strategy

How Well Are You Executing?

When people think of strategy, they tend to focus on planning and design: getting the right people from the right bus – to identify what the company should be doing. As Wharton Professor, Lawrence Hrebiniak, notes in Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, without adequate attention to execution –  changing behaviors that are currently leading people in the former direction and  executing new behaviors to achieve the new direction – success cannot be achieved.

He notes four sources of the “knowing-doing” gap:

  • Leaders are trained to plan rather than execute
  • Senior leaders tend to leave execution to lower-level leaders and team members; they review progress only periodically
  • Strategy formulation is typically done by relatively few people; execution is a team- or business-wide endeavor
  • Formulating a strategy is an action step; execution is a continuous, long-term process.

When I teach strategy for CUNY, I share experiences from companies in the news and those of the CEOs with whom I work at Vistage Worldwide (which serves 21,000 established CEOs), to drive home the “gap” problem. Key is an ongoing system to:

  • Monitor people’s execution performance
  • Hold them accountable for actions related to the new strategy and the underlying cultural values (as we discuss at Eval2Win.com – see overview)
  • Provide people with ongoing learning opportunities to acquire and perfect the new skills they need. (This is easier if your company is a CILO (Continuous Improvement Learning Organization) where learning is an essential part of the each aspect of a staff’ person’s job description.

Indeed, Vistage Inside was created to help CEOs change the organization to better align senior executives to the strategy and culture, increase collaboration and teamwork, facilitate learning by the staff they supervise, and hold people accountable to one another (e.g., members of the executive team to each other and employee-supervisor dyads to each other).

How well are you executing on your strategy? Is it easy to understand and compelling? Does everyone know what they should do? Are people ready, willing and able to perform their strategic activities? How well are you and the senior team holding everyone accountable for success?  If the answers aren’t positive, what are you doing to improve? Contact us for help: jerrycahn@presentationexcellencegroup.com.

Yes, ADAP Works!

Thank you for your success stories and questions. For years, we’ve been teaching presenters how to use the ADAP formula – Audience Driven, Authentic Presentations, to produce winning presentations. Usually the focus is on the first part – how to be audience-driven. This month, people asked about Authenticity and I thought we’d discuss it.

Audience-Driven means that a presentation has to understand the audience’s full-set of needs/wants and deliver the information in a way which:

  • Acknowledges the limitations in the presentation setting (e.g., how much time will the prospect give full-attention) and conform to that reality
  • Resonates with the audience’s value system and uses power words to create enthusiasm
  • Recognizes personal and external resistances that the prospect (and her/his colleagues) may have to adopt a new framework and provide the hard data and social support to overcome them, develop trust, and facilitate acceptance
  • Advocates action which is easy to understand and doable by the prospect.

This week a major presentation was made by a client to a C-level executive at a top financial firm. The original presentation had the facts, but there was no “energy” in the presentation to motivate the prospect to take the risk or see the presenter as a “trusted advisor” with the necessary expertise to execute.  In the new presentation, the presenter adopted a framework that made it clear that their solution could align all external and internal forces to give prospect the “firepower” necessary to succeed with the complex project. Deal sealed.

We’re not always witness to an inauthentic presentation, but the nation saw an example, that’s not often so public. When the President first addressed the issues involved with what happened at the Charlottesville rally, you could tell he was speaking from his heart. When criticized for not blaming the groups advocating bigotry, he gave a speech the following day designed to address the criticism. People who watched/listened to it noted its lack of enthusiasm with a low-level cadence that accompanies reading copy written by someone else. That apparent lack of authenticity was confirmed when he volunteered to speak on the issue the next day, reinforcing the initial position and reversing the prior day’s comments. The lesson for all of us: make sure the message you deliver is one that’s authentic to you – so you present it persuasively.

Keep sharing your ADAP-related experiences. If you want to master it, attend one of our workshops (see presentationexcellence.com) or request one-on-one coaching/consulting.

Value Does Beat Lower Price!

 

The most frequent objection sales people hear from prospects is “the price is too high”, Every sales leader trains staff to focus on the value of the offering, instead of the cost. Still, sales people report that price is an objection that’s hard to overcome. Twice this month, I helped clients facing this issue through a presentation we developed for a client 15 years ago, that proved Value Can Beat Price!

Our client was in the packaging business, using corrugated cardboard to create displays for products (e.g., drinks, books and other products). Knowing our expertise is helping clients win big deals, we were asked to help their sales people develop more effective presentations and train the sales people to deliver them more effectively. Several months into our relationship, we received a call with bad news: one of their major clients (A) had merged with another company (B) and the general printing vendor for B had offered to provide all cardboard display packaging for free, in exchange for the contract to provide other printing services. As a result, our client’s business from A – which had been 50% of their business – dropped to zero.

About six months later, we get another call. Company B is issuing an Request for Proposal (RFP) for the package design work. Did it make sense to even compete?  After discussing the matter and looking at the quality of the incumbent’s work and my client’s capabilities, we decided to prove to the client that leading brands use powerful graphically designed packages to promote sales and to close sales they needed a vendor who could provide such quality. The presentation goal: demonstrate  that renown leading brands were succeeding, in part, because they used the company’s high quality graphic packaging.

With that, our work was cut out for us: we needed to show the judging team that well designed displays were powerful sales tools worth paying extra money.  We decided that the “medium is the message” – our presentation had to be a design masterpiece and not just a traditional powerpoint packed with words and numbers. We looked for some state-of-the-art animation software to create a presentation that showed the power of a gift box when you remove the ribbon, and presented samples of the company’s graphic packages in “books” organized by industry. We flipped pages within each book quickly, rather than move to different slides, to make it exciting to watch. (Today this is easy to do; years ago, it wasn’t.) Finally, we trained the presenters to speak convincingly as a collaborative team, using “power” words and letting the pictures do the talking.

A week before presenting, the client learned that in addition to the live presentation to the judges, three teams from Company B would be viewing the event from remote sites throughout the country. Recognizing it was more than likely that the software we used couldn’t be seen in remote feeds, we developed a second presentation on PowerPoint that was sent to each team. The presenters introduced themselves, noted that the live presentation was using animation and since it wouldn’t display remotely, they had a PowerPoint version to show what the judges would see. (Note: we’re following our A.D.A.P formula: Audience-driven sensitivity with both the design of the whole project and the viewing needs of judges and viewers; being Authentic by making the focus of the presentation something we believed in very strongly: the Power of Great Design to Sell.)

After the presentation, which was well received, the lead prospect-judge asked everyone for questions. There were none! At which point, she turned to the presenters and said “I guess you said it all!” Within 2 hours of the presentation, our client called to share what happened (timely feedback is mandatory with our clients), and asked what “you said it all” meant. I responded that they hit a home-run in design and delivery, and had a great chance of getting some of the business. Indeed, our client was awarded half of the work!  The buyer was persuaded that when having the best graphic displays was key to their success, paying for them was smart.

Share your stories of how value overcame price disadvantages.

What Really Matters to Your Audience

What’s more powerful as a motivation for changing: recognizing the consequences of our actions on ourselves or the consequences our actions may have on others? Adam Grant, in Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, suggests the latter may be more important.

As you probably know from prior research (e.g., The Checklist Manifesto), hospitals have discovered that they can substantially decrease the incidence of patient’s negative health consequences with one simple action: getting doctors and nurses to wash their hands In a study he and David Hoffman conducted, they wanted to know which of two signs (displayed near soap and gel dispensers), would encourage the health care providers to wash more often:

  • “Hand hygiene presents you from catching diseases”
  • “Hand hygiene prevents patients from catching diseases.

The first focused on consequences for the provider; the second for the people that the provider serves.

The first sign had no effect. The second increased medical professionals washing 10% and led to 45% more use of soap and gel.  Why?  Understand the logic of the consequences. In the first, the doctor/nurse thinks about their situation:  “I spend a lot of time in the hospital, I don’t always wash and rarely get sick, so they doesn’t affect me.” In other words, we know ourselves, tend to overestimate our invulnerability.  In the second case, the question is what should a person like me do in a situation like this?’ The cost-benefit equation isn’t only about one’s probability of getting sick, but what’s right and wrong: do I have a professional and moral obligation to care for patients, especially those I can’t monitor as often as myself.

What’s the implication for you?  When you’re presenting a message to the audience – whether in an ad or a presentation – you need to think not just about the immediate message but what else your audience cares about how the message may trigger additional considerations. We saw this phenomenon recently in an ad that Pepsi produced starring Kylie Jenner that upset many people and led them to pull it immediately (see).  It’s critical that you go through a two-step process: figure out what you want to say – and be prepared to deliver an authentic message, and then consider the “mental setting” of your audience (be audience-driven) before designing the actual pitch.

Have you gone through similar experiences? Are you concerned about one in the future?  Share with us so we can help you deal with your audience’s sensitives.

Is Your Company a CILO?

What is a CILO? A Continuously Improving Learning Organization. It creates a learning culture that enables each person to grow as they contribute strategically to the overall success of the company.

A little background.  Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with a new organization, now called ETW – Execute To Win, where I learned about a new management operating system. It was started by Lee Benson, a CEO who belongs to Vistage Worldwide in the Midwest. (I chair groups in New York City.) It’s based on the principle that if the work each person does is aligned with the corporate strategy and performed well, it’s a win-win for each employee and the company. At the time, he showed it to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who loved it so much that he became a partner in the project. Over the years, it’s evolved into a system used by large companies focused on launching new strategic efforts and helps everyone on the team focus on doing their part in concert with the whole. I

In the meanwhile, I adapting it (www.eval2win.com) to help CEOs of $5M – $1B companies with whom I work, to focus on achieving personal/corporate strategic goals and forging a culture of continuous improvement. The focus is on the employee-supervisor dyad, not just the employee. Each dyad collaborates to ensure that the employee can achieve the strategic objectives she/he has which lead to the achievement of the company’s strategic goals. (e.g., my actions, lead to sales, which are my contribution to the corporate revenue goal. The system requires that the dyad meet regularly to discuss how the employee is doing and can improve and create a document that:

  • Identifies the major responsibilities of a person with time allocations to each one to account for 100% of the person’s commitment. (E.g., a Controller may have specific financial functions, supervises people, provides Exec Team with advice and data, leads the budgeting section for new business proposals, etc.). Many have 5-8 major areas of responsibility.
  • Defines the key activities within each of these responsibilities. (e.g., collect, publish and analyze monthly financials; identify and guide career paths for each employee).
  • Creates KPI for measuring (e.g., close each month within 3 days and provide a report, highlighting key issues of concern).
  • Identifies areas of improvement for the employee within most of the areas of responsibility (e.g., investigate a few finance courses to take online), schedule the activities themselves and develop KPIs to measure progress (e.g., pick the course, take it, and achieve at least a B).
  • Schedules the next review.

As you can see, in a CILO, continuous improvement is a fundamental job responsibility for the employee and the system to achieve it is collaborative – not imposed on anyone. Moreover, the scheduling of reviews is triggered by the goal of continuous improvement – not just a calendar.

For a new employee with a stable set of job responsibilities, the dyad meets each month for the first three months to help the employee “onboard” and do the job correctly. If all is fine, the next review will be in three months; if there is a problem, monthly meetings continue as long as needed. Once things are fine, the intervals between reviews expand from monthly to quarterly to semi-annually to annually.

However, most people’s jobs change! Imagine you’re a graphic artist or sales person or marketing for retail and been promoted to take on new responsibilities, such as managing the graphic team, providing sales training, supervising social media e-commerce marketing. Since this is new, the cycle of reviews for these new jobs starts over; you get support immediately (e.g., training and direction) to perform the new job correctly. In this way, the Peter Principle is eliminated – people aren’t promoted to a new job where they lack the skills and the problem is only discovered later; problems are identified immediately.

As you can see, this system also encourages people to take on new responsibilities to advance their career by learning what they need to know and getting the support and feedback to do it well.

Is your company a CILO – encouraging continuous improvement through learning, feedback and support (by people and systems)?  If so, share your model. If not, let us know how we can help you become one!

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