Knowing your final destination has been defined, and key milestones identified along the way allows you to focus on shorter-term goals and keeps you from over-planning.

This is the point from which to start. As you reach the first milestone, you can take stock and assess your progress and review your end destination. This is when you can make necessary adjustments based on progress to-date and any changes in the dynamics related to our goals.

As you develop your strategies, keep in mind your organization’s and team’s strengths, identify the resources you will need that you don’t already possess, and prepare accordingly. You might look at it this way, using a “quadrant” view…draw a box on a flip chart or white board, with four break-out areas.

Top left: What are your organization’s vision, goals, and values?

Top right: What are your organization’s strengths?

Bottom left: What problem or opportunity is your organization currently facing?

Bottom right: What assets (time, capital, and talent) are you willing to commit to your pursuit of the goal?

For this particular opportunity, develop a clear objective, answer the questions, and map out three to five mile markers that you will hit along the journey.

Now, schedule the first step towards reaching the first milestone.

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You’ve gotta have a plan!

I’ve worked for 20+ years as a professional communicator. In 2005, I took a job as the Communications Manager at Tree Top, Inc. As I started my third week, I was invited to attend a meeting of an internal team that had been tasked with reviewing all of the company’s assets and determining if any should be sold or closed, or reinvested in.  As it turned out, business conditions at the time indicated that one of our more distant plants should be closed.

From a purely business perspective — focused on logistics, dollars, and cents — it made sense to close this particular plant. It was located in northeastern Oregon, several hours from our headquarters location in central Washington, which was also where the bulk of our raw product, apples, pears, and cherries, were grown. At the time, if you remember, gas prices increased dramatically and all forecasting indicated that the cost of fuel would not be dropping, again, any time soon. So, the apples, pears, and cherries would be harvested in central Washington, shipped to Milton-Freewater, Oregon (MFO), several hours away, to be processed, then shipped back to central Washington for packaging and distribution. Couple this with the fact that other existing plants, in central Washington, had enough excess capacity to take on the processing handled by MFO. Again, from a business perspective, considering the time in transit and cost of moving it back and forth, it didn’t make sense to keep that plant.

From a people perspective, it was a difficult decision. The people managing and operating the MFO plant were top notch; they consistently did a high-quality job. In addition, this plant was one of the larger employers in this remote area, so there would be a significant impact on the local economy.

My task, develop a strategic communication plan to announce the closure decision to all affected audiences: Employees, community leaders, local grower-owners, and the media. Our goal was to multi-faceted: We needed to retain those key employees to ensure the plant continued to operate at high levels through the closure; we needed to assure the community we would do everything in our power to sell the facility to a person or organization that would operate it in some fashion — retaining some jobs and an economic base in the community; we needed to assure the local grower-owners that our field reps would continue to serve them well and they still had a home for their culls (essentially, fruit that wasn’t “beautiful” enough to be sold fresh); and we needed to address the media’s concerns that the decision might have been made hastily or because of performance issues at the plant.

I crafted a plan that addressed all of those issues and concerns. We prepared all the internal key players to ensure they were well informed and could communicate the rationale behind the decision and the long-term impact on the company had the decision not been made. We were proactive in informing everyone, and we did this in waves to ensure plant employees learned of the plan first, then the rest of the company’s employees (at several other plants in central Washington), then we went out separately to address community leaders, grower-owners, and the media. Within a few hours, we had met in person with all the key stakeholders, and we did it nearly nine months before the closure would actually take place.

While it wasn’t the announcement anyone wanted to hear, once the rationale was explained they all understood. We retained the key employees we needed to ensure the plant operated at high levels through the closure. We relocated some of the equipment and all of the processing. We sold the remaining equipment. We sold the building to a company that began operations within a couple of months of our closure. All in all, the whole process went smoothly.

The whole concept-to-execution steps of this communication plan took place over about six weeks, so I had been in my job approximately eight weeks at the time we carried it out. My boss came to me to apologize that my first assignment was a plant closure. I appreciated his concern, but actually grateful for the opportunity. It gave me a chance to, very quickly, demonstrate my value to the organization.

I don’t tell you this story to blow my own horn and give you the impression I am a “super hero” communicator. I share it with you to demonstrate the value of a well-considered strategy. We had a task at hand to carry out, coupled with clear objectives, and defined resources in place with which to work. As a strategic communicator, it was the kind of situation I thrive in.

I can easily contrast this experience to communication positions I’ve held with other organizations. I have been directed to put together communication messages, using specific vehicles, as a reaction to a change in certain metrics tracked by the company. When I asked about the objective we were attempting to achieve through the directed action, and how the tactic fit in with any strategy, I was told to “just do it.” In fact, one leader I worked for has said I was too strategic and needed to simply focus on the tactics and get things done.

I could do this, I suppose; technically, I am capable of it. It simply doesn’t make sense to me, though. I prefer to understand the key objectives and develop a strategy to address them…I’m not one to just take action for the sake of saying I took action; I want it to make sense and drive the organization closer to a stated objective, but that’s just me!

So, what are the core strategies of your organization or team?

Are they clearly defined?

Do you have simple ways of measuring your progress towards the objectives?

How closely are you following the strategies?

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