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15 Common Pitfalls To Avoid As A New Business Owner Or Entrepreneur


15 Common Pitfalls To Avoid As A New Business Owner Or Entrepreneur

Letting Ego Get In The Way

Education and collaboration are still some of the best ways of avoiding pitfalls. A serious entrepreneur has to put their ego aside and consider either one in order to decrease the likelihood of “rookie mistakes.” It can come in different forms, such as meeting with peers regularly to discuss business or having subject matter advisers that augment the entrepreneur’s know-how. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/11/26/15-common-pitfalls-to-avoid-as-a-new-business-owner-or-entrepreneur/#600d810653fe

Finding Inspiration In The Day-To-Day: 15 Ways To Set Yourself Up For Success


Finding Inspiration In The Day-To-Day: 15 Ways To Set Yourself Up For Success

Go Back To The Basics

What has worked for me and many of my clients is a simple mental review of “why.” Why did you start doing it? In business, as in life, any project that was started had an initial goal. That goal was motivating enough to start that project—recalling the reason is usually enough of a motivation to keep going. The main advantage of this approach is in its simplicity and efficiency. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/06/finding-inspiration-in-the-day-to-day-15-ways-to-set-yourself-up-for-success/#1cd9048a2581

15 Proactive Strategies That Establish Entry-Level Professionals As Leaders


15 Proactive Strategies That Establish Entry-Level Professionals As Leaders

Don’t Try To Take Shortcuts

The notion that there is a shortcut to being perceived as a leader is not realistic for most people and situations. There are some temporary and short-lived efforts that can elevate some exceptional young people into the spotlight, however, it is unlikely for it to be permanent or widely noticed. Even the thought of there being a shortcut should be considered a maturity issue. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/11/15-proactive-strategies-that-establish-entry-level-professionals-as-leaders/#1cdeac51114a

14 Ways To Balance Your Long-Term Goals With Day-To-Day Business Tasks


14 Ways To Balance Your Long-Term Goals With Day-To-Day Business Tasks

Revisit Your Data

Nothing lets you see your progression or regression toward your goals better than data. Be it qualitative or quantitative, data should be your first stop. Now the interpretation of that data is the next step. Unbiased evaluation will add an additional layer of certainty. Combine those two and there is really little room for “feelings” or “doubts.” The data will lay down the road map to success. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/11/14-ways-to-balance-your-long-term-goals-with-day-to-day-business-tasks/#66e126ac11b2

Job Hunting? 15 Ways To Keep Up With Your Current Job While You Look


Job Hunting? 15 Ways To Keep Up With Your Current Job While You Look

Be Honest About Your Career Goals

Looking for a new job is not something that needs or should be hidden. That is where the honesty part will help the pivot. If need be, inform your management of your career development goals. There is a real possibility that they may even help. This also means that you need to illustrate that it is not impacting your duties, to which you are morally obliged. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/12/job-hunting-15-ways-to-keep-up-with-your-current-job-while-you-look/#7a53f7392d14

13 Essential Skills And Traits Of Successful Business Owners


13 Essential Skills And Traits Of Successful Business Owners

Willingness To Sacrifice

Entrepreneurship by nature requires sacrifices both in your personal and business life: be it sacrificing personal time to learn a new skill to help the business or the willingness to terminate a friend that was not a fit for said business. Hence, if there is little to no willingness to be flexible enough to sacrifice, starting a business should not be an option. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/23/13-essential-skills-and-traits-of-successful-business-owners/#6528c24eaca3

Check out my Interim COO and/or Interim CMO services

15 Daily Habits Of Great Leaders


15 Daily Habits Of Great Leaders

Implement Reading Time

I have had the pleasure to work with many entrepreneurs over my career. The single factor that all the successful ones had in common was their reading habits. It goes something along the lines of there being a time block set aside to catch up on readings. Short of a disaster that has to be dealt with, that time is nonnegotiable and will stay off-limits for any other activity. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/12/30/15-daily-habits-of-great-leaders/#512ebced42ca

Check out my Fractional COO and/or Fractional CMO services.

Promoted To Management? 15 Ways To Navigate Workplace Relationship Changes


Promoted To Management? 15 Ways To Navigate Workplace Relationship Changes

Choose Your Language Carefully

A promotion to a managerial role will inherently alter the dynamics between peers. However, the language used to express that can provide context and help; it is easy to contextually explain that the relationship is evolving. That approach can be extremely helpful for all parties to “buy-in” to the new dynamics and even become an active actor in helping achieve goals that benefit all. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/06/promoted-to-management-15-ways-to-navigate-workplace-relationship-changes/#40c32ec947f2

Check out my Remote COO and/or Remote CMO services.

15 Clear Signs Your Employee Deserves A Promotion


15 Clear Signs Your Employee Deserves A Promotion

They Exhibit Above-Average Performance

When and if an employee asks about additional ways to contribute, it is a good sign that they are ready for more responsibility. Granted, said employee has to be above-average at the current job duties. Additional consideration should include factors such as cultural immersion and product-specific know-how. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/06/15-clear-signs-your-employee-deserves-a-promotion/#54a6bac6c1ad

Check out my Part-time COO and/or Part-time CMO services

15 Ways To Actually Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions In 2020


15 Ways To Actually Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions In 2020

Aim To Be Better Than You Were Yesterday

Be better than you were yesterday. Personal and business lives are always evolving, and we encounter obstacles that we have to overcome. The goal is not to be perfect or to achieve something spectacular. Hence progress and improvement can only be measured in context. Being better in one area than you were yesterday is not only simple to understand but easy to achieve. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/07/15-ways-to-actually-achieve-your-new-years-resolutions-in-2020/#15dab7092189

Check out my Business Consulting and/or Management Consulting services.

Is It Time To Walk Away From Your Startup Idea? 15 Ways To Decide


Is It Time To Walk Away From Your Startup Idea? 15 Ways To Decide

Test Your Doubts Against The Data

Emotional decisions, both in personal and business lives, tend to have debatable outcomes at best. A better way is to formulate those doubts into tangible hypotheses that can be proven or disproved. Then it is rather simple: Consult with peers, collect and analyze data or do both. The end result is rather straightforward: Either the concern is legit or it is not. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/07/is-it-time-to-walk-away-from-your-startup-idea-15-ways-to-decide/#36693ee639af

Check out my Strategy Consulting and/or Operation Management services

16 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Pursue A Side Hustle


16 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Pursue A Side Hustle

Do you have a purpose besides earning money?

Though the standard considerations such as viability, earning potential and other similar factors should be the main basis of the decision, a secondary factor is often overlooked: dual purpose. A side hustle can and should have more than just a single goal of earning money. It should also help determine if it is the right business to eventually grow or do full time. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/08/16-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-you-pursue-a-side-hustle/#5d4c98bb1f88

By: Kamyar Shah – Chief Operating Officer

Feeling Anxious About Your Business? 16 Ways To Cope With Entrepreneurial Stress


Feeling Anxious About Your Business? 16 Ways To Cope With Entrepreneurial Stress

Accept And Become Aware Of Your Stress

Stress, much like a task, has to be managed. It boils down to understanding and accepting that being stressed is part of the journey. That acceptance then leads to awareness, which should be turned into actionable tasks to manage it. Those tasks, however, have to fit the individual needs. It can be as simple as an hour walk or as elaborate as a combination of meditation and yoga. Awareness is key. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/09/feeling-anxious-about-your-business-16-ways-to-cope-with-entrepreneurial-stress/#d20db0c615a3

by Kamyar Shah – Chief Marketing Officer

Misconceptions About COO Duties And How A Fractional COO Can Maximize Your Operations


Business Consultant - Management Consultant

Starting With Your New Remote Chief Operating Officer

So you have decided to hire an interim or part-time Chief Operations Officer. What are the next steps for your organization and how will your new interim COO fit in with your team? It is important to understand how a Fractional COO can improve your operations. Having a clear definition of your Remote COO’s role and duties when you start working is essential.

Common Misconceptions About The Role Of A Chief Operating Officer

Depending on the structure of a business, CEO, President, Second-in-command, and deputy leader can all be similar roles.

The COO role usually ranks below a CEO. and they may have a background in marketing, finance or technology or any relevant sector. The simplest way to look at it is that the COO backs up the CEO and their vision for a company. Due to this structure, The Chief Operating Officer is often at the mercy of the CEO’s ideas and desires.

Many companies believe that the COO is one of the more intensive roles in the organization’s C-Suite. Because the COO will deal with pressures from the boss as well as from heads of other departments.

One can assume that it’s a stressful and sometimes horrible fire-pit of a role. Especially in a multi-national or multi-agency company. One might think that handing some of the responsibilities down is best. Thus overseeing rather than implementing might be preferable.

But that isn’t always the case.

The New York Times reported that Twitter’s former COO, Ali Rowghani, quit after seeing his responsibilities usurped by the advertising arm of the company. Combined with disappointing user figures, Rowghani quit before he was pushed to do so. Responsibility is a powerful motivator and removing responsibility can have negative effects.

The Twitter news and the inherent implication that the COO role should have a wider set of tasks is backed by data. According to studies by EY, a third of COOs have experienced a wider set of tasks in the past five years.

Another misconception of the COO is that their role is to stabilize what already exists. It can be the opposite. Oftentimes, a Fractional Chief Operating Officer is brought in to completely overhaul operations. A CEO may find an expert in turning companies around and give their COO the flexibility to execute.

Another misconception is that the chairman is the most important role in the company. In reality, the COO is often the glue that holds everything together at the top. The COO may even be far more experienced than the CEO. The story at Dell computers, where 29-year-old Michael Dell brought in a team including Mort Topfer as the company boomed.

Topfer understood his role was advisory and had no desire to assume the CEO role. Many COOs at a junior stage in their development, still have the ambition to get to the top spot. This aspiration lends itself to many COOs becoming CEOs.

What Are The Common Traits Of The Best Fractional COOs

Asked to name an inspiring CEO and most of us can name many. Like Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marissa Mayer. Now, if we are asked to name extraordinary Chief Operating Officers, it could be a challenge.

Chief Operating Officers can easily get overshadowed in the public eye by the role of the CEO. Particularly in large traditional organizations. The dynamic has evolved in the digital world with Remote Chief Operating Officers having a bigger impact in remote teams.

According to Accenture, the COO is, “perhaps one of the least understood roles in business today.”

Ryan Caldbeck, founder, and CEO of CircleUp states COOs are vital to companies. Especially during periods of rapid growth or transformation when execution risks are high.

Chief Operating Officer roles are less clearly defined than a CEO’s role and scope. Keith Rabois, former COO of Square, describes the COO at a startup as a doctor in an emergency room. Your Remote COO will be fixing things, triaging and diagnosing issues to see if they are minor or serious.

An Interim COO possesses a unique set of skills. Bridging the space between the visionary CEO at the top and the execution of strategy.

Here are the top traits of an effective Fractional Chief Marketing Officer:

    1. They are strategic with a focus on the details. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is arguably the highest-profile COO today.  She has a remarkable ability to dig deep on a wide range of issues. Meanwhile, she also knows the bounds of her duties. When Facebook hit challenges in negotiations with PayPal, she smoothed out differences. A successful Fractional COO balances a breadth of experience and knowledge. Paired with an ability to manage strategically and you have an advantage. COOs keep their company’s high-level strategy front-and-center. They also understand the day-to-day execution to ensure what needs to happen does. Handling those details can be no small matter. Six in ten COOs say the complexity and diversity of the position make the role worthwhile, according to Ernst & Young’s survey of hundreds of COOs. Thus, contrary to the misconception that COOs are only focused on the details of day to day operations, they keep high-level strategy in mind.
    2. They value and appreciate talent. The best Interim Chief Operating Officer is a people person. They understand the business depends on the combined talents of their team. As your Part-Time COO maintains operations, they also keep an eye out for talent. They raise the level of talent by sourcing strong hires and develop the team. “If the COO creates an environment in which people can thrive, then their job becomes so much easier.” Charles Robert Davis, Vice President Director, Darya-Varia Laboratoria Your COO’s scope branches out beyond operations to your team’s development.
    3. They have no ego. One misconception is that because a COO holds an executive title, they must have a big ego. The best Fractional Chief Operating Officers set aside their ego for their organization. In putting the organization first, they find ways to highlight the good work of others. Good COOs will give speaking engagement opportunities to a business-line head for example. Also, when media outlets request interviews, top COOs will find ways to share the spotlight.
    4. They are data-driven. Key business decisions cannot be made based on assumptions. It can be very tempting to rely on your gut to make business decisions. It is a common practice. An effective Interim Chief Operating Officer will take the gut decision of a CEO and will guide final decisions. When a CEO or a business-line head, or director says, “I just know this initiative will be a home run,” the effective COO asks for data.

Data-driven COOs are responsible for ensuring a strategic vision translates into profitable operations. Rather than allow the business to be guided by instincts, internal politics, hunches, the best COOs will insist the business be driven by data.

Businesses should not underestimate the value of a strong Part Time COO. Good COOs instrumental in turning strategy into operational and financial success.

Do Chief Operating Officers Ever Shift From Their Capacity?

One misconception is that the Operations responsibilities of a COO do not translate across the executive suite. However, the COO role is the most common stepping stone by far to the CEO seat.

According to Agile Lean House, not every COO wants to become the next CEO. Thirty percent see the operations leadership role as a destination in its own right. Given the demands and breadth of the job, this is hardly surprising. Of COOs surveyed, most find the role extremely satisfying. The ability to influence strategy and the broader perceptions of the role are appealing.

Why A Fractional COO Is A Necessity And Not A Luxury In Organizations With Little Operations Structure

Some organizations can often overlook the need for a COO, and do not consider the option of hiring a Remote Chief Operations Officer. Budgets may be under certain constraints and focused on product development, sales and other areas of the business. Operations can support everyone on your team, to ensure the business runs smoothly.

Why Hiring A COO Offers You Flexibility And Cost Savings Versus Being An Expense

Today’s business ops are growing to become more complex with businesses operating at the speed of the Internet and change being the norm. Senior leadership must compete and bring together the talent necessary to complete tasks and deliver.

Outsourcing an Interim COO is a great alternative when you do not have the resources in house to fill a Chief Operating Officer role. This option provides you with flexibility and long term cost savings of potential budget waste.

Misconceptions About The Leadership Function Of Your Part Time COO

According to leadership strategy writer, Rajeev Peshawaria, there are common misconceptions about leadership. The first misconception is that most think leadership is about influencing others to achieve a goal. Yet, if we observe world leaders, most did not do anything to others. They set very clear goals and motivated themselves to get things done. In doing so, they set an example to become a powerful role model. Being an example can inspire a team to join the leader’s journey.

The second misconception about leadership is that we assume that the person with the most formal power in a group is the leader. Because the aforementioned misconception centers leadership around influencing others to achieve, this leads to the assumption that to have influenced one must be in a position of power. Leadership has little to do with formal authority. As formal authority will sit with a board or executives in the startup culture for example. Oftentimes, authoritative figures are also far removed from the day to day of business operations. Those with authoritative power may provide high-level initiatives but core operations functions are defined by your COO.

A third misconception is that followership is leadership. For example, in the corporate world sometimes employee engagement surveys result in promotion. This sets a standard for managers to engage in people-pleasing so that surveys highlight positive results. Effective leadership does not involve pleasing the team at all times. A skilled Interim COO will help you make tough decisions for your business but might be unpopular among your staff. Pleasing, in itself, is a behavior linked to following and not leading.

What To Expect From Your Fractional COO In The First 100 Days

Contrary to one might assume, your Interim COO will have a structure mapped out for the initiation of your engagement. Not exactly.

Research indicates that successful COOs must address these critical areas to make an impact:

Expect the unexpected 

The reality of the issues facing your business may be of a different magnitude and nature than thought. There will be a long to-do list of pressing problems and challenges. This is particularly true if the role has been filled for the first time or has been established to solve a particular set of business problems. As such, it is important to understand the function of the role and begin to identify the key issues that your Interim COO will be inheriting.

Answer the obvious questions

Take the time to understand the role and the nature of the challenges ahead for your Fractional COO. Keep in mind that a new appointee who seeks to make too many changes early on is sure to make mistakes. It is far more valuable to allow your new COO to get to know the business and meet as many people as possible. It is only by amassing a deep knowledge that they can understand where to act. And how their decisions might impact different functions of the business.

Allow some freedom and mobility for your COO to move

The speed with which your COO needs to make decisions will depend on the nature of the appointment they come into. If operations are in crisis mode, there may be an expectation that significant changes will be made early on. By contrast, operations that are already running well can be a prompt that you will need your Fractional COO to uncover the “next big thing” to deliver.

Network, network, network

Your Part time Chief Operating Officer must be a “people person”. They must be able to develop and work with a wide range of different people. The most important of all is with the CEO, and this will naturally consume a large proportion of the time. The working relationship between a Fractional Chief Operating Officer is expected to be close. Both executive seats must work collaboratively in order to be successful. A hands-off relationship will not be suitable enough to run a successful organization.

Outside of your COO’s network, they must be careful not to neglect other members of the management team. Expect your Interim COO to build strong relationships with the heads of finance, IT, sales and marketing and HR, to name but a few. All will have a direct bearing on the role at some point in time. For COOs at large multinationals, international travel is essential. Your Fractional COO will spend time with managers and other senior executives in as many locations as possible if applicable.

Given that the first 100 days can make new appointees feel exposed, it may be worthwhile to identify a mentor or consultant to guide the role. Allow your Remote COO to spend time upfront understanding your team’s issues, responsibilities, and competencies. Identify who your COO can rely on to support them with details. This will free up time so that they can focus on the bigger picture for your business.

Make Room For Your Part Time Chief Operating Officer To Make An Impact

It is imperative that your Fractional COO put their individual stamp on the strategy of the organization. And to reclaim some of the spotlights from more prominent executives. The extent to which your COO will be able to do this will depend to some degree on the relationships and dynamics of the broader management team. It will also vary according to the specific role that they have been appointed to fulfill

Perhaps more than any other executive, COOs have the power to change the organization.

The Current Climate for Chief Operating Officer Professionals

Being the biggest resource at some organizations, it may be thought that the role has a lot of support.

As if the job of the Part Time COO were not hard enough, it also lacks external guidance and support. There are few in-depth studies on the nature of the job and few specifically relevant conferences. For too long, COOs have simply flown under the radar of good management thinking and writing.

There are reasons for this low profile, of course. The huge diversity of the role and the extent to which it varies across verticals and companies makes it challenging to pin down and examine. The responsibilities of the COO are often — but by no means — inward-looking. This means that COOs are rarely called upon to comment in the media or speak at analyst presentations. This is another difficulty they face, in terms of getting airtime for their issues and worries. But several trends are now causing the status quo to be challenged. Operational excellence has become a key source of competitive advantage for many businesses. The tough economic environment demands a relentless focus on the smooth running of the business. This is a task ideally suited to the strengths of the Part time COO. Not that this is easy. Demand volatility, soaring commodity prices, and the divergence between rapid-growth and developed markets require flexibility, agility, and efficiency from operations. Achieving this can be highly challenging in the current climate. The Part Time COO brings coordination to these efforts. Along with the ability to spot interdependencies and opportunities. Still, while the focus on operational excellence should never be downplayed. COOs have to combine these skills with a set of more forward-looking capabilities.

The COO: A Catalyst for Organizational Transformation

For CEOs needing to find breathing space to focus on selling a wider vision, the COO can play a more central role. The COO defines and implements strategy and becomes the owner of the business transformations. more than any other executive, COOs have the power to change the organization. And, as companies look to an uncertain future, this is a skill that will remain in high demand.


Demystifying the role of COO


Misconceptions About CMO Duties And How A Fractional CMO Can Help Maximize Results


Business Consultant - Management Consultant

Laying The Foundation For Your New CMO

So you have decided to hire an interim or part-time CMO. What are the next steps for your business and how will your new interim CMO fit in the picture? It is important to understand how an interim CMO can help your business and marketing. Having a clear definition of your CMO’s role and duties are also essential. With marketing tactics and business needs changing, the role of the CMO has evolved.

The Move Away From Traditional Marketing And The Need For Expertise

In the past, CMOs were in charge of traditional marketing and advertising. With the global consumer base now becoming more complex, successful CMOs must embrace change and broaden their scope. Successful CMOs are aware of the latest trends, methods, and technologies. This requires a strong digital marketing skill-set for upgraded marketing goals.

Why Engagement and Storytelling Is Vital For Your Marketing’s Success And How A CMO Can Fill The Gaps

With the growing use of digital resources, customers are moving toward an interactive experience. They are now engaging with brand stories that appeal to their emotions. This is why CMOs now have to focus on emotional rather than rational engagement. In the past, communications required little customer feedback. and Brands served their story without the customer in mind. With the Internet, marketing must now cut through the noise. making engagement more important now than in the past. People need to feel important and traditional marketing methods ignored their audience.

How A CMO Leverages Consumer Action Over Words

“As a marketer, you have to be driven by the consumer that you are serving, and you can only do that when you are curious about them. You can’t change the world if you are not curious about it.” Target CMO, Jeff Jones. A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer recognizes that consumers are now more vocal. Customers also desire to be a point of reference for family friends. This demanding context leaves little room for error in developing a marketing strategy.

What You Might Be Missing In Your Competition and Business Evaluations and How Your CMO Can Help

Part time Chief Marketing Officers understand that putting your company in a leading position requires an educated survey of the competition. Your Fractional CMO must have top analytical research skills to test your company and the competition. Besides having a solid understanding of your competition, a business strategy concentrating on these four areas can fill any gaps in your existing strategy:

  • The reasons behind successful as well as unsuccessful firms
  • Prime customer motivators
  • Major component costs
  • Industry mobility barriers

Why A Fractional CMO Is A Necessity And Not A Luxury In Organizations Lacking Marketing Leadership

Some organizations can often overlook the need for a CMO, and do not consider the option of hiring a Remote Chief Marketing Officer. Budgets may be under certain constraints and focused on building sales teams, product development and other areas of the business. Marketing can support your sales team in a way other functions cannot.

According to Artful Thinkers, here are ten scenarios in which you need to outsource a fractional CMO:

  1. You have a strong tactical marketing team; however, you do not have a marketing person sitting at the table where company decisions are made about the vision, mission, strategy, tactics and growth plans for the next 3-5 years.
  2. You lack a marketing strategy or plan.
  3. You need a sustainable marketing engine that can deliver predictable results.
  4. You spend money on marketing, though you see little ROI or do not have the capabilities to track budgets, measure performance or forecast results.
  5. You need better competitive analysis and market research to know if you are talking to the right people and delivering the right products and services.
  6. You need a comprehensive assessment of marketing tactics, team members and capabilities to ensure you are built for long-term success.
  7. You know digital transformation can improve your business, yet you lack the expertise that can represent marketing’s role in that process.
  8. You want to implement advanced tactics or implement marketing technologies to help the organization best utilize their data and assets to improve the customer experience.
  9. You need an expert that can help you improve brand loyalty, reduce churn and supports the business development team to achieve their growth targets.
  10. You are dissatisfied with the results of the marketing and the impact on revenue and know that you are missing out on existing market opportunities.

Why Hiring A CMO Offers You Flexibility And Cost Savings Versus Being An Expense

Today’s marketing functions are growing to become more complex with businesses operating at the speed of the internet with change being the norm. Senior marketing leaders must compete and bring together the talent necessary to complete tasks and deliver.

Outsourcing an Interim CMO is a great alternative when you do not have the resources in house to fill a CMO role. This option provides you with flexibility and long term cost savings of potential marketing waste.

How A CMO Leads Your Team And Fosters Their Development

A Remote Chief Marketing Officer fills in any leadership gaps for your organization. The leadership function of your Interim CMO is essential, especially in lean organizations where C-level executives may not have the time to foster the growth and development of their marketing department.

The current state of digital marketing departments requires teams to be agile and flexible with the constant state of change in marketing technology, methods and how its used to achieve marketing objectives for businesses. Re-skilling and furthering the knowledge of your marketing team will be an ongoing evolution of their careers as well as the growth of your department.

Your Fractional CMO can identify any weak spots before you do as well as combine the strengths of your team to enhance the productivity and skill of your department. It is important to be aware that your marketing department is only as good as its weakest link. With the help of a Part-Time CMO, issues can be assessed before they become a costly problem down the line.

Misconceptions About The Leadership Function Of Your Part-Time CMO

According to leadership strategy writer, Rajeev Peshawaria, there are a few common misconceptions about leadership as a function. The first misconception is that most think leadership is about influencing others to achieve a goal. However, if we observe world leaders, most did not do anything to others. They set very clear goals and motivated themselves to get things done. In doing so, they set an example to become a powerful role model. Being an example can inspire a team to join the leader’s journey.

The second misconception about leadership is that we assume that the person with the most formal power in a group is the leader. Because the aforementioned misconception centers leadership around influencing others to achieve, this leads to the assumption that to have influenced one must be in a position of power. Leadership has little to do with formal authority. As formal authority will sit with a board or executives in the startup culture for example. Oftentimes, authoritative figures are also far removed from the day to day of the marketing department. Those with authoritative power may provide high-level initiatives however the core functions of the marketing department are set by your CMO.

A third misconception is that followership is leadership. For example, in the corporate world sometimes employee engagement surveys result in promotion. This sets a standard for managers to engage in people-pleasing so that surveys highlight positive results. Effective leadership does not involve pleasing the team at all times. A skilled Interim CMO will help you make tough decisions for your business but might be unpopular among your marketing staff. Pleasing, in itself, is a behavior linked to following.

Is My CMO Only Responsible For Marketing?

Another myth about Fractional Chief Marketing Officers is that their sole focus is on marketing. Fractional CMOs are now bringing more to the table outside of the knowledge area of marketing. As businesses evolve, existing marketing can often lead to more questions than answers. This creates gaps that require additional steps. For example, competitive or data analysis may result in a negative conclusion. Common marketing problems are low traffic, little to no brand awareness and so on, however, these may be symptoms of other business problems. A skilled Interim CMO may have to work backward, starting with a marketing problem, and diagnose the root causes of failure points.

The responsibilities of your CMO will overlap into strengthening your customer experience, financial and strategic business tasks. Thus, your Interim CMO’s role will serve as a pivotal focus in your business by aligning your goals with your customers. As mentioned earlier, customer engagement is now more effective than traditional advertising strategies. This focus on connecting to customers requires your Part Time CMO to think outside of the box and ensure the customer experience is effective. This requires that your Remote CMO take an outward approach, starting with the customer, rather than developing strategies focused on your business story. Story-telling is necessary however, how can we best make your business about the customer? This question will be at the forefront of your CMO’s mind when making strategic decisions around your customer experience.

A strategy developed around the customer requires Chief Marketing Officer functions to diversify and meet expectations throughout the company when it comes to growth, innovation, and analysis too. Your Interim Chief Marketing Officer will help set plans for your business that influence growth. Growth needs will vary between companies and can be more defined by your Part-Time CMO. Innovation is hard to come by in traditional functions. To keep up with the demands of the digital marketing space, innovation is a requirement. An analysis is a way of measuring the results of your company’s efforts. Your Fractional CMO will often need to work in iterations of making assumptions, testing them, analyzing the results of those tests and assessing performance.

A skilled Part time Chief Marketing Officer is familiar with tools and analytics methods that can aid in gauging performance. Your CMO will use the acquired analysis results to determine what is working for your business and advise you. It is not uncommon for a Remote Chief Marketing Officer to advise against using particular methods. As mentioned earlier, an effective leader does not follow what is popular. The right Part Time CMO for your company may disagree with you when a particular strategy is not the best course of action for your business.

These decisions are well-intentioned and based on data, not only from what is currently being gathered about your business but also the lessons learned from previous experiences.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, sixty-eight percent of senior managers now expect CMOs to be growth drivers which comes as no surprise to Proctor & Gamble’s former CMO, Kimberly Whitler. “Now, not only do marketers have to be finance experts, but they have to be technologists and understand the ways in which they can connect with consumers.”

The scope continues to widen for Remote Chief Marketing Officers and that requires your Part Time CMO to find a balance between meeting your customer’s needs while generating revenue and facilitating growth for your business.

What Is The Typical Tenure of A Traditional Chief Marketing Officer And How Does An Interim CMO Compare With The Traditional CMO?

One misconception is that your business needs a traditional Chief Marketing Officer in house. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although a Chief Marketing Officer may be expected to work with you for some time, due to the drastic evolution and confusion about the CMO role, CMOs are most likely to have the shortest tenure among C-Level Suite groups. Due to this trend, an Interim Chief Marketing Officer is the perfect fit for your company as the role evolves. The definition of the position has created a lot of confusion leading to shorter tenures.

The Digital Marketing Institute reports that only fifty-seven percent of CMOs have been in their position for three years or less, with the average tenure being a little over four years. This is almost half the time of the average CEO tenure and less than the average five years for CFOs.

It is common for Chief Marketing Officers to sit on the executive committee and report to the CEO. Lack of clarity when it comes to the Chief Marketing Officer role and a misunderstanding of what the organization needs versus what is assumed needs has led to many CMOs exploring other titles. This shift may leave a gap in your organization if you have been running your business for some time. This need is a great opportunity to bring in a Part Time Chief Marketing Officer that can fill in any needs unresolved due to your CMO moving on to explore other opportunities or failure rates resulting in roles left unfilled. A Remote Chief Marketing Officer is also a viable option if you have an online business. A Remote CMO can serve as an extension to your in-house executive committee.

As a result of the confusion over duties and responsibilities, many organizations report that finding the right Chief Marketing Officer quite the challenge. In addition to finding the talent, companies also experience difficulties in retaining their appointed CMO. Low retention rates are due to organizations not defining their needs and expectations of this role.

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is all too familiar with such challenges. Defining their role and adapting to an organization is a collaborative experience. Clear expectations make working with a Remote CMO run smoothly. As opposed to guiding a traditional CMO.

Eighty percent of CEOs report dissatisfaction with the performance of their CMO. That is quite a staggering statistic. This may be due to the lack of clear outlined expectations set by the CEO. A clear definition of the CMO function is also imperative.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, a CMO Council survey reported that 48% of CMOs had a strategic focus. These CMOs needed time to spend on assessing long-term growth plans. Half of them spent time reviewing budgets, managing campaigns, and content approval instead. This leaves little time for their remit.

What Are The Types of CMO Roles?

A common misconception is that a Chief Marketing Officer will fill the same duties as other. The differences among company needs and their customers vary so much. This creates an atmosphere where the CMO role is more fluid by nature. Chief Marketing Officers must adapt to the needs of their market. Companies may have more than one target market. This requires the need for a skilled and evolved Interim CMO. There are three buckets that a CMO may fall under. Whitler and Morgan break Chief Marketing Officer roles down into three different types. These are Enterprise Wide, Strategy Focus, and Commercialization.

The majority of Chief Marketing Officers natural fall under the Commercialization type. A Commercialization CMO focuses on the following:

  • Marketing and sales communications
  • Digital content development
  • Events, and promotions
  • Advertising
  • Social media engagement

Roughly one-third of CMOs are of the Strategy Focus type. These Chief Marketing Officers are particularly focused on growth strategy. They focus their responsibilities on customer insights, innovation as well as product design.

The smallest category, which is Enterprise-Wide CMOs, are responsible for encouraging business growth. They drive profitable sales, marketing communications, innovation as well as design. A reputable Fractional Chief Marketing Officer will be able to work across the three.

Effective Digitization And How A Remote Chief Marketing Officer Can Help

The digital age of marketing continues to grow at a rapid pace. Your online presence can expand your business globally. Making it imperative to make digital decisions that make sense. “Going viral” is not the answer to the growth of your business which it comes to digital strategy. A well versed Remote CMO will be able to apply the right digital marketing strategy for you.

Your Fractional CMO will focus on short term applications but also long term goals. A solid strategy goes beyond being popular. Making a decision to go viral, can cause serious and costly business impact. The right Part Time CMO for your business will steer you in the direction. Especially when considering all digital alternatives.

To ensure your success, it is important to have a clear understanding of how your CMO will fit in your business.


15 Ways To Onboard New Hires Efficiently (Even During Busy Times)


15 Ways To Onboard New Hires Efficiently (Even During Busy Times)

Create A Complete Feedback Loop

One of the rather easy ways to evaluate and improve onboarding, be it in a high- or low-stress environment, is having a complete feedback loop with all stakeholders. This would allow for feedback from all levels, including the new employee. This kind of dynamic feedback allows for quick tactical pivots to improve the onboarding quickly and effectively. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

by Kamyar Shah – Interim COO

15 Tips For Tactfully Turning Down A Potential Client


Stick To The Facts

Polite and factual statements are virtually always the best way of approaching most conversations, even the difficult ones. In this particular instance, it is just as important what is being said as how it is said—conveying that a relationship may not be as productive and effective while encouraging them to find alternatives would be the optimal approach. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Interim CMO

15 Tips For Navigating Family Business Challenges


Keep Family Issues Out Of The Business

Though there are many different ways that may help avoid family pitfalls, one of the safest ways is a clean-cut separation of family and business. Creating a formal separation in which personal and family issues do not carry any merit when it comes to business-related matters will have the best chance for long-term success. Alternatives are more susceptible to occasional and repeated failures. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Check out my Part-time COO and/or Part-time CMO services

Overwhelmed? 15 Ways To Set Better Boundaries For Work And Life


Overwhelmed? 15 Ways To Set Better Boundaries For Work And Life

Enforce The Consequences Of Your Boundaries

Boundaries are less about explicit expression than actions. For boundaries to be of any impact, there have to be consequences that are obvious enough. Those actions and consequences can be as simple as making sure the other side notices that they have been ignored on purpose, or as complex as explicitly and publicly emphasizing that they have been ignored for a specific reason. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

Check out my Business Consulting and/or Management Consulting services.

Keep Your Stakeholders In The Loop With These 14 Communication Tips


Operate With Consistent Integrity

Though communication is the obvious answer, there is more to it. Communication at its face is great; however, in order to have the proper impact on stakeholders, those communications have to be above board. That usually translates into being accepted as a person of consistent integrity that will report objectively at all times. Without that perception, communication is not effective. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Chief Operating Officer

Financing Your First Business? 16 Expert-Recommended Funding Tips


Financing Your First Business? 16 Expert-Recommended Funding Tips

Seek To Self-Fund First

Though there are many tools and platforms that make fundraising more accessible, there is still a lot to be said about self-funding. A self-funded company tends to signal several positive attributes that are highly desirable, including self-discipline. Though this may not apply to all business environments, it should be the first option to be considered. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Chief Marketing Officer

12 Up-To-Date Lead Generation Tips For The Modern Salesperson


12 Up-To-Date Lead Generation Tips For The Modern Salesperson

Look In ‘Little Ponds’

The simplest way to exponentially grow inbound leads in later stages of a business is to adopt the “big fish, little pond” methodology. Secondary venues, or “little ponds,” that are unlikely to be overcrowded by others will allow the business to be the “big fish.” This approach, however, requires an immense amount of creativity and experimentation to find the proper and converting “little ponds.” – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Read more about Management Consulting & Operations Management

Job Seekers: 13 Important Things To Look For In Your Ideal Recruiter


Job Seekers: 13 Important Things To Look For In Your Ideal Recruiter

What They Do With The Information You Provide Them

Much like any other service provider, recruiters depend a great deal on information to provide the best possible result. Hence, it is important to be proactive and provide them with a complete background as well as a “narrative” of what you are trying to accomplish. The more details and guidance one provides, the more likely that the recruiting efforts will result in the desired outcome. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah –  Remote COO

Is Your Company Growing Too Fast? 14 Red Flags To Watch For


Is Your Company Growing Too Fast? 14 Red Flags To Watch For

You’re Putting Out Daily Fires

Rapid growth entails change, which tends to create friction. That sort of friction tends to manifest in a wide range of symptoms such as quality control issues, customer dissatisfaction as well as internal conflicts. Those symptoms are just that—symptoms. The underlying causes are virtually always within growth and scaling projects that were not planned or not executed properly. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Remote CMO

15 Culture-Building Tips For An All-Remote Team


15 Culture-Building Tips For An All-Remote Team

Encourage Cross-Collaboration

As someone that has worked 16-plus years remotely, the single most important cultural tool is cross-collaboration. Remote teams that integrate cross-collaboration among team members tend to create deeper and more personal relationships. It ultimately tends to translate into deeper personal bonds that not only help maintain but also evolve the organizational culture. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By Kamyar Shah – Business Consultant

Don’t Be Embarrassed To Ask These 14 Common Leadership Questions


Don't Be Embarrassed To Ask These 14 Common Leadership Questions

When should I stop?

In my experience, one of the least asked questions is, when do we reach the dreaded “diminishing returns?” Many entrepreneurs and senior executives incorrectly assume that all things have to consistently improve, which in turn results in some repetitive non-ROI-yielding activities. It is extremely important for advisors to be mindful and reiterate the need for factual evaluation. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

13 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Trying To Differentiate Their Company


13 Mistakes Business Owners Make When Trying To Differentiate Their Company

Always Comparing To Others

Though product and services comparison may work, it is a short-sighted approach. Comparison in a crowded market may, in some cases, even be harmful by providing additional exposure for competitors. A more sustainable approach, however, is a combination of providing education and creating a customer-centric organization. These organic differentiations are long-term and not subject to fads. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Chief Operating Officer

Seven Things Every Business Should Avoid When Using Crowdfunding


Seven Things Every Business Should Avoid When Using Crowdfunding

Not Being Honest About Concept And Needs

Crowdfunding is no different than any other business relationship: folks trusting you and investing money in you and your business. Hence it is important to be authentic—be honest about your concept and needs, be honest about intentions and, most importantly, maintain consistent channels of communication. All those actions will lead to trust, which in turn is helpful if anything goes awry. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Chief Marketing Officer

15 Coaches Share Their Top Advice On Creating Multiple Revenue Streams For Your Business


15 Coaches Share Their Top Advice On Creating Multiple Revenue Streams For Your Business

Ask If It’s Viable Right Now

It is not really hard to create additional revenue in most businesses. The real question is if it is feasible or does it interfere with any other aspect of the existing business model? Is the timing correct? Will it cannibalize existing revenue streams? Once those and similar questions are answered, additional revenue streams can be explored and implemented. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Business Consultant

15 Ways To Build Better Co-Worker Relationships For A More Positive Workplace


15 Ways To Build Better Co-Worker Relationships For A More Positive Workplace

Be Genuine

If the intent is to have a long-term “fix,” there is really only one sure way: be genuine. There is a mutual self-interest on both sides of the relationship. Your co-worker is likely to be just as interested in a relationship that will help their career as you are. Start by asking them how you can help with their work and career goals, which will lead to the same question from your perspective. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

Want To Develop Internal Talent? 13 Strategies For Creating Your Future Leaders


Want To Develop Internal Talent? 13 Strategies For Creating Your Future Leaders

Take A Long-Term View

Talent development is a matter of taking the long-term view with the matching resources and patience. Be it in education or the real-world, cultivating human capital in a dynamic and comprehensive way requires appropriate time and resources. Too often companies either lack the vision or the resources to implement consistent education, mentoring and period evaluation, which leads to failure. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Management Consulting

Avoid Making These 14 Critical Mistakes When Promoting Yourself Online


Avoid Making These 14 Critical Mistakes When Promoting Yourself Online

Overselling Yourself

One of the rather repeated mistakes in self-promotion is “overselling.” Self-promotion is one of those propositions that fall in the “under-promise and over-deliver” category. Additionally, it is substantially more desirable for the results to be evaluated and praised by others. Hence leading to less “self” and more “promotion” that can’t be doubted or second-guessed. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

16 Ways Leaders Can Get Comfortable With Not Having All The Answers


Admit You Don’t Know, But Resolve To Find Out

Say it with me: “I don’t know. I will get back to you on this.” This particular phrase is the best friend of any true leader. It is an absurd assumption that someone knows it all. This is also a good way to gauge a new team or team member: If, in a meeting, anyone has all the answers, it should be considered suspicious. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Public Relations Consulting

Strategy Planning: What Every Leader Should Know


Strategy Planning

Whether you lead a team of a couple of people, a department with 25 people, a division with hundreds of employees, or an organization with thousands of individuals you are going to want to acquire some key skills when it comes to strategy. Having a formal understanding of strategy and how to utilize various methodologies will have a direct impact on the success of your team and organization.

The following are some of the high-level considerations that should be given to strategy planning within your organization.

Strategy: It’s Everyone’s Job

A strategy is typically let by the senior leaders within an organization. Larger companies may even have a senior executive with a role focused on Strategic Management. Others may reserve strategy responsibilities to a Senior Leader who has other responsibilities. Regardless, any organization should work to develop a culture of strategic accountability for all leaders. This commitment and focus should originate with the leader of the organization.

Annual Planning Cycle:

It will not matter how competent you or your team members are at the various methods/models of strategy if you do not have a rigid planning process around your strategy activities that considers:

  • Frequency: The frequency and rhythm of your strategy planning will be largely dependent on your business cycle. At a minimum, an organization should be reviewing strategy on a quarterly basis. A best practice is to utilize one of these sessions for deeper planning and utilize the other quarters as tune-ups.
  • Attendees: It is tempting to invite a lot of people to strategy meetings so that no one feels left out and all departments feel represented. For your quarterly meetings, you will want to avoid this temptation. For your key leadership meetings be mindful of including those individuals who can offer the most value to the process (hint: it is not always the people with the biggest titles). As an organization develops its strategy “muscle” there will be various layers of strategy meetings occurring in the organization that will ensure that all leaders are included in strategy planning and that all voices are able to be heard.
  • Duration: Choosing the duration of your meetings will be influenced by your organization’s culture, budget, and business challenges. A minimum of 5-10 days for planning days throughout the year (40-80 hours) equates to less than 5% of your leader’s time spent on one of the most important activities they could be engaged in. The 7 P’s of leadership planning “Prior Proper Planning Prevents P..s Poor Performance” derived from a British Army adage applies equally well to a company’s approach to their strategy planning efforts.
  • Ubiquity: Strategy planning and discussions should be ubiquitous in your organization. This means that you should be able to find strategy discussions occurring in weekly staff meetings, as part of yearly goal setting, and as part of yearly reviews. In addition, the best companies communicate broadly and deeply strategic plans and the organizations progress against these goals.
  • Point Person: Depending on the size of the organization you may have a person who is in charge of strategy as their whole job, or strategy may be a portion of someone’s job. Regardless, you will want one person who has the responsibility for leading the annual planning cycle. This person will communicate the organization’s approach to all leaders and employees. This person will also be responsible for outlining a strong agenda with input received from key members of the leadership. They will also be responsible for facilitating interactive strategy planning meetings.

Strategy Methods and Models:

Hundreds of books and resources are available on various methods and models that are utilized in strategic planning. The list that follows is a sample of methods and models that should be considered for utilization by an organization. It is recommended that a broad mix of individuals (departments and levels) be a consultant when utilizing any of these methods or models.

  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats): This method is the most familiar to leaders as it is commonly used and most easily understood. On an annual basis, companies should be reviewing their business, the competitors in their industry and the landscape in which they operate to evaluate their and their competitors
    • Strengths: What sets you apart from your competition and how should you be using this to your strategic advantage
    • Weaknesses: What areas are you not strong in and how or should you address these as a strategic issue
    • Opportunities: What possibilities exist for you to capitalize on with the right investment of time and resources
    • Threats: What are glaring issues that you must address immediately
  • VRIO Analysis (Value, Rare, Inimitable, Organized): This model can help an organization better understand where it derives its unique characteristics from and how various capabilities can be utilized in the strategic efforts of positioning the company against the competition
    • Value: How can you utilize any of your resources or capabilities as a competitive advantage
    • Rare: What resources or capabilities do you have that are rare and which give you a competitive edge (patents, physical resources, or unique capabilities should be reviewed)
    • Inimitable: What do you have that is difficult to replicate
    • Organized: This is where a company identifies resources or capabilities that it can invest in to give it a competitive advantage
  • Porters’ Five Forces: Is a tool used for understanding the forces that shape competition within an industry. It can be useful in guiding strategy adjustments to suit the competitive environment. Porter’s Five Forces was developed by Harvard Business Scholl professor Michael Porter. The five areas that are reviewed by companies to analyze an industry’s attractiveness are:
    • Rivalry Amount Competitors: Do competitors “play nice” or is it cutthroat
    • The threat of New Entrants: What barriers exist to keep out new competitors or what should you be working on to make it hard to do business in your space
    • The threat of Substitutes: A substitute is not always as a similar-looking business model. Taxi companies did not anticipate that customers would be so eager to try Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing platforms
    • Bargaining Power of Customers/Consumers: Access to information has given customers and consumers new leverage in dealing with you, how do you leverage this in your strategic decisions
    • Bargaining Power of Suppliers: How do you strategically approach your relationships with suppliers
  • PESTEL Analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, Legal): A PESTEL analysis helps an organization think about what may be occurring in the various spheres of influence which will impact the strategy of an organization.
    • Political: What is happening in the environments of the geographies which a company operates in or the industries a company participates and how this impacts short-term and long-term strategy of the organization. Who in your organization is watching policy changes closely in the markets and industries in which you are involved?
    • Economic: Factors from currency exchange rates to labor wage differentials that can drive where the business is conducted. How much disposable income your customers have should be known and it should be understood how they spend this disposable income.
    • Social: How does the thinking of individuals and groups influence a company’s approach to their products or services (e.g. growing concerns around “green” efforts) and how do shifting demographics of your customer base influence your organization.
    • Technological: Companies must continually be learning about how changes in technology will impact their business, in how they design products and position services Artificial Intelligence should be understood by all companies as its impact will be far-reaching on how products are designed, services are provided and employees impacted.
    • Environmental: All companies have an impact on the environment at large. You will want to think strategically about how your product or service engages with the environment and the tactical efforts you take that will both impact your top line, have a corresponding impact to your bottom line, and create a perception in your customer and employee’s minds.
    • Legal: The legal landscape may have an impact on how a company strategically positions itself based on policies surrounding things like labor laws, health, and safety, free trade, etc.
  • TECOP Analysis (Technical, Environmental, Commercial, Operational, Political): A TECOP analysis provides a mix of looking internally at some key capabilities and externally at key influencers to a company’s success to understand risks that need to be understood and addressed.
    • Technical: What is happening with technology that can impact your product or services and those of your competitors
    • Environmental: All companies have an impact on the environment at large. You will want to think strategically about how your product or service engages with the environment and the tactical efforts you take that will both impact your top line, have a corresponding impact to your bottom line, and create a perception in your customer and employee’s minds.
    • Commercial: Sometimes this is referred to as cultural. This is about understanding your demographics (internal and external) and the attitudes and behaviors of those you impact
    • Operational: Also known as Organizational, these are your structures, guidelines, policies, procedures, etc. that will impact your strategic choices
    • Political: What is happening in the environments of the geographies which a company operates in or the industries a company participates and how this impacts short-term and long-term strategy of the organization. Who in your organization is watching policy changes closely in the markets and industries in which you are involved?
  • VUCA Analysis (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity): A VUCA Analysis requires a company to think abstractly and broadly to consider out-of-the-box factors which may impact them in the future
    • Volatility: Factors change quickly and identifying what should be monitored and analyzed regularly will help your strategic planning
    • Uncertainty: Having the ability to assess risks and model accordingly will help in choosing the right strategic path
    • Complexity: Understanding how the strategic plans execute on will interact with the broader business and social climate
    • Ambiguity: While data is critical to setting any strategy you will never have all the information you would like

Strategy Skills:

A strategy is a learned skill. Companies often overlook the benefit that can be derived by investing in strategy skill development for their key leadership. It is important to invest time in each of the following to build a culture of strategy within your leadership ranks

  • Training: Formal training efforts should be in place for key members of your leadership team (both existing and upcoming leaders). This training can be anything from strategy webinars to full-day training sessions, to actual accreditation.
  • Associations: It should be broadly communicated the value of membership in associations associated with strategy (such as ASP – Association for Strategic Planning and SMS – Strategic Management Society) Membership in disciplines directly associated to a person’s area of discipline also provide a means in which to stay familiar with key trends and concepts that will impact a company’s strategy).
  • Books: It is beneficial to recommend reading on a strategy to your key leaders. . Some of the top titles that will get your leaders thinking differently and more strategically:
    • Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr
    • Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, Focusing Your Resources, and Taking Smart Action by Rich Harwath
    • Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking by Rich Horwath
    • American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman
    • The Attackers Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities by Ram Charan
    • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins
    • Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Improving your Strategy Planning is a multi-year effort that once fully deployed will transform your organization and the results you achieve.

Customer Experience: It is Not Just About Satisfaction


Customer Experience

Customer Experience has grown beyond a customer’s satisfaction with your product or service. The best companies view Customer Experience as the end experience that a customer has with the company throughout the various touchpoints.

The goal of this article is to discuss Customer Experience: It Is Not Just About Satisfaction. The following are some areas that should be considered when addressing the various touchpoints that a customer has with your company

Customer Experience: Everyone in your organization plays a role

Many people in an organization believe that if they do not interact directly with the customer that they do not affect the customer experience. This is not true and can be dangerous to your company’s success.

Areas of Influence:

When thinking about Customer Experience be sure to include the following:

  • Researchers: Are your researchers who work on new product discovery or service creation focused on the needs of the customer and what the customer wants or is trying to solve for. It is easy to get excited about what we think people want (and this can work – think iPhone), though just as often we will want to be in-tune with what our customers need.
  • Designers: When it comes to the actual design of a product or service have we done the proper research with our customers to ensure that what we have designed actually meets their needs. The landscape is littered with products that seemed “nifty” but that did not fully meet the needs of their customers and ultimately did not survive long-term (think Blackberry).
  • Human Resources: Does your human resources department fully understand the skills and competencies needed by individuals in the various departments that need to be present to have a customer-focused mindset. The company with the greatest engineers will not be able to compete with the company with great engineers who also possess a customer-focused mindset to build products that fully meet the customer’s needs. In addition, the Human Resources department is typically on-point for monitoring employee satisfaction and engagement. Countless studies have shown that a satisfied and engaged workforce ultimately leads to the best products and services which leads to the highest levels of positive customer experience.
  • Operations: There are numerous roles on the operational side of the business that may never interact with the customer directly. It takes a focused effort to ensure that these employees understand the critical role they play in creating products or services that delight the customer. Many of these will go unnoticed by the customer, but their absence would certainly be noticed.
  • Finance: Here we include all of the various functions typically found in finance (accounting, payables, planning, reporting, compliance, etc.). Fair pricing, purchasing terms, collections processes, and transparency will all influence a customer’s opinion on their experience with your company.
  • Safety: This area can often be overlooked. While mostly preventive in nature, ensuring that your safety department is involved in all aspects of product and service design will ensure that customers do not encounter issues that may harm them or put them at risk which would certainly result in a poor experience with your company.
  • Sales: Traditionally the closest employees to the customer are those that work within sales. The individuals in sales typically have the greatest understanding of the wants and needs of the customer as well as direct feedback from the customers on recent interactions with the company’s products or services. It is critical that their insight is communicated to other departments in a manner that raises the collective awareness of the company as to the most critical areas of need that must be addressed to improve the customer’s experience.
  • Marketing: Marketing helps to control the brand image which ultimately factors into a customer’s overall experience and feelings towards the brand.
  • IT: Here we consider Information Technology (IT) to include externally-facing and internally facing efforts that involve technology (computers, systems, phones, etc.). IT is often overlooked when it comes to customer experience. However, think about the customer’s interaction with you on the internet, over the phone, or with in-store technology like registers and kiosks. It is often at these points that the customers run into issues dealing with your company in a seamless manner.

Feedback Points:

A variety of methods exist to get a complete view of how your customers view their experience. Each of these should be considered as you build your plans for improving your Customer Experience positioning.

  • Net Promoter Score® NPS®: The NPS® measurement has become a widely used measure and is based on the work of Fred Reichheld from Bain & Company. His research led to the creation of Net Promoter Score® question which can essentially be stated as “How likely are you to recommend “company name to friends or colleagues”. This type of question is typically presented to a customer shortly after a purchase a product or service from a company. The intent is to get an overall sense of the customer’s happiness with your company based on their most recent interaction. Typically the question requests a ranking from 0 to 10 from the customer (with 0 being not likely to 10 being very likely to recommend). Responses of 0-6 are considered detractors, 7-8 are passive, and 9-10 are promoters. It is customary to serve up a follow-up question to the respondent that solicits additional insights (in verbatim format) of what could have been done differently by the company to have improved the rating. Great reading for all leaders is “The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World” by Fred Reichheld.
  • Customer Effort Score: The CES is intended to measure the amount of effort a customer must spend to get an issue resolved. Typically a question is posed to customers after they have worked with a department in your company to resolve and issue (an example is a survey that you take after calling a customer service line). The CES can also be utilized to survey customers after they have purchased from you to find out their perceptions of how easy it was to do business with you. This can oftentimes identify for you points of Friction that may exist in your business model that is displeasing to customers. “Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage” by Roger Dooley will you’re your leaders thinking internally about various ways in which your products perform or services are experienced that may be inefficient and frustrating for your customers.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT): Is a tool used for understanding the forces that shape competition within an industry. It can be useful in guiding strategy adjustments to suit the competitive environment. Porter’s Five Forces was developed by Harvard Business Scholl professor Michael Porter. The five areas that are reviewed by companies to analyze an industry’s attractiveness are:
    • Rivalry Amount Competitors: Do competitors “play nice” or is it cutthroat
    • The threat of New Entrants: What barriers exist to keep out new competitors or what should you be working on to make it hard to do business in your space
    • The threat of Substitutes: A substitute is not always as a similar-looking business model. Taxi companies did not anticipate that customers would be so eager to try Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing platforms
    • Bargaining Power of Customers/Consumers: Access to information has given customers and consumers new leverage in dealing with you, how do you leverage this in your strategic decisions
    • Bargaining Power of Suppliers: How do you strategically approach your relationships with suppliers
    • CRM Notes: Your sales personnel and customer support personnel are continually collecting feedback from customers in their regular interactions. It is important to capture these insights in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. This will ultimately provide you with data that can be mined for patterns and issues that are common amongst your customers.
    • Social Media Monitoring: No company is immune to the impact of negative or positive social media and signs are that this will continue to be a critical area that should be closely monitored. Depending upon your business you may be impacted by Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Reddit (and others are continually emerging). Social Media is not just about what is being said about your company, it can also be about what is being researched about your company. Some social media sites are used by your customers in researching your products or services (and thus they will have experience from their engagement).

Customer Experience Skills:

A person’s tendencies to be customer service oriented often are learned at a very young age. When looking to build the customer experience culture in your company the following should be considered:

  • Leadership Commitment: It is absolutely essential that the commitment to improving the customer experience be championed by the leader in your organization. This commitment should be well communicated and understood throughout the organization.
  • Customer Experience Strategy: It is critical that a formal strategy is developed regarding your Customer Experience plans. A Road-Map should be developed that outlines vision, objectives, and tactics for developing a company culture centered on improving the Customer Experience.
  • Improving the organization’s knowledge: There are a variety of ways to improve to the knowledge of your organization including formal training, a regular blog reviewing (such as jeannebliss.com/blog, samhorn.com/blog, blogs.oracle.com/author/blake-morgan, rogerdolley.com/blog), listening and sharing podcast from notable experts on customer experience and reading books such as:
    • Winning Her Business: How to Transform the Customer Experience for the World’s Most Powerful Consumers by Bridget Brennan
    • Excellence Wins: A Non-Nonsense Guide to Becoming the Best in a World of Compromise by Horst Schulze
    • Why Customers Leave (and How to Win Them Back): 24 Reasons People are Leaving You for Competitors by David Arvin
    • Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage by Roger Dooley
    • The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow’s Business by Blake Morgan
    • The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Disrupts Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty
    • The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Drive by Customer Lifetime Value by Peter Fader
    • Would you Do That to Your Mother: The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customer by Jeanne Bliss
    • The Ultimate Question 2.0: How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld
    • The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
    • The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary by Joseph Mitchelli
    • Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer
    • Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word-of-Mouth by Jay Baer
    • Story Driven: You don’t need to compete when your know who you are by Bernadette Jiwa
    • It’s All About CEX!: The Essential Guide to Customer and Employee Experience by Jason S. Bradshay
    • Be Our Guests: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by Theodore Kinni
    • The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine
    • Nincompoopery: Why Your Customers Hate You – and How to Fix It by John Brandt
    • More is More: How the Best Companies Go Farther and Work Harder to Create Knock-Your-Socks-Off Customer Experiences by Blake Morgan
    • The Relationship Economy: Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age by John R Dijulius III
    • Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine by Jeanne Bliss
    • Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet by Shep Hyken

Making customers happy and providing them the best customer experience possible results in rewards beyond their immediate satisfaction. Having the best customer experience will help to solidify loyalty from your customer base that helps you improve and grow your business.

Analytical Decisions: A Great Place to Start


Analytical Decisions

We live in a world overflowing with data. As a result company decisions no longer need to rely solely on the “gut” of the leaders, or opinions of the outspoken.

The goal of this article is to discuss Analytical Decisions: A Great Place to Start. Thoughts will be shared on how you can approach incorporating data-based decision making into your company culture that will actually help you to better compete based on analytics.

At the heart of any company wishing to get better at Analytical Decisions is the DELT2A2 framework which has its origins in the work by Tom H Davenport. The following highlights the key components that companies should address:

It begins with identifying the Data that will be leveraged to provide insights into the areas of opportunity and where the business should be focused. In many instances, data may not exist and the company needs to find ways to gather data, which can then be turned into information to be analyzed, which can then be turned into insights.

It is critical that all departments across the Enterprise are coordinating well to ensure resources related to analytics (people and tools) are being properly coordinated. Most companies or divisions that choose to compete on analytics have their employees who perform analysis and reporting in a centralized support function to leverage talent, provide cross-training and backup, and provide for growth opportunities.

Any company choosing to compete on analytics will need senior-level Leadership commitment, without this support the proper culture will not flourish and data-supported decision making will not be adhered to.

The organization must have processes in place to Target the initiatives with the best opportunities so that resources can be focused and prioritized where we have the highest potential. A governance process must be in place to ensure all initiatives (where possible) are supported by analytics.

Securing the proper Technology tools to run the analysis needed is foundational to the success of competing on analytics.

Resourcing the right Analyst (depth and breadth), and ensuring their continued growth is a cornerstone to a successful analytics implementation. It is critical that a company identify the proper level of analytical skills needed to conduct the types of analysis that are needed. Not every situation requires an individual with a PhD in mathematics.

Finally, the company must assess the various types of Analysis Methods that it should be utilized to compete in their marketplace.

Analytical Decision-Making

Analytical decision-making is one of four styles of decision making typically used by leaders. The other styles are directive, conceptual, and behavioral. In addition, consultative and consensus may also be used.

Steps to incorporating analytical decisions into your business

Numerous steps are involved to incorporating analytical decision making into your business practices and culture:

  • Senior Leader Commitment: The style of your most senior leader will set the tone for the rest of the organization. If you wish to embed analytical decision-making into your culture then make sure your most senior leader believes in the value of analytical decision-making and practices it.
  • Understanding your company’s analytical maturity: It is helpful to assess where you are today with your analytical capabilities. Many models exist to assess where you are at. You will find the following common stages of analytical maturity.
    • Descriptive Analytics: This is often considered data on what happened. It is a baseline capability that includes reports
    • Diagnostic Analytics: This is when you take raw data and utilize various analytical methods to answer “Why did something happen”. Tableau built a business from being able to drill-down into your data, mine massive amounts of information, and identifying correlations.
    • Predictive Analytics: Prescriptive Analytics builds on diagnostics to make predictions of what may happen based on existing data factors
    • Prescriptive Analytics: Prescriptive Analytics builds upon predictive to evaluate alternatives and identify what is the best that can happen.
    • Autonomous Analytics: Machine-learning can be incorporated when large amounts of data are available and self-learning algorithms can be applied to provide more insight or direction
  • Determine which analytical techniques to use: The depth of analytical techniques you use will be highly dependent on your business and the skills of your personnel. The following techniques should at least be understood and reviewed by your senior leaders to determine which you may wish to use. These are outlined and explained further in the great book “Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning” by Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris.
    • Internal Process Evaluation
      • Activity-based costing (ABC). Allocating costs amongst activities by using models that incorporate activities, materials, resources, and product-offering components and then optimization based on cost and prediction of capacity needs.
      • Bayesian inference (e.g., to predict revenues). A numerical estimate of the degree of belief in a hypothesis before and after evidence has been observed.
      • Combinatorial optimization (e.g., for optimizing a product portfolio).
      • Constraint analysis (e.g., for product configuration). The use of one or more constraint satisfaction algorithms to specify the set of feasible solutions. Constraints are programmed in rules or procedures that produce solutions to particular configuration and design problems using one or more constraint satisfaction algorithms.
      • Experimental design: For website analysis
      • Future-value analysis: The decomposition of market capitalization into current value and future value, or expectations of future growth.
      • Genetic algorithms: Used for decryption/ code-breaking or product engineering/ design such as scheduling satellite communications, optimally loading cargo containers, and optimizing delivery routes.
      • Monte Carlo simulation: Used in project valuation using a computerized technique to assess the probability of certain outcomes or risks over multiple trials and comparing the outcome with predefined probability distributions.
      • Multiple regression analysis: Used to determine how non-financial factors affect financial performance.
      • Neural network analysis: Useful in predicting needed factory maintenance in which systems are initially “trained,” or fed large amounts of data and rules about data relationships.
      • Simulation: Used in pharmaceutical “in silico” research by manipulation of parameters using mathematics and/ or rule bases to model how different values would generate a result.
      • Textual analysis: Assesses text (such as transcribed call center discussions or textual data from a survey or social media) for customer sentiment. Yield analysis: Using means, median, standard deviation, etc. to understand yield volume and quality.
  • Analysis of Supply Chains
    • Capacity planning: Optimizing the capacity of a supply chain or its elements; identifying and eliminating bottlenecks.
    • Combinatorics: A sophisticated mathematical technique optimizes components in a supply chain.
    • Demand–supply matching: Determining the intersections of demand and supply curves to optimize inventory and minimize overstocks and stockouts.
    • Location analysis: Optimization of locations for stores, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and so on.
    • Modeling: Creating models to simulate, explore contingencies, and optimize supply chains.
    • Routing: Finding the best path for a delivery vehicle around a set of locations.
    • Scheduling: Creating detailed schedules for the flow of resources and work through a process.
    • Simulation: Supply chain simulations model variation in supply flows, resources, warehouses, and various types of constraints. They allow for both optimization and visualization of complex supply chains.
  • Analysis of Marketing
    • CHAID: A statistical technique used to segment customers on the basis of multiple alternative variables.
    • Conjoint analysis: A conjoint analysis might be used to determine which factors—price, quality, dealer location, and so on—are most important to customers who are purchasing a new car.
    • Econometric modeling: Modeling to gain insight into complex market trends and the variables that affect market demand, supply, and costs.
    • Lifetime value analysis: Assessing the profitability of an individual customer (or a class of customers) over a lifetime of transactions.
    • Market experiments: Using direct mail, changes in a website (known as A/ B tests), promotions, and other techniques, marketers test variables to determine what customers respond to most in a given offering.
    • Multiple regression analysis: The most common statistical technique for predicting the value of a dependent variable (such as sales) in relation to one or more independent variables (such as the number of salespeople, the temperature, or the day of the month).
    • Price optimization: Determining the price elasticity, or the response (changes in demand) of the buyer to increases or decreases in the product price.
    • Search engine optimization (SEO): Statistical methods and activities designed to improve a website’s ranking in search engines such as Google.
    • Support vector machine (SVM): This machine learning method uses training data to classify cases into one category or another. It is often used for customer segmentation and churn analysis.
    • Time-series experiments: These experimental designs follow a particular population for successive points in time and are used to determine whether a condition that applied at a certain point led to a change in the variables under study.
    • Uplift modeling: A predictive modeling technique that directly assesses the incremental impact of promotional activity on a customer’s behavior.
  • Determining Analytical Team Structure: There are a variety of ways to structure your team. Will you have the team reporting to finance, will analysts reside within departments, will the analysis be a function within your IT department, or will analytics be a stand-alone group? Regardless of the structure, you choose it will be important to ensure that you communicate the role that analysts play in the organization and how their input affects decisions.
  • Hiring the Analytical Team: Since analysts can be very technical in their skill sets it is encouraged that you fully identify the different types of analysis that you feel will be employed and determine the specific skills and competencies required to fulfill these types of analysis. Depending upon the existing capabilities within your organization you may need to consult with exterior experts to ensure that you recruit for the proper skills and competencies.
  • Securing the Tools: The types of applications and methodologies you use will ultimately be driven by the types of analytical techniques you utilize and the skills of the team you hire. A listing of resources and options is to exhaustive to share here. Your analytics team and outside guidance can guide the selection of the tools you will need.
  • Books: Reading about analytics can often be dry and academic. However, it is helpful for senior leaders to have a baseline understanding and appreciation for concepts and usage. The following list of books offer some insightful reading:
    • Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning by Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris
    • Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan
    • The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown by Paul Taylor
    • Astroball: The New Way to Win It All by Ben Reitler
    • Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to “Understanding and Using Analytics by Thomas H. Davenport
    • Linear Regression and Correlation: A Beginner’s Guide by Scott Hartshorn
    • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steve D. Levity and Stephen J. Dubner
    • Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
    • The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success by Amy Chua and Jen Rubenfeld
    • Future Smart: Managing the Game-Changing Trends That Will Transform Your World by James Canton
    • The Connection Algorithm: Take Risks, Defy the Status Quo, and Live Your Passions by Jess Warren Tevelow
    • Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting With Today’s Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age by Tim Elmore
    • Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business by Jason Ryan Dorsey
    • Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single version of the Truth by Jill Dyche and Evan Levey
    • The Little SAS Book by Lora D. Deheiche and Susan J. Slaughter
    • Analytics: Data, Science, Data Analysis and Predictive Analytics for Business by Daniel Covington
    • R for Everyone: Advanced Analytics and Graphics by Jared P. Lander

As computers become even more powerful, as data continues to proliferate, and as automation continues to advance it will become even more critical for companies to incorporate analytic decisions into their critical initiatives and day-to-day operations.

PMO: Getting Your Project Management Office Started


Project Management Professional

An emerging trend over the past 10-20 years (certainly in the information technology areas of a company) is to implement project management (PMO) office to help companies deliver on strategic plans. Project management has been around for centuries in various forms. As a discipline, it gained in importance in 1968 when the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed to provide guidelines and insights on proper project management. PMOs have become more commonplace in large companies as the need to formalize practices is necessary to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of project management.

The goal of this article is to discuss PMO: Getting Your Project Management Office Started. Insights will be reviewed that will help you prepare your organization for the implementation of your project management office.

Types of Project Management Office (PMO) Structure

The Project Management Institute (PMI) outlines three different PMO structures typically found in organizations in their book the PMBOK Guide: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition.

Early on in your PMO efforts, you will want to decide the type of structure you want for your PMO:

  • Supportive: In this structure, the PMOs role is to provide consultative services to internal project managers and departments. The PMO will provide templates, best practices, access to information, and lessons learned from other projects. The control wielded by the PMO on projects is low.
  • Controlling: This PMO structure provides support to internal project managers and departments while requiring a level of compliance that results in the PMO exercising moderate control of projects to ensure some level of consistency and standards.
  • Directive: In some instances, you will want your PMO directly controlling projects. This level of structure results in ensuring that all projects have the highest level of project management expertise available within the organization. However, it does result in departments losing some level of the direct control of projects and can result in the highest level of change management

Your decision on the structure will have varying effects on various stakeholders throughout the organization.

Project Management Office First Steps:

The following stakeholders should be considered at the beginning of your efforts:

  • Senior Leader Sponsorship: It is critical that your most senior leader understands and is supportive of a PMO structure. Your PMO will involve change management that other leaders in the organization will be looking to the most senior leader to support and emulate in their practices. A senior leader who says they want a PMO to help streamline and standardize efforts, but who does not follow the governance standards, will undermine the efforts of your PMO
  • Senior Leadership Team Commitment: Your most senior leaders will carry the message of the value of the PMO in their day-to-day interactions with their senior leader peers and their team members. Early on in the implementation, it is recommended that senior leaders be educated on the PMO, its purpose, and how it will function. This will be a time to answer the questions about the structure and changes that may be necessary to operate within a PMO structure.
  • Project Managers: Anyone serving in the capacity of a project manager will need to be fully trained on any changes that the PMO structure will bring to their work practices.
  • Point Person: Regardless of the structure of PMO you choose (supportive, controlling, or directive) you will want to have one person who has responsibility for the PMO implementation. It is recommended that the PMO be the primary responsibility of the individual. Depending on the size of your organization and the structure you choose this person may have other roles supporting them with the PMO. It is recommended that this person be a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) to help ensure that the various practices outlined by the Project Management Institute (PMI®)
  • Project Members: Any project is made up of various subject matter experts. Each of these individuals will be impacted by the implementation of a PMO. It is important to consider the types of communication, training, and support that these individuals may need as you implement your PMO.
  • Human Resources: Human resources will be critical in helping to hire a point-person for running the PMO. There are specific skills and competencies that human resources will want to ensure that any point person meets (such as great communications, strong business acumen, and project management skills – are just a few). Human resources will also be involved in the assessment of existing personnel to identify any skill gaps that may need to be addressed through training or coaching to bring the collective understanding of project management to the entire organization.
  • Training Department: The training department should be engaged to develop any required training programs or materials that are necessary to raise the project management skill and competency levels of key individuals. Vary programs may be necessary depending on the need to train individuals on project management skills, a team member on project team collaboration skills, and training for project sponsors on their roles in projects.
  • Communications Department: Since there is so much change-management that occurs with the implementation of a PMO you will want to engage with your internal experts on communication. Having these individuals involved from the beginning will help you in developing an effective communication plan.

Systems Support

A critical component of a successful project management office (PMO) structure is a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) platform which also contains the capability to manage projects. PPM platforms come in a variety of sizes and styles and can range from ~$100,000 to over $1,000,000 per year. Understanding the needs of your project managers and other stakeholders will help you select the right system that meets your needs at an optimal cost. It is recommended that a formalized request for proposal (RFP) be conducted which includes the following considerations for the platform.

Platform Features and Functionality

  • User Experience: Evaluate the simplicity for the users and does it have a web-based interface.
  • Configuration/Flexibility: Is the interface configurable to meet the user’s needs and what are the product rules that must be adhered to.
  • Data Management: All projects will involve the need for comments, attached documents, links, etc. This may be in addition to being able to import and export information. Ensure that the PPM meets your needs
  • Document Management and Collaboration: Various projects entail the need to review materials related to the project. Does the system allow you to comment, edit, revise, etc. these documents.
  • User Administration: You will need one to several administrators that are familiar with the overall system and it is important that the PPM is intuitive and resources exist to support the admins (whether in the platform or as a support group outside of the platform).
  • Displays and Reporting: Can the system create dashboards that are accessible by different user types and can dashboards be created to individual’s needs. It is also critical that the PPM provides overall views of project health for executive-level views.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Any PPM should provide the means for seamless social communication within the platform and either a project-specific or general.
    Project Evaluation and Portfolio Management
  • Issue/Risk Analysis and Management: A key management area for projects in Risk Identification. The PPM should have the ability to identify risks, outline preventative/corrective actions, and allow for tracking of progress against the risk mitigation
  • Project Evaluation: A key reason for having a PMO is the ability to evaluate various projects against your strategic plan and ultimately make choices on which projects to work on. Does the PPM give you the ability to do this?
  • Project Valuation: The PPM should have the ability to capture the value of the project (financial and otherwise).
  • Prioritization and Portfolio Optimization: Many PMOs utilize a “Greenlight Process” which is a systematic means to evaluate projects and you will want the PPM to manage this process.

Project Planning and Project Management

  • Project Planning and Management: The user interface should have the ability to show planned versus actual performance, provide roadmaps of projects, allow for Gantt chart views, etc.
  • Portfolio Management: It is important to be able to group projects into portfolios and the PPM should be able to provide useful functionality to all for this.
  • Workflow Management: Many projects follow consistent workflows which should be able to be managed in the PPM.
  • Project Data and Status Reporting: The PPM should allow project managers to capture, compute, and report on costs, hours, resource consumptions, etc. as it relates to the project.
  • Financial Management and Budgeting: Your finance department will want to ensure that the PPM is able to provide them with the reporting they may need for financial updates. In some cases, a PPM may even be able to interface with your financial systems.
  • Project Close-Out and Knowledge Management: Does the PPM support the verification of project deliverables and acceptance criteria and capturing of lessons learned.

Resource Management and Demand Planning

  • Resource Assignment, Scheduling, and Management: Some PMOs will want to integrate their PPM with the time management of people resources and other assets/resources necessary for a successful project. If you choose a person to work on a project do you have the ability to see their availability (as it relates to other projects they may be working on or their day-to-day job commitments)? A common efficiency issue for projects is the bandwidth and availability of the people resources.
    Demand Management: Your PPM should allow for an approval process that allows for approvers to understand the overall impact of the project commitments (people, hours, resources, etc.) and how this inter-relate to your strategic goals so that data-based decisions can be made on project actions
    Time Tracking: In some cases, you may even want the ability to track real-time work efforts against specific projects. For this capability, you would want to make sure that the PPM has the capability for individual users to capture their time in the system.

Other Steps

Additional steps will be critical to the implementation of your PMO

  • Governance Plan: One of the key components of your PMO will be the governance process you put in place as they relate to project initiation, project approval, resource approvals, communications expectations, etc. It will be important that the governance components you decide on are agreed to by key stakeholders.
  • Communications Plan: The implementation of a PMO requires numerous changes to an organization. To ensure that everyone is aware of the vision, purpose, and plans for your PMO you will want to partner with your communications department on the PMO implementation plan. This allows for a clear understanding by the impacted stakeholders and will ensure that questions are posed by those who will be engaged with the activities of the PMO.
  • Training: It is critical that the PPM you choose is properly trained in with the various stakeholders within the organization. This training plan for your PPM will likely involve various user types that will need to be taken into consideration and be properly budgeted for.
  • Books:
    • Project Management can be quite formalized and the implementation of a PMO adds additional structure to your overall project efforts. The following resources can provide helpful insights to project management for those team members who will be most closely involved in the implementation of your PMO.
    • Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
    • PMP PMBOK: Project Management Professional Study Guide by Ralph Cybulski
    • Simple PMP: Exam Guide Updated for the PMBOK Guide Sixth Edition by Phil Martin
    • PMBOK Guide: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition by PMI

You will find that the implementation of a Project Management Office (PMO) will prove to be one of the most effective means for to improve the execution of your projects and initiatives in reaching your company’s strategic goals.

Project Management: An Integral Component to Company Success


Project Management

Every company has numerous projects occurring at any given time. Core project management skills are necessary to ensure that projects are run efficiently and effectively. Project management has been around for centuries in various forms. As a discipline, it gained in importance in 1968 when the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed to provide guidelines and insights on proper project management.

The goal of this article is to discuss Project Management: An Integral Component to Company Success. Ensuring the utilization of key project management guidelines will help to ensure the success of projects and the resulting success of the business.

Project Management Professionals

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the gold-standard of guidance on properly running projects. This article will outline some of the key guidance that is provided by PMI in the PMBOK Guide: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition

Your company may not require a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) each of your projects, however, it is helpful to ensure that the people you do have running projects have at least been exposed to some of the fundamentals of project management.

The person who is identified as the project manager for a particular project will have the responsibility to lead the team of individuals that will be working together to achieve the project objectives. This person will need to be effective at building relationships and communicating with the various stakeholders involved in a project (those on the team and those who are not). Each project manager should possess an appropriate level of the following skills to meet the needs of the project size:

  • Leadership
  • Technical Project Management
  • Strategic and Business Management

Larger and more complicated projects will necessitate an increasing level of skills and experience in each of these areas.

A Project Management Framework:

There are several factors that should be in place to ensure that your company has the framework to enable proper project management, which will include:

  • Senior Leadership Commitment: As a company looks to formalize their commitment to utilizing project management standards it is important to ensure that the senior leadership is in support of this effort and will hold the organization accountable to using project management standards on projects that are strategic in nature or are in support of key objectives.
  • Project Managers: Anyone serving in the capacity of a project manager will possess the skills or will receive training on the necessary project management skills before they perform as a project manager.
  • Human Resources: Human resources hiring managers have been engaged and understand the skills and competencies that should be looked for in any position that may have responsibility for running projects. Human resources may also be involved in the assessment of existing personnel to identify any skill gaps that may need to be addressed through training or coaching.
  • Training Department: The training department should be engaged to develop any required training programs or materials that are necessary to raise the project management skill and competency levels of key individuals. Vary programs may be necessary depending on the need to train individuals on project management skills, team members on project team collaboration skills, and training for project sponsors on their roles in projects.

Grouping of Project Management Activities

The sixth edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) outlines the five groupings that project management activities will occur in. These are important to understand as it helps a project manager associate the various activities with. The Project Management Process Groups are defined as follows by the Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute Inc., 2017, page 25:

  • Initiating Process Group: These are the processes that help define a new piece of work – either a completely new project or the phase you are about to begin. They ensure you have the authority to proceed.
  • Planning Process Group: These processes help you define objectives and scope out the work to be done. They also encompass all the workaround planning and scheduling tasks. Again, they can cover a complete project or just the phase you are working on right now. Or you might be closing one phase and planning the next in parallel.
  • Executing Process Group: You do these processes as you carry out your project tasks. This is the ‘delivery’ part of project management, where the main activity happens and you create the products.
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group: These processes let you track the work that is being done, review, and report on it. They also cover what happens when you find out the project isn’t following the agreed plan, so change management falls into this Process Group. You’ll run these processes alongside those in the Executing Group (mainly, but alongside the other Groups too) so you monitor as you go.
  • Closing Process Group: Finally, these processes let you finalize all the tasks in the other Groups when you get to the point to close the project or phase.

Project Management Knowledge Areas

The Project Management Knowledge Areas contain all of the various steps and activities that commonly occur throughout the life of the project. Each of these knowledge areas can be organized additionally into the Process Group in which they occur. A google search of “project management knowledge areas by process groups” will provide numerous resources that are available on this subject.

Each Project Management Knowledge Area has anywhere from three to seven activity groups that each contain specific actions that are always grouped into either

  • Inputs: These are resources that are used by the activity group to manage an area of the projects. In many instances, the inputs come from the output of another knowledge areas output
  • Tools & Techniques: There are a variety of tools and techniques used in project management and each activity area uses a variety of tools to effectively complete the objectives of the knowledge areas activity group
  • Outputs: These are the specific results that are completed or produced by specific knowledge areas activity group actions. These outputs often times are used as inputs for another knowledge areas activity group

A unique characteristic of the knowledge area activity groupings is that often-times activities are occurring simultaneously, it is not a solely linear process. That is why good project management skills are developed over time and ultimately may be unique to the types of projects and protocols within a specific company.

It will benefit project managers to also become familiar with the various knowledge areas of project management which are defined as:

  • Project Integration Management: This area is a backbone of project management and includes the seven activity groups of :
    • Develop Project Charter
    • Develop Project Management Plan
    • Direct and Manage Project Work
    • Manage Project Knowledge
    • Monitor and Control Project Work
    • Perform Integrated Project Management
    • Close Project or Phase
  • Project Scope Management: To avoid a project become unwieldy and stretching beyond given resources and requirements the project must be properly defined and scoped. The activity groups in this area are:
    • Plan Scope Management
    • Collect Requirements
    • Define Scope
    • Create WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)
    • Validate Scope
    • Control Scope
  • Project Schedule Management: The schedule for your project ultimately impacts scheduling needs, the timing of activities, and funding requirements and consist of the following activity groups:
    • Plan Schedule Management
    • Define Activities
    • Sequence Activities
    • Estimate Activity Durations
    • Develop Schedule
    • Control Schedule
  • Project Cost Management: Operating within the costs allocations for your project is typically a key performance indicator for a project manager and involves the following activity groups:
    • Plan Cost Management
    • Estimate Costs
    • Determine Budget
    • Control Costs
  • Project Quality Management: Every project has certain measures of quality that are targeted to be achieved to ensure the satisfaction of the key stakeholders or customers. Key activity groups in quality management are:
    • Plan Quality Management
    • Manage Quality
    • Control Quality
  • Project Resource Management: Projects vary greatly in complexity and as a result can vary greatly in the types of people that are needed to fulfill the needs of the project and can vary in the types of equipment, materials, facilities, and supplies that may be necessary. The activities to manage resources properly fall into the following resource management activity groups:
    • Plan Resource Management
    • Estimate Activity Resources
    • Acquire Resources
    • Develop Team
    • Manage Team
    • Control Resources
  • Project Communication Management: Critical to a project’s success is ensuring that various members on a team, key stakeholders, and external customers are communicating properly. The activities to ensure that everyone is communicated to efficiently and effectively fall into the following activity groups:
    • Plan Communications Management Plan
    • Manage Communications
    • Monitor Communications
  • Project Risk Management: Every project has risks that can affect costs, timelines, availability of resources, quality, scope, etc. Each project should contain an effort to brainstorm the risks that may impact the project and the degree to which this impact can affect the project. The various activities involved in risk management are grouped into the following activity areas:
    • Plan Risk Management
    • Identify Risks
    • Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis
    • Plan Risk Responses
    • Implement Risk Responses
    • Monitor Risks
  • Project Procurement Management: In many projects, the work surrounding the procurement of certain resources may be handled by a group(s) outside of the direct project. However, a project manager will want to be aware of and involved in various activities that occur in the following activity groups:
    • Plan Procurement Management
    • Conduct Procurements
    • Control Procurements
  • Project Stakeholder Management: Great project managers are very good at working with the various types of stakeholders that make up any project. Project managers should ensure that they are very familiar with the various components that make up each of the following activity groups:
    • Identify Stakeholders
    • Plan Stakeholder Engagement
    • Manage Stakeholder Engagement
    • Monitor Stakeholder Engagement

Additional Considerations

As you build and improve your project management capability within your organization you may wish to consider the following:

  • Systems Support: If you do not have a Project Management Office (PMO) that has an approved Project Portfolio Management (PPM) platform which contains the capability to manage projects then you will likely need some type of system dedicated to the managing of projects. Project Management platforms come in a variety of sizes and styles and many systems are geared towards meeting the specific needs of certain types of projects. Some systems are more general in nature and have the flexibility to be configured, customized, or utilized in a manner that meets different project manager needs. It is suggested that you take the time to assess the needs of your various project managers before beginning your project management platform selection process. Project Management platforms can range from a few thousand dollars a year to over $100,000. Understanding the needs of your project managers and other stakeholders will help you select the right system that meets your needs at an optimal cost. It may be worth investing in an external project management expert that can help you assess your needs and the right systems solutions
  • Project Management Office: Depending upon the size of your organization and the complexity of your projects you may wish to research implementing a Project Management Office (PMO). Various structures and sizes exist that may greatly improve your success in managing the various projects occurring in your organization.
  • Books: Project Management can be quite formalized. The following resources can provide helpful insights to project management n for those team members who will be most closely involved in the implementation of your PMO.
    • Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
    • PMP PMBOK: Project Management Professional Study Guide by Ralph Cybulski
    • Simple PMP: Exam Guide Updated for the PMBOK Guide Sixth Edition by Phil Martin
    • PMBOK Guide: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition by PMI

Improving your efficiency and effectiveness at project management is an area that can greatly improve your ability to execute your strategic plan, deliver value to your stakeholders, and improve the profitability of your company.

Business Process Improvement: Identifying What Needs to be Fixed


Business Process Improvement

Regardless of the age or size of your organization, it is likely you have one too many business processes that need to be improved. Identifying these areas of your business that need to be improved can prove to be difficult. Though in some cases it might be very apparent what needs to be changed. Finding and fixing business processes that are not as efficient and effective as they could be will prove to be a key component of the success of your company.

The goal of this article is to discuss Business Process Improvement: Identifying What Needs to be Fixed. The following insights will help companies who are committed to rooting out inefficient and ineffective processes within their organization.

Business Process Improvement (BPI) Defined

Business processes exist in every company and are either internal in nature, externally focused on customers, or a hybrid impacting internal personnel and external customers in the same process.

Thus business process improvement (BPI) is the exercise that a management team undertakes to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, accuracy, or satisfaction of a process that impacts employees or customers and when adjusted improves the KPIs identified for the process. Various tools and techniques are used to analyze the business process and identify areas of opportunity.

Since business processes develop and change over time it is worth assessing the departments within an organization to identify the key business processes that impact employees and customers.

When identifying business processes it is helpful to notate the time and costs that are involved in fulfilling the business process. This will help to prioritize which business processes can yield the greatest savings if improved.

Getting started on identifying a business process that needs to be improved

The following are some general considerations that should be given when beginning to identify business processes that may need improvement:

  • Senior Leadership Commitment: Senior leaders need to set the tone and culture for identifying business process improvements. Often the people being asked to analyze and dissect a business process are the same people who were involved in developing the process. It takes great leadership and management capabilities to avoid offending these individuals for work invested in developing processes that they may be asked to change?
  • Employee Surveys: In an anonymous survey your employees will be very candid with you about the business processes (either internally facing or externally focused) that cause them concern. A well-designed survey will result in the specific identification of concerns and can elicit ideas for resolution. It is important that the results of a survey like this are summarized and communicated to the employees. Identifying the action that is planned to be taken against each issue will help to build confidence and trust within your organization
  • Customer Surveys: A company can use information from an existing customer survey program or conduct an independent survey with customers to elicit feedback on areas of improvement needed from the customer’s perspective. Customers tend to be willing to invest a small amount of time in helping to improve the products or services they buy. A properly designed survey that is quick and easy to complete by the customer can supply a great amount of insight into the areas of opportunity that you have. These surveys can be categorized and issues prioritized. It is recommended that communication continues with your customer base on what has been identified for improvement and what the company is doing to address the concerns.
  • Employee Roundtables: Deeper insights can be acquired on business processes needing to be improved by conducting round tables with employees involved or impacted by specific business processes. Having a group discussion/brainstorm can result in understanding nuances that will not come out in a survey. In addition, individuals will build off of each other’s insights and experiences with the business process and this typically leads to better solutions.
  • Customer Focus Groups: Pulling customers together for focused discussions by a qualified individual facilitator can lead to unexpected insights that otherwise would not be evident from a survey along. Like an employee roundtable, the customers will engage in discussions/brainstorming that will identify nuances that if addressed can greatly improve the process and lead to improved customer satisfaction. In some cases your companies cost may go up, however, your revenue may go up due to increased purchases or reduced customer churn.
  • Senior Leadership Communication: It is helpful to have regular discussions amongst the leadership team of the current business process that is being evaluated for improvement. This can occur at weekly staff meetings in the form of brief updates. This regular communication will foster idea-sharing and further develop the culture as it relates to the willingness to improve processes and eliminate any sacred cows.
  • The BPI Champion: Who will be your champion for business process improvement (BPI) across the organization? This person is often the most senior leader or the Chief Operating Officer (COO). It may also be specific individuals in departments. Depending on your organization you may want a centralized BPI effort versus departmental efforts. Regardless of your approach, it is important that the organization as a whole understands who the key people responsible for leading business process improvements (BPI) are and what their level of authority for making change is.
  • How big is the BPI: Some business processes improvements (BPIs) are small and relatively self-contained in a department, while others are complex, far-reaching, and expensive to implement. Depending on the size of the BPI you may need dedicated resources to implement the necessary changes to the process

Models to Assist:

There are many ways to analyze your business and processes when conducting a business process improvement. The following are some brief descriptions of techniques you may consider using once you have identified potential processes needing improvement.

  • Six Sigma. The gold standard of process improvement, Six Sigma methodologies are immersive, highly structured, very analytic, and consistently successful in improving processes. It is recommended that companies wishing to implement full six sigma approaches to their BPI efforts hire individuals with six sigma experience and accreditation.
  • DMAIC Methodology. Many companies will use DMAIC which is a core tool used in Six Sigma projects. DMAIC stands for:
    • Define: Define the process and improvement opportunity from a business and customer perspective
    • Measure: Identify critical measures, baseline process and operational performance to quantify the opportunity
    • Analyze: Analyze process performance to understand pain-points and determine/validate root causes
    • Improve: Develop improvement solutions to address issues/opportunities and implement verify the solution(s)
    • Measure: Measure the solution with an associate control plan to achieve targeted outcomes and benefits
  • ACTTIVE™ Business Process Improvement. This is a model used by Twelve Oaks Advisors and stands for
    • Articulate: Make it simple
    • Communicate: Make it clear
    • Timebound: Make it Quick
    • Test/Trial: Make it Real
    • Implement: Make it happen
    • Validate: Make it stick
    • Enhance: Make it better
  • Process Mapping: Any processes can be broken into its individual steps. By doing this it often becomes evident steps that are either miss-aligned in sequence or which are taking too long
  • Fishbone Diagrams: Applying this technique (which is a cause and effect analysis) will lead to a clearer understanding of the flow of your process and areas needing improvement.

Business Process Improvement: Eliminating Waste to Add Value

The goal of your analysis should be to identify any was factors that do not add any value to your employees or customers. Examples to think about are:

Waste: Wasteful activities are found throughout systems and some examples are (but not limited to):

  • Refresh times of web pages: A website that takes an extra 1 second to load on a site that receives 1 million visits a year results in a collective 277 hours of lost productivity to those visiting your site.
  • Defects in products: Defects can either those that are identified at a quality assurance (QA) step or defects that end up being identified by a customer. Those identified by a customer and requiring a resolution are costly in nature. Additionally, quality defects may not be identified at QA or may not be discovered by the customer. Ultimately these defects can impact the performance of the product and the customers’ expectations, which can lead to long-term impacts on the customer relationship. Unnecessary steps: Consider the frustration and time lost to the steps you must often take to resolving a product or service issue with a company
  • Waiting for something: Amazon has forever adjusted our expectations of how long we are will to wait for something. Finding ways to improve your speed to market with any product or service has become essential to the survival of companies
  • Inefficient use of peoples time: Downtime is costly, mapping processes and fine-tuning steps ensures that time-waste is minimized
  • Inefficient use of peoples talents: It is also important to ensure that the right people are working on the right efforts
  • Unnecessary components or features: This can be difficult to identify and where fully understanding your customers’ needs and how they use your product or service will help lead to the removal of anything that is not necessary.
  • Layout: If you are a store is the layout of your store conducive to how people shop for the items they purchase, for internal functions are your warehouses organized in a logical manner that reduces wasteful movements and travel, if you are a manufacturer are the steps to your process designed in an efficient manner, if you are an office environment is the environment conducive to the type of work being performed. If it is a web-page does the customer experience reflect mindful attention to making it easy and efficient for them to find, research, evaluate, and purchase what they are seeking?

Value: Value is often measured in the eyes of the beholder. Thus, a business process may work for some customers and not for others. A key consideration is in determining what is most needed/desired by the targeted customer base, is it:

  • Lower price
  • Higher quality
  • More pleasant experience
  • A greater sense of safety


The success of your BPI efforts is contingent on how well you communicate your effort and training in the requirements you have for the system. Outlined below are some typical features you may wish to assess vendors against.

  • Communication: It is critical to communicate any changes you are making to processes clearly to those impacted by any changes (internally or externally). Leverage those experts within your company who are proficient in change management to ensure that the right information is being communicated to the right stakeholders at the right time.
  • Training: Depending on the complexity of the changes you are making to an existing process you will want to consider the appropriate level of training that will be necessary to ensure that employees and customers fully understand the new process. People inherently become accustomed to following a process even if it inefficient and getting them used to a new process will take some time.
  • Educating: Business Process Improvement (BPI) can become quite elaborate and it is important that your leaders have a common base of understanding of approaches to making BPI changes. The following resources are beneficial to review before undertaking critical BPI efforts:
    • The Power of Business Process Improvement by Susan Page
    • BPM CBOK® Version 4.0: Guide to the Business Process Management Common Body of Knowledge
    • Fundamentals of Business Process Management by Marlon Dumas, Marcello La Rosa, Jan Mendling, and Hajo A. Reijers
    • Improving Business Processes: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges by Harvard Business Review
    • The Ultimate Guide to Business Process Management: Everything You Need to Know and How to Apply it to Your Organization by Theodore Panagacos
    •  Friction: The untapped Force That Can be Your Most Powerful Advantage by Roger Dooley

Implementing business process improvements (BPIs) can lead to some of your greatest cost-saving or revenue-generating improvements. Applying a disciplined approach that includes assessing your areas of opportunity, analyzing your processes, and developing an implementation plan will lead to the successful implementation of transformational changes that will impact your organization in positive ways for years to come.

Your P&L: Where to Focus


Profit and Loss

The quick death of any young company is often the lack of focus on the right areas of their profit and loss (P&L) statement. Established companies can likely get away with a lack of focus and oversight for a while, but lack of attention to the details will eventually have negative impacts.

The goal of this article is to discuss Your P&L: Where to Focus. Since every company is so diverse we will keep this discussion high level to generate thought starters. Most leaders have some level of understanding of a P&L, though what is sometimes lacking is the diligence of how to monitor a P&L to spot issues and trends.

Major Financial Statements

Financial statements and reporting follow accounting and financial standards established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) that are in-line with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). There are four major areas of reporting that the company’s financial statements fall into:

  • Balance sheets: Measurement of the assets and liabilities
  • Income statements: These are your typical profit and loss (P&L) reports
  • Statements of shareholders’ equity: Measure of who owns what portions of a company
  • Cash flow statements: Measurement of cash entering and leaving the business over time

Each of the financial statements has various key performance indicators (KPI’s) that help to monitor the performance of key measurements within the various statements. These KPIs have various levers that drive the KPIs performance. It is the focus on the levers and KPIs that often distinguishes the best-performing companies from the rest.

Steps to Understanding, Monitoring, and Controlling Your P&L

The success of your business will be highly dependent on the quality of your focus as an organization on understanding, monitoring, and controlling your P&L.

Understanding the P&L

P&Ls may vary in appearance but a typical P&L will contain performance broken down in summary format by categories such as (GAAP will influence the look of a company’s P&L):

  • Revenue: This may be broken out in sub-categories and summarized as a total revenue line
  • Cost of Goods (COGS): This may be broken out by major categories with COGS
  • Gross Profit: This will be Revenue minus COGS
  • Selling, General, and Administrative: Cost to run the business such as:
    • Salaries: Often broken out by major categories like sales, operations, transportation, marketing, administrative, etc. It is beneficial to break out your benefits costs so that you can understand these costs over time and they may differ based on employee classification type
    • Supplies: Depending on your business you may want to break this out for certain departments to better understand the costs
  • Operating Income: Is Gross Profit minus SGA
  • Tax Impacting Measures: Such as depreciation which can lower your taxable income
  • Net Income Before Tax
  • Taxes
  • Net Income After Tax

As you are analyzing and reporting on your P&L you will want leaders to understand the following key ratios:

  • Gross Margin: This is your gross profit ÷ revenue.
  • Any line item as a % of Sales: This measurement is often reviewed over time to better understand trends
  • Operating Margin: This is operating income ÷ revenue and represents your ability to leverage company resources to improve revenue
  • Net Profit Margin: net income (after taxes) ÷ revenue
  • Return on Equity (ROE): net profit ÷ average shareholder equity for the period (a measure of return on money that shareholders have invested in the company)
  • Return on Capital Employed (ROCE): earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) ÷ capital employed. This ratio determines the efficiency of the capital that is being invested in the company. A higher ROCE represents a better use of capital
  • Asset turnover ratio: This is net sales ÷ total assets. This is important to watch as it represents your ability to leverage assets to produce sales
  • Inventory turnover ratio: This is the cost of goods sold ÷ average inventory which represents how quickly your inventory is sold and replaced over a given period of time. Inventory that does not turn quickly enough could become outdated and represents tying up cash
  • Receivables turnover ratio: Measured as net credit sales ÷ average accounts receivable this represents how many times a company turns its receivables into cash over time. This a key measurement of cash flow which must be monitored closely to ensure a business has the cash necessary for the payment of ongoing operations and investment in inventory.
  • Days sales in inventory ratio: How quickly you turn inventory into sales is measured as 365 days ÷ Inventory turnover ratio

Monitoring the P&L

Diligently monitoring your P&L will involve ensuring the following is present:

  • Senior Leader Commitment: Your most senior leader will either need to possess strong financial acumen or have the ability to work closely with human resources to hire for talented financial executives. If your leader is not focusing on financials you risk other leaders not focusing as well.
  • Senior Leadership Financial Acumen: It is important to ensure that you hire executives with a certain level of financial acumen. An operational leader who is not aware of how their decisions impact sales can quickly implement efforts that undermine a quality experience for the customer that impacts customer retention. Conversely, a super salesperson can quickly erode profits by unwittingly cutting margins in their attempt to grow business. Meanwhile, IT could be implementing extremely expensive capital investments that are not necessary and do not meet the underlying needs of the organization helps to assess where you are today with your analytical capabilities.
  • Establishing Measures: One of the most important steps in P&L management is the establishment of the measurements that drive the P&L results. Key Performance indicators vary greatly by company and additionally levers (the measurements that impact KPIs can be numerous and overwhelming. This is where each leader will want to deeply understand how their business drives results on the P&L (and other financial statements). Much has been written about KPIs and measurements and it is recommended that leaders reference these works for ideas and guidance.
  • Systems: A company will want to establish the means by which it wants to report on various measures (the systems, format, and frequency). It is helpful if the reporting systems work with the financial reporting systems of the organization to ensure consistency in data and efficiency in processing.
  • Training: Since each leader has traveled a different path in getting to their current role it will be important to assess each leader on their skills in the area of financial acumen and develop and incorporate into their Individual Development Plan (IDP) the means to improve the financial capabilities. The following list of books offer leadership and financial-based insights that can assist in better understanding building a culture of financial acumen:
    • What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan
    • The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
    • The Four: The hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Stott GallowayMeasure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr
    • The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman
    • The Amazon Way on IoT: 10 Principles for Every Leader from the World’s Leading Internet of Things Strategies by John Rossman
    • Think Like Amazon: 50 ½ Ideas to Become a Digital Leader by John Rossman

Controlling the P&L

Closely tied to monitoring are the following activities which if regularly executed upon will result in continuous learning about opportunities for improvement to your company’s performance.

  • Regular Financial Reviews: Each company will have to identify a cadence for review amongst their various levels of leadership. It is suggested that a master schedule be developed for the various levels within an organization for the regular review of key financial measurements. Following are some suggestions:
    • Senior Leadership: At a minimum, a weekly review should occur of the KPIs and levers that drive the business. This allows for quick course correction as needed.
    • Mid-Level/Front-Line Leadership and their teams: This is where the bulk of the action happens in any company and depending upon the product or service KPIs and levers may be watched on an hourly or daily basis. Reporting and systems should enable the needs of this level of leadership.
    • Organization as a whole: A monthly review of high-level KPIs helps keep all employees in the organization aware and engaged in the success of the company
  • Understanding the Expenses: It is easy to over-automate expense payments. It is recommended that front-line managers who have accountability for a portion of the P&L review and approve all expenses that impact their organization, this should include internal transfer charges. When a manager is looking at and reviews every expense to their organization they develop a keen understanding of how their business works.
  • Understanding the Revenue: It is critical that sales personnel fully understand how revenue is being generated. This helps to ensure that focus is being placed on the right activities that generate the proper revenue for the organization. Having a level of understanding of the Activity-Based Costing (ABC) of your organization will further help leaders focus on the right revenue that drives your company’s profits. It is important for non-revenue managers to also understand and monitor revenue and ensure that they are adjusting their operational support to meet the revenue demand on the organization.
  • Variance Analysis and Course Correction: It is recommended that each manager conduct variance analysis and recommended course correction against the line items on a P&L that they have accountability to. Leadership will want to set tolerances (either a set $ variance +/- or % variance +/-) that the manager will have to explain and provide guidance on how they plan to course correct. This process can sound exhaustive, however, if your company has a focus on attending to all P&L activities with this level of vigor (on a monthly basis) then you will increase your likelihood of success as you will identify any issues or concerns quickly.
  • Accountability: Most companies incorporate means by which the performance on KPIs or the P&L is reflected in an employee’s pay or opportunities for advancement. A leadership truism is to provide incentives for the behaviors you wish to have exhibited.

Building a culture of financial acumen builds a foundation of repeatable success. Building this culture needs to start early and have continually nurturing to sustain its effectiveness.

Research: Gather Your Facts for Better Decision Making



Research is often undervalued in a company as leaders rely on their own experiences, their knowledge set, and possibly the knowledge and experiences of others. Surprisingly this can prove to be a limited amount of knowledge and insights when compared to the breadth of information that exists on nearly any subject matter.

The goal of this article is to discuss Research: Gather Your Facts for Better Decision Making. A company’s success is greatly impacted by the effectiveness of the decisions it makes. And while it is important to be efficient (aka, expedient) in your decision making it is just as important to make sure you have done your research to consider all of the facts and options that may be available to you.

Research versus Analytical Decision-Making

Research is very closely tied to analytical decision-making. Both are based on gathering as much information as possible. Research findings oftentimes play into analytical decision-making. Rather than consider them as two whole separate activities it is suggested that both be used to complement each other.

Getting Good at Research

Getting good at research requires several activities that when executed upon will result in more decisions being supported by research findings (and where necessary, analysis to understand the research).

The dictionary.com definition defines research as the diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.

When conducting research you will need to consider your research design (how you plan to answer the question or problem you are faced with) and the research method(s) you choose to execute this plan.

Depending upon your company’s business model you may engage in the usage of different types of research methods for solving or understanding different types of problems. The research methodologies are quite varied and it is helpful to have a general understanding of the various types of research you may use (descriptions are the author’s interpretation of commonly used definitions):

  • Basic: This is characterized when you just jump right in to research without any preconceived conclusions and are just seeking to improve your understanding of a situation.
  • Qualitative: This type of research is typified by textual data, whether it is responses to questions on a survey, feedback given in a focus group, or dialogue from an interview.
  • Quantitative: Any time your research involves data that is numerical in nature or is data that can be categorized and assigned numerical valuations for analytical analysis then you can conduct quantitative research.
  • Observational: This is when you observe behaviors exhibited by participants in a situation to understand the unguided reactions and responses to the environment around them.
  • Longitudinal: This is a term used when the research observations are measured over time. An example could be an adult’s approach to parenting subjects over time (from before they had children, during stages of when they had children, and after their children have left). To understand what changes over time.
  • Cross-sectional: This is when you are ensuring that the data you are studying represent the population or a subset that allows you to get a cross-sectional approach.
  • Correlational: This is a non-experimental research method, in which a researcher measures two variables, understand and assess the statistical relationship between them with no influence from any extraneous variable
  • Causal-comparative: This is when you are trying to research the relationship between independent and dependent variables differences that already exist between groups.
  • Experimental: Any time you are adhering to scientific research design and starting with a hypothesis and using variables that you intend to measure, calculate and compare to prove/disprove your hypotheses you are using an experimental methodology.
  • Exploratory: If you are in the early stages of looking at a problem you likely may use and exploratory approach that does not begin with any preconceived hypothesis and is intended to conduct an initial investigation into the problem to get some general understandings which may then lead to further research using other methodologies.
  • Descriptive: This is when you are describing the “what” of your research
  • Explanatory: This is when your research outlines what the research is intended to study and resolve and the methods to be to resolve the problem

Preparing to Conduct Your Research

Numerous steps should be taken as you build the research muscle of your organization

To ensure that the quality of research is beneficial to your organization you will want to consider who should conduct the research. Whomever you choose to conduct your research should have experience in setting up the type of research you are looking to have completed.

  • Senior Leadership Commitment: As noted before leaders often rely on their own knowledge or that of a small group of individuals. Getting your senior leadership to expect that deep research to be used when solving problems is a critical factor improving your research capabilities
  • Hiring Research Capable Employees: It is also important to look for characteristics in new hires that would suggest they are good researchers or are interested in becoming good. Begin to look for candidates that like to research solutions on the internet, pose critical thinking questions, and measure how they respond, understand their analysis capabilities, have them explain how they solve problems.
  • Training: Every manager/leader is not educated in or interested in research. However, making sure that each manager/leader is using a common language as it relates to research will help to improve your organization’s collective approach to researching and your understanding of research findings. Partnering with your human resources department and training department will result in the development of baseline expectations as it relates to researching.
  • Incorporate into Analytical Decisions: As stated earlier research and analytical decision making are closely related. It is important that any analytical decision-making consider any research methodologies that should be incorporated to improve the quality of the analysis.
  • Project Prioritization: Research is also important as it relates to project prioritization. A project that is lacking adequate and fundamental research that supports the project assumptions and goals should be suspect.
  • In-house Expert: Not all companies can support having Ph.D. level scientists on their payroll. However, it is beneficial to have a person who is a go-to subject matter expert when it comes to understanding in-depth the scientific repercussions of various modeling techniques and who can guide internal leaders on matters related to research. In the absence of an in-house expert, you should consider hiring outside experts to consult on your larger projects.

Your Research Process

Each research effort may vary somewhat in the approach based on the methodology used, however, most will contain most of the following steps:

  • Problem/Opportunity Identification (POI): This often comes in the form of identifying something that has occurred, wanting to understand how to capitalize on an opportunity.
  • Resource Review: This can be as broad and varied as the types of POIs you develop. As you conduct a resource review consider everything from internet resources, academic journals, subject matter experts, etc.
  • Update Your POI: After doing some research you may want to clarify the problem you are trying to research or the opportunity you are looking into.
  • Common Terminology: Outline and define all of your research content in understandable terms.
  • Who/What/Where: Define clearly the parameters of your research subject(s)
  • Methodology: Clearly define how you will be conducting your research to ensure that the information your research and gather is as unbiased as possible.
  • Data Collection: Gather as much information on your research subject(s) as possible to aid in the analysis of your data.
  • Analysis: Conduct the types of analysis that are necessary to aid the research results. As spoken to early research is very closely tied to analytical decision-making.
  • Interpretation: As part of your research you may be interpreting the results for a summary to your audience.
  • Conclusion/Recommendation: This may or may not be a step in each research project. It is recommended that the researcher provide any conclusions or recommendations they have from their involvement with the research as it relates to the Problem/Opportunity Identification (POI) identified at the beginning of the research process.

Building an expectation of research-based decision-making will take time and effort. Once incorporated into your culture you can expect that initiatives will be well thought out with various options considered and positioned for optimal success.

Employee Growth: Providing a Rewarding Environment for Your People


Employee Growth

At the core of a company’s success is the knowledge held by its employees. Providing a culture that nurtures increased employee growth through knowledge acquisition can prove to be one of the greatest returns on investment and organization can make.

The goal of this article is to discuss Employee Growth: Providing a Rewarding Environment for Your People. The following initiatives can make up the components of growth that so many employees seek.

What is considered employee growth?

Growth for an employee can be as individualistic as each employee. We each are seeking a specific experience that is personal to us. Companies that work to understand our individual needs and support this growth will benefit from the improved engagement that we exhibit and the knowledge that we are able to leverage.

Finding the Individual Activity best suited for each employee

One of the best ways of identifying the activity that may most benefit an employee is to engage the individual employee in a dialogue about growth. The following are a sample of:

  • Attend an industry conference: Conferences can be expensive due to travel and conference fees, however, attendance with an agenda for your employee can result in an enriching experience. Conferences may not meet the learning styles of all employees, though for many individuals this may be a great environment for them to get exposed to new ideas and concepts and to engage in rich dialogue with industry experts. Employees will likely return with a new level of enthusiasm and engagement towards their daily work. The insights and ideas they gain can quickly be applied to your business.
  • Certification in a discipline: Nearly every discipline imaginable now has a certification that can be earned to demonstrate proficiency in a specific subject area. Certifications are should be very desirable by companies as they exhibit a commitment from an employee to improving their proficiency in a subject. This proficiency benefits the company and can provide a quick return on the investment. Additionally, employees feel supported by their company as these investments are made (improving employee engagement. Some leaders may fear that an employee takes these skills elsewhere. While this is certainly a risk and concern, in most cases the company will recoup their investment quickly and the goodwill created with the employee can prove very valuable
  • Educational Assistance: With educational assistance, a company commits to reimbursement of degreed programs that can benefit the employee and company.
  • Stretch Assignment: For some employees and situations placing an individual in a role that stretches their skills and competencies can result in greatly improved knowledge in a short period of time. Employees who are up for the challenge will appreciate the company taking the chance on them.
  • Mentorship Program: Mentorship arrangements can be informal or formal. Many employees enjoy and/or can benefit from a mentorship relationship with someone who is in a position or discipline that the employee wishes to work towards. Not all mentorship programs need to be with an individual under this type of scenario. What is key about a mentorship arrangement is that both parties are actively and willingly engaged in the relationship focused on the development of the mentee in ways that are not likely occurring with the mentee’s supervisor.
  • Coaching: Sometimes an individual can benefit from one-one-coaching by a subject matter expert in the business on a particular skill or knowledge area (e.g. providing a leader with coaching on giving presentations from a more skilled person inside the organization).
  • Listening to Podcast: Podcasts are a great way to get exposed to new knowledge and insights in a short amount of time. Podcasts are often arranged in series that address learning on a new subject over a period of time.
  • Following a Blog: Encouraging employees to find blogs by leaders in the field that they are interested in will gradually build their knowledge in new areas. These are usually free and only involve the time commitment by the employee.
  • Professional Membership: Most disciplines have professional membership organizations that an employee can join. A discussion should occur with each employee to uncover specific areas of interest they have and potential organizations that they should look to become members of. These organizations can provide a wealth of learning including podcasts, blogs, webinars, publications, conferences, specific training, etc.
  • Webinars: Webinars have become an increasingly popular way to exchange knowledge. Webinars tend to be more formalized and one-way as opposed to listening in on podcasts and often exhibit characteristics of distance learning. An added benefit of webinars is that the content is often shared, allowing for further review or future reference.
  • External Workshops: Colleges, organizations, and others often conduct workshops that can be attended (varying from 4 hours to multiple days). These external workshops usually provide learnings that can be applied across varied businesses. Seeking out workshops that can provide learnings/insights into a problem the organization is facing can be a very valuable investment into a particular employee
  • Managing a Project: Many individuals have the skills and competencies to run an actual project. This can be a great learning opportunity for the right person and provide them with a feeling of great contribution to the organization.
  • Team Member on a Project: Many people thrive on the ability to contribute to the organization in a team setting outside of their normal workgroup. For these types of personalities, it may be appreciated to be involved in a project that includes people from varied disciplines.
  • Job Shadowing: Sometimes the best way for someone to learn and grow is to observe an expert through shadowing this individual to get a sense of the daily activities and challenges.
  • Additional Responsibilities: Many people yearn to be able to contribute in new ways without leaving their current role. For these types of induvial finding new responsibilities that can be handled within their bandwidth can be a great place to grow their skills and competencies.
  • Job Rotation: Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to be fully immersed in doing it. Providing opportunities for people to fully experience another role for a fixed period of time will expand the knowledge of individuals and the capabilities of the organization
  • Knowledge Reading: While reading may not be for everyone, for many finding the right books (that can either be read or listened to) that increase their knowledge of a specific subject
  • Networking: Helping your employees learn how to network is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their careers. Networking is proven to be an effective way to broaden an individual’s interest and understanding of the world around them as they are exposed to other individuals inside their field who may have more knowledge and insight and meet others with interest outside their field, but which may still be connected.
  • Never Eat Alone: In his book “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” Keith Ferrazzi points out the benefit of utilizing your time at lunch to expand your understanding of the world around you by broadening the mix of people you spend time with. Seeking out time with people outside of your normal circles will awaken in your interest in areas you likely were unaware of before and will sensitize you to issues and opportunities throughout your company.
  • LinkedIn Learning: An economical way to stay abreast of the latest skills training in creative, software, or business disciplines. LinkedIn is the premier source for networking and they offer great training courses.
  • Coursera: Founded in 2012 Coursera offers a variety of college-level academic courses for a fraction of the cost and from the comfort of your home. Coursera virtually eliminates any reason for not being able to take a higher-level learning class to improve your skills.
  • MOOC.org: Similar to Coursera Massive Open Online Courses are a way to get exposure to college-level course content in a virtual setting.
  • Online Professional Development: Many disciplines (like teaching) offer online professional development courses designed to keep skills current on offer exposure to new ideas and methodologies
  • YouTube: Attention spans have decreased, though people’s desire to learn has not. YouTube has moved beyond a place to watch great cat videos and has become the go-to site to improve one’s skills from how to perform certain functions in software programs to learn how to fix your mower on your own.
  • 360° Feedback: Many leadership and development programs include a 360o Feedback component. These surveys (typically given to an employee’s peers, superiors, and direct reports) can elicit numerous points of growth opportunity to an individual that will strengthen the employee’s capabilities.

The preceding list may appear intimidating. The key takeaway is that there are a variety of options available to each employee.

Following are some key steps that managers can take as your company works to improve the growth of your employees:

  • Understand the alternatives: The list above is meant to be a thought-starter and the summaries of each briefly explain each option. It is recommended that a manager take a few hours to review these and conduct their own independent research (Google each term and you will find plentiful resources to review further). Having familiarity with these various options will provide a manager with a bountiful resource of options to meet the needs of individual employees.
  • Secure the resources: While some of the options are free, many do cost money. All managers in an organization should be familiar with the average amount of expenditures per employee on training and development. If your company spends an average of $1,000 per year on each employee does the individual manager know how that is being allocated and how involved are they in determining how those funds are spent An employee’s manager should be the most familiar with that employee’s needs, and the manager should be the strongest advocate for making sure the training funds are properly spent on that individual employee.
  • Assess the individuals: As noted at the beginning of this article a dialogue should be occurring between each employee and their supervisor to best understand the employee’s desires/goals for growth and insight/guidance from the manager on their observations of where the employee may need development. It is important that your human resources and training department are involved in helping to develop any assessment program. Numerous tools and techniques (too extensive to address here) are available to ensure that these conversations are efficient and effective.
  • Communications: Companywide initiatives like employee growth should be well communicated. You will want your communications, human resources, and training department involved you formulating the correct communications and timelines to ensure that the entire organization is informed of the intention, accessibility, and commitment from leadership. As your company becomes proficient at employee growth you will find that it will become a recruiting and retention tool. Career Development Opportunities (Growth) is sighted as a top reason contributing to employee engagement. Since high employee engagement is a critical factor to a company’s success it is important to focus some energy on your employee growth initiatives.
  • Accountability: How are you holding your leaders accountable for the growth of the employees in their department? What metrics are in place to ensure that employee growth is occurring according to the company’s goals? How frequently is employee engagement measured and are their questions related to employee growth? How often is employee growth discussed in senior leadership meetings? Is employee growth discussed in the annual report? Do Individual Development Plans (IDPs) contain goals related to personal growth for the employee? To build a growth culture there must be accountability throughout the organization.

Choosing to invest in your employee’s growth will yield short-term and long-term benefits that will improve your company’s bottom line. A legion of appreciative and loyal employees who eagerly invest back into their company is an eventual outcome

Communication: Mindful and Effective Ways to Keep Everyone Informed



Some companies operated on a need-to-know basis. And certainly, in some situations and industries, this may be a necessary position to take with respect to sharing information within a company. However, in most instances, transparency within a company pays off in the long-term.

The goal of this article is to discuss Communication: Mindful and Effective Ways to Keep Everyone Informed. Trust within an organization is built upon many factors and behaviors by leaders. Communication is consistently found to be one of the most important leadership qualities cited by employees in employee engagement surveys. In addition, the way in which a company communicates with its customers and the general public is becoming increasingly critical to a company’s competitive advantage.

The Strategic Plan Linkage

Any company wishing to survive will likely have a strategic plan. This plan becomes a guiding reference point for an organization’s communication strategy. The Strategic Plan will contain a guidepost by which your communications strategy (internal and external) will want to be linked to. Factors that should be considered for communication that is related to your strategic plan may include (but not be limited to):

  • Vision Statement: This is your aspirational description of what your organization would like to achieve in the mid-term to long-term future. Your Vision Statement should serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action
  • Mission Statement: The declaration of your organization’s core purpose and focus that normally remains unchanged over time
  • Core Values: The fundamental beliefs or your organization. The guiding principles that dictate the behaviors expected by all employees within the organization
  • Strategic Goals: These are the statements of what is critical for your company to focus on the mid-term to long-term future
  • Key Objectives: These are typically the specific results you are looking to achieve in the short-term that is ultimately in support of the strategic goals.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): While KPIs may typically be reserved for internal communications you will likely have KPIs that are communicated externally (such as quality measures, sustainability report measures, etc.)

Steps to Building your Communication Plan

To ensure that the quality of research is beneficial to your organization you will want to consider who should conduct the research. Whomever you choose to conduct your research should have experience in setting up the type of research you are looking to have completed.

  • Senior Leadership Commitment: To build trust and inspire employee engagement your most senior leaders will need to be committed to running an organization with a core tenant of transparency in the communication of the operations and plans of the organization.
  • Hiring Considerations: Commitment at the top must be supported by hiring individuals at various leadership levels who possess skills and competencies in communicating with their personnel. This may be in verbal or written format and in groups or one-on-one. In addition, communication requires great listening skills (which can be taught) and are extremely important to successful communication as communication should be a two-way transaction. When reviewing your hiring practices it is useful to consult with your human resources personnel, communications leaders, and trainers in devising your hiring/training plan to ensure leaders possess great communication skills.
  • Assessing Managers: Each manager/leader will possess varying levels of skills and competencies when it comes to communications. Depending upon a person’s experiences and assent to their current role they may or may not have had the opportunity to become effective in the nuances of both verbal and non-verbal communications. And since different skills are needed for verbal and non-verbal communications it should not be concluded that a leader/manager who is skilled in one area is versed in the other. You will want to establish the communications needs you have for various levels of positions and possibly specific roles. Once these expectations have been established you can assess existing personnel against your needs and identifying any gaps that you will need to train on.
  • Training: Some training will be able to occur in a group setting if there are commonly held communication skills that you wish to have implemented consistently across your organization. However, much of your training may be designed for each individual’s needs and may best be delivered as coaching or mentoring.
  • When to Use the Experts: A key consideration to any communication strategy is determining when leaders/managers can communicate on their own, when they need to consult with your communications leaders or human resources, or when the communications should be handled by a higher-level individual in the organization or be handled formally by communications or human resources (their role may be behind-the-scenes in crafting the proper type of communication, style, and specific messaging).

Types of Communication

A variety of communications methods exist in ensuring that employees and customers are kept properly informed on a timely basis and at the detail level necessary. Following are various methods for consideration (realizing that many of these may seem obvious):

  • Town Halls: Pulling together groups of individuals for an extended discussion about the business can be an effective way.
  • Standups: These are great chances at the beginning of shifts to share small updates necessary to communicate to a team that impacts their current day of work.
  • One-On-Ones: If the information may contain specific information or impact to a specific individual then one-on-ones may be the best format
  • Social Media Feeds: Various social media platforms may be utilized as a means to update your customer base and the general public on a matter that may affect them.
  • Media Releases: Typically reserved for notifying media outlets on general matters related to the company which is intended to inform the general public.
  • Email: A great way to ensure that anyone with email receives consistent messaging.
  • Texting: Certain types of communications are finite in nature and are best served quickly and directly to a targeted audience.
  • Annual Meetings: These certainly come in a variety of formats clearly define how you will be conducting your research to ensure that the information your research and gather is as unbiased as possible.
  • Webinars
  • Collaboration Mediums: There is an abundant variety of collaboration platforms like Skype, Slack, Hubspot, Google Hangouts, etc. which can serve as a means to communicate quickly to smaller groups of people in real-time or near real-time when the communication warrants it.
  • Newsletters: A great way to provide periodic updates on subjects of interest. This applies internally to your employees and separately can benefit your customers
  • Blogs: Similar to a newsletter though likely in a more condensed format.
  • Instant Chat: Reserved for instances when you want to communicate to visitors to your websites
  • Bots: Be mindful of what type of information you want to be shared via bots as many people want to know they are talking to a person or being communicated to by a person
  • CRM Platforms: Many CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have means to communicate information to customers whether it is through a chat feature, email, text, or collaboration.
  • Telephone: How you communicate says a lot about the relationship you have with your employees and customers. Be mindful of the impression you set when using the phone as a means of communication. Does the employee/customer talk to a person, are the menus simple, what are hold times, how many hand-offs occur, is there seamless integration between your communication platforms. All of these should be evaluated when building your overall communication strategy.
  • Training: Whether you are training employees or customers there are special considerations that should be given to what you communicate in this format
  • US Mail: Often forgotten in today’s technology age, but receiving something via the mail can be a great way to communicate, especially if it something that is personalized to the individual recipient.

What all Communications Should Have

As you develop your communications for employees, customers, or the general public it is helpful to have a framework to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your audience.

The Seven Cs of Communication was introduced in 1952 by Scott M. Cutlip in “Effective Public Relations”. These parameters/expectations should be considered as you build any communication – even though the original list was built in the context of public relations. Mr. Cutlip’s original list was:

  • Completeness: Will your communications answer most of the questions related to the subject
  • Conciseness: Stay on-point and do not wonder, make sure it all ties together
  • Consideration: Are you practicing honesty, openness, fair-mindedness, respect, integrity, etc.
  • Concreteness: Is it clear, to what level of the reader are you gearing your communication such that it is understood by all in your audience
  • Courtesy: Being mindful of the feelings and views by those in your audience
  • Cleanliness: Is the structure of the communication smooth and easy, sloppiness will reduce the credibility of the communication
  • Correctness: Any communication (verbal or non-verbal) should meet standard acceptable spelling, grammar, etc. to ensure that you are respectful of the audience

It is safe to add the following Cs to the review process of your communications:

  • Credibility: Is the source of your communication someone who will be credible with the audience
  • Context: Any communication should keep in mind the environment in which the communication is occurring and be mindful of how that reality should impact the communication
  • Clarity: This is pretty much like cleanliness above, use common language understood by the general public
  • Continuity: How frequently should communication be conveyed
  • Consistency: It is critical that communications remain consistent as they are shared throughout the organization, this can sometimes dictate how you will want particular information shared
  • Channels: We spoke earlier about all of the different ways you can communicate, thus any communication should consider how each channel is used and what each channel is effective for
  • Capability: Depending upon your audience you may have to adjust your communication to their capability of understanding the information being conveyed
  • Costs: While costs are always a consideration in any situation it is suggested that when it comes to communicating certain information a company would be wise to not be too cheap in getting in front of their employees or customers to have face-to-face communications which can lead to heightened engagement

We hope that as you build your communication strategy that the previous thought starters and considerations help you to best communicate with your employees, customers, and the public to build long-term trusting relationships that result in exceptional engagement.


15 Effective Strategies For Increasing Productivity Without Adding Stress


15 Effective Strategies For Increasing Productivity Without Adding Stress

Refine Skills And Practices

Stress in a productivity context is a moot point because it is a symptom of other issues, including time and task management skills, prioritization, and perception. Stress in this setting is almost always addressable via refinement of skills and practices that are readily and publicly available. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

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Feeling Negative? 16 Ways To Boost Your Optimism

15 Key Qualities That Define An ‘Agile’ Leader


15 Key Qualities That Define An 'Agile' Leader


The concept of an “agile leader” is an unfortunate subcategorization that is both vague and conceptually already covered in servant leadership. Agility, in terms of adaptability in decision making as well as process management, has and will be one of the cornerstones of time tested business practices that have been successfully utilized for decades. – Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting


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Giving Feedback? 15 Ways To Keep It Constructive

16 Top Tips For Building Company Culture From Scratch


16 Top Tips For Building Company Culture From Scratch

Define Your Wants And Needs

Defining your wants and needs is by far the most significant step that should supersede any other. Without a clear outline of the “what, when, and how,” every other action taken is either meaningless or destined to fail. This should be followed by leading by example — don’t ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourselves. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

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15 Steps To Take When A Company’s Profits Plummet


15 Steps To Take When A Company’s Profits Plummet

Don’t Panic

The single most important action should be understanding the reason behind the nosedive. Though it sounds elementary, it is surprising how many stakeholders jump to action without knowing what the proper action needs to be. Don’t panic – use qualitative and quantitative methods. The time to take action is after you are sure you have found the issue(s). – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

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How To Treat Your Customers Like Humans: 13 Tips For Startups


How To Treat Your Customers Like Humans: 13 Tips For Startups

Treat Them As You Would Like To Be Treated

The best rule of thumb is to treat your client the way you would like to be treated. The size of the company is not relevant — a one-man shop or a national brand — without happy customers, no business can sustain itself in the long run. Don’t complicate it; use your personal experiences as your guide. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

By: Business Consulting

The post How To Treat Your Customers Like Humans: 13 Tips For Startups first appeared on Kamyar Shah.