Regardless of whether you’re a fan of American football, or even of sports at all, you likely have seen various words of football wisdom appear in various business articles or business books. Coaches inspire players with words of encouragement and motivation that often have equally compelling application in corporate boardrooms as they do in team locker rooms.
As football season starts, it’s appropriate to learn from the coaches. Here are a few inspiring quotes from some of those coaches to inspire you today:
“If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” –Lou Holtz
In the last several years, businesses have faced smarter competitors, continual change, technological innovations, and uncertainty.
It seems more difficult than ever to both grow the top line of a business and the bottom line, too.
That’s the challenge that Dr. Dorriah Rogers, CEO of Paradyne Consulting Works, takes on.
From her work with some of the most complex projects and organizations, Dorriah has developed a 9 step program to grow net profit. After reading her new book Decide to Profit: 9 Steps to a Better Bottom Line, I asked her to share more about her research and experience.
“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” –Chinese Proverb
Tell us more about the 9 steps and how you arrived at them.
The 9 steps are the result of many years of implementing various profit-focused solutions and systems across many different types of industries and companies. At one point in my consulting career, a senior executive (almost, but not quite) jokingly asked me if I could develop an “Operations Manual” of all the tools I had at my disposal. That was the genesis of the 9 Steps. From there, I kept refining the steps, making sure they were interrelated, and asked for real-world feedback from my clients, until I had it down to a system as simple as I could make it. I wanted to create a process that was not overly complicated to understand or use, and I wanted to create something that both managers making decisions and employees wanting to make an impact could readily implement to help their companies improve profitability.
“Whenever man comes up with a better mousetrap, nature immediately comes up with a better mouse.” –James Carswell
Identifying the system that needs improvement seems straightforward, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. What if you can’t seem to identify which one is off course?
Agreed. It is not simple to get started. And that is why so many of my clients struggled. They either focused on too many improvements or the wrong ones. In many cases, most managers and employees inherently know where they need to start, or in what general area, and that is as good a point to begin with as any. It may not be as tight a starting point as you might want, but the 9 Steps will help to define and clarify if it is the right place to focus your attention and resources as you progress. Keep in mind that a “system improvement” could be as big as an entire corporate overhaul (like the Lego case study in the book) or as small as an internal vendor payment process. The idea is to find those things that are impacting your ability to make money. So the first place to start is to discuss internally which things are impacting your ability to generate profit. Not revenue, but profit.
Companies have a choice: keep doing what you’re doing and make incremental (or no) improvements to your bottom line, or tackle your best estimate of the system within your organization that could potentially have the biggest impact on profit. You might start out with the wrong one, but the beauty of the 9 Steps is the iterative process built into it. Along the way (and fairly soon) you will realize that the system you chose to improve might not be the right one because it is NOT positively impacting your financial goals, and the steps will prove that out for you through the ROI process. At that point, you simply readjust, and the 9 Steps will guide you closer to those areas that will have the biggest impact. So in short, start somewhere and the 9 Steps process will get you where you need to be.
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” –Theodore Levitt
What is the expert loop and how does it often cause problems?
The expert loop was first coined by Alex “Sandy” Pentland in his November 2013 HBR article entitled “Beyond the Echo Chamber.” In it, he posited that within organizations only a handful or individuals are viewed as the experts and the only ones who are capable of making important decisions. I agree with his conclusions that, in fact, seeking information outside of this expert network is often much more valuable. Time and time again I have seen the phenomenon of top executives sitting in rooms with the same small group of people as they rehash both problems and ideas in a tired, circular rhythm. The same ideas are beaten to death, and the same people are heard. Even when new people are brought into the conversation, their ideas are often dismissed or even scoffed at as the experts re-establish their positions of authority at the top of the food chain. The problem this creates is twofold: a lack of true innovation and the stifling of a culture of continuous improvement. While it is true that experts should (and do) have great ideas, it often requires a fresh perspective or a dissenting voice to shake things up and move the company in a new direction. Some of the best ideas I have ever heard have come from the most unexpected voices.
I recently spoke with David Covey about the book. David is co-CEO and cofounder of SMCOV and cofounder of ThomasLeland. (Yes, he’s also the son of one of my favorite leadership and success gurus, Stephen R. Covey, who wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
“Live out your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen R. Covey
Trapology is the study of traps and more specifically the study of the 7 common and modern traps (contained in our book Trap Tales) that people fall into in life and work.
4 Characteristics of a Trap
How do you spot the traps before you’re ensnared? What are the characteristics of a trap?
You can’t spot traps unless you are aware of what potential traps are out there. We often describe traps as “hidden” because we can’t see them—we stumble upon one and fall in it before we realize it is a trap. So, our book, Trap Tales, is a story of Alex, who has fallen into each of the 7 traps. This provides awareness of the 7 common and modern traps our society faces today.
There are four characteristics of the trap:
Seductive—A trap lures you in unknowingly.
Deceptive—Short-term gratification leads to long-term pain.
Sticky—Like quicksand, a trap is difficult to get out of once you fall into it. It requires an unconventional approach to get out and stay out.
Limiting—A trap holds you back from progressing towards your goals.
I want to ask about just a few of the traps. The money trap. What is money myopia and why is it so dangerous?
Money myopia is society’s unhealthy emphasis and focus on making money and placing money at a higher level of importance compared to our family and relationship. We see everyone else out there with more money than us, and we attempt to copy or mimic what we see them doing. We start to believe that the whole purpose of life is primarily about money, accumulating more money and showing off all the money we have.
Money is important, but it is secondary to our family and relationships.
Success Tip: filter out the unimportant. Detach from Minutiae. Learn to say no.
All organizations are faced with decisions. What to focus on, what to invest in, how to get to there from here are all common questions when approaching strategy.
I’ve read many books on strategy. There are many that are theoretical. I enjoy them and think about the implications. But there are a few that are actionable. As a CEO, I can use aspects of them immediately. That’s what I found when I read Tim Lewko’s new book, Making Big Decisions Better: How to Set and Simplify Business Strategy. Tim Lewko is the CEO of Thinking Dimensions Group, and his book goes right to the core of setting strategy that you can implement immediately.
I followed up with him to discuss his new book and his strategic work.
Why is it often problematic to “outsource strategy” work?
There are many large successful firms that come and provide the “answer” that shows up as a long set of PowerPoint slides – and this prescriptive approach is the choice for many CEOs. However, the approach which I practice is process based – where we bring a proven strategy system that “forces tough tradeoffs” and leaves them in a better place because they created the strategy and understand how to modify the choices as events fold. This process approach helps to avoid the problems associated with outsourcing strategy including:
DEFAULT on sweat equity – missing out on working through, understanding and deciding the key things that matter from EXTERNAL and INTERNAL standpoints
TOLD WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW – in my experience, clients already know 85% of what’s holding the business back (outsiders may give you 60%) so why pay for what is already known?
DELAY or DESTROY BUY-IN – if you outsource strategy, you have already short-changed your ability to implement the strategy – because you have side-stepped the most important people – your executive team and workforce who need to intimately understand the why behind the PRODUCT, MARKET and CAPABILITY choices that are being made. Sure, a great CEO communication or town hall helps to sell the outsourced strategy, but deep down those closest to the issues feel side-stepped – and it takes an awful lot of time to get them to buy in to something that is not theirs.
“Unwarranted complications are killing strategy in organizations.” –Tim Lewko