Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lessons Learned for Better Leaders and Outcomes #4

This is our fourth and final issue of the Ten Lessons Learned from Thirty-Five Years in Consulting written by Joe Bockerstette.  Thus far, we discussed the below eight lessons learned:

       1.  Success depends far more on the client than the consultant.
 2.  Figuring out what’s wrong isn’t that hard.
 3.  Leaders don’t know how work actually gets done.
 4.  Leaders and managers also don’t understand process.
 5.  Companies measure what’s easy, not what’s important.
 6.  Change is simple, just not easy.
 7.  Leaders would rather hire superstars to solve problems than solve problems.
 8.  Industry experience is overrated.

This issue focuses on:
   9. Corporate politics stops improvement
 10. Great clients have a will that delivers successful outcomes.
Summary and closing thoughts

As done in our last issue, we continue to provide case studies from The Inner Circle.  While we will always respect the confidentiality of our relationships, we feel the sharing of the essence of some of our engagements to be illustrative of the issues confronting corporate leaders.

#9. Corporate politics stops improvements.
Joe focuses on the inevitable silos that develop within organizations.  Silos created by departmental self-interest that is stronger than corporate objectives. His perspective is based on workflow vs organizational structure, and the fact they rarely coincide once an organization becomes larger and more complex. He also recognizes that the “…organizational silo” is a dominant cultural characteristic in most companies.”  Many books have been written about organizational silos.  Our experience includes a bit more than alignment between workflow and organizational structure.  In the leadership context, we see culture as a major barrier to improvement. Culture includes organizational type/industry, distribution of age of employees within the organization, geography and existing institutional culture. This is not a new phenomenon and have seen it for years.  One of the statements that curls the hair on the back of our necks is “That’s not the way we do it here.” Or another incredible demotivator is when we all the great efforts to design, build and administer a leadership development program; take high performing middle managers, second them once a quarter for three days, give them knowledge and tools only to have them come back and report that when they attempted to implement their newly acquired leadership skills they were overruled by a more senior (in age and position) person.  And when we would attempt to engage the more senior person and provide them with leadership development sessions, they refused.   Seems like retirement, self-protection, ego, and risk weighed more heavily than exploring new ways of moving forward.   It becomes clear, being sent to prestigious training programs is merely a punch on the ticket for future promotion and is not expected to lead to any significant changes and improvements.  “We’ve always done it this way” is the corporate culture and becomes ingrained when most promotions are done from within and outside talent and ideas are not welcomed, since they might bring different ideas and want to do things differently.

We have also seen, particularly from out experience in the utility and related industries, major change only comes after a major problem impacts performance and when regulatory authorities step in and demand change.  Unfortunately in those cases the changes are rushed and are done to meet deadlines rather than to clearly identify and correct inherent problems.

Then there is the corporate power struggle.  A particular department has senior management’s ear, and needs to protect and/or justify their existence, has power over those who perform but in a different silo.  We were involved with a client where one department (we’ll call it Department B) was moving at a healthy pace to provide a service the company needed. Their initiative and performance were enviable.  They were meeting a serious corporate need in an effective and timely manner. The only problem was, the next initiative they were to embark upon was perceived to be under the purview of another department (Department Z). Department Z apparently felt threatened or perhaps imposed upon by Department B.  Department Z had the ear of the CEO and President, while Department B was down the corporate chain.  Needless to say Dept. Z came out on top and was able to stop Dept. B from moving forward.  The interesting piece to this is that Dept. Z then made only token efforts at providing the service they positioned themselves for, plus they did not fully comprehend the scope and breath of the overall needs. The outcome was an anemic effort by Dept. Z where the company as a whole was shorted.  Recent indications are that nothing serious has happened with nothing on the horizon.  So who wins?

There are no real winners and the organizations and the corporation loose.  In many of the industries we have worked with, senior managers were promoted from within.  While this is not bad, but at some point the continual promotion from within creates a stagnant culture where who knows who becomes much more important than what can be done to improve and bring about strategic changes.

#10. Great clients have a will that delivers successful outcomes.
This is where leadership shines.  It is a synergistic effect, not a fill-in the numbers approach. Joe refers to things like decision-making, leadership style and company culture. There is more – the leader sets the stage and tone.  Successful outcomes can be measured in several ways.  The skill is to synergistically bring those key leadership, teambuilding and cultural components together such that the corporate environment is healthy as well as the financial condition of the firm. This queues up our next series, where we will examine leadership entitlement or servitude. 

To conclude this series though, it is important to note here successful outcomes and great clients reflect hard work on the part of corporate leadership.  Hard work that is more than reviewing spreadsheets.  To highlight this comment, several years ago we were working with a telecommunications company.  As part of that project, we developed a rather comprehensive catalogue of Management Competencies. These included the following:
·         Leadership
·         Communication
·         Business Process
·         Problem Solving
·         Interpersonal/Interactive
·         Administrative
·         Business Knowledge
·         Professional Self Development

For each we defined the Skills and Knowledge, Attributes and Experience considered necessary for this group within the company.  While several of these are standard fare, it’s their integration and definition that made the difference.  An example illustrated below is the taxonomy for Professional Self Development.

Professional Self Development
Skills and Knowledge
Business Knowledge
Demonstrated understanding of telecommunications, systems development and financial controls.
Time Management
The ability to schedule one’s time in an efficient and effective manner.
The ability to analyze and evaluate one’s own ability and performance
Stress management
Ability to keep control of one’s own feelings and behavior in stressful situations.
Balancing life priorities
Demonstrated ability to prioritize personal and professional objectives.
Identify training needs
Incorporated with development plan.
Development Plan
Ability to identify and accomplish training needed to progress along desired career track.
Goal Setting
Demonstrated ability to set goals and define expectations and to review performance against goals.

Professional Self Development
Maintains a system of self-checks including a network where feedback can be received.  The self-checks and feedback become the roadmap for continuous improvement.
Initiative is taking responsibility and action when not required or expected, being a self-starter, a leader, one who overcomes obstacles and continually works toward improving oneself.  It is a desire and a motivator that eliminates complacency.
Motivation to change
Displays a high energy level, explores new ways of doing things, and is not threatened by the prospects of change in the organization.  Change is perceived as an opportunity for growth and development.
Open minded
Not limited to one’s own perspective or position on any issue.  This does not mean concurrence, but it does mean an appreciation that other people can have differing opinions and positions on issues.  Also the ability to consider the merits or drawbacks of other people’s options and positions.
Willing to accept feedback
Understands feedback to be constructive and a mechanism for improvement rather than criticism.  Uses the feedback as part of an overall developmental or professional improvement strategy.
Risk taker
The true role of management is to make risk-taking possible.  Managers must provide the environment for creativity to flourish. (excerpted from Edwin Diamond)  Risk taking must be prudent.  As a manager the guidelines for prudence as well as the consequence and/or rewards for taking risks must be established.
Knowing ones strengths and weaknesses, and using the strengths as appropriate while continuously striving to improve the weaknesses. 


Professional Self Development
Exposure to methodologies /behavioral sciences
Select seminars, audiotapes, workshops and/or books on topics such as organizational psychology, behavioral sciences.  Read other texts that stimulate different thinking such as Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence or Senge’s The Fifth Discipline.
Achieve advancement (responsibility, span of work, growth/development)
Actively pursue a broader scope of responsibility.  Demonstrate ability to successfully perform more demanding level of work.  Seek opportunities to enhance your superior’s success because of your contributions.
Professional certifications
Maintain an ongoing initiative to gain professional certifications, or additional responsibilities within professional organizations that enhance your visibility and credibility within your area of professional expertise or into other areas consistent with your professional goals.

The overall scheme became the overarching framework this group could both strive toward, as well as measure their progress.  But, the important note here is the level of commitment on the part of that company’s leadership to make this happen.  We continually remind our leadership session attendees “There is a difference between Interest and Commitment.  When you’re Interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient.  When you’re Committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” Based on all this we might suggest when Joe says a ‘will that delivers successful outcomes;’ behind that is a framework of synergistic competencies coupled with a commitment leading toward a healthy and financially strong organization.

Most of our articles this year have tried to expand upon Joe Bockerstette’s list of “Ten Lessons Learned from 35 Years of Consulting.”  We felt this was a timely topic worthy of expansion; and our experiences certainly aligned with Joe’s.  Our purpose is to present ideas to get leaders thinking about themselves and their organizations and how they can help the organization move forward and improve.  Not every topic applies to every leader, but identify those that do (or should) apply to you and think about how a particular topic impacts you and your organization and what you can do to turn that topic into a strength.

We thank Joe Bockerstette for his work and allowing us to expand on it.  We will be back after the holidays with our next article where we will be looking at Leadership Entitlement – what is it and how does it impact organizations.

Inner Circle Case Study
The Inner Circle column in our June issue of UPDATE discussed an engagement where a CEO, whom we know, approached one of our principals, requesting time to spend with him.  As we reported, this engagement consisted of the CEO visiting our principal and spending time with him one-on-one in an unstructured and relaxing context.  Our Inner Circle strategy was to listen and be there.  It worked.  There is a follow-on to this engagement.  The same CEO invited our principal to visit him.  In an attempt to prepare we did some research.  The CEO leads a significant 501-C3 organization.

At the Inner Circle, we believe in the practice of benchmarking.  It is incumbent upon us to know about comparable organizations, their size, revenue, ratings etc.   For 501-C3 organizations that survive on donations and community support; knowing how the organization rates as compared with other non-profits is essential.  People do not donate to organizations that don’t exhibit responsible management, enlightened leadership and are viewed by their constituents as worthy to receive large donations. Our research indicated that this particular non-profit had a marginal rating.  Something the CEO was unaware of.  Other non-profits in the geographical area were rated higher. 

During this second engagement we presented this information and the potential consequences.  The initial reaction was one of surprise followed by the realization that in order to build a solid giving foundation the rating had to be increased.  In order to build this foundation a significant improvement and development initiative is needed.  The key point here is the value an Inner Circle engagement provides.   

In general, 501 C3s as non-profits are perceived as not having to worry about business issues. They have admissions to museums, contributions from wealthy donors, grants etc.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Non-profits have very serious business issues, particularly when competing for dollars with other non-profits.  Giving strategies are complex and difficult to plan and manage.  So, when faced with the choice of giving to one or another organization, being viewed and rated as responsible and of significant value to the community is essential. 

In summary, as our story continues, the Inner Circle brought a significant value proposition to the CEO, arming him with information that hopefully will impact his short and long term strategies to build an organization worthy of a solid giving strategy and in the future a strong endowment.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lessons Learned for Better Leaders and Outcomes #3

This is our third issue where we continue to develop the concepts of the Ten Lessons Learned from Thirty-Five Years in Consulting written by Joe Bockerstette.  Thus far, we discussed the below five lessons learned:
1.       Success depends far more on the client than the consultant.
2.       Figuring out what’s wrong isn’t that hard.
3.       Leaders don’t know how work actually gets done.
4.       Leaders and managers also don’t understand process.
5.       Companies measure what’s easy, not what’s important.

This issue focuses on:
6.       Change is simple, just not easy.
7.       Leaders would rather hire superstars to solve problems than solve problems.
8.       Industry experience is overrated.

As done in our last issue, we continue to provide case studies from The Inner Circle.  While we will always respect the confidentiality of our relationships, we feel the sharing of the essence of some of our engagements to be illustrative of the issues confronting corporate leaders.

#6 Change is simple, just not easy
If you have lived through a major change initiative, you understand this statement probably too well.  If you have never experienced a major change initiative, you may be scratching you head asking how it can be simple but not easy.  We human beings generally do not handle change well.  We like our routines and doing things the way we have always done them.  However, as we have written many times in our Update articles, an organization does not improve or come close to real success by doing the same thing year after year and not taking a close look at how things are being done and the tools used.

We define an organization as being made of three parts – People, Processes and Technology.  In the past, and probably a very small number of organizations today, technology was not necessarily a key aspect.  Today it not only is important but, in many cases, it is the driver of the organization.   We have been involved with many cases where a major change initiative was needed because of the implementation of new software.  That software change may make the existing organization and processes out-of-synch with the requirements of the software.  Change is needed.  Simple right?  Just change the functions and the processes as needed.  Wrong!  The organization dictated the technology change to align themselves with their vision of a successful and profitable future.  However, the people who needed to make it work did not want to see changes in what they did, whom they did it with and how it was done.  In other words, there is generally resistance (at least initially) to changing people and processes.  Sometimes this resistance is very direct and very vocal (overt).  Then there are times when the resistance is an undercurrent that gathers strength and attempts to short circuit or subvert the changes (covert).

Regardless of the trigger of the change – new software or a new corporate initiative – the change will only be successful if it is presented, implemented and measured properly with full and active support from the whole senior management team. 

There have been many books written, many courses offered and many consulting firms ready to guide you through a change initiative.  There is, of course, no one size fits all solution and no “best” approach.  Each organization is different and each needs to develop a change initiative that best fits the culture and the nature of the business.  Regardless of the specific approach taken, there are some basics of change management.
·         Understand why the change is needed.  This must be defined so that all layers of the organization can understand.  People hate change, but if they must change, make certain they can see the long-term benefit, can understand where they fit in the overall scheme and can understand the need to change.  An important factor to evaluate is the impact of this change on the culture of the organization.
·         Establish a sense of urgency.  Without this, many will just keep on doing the same thing and decide to “wait this thing out.”  But, don’t just establish a timeline without taking into account not just the technology or process side but also the people side.  It has to be a realistic timeline.
·         Start at the top of the organization and involve every layer.  We can’t emphasize enough the necessity of getting full and active commitment and support from the top of the organization.  We have seen cases where the CEO said he was committed and then put out the most unenthusiastic video to all employees.  The employees could readily see the lack of enthusiasm and developed the same blasé approach.  If all layers of senior management again do not actively and positively support the initiative, it will die a slow death.
·         The next most critical step is to communicate – clearly, accurately, honestly and frequently.  You cannot communicate enough.  It shows the urgency, sells the business case and most importantly reaches to all levels of the organization.  This is another instance of it’s simple but not easy.  In fact, it is complex and difficult.  However, building and implementing an honest communication plan is a key step that is often underestimated.
·         Look to build change champions at all levels.  Identify key people who have influence in the various levels of the organization.  Spend time with those key people and bring them into the planning.  Build their trust in the initiative.  Be patient.  Not all key people will jump right on board.  They need to be educated on the need for change.  They need to be stroked.  They need to be empowered.  If you can build champions among the key player at each level there is a good chance change will be successful.
·         Build measures that will accurately show progress toward implementing the change.  Don’t just have overall measures.  Develop measures at each level, including, if appropriate, interim measures so progress can be seen on the road to full implementation.  Identify small victories and celebrate those victories.  Interim steps are critical to reaching the end goal.  Make a big deal out of achieving interim steps.
·         Plan for some missteps along the way.  Not everything will go smoothly.  There will be mistakes.  There will be some holdouts, who either will overtly or covertly try to block success.  Expect those and try to use those instances as learning tools, but also don’t sacrifice the initiative for a few who refuse to support it.
See change is simple!  However, it certainly isn’t easy.

#7 Leaders would rather hire superstars to solve problems than solve problems.
Perhaps one of the largest hurdles we confront in our business is our smallness. While we are getting smarter, in the past, we opted to bid on larger projects we were completely comfortable in being able to complete successfully, because we had a strong network of professionals who could supplement our smallness. While successful in some, we were often considered too small to support the project.  The reality was we were viewed as too small to be able to blame or sue if something went wrong.  The other consideration here is that whomever was looking for the support owned the project, so they were in line too, but the contractor provided a buffer.

When looking inside an organization, similar situations exist.  We have always been proponents of looking within for solutions to problems.  In our work, we find the answers reside with those closest to the problem.  To a leader that can be a threat, although it certainly should not be.  Embracing this concept, places other demands on leaders – they have to lead.  Monitoring a computer screen with financials and metrics is fine, but to address serious issues and problems, a leader has to be close to their people.  A classic dilemma of meeting the dreaded quarterly reporting requirements or leading and learning from those closest to the work.  Worse yet, finding the best person who is closest to the issue and empowering them to fix it.  That too takes leadership skills, and as the leader, you still own it.

The expeditious alternative is to hire someone to take the issue.  A few dynamics come into play.  By hiring someone, the monkey off the leader’s back, but if the leader makes a not-so-good hire, the leader still owns it, which increases the leader’s risk profile.  So far, none of these options really releases the leader of anything.  Up to now, the leader is in the direct line of culpability and resulting consequences.  With all this said, the easiest and most expeditious thing to do is to hire a superstar. By hiring a superstar, the leader demonstrates his or hers leadership acumen to either the BOD or anyone above in the chain of command. Such a stellar choice reduces the leader’s exposure if something doesn’t work out as expected or desired.  The blame and resulting consequences are shifted away.  The worst outcome for the leader who made the selection is some disruption to the organization and some cost consequences; otherwise, he or she is insulated.

In summary, solving problems can be a daunting challenge to leaders.  Looking at spreadsheets is easy, and numbers can be manipulated (believe me we have seen how manipulating numbers relieves pressure in the short term).  Managing the business processes, knowing the business and the people who make the organization tick requires getting out into the organization and working the problems.  As a leader, lead those who can make a difference, empower people, and hold them accountable.  These all take energy, but yield great returns.  Attempting to shift risk to someone else is a weak leadership tactic.  Soliciting insights from experts that guide your thoughts and actions is a very sound tactic, but as a leader you must own the issue and it’s solution.

#8 Industry experience is overrated.
Within the context of leadership, industry experience is a very interesting consideration.  One of the classic leadership stories of the ‘Turnaround’ era was that of Al Dunlap, CEO of Crown Zellerbach, Scott Paper and then Sunbeam.  This story goes both ways.  In the paper world for the 1980s and 1990s, Al Dunlap, more commonly known as ‘Chainsaw Al’ because he would turnaround these paper companies by slashing people, assets and anything else he could.  “For a while, things were good in the career of Al Dunlap. He turned Scott Paper and Crown Zellerbach into profitable companies by ruining thousands of lives, selling off the corporate scraps, and making millions for himself in the process.”1 Sunbeam hired Al because of his “reputation” as a turnaround guru, but he failed miserably.  In the paper-manufacturing world, he may have been a stockholder’s dream, but in consumer products world the culture was quite different as was the industry.  Adding to his problems, he seriously ‘cooked the books.’  “Dunlap was fired, sued, and sued some more. Old success stories were debunked. Sunbeam went bankrupt.  And Al Dunlap never worked as a CEO again.”2

What does this have to do with industry experience?  Joe Bockerstette’s position is that business processes are surprisingly consistent and stable across a wide range of industries, business models and company sizes. Indicating that, because of this level of commonality, it doesn’t matter much if leaders have industry experience and in contrast an influx of new ideas is valuable.  We concur with Joe, but we take a bit further from a leadership perspective, we feel context is keenly important.  Industry experience perpetuates industry culture in most cases. Therefore, if change is truly desired, maybe industry experience is not the answer.  Therefore, taking into account Joe’s comment about the commonality, having a leader who understands people, leadership and management, as well as the context of an organization and its culture is a far better predictor of success.  This relates to the above discussion in that finding the right leader who has the attributes, experience and knowledge can be a challenge.  We believe the effort is well worth it.  The alternative can be, and in most cases deteriorates into a less than desirable outcome for the company and their employees.

Inner Circle Case Study
Our most recent Inner Circle case study has to do with a leader, essentially an insulated and isolated leader. As indicated previously, we sanitize these case studies to protect the confidentiality of our clients. This happens to be a not-for-profit entity.  These types of organizations are unique for several reasons.  Many do not have the traditional organizational hierarchy.  For instance, there probably is a Human Resource function, a financial person/treasurer, and maybe an operational person.  Most have a board of trustees who oversee the organization.  The CEO or leader is fairly insulated, and in some not-for-profits, has to deal with some confidential issues which are not typically discussed with the board. This is a perfect stage for the Inner Circle.

For this case study, the CEO was mentoring a person who possessed the capabilities to assist the CEO in many of the routine functions and tasks on a day-to-day basis, as well as support the CEO in major activities and functions.  We might refer to this person as a ‘right-hand-man’ who had many of the qualifications of the CEO but not the experience or depth of knowledge; a perfect mentoring relationship.  Unfortunately the mentee felt there was a disconnect between the two of them, apparently, a rather deep philosophical divide; and one day decided to pack-up and leave.  No discussion, nothing.  When we say being a CEO is a lonely job, this situation is perhaps one of the worst.  The haunting thoughts of what went wrong, why and how did the CEO fail this person, and why should the departure be so harsh in the sense of no communication? 

This CEO knew of the Inner Circle and called; first to share the shock and disappointment of the event.  A person who they thought was close and had common perspectives and values had just departed without notice of any kind. Our first order was to listen, as we did.  The next order was to provide a framework and define the goal such that the CEO could structure their thinking.  Without this framework and goal, coupled with the anguish of the situation makes sorting out any form of a solution difficult. In essence, we helped guide the CEO’s problem solving thinking.  The CEO needs to develop the solution, we can only guide, advise and challenge their thinking until a solution becomes evident.  This engagement is ongoing, and, at this point, we feel the CEO has a grasp on the situation with initial ‘next steps’ to embark upon.  Once those steps happen, we reassess the situation and develop future actions.  

A quick word about ‘the goal.’  Deciding whether effort should be expended, and what the potential end-point is seriously important.  Many times we assume a goal without challenging our thinking, pursue the goal only to find out it’s the wrong goal.  The Inner Circle is uniquely suited to validate such goals.  We know when a goal is either unrealistic or improperly focused.  We are sufficiently removed from the emotion of the situation to drill down into the unemotional issues and formulate a realistic strategy toward a well-defined goal.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Lessons Learned for Better Leaders and Outcomes #2

We interrupted our series of articles to introduce The Inner Circle.  This issue returns us to the Ten Lessons Learned from Thirty-Five Years in Consulting written by Joe Bockerstette.  Our February issue discussed the first two lessons learned –
1. Success depends far more on the client than the consultant.
2. Figuring out what’s wrong isn’t that hard.
This issue focuses on lessons:
3. Leaders don’t know how work actually gets done.
4. Leaders and managers also don’t understand process.
5. Companies measure what’s easy, not what’s important.
In addition, we are incorporating a column in UPDATE dedicated to case studies from The Inner Circle.  While we will always respect the confidentiality of our relationships, we feel the sharing of the essence of some of our engagements to be illustrative of the issues confronting corporate leaders.

We continue our 2017 UPDATE series on an article/post we read delineating Ten Lessons Learned from Thirty-Five Years in Consulting written by Joe Bockerstette, a principal at Business Enterprise Mapping. We are addressing a few of Joe’s lessons learned in our 2017 issues of UPDATE and expound on them based on our experiences.  This issue focuses on lessons:
3. Leaders don’t know how work actually gets done.
4. Leaders and managers also don’t understand process.
5. Companies measure what’s easy, not what’s important.

# 3 – Leaders don’t know how work actually gets done
In the early 2000s, we worked with a large telecommunications company in one of their specialized divisions.  Part of our charge was to create a 360° instrument unique to their business unit.  We did an extensive survey of competencies.  Two of the competencies were Business Process and Business Knowledge.  The 360 instrument is a valuable tool for leaders because their superiors, their peers and their subordinates assess them. Therefore, while Business Knowledge and Business Process were two of the key competencies, the actual day-to-day workings of the organization are difficult to get one’s arms around. I had one CEO readily admit that he did not know what was happening at the working level of his organization.  In another situation, a senior division leader who was responsible for about 30% of the company’s profit realized two months after the year’s end that he missed the mark by 90%.  Reasons for these missed marks and shortcomings are complex and we certainly don’t want to trivialize them, but one of the reasons involves leaders diving too deep into what they perceive as important rather than realizing what’s really important.  There is a belief that pouring over spreadsheets reveals all about a project, until the old adage of garbage in = garbage out.  The 90% shortfall, after a very intense team “Come to Jesus” meeting, resulted from some small targets being missed that were rolled over to the next reporting period with the anticipation that they would be completed. When they weren’t and additional ones were added to the deficiency list, those were rolled over. It didn’t take long before the project was in trouble. The Division head focused so much on computer screens, to an extent that he was completely out of touch with the work that was and was not getting done. 

Then there is the mushroom syndrome, where the leaders is perceived as an obstacle to work progress such that those actually doing the work treat the leader like a mushroom by keeping him or her in the dark and feeding them what they want to hear.  Again detaching the leader from the real work.  These are few examples of how it can happen, and we believe all our readers know of many more examples.  Fundamentally a leader must be tied in, not distracted, focused on the important things, and balance his or her priorities such that they remain close to the work of their people.   The leader must have clear knowledge of how work is being done, challenge questionable activities but not get so involved that nothing happens without the leader’s approval and hence the leader becomes an impediment to work getting done.
#4 – Leaders and managers also don’t understand process
Processes are what make things happen in an organization.  A process defines the steps necessary to achieve a result.  It may be how items are procured or how an insurance claim is to be processed or how pipes are welded together.  In other words, process defines how things get done.  There are formal documented processes and there are informal, probably not written anywhere, processes.  Both exist in every organization.  Let’s take a look at both and then examine how they work with – or against – each other.
Documented Processes:  These are processes, where the organization develops steps specifying how something is supposed to be done.  Some are detailed step-by-step instructions and some are more generalized giving, if you will, an outline of the steps.  In some cases, an organization provides a policy document serving as a process document.  The amount of detail in documented processes varies widely.  The intent is to instruct/direct employees how to approach and accomplish a particular process.  As we will discuss below, the intent may be good, but the execution, particularly over time, falls away from the documented process.  Most large to medium companies, we have found, have documented processes.  With smaller companies it varies.
Informal Processes:  These are generally not recorded anywhere.  They develop, over time, by the employees who do the work.  Employees find how they can best achieve the final objective of the process and start using other ways to get the job done.  Informal processes exist in companies of all sizes, and reflect the actual way things get done and results achieved.   Are these informal processes effective?  Generally yes, but they are often far from efficient.  Just like legends handed down verbally, the informal processes are handed down to new employees and often get tweaked in the telling.  It’s like the party game of “whisper down the lane” where one person tells another and it continues on from person to person until the final person is told something that frequently varies widely from the original.  Informal processes get things done but often not the best and most effective for the organization.  Therefore, over time the informal processes change and evolve.
Documented and Informal Process Interaction:  Even with formal documented processes, there will be informal processes employees use to do the actual work.  As discussed in #3 above, in far too many situations leaders of organizations have no idea how things actually get done.  Unless they were previously part of the actual process they may be familiar with a formal process but probably have no idea what the informal processes are and how they are intertwined with the formal process.    Our experience has been, when trying to help an organization improve their processes; the leaders of the organization only think they understand how the processes work.  They may know how they should work, but are generally totally unaware of how things actually work. 
Existing formal processes, in place for a long time, may change due to short-term circumstances adding steps added along the way as work-arounds for specific issues.  As a rule, additional steps aren’t eliminated when the short-term situation goes away, and too frequently, the process becomes so cumbersome and unworkable, employees develop their own informal processes to keep the wheels moving.  We have seen cases where the informal process is completely different from the formal process, but since the end results are there, the organizational leaders may be blissfully ignorant of how those results are achieved.  Interestingly, when one analyzes the flow of how the process actually works and factors in the informal processes, the actual process flow is indistinguishable from the formal process flow. 
Processes are critical to accomplishing work with proper results.  However, without periodic process review, including those who actually work the process, the process will become bloated and inefficient, to the point that, if the employees do not develop informal processes, work might not get done.  Why are process reviews not conducted more frequently?  A big factor is the leaders and managers not understanding the process and not asking the employees, who are using the process, for feedback and recommendations.  A process review is not rocket science, but the leaders of the organization have to recognize the need and want to see improvements and it takes a little work.

#5 – Companies measure what’s easy, not what’s important
Assessment as a proactive tool illustrates how an organization can preempt problems.  It becomes the age-old issue of don’t ask the question if you are not ready for the answer.  Assessment tools exist to respond to issues/challenges affecting the health of an organization; and typically, an independent assessment yields the most valuable perspectives.  So once issues are identified and corrective measures taken, how does an organization know if the desired result was achieved?  This is where measurement comes into play. Key Performance Measures are important to the success of any organization.  If the right performance measures are not identified and used, significant consequences result.  

Too frequently, determining what and how to measure is not afforded the thought it needs.  Determining what to measure and how to measure it takes work.  Unfortunately, the old accounting joke of “figures don’t lie but liars figure” can be applied to performance measures.  It is relatively easy to identify some measures, but those measures may not really tell how a process or organization is performing.  A measure of “how many widgets produced per hour” may not really tell much about the effectiveness of an organization or a process.  Good measurement takes thought and goes into more depth.  Frequently a series of more detailed measures reveals the truth.

“Assessment is a necessary element of ensuring an organization is functioning effectively. The design of an integrated assessment methodology/plan is essential to appropriate follow up action and improvement.  Assessments designed and conducted in an improper context can yield inappropriate findings and information, which typically lead to inappropriate action.”

Our experience demonstrates that the necessary drilling down into an issue is the usually deferred over the choice of a more expeditious slice off the top; then measuring the result of whatever initiative is determined to address this rather superficial issue.

The interesting contrast is when leaders know how work gets done, when they understand Business Process and when they measure the right things not the easy ones; these organizations become successful and as Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great:
·         All good-to-great companies begin the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.
·         When you start with an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of your situation, the right decisions often become self-evident.
·         A primary task in taking a company from good-to-great is to create a culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and ultimately, for the truth to be heard.

Again we see that Joe Bockerstette’s Lessons Learned are in fact right on target with our experiences and provide lessons that should be studied by leaders who want to be truly effective.

Inner Circle Case Study

 When we began developing our thoughts regarding the Inner Circle, we based our focus on the fact that living at the top of an organization is a lonely place to be.  The biggest leadership challenge to Executives and CEOs is getting honest, truthful, candid, objective, qualified inputs and feedback, in a non-threatening context, to help in sorting out issues, ideas and problems and strategies.  The concept behind the Inner Circle is to support CEOs and Senior Executives, as they wish, in a confidential, safe environment; offering a wealth of experience, knowledge and integrity.  We envision the Inner Circle as a resource to CEOs and Senior Executives; a deviation from conventional consulting and executive support. We do not believe in conventional marketing or promoting of our services.  We anticipate executives will realize the benefit and bring their issues and concerns to us.  We believe we should share examples of selected engagements, respecting our commitment to confidentiality.  This Case Study is such an example.

A few months ago, a CEO, whom we had known, approached one of our principals in the Inner Circle.  This CEO asked to spend a few days with him.  Because they had known each other fairly well, he agreed, unsure of a specific reason for the visit. 

As part of our inner workings, we discuss such requests to ensure we respond as professionally as possible and provide value for the time spent.  We held a conference call to sort out expected issues based on what we know about the CEO, as well as methods to employ during the engagement, and/or cues to be aware of that might change our approach.  In this particular case, we agreed that listening would be the primary technique.  Listening is one of the most important communication methods.  Keen listening skills afford insights as well as time to assimilate the message received in order to provide valuable insights.  In many cases, just having someone trusted listen is beneficial.

Since the overall engagement was loosely structured, the first day was rather touristy, sightseeing, etc.  Consistent with our listening strategy, day two purposely remained open and unplanned, to develop as the CEO desired.  The weekend as a whole was relaxing and enjoyable for both, and the outcome, we believe, was as the CEO desired.  As we recapped the engagement we felt the CEO needed to get away, needed time for some head clearing in a different environment with a trusted person, who is uninvolved in the CEO’s day-to-day work; but knowledgeable and considered a colleague.

This demonstrates that the Inner Circle is more than discussing work related issues, but also an opportunity to reduce stress, enjoy time away from the daily grind, and an overall head clearing experience in a safe environment where issues can be raised as necessary