Tag Archive: culture change

The Value of Implementation

August 5th, 2016
change initiative

Successful project implementation requires leadership and hard work to pick up the pieces when something goes wrong – because something always will.

Strategy and plans do not fail in formulation; they fail in implementation.  Time and time again, my clients prove this statement.

Although I am an expert in helping clients select the best ERP system to meet their objectives (and have developed a proprietary process for just this process – ACE), system implementations go awry during implementation. I also happen to be an expert at significant change initiatives in complex organizations (whether merger and acquisitions or culture change) – undoubtedly, they go off the rails during implementation; not formulation.  Thus, it is quite critical to consider the value of implementation.

Because these initiatives are core to success, it is worth thinking about what has the most impact on results. The problem with implementation is that it requires hard work and leadership. There aren’t short cuts on this path to success. For example, when going through a merger, acquisition or selling the business, it is important to think through how you’ll handle issues that arise.  If there is one certainty with these types of projects, it is that issues will arise.  If you haven’t figured out how to address them so that the team aligns with the path forward, damage will be done. Synergies will disappear. Margins will decline. Morale will drop. Customers might hit the road. Thinking through how to handle these scenarios in a way that aligns with “what you said you’ll do” and the company philosophy is important.

If nothing else, consider “thinking before you act” when it comes to implementation. It is easy to slide to the 80% fail rate to meet expectations.  You must be on your toes, proactive and fully understanding the value of implementation for success to consider following you.


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Want Success? Keep Culture Change in Mind.

February 29th, 2016
culture change

When done correctly, culture change brings together the key ingredient for business success — people.

After leaving the work force as a VP of Supply Chain and Operations with a successful track record, I knew I could help executives improve business performance; however, I had no idea how to find clients. Thus, I immersed myself in the keys to success of starting a thriving consulting practice. I discovered that referrals were much more important than a “nice-to-have”; they would make or break success. Fast-forward 11 years, and I have built my business on this tenet – it is a relationship business. At least 95% of my business has resulted from repeat business and referrals.

What do referral sources want? Results. If I can help ensure success, they will bring me back – and tell all of their friends. Thus, although process and systems expertise is required, the key to success goes back to people – culture change, change management, and leadership.

Unfortunately, the best strategy or plan becomes useless if not executed effectively. If your team isn’t on board, you will not succeed. Similarly, if your customers and suppliers aren’t on board, it is not likely you’ll succeed.  Similarly, if you communicate the plan but don’t involve people in the design, ask them for feedback, and give them the chance to try out new ideas, you won’t have long-term success. If you don’t address poor performers, your stars will lose their motivation.

Earlier today, I saw an amazing piece of technology and a substantial upgrade to warehouse operations. It expands capacity for growth, provides efficiency improvements, speeds up the process (shortens lead times) and provides a host of other benefits; however, it will be similar to hiding a new Maserati convertible in your garage if the people don’t come along for the ride. Remember to focus attention on culture change – and people.

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What Is Company Culture?


Lost in Culture Change Maze? Here are 4 Strategies for Success!

What Is Company Culture?

June 1st, 2015
company culture change

Many executives can tell you precisely the company culture they want to have. However, creating that culture becomes increasingly difficult without communications, change agents and action.

I wholeheartedly agree with my consulting mentor Alan Weiss with how he defines culture – “It is that set of beliefs that governs behavior”.

Culture seems like such a mysterious topic and executives spend millions to try to create culture change and the like. Yet when you boil it down to the basics, it is really quite simple. What set of beliefs does your company run by? Where did they come from? Are they helping or hurting you?

When you look at culture with this viewpoint, it becomes easy to determine how to change your corporate culture; however, the devil is in the execution. For example, one of the companies I worked with merged with another. The strategy was “perfect” – great synergies and opportunities to leverage strengths. The vision was communicated effectively but fell apart in execution.  As I’ve heard Alan say about one of his clients, “Bill, do you believe what you read on the walls or what you hear in the halls?”  In this case, the set of beliefs and values that govern the day-to-day behavior were not modified.  Thus, the fabulous strategy could not occur as the former company philosophy prevailed.

Stay tuned for articles about how to change culture; however, to give you a few tips to stew on in the interim:  1) Communicate consistently, frequently and with different media.  2) Align communications with actions.  3) Find exemplars to lead the culture change.  Much of my consulting practice’s success is based upon these principles for the simple reason is that RESULTS FOLLOW.  And you have a happier work environment to boot.

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How to Defy the Odds with Culture Change

July 25th, 2013
change management map

Execution must be a core component of your organization’s culture

Between 70-80%+ of culture change programs, such as mergers and acquisitions, fail to produce the results originally expected. Yet, there are still many private equity firms and companies aggressively searching to merge and/or acquire a business – and certainly companies embark on major change initiatives, such as ERP implementations and reorganization plans every day. Why is the success rate so low? And, why can’t 70-80%+ of the merger/acquisition leadership teams find a way to be part of the 20%?

I’ve had first-hand experience working with companies in various stages of mergers and acquisitions and other significant change projects, and the answers are incredibly simple yet hard to execute. First, most mergers/acquisitions do not fail in the strategy. The synergies might be compelling, the opportunities vast; however, the key lies in poor execution. So, how do we stand out in the crowd as part of the 20%?

People and execution

One of the key issues is that people tend to become numbers – have you heard one of the following, “We can save X labor dollars,” “after consolidating Y function . . . ,” “we need to implement Z program to offset our 10% attrition – whether customers and/or employees”? Stop! Instead, value people, as they will be the ones who determine whether you’ll be one of the 20%.

First, make sure you:

1. Listen – to your employees, your customers, your suppliers, etc.

2. Involve them in the process – clarify the vision/end state and ask for involvement in defining the path to achieve the vision, encourage debate on the various alternatives and their benefits/costs to achieve a goal, ask for feedback and ideas, value their concerns and input and encourage brainstorming of solutions.

3. Communicate frequently, and consistently – do what you say you’ll do – this does not require that you have all the answers or that you communicate items you are unable to communicate yet it even works with bad news. People will value your communication if they know it is genuine, if they can count on you to consistently keep them updated, to answer their questions and if they know you value them and will treat them fairly and respectfully. And, I found that doing what you say you’ll do is much more challenging than it sounds, but it is #1 to success. The bottom line is that people are your #1 asset. Instead of focusing on equipment, labor and materials, first focus on people.

Next, execution is key. Execution must be a core component of your organization’s culture. What does that mean? The best definition I’ve seen of culture is from Alan Weiss – “Culture is simply that set of beliefs that governs behavior.” Thinking in terms of that definition, execution must be valued in your organization. Or, another way to say this is that the discipline of how your organization gets things done is more important than the “form” (who reports to who, how it looks, etc.). Of course, this takes us back to #1 – people. In addition, as Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan say in Execution, “People think of execution as the tactical side of the business. That’s the first big mistake. Tactics are central to execution, but execution is not tactics. Execution is fundamental to strategy and has to shape it. No worthwhile strategy can be planned without taking into account the organization’s ability to execute it.”

I’ve found there to be several key ingredients in successful execution – people, leadership, clear communication of the vision/end state, communication of the why’s and how’s (For example: Why are we following this path? How will this help us in the marketplace?), communication/integration to each person’s goals (including how they make a difference), tools/training required, follow-up, feedback . . . and repeat.

If the majority of your focus is on people and execution, you’ll likely be one of the 20%.

Lost in Culture Change Maze? Here are 4 Strategies for Success!

July 3rd, 2013

Navigating culture change is a requirement for success.

In my 20+ years of experience as an operations executive, a global supply chain consultant and a nonprofit trade association leader, I’ve found navigating culture change is a requirement for success – no matter the initiative. If your company isn’t merging cultures, embarking on a major change initiative such as an ERP implementation, or dramatically changing the business to ensure top notch customer service in today’s volatile new normal environment, you’ll probably be left in the dust. Thus, those who thrive in this chaotic business world learn to be proficient at culture change.

My clients who cover diverse industries (from aerospace to consumer products to healthcare products) unanimously find culture change to be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome. Successful culture change is not dictated. It isn’t a one-time event. And there’s no formula for success. Thus, a few strategies for success should come in handy: 1) Strategic clarity. 2) Give it a boost with enthusiasm. 3) You get what you measure. 4) Make it visible.

1. Strategic clarity. State the vision.  Before going any further, it is essential to state the vision. Why are you undergoing culture change? How does it relate to where the company is headed? Why is it important to the executives? To each employee? Give your employees, customers and suppliers an opportunity to understand the vision – and to find out whether the new culture will be the type of place they’d enjoy working and collaborating. If so, they can become a champion. If not, it’s better if they get out early!

For example, one of my clients wanted to change the culture from a focus on purely revenue to one focused on customer service. They started by communicating the new vision and culture. It gave folks an opportunity to ask questions and debate upfront. In another client, we had to transform the culture from a robust, process-driven culture to a more innovative one that kept the essentials of the processes without the baggage. We communicated upfront about the expectations for the future so that folks could determine whether they fit in this new culture.

2. Give it a boost with enthusiasm.  Even the most exciting culture change will sound hum-drum if presented in a monotone and without enthusiasm. Assuming you wouldn’t be embarking on the challenging process of culture change if it wasn’t essential, don’t put obstacles in your way. Be enthusiastic! Find the positive. Show folks why they should be interested and excited for the new culture change.

For example, my customer service culture change client communicated the vision for a customer-centric culture with gusto. What could be more important than ensuring customers get what they need when they need it? And for the innovative culture, we emphasized how we could build upon the solid foundation they had built with a bit of innovation and talked about how they could have a larger effect on the future by combining the best of both approaches.

3. You get what you measure.  It matters little what you say if you hold folks accountable to a different set of metrics. Who wants to listen yet fail?! It’s easy to overlook this strategy yet it is vital to success. Find simple yet meaningful metrics that will measure what you’d like to occur with your culture change.

For example, in the customer service culture change client, we changed the metrics from revenue, revenue, revenue to a focus on on-time delivery with the caveat that older was worse in terms of the metric. Thus, if you shipped an order 1 day late, you received a higher score than if you shipped the order 30 days late. It spurred interest in the customer! And for the innovative culture, we didn’t track process efficiencies solely as it didn’t encourage risk-taking. Instead, we tracked new ideas for resolving issues and trials.

4. Make it visible. Last but not least, it’s essential to make the change visible. Give people an example of what the new culture change looks like. Find role models and make sure they are on board with the culture change. People will follow those they know, like and respect.

For example, in the customer service culture client, a respected executive made sure he was not only available to discuss the culture change but also was visible and easily accessible. He sat in the midst of everyone involved in the culture change. There was no open door policy as no door was required! And in the innovative culture example, we congratulated team members who tried new ideas to move the company forward – whether they failed or succeeded. The idea was to encourage innovation, which doesn’t occur without failure.

Few executives and companies achieve culture change smoothly and successfully. In the rare occasion of rapid success, each of these strategies was utilized. Follow these simple yet powerful strategies and success will follow.