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Managing Executive Competition to Deliver a Successful Project

Managing a complex merger integration and keeping your sponsors and key stakeholders engaged is hard enough. So what are you supposed to do when your sponsors don’t get along with each other? How do you keep the multiple workstreams on track and deliver a successful project?

This is a story about the acute challenges a project manager faces when senior leaders across a company don’t get along. For the sake of confidentiality, actual names and details of the effort have been changed.

The Backdrop
Let’s start by acknowledging this was a virtual engagement. Our project management team worked from several sites – including numerous home offices – in multiple time zones across the US. Other than the initial in-person pre-COVID kickoff, the team never saw each other “live.” We managed the entire project via Zoom, phone calls, texts, and emails.

The newly acquired division Lima was 1,500 miles away from the parent company Romo, so face-to-face communication was going to be difficult no matter what. Compounding the issue was that people were not able to travel freely or meet in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. The companies quickly set up video systems in each location to communicate important messages on Day 1 of the acquisition and throughout the next several months. Bob Brown, a former private equity partner and executive of the parent company, was put in charge of Lima because of his vast experience in this specialty business.

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Posted in merger and acquisition, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Employee Engagement & Psychological Safety in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

If you knew 60% of your workforce would quit tomorrow, what would you do? While seemingly alarmist, this statistic reflects what we’re seeing in study after study as we emerge from the pandemic. Sixty percent of employees who worked from home during the pandemic indicated they would quit immediately if their organizations do not implement some element of virtual work.

This is the challenge HR and business leaders are now facing as they look to bring their teams back to the office after nearly a year and a half of virtual work arrangements. Yet there is a positive opportunity in this moment that many of the alarmist headlines are overlooking. In this new era of work, how does this need for hybrid work arrangements enable us to reimagine the employee experience while still delivering outstanding results for our customers and clients?

Let’s start with the end in mind. What exactly is employee engagement? Note that we didn’t say “employee entertainment”. This isn’t about having air hockey in the breakrooms, holding yoga classes on-site, or splurging on top performer trips to exotic locales (remember those?!). According to the “Best Places to Work” criteria, “Employee engagement is the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams, and their organization.” Simple and straightforward, right? Then why does it feel like employee engagement is so hard to get at? Because it’s hard work!

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Posted in corona virus, Virtual Workplace Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beyond Business Continuity Planning

This past year has shown us what it takes to be resilient and keep your business going. While it has been deemed an “unprecedented” time, 2020 is but one example of a business disruption we must plan for and take swift action to address. Whether a force of nature or man-made, we have lived through countless other disruptions including fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, snowstorms, and more. We have also survived strikes, trade wars, workplace violence, military and police intervention, changes in government and policies, regulations, and taxes. None of this is going to get easier going forward. In fact, life will only get more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (“VUCA”). The question we must answer then is, “How can we make our businesses more resilient to survive in a VUCA world?”

Business continuity must be viewed not only as a risk mitigation strategy but also as a growth strategy. In any industry, leaders must de-risk their businesses before growing them to avoid creating a “house of cards.” De-risking the business means planning and preparing to ensure the organization is capable of operating critical business functions, even in the face of an emergency. With business continuity plans in place and recovery plans stress tested on a regular basis, businesses can focus on growth and increased profitability.

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Posted in business cotinuity, business disrumption, growth strategy, recovery plan, risk mitigation, VUCA Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

DEI & Vulnerability: How Leaders Can Drive Belonging in the Workplace

In the past five years, we have witnessed a shift as business leaders directly address societal issues, recognizing their employees and consumers are conscientious of business and brand stances on societal events. As we approach the one-year mark since George Floyd’s murder and the amplification of voices calling for societal change across multiple dimensions, it’s important to pause and reflect on what progress we have made – both individually and collectively — and how to continue to choose the next right step.

Leaders who have invested in a foundational understanding around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) concepts for all employees in their organizations have benefitted from higher levels of engagement – even in the middle of a global pandemic. These investments have allowed leaders at all levels the opportunity to examine their biases, engage in open dialogue, and learn new ways of working that prioritize inclusion.

Some leaders, however, have not yet initiated these DEI conversations, or may have viewed them as a “one and done” type of activity. Others lost them in the myriad of other priorities competing for their attention. To move from introductory awareness to thoughtful action, the most visible leaders in this space are:

  • Creating a sense of belonging for every employee
  • Shifting to a power sharing mindset
  • Opening up and getting vulnerable about the journey

To shift our focus from baseline DEI awareness to action, leaders must look for ways to foster a sense of belonging for every employee. This often starts with examining our unintended unconscious bias within the organization. Partnering with HR and business teams, leaders are starting to speak up and call for reviews of HR and business policies, procedures, and practices through a DEI lens.

Why is this important? Organizations have traditionally, though often unintentionally, embraced a “melting pot” mindset, which requires assimilation and aims for homogeny. By contrast, organizations that adopt a mosaic mindset create an environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work – including the things that are unique aspects of their personal and professional identity. So, what does it look like after reviewing organizational practices and actively designing a culture where employees can bring their whole selves to work?

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Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Success with Change Management & Digital Transformation

Even the pandemic-driven work-from-home arrangements provide the ability for employees to stay connected at any hour of the day. This environment also increases the need for team members to step away from their constant screen time and manage blurred work/life boundaries.

Many organizations rely on their own internal communication teams, training programs, and business users to drive change within their organizations. This often leads to reinventing the wheel with every change effort rather than leveraging a consistent methodology for change. When a standardized change methodology is embedded into the DNA of an organization, teams become more agile and changes are adopted faster. Simply put, organizations can adapt to the next inevitable change when it comes.

Through a “people” lens, we have supported countless large-scale digital technology implementations over the years and recognize the need for the rigor behind the technical design and systems development activities. Unfortunately, the energy and focus to deliver a new system often takes priority over the “human element”. We’ve seen outstanding technologies fail to get the desired outcomes because a “people problem” got in the way! At a time when change fatigue and digital saturation are at all-time highs, organizations must commit to the principles of change management as a strategic imperative for their near-term stability and future growth.

When a technology aims to make an organization more efficient, innovative or engaged, project leaders must plan for the people side of these change efforts with the same level of rigor as they do their technical solutions. The following examples illustrate the tremendous impact of human behavior and critical need for a user adoption focus to the success of these initiatives.

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Posted in Change Fatigue, Change management, Communication, Digital Transformation, User Experience Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unlocking the Wealth Trapped Inside Your Business

Did you know only about 20% of all privately held companies offered for sale each year actually sell? And only around 30% of all family businesses in the U.S. successfully transition from their first to second generation. Maybe worse, 75% of all business owners who do sell their companies “profoundly regret” the decision one year after selling.

Throughout my career, I have worked around the world with organizations big and small – ranging from multi-billion-dollar Fortune 500s to government agencies to privately held family businesses and startups. Of all my experiences, I cherish the most those projects that have had the greatest impact on the people I worked with. So, when I learned these statistics on privately held businesses completing a sale, I knew I wanted to help business owners maximize the value of their businesses and ultimately exit on their terms. This is especially true for the countless Baby Boomers who will transition out of their businesses over the next 10 years – a movement that represents roughly 4.5 million businesses and $10 trillion of wealth being transferred!

Many business exits fail because of a lack of knowledge and planning. Two-thirds of business owners are not familiar with their options for exiting. Almost 80% have no written transition plan or advisory team in place to help them. Nearly half of all business owners have not done any planning, and 93% have no formal “life after” plan. Compound that with the fact that 50% of all business exits are involuntary, forced by dramatic external factors such as death, disability, divorce, disagreement, and distress. Owners need to plan for how they will walk away from their businesses, not only in a perfect scenario but also in a worst-case situation. A properly planned and executed exit can handsomely reward the business owner for the time, effort, headaches, and heartaches that come from building a business. It also benefits the many employees who work in the business and all the customers they serve. The following, then, is a proven three-phase approach for unlocking the wealth trapped inside your business.

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Posted in Customer Engagement Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Making Better Data-driven Decisions to Drive Business Performance


At the turn of the century, we couldn’t get enough data. By 2010, we had a multitude of data. Now, we’re swimming in more data than we can possibly use.

Gartner recently noted that organizations use only a fraction of the analytic potential they possess. As organizations further embrace this idea of business intelligence and data analytics though, leaders are realizing that it’s more about the process of fact-based problem solving than it is about the data itself. Data is just the oil that helps business run smoothly. Leaders need to build engines based on powerful critical thinking capabilities, not just big data repositories, to deliver better results.

Traditionally, managers tracked and reported against key performance indicators. While some lessons may have been gleaned from this rearward-looking approach, it left companies largely blind to what laid ahead. So, how do leaders take a more proactive forward-looking approach to where they want to take their businesses? How do leaders better allocate their precious resources? What are their expected outcomes, and how do they know their actions will produce those desired results? These are critical questions to address. Determining what data is required to provide these insights is secondary to defining these problems and opportunities.

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Posted in Performance Improvement, Problem-Solving, Strategic Planning Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Our Human Capital Matters So Much in 2021

In 2020, many business leaders recognized that it wasn’t our unique products or market niches that sustained us. It was our people. It was those leaders and team members who, despite incredible obstacles, stepped up and delivered great value for our companies and the clients/customers we serve. Last July, we wrote about the importance of supporting our employees as they do what they can to support us and our businesses. As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, how can we further these efforts to support our most important resource – our human capital?

Even the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) – the entity that regulates reporting requirements for all publicly-traded companies – now recognizes the critical importance of an organization’s workforce.  The SEC recently determined that key human capital measures and objectives beyond traditional financial statements must be disclosed in order to more accurately describe the overall health of a company. To this end, all public companies now need to disclose the key human capital measures and objectives that enable them to manage their businesses when they file.

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Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Your Employees Really Want Right Now!

The last few months have presented unthinkable challenges for many. Layoffs and furloughs. Work from home, and for many now back to work. A very strong voice to create equity and greater inclusion for our diverse workforce. This is not an easy time to be a leader as organizations try to prioritize and more clearly demonstrate their focus on their employees.

So, what do your employees really want from you right now? For starters, they don’t want to be called “employees”. That’s a transactional term that literally means someone is hired and paid for their work. That’s it! Is that what you want from your team members? Some companies have moved towards calling their employees “associates” for this very reason, suggesting more of a partnership and two-way relationship. That still feels very impersonal and cold to me though, so I would offer calling your team members “team members” is most effective.

For the most part, your team members want to be your partners in influencing how the business runs. They want to be treated fairly in line with the real value they bring to your organization and especially to the clients and customers you serve. Even though some may just be there for a transactional paycheck, everyone benefits from a more holistic and human connection with you beyond just being your employee and you being their employer.

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Posted in Employee Performance, Organizational Performance, Peak Performance, Performance Management Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Safe at Home or Back to Work?

Now that social distancing restrictions are easing in many communities, countless business leaders are celebrating that they can finally bring their team members back to the office and get back to work. This is a complex business decision, though, with pros and cons either way. More than that, this decision can significantly impact your people and your organization’s performance long-term if you don’t plan ahead and prepare properly!

While there may be valid reasons why some people and some companies will return to their offices, and perhaps sooner than others, there are several important implications to consider determining the best path forward. First and foremost, what’s driving this decision? In one case, the CEO of a major corporation said that returning to their corporate offices across the US was critical to the Company’s culture. Really? What was this Company’s culture like before the pandemic if returning to the office is this CEO’s solution to cultivating a positive and productive climate for everyone?

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Posted in company culture, corona virus, virus Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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