Tag Archives: father knows best

The Planning Process in a Twitter World

I’m an analog dinosaur in a digital world. In the 1970s, I participated in an organizational planning process that lasted for nearly a year, concluding in an excellent document with many dozens of pages that came to rest on the “bottom shelf” and not the “bottom line.”

Then, ours was a Father Knows Best World – driven from the top down, operating at a snail’s pace compared with today, where we live at the speed of thought – where opportunities happen within the blink of an eye. Planning is still critically important, but the process now must be “fast, hot and cheap!” Real fast.

To convert this concept of planning to a concrete “Tweet” (fewer than 140 characters), I offer the following formula/framework: Planning includes purpose, passion, perseverance and precise performance creating a personalized and positive client experience. (128 words) This planning can be completely researched in less than an hour or two. I offer the process as “framing your future” – not the pyramid (top-down hierarchical model of yesterday) but rather a square framework capturing the part of the world marketplace that you wish to define and serve.

The base (foundation) of this framework is PURPOSE. This is the “why” of your future. Simon Sinek in his video – “Start With Why” –explains this as well as it can be done. If you are serious about the process of planning, start with the first 10 minutes of his presentation. If you don’t have time to do this, quit the process now and “continue to do what you’ve always done.”

See also: Go Digital… but Don’t Change Who You Are  

The left side of the frame is about PASSION. It is about the drive needed to live your purpose. Check out Susan Boyle’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Watch the audience as she introduces herself – the skepticism of some and the contempt of others. In my mind, they were pre-judging the age, shape and condition of the “jukebox” from the outside and not the excellence of the “sounds (music) and passion” that was inside the “box.” In about three seconds, she won her skeptics over. Passion is needed for success.

The top side of the frame is PERSEVERANCE. It is about never quitting. It’s what (I believe) drove our troops onto the beaches at Normandy. It was about prevailing against all odds or to die trying. Check out online – Nick Vujicic, the limbless preacher. After watching about five minutes of any of his presentations, tell me about your problems or why you can’t-do something. Perseverance and quitting are choices. One will sustain you; the other will “restrain” you. You choose. Your results will be dictated by the choices you make.

The right side of this “planning” model is about performance, precision, and perfecting your product and delivery. It is about standing above the mediocrity that is most markets. It is about exceeding the expectations of your clients and the markets you serve.

It is not about being perfect in everything for everybody but is about being relentless in your pursuit of perfection. It is about becoming the “choice” of those individuals and populations that you choose to serve while recognizing they have many, if not unlimited, options. It’s more than “standing out in the crowd” – it’s about your clients and prospects searching for you and the experience you provide TO THEM in a very crowded global marketplace.

Sunday morning, my wife and I stopped at Starbucks. She loves the place and its drinks – I visit to observe the culture. I drink a small decaf coffee – she chooses a grande drink defined by words I don’t understand. She’s hip – I have an artificial hip.

Although I’m not a fan of Starbucks, I am envious of the marketing genius that was their creation. In 1970, a cup of coffee cost three cents at home and 25 cents out. Coffee was a commodity if you bought it by the pound at your supermarket. If you enjoyed coffee after a meal in a fine restaurant, it could be considered a “service.”

Starbucks leapfrogged all these distribution options and made coffee an experience. Today – for its devotees – it remains what some might consider an addiction. As I sat in the Starbucks last Sunday, I watched people stand in line to order their drink du jour and occasionally a “treat” to eat, then stand in line again to await its preparation. Many would grab and go with their drink – others would then move to a small table in a crowded room alone or with their posse – trying to talk loud enough to be heard and soft enough to not be overheard. Get the picture?

See also: The Challenges of ‘Data Wrangling’  

What caught my eye were the “splash sticks” that were being inserted into the cover of the filled coffee cups. I don’t know if they are there to keep the coffee hot or to keep it in the cup. To me, it was Starbucks’ never-ending pursuit for the “perfect experience” for their customer or more correctly their “followers.” Starbucks has been successful – it is the “little things,” the endless pursuit of perfection, that will assure their future.

Does your organization live its Purpose, with Passion, Persevering regardless of the circumstances, and constantly monitoring and demanding Performance, Precision and innovating to assure Perfecting the client Experience?

You Must Break Free of Your Culture

By my definition, culture is the house rules. An edgier definition comes from David Balestracci: “Quite simply, culture is created by what is tolerated….Your current processes are perfectly designed to get the results they are already getting.”

In any case, culture is the most powerful force in your organization. It can bring greatness, or cause your failure as you move away from yesterday, through today, to tomorrow. As more and more organizations need to move to the transformational change that is tomorrow, their culture (if it is an addiction to the status quo) becomes the greatest challenge they face.

I’ve been speaking on this subject for many years. Slowly but surely, I’m moving from theory to reality. Early on in my consulting career, I’d proudly state, “we’re going to change the culture.” After having my rear end handed to me after each unsuccessful attempt at cultural change, I retreated to a more realistic but no more possible approach, suggesting that to “change the culture” you must “change the people (educate, rehab, motivate, etc. each individual) or change the people (start anew – with new folks).

See also: Does Your Culture Embrace Innovation?  

In late 2015 and early 2016, I enjoyed an aha moment. Working to rehab a very troubled organization (its culture), filled with good and talented people who had become divided and moved to their lowest common denominator, I realized the best hope was to agree on a purpose (why), shared values and a unifying vision. With this as the starting point, progress continued as each team member individually committed to grow her skills (abilities) and as all members of the group chose collaboration (improved communication/relationships) on common goals and tasks.

In the April 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review, the cover story reinforced my theory by stating, “You can’t fix culture, just focus on your business and the rest will follow.” I now say, “Amen! Vindication!” (HBR will never quote me, but I am delighted to be able to quote them.)

In 2012, a graphic artist created a cultural continuum slide that I could use to demonstrate the evolution of organizational culture. The slide was formatted on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid.

From the base of the pyramid, the five levels (steps) are: physiological (survival) needs, safety (security) needs, belonging (acceptance) needs, esteem (achievement) needs and, finally, at the pinnacle of the pyramid, self (actualization) fulfillment need.

To facilitate the “story of culture,” I chose an individual or couple who best personified each step on the pyramid. I also added one action word that supported the culture created by the personality styles of the individuals or culture.

What follows is the rest of the story:

  1. Survival – Fred Flintstone – React. Fred was a simple leader right for a simple time. His goal was survival for himself and his family. Planning wasn’t important. Being able to react was. When he came face to face with a sabertooth tiger, his ability to react was all important. His family followed his lead.
  2. Security – Jim Anderson, an insurance agent (played by Robert Young on Father Knows Best) – Do. Jim was the personification of the OWG (old white guy in charge) in the post-WWII business place and community. The Greatest Generation fought for our security and came home to work hard to create the economic security we all so desired. If you worked for Jim and did as you were told, you would be secure (taken care of). You could work 40 years and get a gold watch.
  3. Acceptance – Archie Bunker – Think. Remember, this show came at the beginning of the social revolution where baby boomers fought the status quo — as a group and as individuals. Remember the Vietnam war protests, Woodstock, civil rights, demands for both race and gender equality, assassinations (MLK, JFK, RFK, etc.) and the chants of “Hell no, we won’t go!” and “If it feels good do it.” Archie in the stereotype was the next generation of Jim Anderson. He wanted to be the “boss” (to think for his family). Unfortunately for Archie, his followers changed. Dingbat, Meathead and Little Girl were not compliant (they wanted to think on their own). Archie’s clan demanded freedom at the risk of security. Archie’s frustration and anger (I believe) resulted from the fact that he did not enjoy the resources nor respect that was given to Jim Anderson.
  4. Achievement — Cliff and Clair Huxtable — Create. This was the feel-good story post the social revolution of Archie’s day. Cliff and Clair represented the hope and change of a more diverse world. Their drive was to ensure their children had every opportunity to be all that they could be regardless of place, color or gender. They were the hope that remains on the horizon of our country and world. They were creating a new social order: new culture, new possibilities. Creativity provides much greater possibilities than does discipline/compliance. A hundred years from now, people will know that Bill Gates understood technology and created computer operating systems that made him and Melinda Gates the richest and most generous people in the world.
  5. Self-Fulfillment – Jane and George Jetson – Imagine. George and Jane lived in a future that we are only now starting to imagine, hoping that what their life was can be real. George and Jane, their daughter Judy, son Elroy, Rosie (their robot maid) and Astro their dog lived large in the universe they occupied. Theirs was a “futuristic utopia.” George worked two days a week about one hour a day. Travel and technology were their world. If it could be imagined, it could be done. Understand that in a century people will reminisce about Steve Jobs, who imagined the possibilities in technology and artificial intelligence and forever changed the world!

Know that your organizational culture can be the most powerful force available to you in the competitive marketplace and the world as it is going to be. If you can leverage your culture for good and change, you will enjoy great success. If you are unable to break the stranglehold that some organizational cultures exercise over their own status quo, your future will be lost in a world of transformational change.

See also: How ‘Cascades’ Can Build Work Culture  

The lesson, in my opinion, to be learned here – is that your culture is defined by its performance and its people. Be certain that both are the best that they can be. As a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is to keep toxins out of the environment in which you live and operate. Don’t ignore reality just because things are going well.

Culture can make you or break you! Keep your finger on your organization’s pulse! When something doesn’t look or “feel right” discover the truth. Address problems. Don’t ignore the painful. Your brand and your culture can be your most valuable assets.