Published Articles

How Hands-On Management Can Hold Your Company Back

Many companies pride themselves on fostering a “hands-on” management style.

Individual managers, from the CEO down, actively participate in the daily operation of the business. Although their real-time participation guarantees that their judgment and expertise gets applied to even the most mundane operational decisions, it can be a double-edged sword. If managers have a hand in everything, how can the rest of the team be truly empowered, feel valued, or be trusted? This article uses the extended example of a company I call Wicket Worldwide, an amalgam of actual companies I’ve worked with specifically addressing the issues raised by hands-on management. The example helps to frame the problem and explain why it’s detrimental to a company’s success when managers become “indispensable” in running ...

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Use Strategic Delegation to Improve Productivity

The more your company can optimize—not just maximize—staff members’ output, the more you can increase return on investment and grow your business without investing in more staff or other resources. This strategy works whether your company is running lean and mean or gearing up for new growth. One of the fastest, most effective ways to optimize output without increasing costs is to institute strategic delegation practices. Strategic delegation is an often-overlooked management tool that has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and employee satisfaction...

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A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss:

Prevent Your Strategic Plan From Stagnating

Just as a rolling stone gathers no moss, a strategic plan that’s actually used will gather no dust. Too often, companies devote time and energy to developing strategic plans, only to never look at them again once they have been printed out. This article explains the critical importance of actually using and implementing your company’s strategic plan, and offers practical tips for avoiding the most common traps that keep a strategic plan sitting, ignored, on a shelf. I recently asked the CEO of one of our longest-standing strategic planning clients how they fared during the worst of the economic downturn. “Well, John, industry demand dropped over 30 percent, some big players failed or were purchased, and every customer demanded a discount.”

“But how did your company do?” I asked him. “Not so bad,” he replied. “We upgraded our production facility as planned, continued to invest in expanding our product line, and remained profitable. In fact, we are growing again.”

“But how did your company do?” I asked him. “Not so bad,” he replied. “We upgraded our production facility as planned, continued to invest in expanding our product line, and remained profitable. In fact, we are growing again.”

How was this company able to manage themselves through tough times and continue to support investment in the future? The answer is that over the past decade, their executive team, driven by a shared vision of the future, had identified and implemented strategic goals that literally changed the company’s status quo. They had dramatically increased their ability to sustain investments...

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Strategic Downsizing

A New Model for Implementing Workforce Reductions

The turmoil in the financial markets and the tenuous state of the major U.S. auto manufacturers have led many companies to view their own futures with increasing pessimism. Pessimism inevitably leads companies to consider cutting staff as they begin to reassess their strategies, tactics, budgets, and overhead. As the pressure for cutting jobs mounts, HR executives can help their management teams avoid the unfair and unsuccessful practice of across the-board cuts. There is a more equitable and effective approach to rightsizing an organization. This process includes a quick method of total talent assessment and a game plan for strategic downsizing. By taking the time to objectively assess their workforces, companies can hold onto their performers who are "platinum" while they are able to identify and get the "lead" out. Even better, this can be accomplished without the usual acrimony and disruption to business continuity.

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Does Your Pricing Hide Your Company's True Value to Customers?

Early in my career, I worked at Scientific Time Sharing Corporation (STSC) for 15 years, beginning in 1969, when they had only six employees. In addition to the happy bonus of being the place where I found the love of my life, my partner and wife Mary, STSC was also where I experienced the power of strategic planning and the danger of being wrong about pricing.

To me – and no doubt to the rest of my colleagues – it seemed that STSC was in the business of developing and selling access to the most powerful and productive IBM mainframe-based computer timesharing service in existence. This was a natural assumption, given that we billed our customers based on their access to our centralized computer. We billed customers monthly for the total number of minutes each company’s users were dialed into our computer, the number of mainframe CPU seconds those users consumed, and the bytes of data they stored.

I thought our pricing reflected the value our customers received from us. I was wrong! While that may have been true for the first few months of STSC’s existence, in fact ...

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth About Growth

The C-Level Executive's Number One Challenge

After taking the oath to “never do anything stupid — because of something written on a piece of paper,” the executive team set out to create a shared visualization of their company’s future. This was a key element of their strategic planning process. As their facilitator, I asked each team member how big they wanted the company to be within five years. I wasn’t asking for a forecast or prediction, but their personal visualization, with an explanation of why they picked that number. Before answering, Bob, the Director of IT, spoke up passionately. “Growth creates nothing but problems. Why can’t we just stay the size we are?” The ugly truths about growth

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Strategic Delegation:

The Key to Increased Productivity and Higher Performance

Most CEOs dream of running an organization in which all managers spend the majority of their time improving the business rather than working in the business. These CEOs also wish their employees would perform at their highest potential, take personal responsibility for roles and outcomes, and be held accountable for results. In sum, these leaders of industry want to optimize - not just maximize - productivity, performance, and profitability from every individual. Fortunately, there is a management tool to accomplish this: strategic delegation of tasks is the key to optimizing the value of each employee's output

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Turning the Tables on Performance Reviews

How to Create a Better Process That Empowers, Energizes and Rewards Your Employees

One of the most important tasks CEOs and company owners face in running their companies is to build the best leadership team possible and motivate employees throughout their organizations to be empowered, energized and effective producers. After all, CEOs cannot themselves be successful company leaders without a highly productive and effective workforce. But knowing whom to hire or promote, how to develop potential leaders, and how to turn employees into better producers eludes even the most conscientious CEOs. This is primarily because of the inadequacy of information available to them in individual employee performance reviews and organizational job descriptions. Fortunately, there is a way to improve the quality of information in these organizational documents -- information that will vastly improve the promotion process and help employees to be more productive, accountable and rewarded for their contributions.

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How to Double the Impact - And Output - of Your Management Team

Early in my career, when I was offered and accepted my first assignment as a CEO, I learned a very important lesson that all aspiring organizational leaders need to know: the success of any enterprise is dependent on the synergy of its management team as much as on the brilliance of the person at the top. How to create the highest possible positive synergy out of a company's management team is a task that often keeps many CEOs and HR executives awake at night. The head of HR, for example, is responsible for assuring that the right people are in the right jobs at the right time. He or she also plays an important role in advising the CEO on how to lead the team in such a way that these players operate on behalf of the company -- not just their individual divisions and functions. This is the lesson that I learned the hard way, and I never forgot it. (In fact, I eventually formed a consulting practice to teach others how to maximize their management talent.)

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Creating a Strategic Plan

How To Make the Most of Performance Evaluations

Many companies have figured out how to drastically reduce the amount of time and stress involved in performance evaluations. The result is less hassled managers and happier employees. How did these companies manage to do this? What skills did they teach to their managers to turn the performance evaluation process into a win/win situation? Why was changing the performance evaluation system such an important mission for these companies? Given my 18 years of experience facilitating strategic planning meetings and workforce reviews, I can report that administering performance reviews is one of the most commonly despised aspects of a manager's job. They complain that "the forms are unclear," or "the time consumed is excessive." Even in companies with reasonable processes, managers rarely follow the prescribed system.

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Focusing On Weak Points Builds Good Strategic Plans

Feature article interviewing John Myrna

Strategic planners tend to weigh strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. But John Myrna likes to tweak this so-called SWOT analysis. "It's best to start with the organization's most important weaknesses," said Myrna, president of Myrna Associates in Silver Spring, Md. "You stimulate a richer dialogue by addressing the weaknesses first." He suggests following a discussion of weaknesses with a look at opportunities, threats and strengths -- what Myrna calls a "WOTS up" analysis.

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Here's How to Beat the Recession:

Make Your Management Team More Effective

With budgets under intense pressure these days, US manufacturers are challenged to find ways to do more with less. From research and work we've conducted over 15 years during up and down markets, we've learned that successful companies accomplish this by following one very important tactic: they improve the effectiveness of their senior management teams by providing them an opportunity to create -- and support -- razor-sharp strategic plans with clear-cut goals, accountabilities and action steps for the next 30, 60 and 90 days.

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There's One Right Way and Many Wrong Ways to "Right Size"

Today's economic picture has led many CEOs to consider drastic measures to stay competitive, including cutting jobs. The good news is that there is a right way to reduce staff to help weather the storms ahead.

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How To Chart a Safe Course During this Recession

While Keeping Eyes on the Distant Horizon

Today's CEOs are caught, as they say, between a rock and a hard place as they work to guide their corporate ships through the rocky channels of the current recession and still keep an eye on the horizon and ultimate destination. What many of them fail to remember is that they cannot do it all alone -- that they need to rely on their executive team members to support their efforts, to provide the necessary financial and market data and to do much of the heavy lifting and steering for them. One of our client CEOs who learned this lesson during the last downturn recalls his situation: "I always had a clear vision of where I wanted the company to go. Yet for years I was frustrated that my team didn't truly understand the company's short- and long-term destinations and hadn't taken responsibility for these goals."

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How To Ensure Your Recession-Fighting
Game Plan Gets Implemented

A strategic or action plan to achieve a corporate goal in a certain period of time is only as good as its implementation. The challenge for all CEOs, therefore, is how to effectively put together a high quality, strategic plan that their Executive Teams will implement. This task is daunting enough in good times, but it's particularly challenging in depressed economic conditions when companies are looking for the right strategy, right now, to reduce expenses, manage cash flow, protect value, and regain growth. Any misstep could cost them dearly. The bottom line is that companies can stabilize their current situations and complete their transition to new tracks in as short a period as four months. But to do this the CEOs must know how to avoid all the obstacles and pitfalls that prevent successful strategic plans from being developed and implemented.

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Creating a Strategic Plan

Feature article about John Myrna and Myrna Associates

A Maryland-based Company Helps Originators To Focus on Doing the Things that Will Enable Growth: The options of success or failure, says one expert, can be controlled through the strategic planning process. This extends to the mortgage industry, where companies across the country are praising the strategic planning program developed by Myrna Associates, Inc., based out of Silver Spring, Md. The intensive, fast-paced sessions of the Total Quality Planning process help senior management teams focus on a profitable future through the development of specific action plans.

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Where the Hell are We?

Team driven strategic planning dramatically improves results and teamwork while lowering executive stress. The challenge is how to effectively put together a quality strategic plan that your team will actually implement. Conventional approaches take weeks or months leaving too little energy, time, and budget for the real challenge of implementation. Too often the CEO or some outside consultant develops a plan and then expects the team to buy in and implement.

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Improving Productivity, ROI With Strategic Delegation

Strategic delegation can be used to resolve bottlenecks in sales, product development and engineering

If your company is ready to gear up for new growth, one of the fastest and most effective ways to optimize output without increasing costs is to institute strategic delegation practices. Strategic delegation is an often-overlooked management tool that has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and employee satisfaction in most companies. To get started, every strategic player, from the CEO on down, first assesses his or her tasks, prioritizes these activities based on their importance to the company's success, eliminates the non-essential tasks altogether and delegates to others parts of the essential tasks they are responsible for. This frees them up to work on improving the business, not just completing tasks.

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