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serious business results."Tim Connor - President, Rodeo!

Archive for August, 2016

Your Life: Taking Command


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

If sales of time management classes and books are any indicator, most people consider managing their time important. But managing time is often like grabbing a greased octopus, where do you start and how do you keep your grip? The truth of the matter is that most folks begin by trying to manage all the things in their lives – and it makes them losers before they even start.

Every one of us has too many events clamoring for our attention, and the key isn’t managing all of them – it’s eliminating those that shouldn’t be there. That’s right, you can’t begin with a plan for order, you have to begin with a sieve. And guess what? YOU had better be the one who decides what that sieve is going to filter out.

This “orderliness mistake” is made by 90% of the people who try to get a handle on their lives. They buy calendars, planners, sticky notes, and reminders. They spend hours learning the nuances of computer planning, but they never take the time FIRST to decide what is most important to them, actually deciding what’s going to get through that mesh and what isn’t.

Think about it a minute: family, marriage, self, career, today’s tasks – how many issues come pressing in on you from every one of these areas every day? Dozens? Hundreds? It’s a mess, and trying to put it all into order is both frustrating and hopeless. Your initial task HAS to be to find a way to limit the number of things you’re going to handle, and that means developing a plan. There are three “Need tos” to developing the right plan:


1) It needs to address the important areas in your life. What are they? It’s not hard to sit down and list them, and you’ll find that most of them have to do with your critical relationships.

2) It needs to take into account important things by category. What categories?
A) Things important things to me;
B) things important to other key people;
C) things important to my work.

3) It needs to recognize priority among those life areas. What’s that mean? Simply that some are more important than others OR that some need more work than others. Those with highest priority should get the most time allotted to them.

Once you’ve taken the half hour or so to develop these Needstas, you have suddenly opened up a whole new ability to yourself: the ability to Say No. You will still have the hundreds of issues coming into your life every day, but with this starter system you will know which are not important – those you should say “No” to. There’s more to it, of course, and it’s wise to use a planning system that will allow you to incorporate your Need tos into your daily and weekly planning. But this approach will get you started on the right foot, and you will find it much easier to know which issues SHOULD be handled in your life.

Why You Should Conduct An End-of-the-Year Goal Review


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

11 months ago you gave significant time and thought to what you wanted to accomplish during this year. If you take the time now to carefully evaluate your progress toward those goals, you will make your company plan for the next 12 months immensely more effective.

Slimming down, reading more, spending more time with the family – most people feel the need to set goals for the new year. But hardly anyone goes to the next step of systematically assessing their progress as the year draws to a close. This is especially critical with business, because goals set there have a significant impact on the success or failure of the organization.

Set Aside An Hour Or Two

Obviously, the first thing you should do is to set aside the time for a good review. This isn’t a joke – you really have to block out the time so it’s not interrupted. The job can usually be done thoroughly in a couple of hours, especially if you have a plan. Here’s one to consider.

SWOT-ing Your Goals

Yes, the time-honored SWOT analysis is a very good way to analyze business goal progress, because in this exercise you’re not looking at numbers as much as evaluating activities. Why? The purpose of a good goal review is to decide new actions – or the next steps in getting your business where you want it to go. SWOT will let you do that systematically.

Rather than driveling on explaining each of the parts of SWOT, here’s a list of good questions to ask that will really help.

STRENGTHS Within Each Goal

Look at each of the past year’s goals and write your answers to these questions:

  • What went really well with each goal?
  • What made it go well?
  • How did this goal strength positively affect your clients or customers?
  • Are there customers who were more positively affected than others? List them.
  • Did the effect on these particular customers result in a good impact on the bottom line of the business? How much?
  • How did it positively affect your staff?
  • When did it go particularly well – were there times during the year that you should note for future planning?
  • Who in your company particularly contributed to the strength of that goal?

WEAKNESSES Within Each Goal

Again, taking each goal individually and sharpening your pencil, answer these questions:

  • What are the weaknesses that are obvious to you from each goal?
  • What is the specific negative outcome that is making you consider this a weakness?
  • How did this weakness negatively affect your customers and/or clients?
  • How did it negatively affect your staff?
  • Were there specific obstacles that contributed to this goal not being met? List them.
  • Were there specific times during the year that the weakness seemed worse?
  • What was going on during that time that might have contributed to the poor performance toward that goal?
  • Was there a part of your business that seemed to contribute more toward the weak goal performance?

OPPORTUNITIES Related to Each of Your Goals

Now, keep your list of Strengths and Weaknesses handy, and let’s start looking at opportunities that are hidden within this past year’s activities.

Taking into consideration the Strengths you’ve just identified:

  • Consider what went well and what you think made it go well – can you do more of the actions that made it work?
  • Looking at the customers who were more affected than others – should you be focusing even more activity toward this group?
  • Should there be a change in your marketing toward a specific customer group that will have a significant impact on your financial picture?

Talking with your staff about the positive effects that you’ve identified:

  • Why do they think the positive result was produced?
  • Are there things you, as the leader, can do to further increase these positive outcomes?
  • Are there areas within the organization that, if addressed, will further increase these positive outcomes?

Thinking about the strengths that you feel were affected by the time of the year:

  • What about that time of year particularly strengthened this goal? Can it be taken advantage of during the coming year? How?
  • Are there marketing efforts that would take better advantage of this time-based result? Is there a specific market that seemed be affected that strength more than others? What can you do about it?
  • Were there parts of your company which seemed to have a bigger effect on this time-based strength? Again, can you take advantage of that department’s result on the strength?

Thinking about individuals or departments whom you feel particularly contributed to this goal strength:

  • Should you reward them for their efforts?
  • How can they contribute even more to this strength that they helped produce?
  • What can be done to make it easier for them to increase the strength of their results?

Now, considering each goal in terms of the Weaknesses you’ve identified:

  • Is there a way you can minimize this weakness? What specifically has to be done to accomplish that?
  • What do your staff think of this weakness? Do they have ideas on what could change it to a strength?
  • Is there a way to eliminate this negative outcome before it reaches your customers? Do your staff have any ideas on how this could be done?
  • Talk with your staff about the list of obstacles that you feel contributed to the weakness, can they add to the list?
  • What action planning can be done to eliminate each of those obstacles?

THREATS Related To Your Goals

Threats can come from three directions: those coming from outside your business, those coming from within the business, and those arising with YOU. Use your list of Strengths and Weaknesses again, but this time focus more on the “weaknesses” part of the list.

Outside Threats…

  • What did your local competitors do this past year that you consider effective, and that your company is not doing? Can you do it? Should you do it?
  • What did you see developing within your industry that you hadn’t allowed for, but that should be addressed this year with an effective counter?
  • What’s going on in the economy that your company should make allowances for? Start with the national economy, but drill down and consider heavily the local economy – that’s where your planning is most likely to produce good results.

Inside Threats…

Reviewing your organization’s weaknesses:

  • Which arose from customer or service delivery issues? Customers have long memories, and these should be addressed quickly and thoroughly immediately.
  • How is the quality of your product? Of your service? Do your customers consider your product to be the best they can buy? Why, or why not?
  • What are recurring complaints among your staff? Talking with them and identifying issues they have to constantly deal with will usually give you a great starting point for managing looming internal threats.
  • Where, within your organization, are those issues that are limiting your growth? Ignoring these can be the “kiss of death” to your business over the longer term, and you should know what these are and plan to eliminate them. Don’t just look at financial or capital threats, but consider also your company’s:
  • ability to deliver enough of your product or service
  • ability to deliver a quality product or service, the first time
  • ability to provide stellar follow up service
  • effectiveness at getting referrals from your current customers
  • ability to generate new business

Threats Arising From You…

These threats can be subtle – or obvious to everyone in the organization. So you may want to get input from both colleagues and direct reports. This can be a little hairy, but you may find that quantum leaps in company performance are hidden in activities YOU could do differently.

  • Review your involvement in day to day processes. Are there areas where your busy-ness (or absence) is holding up decisions or action? Is it happening regularly?
  • What are your key relationships within the business? Are you providing the interaction, information, and decisions that those people need to get their jobs done right?
  • Are you missing any skills or knowledge that would make a difference in the organization’s performance? When and how can remedy the situation?
  • Are you giving time to your key personal relationships? When things go poorly with your spouse or children, they tend to have a negative effect on your performance at work.

Involving Staff in the Review

As you consider the effects that specific staff or departments might have had on the weaknesses you’ve identified, determine whether the issues is based on lack of skill, lack of knowledge, a process problem, or an attitude problem that would require some sort of disciplinary action. Interestingly, while many bosses default to the attitude issue, it’s FAR more likely that the problem is one of process – steps within the system that are making it work poorly. In fact, about 90% of issues within a process have to do with the process design (or lack of it) rather than with the people involved. It’s worth looking at closely.

Also, remember to include the staff where you can in this process, especially in the Opportunities and Threats analysis. They will have a better understanding of the process issues than you will, and inviting their input will not only give you good, workable ideas, but will build their self-esteem and

Wrapping It All Up

Now you have several pages of ideas and data that you’ve systematically produced, all related to your goal performance from the past year.

When the time for planning your – or your company’s – new year arrives, you will find that those goals and plans will come much more easily, and are immensely more likely to make a positive difference during the coming year. Get to work!

Why Is A Service Recovery Strategy Critical To My Business?

Customer Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

EThe smart leader, to build loyalty in customers and keep his or her business lively and growing over the long term, must have a plan for recovering from service errors. This article describes service recovery, the three crucial elements of such a plan, and why they make the it work.

Every business, every organization, every human, makes mistakes. It’s part of the human condition. It’s going to happen.

That has to be said first, because if your assumption is that you won’t make mistakes, you have to proceed on a wholly different premise, and it will be a premise built on the quicksand of fallacy. Now, we’re in a unique position as a nation because we have moved into the “Gotcha!” mode with our legal system and indeed in our popular thinking, which seeks to shift responsibility for mistakes onto whoever has the most money. But that will have to be addressed in another article.

So, if we make the assumption that your business is going to make mistakes, then we can move on to breaking mistakes down into one of two categories: product mistakes and service mistakes. Product mistakes are the most obvious, because if our product doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, there’s a problem. But product errors turn immediately into service mistakes because they require you to deal immediately with the customer who bought the product. So the plan here is to focus on service, and the method you have in place to properly deal with those issues. That’s called service recovery.

Service Recovery Must Have Goals

Think about it for a minute: what are the outcomes you want for a customer when an error has been made? This isn’t rocket science, business leader, because you are dealing with people. What do people want when there’s been an error made? Let’s break it down into pieces.

People Want You To Acknowledge There’s a Problem

This is first and foremost, because (especially in our present economy) people just spent hard-earned cash with you, they expected a certain product, and they feel they haven’t gotten it. So your plan has to be to get on the customer’s side. You and your staff have to agree with the customer that there’s a problem, and that it’s your #1 priority to get it right. If the customer hears that from your staff, there will be an immediate de-escalation in the whole interaction, and you will hear the customer calm down. People are “wired” in that they want to be heard when they have a problem, and if they feel heard – especially if your staff give immediate feedback that they have heard – it satisfies this inbuilt need.

People Want A Product That Works

The second goal must be to provide the customer a product that works, because that’s what they expected when they purchased from you. So once your staff have communicated that they’ve heard, a working product has to be provided – and quickly. One of my favorite passages is from Tom Peter’s book Thriving On Chaos, in which he describes a situation within Coleman, the company that manufactures the well-known Coleman Stove. It seems there was a problem with the boilers cracking, and the service department showed up at the executive meeting with their report and the expectation that the team would have to settle down to a long meeting and discussion. Mr. Coleman, the owner, was there, and after about 30 seconds of listening he sat bolt upright in his chair: “’You mean we’ve got goods out there that aren’t working? Get ‘em back. Replace ‘em, and find out why, @#$%&!’ And that was the end of the meeting. There was no financial analysis. There was no legal analysis. There was no customer-relations analysis…The issue was the integrity of the product – which means there was no issue at all. We stand by it, and that’s that.” Page 86, Thriving on Chaos

If you, as the leader of your company, stand by your products in that way, and your staff know it and know that you mean it, they’ll be willing to meet the customer’s requirement for a product that works.

Now you have to include a plan to get the product quickly replaced, with a way for staff to do that. You also have to have a way to find the root cause and get it fixed. But the main thing is to meet the customer’s need, and that can be accomplished as part of your service recovery plan.

People Want To Continue The Relationship With Your Company

Why does your customer buy from you in the first place? Because you have something that they feel meets their needs. Sure it includes price, but in a much deeper sense – and over time in dealing with you – they want a relationship with a business they can depend on. Such a relationship is the foundation of customer loyalty, and it goes far beyond just satisfying the customer. Don’t believe it? Just look at those companies whose customers continue to be fiercely loyal to them: Federal Express, Lincoln Electric, Ritz Carlton. Every one has a plan to remedy mistakes that includes maintaining relationships at its very core.

The third part of your plan, then, has to include a method for continuing and strengthening the relationship with that customer. One way this can be done is with a follow up call to make sure that they’ve received the replacement (or the service that was needed to resolve the problem), and that they are satisfied with the result. Be honest and forthright with this interaction, make sure that the customer is 100% satisfied. When your staff do this, you will be on the path to building loyal customers, and it’s loyal customers who will keep your company in business for the long term.

Summary: Three Parts To Your Plan

So, as you develop your service recovery plan – and as you implement it with your staff – make sure that you have solid steps addressing each of the three key parts:

  • 1. Hear and agree that there is a problem
  • 2. Provide the replacement product quickly
  • 3. Follow up to verify 100% satisfaction

And there’s another benefit. Over time, those companies which maintain their integrity and their relationships with their customers can have a higher price for their products, because their customers feel that that company “is worth it”. Do you want your organization to be a company like one of those?

Start your service recovery plan to accomplish that today.

Time: The Great Leveler


By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

The 21st Century. 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ in the Middle East. But what do we today, a man from 2000 years ago, a knight from the middle ages, and a colonial planter from 1751 in Virginia have in common? All have exactly the same number of hours in a day.

Exactly the same number.

Look around you: you might see an assistant, the CEO, a housekeeper, a surgeon, a younger colleague, it doesn’t matter who it is, all have 24 hours in a day. So how come Bill the accountant looks calm and unruffled while Zelda the vice president is hollow-eyed and jittery? It’s in the way they handle their own personal 24 hours.

When most people think of time, they think “not enough of it”. But is there really not enough – or are there too many things that come into our time? It’s a little shocking to think of the past 80 years and the work that has been put into machines and methods aimed at saving us time. What’s going on? Did the machines work? And if they did work, where the dickens is all this time I’m supposed to have on hand now? The Big Question: How do I arrange my day to get important things done and still have time to relax?

The answer starts with understanding time. Time is inanimate, it doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t care what you are doing, and it certainly can’t be managed. So put any thought of time management out of your mind – time marches on! You have to begin with the concept that a day is a series of events. How did you begin your day today? What were the first things you did after your eyeballs popped open this morning? Chances are it looked something like this:

  • Turn off the alarm
  • Groan gently for a minute or so
  • Hit the bathroom
  • Take a shower
  • Greet your spouse
  • Make the coffee
  • Glower at your kids
  • Eat breakfast
  • Feed the cat
  • Glance at the news
  • Get in the car and drive to work

See any “time” in that list? Nope! That list is a series of EVENTS. And the rest of every day of every person is another series of more events. Some are predictable, some are not. But what events you allow within your 24 hours is the key to having a sane and productive life. It involves three things: knowing your priorities, having a plan, and using a system.

Knowing Your Priorities

To begin with, if you don’t have formal priorities for your life, EVERYTHING that enters your day will force its priority on you. You’ve seen it happen.

“This is critical, we HAVE to get it done!”. “If we don’t do this right now, the business is going to suffer.” Or: “Sure, we can skip this meeting, but it will mean the end of civilization as we know it…”

Of course, there are emergencies that come up, they happen. But look at those statements just made, do you see any similarities? It’s the word “We”. Every single event that you face in a day has a priority to someone, and the goal of that person is to get YOU to share in that priority. It goes beyond your face-to-face interactions with people. Email calls you to new tasks.

Internet “clicks” pull you into time-consuming blurbs about travel, social issues, and the newest drug for dealing with a health malady you didn’t know you needed.

Television gobbles up huge chunks of time showing that you CAN fire a rock over 1000 yards using only steam and a hollow log – an interesting study, but probably fairly low as far as usefulness in your life. All these things claim time from you, and leave less time for other things – remember, you only have 24 hours to begin with. Knowing your own priorities allows you the luxury to say “NO” to events pushing into your day’s events. They actually can free up significant pieces of time for you.

So the number one activity to get a handle on your time? Decide and write down your own priorities, both for your personal and your professional life.

Having a Plan

Obviously, having a set of priorities – knowing what’s important to you – is a huge step forward. But they won’t do you a whole lot of good if you don’t have a plan for accomplishing things within those priorities. A plan includes goals, both short and long term, for getting important things actually accomplished. Goals will probably include significant other people in your life, such as your spouse, or children, or parents. They might include skills you want to learn, hobbies you want to practice, places you want to visit.

A good plan takes into account the actual goal, but also the plan and the time needed to accomplish that goal. And don’t sell that last one short, ALL goals take time, and only YOU can see that the time to bring about that goal is there as it’s needed.

So your second activity is to write out goals within your priorities, including both the detail and the time necessary to bring them to fruition.

Using a System

Priorities and goals are indispensable for reclaiming time within your day, but it’s a system that actually allows you to get them done. The system should include a way for you to plan for finishing the details that lead to your goal. It will allow you to set time aside BEFORE your week – or your day – begins. It should allow you to track progress, and to monitor important daily events that you want to remember. Did you know that a study done by Franklin Covey showed that the average time a business professional spends just looking for such important information is six weeks a year? Would you like to have six weeks back in a year? What could you do with an amount of time like that?

So the third, and final activity to reclaim time is to have, and use, a system.

The Right Way to Measure Business Performance

Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

All business leaders monitor something in their organization, but many limit measurement to financial areas. Why? Because financial measures are easy to set up. How well does this approach work, though? Wouldn’t it be a vast improvement if you could predict performance instead of cussing about it a month after the fact?

Know What Performance Is for your Business

Sounds kind of basic, huh? But this is the part leaders don’t take the time to do, even though it’s foundational to the rest of the process. But let’s face it: if you can’t define high performance for your business, you sure can’t measure it!

Sounds kind of basic, huh? But this is the part leaders don’t take the time to do, even though it’s foundational to the rest of the process. But let’s face it: if you can’t define high performance for your business, you sure can’t measure it!

Where do you begin, then? Begin by thinking about the products or the services, you deliver to customers every day. This is important, because the customers are the ultimate designators of ‘high performance’ for your business’s output. What do they want? (Here’s a hint, listen for recurring complaints when they don’t get what they want!).

For Products:

  • Want it on time?
  • Want it right?
  • Want the right amount of it?

For Services:

  • Want friendliness?
  • Want to be understood, heard out?
  • Want issues addressed the first time?
  • There are others, of course, but you get the idea. The point is that your starting point for figuring out measures is the end of your business’s process – what customers are actually paying your for.

    Know the Difference: In-Process Measures vs. Outcome Measures

    Once you know your customers’ desired outcomes, you can figure out actual measures for them. As already mentioned, that really has to be done first or you can’t come up with the process measures that support the outcomes. It might be a good idea to explain this a little more.

    An Outcome Measure is a measure at the end of the process. It is built from the desired outcome the final user of the product or service wants. What are some well-known examples of an outcome and the measure that comes from it?

    By the way, if you’re wondering how “sales volume” could be a measure of whether Federal Express’s service is fast, here’s the train of thought:

    Fed Ex knows from customer input that speed is a main requirement of their service
    Therefore the business is built around the hub concept, guaranteeing turnaround speed
    If people continue to purchase (and even buy more of) their services
    Then they must be meeting the outcome requirement of fast (enough) service. Not too hard to do, huh?

    OK, here’s another one. Lincoln Electric is so competitive that international competition has never made significant inroads into their U.S. markets – no competition from Japan or anywhere else. How do maintain such a state when every other industry in the country is overrun with global competitors?

    The answer is innovation.

    Lincoln identified innovative products, and the supporting meeting changing customer requirements as being key to their competitive advantage. They focus hard on innovation and customer feedback, and if they do it right, they aren’t going to lose customers. Therefore the measures % Customer Retention and Sales Volume are accurate measures of a good outcome.

    A Process Measure is an up-line measure that acts as an alarm system: it tells you before the product moves on that everything is either OK or Not OK – before it gets to the end of the line and messes up the outcome.

    What are some common process measures?

    • Cycle Time: tells you how long it takes to make something, or whether it’s on time
    • Completeness: tells you if all the parts are attached (or in a document, completed).

    As mentioned above, process measures allow you to catch problems before they get to the customer, and they’re important.

    Report Ongoing Results to the People Who Do It

    You’ve got staff involved throughout your company who are producing your product or service. They know the steps needed to produce ‘the right stuff’ (after all, some of them have been producing it for years). They can make a big difference in the outcomes your company produces if they have a way to catch problems before they get too far along. For that reason, giving them access to process measures will let them monitor their own area.

    Reporting on outcome measures, on the other hand, will let them know how things are going overall, and they can often find ways to improve outcomes by working upstream (in their area) – but only if they are told how the outcomes are going.

    So, it’s beneficial to find ways to keep your people up to date with company progress through having and reporting measures, and it can be done for any company.

    The Primacy of Planning

    Operations Focus

    By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

    “@#$%& it! Will you quit bugging me with your planning meetings – I’ve got work to do!” That was a statement made to me by a manager when I asked him – for the third time – to work with a group of us assigned a critical project. The project, if carried off well, would have profound effects on the long term health of the business. But it ended up fizzling after two months. Why? Because this manager, in a crucial department, didn’t see the need for planning, and wouldn’t ‘play’.

    Planning can be looked on as a pain in the neck. Often, at the very best, we do it because we know we ought to. But it’s done grudgingly, and because of that incompletely. Then when the plan doesn’t work we reinforce the thought that planning is a waste of time. But really, is it? What are the pitfalls of not planning?

    Pitfalls of Not Planning

    First of all there’s the effect on the plan itself. What happens when we don’t plan at all? That’s more easily seen in the example of a good vacation.

    Most of us wouldn’t think of going on an extended vacation without doing significant planning. Why? Because it’s precious time to us! We want results from it – results like relaxation, fun with others, rejuvenation. We judge ‘effectiveness’ in a vacation by the lack of hassle, by things coming off right, the absence of nasty surprises, the pleasantness of the surroundings, everything working like it should. And what is the final result? A good vacation brings us back refreshed and re-created (recreation?), and makes us much better able to take up our work again. In fact, a good vacation will change our entire outlook on our work, and make it a pleasure again – especially if it had stopped being a pleasure before. So we plan our vacations. We look at where we will go, what things we will do; we look at the accommodations we’ll book, and the surroundings of those accommodations. We look at resources – the money we’ll need to get there and the money we’ll have on hand for spending. Is such planning worth it? Most of us would answer “Absolutely!”.

    So what about NOT planning a vacation? Well, you can look forward to one sure thing – surprises. Now, I like surprises. But I don’t enjoy spending hours in a destination trying to find a room. I don’t like discovering that things in my hotel don’t work, or that the place isn’t clean. One surprise we encountered on a poorly researched vacation landed us in a room where the carpets were all wet. I wondered if this was because they’d just cleaned them, and further exploration yielded the fact that the toilet had a habit of backing up. Now THAT was a nasty surprise. Did we stay in that room? What do YOU think?

    Lack of planning can yield similar surprises in business. Let’s look what goes into a business planning process, and how it can be done right.

    Perils of the Planning Process

    Let’s face it, it’s fun to get right down to the meat of our work, and planning doesn’t let us do that! That is the number one reason leaders don’t like to plan. We are busy, there are pressures to get things done, and planning takes time. It just seems easier and more enjoyable to do the job. But consider the surprises we set ourselves up for when we do it that way. We can find ourselves wasting time looking for data that’s hard to find or even missing completely. We find ourselves doing things over, causing rework for other parts of the business, lowering morale among staff. Ultimately, we don’t get the results we want, and the business itself suffers.

    Often, leaders look at planning they HAVE done (poorly!) and then aren’t satisfied with the results they obtained. Such results can be a powerful negative deterrent to doing any planning at all. And while our plan may have given us poor outcomes, it’s not the planning itself that’s the problem, but most often the way it was done. Good planning takes time, and it should be structured – done around certain principle areas. Let’s look at what those principal areas are.

    Principles for Planning

    Good planning starts with looking at the results or outcomes that are needed. Those results might include increased use of our product or service. They might include increased customer satisfaction with us, or better patient outcomes. They may just be plain, old-fashioned making more money! Whatever they are, good planning begins with a clear understanding of the desired results.

    Time also need to be considered, and in two important areas.

    First, the actual time to plan must be enough for effectiveness. This can be hard because we aren’t ‘doing’ when we’re planning. But as we saw earlier, not taking the proper amount of time to plan can generate large volumes of wasted time later, and that wasted time affects productivity, staff morale, and ultimately business success. It’s best to take the time for planning well.

    Second, planning should include the time needed for doing the right work to get the right outcomes. Leaders need to know how much time will be needed for critical parts of the project or business. We have to consider time needed for marketing, for interacting with the customer, the actual cycle time for producing our services or products. We need to consider the time needed for maintenance – both of equipment and of us and our staff! We need to know how long it will take to get important information, and how long it takes to get it to others who need it. So planning time is a principle leaders must use in planning.

    Another principle is planning for resources. This is obvious, but it has to be done systematically. We have to consider the resources necessary to bring us the very best results. Those resources will include money: for marketing, for equipment, for proper staffing, for space to work. Resources include the materials themselves: what materials, what equipment, what kind of space, what information? And they include people: what skills will my people need? How many people? Where will the people be needed? So planning for resources is critical to a successful planning effort.

    Finally, really good planning means planning for information. What information will be needed for each part of the project to work well? How quickly can I get it, and do others need it quickly from us? Planning for information means knowing where to get the information, who has it and is it the best? The right information at the right time in the right form is critical to effective businesses, more so now than ever before in history. So the last principle in planning is planning for information.

    Primacy of Planning

    To sum it up, good planning is always the foundation of good business success. Good planning involves knowing the results you want, taking enough time to plan, planning for the time needed to run the project or process well, planning for the resource needs, and assessing the information needs for the project.

    No matter how skilled workers are, or how good leaders are, or how state-of-the-art equipment is, a poor plan – or no plan – will bring it all to nothing. Take the time to plan well!

    The One Thing… Process Part 2

    Operations Focus

    By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

    In Part 1 series, we looked at the importance of beginning with the customers’ needs and requirements to properly design a process. In this concluding piece, we’ll look at both process design and the basics of process improvement.

    Designing a Process: What Do You Want?

    Once you know what the outside customer wants, your next step is to clarify those wants into measurable outcomes – related wholly to the customer’s specs.

    Why is this step important?

    Because conformity to those specs is your competitive advantage, a principle which holds true today no matter what your business is, or where in the world it is conducted.

    Beginning with customers, there are three primary objectives every business process should meet:

    1) it should be effective, or produce the desired results the customer is looking for.
    2) It should be efficient, using the minimum resources necessary to produce those desired results.
    3) It should be adaptable, have the flexibility to meet changing customer and business needs.

    It might seem like an exaggeration, but U.S. businesses have become lazy when challenged in these three areas. Their focus on the efficient part of the process, minimizing resources, is evident in the rise of the CFO as a major force, with cost-cutting now the major response to challenges from outside.

    If you hear that and it sounds reasonable, consider the long term effects of a “cost only” concentration. It reduces the ability of your company to deliver products and services. This is a kiss of death where customers are concerned, because those products and services are why they’ve dealt with your company in the first place. It’s also resulted in reduced quality of products, another killer when it comes to customers who want value for their hard earned (and rapidly dwindling!) dollars. Finally, it’s resulted in portions of our businesses, or even whole businesses, being moved offshore. Offshore moves mean –in the long run – those industries will become the industries of the country where they’ve been moved, and no longer the solid underpinnings of the United States economy.

    For processes to be improved and remain competitive, all three of the primary objectives have to be addressed.

    Applying the Primary Objectives

    We’ve already looked at how to address Objective 1, Producing The Desired Results, so we’ll move on to Objective 2.

    Objective 2, Making The Process Efficient, is second in importance.

    Notice it’s second – if you aren’t making sure that your efficiency is continuing to produce the best product, you have begun a death spiral with your business. While the imperatives for efficiency are most often begun at an executive level, it’s the STAFF doing the process who can usually provide the best returns here. Why is that? Because it’s the people doing the process who have the best idea of what’s needed, since they do it every day.

    Process efficiency looks at things like…

    • Cycle time per unit, or cycle time per transaction for a service. In other words, How long does it take to make each thing you make? Or, how long does it take you to complete a transaction with a customer? Time is money, of course, but cycle time doesn’t monitor hourly wages. The less time it takes to make something, or to finish something, the more transactions or items you can produce. Time is capacity!
    • How many resources, how many people, are needed per unit of output? Knowing this allows you not just to monitor costs, but to predict and plan for future needs.
    • What are the value-added costs per unit? This is a little more abstract, but it’s a monitor of the steps in the process that actually add value – value to the customer – to the product or service.
    • What are the non-value-added costs per unit? Believe it or not, most processes have steps within them that add no value to the product in the customer’s eyes. BUT, they still may be critical: preventative maintenance procedures come to mind. You need to know what these steps are.
    • What is the cost of poor quality? This starts with understanding what poor quality is within your product or service. And then it moves on to looking at the consequences of poor quality. Only when you identify the actual problem, and the actual consequences, can you move on to classify the actual costs.

    Objective 3, Making The Process Adaptable, is third in importance. This one is quite often ignored in businesses, and results in some dire consequences.

    Process adaptability is the ability of the process to meet future customer requirements. As technology expands and expectations of products and services change rapidly, businesses have to be ready to change to remain competitive.

    Examples of changes like this include the tracking of shipments while en route, an innovation introduced by UPS that caused immediate scrambling by other carriers to seek to keep up. Such a change as that one often mandate complete scrapping of an existing process because it will never meet the new expectations. Re-engineering is then called for.

    Review Your Processes Now

    Taking the time to walk through your business’s processes will pay dividends far beyond the hour or so per process a quick review will take. Edwards Deming, who invented many of the process management approaches used today, estimated that between 80 and 90% of all process steps are waste steps, and can be removed from processes using process analysis tools.

    Would it make a difference to your company if you could reduce your product cycle time by 40-50%? That’s effectively doubling your production capacity! What about customer response processes, how many complaints would go away if you reduced turnaround there by 20 or 30%? Would that bring your customer loyalty up? How about repeat sales? Take the time to do it today, it’s worth it!

    The One Thing… Process Part 1

    Operations Focus

    By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

    What’s The One Thing that business owners can focus on to simultaneously reduce costs, improve morale, and kick revenue up? The business process. Processes are simple, and anyone can understand their basics. The dangers with processes lie in their repetitive nature and how often they happen in a day. If a process is done wrong, it will be done wrong A LOT! That is expensive!

    What is a Process?

    Processes are the building blocks of business, all our internal and external services are based on them. Taking an order? It’s a process. Building a widget? It’s a process. Making a sale, dealing with a customer complaint, readying a bill? You guessed it, all of these activities are processes.

    In its essence a process is a series of steps that are gone through to produce either 1) a service, or 2) a product. Makes sense, huh? Without processes we couldn’t do work,. But the problems arise from the attention we pay to our processes, whether it’s a little attention or a lot.

    The End Is Where It Starts

    How’s THAT for a weird statement? But think about it: isn’t the end-in-mind where you have to begin in order to know what steps should make up the work? If you’re building a monkey wrench, you need to know what a monkey wrench looks like. Unfortunately, that’s where many businesses stop – what should it look like? If you take this approach your first step will be to copy what is already out there. To build a mortgage service, you’ll look at all the other mortgage services to see what they’re doing. To run a medical practice, you’ll make a list of what all the other practices normally do.

    But how about adding a little twist? What happens when you start with asking yourself: What does the end customer want from this product or service? That actually drives a very different train of thought.

    Into the Mind of the Customer

    To clearly define the end-in-mind you have to consider what the customer is looking for in several arenas. Customers are looking for value in the purchases they make, and in times of economic challenge that will be more true than ever. Where do they place value?

    • In the utility of the purchase – Does it do what I need it to do?
    • In the durability of the purchase – How long will it last and continue to do what it was purchased for?
    • In headaches and repairs – How much repair and maintenance will be needed?
    • And finally, in price – How much will it cost?

    While cost may come up early, it is rarely the top consideration for a purchase. Durability, maintenance, utility – the better these are the higher the value in the eyes of the customer, and the more they are willing to pay because they KNOW they are getting value. These needs and wants provide the “Why” for the way you operate your business.

    So you have to begin by defining what the customer wants before you can begin laying out your processes. And the more clearly you define those wants and needs, the better you’ll be able to design your processes.

    The Missing Link: Designing Your Processes

    Believe it or not, most business service processes are not designed at all. You heard me right – they are not designed at all. In a small business, processes come about because the original person does it a certain way, and gradually that becomes the way that process is done. Is it a good way to do it? We don’t know, it gets the job done, so we do it that way!

    Early on, there might be some efficiencies in the process because the original person does it all, and usually works to do it better. But as a business grows, other duties come in, and suddenly the process begins to morph into something different. Over time the original process owner is either promoted or leaves for another job, and the process is taken over by another. Gradually over months and years, the process gathers steps the way Velcro gathers lint, and then you have a lot of steps that aren’t producing value.

    As You Get Bigger It Gets Worse

    The real headaches begin as the business grows, which (hopefully) all good businesses do. New people come into processes, and the busy nature of the rest of the staff means that time isn’t taken to train them on the “Whys” of the process, although they might get the “Whats” (as in what to do). Because they don’t know the why – and remember, the “why” is based on the original needs of the customer – any changes the new worker makes might not make the process produce a better outcome.

    There’s another problem too. Most processes depend on other processes for at least part of their input. This is true in any business, but it becomes more evident – and critical – as a business grows. How’s that? Here are some examples…

    • the Billing process depends on data gathered from Sales
    • the Production process depends on data gathered from Sales
    • the Sales process depends on data taken from Reception
    • the Shipping process depends on data from several places.
    • See what I mean?

      So What Do You Do Now?

      One of the easiest steps you can take to begin improving processes is to review your picture of client needs and wants. A clear picture there will go far toward shedding light on the value of process steps.

      We’ll get into other activities for improving processes in Part II of this series.

    The Key to Effective Leadership: Defining Roles, Relationships, and Responsibilities


    By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

    You’ve read keys to leadership before, probably enough to fill a sizeable key ring! But let’s face it, leadership is about people – who else would you lead? So if it is about people, there ought to be a way to systematically become more effective. And I’m not just talking about folks at work, but also about leadership with your spouse and children.

    So what’s the scoop?

    The secret, as in almost any worthwhile endeavor, has to do with having a plan. In this case the plan involves defining three important “people area questions”: “What are my roles?” “What are my key relationships within each of those roles?” And “What are the responsibilities that go along with each of those relationships?”

    First off, What are my roles? Each of us has roles in life, some more than others. You might have a role as a boss, or as an employee. You might even have both! You might have a role as a wife or a husband, or as a father or mother. My own key roles are as a boss, as a husband, and as a father. Whatever your key roles are, write them down on the left side of a piece of paper, and leave room between them.

    Study those roles for a minute or two. Each role will have key relationships that go with it. For instance, if you are an employee, you have a manager, supervisor, or an executive you report to. That’s a key relationship. You may also have a few people who work with you on a company team, and again, those are key relationships. Don’t put everyone in the company down, but capture the key few. List the key relationships to the right of each role you have on your paper. Leave space to the right of each relationship, because you’ve still got more to do!

    As an example, I have a role as a father, and the key relationships for me in that role include my three sons. I would list their three names to the right of my role as “father”. Now that isn’t so hard, is it?

    The third area to consider to make this leadership exercise work is the responsibilities that go along with each of the relationships. Take some time to think about these. What do each of these people need from you in order be more effective themselves? If you’re a boss and the key relationship you are considering is that of an employee who reports to you, it might be communication. It might also be encouragement, or a regular time each week to give you feedback. In the role of a father, you have to consider the age of the child you’re dealing with: a 12 year old needs a lot more time than an 18 year old, and the activities you do with him or her will be considerably different. Whatever those key responsibilities, as you think of them list them to the right of each relationship.

    Now, I’ll bet you’ve got a full sheet! The final step is to start taking those responsibilities and making time for them. And this is important: if you’ve identified your key roles, and your key relationships within each role, and your key responsibilities for each relationship, you have a list of some of the most important activities you can take time for in your life. Putting aside time here will make those who are important to you more effective. But it will do a lot more than that. Time spent here will heal hurt feelings, it will smooth out misunderstandings, it will energize interactions. You will find that you get along better with these people, and that crises will begin to disappear from those relationships.

    And isn’t that what true leadership is about…making others more effective? Try this little exercise out, I think you’ll find that it works.

    The Five S’s of Lean

    Operations Focus

    By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

    Lean is an approach to process improvement that is well-known in manufacturing, but which can be applied to any process. These “S’s” originated in Japan, and help build an environment conducive to a smooth-running process.

    Lean is an approach to process improvement that is well-known in manufacturing, but which can be applied to any process. These “S’s” originated in Japan, and help build an environment conducive to a smooth-running process.


    Begin by eliminating unnecessary items from the work area. “Red Tagging” is an effective visual method used to identify unneeded items, which can then either be moved to a central holding area or discarded completely. This step frees up valuable floor space, removes broken or obsolete tools and fixtures, and makes it easier to focus on the job.

    Set in Order

    The second S focuses on careful storage so the job can be carried on effectively. These are the questions to be asked:

    • What do I need to do my job?
    • Where should I locate this item?
    • How many of this item do I need?

    Other strategies for Set in Order are painting schemes that support the work, outlining work areas, shelving and cabinets for necessary items, and standard places for tools and materials needed every day. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place” is a good American version of this S.


    Once the first two steps are completed, and the work space is clear with needed work items in their places, it’s time to thoroughly clean the work area. Why? Because a clean and orderly area makes work easier, raises morale, and really helps staff take pride and ownership in their work and work space. A clean area also makes it easier to spot leaks, deterioration of equipment, misalignments, and broken parts that ultimately lead to equipment failure and loss of production. The impact of the clean work space will show itself in several ways on the bottom line.


    This step should always involve the staff from the job or area. There are always best practices within a work function, and the first step is to find these practices and bring them to the table. The staff discuss these and come to agreement as to the best, making these the standard for all work in that particular area. But don’t stop with internal best practices, encourage staff to look outside the company, even in other industries. Southwest Airlines benchmarked the Woods Brothers pit team in NASCAR to see how their fast, effective turnaround of vehicles might have application in the airlines.


    This last step aims at keeping the new changes in place, and it’s the toughest to implement. Why? Because people build habits, and even when those habits are tied to poor methods of work, they’re used to them and find it hard to change. Find ways to reward maintenance of these new changes, especially during the first 3 months. You will find production up, and morale and company pride on the increase.

    Leadership Development Consulting | Ocala, FL

    A national company based in Ocala, Florida.