2 Key Strategies to Conquer Chaos

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   5/17/2012

Takeaways: Two strategies are key to ensuring entrepreneurs and business owners are successful. They are Mindset and Systems Strategies. Having the right mindset helps to set the vision and purpose of the business. Setting up and following the right systems ensures the needed actions occur.

Conquer the ChaosMindset Strategies and Systems Strategies are the two proven methods all entrepreneurs and business owners should embrace in order to ensure future growth. They work together, building upon one another over time – if you find the proper balance and strength to follow them.

According to Clate Mask and Scott Martineau, founders of Infusionsoft, “Mindset strategies are your preparation for owning, managing, and controlling your business. They give you the capacity to grow your business without being consumed by it. “Systems strategies are more tangible – they are the processes and tools you implement to grow your business and keep it running smoothly and profitably.”

In their book, Conquer the Chaos, How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy, Mask and Martineau identify the three areas of Mindset Strategies and of Systems Strategies that business owners need to develop.

Mindset Strategies:
1) Emotional Capital
2) Disciplined Optimism
3) Entrepreneurial Independence

Systems Strategies
:

1) Centralize
2) Follow-Up
3) Automate

Mindset Strategies

Emotional Capital is hard to put your finger on. Basically, it has to do with how you feel. Are you energized each day or do you feel yourself dragging? Do you wake up excited to take on the day or worried, anxious, and nervous? You need to honestly evaluate where your emotional capital stands and what actions you can take to refill the emotional bank account if it’s nearly depleted.

Disciplined Optimism is divided into three components:
an underlying belief that your small business will achieve the success you envision confronting the brutal facts of your current reality attacking those brutal facts because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to.

Having a clearly stated vision is a step in the right direction – but stating a 10-year plan for your business is even more liberating and focusing, according to the authors. They recommend writing it down, posting it on your desk or wall so you see it every day, sharing it with firends and colleagues, and re-visiting it often.  Thoughts become words. Word become beliefs. Beliefs create action.

Entrepreneurial Independence requires that you take full responsibility for your actions. You decide the fate of your business. You need to clearly define success – what it looks like, smells like, feels like so you have a sense of recognition when you get there. You need to believe in your decisions, following through whole-heartedly despite the limited data to back them up. Conviction is essential to making things happen.

Systems Strategies

Centralize. As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats – you are the boss, the sales team, the HR department, tech support, customer service and even the janitor. Unless you’re really well organized, you’ve got reports, statements, records and information everywhere. You need to centralize all that into one database of information which you can access at any time.

Follow-Up. This is perhaps the one greatest fault of most entrepreneurs – lack of follow-up. Whether it’s because you feel you’re being a pest if you call more than three times, or you simply forget after trying once or twice, follow-up is critical to finding your freedom as an entrepreneur. Consider this:

  • Only 2 % of sales close on the first contact
  • 3 % close on the second contact
  • 4% close on the third contact
  • 10% close on the fourth contact
  • 81% close on or after the fifth contact!

(source: Sales and Marketing Executives Club of Los Angeles)

Yet 48% of businesses quit following up after the first call and 24% quit after the second.

Automate. The key to lack of follow-up is automation say the authors – automating those repetitive tasks that involve following up with prospects. With the right tools, this can be done and at a relatively affordable cost. Automated follow-up keeps you top of mind with your prospects and helps to build relationships. With the right tools, automation can cover nearly every aspect of your business from lead capture to billing and collections and even workflow.

This frees you up to do what you do best – lead the company, focus on its future direction, adjust for changes in the marketplace, and make time to spend with your family.

3 Business Warning Signs It’s Time to Act

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 6-8-2012

Takeaways: Not listening to customers, fewer new products, and bottom line challenges are three business warning signs your company needs an overhaul. It’s time to take action.

It’s easy to get complacent when times are good. Your business is growing. You’re attracting new customers. And the bottom line is healthy. But when times are tough, you need to take a good look at where your revenues are coming from. Too often, leaders don’t recognize the warning signs that it’s time to act decisively.

Fewer new products

This is the first sign of danger when your people are having a more difficult time coming up with new ways to make your product offerings better. Instead of major improvements, the enhancements are smaller and smaller – such as changing the design of the product packaging without changing the product itself.

You aren’t listening to your CustomersBusiness warning sign: not listening to customers

One of the first business warning signs: When you stop asking your customers for their feedback, you’re starting down a dangerous path. Your customers, especially loyal ones, will be happy to tell you what they do and don’t like about your products. They’ll even offer suggestions about change they would like to see. If you aren’t listening to them and acting on what you hear, you’re missing a major life of defense. It’s easier and more cost effective to retain current customers than it is to acquire new ones.

Bottom Line challenges

When you begin to see problems in your financials or performance indicators, such as increased expenses compared to reduced revenues or higher customer complaints, it’s time to make changes. If you’re not providing added value to your customers, they’ll look elsewhere for solutions. This is another of the business warning signs.

Listen to your front line staff who deal directly with the customer and trust them to make suggestions and course corrections. Make them accountable for their actions and track results closely. It’s OK to make mistakes – that’s part of learning what works and what doesn’t.  But don’t continue down the path of denial with blinders on.

You may wake up to find the competition eating your lunch!

9 Tips to Managing Virtual Teams Successfully

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International    6-8-2011

Takeaways: Managing virtual teams is becoming more common as companies are widely dispersed geographically. Trust, communication, high touch, and soft skills are some of the key areas to incorporate in order to build and maintain successful virtual team performance.

Managing virtual teams is becoming more and more common, especially with today’s technology which allows teams to meet via the internet and web conferencing. Nevertheless, it presents its own set of challenges that are different from teams who meet face-to-face.  In her book, Virtual Team Virtual Team SuccessSuccess-A Practical Guide for Working and Leading From a Distance, Darlene DeRosa offers some practical tips on putting to work the six hardest lessons virtual teams face:

  1. Focus on people issues: Virtual teams rise or fall on the human interactions: communication flow, trust and productivity. The leader needs to create ways for people to interact-mix your task teams, find ways to shine a spotlight on individuals and celebrate your team’s successes as a team. 

  2. No trust, no team: This was one of the key differentiators between high-performing teams and the rest of the pack. Make sure your team is empowered to make decisions and let them act on those decisions. Help manage conflicts before they create permanent rifts. 

  3. “Soft skills” are essential: DeRosa and her partner Rick Lepsinger found that interpersonal skills make a huge difference in virtual team performance. Teams that have been through team-building and interpersonal skill development activities perform better than those that haven’t. Training as a group seems to matter, individual skill development doesn’t always help the team. 

  4. Watch out for performance peaks: Teams that have been together a long time (more than three years) tend to be more successful than teams working together for less time. Yet many teams peak  after a year and then performance levels off or even declines. Clearly define team roles and accountability. Periodically examine the team’s performance by getting feedback from various stakeholders and share that feedback with the team. 

  5. Create a “high touch” environment: Technology has made virtual working possible, but isn’t a perfect substitute for human interaction. If you can get the team together physically, even once a year, do it. In the meantime, use a variety of tools and use rich tools like webmeetings and videoconferencing when it’s appropriate to remind people that those other team members are real live humans as well, not just screen names. 

  6. Virtual team leadership matters: Their research shows that leadership does, in fact, have a statistically significant correlation with team performance. Effective virtual team leaders overcome the limitations of distance by being especially sensitive to interpersonal communication and cultural factors. Real conversations have real benefits.

Three tips to keep in mind when managing virtual teams.

Building trust.
It’s important to have the first meeting face-to-face so team members can bond. Following that, meetings can be held virtually. Also ensure that all team members are responsive to others on the team, responding promptly to emails and phone calls. Accountability and follow-through are important as well in building trust among the team.

Team member selection.
Look for members who are both technically proficient and have good interpersonal skills. Communication is especially important to help virtual teams feel connected. Comfort with technology becomes an important concern as well.

Communication.
Managers should maintain constant communication with team members via phone, email and even social media. Set up a private social media site where team members can share updates, challenges, and successes.

Culture of Dreams Creates Employee Satisfaction

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   6-12-2010
Takeaways: Helping your people achieve their personal and professional dreams helps the business, too. People are more productive and feel more connected to the company and their work when the employer helps them achieve what they want in life.

Have you ever wondered why some companies are having extraordinary success and others aren’t? Look beneath the surface. Are the employees engaged in their work? In other words, are they passionate about what they’re doing? Or do they just show up to earn a paycheck and go home? According to Matthew Kelly in his book The Dream Manager, “the great majority of people in the workplace today are actively disengaged. People don’t feel connected to their work, the organizations they work in, or the people they work with.” Building a culture of dreams in your organization can change that.

A 2007 study of 550 Human Resource managers by Monster states that “the next 20 years will witness a dramatic change in the U.S. workforce. The Baby Boomer generation, 72 million strong, will reach retirement age and have the opportunity to leave the workforce. Successive generations of workers are proportionally smaller, leaving a potential gap in the number of workers versus the number of workers needed to maintain the expansion of the U.S. economy. The ability to effectively manage worker knowledge is becoming a critical core competency in an era when knowledge is the primary resource for delivering organizational value. The chasm that exists between a firms’ most valuable asset, knowledge, and the lack of formal management of this asset represents key opportunities for organizations to gain a competitive edge.”

Worker shortages projected

How does this relate to helping people achieve their dreams? Companies need to find ways to reward and train employees to help them become the best they can be. In doing so, these workers stay longer and help the organization become the best it can be. With a shortage of available workers coming online in the next 10-20 years, it is ever more critical that companies start acting today to get the current generation trained and focused on helping the company achieve its future vision. This means aligning HR policies, training, and procedures with the company’s future vision and mission.

Bottom Line Results

When organizations help their employees achieve their dreams, they get numerous positive results that affect the bottom line. This creates a culture of dreams within the organization.

  • Dramatically reduced turnover (employee turnover costs a company 150% of each person’s salary, and can be as high as 250% for sales and managerial positions)
  • A reduction in unauthorized absenteeism (in 2005 the average per-employee cost was $660; today it’s likely much higher)
  • Increased loyalty to the company
  • A new culture of empowerment and possibility
  • A motivated staff where everyone is part of the sales force talking to friends, relatives, customers and prospects

As a business owner or manager, can you really afford NOT to pay attention to your people’s dreams? The answer is no, not when companies worldwide are facing shortages of both management and skilled labor over the next 10-20 years. By 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates there will be 165 million jobs and only 162 million people available in the workforce; 19 percent (30 million) of those available workers will be age 55 and older.

Culture of Dreams connects hearts and minds

Why haven’t more companies done something about this? Many companies aren’t using a Systems Thinking Approach® to their strategic planning and management process. The strategies they have in place don’t connect with the future reality of the workplace and the hearts and minds of their employees. By focusing primarily on the bottom line, too many companies have forgotten that it’s the people in the organization that make it succeed or fail. They haven’t fostered a culture of dreams.

The modern employee is looking for more than just a decent paycheck. People want work that is interesting and challenging, but more than that, they want to feel appreciated and valued for the contribution they make. Younger employees also want to work for companies that are socially responsible, and one way to be socially responsible is to help your employees achieve their dreams.

Put the Dream Manager to workSo how do you as a manager or business owner implement a plan that reaches the hearts and minds of your people? According to Matthew Kelly, in his book, the Dream Manager, begin by hiring a Dream Manager to work with each person individually and help them create plans for achieving their dreams. Survey your employees to find out what drives them, what dreams they have for their own future. The answers may surprise you. Then work with each person to create a plan that helps them achieve the smallest dreams first, and then the successively larger, more challenging dreams later, after they’ve succeeded in achieving their initial dreams. The very fact that their company takes the time to help them succeed, will turn their attitudes around and get them re-engaged in helping the company succeed.

You can download my full article on this subject here.

Wisdom of Wolves – Masters of Strategy

Introduction from Wisdom of Wolves
by Twyman Towery

The attitude of the wolf can be summed up simply: it is a constant visualization of success. The collective wisdom of wolves has been progressively programmed into their genetic makeup throughout the centuries. Wolves have mastered the technique of focusing their energies toward the activities that will lead to the accomplishment of their goals.

Wolves do not aimlessly run around their intended victims, yipping and yapping. They have a strategic plan and execute it through constant communication. When the moment of truth arrives, each understands his role and understands exactly what the pack expects of him.

The wolf does not depend on luck. The cohesion, teamwork and training of the pack determines whether the pack lives or dies.

There is a silly maxim in some organizations that everyone, to be a valuable member, must aspire to be the leader. This is personified by the misguided CEO who says he only hires people who say they want to take his job. Evidently, this is supposed to ensure that the person has ambition, courage, spunk, honesty, drive – whatever. In reality, it is simply a contrived situation, with the interviewee jumping through the boss’s hoops. It sends warnings of competition and one-upmanship throughout the organization rather than signals of cooperation, teamwork and loyalty.

Everyone does not strive to be the leader in the wolf pack. Some are consummate hunters or caregivers or jokesters, but each seems to gravitate to the role he does best. This is not to say there are not challenges to authority, position and status – there are. But each wolf’s role begins emerging from playtime as a pup and refines itself through the rest of its years. The wolf’s attitude is always based upon the question, “What is best for the pack?” This is in marked contrast to us humans, who will often sabotage our organizations, families or businesses, if we do not get what we want.

Wolves are seldom truly threatened by other animals. By constantly engaging their senses and skills, they are practically unassailable. They are masters of planning for the moment of opportunity to present itself, and when it does, they are ready to act.

Because of training, preparation, planning, communication and a preference for action, the wolf’s expectation is always to be victorious. While in actuality this is true only 10 percent of the time or less, the wolf’s attitude is always that success will come-and it does.

Excerpt courtesy of Simple Truths, where you can purchase the book for just $10.

Strategy Execution is Key to Success

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 2-20-2013

Takeaways: The area where most companies fall short is in strategy execution by not tying individual performance to the key strategies they need to implement. Y-Change provides an organization-wide tool to track projects and strategies across the enterprise, including individual performance.

We’ve heard it time and again – the area where most companies fall short is in strategy execution. They spend countless hours up front planning and engaging their staff in providing solutions and getting their input on the key strategies. But then when they begin to implement them, they usually fall short of plan. Why?

Many companies do a lot of things right. They dig deep to find what’s working and what’s not. They involve their key stakeholders both within and outside the organization. They ask for and integrate feedback into the plan. They streamline processes, create new structures to improve communications and work flow. Yet, the old habits still creep in and it’s back to business as usual.

A June 2008 Harvard Business Review article by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers of Booz & Company, shares the case of “a global consumer packaged-goods company that lurched down the reorganization path in the early 1990s.” It’s a perfect example of where many firms fall short on the execution side. They overlook the key ingredient – the people in the organization who have to execute the strategies.

Tie annual reviews to strategy execution

By not tying individual performance to the key strategies, the company found that their people weren’t being held accountable for executing the strategies well and effectively. People do what you “inspect” not what you “expect”, as our former mentor Stephen Haines liked to say. In addition to creating the right structures and providing people with adequate resources to do their work, it is critical to tie their annual reviews and the rewards system to the key strategies you want everyone to focus on. Without that, they will naturally revert to doing the work that generates the rewards. It’s human nature.

Y-Change Cascade of Planning and Implementationg

Cascade of Planning

A key tool for managing strategy execution at all levels is Y-Change. This online software tool tracks all the strategies and key actions at every level in an organization, along with accountabilities and project deadlines. It’s even possible to tie in each individual’s performance review plan to the high level organizational strategies so you can see the chain and interrelationships from the lowest level all the way up to the CEO’s office. This powerful tool is used by many organizations of all sizes and in any industry because it is fully customizable to the needs of the organization.

If you would like to see a free demo, click here.

Evaluating Your Strategy Implementation Success

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International90% of all strategy fails due to poor execution

If evaluating the success of your organization’s strategic initiatives seems to be an elusive endeavor, you should find the framework offered by the Strategy Implementation Model and the Strategy Implementation Maturity Survey (SIMS) very helpful.

Much has been written about strategy development, strategic planning, strategic thinking and executing strategy. However, not much has been done to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of strategy implementation systems and processes.

It is common in mature organizations to find well-developed plans and clearly defined strategic objectives, but the consistent concern for those organizations is successfully “closing the gap” from where they are today to where they want to be in the future. Most likely this is due to both a lack of clarity of their road map to success and to weaknesses in evaluating their progress. This is, in fact, a major concern of executives worldwide.

A strategy implementation model is now being used to help organizations evaluate their own sense of gaps in execution, compare themselves with others, and to know how and where to best improve. The model concentrates on four critical dimensions:  

  • Strategy Creation: Methods used to gather, synthesize and manage vital information to support plans and actions
  • Alignment: The degree to which the organization coordinates, cascades, shares and aligns plans and actions
  • Execution: The deployment, management and refinement of plans, projects and actions
  • Accountability: The utilization of metrics, process indicators and performance management to measure and drive results

Metrics
Maturity Gap by Question
Following the maxim “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” the SIMM’s framework is carefully designed to support current best practices in strategic management and to be flexible to adapt to future changes as those practices are further refined. The SIMM offers a thoughtful structure for considering the critical elements nearly all organizations must address in conducting a self-evaluation of the success of their strategic objectives.

The 12 data points that appear in the graph on the right represent each of the 12 questions in the survey. In turn each group of three questions relate to each of the four critical dimension of the Maturity Model.

How well are you evaluating your organization’s ability to cascade and share strategies? How deeply do you reach for feedback on your strategic initiatives? How clearly are team, department and division initiatives aligned with corporate strategies? How effectively are you tracking performance on the prior three questions?  The SIMM tool will help you gain answers and clarity on these questions and many more.

Benchmarks Maturity Gap by Question
Once you have some introspective feedback with a self-evaluation or by having a number of members of your organization participate in the survey, the SIMM provides valuable data to gauge your organization’s performance levels in the four dimensions of the Strategy Implementation Model. Furthermore, you will learn how your firm is performing in comparison to aggregated data from all the SIMM’s participants.

In these early stages, the aggregated data will be limited until a sufficiently meaningful sample can be used to provide industry and market comparisons. For example, above is the type of graph that might help you see where your gaps are between where you perceive your current level of performance to be and where you would like it to be.

The graph on the right includes aggregated benchmark data overlaid on your firm’s data for further comparison.  What is interesting is that the aggregated benchmark data roughly parallels this firm’s responses to the survey. Additional graphs are provided along with your firm’s results.

Closing the Gap
For a limited time, companies that have more than 100 employees are invited to participate in the beta version of the Strategy Implementation Maturity Survey (SIMS). Participating companies will provide input and receive results about their comparative performance. They will also receive valuable tips to help them improve.

The survey contains a total of 12 questions and will take 10-15 minutes to complete. You will likely find this a thought-provoking activity that is intended to stimulate a higher level of performance in your firm. As this is a beta version and will continue to be adapted over the next few months, you will be asked at the end of the survey to provide feedback and suggestions.

We will send you your organization’s results, as well as the overall results, as soon as the number of responses from other target companies is large enough to provide reliable conclusions. We will also send out and post articles on the web on strategy execution best practices and lessons learned. Please contact SIMM below to participate in the survey. We would also welcome your contributions.

Strategy Implementation Consortium
Strategy execution experts have partnered together to establish the Strategy Implementation Consortium. The model and survey have been designed by this consortium.  The consortium’s purpose is to help businesses significantly improve their ability to successfully implement business strategies. This purpose is supported by:

  • A strategy implementation maturity survey to best help businesses quickly and accurately assess their strategy implementation maturity levels
  • Collecting strategy execution best practices and lessons learned in various environments\
  • Providing training and consultant services to help businesses apply best practices based on their current maturity levels and desires to improve

Family Businesses Have Unique Challenges

Family businesses are unique entities that are frequently overlooked in terms of ownership. They also form the backbone of many US and foreign economies; what today are household names, started as family-owned businesses – SamSung, Wal-Mart, and BMW to name a few.

According to a January 2010 McKinsey Quarterly article by Christian Caspar, Ana Karina Dias and Heinz-Peter Elstrodt, “One-third of all companies in the S&P 500 index and 40 percent of the 250 largest companies in France and Germany are defined as family businesses, meaning that a family owns a significant share and can influence important decisions, particularly the election of the chairman and CEO.”

These family-run businesses have special challenges in terms of managing and growing the business: they must achieve strong performance, and they have to keep the family engaged and motivated as the business owner.

The McKinsey article identifies five dimensions of activity that must work well in order for a family business to prosper. These are:

  • Family – harmonious relations within and among family members
  • Ownership – clear agreements and an ownership structure that provides sufficient capital for growth
  • Business and portfolio governance – strong governance, capital structure and new business develpment to keep the company growing
  • Wealth management – professional investment management that builds a diversified portfolio and protects the family assets
  • Foundations – governance and management of charitable giving that promotes the family values

While a family business often has a different culture than a publicly-held corporation, it must be operated with the same level of management structure and processes seen in large public companies. Retaining the family sense of purpose and values that drive the company’s growth and development is key, especially as it changes hands from one generation to the next.

But what happens when the senior owners are ready to retire and none of the children want to take over as CEO? What do the owners do then? Finding an equitable way to exit the company, transfering ownership to buyers outside the family circle, becomes a critical path that requires planning and strategic execution. Often an outside third party can help in this process, rather than relying on family members to do the planning and find the potential buyers themselves.

If you’re facing this dilemma as a business owner, contact us. We can help you sort through the options and arrive at a solution that works for all family members.

Parallel Involvement in Our Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  4-8-2012 
Warehouse Planning

Parallel involvement in the warehouse

Part C – PLAN
Now, as we begin to plan what we’re going to do about deploying our tablet initiative in our warehouse, let’s keep our parallel involvement process going to mitigate any other potential unintended consequences. This is a key Systems Thinking tool.  A good step at this point is what can be called plan to plan. This means lay out a road map that outlines what needs to be done to have a solid plan. For instance, listing and engaging the various stakeholders in the planning process to ensure their input is both present and relevant. We should also ensure we have the financial and human resources to carryout our project. Well-facilitated meetings with stakeholders that interrelate are a high priority. The stage must be set to exclude personal and political agendas. This is a content issue that can help immensely to avoid time lost due to unnecessary and distracting conflicts. Having absolute clarity on the desired outcomes, “how this impacts the customer” is a really good way to avoid distracting agendas. Everyone can more easily focus on those over-reaching goals.

During this planning phase it would be a good idea for us to conduct some internal and external assessments that will help us flesh out some key strategies and alternatives that will keep us on track to our desired outcomes.  We can preempt some of the pains we will encounter and will have identified some key enablers to a successful project.

Bring Stakeholders Together
Let us then plan on scheduling meetings to bring those stakeholders together. Must they be in person or is everyone comfortable with online meetings? Does it make sense to engage an external facilitator to avoid that person “having a dog in the hunt” and therefore a potentially counterproductive bias? Do we have good in-house facilitators for meetings we can also use? We are looking at making a potential large investment in time, money and changes in how we do things, so we must weigh the value of applying the best inquisitive inquiry techniques and processes as possible at this point.

Now let us explore our list of stakeholders without too much detail. We need the warehouse managers and floor-staff to help us flesh out specs like tablet size, battery life and content of the data to be managed by our tablets. Our IT department has to look at that content too but also platform compatibility such as operating system, possible custom app development and support and IT vendor relationships.

Our IT and tablet vendors should be consulted on the impact on wireless bandwidth requirements, support issues (like that pesky automatic update Waste Management experienced), intended tablet life-cycles (new, improved product releases for example), in-tablet or cloud-based apps and to evaluate their capacity to participate long term.

Our sales and purchasing departments, supply chain managers, HR department and attorneys should all have some input on the content. Sales, purchasing, supply chain and process specialists need to look at customer value issues. HR and our attorneys should address things like what do tablets have a native ability to do that maybe are inappropriate on the job, like using the cameras most tablets have. It’s possible that in a warehouse environment, this could be a real plus. Consider a warehouse worker, taking a picture or video of a pallet of product just unloaded showing potential damage and immediately emailing the images to the buyer in purchasing asking if it’s acceptable or should it be returned. That’s a great example of just-in-time response and empowering the people who have the information to resolve problems with high efficiency.

A counterpoint to that, also cited in Information Week, is that if the tablet users are in a position to abuse the cameras, on some tablets the cameras cannot be disabled! This type of instant sharing of information also needs the input from legal counsel to help establish rules and policies for ensuring security of the data. This includes confidentiality of the data and its misuse, intentional or otherwise of the various native features of the tablets.

Consider Product Life Cycles
Purchasing and asset management should chime in on product life cycles. For example, to determine if the tablets replace other equipment and the financial impact of these issues. The strategic management office can support the effort by coaching the leaders on best practices on planning, perhaps facilitating meetings and helping to integrate the project into the company’s overall strategic plan. The process specialists can contribute to the content and hardware selection by ensuring right-sized tablet s and accessories are selected and related company processes are all aligned.

The HR department should help determine any training required and changes in personnel to support the new tablets. Not just the end users are to be considered here but possibly hardware and software technicians for custom apps and to customize the units. Information Week cites that Avnet disabled a number of features on the iPads they deployed in their warehouses thereby increasing times between charging to up to three days, since the iPads were only using those features necessary for the job. The others, like iTunes, were disabled.  Last on the list but not least are the PR people, who may be able to leverage improvements in customer value as a result of the initiative. Involving all the key stakeholders in the organization and getting their input on this project are part of using a systems thinking approach for this initiative.

But wait, there’s more! What if this tablet initiative provides better real-time inventory data that the sales force can use? Now our warehouse tablet initiative can further improve customer value where we are actually are in contact with the client! So we are compelled to now consider deploying tablets to our sales force. But that’s another project.

Executing Our Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International   4-8-2012

Part D –  ACT

Executing our tablet initiative project is now probably a lot easier. We’ve done a lot of hard work up front, used some good practices, and using some proven structures and processes, we have laid out our plan or road map with metrics and milestones that should allow us to make only minor, instead of major, adjustments in deploying our tablets. We will also be much more certain that we are on track to deliver our desired outcome: “Greater value for our customer”.  Our strategies have been translated into budgets and key action items with a clear direction.

Clearly Defined Processes

Our strategies can now be supported by clearly identified people and processes, the technology Cascade of Planningrequired and we are clear how we will cascade the execution of our project throughout the organization. We have determined that either Apple’s iOS, or Windows or Android best fit our company’s needs. We have narrowed our prospective tablets down to size, form factor, ruggedness, battery life, application availability or developer resources.  We know we can develop custom apps and that we can manage auto-updates from our vendors. We are prepared to handle proper usage by the end user.

We have made the decision to provide company-owned units rather than BYOD (bring your own device) in spite of extra expense since we don’t have an work environment that encourages use of the devices for personal activities. However, we also know that the ”other” project of deploying tablets to salespeople may have to be handled differently. We have decided to manage our data through a hybrid process of native apps on the tablet that gets data from a cloud-based solution since we have solid control of our internal wireless network. Therefore, users essentially only need to access a browser; plus we will have the flexibility to more easily switch tablet platforms if necessary.

Training can take place on any computer, anywhere. The competencies required to use, train, support and plan for future needs regarding the tablet deployment project have been identified and all departments affected know how they will incorporate competency development into their plans. Enablers have been identified in the form of external facilitators for meetings and external and internal coaches to support deployment of this new technology paradigm involving the whole organization. This covers usability, security, financial and legal issues.

We know our wireless and internet bandwidths will be up to the task. We know we’ll be replacing the units every two or three years due to new hardware releases but the low uTnit cost to deploy promises a high ROI for the project. PR is working on a program to track the customer experience from the beginning to leverage it for our marketing department.

Improving customer Value

Finally, we are confident that ”our end in mind” of improving the value we deliver to our customer will be met. We have envisioned how our bottom line will be improved as well and as an added bonus, our employee morale is up because all the stakeholders were involved and a new technology is being deployed.

This holistic approach to leading, thinking, planning, and acting with respect to deployment of tablets in the organization is a systems thinking approach. We’ve taken the time up front to cover all the bases, consider the unintended consequences, and involve all key stakeholders in the decision making process. A successful deployment is virtually assured.