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Performance Management Systems: Designing the Appropriate Organization Goals and Initiatives

Part 3: Performance Management Systems: Designing the Appropriate Organization Goals and Initiatives

By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Service

The following is part three of a seven-part series on Performance Management Systems. This blog series includes identifying the need for performance feedback, designing organization and individual employee goals, establishing incentivization programs, and communicating and monitoring the system.

Strategic Planning sounds ambiguous, so how do you Strategically Plan?
Fortunately for you interested readers, we wrote a nine-part series on the strategic planning process on our website that has been published under previous posts, https://khacpabiz.wpengine.com/strategic-planning-why-strategic-planning-is-needed/.

In our last installment we explored setting the table for the development of your organizational plan through a strategy primer, setting priority, and reviewing current policy. In this installment we will explore strategic planning for the organization through cohesion and macro and micro level strategy planning.

From a summary perspective to link to our current conversation on performance management, let’s briefly overview the strategic planning process and KHA’s approach. Organizational goals cannot be set without understanding the strategic plan of the organization.

The Need and the Gathering
First, we must identify the need for strategic planning and agree that it is critical for organizational success. Harvard Business Review highlights organizations that strategically plan have more success, https://hbr.org/2017/11/how-the-most-successful-teams-bridge-the-strategy-execution-gap. Second, we must get the right team to the strategic planning session to ensure fair representation, ownership, and ultimate alignment throughout the organization. As a note, it is critical to have an objective outsider facilitating this meeting at an offsite location (enter KHA Management Consultants at the KHA provided conference rooms). Much of the value in strategic planning is in the process rather than the end deliverable (i.e. new organizational rules). Keep this last thought in your mind as we continue.

Now that we understand why it is critical to strategically plan and have the right team at the meeting, we can get into the strategic planning process. In this blog, we will break the strategic planning process into three major parts, each of which will be reviewed below.

Part 1: Cohesion
Blog 2 of this series https://khacpabiz.wpengine.com/strategic-planning-the-strategic-planning-meeting-preparation/, reviewed setting the table and with the right audience, cohesion will be critical. Conflict is healthy, it really is critical for organizations to achieve balance. Organizations that are successful allow healthy disagreement and conflict of interests to be expressed and even encourage it to be brought up in the appropriate setting. However, when conflict turns to negatively targeting individuals, personnel in general, or departments, there is a major problem in the organization. Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage is, by far, the best framework we have come across for cohesion development. In this book, the author provides an entire section dedicated to getting the leadership team on the same page for the organization’s mission and goals. There are four major components to establish management cohesion: establishing trust, gauging typical conflict, unified leadership, and accountability and conflict. This cohesion exercise is generally the first half-day of the two-day offsite strategic planning session that results in unbelievable transparency and communication.

Part 2: Macro-level Strategy
Ah, we had a good light lunch with your management team following our cohesion session; we now embark upon the organization specific strategy to define the mission of the organization clearly, succinctly, and fairly. This next exercise is about getting your management team on the same page, developing consistent messaging across all teams, and defining a mission that truly explains why the organization exists. KHA management consultants has activities we facilitate with your management team to ask prompting questions such as “What is your why?” and “What is your competitive advantage?”. These questions lead to robust and fruitful discussion in order to get the exercise off the ground and running. The organization is then evaluated against the decided upon mission by looking to the values of the organization, including those core and unwanted values.

The mission, or the reason for existence, and values, components that make the organization unique, do not typically change; although, we certainly hope unwanted values do change and core values continue to be cultivated. All goals below the top mission and core values will and should change. Now, the next phase we get into is defining what your organization does and what it does well. Your organization must do this next phase better than most in the marketplace to be able to exploit a competitive advantage or realize profits. Those critical success factors for your organization must be brought to light, evaluated, and defined in this process of developing your organization’s strategic goals. If your organization cannot define how it will be successful both now and, in the future, it is time for us to have a different conversation. Ultimately, strategic planning is an organization’s plan for success. This concludes day one of our strategic planning consult.

Once the team knows how to be cohesive, and what the overarching mission, values, and competitive advantages are, we are ready to get more specific in designing the strategic plan. This next process can start a myriad of ways; we have had clients use an activity to define strategic pillars, we have also worked with other clients to cultivate and probe for those key anchors that will drive the strategy forward. These specific pillars will hold your organization up as it begins to establish itself on a new foundation.

Part 3: Micro-level Strategy
Good morning day two! Knowing the strategic and tactical gap is where most organizations falter; the meeting attendees must connect the specific goals with the overall strategy of your organization in a roadmap fashion. Your tactical goals, those goals that carry out achievement of the agreed-upon strategy, must be aligned with defined strategic initiatives if there is any hope of exploiting a competitive advantage over competitors. Strategic initiatives are those key overarching items that parse the strategy into specific action areas. Under each of your 3 strategic pillars, there should be 3 to 4 well thought out and vetted strategic initiatives, for a total of 9 to 12 strategic initiatives. For each initiative, there should be a testing process such as a modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats matrix to identify if it really will bring the value it promises.

From here, goals and objectives need to be set for each strategic initiative and for each goal and objective, specific actions and tasks. The ultimate owners of each strategic initiative need to be identified, chartered, and monitored at each stage of each strategic anchor, strategic initiative, goal, and action. The organization owns the mission and values.

Communication

To have buy-in, there must be communication and action at each phase of the strategic planning process. Communication does not stop once the strategic plan is in place. Your management team must align before leaving the planning room and agree to communicate timelines for information to the rest of the organization. For commitment to be experienced at the organization, department, and individual employee levels (and any other key stakeholders that need to be included), is to allow for success.

In our next installment, we will discuss developing individual goals, including the identification of key performance indicators, targets, and the respective result implications.

At KHA Management Consultants, we work with organizations of all sizes and shapes to identify what makes the organization, its stakeholders, and its employees tick. We facilitate the performance management process with your organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employment. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our unmatched experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting department of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for opportunities to work with key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the performance management experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Performance Management Systems: Setting the Table

Part 2: Performance Management Systems: Setting the Table

By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part two of a seven-part series on Performance Management Systems. This blog series includes identifying the need for performance feedback, designing organization and individual employee goals, establishing incentivization programs, and communicating and monitoring the system.

Do your employees know where the organization is headed? Do you, organization leadership, know where the organization is headed?

In our last installment linked here https://khacpabiz.wpengine.com/performance-management-systems/, we discussed the need for performance management and measurement systems. As part of the process, we discussed employees needing to know where they stand, that there were no substitutes for management involvement, and obtaining buy-in across all levels. In this installment, we will explore setting the table for the development of your organizational plan through a strategy primer, setting priority, and reviewing current policy.

A Strategy Test
If you think you know where the organization is headed, conduct an internal survey and ask three simple questions of everyone taking the survey:

  1. What are the mission, values, and vision of the organization? (No research allowed)
  2. What key measures of success do you think the organization should use to understand and identify progress, or lack thereof?
  3. How many employees will it take for us to fulfill our vision in the next 5 years?

If you have alignment on these three questions across a surveyed group of 6-10 employees representing all levels of the organization, without doing any serious strategy and organization messaging prior to asking, please send a copy to the National Archives and forward me a copy. Aligning your group of employees takes work; the yield will certainly outweigh the toil, but this process does not just happen overnight. Organization alignment is most critical and there is not a magic bullet that will suddenly align the organization and its employees.

Organization Comes First
Strategic Planning is critical and comes before individual employee performance metrics, targets, goals, etc. In order to set these individual employee goals, we must know what the organization’s direction, strategy, and future are. Management must walk through the formalized strategic planning process to establish the groundwork for the future of the organization. Through strategic planning, cohesion, and clarity a course can be found and set. See the prior blog series on strategic planning for further information https://khacpabiz.wpengine.com/strategic-planning-why-strategic-planning-is-needed/. Also, the next installment will briefly cover organizational strategic planning.

Review Current Policy
With the table almost set to start the employee performance review process, KHA will work with your management team to review your current policy and to set the parameters around the proposed performance management system. As unpopular as organization policy and procedures may be, this system will clarify for everyone the rules and expectations, define what is at stake, and explain the consequences of both positive and negative employee reviews.

Kickoff With KHA
We begin your performance management system process by conducting workshops with key management personnel within your organization. This meeting sets the tone for your process revamp and provides context for current organization issues that must be addressed if employee performance improvement is hoped for. These onsite sessions are tailored to your organization depending on the nature, scope, and employee issues that are currently being experienced in the organization. The hoped-for outcome is two-fold; 1. we need feedback and context from your management team, 2. we also need alignment across your management team and employees. This task is a lot to ask of your team. It will have positive results across your organization but not without change. The Harvard Business Review published a  great article on how to communicate change within your organization: https://hbr.org/2018/08/how-to-tell-your-team-that-organizational-change-is-coming.

In our next installment, we will explore strategic planning for the organization through cohesion and macro and micro level strategy planning.

At KHA Management Consultants, we work with organizations of all sizes and shapes to identify what makes the organization, its stakeholders, and its employees tick. We facilitate the performance management process with your organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employment. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our unmatched experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting department of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for opportunities to work with key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the performance management experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Performance Management Systems: The Need for Performance Feedback

Part 1: Performance Management Systems: The Need for Performance Feedback

By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part one of a seven-part series on Performance Management Systems. This blog series includes identifying the need for performance feedback, designing organization and individual employee goals, establishing incentivization programs, and communicating and monitoring the system.

Does your organization feel like it is just moving with unclear direction, or worse, going in multiple directions? Do you find yourself frustrated with the lack of  employee ownership of organizational issues? Do your employees know how they are performing and what steps they should take to further improve?

Welcome to the first installment of a new series on performance management where we will explore the ins and outs of establishing a program that will provide clarity, accountability, and alignment. This program must consider the goals of the organization, departments, and its employees.

Employees Need to Know
Many times, employees do not know where they stand, what their specific purpose is in the organization, or where the organization is heading. Managers often believe they have communicated employee performance expectations and results, whether positive or negative, but often there is a large gap that leads to confusion in the workplace. Managers may also believe that the organization strategy and its policies have been communicated to employees, however, managers themselves may be unaware of the organization strategy and may not be providing the correct message to their teams. The following  Harvard Business Review article showcases how employee feedback is a primary means to helping employees reach their potential in your organization (https://hbr.org/2016/10/give-your-team-more-effective-positive-feedback). This seven-part blog series will tackle these management issues while reviewing how your team can be realigned, united around the organization mission, with increased employee satisfaction and production.

No Substitutes for Management Involvement

There is not an outsourced solution for quality feedback given by an employee’s direct manager. This takes time and yes, it will even take time away from other critical things in the organization, but there is not anything more critical than employee feedback. Many times, KHA is effectively told: “I want my employees to improve, however, I constantly fight the same fires, dance around providing honest feedback, and never sit down to address the elephant(s) in the room.” We have found that if managers would spend five hours per employee per year providing performance feedback and communication regarding the organization, there would be significant time savings for both the organization and its employees. This time investment is hardly ever ill received by employees. In today’s organizations, there is too much guesswork, much of which can be avoided. Distinguished organizations, example: Apple, Google, etc., are getting to a place where employees understand the organization, the department they work in, along with their individual goals and roles. Communication of employee concerns informs management so that there is a continual learning loop and sharpening of the organization along the way.  

Obtaining Buy-in
For any good system to work, there must also be buy-in at all levels within the organization. In this case, we need employee survey feedback too. What is the employee survey feedback? There is nothing better than employee surveys for honest, gut-wrenching feedback on how management and the organization is faring. And, it’s needed per a recent Harvard Business Review article, (https://hbr.org/2018/03/employee-surveys-are-still-one-of-the-best-ways-to-measure-engagement). This article highlights the fact that employee surveys are still key to measuring employee engagement. The data collected in these surveys is unbelievably valuable; if you want to improve your organization, you must find a way to admit and agree upon some of the things that are felt in the organization by employees and design plans to move beyond those issues. Ultimately, your organization’s ownership is open to everyone because all employees must own the organization mission, vision, and values if there is going to be long-term sustainability.

In our next installment, we will explore setting the table for the development of your organizational plan through a strategy primer, setting priority, and reviewing current policy. 

At KHA Management Consultants, we work with organizations of all sizes and shapes to identify what makes the organization, its stakeholders, and its employees tick. We facilitate the performance management process with your organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employment. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our unmatched experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting department of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for opportunities to work with key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the performance management experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

Read more

Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Assigning Actions/Tasks

Part 9: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Assigning Actions/Tasks

Part 9 - strategic planning assigning actionsBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part nine of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

With strategy and goals set, we must now assign actions and tasks to ensure follow-through. This is a tough proposition for most of those in the room. First, you have eager types willing to take on so much that they will likely fail or fail trying and then others that refer to themselves as “idea people.” The organization must own initiatives, and to do so leadership must own a chunk as well and be willing to enter the trenches with their managers, otherwise, the line leaders will not buy-in, resulting in failed efforts and energy.

ACTIONS/TASKS

Which leaders and employees will be responsible for what actions or tasks? If your strategic plan has not fallen apart based on any of the scenarios discussed in previous installments, then lack of ownership is the last barrier standing between you and success. Ownership is the actual “how” the goals will be achieved for your organization. This is where the organization, its leaders, and its people must get tactical.

Let’s borrow from our previous example, where we set goals based on customer engagement and CRM systems. First, let’s take the first goal we used and cascade the actions and tasks required to achieve it:

  1. End of Q1, CRM implemented and live:
    1. January: Internal Marketing Director to identify and meet with three recommended outside vendors for your organization’s CRM system design, development, and implementation.
    2. February: Internal Marketing Director’s recommendation to be presented to Vice President of Marketing for approval.
      1. Once approved, the contract should be drawn up, reviewed, and then approved by the Marketing Director, the VP of Marketing, and your team of Legal Consultants.
      2. In your files, keep the signed and executed contract from the vendor.
    3. March: CRM system should be designed, developed, and implemented by March 15.
      1. User acceptance testing should be performed by March 15-22.
      2. Plan for a soft launch around March 23-30.
      3. Finally, announce to your organization that your CRM system is live by March 31.

All of the actions listed above are very clear on what must be accomplished by each team member to meet your first goal.

One item we should point out is that it is critical that those employees carrying out these endeavors are involved in the strategic planning process. After all, these are the individuals who will be interacting with your customers, managing your new processes, and ensuring the day-to-day activities are being handled in a consistent and efficient manner. An article in the Harvard Business Review highlights that 95% of company employees are unaware of or do not understand the company’s ultimate strategy.

For your goals to be accomplished, the Vice President of Marketing must check-in monthly (at a minimum) to see that the Director has what they need to continually meet the previously determined timeline. Even better, create an environment where the Director is proactively seeking items needed to accomplish the actions and tasks assigned. If, when checking in, it is determined that more time is needed to put your goals into action due to legitimate reasons, it is okay for your team to adapt and update your strategic plan accordingly. As part of your strategic planning process, monitoring of actions and tasks is extraordinarily key. You must have unification of goals and actions across all levels of your team and organization. The success of your plan rides on these aspects that must be monitored; sometimes, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. within all levels of the organization.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Setting Goals and Objectives

Part 8: Strategic Planning – The Meeting:Setting Goals and Objectives

Part 8 - strategic planning setting goalsBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part eight of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

We cannot stop at strategy. This is where many organizations falter; they have great strategy, but there is no execution. To execute a strategy there need to be clearly delineated goals that people at all levels of the organization understand. These goals must be achievable, and buy-in must be obtained.

GOALS/OBJECTIVES

The goal is the organizational outcome or desired result at different points in time of your strategic plan.

Once your pillars and initiatives have been identified, we take them and define the ideal outcomes both for your organization, as well as for specific areas of your business. We do this in order to define your plan for success. As an example, if one pillar of yours was customer engagement with the associated initiative of utilization of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, the ideal outcome might be to produce quality touch points with key customers four times per year.

Using our CRM system example from above, we may have the following goals:

  1. End of Q1, CRM implemented and live (being used daily by everyone in your organization).
  2. End of Q2, CRM system has initiated first quality touch point with top 100 customers.
  3. End of Q3, CRM system has initiated second quality touch point with top 100 customers.
  4. October Q4, CRM system has initiated third quality touch point with top 100 customers.
  5. December Q4, CRM system has initiated fourth quality touch point with top 100 customers.
  6. In the early portion of Q1 in the next year, measure results of your first year of activity and make specific recommendations for using the CRM system in the following year.

Note that each of your goals should be actionable and specific. Ideally, the leaders and employees in your strategic planning room should come to these conclusions as a group and agree that the top 100 customers should be contacted four times in the upcoming year. Additionally, your definition of a quality touch point must be rather specific. There is a big difference between mass emailing the top 100 customers versus calling, mailing a handwritten note, or even sending a small gift to that contact.

The key is that your goals should be specific and defined while also being agreed upon by those in the room. If your goals are not, you should anticipate an unaccomplished initiative, a wobbly pillar, and your ultimate strategy being halfway carried out by your management team. For goal setting, you should use a framework, such as SMART goals, to help both those responsible for your goals and those monitoring their achievement. In order to take goal responsibility to the next level, your strategically planned goals should also show up as individual employee goals for the coinciding periods of time. Stay on the lookout for more on performance management to come in a later series.

This can be a good time for leaders participating in the macro strategic planning to break away; they can work within teams on the microanalysis of your organization’s potential actions/tasks and then come back together at a later meeting to discuss those results and how the goals will be achieved.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Defining Strategy

Part 7: Strategic Planning-The Meeting: Defining Strategy

Part 7 - strategic planning defining strategyBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part seven of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

Once your organization’s mission, values, and “what do we do?” are set, we must switch our focus to creating a strategy and executing that strategy. Strategy is an interesting word that honestly can create confusion for employees, as well as management. It is important that the strategy arrived at includes buy-in from critical players throughout the organization. And, once agreed upon, the results must be fairly and contextually communicated across the organization.

STRATEGY

Setting the strategy is the most critical aspect of the strategic planning process. To set the strategy for the organization, we need to do a couple things:

  1. First, we must understand who we are as an organization (see previous installments).
  2. Then, we need to think strategically about how we as an organization will be successful in the near-term, while not ignoring the long term (see more on this below).

The strategy setting process can still be very difficult. The question that we always come back to is, “What do we do better than anyone else in our current market, our soon-to-be market, or in the market we are currently creating for our new offering?” Here’s a hint: What are our competitive advantages and what do we see them as being in the near future? Meaning, what do we do better than our competitors, both those current and those who are considering joining our market. Once we have identified our competitive advantages, we can start to understand how we will be successful both in the near future and in years to come.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE AND ANALYSIS

We must focus on critical success factors such as leads generated, schedules completed, and key compliance initiatives that lead to the desired results. There is an article in the Harvard Business Review that addresses how the most successful teams bridge the strategy execution gaps. If we cannot define how we can be successful, we may not deserve to continue serving our customers or the marketplace because we may not offer anything unique or valuable. If that is true, the marketplace will tell us this soon by not increasing our revenue and maybe flatlining or decreasing our sales. If you find yourself battling with the inability to keep up with the ever-changing marketplace, we have frameworks to help identify what your competitive advantages are and how to cultivate those advantages to bring success for the long-term.

One of those frameworks includes listing everything you do as an organization and then identifying which and what items you do well. Once that is determined, we help you coalesce upon why you do those items well. This is a fun exercise that usually takes about one to two hours and really starts to show how your people think and how your people can begin to start thinking together. This is not group thinking, where everyone just agrees while anxiously watching the clock.

These frameworks also help us establish strategic pillars or anchors (the word depends on which source framework you are using). Once we have these pillars identified, typically three, we can then work on setting strategic initiatives beneath each of them, usually two to four items under each pillar. At the end of this phase, we should have no more than four pillars and, thus, no more than 12 strategic initiatives, which frankly is way too many for the first strategic planning phase.

Another framework available is a modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) framework. This framework can be used to work through each strategic initiative that was determined in the prior framework in order to land on what might be best for us to pursue or further explore in your first strategic planning phase. We will help you run your team through various scenarios to hear from each of the key players as to why an idea might or might not work.  KHA Management Consultants is there to provide facilitation for your team to work through their SWOT analysis.

STRATEGIC PILLARS

The result of the combined frameworks above should be strategic pillars and two to three solidified strategic initiatives per pillar, with which the organization can march forward. For bonus points, a short-term goal can be set and used to tie the strategy together, including its pillars and initiatives. The framework is being built!

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

Read more

Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Defining Values and Purpose

Part 6: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Defining Values and Purpose

Part 6 - strategic planning defining valuesBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part six of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

Previously we reviewed mission and the ‘why’ of the organization’s existence. In order to continue to reach toward that ultimate goal of mission fulfillment, what values and purpose should our people possess? When we hire, do we consider fit by evaluating what frameworks we have deemed necessary for success in the organization? Can our people clearly state what we do and how we are different from competitors?

VALUES

Like your mission, some values are everlasting and do not change, however, other values should change as the organization matures, grows bigger, and learns how to compete in the ever-changing marketplace.

What are values? Values are an attempt to answer how the employees of X organization operate and what is core to the organization. You should ask yourself, your key leaders, and employees, “What values do we hope to have as an organization in one year, two years, five years, 10 years, etc?” “What values are currently resembling weeds in our garden that need to be plucked or doused with RoundUp?” Across your organization’s matrix of values, you must identify the values most critical to the success of your organization and its mission. Values that may sound right but are not distinct from your competitors should be re-evaluated and replaced with values that are specific to your organization.

KHA Management Consultants has frameworks for identifying and solidifying your organization’s values. These frameworks will help you across several parameters as you begin your strategic planning.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Your company provides either a tangible or an intangible product that comes with excellent customer service. All businesses should strive to provide either a tangible or intangible product with excellent customer service. I can assure you, however, that all organizations are saying this; some are doing it, perhaps even better than your organization is currently. Unless you are in a highly fractured industry where the levels of customer service offerings are opposites, answering that you provide a product with excellent customer service is not a good answer or definitive answer to give to this question.

Your answer must be brief and have the capacity to be refined over time. Answering the “what do we do” question is one of the most critical exercises to take your management team through. Everyone, including stakeholders, leaders, and all employees in your organization must truly understand and believe that what your organization does makes a difference and that your organization specifically is best equipped to meet the needs of the marketplace and consumers around it. In answering this question on what your organization does, management must balance aspiration and pragmaticism. If your organization’s “do’s” are too pragmatic, consumers and employees will not be drawn to your organization’s solution, whereas if your answer is too aspirational, people will doubt it, or worse, they will mock your solution. Your organization’s answer must anchor your team together, and when decisions are made, your decisions should all be evaluated through the lens of this answer.

THE CRITICAL NEXT STEPS

We know who we are, but how do we cross the chasm to success? What specific items should we be doing?  What should we be proactively thinking about, and how can the company benefit from our actions?

We understand our organization, its mission, values, and vision, but where do we get started to make it a successful company that will withstand generations and generations of change?

Ideas lead to success. What did the opening sentence to this paragraph make you think? Ideas do not lead to success, at least not directly. Ideas that are well thought out with economic logic and are combined with sound execution lead to success. A CEO of a Fortune 100 company once said, “I have more ideas than I know what to do with; I need people that can sell and execute them!”

Solving this problem of having too many ideas is one thing, while another more difficult problem is setting plans in motion to see that execution of the good ideas occur. Our focus areas in the next installment will be on organization strategic initiatives, goals, and actions. Using the three latter pillars of strategic planning will allow you and your team(s) to be synced at the beginning of the planning phase, during the execution of the strategic plan, and at the end of the process when a celebration is due.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Why are we Here?

Part 5: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Why are we Here?

Part 5 - strategic planning team membersBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part five of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

The right team is here, and we are cohesive; it is time to collaborate!

As an owner or executive, can you answer the following question about your organization:

Why are we here? Not in the room but as an organization, why are we here?

GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE

Maybe you can answer it, but the real question is, ‘Can your team?’ Sure, your team can answer this question, but how consistent are their replies with yours and your organizations? Likely, their responses are not in the same zip code as yours, which indicates a couple things: 1) Messaging from the top of your organization down is inconsistent, and 2) The strategy of the organization is unclear or at least muddled. An article from the Harvard Business Review highlights an organization’s strategy importance and estimates that 95% of employees are disconnected from the organization’s strategy.

Challenge: Take your leadership team and see if they can answer similarly and succinctly the question addressed above. Leadership should control the experiment by not allowing social loafing and groupthink to get the answers. If you don’t control the experiment, you will get an answer that does not accurately represent each employee. Odds are each leader has different things to say; some of that is okay, however, we will need to bring the team together to reset the stage so that your organization’s goal is clearly defined.

MESSAGING SYMMETRY

When messaging is inconsistent internally, do you think your customers, the marketplace, and your stakeholders have a clear understanding of what your organization does and how it gets accomplished? Recently, Facebook has had some issues with organizational messaging; a third-party company was allowed to mine personal data of over 50 million users and in turn, use this information, not to the benefit of the consumers but to benefit outside organizations impairing user privacy. A decade ago, Facebook said no advertising would be used on their site and that only ‘.edu’ addresses would be allowed. Then, little by little advertising trickled in along with more users and an open platform. Now, you cannot avoid seeing blatant sponsored posts and ads on your feed. Facebook like many organizations had good intentions but lacked clarity across the organization and its internal and external stakeholders.

When the strategy of any organization is unclear, it hurts stakeholders, both internal and external. The marketplace looks for value, and customers need the value that your company can bring. Your future customers are even begging for your offering, whether they know it or not; it’s your job to put the right teams, tools, and value proposition together to convince them.

Your top management team must be unified on the following items: Mission, Values, and answering ‘What do we do?’ in order to create a clear and direct message for all those involved to follow.

MISSION

Mission setting for an organization is very challenging. Your quantitative types, such as business analysts, deem this the softest of soft definitions in a business. In fact, you may be challenged to keep your employees’ interest if they do not understand how critical the mission is to everything the organization does. The mission is everlasting and must propel the team and its people forward. How do you know if you have a good mission? You have a good mission if it is cemented in both your internal teams’ actions and your external customers’ awareness that allow your organization to propel forward despite you. Your mission must make lives better; if it currently does not, I strongly encourage you to revisit your mission and your mission statement before your organization becomes irrelevant to both your employees and the marketplace. Your mission must explain the question of ‘Why are we here?’ You must create space for this thought process in your organization among the leaders and employees who carry out daily functions.

During a strategic meeting to development the mission statement, our consultants typically use colorful 5 x 8 Post-it Notes to fuel conversation around the mission. Leaders and employees tend to own what they write as we walk through each item. It also allows the teams to understand how their counterparts think across the organization. During the strategic meeting, it is critical to avoid groupthink (where decisions are made that discourage creativity or responsibility) and dominating individuals, while at the same time beginning to establish ownership in the outcomes of the strategic planning sessions. Next, we discuss values.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Developing Cohesion

Part 4: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Developing Cohesion

Part 4 - strategic planning developing cohesionBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part four of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series will include identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

Trust falls anyone? Kidding. We will be doing some trust exercises but nothing that cheesy, we promise!

For this portion of strategic planning, we break the meeting into four distinct blocks or disciplines as Lencioni titles them. We have found the department or organizational leader should lead in all of these blocks by going first and setting a great example for others to follow.

BLOCK 1: ESTABLISH TRUST

Establishing trust is often a little touchy feely for some employees, and that’s okay. The first step recommended by Lencioni in The Advantage involves running the team through a personal history exercise. A personal history exercise is where each employee will say where they were born, how many siblings they have, what order they are in the siblings, and the most difficult circumstance faced as a kid. This is where people get to ‘really’ know one another. Employees have shared stories of lost siblings, lost parents, and extreme adversity.  The same kinds of stories will come out in your meeting, and you will find a new level of respect in the room for each other.

BLOCK 2: GAUGING TYPICAL CONFLICT

Proper planning can help us to gauge potential conflict between employees. If the department or organizational leader has had some lead time, they will have the opportunity to document the last month of common conflicts that have come up to bring those issues to the forefront with grace and tact during the meeting. If the leader has not had the time or context to do this, your consultant can mine for conflict during the meeting. Often conflict issues come out by asking the question to employees, ‘What concerns you the most about the direction of the company?” If this question does not pull issues out, we must take teams through modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis across each of the main departments to get feedback. Ah, nothing brings out conflict like calling an executive and their department out for perceived weaknesses. The goal of this analysis is not to create conflict but to teach the team to have and maintain an appropriate amount of healthy conflict. Many times, during these sessions, the typical conflict will start to manifest, and the leader or outside consultant running the meeting can stop, interject, and discuss each side of the conflict with the present team. See the previous reference to Harvard Business Review article, “The Best Senior Teams Thrive on Disagreement” that was discussed in Part Three of this Series. Conflict management is an ongoing effort where individuals and teams must not become siloed or self-focused but must maintain a big picture mentality that will help the whole organization thrive.

BLOCK 3: UNIFIED LEADERSHIP

Unity and alignment leadership among the leadership team is a must for the organization to succeed. Regardless of what the teams agree to or agree upon, it is all for naught if the team is not aligned together. The minute one leader comes back to their team and vents frustration with an organization initiative or another leader, the floodgates are opened to allow for all to participate in this same manner. It will be significantly more difficult for this leader to influence their team, to help them see the organization objectives before their own objectives, or to allow space for collaboration with other departments across the organization. Whatever comes out of the strategic planning room, the leadership team must be unified first and foremost to each other and to the organization’s cause. It is very important that the leaders’ people know their commitment to the other leaders and to the firm.

BLOCK 4: ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONFLICT

Leadership and employee accountability will be discussed in depth in a later installment of this series. For now ,suffice it to say that accountability is critical to the organization and that its focus is on the performance and behavior of both leaders and employees. This is where current leaders can cultivate the next generation of leaders by using tactful communication, sending clear directional signals, and identifying in a fair way when the rules are and are not being followed. Infighting and conflict among individuals will persist until leadership puts a stop to it. Every time unhealthy conflict is allowed, the values of the organization become more toxic, and an unhealthy environment is created for all employees involved.

Conflict should be allowed for issues and not people. The minute a team member is against another teammate for personal reasons, the business issue cannot be resolved. Ideas and issues must be presented and then evaluated among all those involved in the strategic planning process. This can be symbolized by team members writing down issues or ideas and physically taking them to the middle of the table. This signifies that these are the team’s issues and ideas, and they should be evaluated as such.

When we have balanced conflict focused on issues rather than employees, we can begin to make headway on the organization’s stress areas, which is the topic of the next installment.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

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Strategic Planning – The Meeting: The Need for Cohesion

Part 3: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: The Need for Cohesion

Part 3 - strategic planning cohesionBy: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is part three of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.

We have assembled the right team and we understand why the Strategic Planning process is so critical. Fast forward to your strategic planning session; we are in a well-lit, appropriately heated or cooled, and refreshments-laden room. We have the right teams represented, including the key players in the organization. We have sought feedback and buy-in of those not in the room and it is time to reset the organization through strategic planning.

ASSESSING YOUR TEAMS FOR COHESION

How are your teams functioning? Do they collaborate and support one another, even when times are smooth? Quantify and qualify the levels of infighting. Is there role and level confusion in your teams? What about role and responsibility confusion?

Do all of the above currently happen with your teams? Diverse teams will have diverse ideas about where to take the organization. This is a good thing for the organization as a whole. In fact, the most healthy organizations fight well at the top, according to the Harvard Business Review.  In our diverse teams, we must balance the items that bring tension and focus on the facts making issues about the underlying items for consideration instead of the person presenting them.

To accomplish cohesion, we must get the team together cohesively to eliminate the darts, both those visible and invisible. In order to show this, let me share a recent experience where KHA Management Consultants brought together the team on one of our engagements. We were working with a sales-service equipment company where two of the team just did not get along. The sales employee did not understand why the project manager was always angry with him and in-kind started to give some heat back in the form of comments and attitudes towards the project manager. During our meeting to get both sides together to eliminate the darts, the project manager extended an olive branch to the salesman and stated, ‘I respect what you do a lot. I just get frustrated with how I should handle the next steps because of the volume of work you bring in.’ The salesman looked confused for a few seconds and quipped back to the project manager, ‘I thought you just hated working with me.’ They then hugged, made up, and shared a beer. All was true except that last sentence. They do now cordially get along, and the team as a whole has started to function at a higher capacity.

THE VALUE IS IN THE PROCESS

In all truthfulness, there is something to be said about bringing the team together and allowing them to work through things in a safe environment with their counterparts. This does not always go as well as the above experience. Regardless of the outcome, bringing the team together sheds light onto what team members are feeling and holding onto, which eliminates guessing and gossiping among the team. This is different from my upbringing when my parents would make my brothers and me work together on a house project at some long-distanced hope of a newfound harmony.  Organizations should bring a team together and put infighters together on something to see if they can gain chemistry. The infighters may align eventually, at least on the thought of, ‘Get me out of this project with this person as soon as possible.’ If we are honest, hoping is not a strategy to run your organization. It is best to address these dynamic employee issues as a team, as ultimately they impact and affect the organization and its ability to function efficiently and successfully.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, has a remarkable framework for resolving the issue of employee infighting and misaligned teams. For this portion of strategic planning, we should break this meeting into four distinct blocks or disciplines as Lencioni titles them. We have found that the department or organizational leader should lead in all of these blocks by going first and setting a great example for others to follow. We will review these blocks in depth in the next installment.

At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.

Read more