All Posts by Paige Pulaski Jones

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Don’t Rush into Digital Transformation Without Efficient Processes

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Don’t Rush into Digital Transformation Without Efficient Processes

By Paige Pulaski Jones


There are a lot of articles being published on the topic of Digital Transformation, but the majority of the business community isn’t actually there yet.

Digital Transformation isn’t just a buzz word. It’s part of a specifically defined digital change cycle (more below). The important steps before Digital Transformation are often overlooked, which is why so many companies are failing to reach their Digital Transformation goals.

Focus on optimizing your team, aligning your strategies, and creating a transparent culture to build a framework in the Digitalization process before jumping into your Digital Transformation journey.

Where We’re Stuck: Digitalization vs. Digital Transformation

“The Great Digital Migration” is broken into three stages, occurring over several decades:

  1. Digitization – moving our data from analog to digital
  2. Digitalization – replacing manual processes with digital processes to automate, increase efficiency, and optimize current business strategies
  3. Digital Transformation – driving organizational change and customer-centric business strategy, once the new digital processes are fully ingrained into base operations

Digitization – check. To quote the 90s in which most of this occurred, “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” We’ve reached a place as a business community where all of our work lives on computers. If you’re still keeping handwritten ledgers instead of using Quickbooks, it’s likely you’re reading business magazines instead of blogs and haven’t made it to this post to state your case.

After all our data was successfully transferred to a digital format, since the early 00s we’ve been in the midst of the Digitalization process. We’re focused on replacing manual processes done with common desktop productivity tools (think Microsoft Office) with highly specialized software (think CRMs like Salesforce). Most people think we’ve already checked this box too.

However, the jump from Digitalization to Digital Transformation is the difference between getting your technology stack in place to optimize what you’re already doing, versus actually reshaping your culture to forge a new core strategy, building on the new processes as they become the norm. (e.g. Think of how Netflix used their optimized mail-order technology to follow the customer and create a streaming subscription service instead.)

Although some companies have started their Digital Transformation journeys, we’re mostly stuck in the Digitalization Era and struggling to cross the threshold into true transformation. There are still huge gaps in optimizing manual processes, with plan execution especially.

With $1.3 trillion being funneled this year into problem-solving for leaders’ #1 risk concern, somehow 70% of Digital Transformation initiatives (a $900 billion investment) are still not achieved.

Don’t jump into Digital Transformation before you’re all the way through your company’s Digitalization process. First, focus on the following change management principles while optimizing and automating your manual processes to smooth your transition into true transformation.

4 Ways to Prep for Digital Transformation

Leaders who dive in too early to Digital Transformation fail at one or more of the following principles of change. While you’re future-proofing your processes with automation, start to make these cultural changes so when you’re fully optimized, you can make the jump to transform your business strategy seamlessly.

Focus on Teamwork

Transformation is based on people. Invest in training and staffing to ensure you have the right team in place. Make your team successful by cultivating open and transparent communication and facilitating a way to make collaboration easy.

Align Your Digital Strategy to Your Business Strategy

Your Digitalization plan cannot exist independently of your overall corporate plans. Initiatives for each are intricately connected and need to be viewed in the same space. As you’re Digitalizing and building your new technology stack, alignment will help you quickly respond; the implementation of each additional process-improving software will require auditing, replacing, and optimizing as you go. Alignment will also be key to ensure the whole organization understands exactly why the digitalization efforts are needed and the outcomes they will drive.

Implement an Automation System to Record Your Work

Too many organizations are tracking their plans in multiple spreadsheets, updated and compiled with several hours of manual labor. Perhaps your tallest order in Digitalizing your processes – invest in a system that automates data collection and provides a dashboard to measure strategic work. You need a way to compare your progress over time so you can prove ROI on investments and tie actions directly to results.

Create a Culture of Accountability and Transparency

No silos. No siloed mind-sets, no siloed reporting, no siloed cultures. Don’t allow an environment where people can hide their work (or lack of it) behind spreadsheets. Push for visibility into initiatives – all the updates, all the details, all the context – so you’re not surprised something is off track when you’re going through reports for the first time while presenting to your board. Create a single source of truth to align your organization. When it’s time to transcend to the real work of Digital Transformation, your team will have a single understanding of the current business strategy, and a clear, shared view of your customer so you can push to a new business design that’s customer-centric.

What to Expect from Digital Transformation

It’s difficult to identify when your Digitalization process is complete and you can move into your Digital Transformation journey. Your key indicator will be when you’re operating with a highly efficient process that’s a version of what you’ve been doing all along, just better. Your tools can get you there, but then it’s time to buckle down and apply your strategic thinking to how you can disrupt the status quo with better customer experience, design, and functionality.

Digital Transformation is business transformation. Your Digitalization groundwork makes way for new innovations and creativity, once you’ve successfully enhanced your traditional methods. However, without taking the time to create a solid, optimized process for change, you run the risk of getting trapped in organizational inertia.

As McKinsey states in a recent study, “Bold, tightly integrated digital strategies will be the biggest differentiator between companies that win and companies that don’t, and the biggest payouts will go to those that initiate digital disruptions. Fast-followers with operational excellence and superior organizational health won’t be far behind.”

Remember, the ultimate goal of advancing your technologies should be focused on building new business strategies and products, and not just using desktop productivity tools to simply protect your current offerings. With change management, you’re asking a lot of people to embrace change, so making sure you have a solid structure in place to ask for that level of commitment to the unknown is key.

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How CHI Health Succeeds with AchieveIt: Webinar Recap

By Paige Pulaski Jones

How CHI Health Succeeds with AchieveIt: Webinar Recap

Myra Ricceri is the reigning “AchieveIt Queen” of CHI Health.

The Performance Excellence Coach Coordinator earned her nickname from the project teams in the health and hospital system based in the Midwest. Within the first few months of implementing AchieveIt for organization-wide project tracking, Myra led the team to knock out a 6-month long project in 23 work days and cut their number of meetings in half.

By automating update reminders, allowing users to provide updates in a standard reporting format from a single landing page, and dashboarding a high-level view of completed work for better visibility – CHI Health Immanuel Medical Center became the fourth hospital in the nation to receive the new Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center (TSC) certification from The Joint Commission, American Heart Association, and American Stroke Association.

Myra Ricceri has received many project management awards from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Planetree for her work in overseeing the design, openings, and operations for 6 hospitals and other specialty facilities and programs. A PMP, CLSSGB, FLMI, and ACS by trade, Myra has since transformed the way her organization monitors and measures their projects, leading to even more success since the first TSC certification project.

We were thrilled when Myra shared her story with our webinar audience. Below, find some highlights from our conversation on how Myra’s new best practices help her team at CHI Health make better decisions to accomplish more. Or – access the webinar video recording here.

Myra Ricceri:

There are 15 hospitals in our organization and it’s the story of one of those, that’s the focus of what I’ll be sharing today. My team and I lead the major undertakings for CHI Health. We’re involved from both the change management and the project management perspective. We all have some level of Lean Six Sigma certification, so we’re always looking for better, more efficient processes to support our organization.

Before AchieveIt, spreadsheet reporting was done manually and many times by multiple hospitals. Sites could take some liberties to add columns, change the formatting, etc., so we no longer had a consistent look and feel for our reports.

“How AchieveIt Saved Our Process”

AchieveIt helped Myra’s team at CHI Health develop one version of the truth from a lot of varying sources that measure KPIs differently. Databases and financial programs produced discrepancies in information that are now solved when her team members update statuses in AchieveIt.

Myra Ricceri:

So, let me break down for you the three phases where AchieveIt was my best friend, and I think could be yours.

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First – plan the work. The to-do list was basically done for us; the certifying body had 84 requirements. We just had to determine who was the best resource to pull together the documentation of proof that we met each requirement and the timeframe under which we had to do it.

After that, we just had to be diligent about working the plan. AchieveIt helped us stay the course when it came to execution and accountability.

One of the features that I love about AchieveIt is that one – and only one – person can be assigned to an item. We all like to work in teams at CHI Health and give everyone credit for helping, but when it comes down to it, there just needs to be one person accountable. It’s kind of like on Family Feud when they try to steal from the other family: only one person is accountable for relaying what the entire family agreed to as their guess.

And in the area of reports, AchieveIt let me build a dashboard that was updated in real time.

So, in my role, I work with a lot of folks who want to be told just the facts. Building a dashboard in AchieveIt takes just a few minutes and it really does tell the story. At a glance, the project sponsors can tell how things are going or how a metric is trending.

I had two sponsors for this project, the Neurology Medical Director and the President of the Hospital. With our AchieveIt dashboard, I was confident that they were both getting the same information and I really didn’t ever have to provide a status report.

The team at CHI Health used alignment as a tool to a) ensure every task supported a main goal and no resources were wasted on superfluous activities, and b) to enhance buy-in from team members, since they could better see how their work rolled up to the overall certification goal.

Myra also created a realistic timeline for their project work using a Gantt view and working backwards from the certification goal deadline. While teams often fall victim to the Planning Fallacy, Myra used AchieveIt to allocate everyone’s time and effort on a scale for success. This helps level resources and avoid road blocks, helping deliver the final project on time.

“Big Savings on Meetings”

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using AchieveIt that the team saw was the reduction in meeting time and increase in meeting effectiveness and accountability. So much time used to be spent compiling reports manually and preparing meeting agendas for items to be discussed, that the amount of time saved exponentially increased productivity.

Myra Ricceri:

I never ever created a formal meeting agenda. Instead, I just used the AchieveIt filters to show only the items that needed attention, things that were not done when they should have been, or no update was given. The team knew this methodology would be used after our kickoff meeting and they knew they could use the meeting to get unstuck if they were struggling with something. But they also knew they would be called out if they weren’t progressing according to the plan we’d put together.

So, I’m very happy to report on the change before AchieveIt and with AchieveIt.

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If I had not been using AchieveIt, I would’ve had weekly meetings. They would have been scheduled for an hour and some of them would have run over. There probably would have been a meeting after the meeting. Not all key attendees would be present at every meeting because of conflicts. I would have prepared agendas and typed up meeting notes afterwards, and quite honestly, the majority of our face-to-face time in the meetings would have been a lot of good discussion and brainstorming, but really no results coming out of that.

Now contrast that with AchieveIt. I only held four meetings, every other week, on this project. They were scheduled for one hour, but we often ended early. The updates were put right in the comments on each plan item. And remember – this was Christmas and Thanksgiving time – so I didn’t have everybody physically in the room at our meetings, but I didn’t really need them because their updates were already in AchieveIt.

As I mentioned before, I just used the filters, had an instant agenda, then took notes right on the cards as they were in view of everybody. We didn’t have just discussion; we actually got results in our meetings.

The bottom line, that’s good. No matter what type of plan you’re working on, if you can have half as many meetings and easily track and report status, that would be a win.

A conservative estimate of the savings after less than two months on this project was $5,000.

That was really just by putting time back on everyone’s calendars and meeting less.

“Tracking More Projects with AchieveIt”

But the CHI Health team hasn’t stopped there. Myra has started using AchieveIt to manage other types of projects. The results have been exponential, leveraging the tool’s automation and reporting elements.

Myra Ricceri:

I was challenged by my organization to try to stretch AchieveIt as a product every which way to see if it was a viable tool for future initiatives. I haven’t been able to find an area where it couldn’t be an appropriate solution.

Last week I built a plan and an accompanying dashboard in 12 minutes. It’s replacing 14 spreadsheets, each of which were formatted differently, each containing four or five key metrics. It’s pretty difficult to generate a system view when you have such a hodgepodge of items that you need to roll up and AchieveIt solves all of that for me.

I’m pleased to say we’ve now expanded to where every one of our campuses has either a strategic or operational plan in AchieveIt. We’re using it for initiatives related to growth, stewardship, engagement, and patient experience, just to name a few.

We’re using AchieveIt to replace a pretty manual, antiquated process we’ve been doing for quite some time before AchieveIt. It took about four hours every month to gather updates and revise a Word document.

After automating with AchieveIt, it now takes less than 15 minutes.

We also automated the report generation, so on the first of every month, a report is sent to the person who used to update the Word document.

And executing plans with agility has gotten way easier. Basically, all we have to do is add new items to the plan as they surface. AchieveIt automatically sends an email to the person accountable. So, with the help of this tool, we’re building a culture where it’s not acceptable to not reply when an update is needed.

“We’ve Matured Quite a Bit in Our Planning Process”

The CHI Health team has improved their process with the help of AchieveIt. For example, something that used to be ingrained throughout their organization, they’ve since removed goals that Myra calls, “motherhood and apple pie,” like, “Open the hearts and minds…” She says, “You can’t dashboard that.”

Myra Ricceri:

I used to do project management via Excel and I thought I had a pretty good process. It did, however, rely a lot on face-to-face meetings and I had to pull together the executive-level reporting manually every month.

AchieveIt has taken this up a level and I absolutely love the automation it’s provided me. We have dashboards for our executives that tell them the story at the highest level that they really are interested in getting, and its real time.

You know, I actually have an email from my boss’s boss, the CFO of the company, saying, “I LOVE THIS !!!!” with all capitals and a bunch of exclamation points. Since the dashboards are graphic in nature, executives can easily see trends of the different quality metrics that we’re keeping our eye on. Plus, the fact that it’s instantaneous when a person gives an update, they know right then. They aren’t waiting a week for the report to come to them that gets attached to an email that’s buried amongst the other couple hundred they’re getting that day. It’s right there, front and center. So, we’re building dashboards right and left all over the place with this product.

“AchieveIt Is My Best Friend, and I Think It Could Be Yours Too”

Myra Ricceri:

No matter what you’re undertaking, I feel you can use AchieveIt to help you have meaningful, focused meetings that actually accomplish something. No more hours and hours of discussion only. Staff know that they, and only they, are responsible for items to which they are assigned.

We’ve been pleased with the way AchieveIt has provided a solution to several of the struggles we were having and I’m confident that if it was a solution for us, it could be for you too.

Because of the uses I found for the product, I’ve been granted the title of AchieveIt Queen by my colleagues (chuckles).

We really like AchieveIt at CHI Health.

Get Your Own AchieveIt Crown

Join Myra and other AchieveIt users in the plan management revolution by watching a 2-minute product demo video and requesting to talk to us today.

Reduce Your Cash Conversion Cycle With These Tips From Penn State

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Reduce Your Cash Conversion Cycle with These Tips from Penn State

The key to unlocking funding for business growth is tied up in your cash-to-cash cycle time.

[Sidebar: for those of you reading that operate without a supply chain, the Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC) is the time period (days) between when a business pays cash for materials or inventory, and when payment is received for goods sold. Basically, how long it takes your business to earn the money back you used to purchase what you’re selling.]

In our recent webinar, Steve Tracey, Executive Director of the Center for Supply Chain Research (CSCR™) at Penn State, revealed three new ways to look at your supply chain to help shorten your CCC. By implementing a supply chain solution that spans end-to-end, you can address the three primary drivers of CCC –

1. Inventory
2. Accounts payable
3. Accounts receivable

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On-Demand Webinar | Reducing Cash-to-Cash Cycle Time
Watch the supply chain webinar.

Watch Now

Focus on Your End-to-End Supply Chain View

The sneaky thing about supply chains is your realm of influence only encompasses the activities of your suppliers, your company, and your customers. What often gets left out of the equation is your suppliers’ suppliers, your customers’ customers, and so on.

Steve Tracey shared these three focal points when deciding what to attack first:

1. Optimize Inventory

Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks for supply chain leaders is balancing the amount of inventory in stock to be both quickly responsive and to minimize the amount of cash tied up in assets.

To release cash from warehousing and inventory while still stocking enough to meet customer demand, start to assess these processes from end-to-end:

• Reduce product design complexity
• Manage supplier lead time
• Adopt logistics techniques (e.g. JIT and VMI)
• Eliminate unnecessary channel intermediaries
• Improve sales forecast and demand planning

2. Optimize Procure-to-Pay Cycle

Supply disruption risks can (and almost inevitably will) cause unexpected hiccups in the time taken to pay suppliers. While you’re trying to lengthen the time in between payments (to keep as much cash available as possible), impacts on suppliers’ cash flow can make payments unpredictable.

However, on the bright side, level-of-service agreements and potential discounts from early payments can help you optimize the amount you keep in pocket. Look for opportunities in these areas of your supply chain:

• Monitor contract compliance to minimize payments made earlier than agreed upon terms
• Streamline invoice acceptance and payment processes
• Rationalize supplier base for greater leverage in contract negotiations

3. Optimize Order-to-Cash Cycle

The invoicing process is variable, depending on time, reliability, and accuracy. Ultimately, when the customer begins processing the shipment delivery for payment, a lot has gone into the process to ensure its timely and correct.

Minimizing this order-to-cash time while still maintaining a high order completion rate, consistent on-time delivery, and infallible invoice accuracy is difficult. Try breaking up your process into these smaller sections to see where you might be able to start shortening your Order-to-Cash time:

• Automate invoicing processes (speed and accuracy)
• Actively follow up outstanding invoices and underlying reasons
• Be strategic with the range of credit terms offered to different customers

Keys to Getting Buy-In from the Top-Down for CCC Improvement

Because CCC is a cross-functional concern that extends to external supply chain collaborators, like suppliers, customers, and third-party logistics providers – in order to gain sustainable improvements in CCC, developing cash management culture is imperative.

Watch the webinar recording to get more context around the tips below, but the main point is culture is sustained through all levels, from employees, to managers, to executives, and back again.

Some things to keep in mind to ensure cash management culture implementation:

Get executive buy-in to create your shared vision – Effective cash-to-cash cycle time reduction processes should start with a “tone at the top” directive from the board of directors, CEO, and CFO. Improved communication processes (e.g. moving to dialogues versus one-way communication, like town hall meetings) will help align your team around the core idea presented by your organization’s leaders. With the additional aid learning tools – with content curated to your business – change champions will emerge from your work force, further emphasizing the vision set for you by executives.

You must focus on every step of the process – Successful cash-to-cash cycle time improvement requires broad engagement across procurement, sales, inventory management, and finance functions, as well as external collaboration with suppliers, customers, and third-party logistics providers.

House all your data in one system – The accumulation and use of data are qualities of an effective working capital management system. Centralizing and standardizing financial transaction processing can enable companies to draw meaningful insights from underlying data. Implement custom dashboards so you can see where you’re on track, off track, and at risk at-a-glance, and see across all your plans at once for 360° visibility.

Implement, Operationalize, and Sustain Your Processes for CCC Improvement

More importantly, creating change in your supply chain from end-to-end isn’t worth the effort if your team isn’t committed to implementing fully, building a process around your new operations, and working with your culture to sustain the changes you’ve made.

Without a strong roll-out, buy-in isn’t there from the beginning to give the new solutions and processes a true shot. Focus on changing the hearts and mind of your employees by leading by example, and sharing your vision.

You must operationalize any new changes to process – they should become the new normal. Document, train, monitor metrics, analyze, and make it better. This will help with the “stickiness” of your new end-to-end solution.

The key to maintaining buy-in is to ensure your culture is centered around a shared vision – in this case, cash management. With one idea at the core of all your business operations, all team members can apply force in the same direction at the same time, making it easier to reach your goals.

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Defining Plan Focus by Urgency, Importance, and Impact

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Defining Plan Focus by Urgency, Importance, and Impact

We all know the trouble with plans is not creating them – the challenge is sticking to them and getting your initiatives executed. It can be simple to get your ideas down in writing, but without adding the elements to your plan that set it up for success, organizations have a tendency to lose rigor around keeping big ideas top-of-mind.

The main challenge in bridging the gap between planning and execution is defining day-to-day focus. In our recent podcast-like webinar, Michael Wilkinson described how common it is for a strategic plan to move further away from your focus over time: from the center of your desk, to the corner of your desk, to under a stack of papers, to being shoved off your desk and into the recycling bin (not the trash – because we may be busy, but we’re not monsters).

Little distractions add up over time to throw you off-course. Each day starts with, “Oh, I’ll just handle this one quick, urgent task, and then I’ll get cracking on my strategic initiatives.” Once you’ve said that every day for a week, a month, a quarter, you’re never going to meet the goals you set forth at the beginning of the year because you’re now behind 3 months (see “shiny object syndrome”).

We, as a human race, are continually surprised at how time seems to slip away so quickly – but the planet always turns at the same pace. We need to continue to use the data of experiences that came before us to help us not be so caught off guard.

Prioritizing Your Effort

Speaking of time flying, I just got back from spending a weekend with my cousin and her young family that seems to be growing up so quickly. Being a person without children, it’s always a bit of a culture shock for me to dive into a thriving household with a 7-year-old, 4-year-old, cat, dog, fish, and Holli the Hermit Crab. As much as it’s an adjustment for me to be woken up by two tiny humans carrying a cat upside down and asking me to fold paper airplanes at 6:45 am on a Saturday, it’s an adjustment to switch into constant prioritization assessment.

I found myself rapidly shifting my focus and thinking, Is this urgent? Is this important? Is the outcome worth the effort? Do I fold the paper airplane right now, or do I stop the cat from scratching my baby cousin’s face when it inevitably rights itself in her arms?

An easy way to categorize decisions like this is to use the Eisenhower Box. Many will know this activity decision matrix from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It pits urgency against importance, which can help us decide what deserves our focus, and when.

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Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/helene-tragos-stelian/what-stephen-covey-taught_b_12458334.html

These decisions happen every day at work. When you open your email, you may have to think through, What should I do first? Respond to the upset customer support ticket? Send my manager the revenue numbers she asked for? Fill out the application to exhibit at this trade show? Or finish the NYTimes crossword puzzle online?

And of course, this also happens at the organizational level. Should you focus more resources on responding to manufacturing floor accidents, shortening supply chain cash-to-cash cycles, buying new break room furniture, or swapping out the Doritos in the vending machine for Cheez-Its?

Let’s break these organizational-level activities down.

The hope is that by optimizing processes, you won’t have to spend too much time putting out fires and dealing with things like manufacturing floor accidents because you’ve made efforts to prevent dangerous situations and have prepared to act swiftly in the case of a crisis.

The goal is to be able to spend more time working on initiatives that can save you budget or increase your revenue. [Did you know that supply chain teams that shorten their cash-to-cash cycle time by only one day can translate into 0.5 – 2% increase in working capital? Watch the on-demand webinar about it now.]

And eventually, you will need to buy new break room furniture, too. It’s not as important as increasing revenue, but the Dorito dust on the arm chairs is really impacting employee morale. Furthermore, where do you prioritize the demands of the strong Cheez-Its-over-Doritos advocates? You feel like it all has to be done, but how, when, and by whom?

It all comes down to labeling your activities into one of these four boxes in the Eisenhower Box, and then aligning them to the measurements you’re trying to drive. Below are what we suggest doing with initiatives and activities that fit into each of the four boxes, and how to decide whether or not it’s worth your resources to keep them in your plan.

How to Define Initiatives and Activities

Spending time with my little cousins gave me some perspective on being in a state of constantly assessing and reprioritizing. I was living in a microcosm of rapid strategizing for 36 hours. I finally understood what an executive leader’s brain must be sifting through at every moment – What needs to be handled right now? What can I focus on long-term? How can I make time to do other important things?

Not Urgent/Not Important: Delete

Description: These items have no impact on your organization’s goals. They take up time, but aren’t aligned to any initiative and don’t drive any outcomes. In fact, they’re usually a waste of resources (usually time).

Examples: Checking what your old colleague is up to on LinkedIn, renaming all of your folders to use only lowercase letters, finishing coloring in the body of the mermaid unicorn pink with purple polka dots

The solution: Delete. These activities cannot be tied to your revenue goals, and your little cousin has already lost interest in the coloring book, so that mermaid unicorn is lost in a flurry of trying to find the toad that lives under the deck. There’s no pay-off, so ditch those time wasters.

Urgent/Not Important: Delegate

Description: These activities are things that come up that need to be dealt with right away, but cannot be tied to improving the measurements you’re tracking in your plan.

Examples: The printer salesman shows up unannounced in your lobby to show you the newest model, needing to set up a SnapChat account right away because your CEO read an article about how it’s the next big thing, negotiating over being allowed to have a Fudge Stripe cookie

The solution: Delegate. Since the printer salesman is right here, in your office, looking at you, right this second, you don’t need to be rude to them. You can, however, ask the college intern to gather the information from the salesperson and vet whether adding a fourth paper tray is something that will impact your KPIs.

A lot of leaders can be set off-course by “shiny objects,” or non-impactful things in the guise of importance. Typically, they will need to be handled right away to sustain a relationship or appease a stakeholder, even if it’s not a strategically sound action. The best way to deal with these activities is to outsource them to someone who has more time to attribute to lower-converting items. And honestly, your college intern probably knows more about SnapChat than you do, so it’s a win-win.

That plea for a Fudge Stripe cookie has to be dealt with now, or else you’ll suffer from a Major Meltdown™. However, if you’re tied up feeding the dog at that exact moment, enlist the taller of the two kids to grab the cookies from the top shelf. #momtricks

Urgent/Important: Do It Now

Description: These activities typically stem from emergencies and are distinctly aligned to overarching initiatives. Their failing health is dangerous because not dealing with something in this box with full resources and immediacy will directly affect your plan measurements. Solving these activities is generally referred to as “firefighting.”

Examples: Sending out an apology email addressing a very naughty typo that went out, fixing the lead routing process that broke when you updated your connector, catching the dog that slipped out of the gate on the deck and is running towards the busy road

The solution: Do it now. Put out the fire. Send the apology. Fix the lead process. Catch the dog. Do it now.

Of course, most people live in the world of “do it now” all the time. It’s easy to get worn out when you’re constantly trying to catch up.

So, the goal is to, in those moments of catching your breath, better your process just a little bit each time. Take preventative measures. Focus on preparedness. Set up a work flow that includes a spell check by a colleague. Update your connector in a sandbox environment before you launch it live. Make sure the gate is closed before you let the dog out.

Little by little, you can start to create space for innovation by bettering your processes. Yes, these items are important AND urgent, but the other set of important items that often get left untouched need to be executed too.

Not Urgent/Important: Determine a Time

Description: These are your strategic maneuvers. They’re things that “you’ll get to eventually” because they’re big projects that are tied to big outcomes that require big resources. They’re usually new initiatives, so you don’t feel like you’re losing anything by not executing them because they never existed before, or you’re used to the status quo.

Examples: Redesigning a training course to improve your education offerings to increase revenue, tightening up work flow efficiencies to increase cost savings in shipping, cleaning up the playroom once and for all so you can stop stepping on Legos

The solution: Determine a Time. The most effective way to ensure you get these items done is to block out your calendar. Be protective of your most valuable resource – your time. Don’t accept meeting invitations in which you’re not a key decision-maker. Block out “do not disturb” times to make sure you have 2 uninterrupted hours every Thursday to dedicate to moving your cost savings initiative across the finish line.

Drag these projects to the forefront of your execution.

The benefit? Add up all the value on the line if you were to accomplish 100% of each of your major plan initiatives. That’s the cost of not executing your plan.

These activities may seem unapproachable, difficult to start, or even futile (especially the clean playroom). But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give those initiatives a fighting chance. If you allow yourself to be distracted by every other urgent or non-important item that comes along in procrastination, you’ll never be able to give yourself and your organization what you deserve. Eventually, you must innovate and improve, or you’ll be out-done by your competitors – and stepping on Legos for the rest of your life.

Focus Your Activities, Reap the Rewards

Thinking through these four boxes each time you’re faced with a new activity is a good exercise to keep your resources focused and driving towards meaningful outcomes.

There is help. The AchieveIt software also gives you the visibility to more easily spot measurements that aren’t moving the needle. Our customers are able to manage and report on multiple plans in one place. This helps better align their resources, initiatives, and people to make sure they’re all focused in the same direction. The custom dashboards make it simpler to spot what’s actually impacting your organization, so you can quickly identify what to delete or delegate.

If you think this could be a good fit for your organization, take a tour.

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Why Waiting to Make a Decision is Bad for Your Business

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Why Waiting to Make a Decision is Bad for Your Business

It’s human nature to exhibit caution when making a decision. Even dare devil Evel Knievel calculated his jumps before throwing caution to the wind (literally) and soaring over 133 feet of Mustangs or Pepsi Delivery Trucks. It can be good to sleep on it and cool off before sending that angry complaint email to your laundromat for playing nothing but “Macarena” on repeat. The smartest tattoo decisions are usually made when you draw the artwork on for a month, and if you still want it after 30 days, go back to get inked.

Especially in business, it’s normal to be hesitant to start something new. Change means training up on new processes, allocating a new portion of the budget, and incorporating new legal practices. But we all know that without change, there’s no invention. There’s no Model T. There’s no “one giant leap for mankind.” There’s no iPhone X. We have to make ourselves uncomfortable to make great strides.

You might be feeling like your organization isn’t going to revolutionize day-to-day operations for everyone on earth (unless you work for Tesla). However, if the mission of your company is to improve the lives of others in some way, the work you’re doing is still as important as inventing an all-electric vehicle. Your work is wildly important and there’s an urgency to accomplish your biggest initiatives.

Creating Urgency Around Long-term Important Initiatives

How do we make the bold moves that will allow us to achieve your Next Big Thing?

Without the urgency to constantly make your processes more effective, you’re hemorrhaging money, time, and other resources operating the way you do today. And the more time you spend dealing with the non-optimized status quo, the more time you’re not using to innovate. (Read more about this idea here.)

I know it may not seem like business as usual is costing you anything; it’s what you’ve been doing, so it’s the established norm. It doesn’t feel like you’re losing anything. However, it’s easy to fall behind doing everything you’ve always done when every one of your competitors are urgently trying to reach their Next Big Thing while you wallow in The Norm.

The example we use is while you’re grooming your race horse, training your race horse, and feeding your race horse a nutritional diet to make sure it’s the fastest way to get around – your race horse is going to get old. By the time you realize your mode of transportation might need a tune up, your competitor has built a motorized Mustang and can reach 60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds, leaving you in the dust.

We see it time and time again; executing strategic plans is the first thing to be deemed non-urgent. Important, yes, but not something that has to be dealt with right this second.

You have all these great game-changing ideas that will propel you ahead of your competition at the beginning of the year, and, well, by about this time (after Q1 is over), you’re spinning so many other plates that you decide you’ll get to those Big Things “eventually.” Eventually = never, and we all know it.

Operating in a mediocre, non-optimized way – hours of reporting, dealing with inefficient software, funneling time into process work-arounds – is costing your organization. Every hour spent working on your old race horse is an hour not spent working on building that Mustang. It’s money, it’s time, and it’s talent. You are not afforded the luxury of waiting to make a move to reach your Next Big Thing.

3 Steps to Help Implement an Urgent Mindset Across Your Organization

There’s still hope for your organization if they’re dragging their feet on finding a better way to operate that saves time, money, and resources. Whether you’re the leader of your organization or you experience this lethargy and apathy from the front lines of executing the daily tasks that make the business operate, you have the power to spread the feeling of urgency to be better. It can be spread from the top-down or the bottom-up.

At AchieveIt, we’ve worked with several different-sized companies across industries to help them over this very hurdle. They were able to realize that there was a cost to waiting, deliberating, and second-guessing – that’s time that could be spent being better, more efficient, and more effective. So, whether or not you decide a plan tracking and monitoring tool will help you do that, here are three steps you can take at any level to help spread the mindset of urgency around accomplishing the Next Big Thing in your organization.

1. Do the Math of What It’s Costing You

It’s difficult to assign dollar amounts to what you might be missing out on. e.g. How exactly do you quantify the time you wasted perfecting your race horse now that there’s a Ford Mustang? Once you have some sort of calculation however, you now have a soapbox from which to shout; losing dollars is urgent, so long as you can prove it.

Since we’re in the plan execution and tracking business, this is how we look at it: the talent and time you waste on complicated manual reporting and compilation is costly, as well as the opportunity cost of employees spending time doing those things rather than producing work that positively affects KPIs.

If you’re using some sort of spreadsheet to track your plan, you’ll know that it’s complicated and time-consuming. What you may not realize is that the time suck that is Excel, Smartsheet, Sharepoint, Dropbox, etc., is actually costing your organization money. Read more about this in our eBook here.

No matter what process you’re trying to improve to make more room for innovation, there’s probably an ROI calculator that guesses how much your organization could save by investing in a more efficient solution. Take these calculators with a grain of salt, of course, but these can be a good jumping-off point to equip you to vocalize the urgency of making a switch to something that doesn’t cost you nearly as much time, money, or resources.

AchieveIt is in the process of officially rolling out our ROI calculator, but if you’re interested in seeing the money that could be saved by using a plan tracking and monitoring software to help you achieve your most important initiatives, download it here.

2. Set Decision Deadlines

Just like with any project, deadlines to make a decision are necessary to light a fire and keep momentum going. Wavering is not good. It eats up time and resources, and you’re not doing anything better in the meantime between second-guessing your decision and committing to something that is going to make your life so much better.

We’ve all done it. You keep a B2B salesperson on the hook for 3 months and tell them to check back in after another quarter to see if you have the right budget or circumstances…and the quarter after that… But the truth is – if getting that new software or service was truly urgent and important to your company, you would schedule time on your manager’s calendar for a demo, sales call, or in-person meeting the next day.

Save yourself the time you spend on indecisive check-in phone calls by setting a due date to decide. Put an hour block on your calendar for research into competing products. Propose an agenda item for the next one-on-one with your manager to discuss your findings and recommendation. Then, make your decision by the date you set. Keep it top-of-mind so it doesn’t continue to linger on the backburner and eat away at you every day it’s left undone.

Ultimately, you will eventually need a new solution to be able to just tread water and not fall behind the global business community. Though, no one wants to be forced into new technology because their operations are so outdated. It’s like using a fax machine in 2018; it’s embarrassing. However, you’re not doing yourself or that B2B salesperson any favors by wallowing in indecision.

The best solution to this? Be proactive. Look for improvements in your process constantly. Approach all decisions with agility. If you have a system that gives you up-to-date data, you’ll have predictive reporting and better decision-making power to make these decisions quicker and more accurately.

3. Build a Change Champion Team

While one person can do a lot to spread a feeling of urgency across an organization to become better, amplifying that message from multiple employees is exponentially more effective.

Find your fellow employees who feel the need to reach their Next Big Thing. Band together. Set a meeting with your department heads, or if you are a department head, set a meeting with the CEO. It’s easy to lose sight of opportunities when you’re comfortable operating in your status quo, and some people need help understanding the costs.

People need help accepting that change is necessary. Convincing someone to change is difficult, but by coming equipped with the actual cost of sticking with something that’s been “just okay” for your needs, the urgency to act is amped up.

Your group of like-minded, determined, resolute, and data-backed change champions will be the ones who can help open the eyes of both leaders and front-line employees alike to create the sense of urgency you need to make a difference in your organization – and achieve your Next Big Thing.

Why Make the Change Now?

If you wait to improve your processes and product, you will get left behind. Once you’re comfortable, start looking for something newer and better. Time is of the essence; there is always someone better than you out there, and if you wait too long to revolutionize your business, you’ll become obsolete.

Out of all the Fortune 500 Companies in 1955, only 60 of them remained in 2016. Those who didn’t urgently seek to constantly improve, make quick decisions, and understand the cost of mediocre operations, were out-innovated and left in the dust. Dynasties don’t last unless you work to keep your crown.

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Keep Your Plan Momentum Going Through Leadership Change

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Keep Your Plan Momentum Going Through Leadership Change

The biggest threat to a plan’s success is leadership change. It happens to the best of our teams. For reasons beyond our control, the ebb and flow of our co-workers is inevitable. Whether your CEO is stepping out for parental leave, your manager has found a new opportunity, or your department head is going to finally pursue their lifelong dream of mounting their own Vegas act, loss and change of leadership structures run the risk of collapsing our modus operandi.

The silver lining is that our operations should constantly be evolving. Disrupting the status quo may not be the worst thing for growth. The glass-half-full outlook on leadership change is that it gives new leaders the opportunity to step up. Routine shake-ups are healthy for cultivating new ideas and perspectives.

However, there are things we, as a business community, need to keep in mind when we lose leadership – especially those championing our important initiatives. Executive sponsorship is imperative for strategic, operational, change management, and many other types of plans. Without top-down support, our bottom-up buy-in and alignment is impossible.

So, the million-dollar question – how do you keep your plan momentum going through leadership change?

At AchieveIt, we work with many organizations of all sizes and industries. Below are 3 things your peers are doing in the face of leadership change with a plan monitoring tool like AchieveIt to help. These are ways that you can continue to execute, report, and iterate on your plans, despite who is or isn’t at the helm.

Enable Alignment, Accountability, Visibility, and Collaboration in Your Plan Tracking

I know we talk about this all the time at AchieveIt (we even have a whitepaper on it), but these four elements really do drive your plan – any type of plan – to success.

When leadership shifts, there is a giant hole created by lack of visibility. The overview that leader had in their head of all the initiatives that are being executed, along with insight into where everyone’s at with those projects can easily disappear. There’s no easy way of knowing who owns what, what’s overdue, what’s working and not working, or even why certain initiatives were chosen in the first place. No wonder the failure rate on plans that lose their champions are so high – you lose all the plan information when you lose them if you don’t take extra steps to make that information readily available.

At AchieveIt we try to head these issues off with training and plan optimization from the beginning. Our customers who sign on to use the software also benefit from several hours of training and on-call best practice advice. We try to lay the groundwork before you start executing your plan to ensure that even with leadership change, the issues of visibility and the ensuing scramble that happens in the event of leadership change will not cause disruption.

However, if you haven’t built your team to be bought-in from the beginning, something we believe helps fix the problem is using a plan tracking and monitoring system that allows everyone to access and update that information whenever or wherever. To set yourself up for the most success in any leadership change event, making sure you’re clear about ownership, having consistent follow-up, and enabling metrics tracking within context are your best opportunities for keeping the ball rolling.

Having a system that shows clear alignment from small tasks to larger strategic activities will help keep your team together and on the right track. Remind employees how their work contributes to advancing the organization’s goals to help them concentrate on reaching group achievements. Sharing how each individual adds value to the entity at large will help create much-needed buy-in and commitment in a time of uncertainty and help maintain motivation.

This visual approach can help remind employees that their contributions are concrete, and your organization is still steering in the right direction. And the great thing about this is – if you lose the champion of your operating plan, anyone with access to the tool can pick it up, if you’re using AchieveIt. Official leadership sponsorship is a huge benefit, but a grassroots drive for execution can keep things going in the interim.

You Can Never Over-Communicate

When working your way through change management of leadership loss, it is impossible to over-communicate with your work force. Absolutely impossible.

However, you can communicate in the “wrong” way. Make sure your communication is open and honest. Even in the most hostile or regimented situations, you can communicate with integrity without revealing classified information. Approach your communications from a place of empathy and tap into your back stores of patience – you’ll need lots of it.

Make sure your communication about the changes isn’t just one-way either. Our most successful AchieveIt customers in this situation work with a designated group of change champions. These front-line volunteer employees who believe in the positive outcome of the leadership change will have their boots on the ground, and their ears open to co-workers when on break, out to lunch, or at Happy Hour.

Change is emotional. In our webinar with Michael Brazukas, we learned that negative reactions to change are to be expected at first. You must allow your employees the opportunities to deal with change on their own time, including giving them someone they’re comfortable sharing with. This builds trust within the organization and gives everyone a platform from which to be heard.

Ultimately, staying purpose-driven through a leadership change will help your team maintain momentum; if the team is bought into the concept, everyone will be able to lead the charge, instead of just one champion.

Don’t Be Caught Off Guard for the Next Big Change

Once you’ve made it through this leadership change, you can always expect another one. No matter the scale, change is constant. You will always need to adapt and grow as personnel rotates through the revolving door. But this is good! This is how our organizations evolve and grow. The best thing to do is to prepare your team to handle the next big change.

A handful of AchieveIt customers use our tool to manage things like crisis management response and managing plans that ensure safety training and compliance. While leadership change isn’t exactly in the same category, the idea still applies – create a plan for your “what if” scenarios. The best strategies that we’ve seen have been stress-tested against every likely situation – and even some less likely – including what happens in the event of losing a CEO, Managing Director, or being bought and sold.

Build training and development programs into your overarching plans. Investing in your human capital can be just as valuable as executing an important initiative. Tracking personal improvement is important to build trust with your work force, so that they feel more aligned, more prepared, and more loyal to the organization in the face of immense change.

Overall, instilling a sensation of inspiration, vision, energy, and support into your culture will create a group of employees who are dedicated – at a cultural level – to executing your plan, no matter which leaders are in place.

Persist Until You Succeed

Perhaps the best advice Michael Brazukas gave in a webinar with us recently was to keep going.

When it seems like you’ll never see the positive side of a big change – like leadership overturn – you will eventually get there, and a New Normal will be established. Things like a tool that helps you track your initiatives no matter who your leader is, clear and empathetic communication, a culture of accountability and commitment to execution, and flexible preparedness for change will only make the path to the other side smoother.

The biggest detriment to your progress can be the change adaptation mentality of, “Well, the initiatives are going to change with new leadership anyway, so we’ve stopped reporting in the meantime until we know what to do.”

Yes, things will change. However, don’t inhibit all the initiatives you’ve been working towards. To continue tracking, reporting, and working on your determined initiatives will not be for nothing. New leaders will appreciate someone who has remained resolute in the face of uncertainty and be thankful for continued progress and up-to-date data. Also, you chose these initiatives for a reason – they’re likely still very important and will be taken into consideration by new leadership.

Annie Duke, a former professional poker player and strategist said, “The more you can get comfortable with uncertainty, the better off you are. It’s a more accurate representation of the world.”

Don’t let your plan execution suffer because the person hounding you for plan updates has moved on. Show a little initiative, hold yourself accountable, and make your impact on your organization be felt in a big way!

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Making Time for Innovation in Your Business Plan

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Making Time for Innovation in Your Business Plan

If you’re living in a world of, “If I just had more time,” you’re not alone. Most leaders who are in charge of executing large plans – operational plans, strategic plans, cost reduction, or process improvement plans – have trouble prioritizing initiatives. While you start out the year with a good idea of which projects should be crowned the most important, focus tends to be distracted by “shiny objects.” By mid-February, you’ve accepted 15 more initiatives, and your plan has shifted from looking at the future to just trying to stay on your feet and make your numbers.

If you read one of our latest posts, you learned that typical American corporations spend 40% of their time working on operations-related activities. This is made up of all the time you spend answering emails, updating your budget, hiring and training people, and doing exactly what your job description calls for to keep the lights on. The other 60% of US employees’ time is spent reacting to urgent and important matters. This time is typically unplanned, unexpected, and is referred to as “firefighting.”

This is a stressful way to spend a day. I think we all prefer to work in a way that allows us to be prepared to face what could happen, so we can handle situations swiftly and adeptly – and then spend the rest of our time being creative and problem-solving for the next big breakthrough.

A fellow Achiever here recently found a quote about the definition of “status quo,” since we refer to it so much. Ronald Reagan claims that, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’” While it’s not a literal translation, it does strike a chord with today’s business community.

If this statistic is the norm, how do we break free and start making room in our busy schedules for innovation?

Why Do We Need to Focus on Innovation?

Forcing time for innovation allows our organizations to get ahead.

Think about it. If all we can concentrate on is walking and chewing gum at the same time (operations), and dealing with the occasional black cat that crosses our path and tries to trip us up (firefighting), how are we ever going to take the time to learn to spit out the gum, suck on a mint instead, tie our shoelaces, carry cat treats, and take a different route home?

We can only refine our current processes up to a certain point. An anecdote my colleague, Joe Krause, shared recently painted this picture perfectly for me. No matter how fast you can make your horse with maintenance, training, and care, it will never be a car.

If you concentrate all your energy on operating within the status quo, someone who has learned to set aside time for innovation is going to come along and invent a car while you’re busy maintaining your current process.

How to Free Up Your Business Plan

Strategic plans give us hope. Once a year, we get to brainstorm together to put new ambitious ideas up on a whiteboard and say – “We’re going to commit to making this happen this year.” Unfortunately, we either a) get bogged down with the little things we forgot to include in our plan in the first place (white space risk), or b) we’re so focused on executing on our big ideas that we let our operations sit on the sidelines – and then pay for it when we’re forced to put out fires.

What we’ve seen work best with our AchieveIt customers is that they use our tool to help prioritize.

1. Keep your strategic initiatives important.

According to the Stephen-Covey matrix, they may not be urgent, but they should remain important. Progress on these initiatives should be highly visible to everyone in the organization. We should know, at a glance, whether these initiatives are On Track, Off Track, or At Risk – and how we can help.

On a personal level, blocking off 1-2 hours a week to make steady progress on an innovative project will help keep it in your schedule. Also, just having a reminder once a week will help keep the project in your mind, and let it sit on the backburner while you’re thinking about other tasks.

2. Use an aligned roll-up view to identify what you might be missing.

AchieveIt’s customers use our “Tree View” that shows how each small task relates to each larger initiative. In terms of trying to be prepared for anything that might come your way – and having a crisis management plan to help deal with it – this kind of view will help you spot any holes you have in your plan.

This way, you’re helping your Future Self not lose so much time to firefighting when things inevitably do pop up – a PR disaster, or even a printer jam – and you can go back to pondering the world and your organization’s place in it.

3. Review your plan regularly.

The thing that helps AchieveIt customers most is having a set cadence when reviewing their plans. Most people lose track of all those awesome, innovative plans because they just never look at them again in the eleven months following the initial launch.

Looking at your plan regularly and assessing what’s working, what isn’t, what’s relevant, and what needs to be adapted, will help you tailor your initial ideas into what you need to focus on today.

Commit to Innovation and Your Business Plan Will Thank You

The number one thing you can do to propel your organization forward is to give it some TLC. Pounding your way down the same dirt path until you’re stuck in a muddy rut is far less helpful and less effective than tilling your soil, planting seeds, and growing something new.

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Strategy Execution is Change Management in Disguise

By Paige Pulaski Jones

Strategy Execution is Change Management in Disguise

Michael Brazukas presented a webinar with us last month, Strategy Execution is Change Management in Disguise. During the presentation, Michael pointed out the similarities between Fisher’s Personal Transition Curve, that depicts the process an individual goes through when adapting to a process change, and the Kübler-Ross model for grief processing.

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kubler-ross-grief-cycle

Source: https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html

Look familiar?

Strategy execution and implementation is more than just managing change – it’s managing loss.

Ultimately, the goal of a strategic plan is to change the way you’re currently doing things, with the hopes that you’ll be able to change your process and see better results from operating The New Way. But so much of the success of the strategies you’re implementing relies on the culture you build around the change. If you don’t allow your employees to grieve The Old Way and help them through the transition into new initiatives, they’ll have a harder time adapting to The New Way, or even understanding why.

People are creatures of habit; employees operate best when we know what is expected of us, as scheduled. When you move our cheese, we need to understand what the change is, why it’s happening, and how it will benefit us.

The Fork in the Road: Two Roads to Implementing Strategic Change

When you introduce your strategic plan (or operational plan, or merger & acquisition plan, or cost reduction plan – you get the idea – any plan that introduces new initiatives), it’s important to remember that most people aren’t involved in the planning process. The way the plan is initially, officially introduced needs to be carefully crafted so as to address concerns and the what’s-in-it-for-me (WII-FM) right away to start out on the positive path to change adoption.

Michael Brazukas calls this the Cognitive Culture Goal. You’ll see (below) that the Change Adoption Curve leads to one of two outcomes – either compliance with the change (“I have to do it The New Way”) or commitment to the change (“I want to do it The New Way”).

Creating champions of change will help you make changes to your process that stick, and truly push your organization forward. The initiatives you’re working on need to eventually be implemented and become a new part of your daily operations.

You must engage your employees at the WWI-FM juncture. It’s at this point that your team can diverge into either 1) obstinance or 2) taking a leap of faith. This decision is based on whether they’re made to feel threatened, or are given the resources to see the opportunity of making the change.

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Source: Strategy Management Institute

4 Types of Strategic Change

You may not have thought about your strategic, operational, or cost reduction plan as change management before. How do you know what kind of change your plan is dealing with?

Michael buckets the different types of change management plans as solving one of four challenges:

1. Continuous Improvement

Think of this as trying to do what you’re doing now, but better. Continuous improvement is the competitive eater always trying to pack in more hot dogs per minute (hdpm). You’re engaging in continuous improvement when you’re doing everything you can to make your packing and shipping process quicker, more accurate, and less expensive.

2. Competitive Counteraction

This type of strategy involves scenario planning and is mostly found in commercial organizations. It’s judo strategy. Companies that plan this way focus on the market, their audience, what they do best, where their weaknesses are, strengths and downfalls of their competitors, and how they can find uncontested ground for which they are uniquely positioned to deliver a specifically superior product.

Competitive counteraction is knowing your 2-year-old is going to spill their sippy cup at dinner, so you place your indoor houseplant underneath their chair for watering. A great case study of judo strategy is Southwest Airlines combatting their competitors’ complicated baggage pricing models by implementing a “bags fly free” initiative to gain the trust of their target market.

3. Metamorphic Transformation

Has your organization ever wrapped itself up into a cocoon and emerged as the butterfly of your industry? Netflix became something else entirely when it took the risk to go from a library of DVDs that were fulfilled and shipped by mail, to an online media streaming platform and content creator.

Metamorphic transformation is defined by dramatic changes and big risks, much like how your fiancé decided to pivot when he burned the burgers on the grill and decided to serve “blackened beef” tacos for dinner instead.

4. Inventive Disruption

Inventive disruption is creating something brand new out of nothing and radicalizing an existing market, or answering the call of an audience that hasn’t yet been addressed. This sector of strategic change is typically driven by start-ups and venture capital firms with a new way of doing something.

Inventive disruption is Uber changing the game of the taxi cab industry. So is that time your Uncle Benny duct-taped a flashlight to a broom and called it the Squirrel Hunter 5000 so he could stop the scratching in the attack once and for all, and then sold it to 3 local (gullible) pest control services.

Strategy Doesn’t Operate in a Silo

Strategic planning is more than it seems. When an organization commits to executing a strategic plan, change management is required to operationalize the completed initiatives and integrate them into The New Way of doing things.

Plan execution as change management cannot be successful without setting the vision, creating a sense of urgency, and identifying advocates and champions of change. Making the reasons for change clear and detailing the expected outcome will help you prepare to deal with complacency, fear, anger, and denial.

Making a change is emotional, even in the business world. But, as Michael Brazukas states in the webinar, you can’t over-manage the change. He advises not to stop until The New Way becomes The New Normal. Time is your enemy, so you must persist and be expedient in your process. And perhaps, more than anything, strategic change requires top-down support.

To watch the webinar in full and get more tips on how to manage your strategic plan as change management, get access to the video recording and slides here.

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The Best Ways to Track Your Crisis Management and Preparedness Plans

By Paige Pulaski Jones

The Best Ways to Track Your Crisis Management and Preparedness Plans

Last week, a county in metro-Atlanta experienced a water main break on a major highway. While AchieveIt headquarters wasn’t impacted, more than a few employees who live in the surrounding area had to show up to work unshowered.

I turned on my faucet that morning to find that the water had been shut off in the whole county. I brushed my teeth with a bottle of water, spritzed on some powerful perfume, thanked the genius who invented dry shampoo, and as I drove into work, I thought about how we were all able to continue to function.

I drove past a Starbucks and witnessed the line of cars queued up to feed the community’s caffeine addictions as usual. Police officers were rerouting traffic around Buford Highway, which was flooded due to the pipe burst, but people were still able to get to work (relatively) on time. I even crept past a Waffle House with a full parking lot, only to find out later that they were offering their world-famous “no water” menu and heavily relying on hand sanitizer.

After a long day of trying not to raise my arms in meetings and hoping no one got close enough for an accidental whiff, I learned that my water was back on – but we were under a boil advisory. On the way home, I found that even our grocery store, Publix, still had enough contained water stocked on the shelves to provide potable water for the community.

All of these organizations were prepared for crisis management. The county, utilities, and law enforcement entities were able to follow an emergency protocol to communicate to local media outlets. The media was then able to quickly adapt and follow their agile process to get the news out quickly to the community at large. Then, local businesses and those that are part of larger chains were able to tap into their preparedness plan checklists to continue to go about their operations as usual (mostly).

This got me thinking. Flawless incident response is only possible for those organizations who actively manage their preparedness plans and training. Without tracking ongoing preventative measures, how can any organization know whether they’re prepared to manage a crisis when it does come to the surface?

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Below are 3 things to keep in mind to most effectively track your preparedness plan and help you respond to incidents with more agility.

1. Set Up a Plan Just to Train for Preparedness

We all remember tornado drills in elementary school. It was a time to cut up and giggle with your head between your knees while your spine lay open and exposed to everything that would inevitably fly down the cinderblock hallway. But, you had a textbook over your head and neck, so you would be fine. Probably.

Whether or not this was a great plan (I do hope they’ve since updated the safety protocol since the 90s), we practiced. We ran the drill every couple of months. If the moment were to arise where a funnel cloud actually touched down, we would be prepared.

Setting up a plan to train for preparedness is the first step to successful crisis management. Just outlining what your organization would do in the face of an incident is not the same as running your employees through the protocol regularly. While it may be groan-worthy, physical training is imperative.

For instance, imagine you’re in the HR or Facilities office of a brick & mortar company with multiple locations in Florida. You may need to prepare for how to communicate a location closure due to a hurricane, both internally and to the community the location serves.

You have the steps outlined in an incident response plan, but has your company walked through the steps before?

Dedicating a plan to training for emergency preparedness alone will ensure you’re focused on a better outcome. Having a crisis management plan and never practicing it is the equivalent of sending a passive aggressive email about cleaning the office microwave that no one will read.

2. Have a Way to Track Benchmarks and Implementation Across Locations

If you’re already at a place where your company is emphasizing the actual training of incident response, think about how you’re going to keep up with seeing when or whether the trainings have taken place, and at which locations. Are you able to view these updates at a glance on a ready-made dashboard? How do you see the context around how the trainings went?

For example, a lot of food manufacturing companies are susceptible to dealing with food safety incidents that often also require a reputation management response. A big incident like a salmonella outbreak can involve actions from employees in PR and Marketing, Operations and Warehouse Management, and most all departments in between.

For incident responses, the measurables are usually binary (yes this was done/no this was not done). While this may sound easier to track in multiple Excel or Word documents, it is better to use software that allows you to have one, single place where you can have collaboration around the steps taken to respond to the incident. Having a historical record of what you did, and the fact that you did the right things to respond is invaluable. Using a task management system or spreadsheet won’t have the same history or conversation around it.

Many of these organizations also track adherence to safety and health issues on a regular basis. With the ability to report and benchmark along the way on a regular cadence, some of these issues could potentially have been detected earlier. Just being able to track that a measurement was taken at a regular interval, or confirmation that an action was taken are vital metrics that executives of larger organizations need visibility into. On the other hand, for something like safety protocol implementation, CEOs don’t need to see the checklist of every item for every store – but rather an overall view of the percentage of stores at which something has been rolled out.

3. Align Emergency Response Actions to Your Overall Initiatives

For large companies with multiple branches – like Starbucks, Waffle House, and Publix – corporate incident response actions need to be integrated organization-wide. In turn, those actions need to be aligned with the corporate actions of Legal, Compliance, Operations, Marketing, the Executive Suite, etc.

As an example, Marketing’s response to crisis management might consist of 5 major steps: e.g. 1. Scanning the internet and social media for feedback, 2. Crafting a press release and getting approval for dispersal, etc. But, there are several smaller activities associated with each of those bigger-picture tasks. To this point, these actions might all align with Marketing’s overall initiative of brand management, and their goal to have a net promoter score of +55 by the end of the year. Then, that Marketing initiative may fall under of the company’s overall goal of increasing their customer referral revenue.

Employees are more engaged when the activites they’re tasked with have a much greater value at all levels of the organization.

Once your overall plan is built out to avoid risks, it will be easy to create customizable process templates for any kind of incident response. Having a standardized program that has been rehearsed, implemented and tracked across locations, and tied to overarching business goals is a foolproof way to make sure your company is prepared to respond to any situation.

Be Like Waffle House

Keeping the above best practices in mind while creating, implementing, training, and tracking your incident response an preparedness organization-wide, you can rest assured that you, too, will have your own “no water” menu.

Be prepared so you can execute confidently when the undesirable happens. The loss of response time is the most costly part of any crisis management. When you know who is responsible for what and by when in the event of an emergency, you’re more likely to move swiftly and more tactfully to get back on track. Learn how AchieveIt can help you with this.

And, I’ll have y’all know, that my incident response to spilling a can of lime La Croix all over my laptop while I was writing this post was aided by my preparedness plan of keeping a box of tissues right next to me for this very reason. Suddenly all those “grab and wipe” drills I had run were all worth it.

Stay safe out there.

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The Cost of Using Excel for Plan Management: Time

By Paige Pulaski Jones

The Cost of Using Excel for Plan Management: Time

Let’s face it. Excel is basically the same program folks were running on their PCs in the 80s. 30-some-odd years later, it’s still a table matrix with some programmed equations thrown in there. Excel may have gotten a facelift since its 1985 release (or maybe it just “moisturizes”), but it’s still the same basic program.

Now, think about our business strategies. Think about how far we’ve come in the planning world. Are the agile, flexible, responsive plans we’re writing for our businesses now fit to exist on thousands of lines on a spreadsheet? Are we able to get a high-level overview of our plans from a multi-tabbed monster? Absolutely not.

Don’t get me wrong. Spreadsheets do a handful of things really well; but, if you were making a list of the top ten things Excel excels at, tracking and reporting on hundreds of project initiatives wouldn’t even appear on page four of Google results (and the only person who clicks that far is our collective moms).

Chief Strategy Officers, Enterprise Change Managers, Process Improvement Coordinators, and SVPs of Operations are looking for tools that help them solve problems that spreadsheets cannot. Today, these leaders need high-level overviews, as well as the ability to drill down and see detail, and they need to be able to pull reports quickly that are up-to-date and contextual.

As you’ve read in the other two parts of this blog series (Part 1: Bad Data, Part 2: Limited Access), Excel is a limiting factor to our productivity. But still, the biggest offender is the amount of time we lose to chasing down updates, gathering data, compiling it into a spreadsheet, and then exporting screenshots of graphs to PowerPoints and emails. Tell me if I’m wrong; I’ll wait.

You know this pain – and you deal with it. You have to know there’s something better, but you don’t want to spend the money or time to make the switch. The caveat? You’re spending more money and time dealing with it than you would if you just found a software that does it all for you.

Cost of Using Excel for Strategic Plan Management

GUIDE – HOW EXCEL IS KILLING YOUR PLAN
Read this guide to learn the not-so-obvious dangers of using Excel for strategic plan management, and how to find something better.

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Here’s what I mean.

Time Lost Trying to Get the Information You Need

Global organizations who use Excel to track and monitor their plans can have hundreds of sheets in one complicated spreadsheet that still doesn’t track everything they need. And yet, the spreadsheet also doesn’t provide a good executive dashboard view of everything at a high level.

It’s too detailed/not a big enough picture, and too overarching/not enough detail at the same time. It’s difficult to drill down and see the task information you want, and it’s impossible to see all your data in a comprehensive format.

It’s an odd limbo to be caught within. When in this state of not-enough-but-also-too-much, important information can get lost in all the clutter because the data is difficult to analyze, agitated by the fact that it’s done as an afterthought after several hours are spent just pulling a report together.

Organizations using tools that were built to track and monitor plans reported that 51% of users were able to improve the precision and detail of their structured plans, while only 8% of Excel users were able to build more effective plans than before.

It’s nearly impossible to easily understand something like, “How are we doing in the area of safety across the organization?” when hundreds of activities live under fifty major strategic priorities and they’re scattered across twenty different workbooks and tabs. The inability to filter by status and area across multiple plans hinders companies looking for the overall view without spending weeks in meetings.

Just as important as the level of detail itself, how are you able to view and present the data? How many additional views do you need to create in your spreadsheet to suit the day-to-day requests for information from different departments with different interests? Summarizing roadblocks and showing team progress and initiative updates can be cumbersome when you need to create and export specific filters and tabs for every request – and remember which one is which.

Time Lost Chasing, Compiling, and Reformatting

Manual reporting wastes time. It’s more than just data entry. It’s chasing updates, compiling information from email into Excel into graphs into PowerPoint into a PDF, accuracy verification, formula creation and template maintenance, and more.

93% of people who use Excel for planning are dissatisfied with the quality of results and the amount of work (time) it takes to provide data.

However, the real problem isn’t the cost in hours and dollars. Your organization’s loss of time is measured by the inability to get to market faster and losses to competitors. Your dulled reaction time is keeping your organization from starting development on something new, stopping an expensive project that’s not paying off, or double down on what’s working.

The real threat is the opportunity cost of the time it takes for someone to chase down updates, manually input data, compile information for consumption, etc.

Your planning manager could be working on projects that generate significant growth for your company, or they could dedicate the majority of their time reminding stragglers to email updates to an overflowing inbox and formatting a spreadsheet.

It’s the cost of what “could be.” It’s the gap between your strategy manager’s (and organization’s) potential, and the reality of how much time these pains consume.

This loss is amplified by the fact that the people charged with managing execution, and the executors themselves, waste phenomenal amounts of time trying to document, track and report their own progress, manually pull data from several programs, format it, send it to the right place and remember when updates are due in the midst of their other project timelines. It seems clear that most leaders would rather make it possible for all of those employees to do the jobs for which they were hired.

This price doesn’t go away when using specialized planning software, but it is cut down significantly by just enabling multiple users to input data into one common location without compromising the integrity of the data and tracking. With things like real-time data integration, the company spend on human resources to do manual reporting in Excel is chopped down even further.

Outside of what it costs your organization to not be executing your plan to reach your goals, companies are likely spending thousands of dollars just to keep the cogs turning on a machine that doesn’t work. Organizations are often relegating top talent to low value work by paying someone to look at Excel/SharePoint, Smartsheet, and Google Sheets all day long.

The Challenges of Making the Switch to Better Software

You know it’s bad. We all do. Why don’t we all find a better solution?

One third of companies still opt against using specialized planning solutions for two reasons – high cost and insufficient support for individuals. Additionally, with the invention of an app for every task, it’s not uncommon for organizations to suffer from software and change fatigue after going through multiple purchasing and training processes with every multiple software solutions.

Organizational planning is in a state of evolution. We’re not putting together strategic plans the same way we did in the 90s. Strategic plans today are all types of plans – mergers & acquisitions, product roll-outs, risk management and compliance, operational excellence, etc. – that require strategy. With the scope of “planning that is strategic” in flux, the way we’re tracking and adapting has to bend with us and become more flexible and agile.

Chasing updates and copying and pasting numbers into a spreadsheet isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Integrated planning is the way of the future, as we align individuals to strategic initiatives to show their direct impact on organizational goals. As we make way for more detailed planning, better integration with other performance management processes, shorter planning cycles and a stronger focus on key factors and value drivers, the need to save time on the front end of data collection to be able to spend more time on analysis is increasing.

Right now, it takes so long to coordinate resource-intensive planning efforts that the plan is often outdated by the time it has been signed off on and implemented using multiple planning tools.

Some of the issues we’ve seen with inflexible, unspecialized software are prolonged process length, insufficient plan detail, difficulty of data updates, unsupported plan implementation/integration/adoption, abysmal employee engagement, unreliable data quality, and overall poor results.

If the only reason you’re continuing to use Excel is because your employees already know how to use it, it’s time to stop paying the price of being inadequate and commit to a culture of execution with specialized planning software.