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Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way. With a career spanning over 30 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, she enjoys speaking, training, and writing, sharing her experience with others. She currently is the Chief Strategy Officer and VP Americas for Corporater.

The Four Things I Wish I’d Known - Part 2

By: Gail S. Perry

Oct 3, 2018 4531 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Change Management Matters

The producer, her face pale, rushed up to me when the cameras stopped rolling and said, “You shouldn’t say that!”  I was being interviewed for a segment on Bloomberg and was wracking my brain to remember what kind of word bomb I may have dropped.  The offending phrase? I had said, “You must consider change management.”   She had interpreted it to mean that I was recommending a change of management team. I had to explain the definition of change management. And it reminded me that no one is born knowing this stuff.  Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.

At the young age of 24, I led an implementation of ERP software at a location of a Fortune 50. The technology, systems, and processes for the entire manufacturing facility – from contracts to purchasing to production to shipping and invoicing - were completed and the system was up and running on-time and on-budget.  The President of the facility presented me with the company’s coveted Annual Outstanding Achievement Award for my efforts. I have chosen to say “for my efforts” because I can’t honestly say that I achieved results.  

I couldn’t articulate the problem at the time as I knew nothing of change management. Now I know that the implementation problem I sensed is called “resistance to change.”  I had never before considered the people side of the equation when deploying new systems and processes.  As an engineer born with a systems-thinking mindset, it didn’t naturally occur to me that a human would refuse to cooperate with improved methods, rules and systems. In spite of repeated trainings we provided and my daily offers to assist the users, I saw the old-timers finding workarounds to the new software system.  I would see them throw away reports without glancing at them, ignore their new computers which were gathering a deep layer of dust, and go back to their old manual methods of running the production facility. They would come in every morning with their clipboards and pencils, shouting and jockeying for the attention of the foreman to get their products made ahead of others in queue. They ran the plant at full capacity at all times.  

The problem was, because I knew how to use the software system, I now had an overview of the big picture. I knew the demand, the open contracts, and what the customers expected and when. I could see the ever-increasing inventory levels of finished product.  And I could see the shipping schedules that showed these products weren’t due to ship for years. The plant was overproducing at an alarming rate.  They were completing six years’ worth contracted parts and components in under six months. And I could see that few new orders were coming in nor did we have the ability to directly influence more orders/sales as this plant was a supplier to parent entities that were producing the final product (aircraft and weapons systems – products with very long sales cycles). At this rate, our plant risked running out of work. I tried to show the key managers the data but was shooed away as a nuisance who didn’t understand “how we do things around here”.   

Twenty-four months later, as I had predicted, the parent company closed the plant. I had heeded the writing on the wall and made my exit long before the plant was shuttered. The saddest part is that a small town lost one of its biggest employers. And I still believe that had I understood the principles of change management and user acceptance had been achieved, the managers may have made different decisions and all those people (almost 1,000) would still have their jobs. That’s a lesson I never forgot. 

Read Part 1 of The Four Things I Wish I’d Known here.  Read Part 3 here
Tim Johnson Tim Johnson

Tim is a contributing author and Director at Jabian Consulting with over 32 years of experience in management and professional services management consulting. Areas of expertise include strategic planning, portfolio management, performance measurement/management, project management and business process improvement.

Why Strategic Planning Fails - Part 7

By: Tim Johnson

Jul 16, 2018 3607 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!


This is the seventh installment in a blog series that discusses potential pitfalls that could hold you back from being fully successful in your strategic planning efforts.  The first was ensuring that you have full leadership support before you begin the strategic planning initiative, the second was generating needed buy-in across the organization, the third was making sure you build that strategy in a way that it can be executed effectively, the fourth was prioritizing to narrow your focus, the fifth was integrating the strategy into how you do business and the sixth was ensuring you have effective execution of the strategy.  As I started the first blog of the series, most things that I have been successful at in my life have been because I did it the right way and using the right tools.  At the Balanced Scorecard Institute, we have the “Nine-Step Process” to building a strategic management system.  We believe in this approach and we have helped hundreds of clients develop comprehensive strategic plans with a management system that enables them to effectively execute strategy.  I myself have worked with over 80 organizations and have seen very successful strategic planning efforts and also those that were less so!  I wanted to share some observations as to where those that were not as successful went wrong along the way. 

The seventh and final pitfall is not communicating the strategy effectively.  As we are told with any change management effort: communicate, communicate, communicate!  In our balanced certification courses we love to give the example of a vision as John F. Kennedy announcing in 1962 that by the ended of the decade he wanted the United States as a nation to put a man on the moon.  It was a great vision and it really captured the imagination of the nation.  Everyone was on board and understood what we were trying to accomplish.  And at NASA, it is said that everyone understood how what they did was going to help the agency put a man on the moon.  There was effective communication that lead to overwhelming commitment.  Not only for those that worked at NASA, but truly by almost the entire country.  For effective change management to occur it must be well communicated.  People have to understand the “burning platform” behind the reason for change.  It must become so personal that they can translate what they do in terms of how it is going to help the organization become successful.  It is only when you get this kind of understanding and buy-in that strategy really is let loose throughout the organization.

If this pitfall sounds familiar, contact us. Communication throughout the strategic planning process is critical but it's especially important before the process begins and after it's implemented. 

This completes this blog series.  Again, these are not the only reasons why strategies fail, but just some of the key impediments I have seen that hold organizations back from realizing the many benefits to developing a strategy and a supporting strategic management system.

Missed Part 6 of the blog series? You can read it here

David Wilsey David Wilsey

David Wilsey is the Chief Operating Officer with the Balanced Scorecard Institute and co-author of The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard.

How to Keep Lettuce Crunchy and Other Strategy Execution Lessons

By: David Wilsey

Nov 22, 2016 9876 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus
I learned two lessons in college that I still think about – one in the kitchen and one as a strategy execution consultant. My professor claimed during a cell biology lesson that if you leave iceberg lettuce in water for about 20 minutes its cells expand as they soak up the water. He said that many chefs knew that soaking lettuce in cold water made it seem fresher and crunchier but few understood that it was because the cells were packed to the bursting point.

I went home for the holidays eager to share this new lesson with my mother. This is where I learned the consulting lesson. 

My mother had been taught that in order to keep salad crisp, you should throw a slice of bread into the salad as you are making it and then pull the bread out just before serving. The thinking was that the bread soaked up the excess moisture that would otherwise lead to wilting.

When I shared my professor’s theory with her, I assumed that we would immediately begin saving a nickel per month due to all that saved bread. Instead I was surprised to find that my mother was not about to change the way she made salad because of something her son’s biology professor said, not even after I showed her that the lettuce didn’t wilt.

Strategy execution is about transformation. It is about the systematic implementation of the changes needed to move an organization forward. Unfortunately, as you try to convince people to change the way they do things, many of them react exactly like my mother did.

The change management field is built around several general principles in how to manage people through change: thoroughly communicate how/why/what change is happening, look for the “what’s-in-it-for-me” for employees, communicate using two-way dialog, remove barriers to change, celebrate success, describe a “burning platform”, etc. Strategy execution specialists bring a few more key approaches to these basic doctrines. 

Engage Around the Big Picture. A simple business case (e.g. this initiative will help us improve process efficiency and lower operating costs) often isn’t enough. To embrace change it helps to understand how a particular initiative is aligned with the overall strategy of the organization (e.g. we want to bring low cost healthcare solutions to those suffering from an ailment. If we can improve this process, the solution could be better, more consistent, and cheaper than anyone else in the market). Employees will be far more motivated to change if they believe in the strategy. Strategy professionals typically have the skills needed to articulate and communicate that story.

Make Strategy Everyone’s Job. Strategy is a team sport. Too many strategy professionals think that because they are good at it they should do all of the work themselves. But good strategy execution relies on others to implement. I can tell my mother that this is a better way or (if she were an employee) order her to follow a new process, but as long as she can dismiss the idea as an outsider’s, change will be painful. Good strategy execution professionals understand that their job is to facilitate a consensus around a shared vision rather than simply dream up a vision in a vacuum.

Pick Your Battles. Strategy is about focus and strategic thinkers should be good at prioritizing. The worst thing you can do is overwhelm employees with dozens of major changes at the same time and then when things go badly decide that it’s not worth the trouble. Better is to pick the most important changes and implement them at a pace that the organization can handle. Then think through and communicate the timeline, action steps, and resource changes that will happen as the change is rolled out.

Facilitate a Sense of Inevitability. The weakest client outcomes in my career happened when there was uncertainty about whether or not the senior-most executives were on board. A well-meaning strategic planning director that isn’t visibly supported by the executive team will struggle to move an organization forward even if they do everything else right. On the other hand, if the executive team has thoroughly and repeatedly communicated that this change is going to happen with or without you, the inertia of inevitability will convince people to jump on the bandwagon even if other change management mistakes are made.

Dan Montgomery Dan Montgomery

Dan is co-author of The Institute Way. An accomplished facilitator and trainer, Dan has a 30 year background as a manager, management consultant and executive coach. His previous professional consulting experience includes work with Accenture and Ernst & Young.

The Trouble with “Change Management”

By Dan Montgomery

Oct 18, 2013 19411 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

A few years ago I was facilitating a post-merger integration process for an expanding publicly-traded utility company that had bought a smaller, rural utility in order to expand its territory. The parent company had a balanced scorecard, and we created an aligned scorecard for the smaller company.

I was given a dedicated, full-time team of six people – a “diagonal slice” of the organization including people from different functions and management levels; a dedicated work space with its own kitchen; and very strong executive sponsorship.  It was an ideal project from that point of view.

One day I wanted the group to talk about “Change Management,” and wrote that term up on the white board in our meeting area. Brian was one of the team members, and a former IBEW shop steward who was pretty critical about the way things were run.  As he walked into the room, Brian said, “That’s exactly what we need to do, Dan.  Change the management!”

Brian had quite a point there. Too often, “change management” means “managing what employees think, say and do.”  Can we also interpret this term as “changing the way management thinks about change?” When I first learned the term while working with a Big 4 consultancy in the early 90’s, the approach to change management was top-down and essentially manipulative.  Senior management, assisted by our brilliant consultants, developed new systems and re-engineered processes to work more efficiently, and “change management” was a set of techniques designed to get the folks to go along with whatever had been decided.

It’s pretty clear that that approach doesn’t work.  Change cannot be “managed” like that.  Hearts and minds are not so easily manipulated. Change can be led however.

Effective change leaders don’t “manage” people, they engage them.

Engagement begins by creating a vision that is emotionally inspiring to employees, and inviting them to contribute their ideas about what the future should look like, how to get there, and how to measure success.  Participation in the process is intrinsically motivating to people, who enjoy the feeling of “knowing what’s going on” and contributing.

The Institute Way provides a detailed approach for building engagement using four inter-related cross-functional teams:

The strategic management team – senior leaders who set strategic direction, provide resources and monitor progress.

Strategic theme teams –cross-functional groups that flesh out key business strategies, or themes.

Communications team – to keep employees and key stakeholders informed

Objective owner teams – cross-functional groups that identify measures and initiatives to generate forward momentum

Gail Stout Perry Gail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way. With a career spanning over 30 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, she enjoys speaking, training, and writing, sharing her experience with others. She currently is the Chief Strategy Officer and VP Americas for Corporater.

The Ultimate Fantasy

By Gail Stout Perry

Oct 14, 2013 10719 Views 0 Comments FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle Plus

CheerleadersHigh School Football, College Football and Pro Football still don’t scratch the itch.  Are you familiar with Fantasy Football? Football Season in Texas is well underway yet even with  football everywhere you turn, there are a lot of people who are just as excited about Fantasy Football.  If you are not familiar with the concept, fantasy football is a game in which team “owners” draft  pro players to assemble their ultimate fantasy team.  Then as actual pro football games are played each week, the resultant statistics  from the games are used to calculate how the owner’s fantasy team would have performed. In other words, if the Cowboys’ quarterback had been playing with the Redskins’ running back and Denver’s wide receiver, how would they have performed as a team? 

I never really understood the attraction of Fantasy Football....until today.  I have recently observed a couple of organizations that are similar size / similar business models, yet their team performance is radically different.  In one organization, people are enthusiastic and innovative – they have a wonderful team spirit -  and in the other, the team has to be prodded along.  And as I mulled this over, I remembered Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.  Pink has found that autonomy over “your team”...in other words, being able to choose your own team...is a primary motivator and he backs this up with research as well as examples from companies such as Whole Foods and Facebook that are successfully allowing employees to select their teammates.

And it hit me, the difference between the high performing company and the struggling company had to do with team performance.  And there was a difference in how the teams were created. One had forced staff to “play nicely together” while the other has allowed its staff more autonomy to choose their teams. And isn’t that the ultimate fantasy? To be able to choose a winning team rather than plodding along with whatever team you happen to have landed in?

I get it now.  This is also what makes Fantasy Football so fun - the ability to choose a team and feel pride in the team’s performance results. I plan to participate next season – that way, if the Cowboys have a bad week, I’ll still have a chance to celebrate via my fantasy team’s results!  

To learn more about organizational change management and how to achieve transformational results for your organization, we invite you to explore The Institute Way:  Simplify Strategic Planning & Management with the Balanced Scorecard.  And to learn more about Fantasy Football, check out the popular sitcom, The League.

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