Next Practices – A Need and a Method to Move Beyond the Status Quo

Early June is typically a time of reflection and analysis of what worked and what did not in terms of your strategy and execution. Many of our clients are now planning their Fall 2016 strategy retreats and/or team development sessions. A word of caution- in today’s markets of light speed change, yesterday’s tactics to running a business or applying outdated management techniques to contemporary problems will quickly make you vulnerable. In this “Uberized” economy, moving beyond the status quo has never been more important. For those reasons, we’ve continued to put a focus on the concept and methods that represent “next practices”.

Next Practice development isn’t necessarily about making something more efficient – it entails a fundamental transformation of the core business culture and mindset to ensure that all the moving parts of a business are aligned and effective.

Some of the key elements necessary to understand and build Next Practices are:

Best practices are past driven – repetitive formulas for tactical business problems. (By the way, they’ll often get you to the same level of mediocrity as your competition.)

Next practices are future-driven strategic solutions that enable you to better anticipate, plan and respond to changing market and internal needs.

Here is the framework, and in our subsequent articles and live C-suite forums we will continue to showcase individuals and companies who are reaping the benefits of this thinking:

The Need: Every organization needs to get past legacy thinking in order to create transformation and change that will enable it to effectively respond to challenges and obstacles to its growth. “This is the way we have always done it” remains the biggest obstacle to real breakthroughs.

Beyond Best Practices: Conventional Best Practices tend to be proven, locked down business techniques that can be re-executed successfully on demand at the middle management level. There are few such “Best Practices” for C-level executives who face a constant flow of new challenges, unforeseen problems and marketplace conditions beyond the reach of conventional thinking.

Business Intelligence: A Next Practices approach offers flexible tools, frameworks and situational analysis methods that enable executives to get a clear view of the current situations they face and frame intelligent responses to it. Seeing the unseen and often “covert” trends is the objective.

Moving Parts: This approach includes policies, practices, behavior models and performance techniques, used in combination with highly collaborative and cross-functional communication between people. Taken as a whole, this approach enables leaders to be exponentially more effective in directing change.

Metrics: Next Practice methods are designed to be measurable so that their effectiveness can be understood and assessed.

Cross-Functional Focus: Next Practice thinking requires a cross-functional focus in which problems are addressed by stakeholders from all areas related to a given topic or problem area. The Next Practice philosophy considers it essential to have people of different perspectives working on a challenge simultaneously, in a holistic way, to effectively and successfully arrive at a solution.

Collaboration is Key: Next Practices assume a high level of collaboration between stakeholders at all levels – from senior executives to management to staff – in working on any business initiative or challenge. Power derives from the diversity of ideas and collaboration around those ideas- and, the ability to converge and act on those ideas in a market timely fashion.

Strategic Planning with your team should not be an annual event. We look not only to build a strategy that is adaptable, but also build the internal capability of the team to recognize emerging trends in customer preferences, market dynamics, technology enablers, and eliminate non-value added activity.

Our business advisory group, Nextworks Strategy( www.nextworksstrategy.com), supports the ENP Forums, which is comprised of hundreds of top executives and thought leaders has for several years been focused on the concept of “next practices”. Join us there to explore this new approach at one of the meeting or other keynote events where we will be speaking- please refer to the links www.enpinstitute.com/events or http://scotthamiltonnext.com/speaking/

 

Contact the author at scott@scotthamiltonnext.com or 888.857.9722

HR 2020 Transformation: Interview with #SHRM16 Speaker Scott Hamilton

SHRM16

In January I participated in the first DisruptHR Orange County event. If you aren’t familiar with DisruptHR, it is a Ted-esque style event with speakers in the HR/Recruiting world speaking for five minutes with 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. For even the most seasoned of speakers it’s a bit nerve-racking. After much shuffling of speakers, I was asked to close out the night. Several other speakers asked if it bothered me to go last.

It didn’t.

By the last speaker the kinks have been worked out, I have had 10 other people to watch and learn from and at an event where alcohol flows, the last speaker could mess up immensely and lowered inhibitions likely make the audience a bit more forgiving.

I was happy to go last. What I wouldn’t want to do was go first.

This event is where I first met Scott Hamilton. The guy who did go first.

And then he passed out underwear.

Seriously, if you haven’t attended one of these events, you need to.

But back to Scott. When the SHRM social team asked us bloggers to interview a speaker before the annual conference I reviewed the list and was happy to see Scott listed. Scott is now helping me plan DisruptHR Los Angeles and I thought this interview would be a great opportunity to get to know him and his work a bit better. Scott is leading a Mega Session titled: HR 2020 Transformation: Next Practices in HR Strategy, Leadership, and Business Contribution

Here’s what he had to say.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your business: I am CEO of the Executive Next Practices Institute, a research and forum organization for C-suite leaders that focuses on emerging trends and the development of “next practice” solutions. I am also managing director of Nextworks Strategy- a top advisory firm that helps organizations improve their strategy, leadership performance, customer centricity and alignment. Our programs build the internal capability of companies to execute and thrive.

Your session description talks about “eliminating the legacy and silo-ed organization thinking”. Why do you think that is important for HR practitioners? Organization silos are alive and well. So is a “legacy mindset” that translates to “this is how we have always done it here”. Both contribute to poor communications, mis-alignment and lower performance. We work with organizations to restructure and align them for maximum performance.

Sidebar: while many of us bloggers roll our eyes a bit at buzzwords like silos, Scott’s right. They do exist and hinder communication.

What is a “next practices” outcome? Too often leaders “benchmark” against others. A best practices approach simply leads you to being on the same level of potential mediocrity as your competitor. Next Practices is about finding your optimal way of doing things- new processes, practices and behaviors that will dramatically change your business for the better and create true differentiation. We have hundreds of examples of businesses using these techniques to drive productivity and efficiency results for extraordinary ROI.

Read that second line again: “A best practices approach simply leads you to being on the same level of potential mediocrity as your competitor.” Brilliant

Why do you think HR Practitioners struggle with this? HR is keenly aware of organization dysfunction- they see it and deal with it everyday. The challenge is to get traction across the leadership suite to do something about it. This is why we often start with a strategic offsite to align the entire leadership team to all the issues and identify a way forward.

This is your second year doing this topic and this year you have a Mega session slot. Why do you think this topic is resonating so well with conference attendees? This is actually our third presentation and the demand for this topic has been very high given all the disruption in business and government entities. Businesses are being “uberized” seemingly overnight, driving the need for adaptability, speed and continuous innovation across the entire organizations. The next practices approach is a proactive way of driving change and create buy-in at all levels of the organization.

What else should attendees know about your topic? Attendees should expect to gain both strategic and tactical methods and specific examples to help their organization “move beyond the status quo”. We will cover all aspects of “next” organizations- talent, leadership, financial, community and engagement. They will uncover practical steps they can immediately take to engage their leadership team and contribute real business value via these techniques.

I’m excited about Scott’s session. Scott was gracious enough to extend an invitation to me a few weeks ago to one the ENP Institute’s monthly events. I wrote about my experience on LinkedIn and look forward to attending again in the future.

If you are planning your schedule for SHRM16, think about adding Scott’s session to your schedule. I will be there and would love to meet you.

See you in a few weeks.

The Strategic Pivot: Re-set Your Organization via the “2016 Breakthrough Leadership Retreat”

Two weeks into 2016, how well is your team prepared to adapt, focus, and deliver results that will take your organization on an upward trajectory? How ready are you to capture new business in a fragmented marketplace?  Chances are, if you approach your strategic, brand and operational planning the same way you’ve done it in the past, you are likely to wind up with the same status quo results.

Business planning, team building and project plans all have one thing in common- they have an increasingly short relevance and viability in today’s markets. A new approach- focused on value, adaptability, innovation, urgency and sustained results for all stakeholders is called for.

Perhaps you’ve decided to meet as an executive or departmental team to recast or update your strategy for 2016. Congratulations, now the key question- how do you design an effective, engaging session given the urgency and need for insight, alignment and quantifiable outcomes?

Here are 5 “next practices” for a “re-set” of your team in 2016:

_MG_44611. A Relentless Focus on your “Mountaintop”

Vision is great, absolute clarity of what success will look like when you arrive is even better.

What are the 3 to 5 highest value initiatives that your company needs to achieve? Will in fact these initiatives produce both external market growth and build superior internal capability?  This will allow your entire team focus on the vital few and prevent you from being sidetracked or overwhelmed by too many “urgent priorities”.

What is your “burning platform” or market imperative that drives the need for a strategic update?  A cross functional representation of your key leadership should weigh in on your agenda planning to finalize the meeting scope, length and final participants.

2. Market and Operational Intelligence

newsletter2All relevant research on your industry space, current & forecasted market conditions and internal capability assessments should be done prior to your strategy session so that the actual meeting is focused on action, not analysis.

Your 100 day strategy agenda should contain a comprehensive list of topics to be discussed as well as a brief on external speakers. Feedback should be solicited from all members who will participate. The feedback is often gathered in a pre-offsite interview with the session facilitator and designed to be anonymous.

 

3. Build an “Emotional Participation Arc”

Strategic planning sessions and executive retreats can be an extraordinary venues for collaboration among the members of your executive team in your pursuit to achieve a purpose. Hence, limit the number of formal, elaborate PPT presentations during the retreat to allow more time for your participants to share their insights and exchange ideas with each other.

Just like great theater, a retreat should have an emotional arc. Typically, you would want to have a lower level of emotional engagement in the early stages as the issues and environment are explored, building to a fully engaged, passionate discussion of the issues and potential solutions as key strategic initiatives are identified. At the end of the retreat, participants should feel energized and ready to act vs. beaten down by an overcooked agenda, or rehash of past failures.

4.“Break it” for Breakthroughs

“Next practices” are best developed across functions, where hand-offs occur and new standards and processes can be developed. No company can progress if they remain in silo-ed thinking. Your offsite can be a source of significant breakthroughs if the different functional areas are allowed to “free-stream” ideas for improvements in a collaborative way.

It means having the courage to confront and “break” legacy systems, behaviors and practices. Additionally, we have seen several CEOs literally extend a session until they were sure that they had a unified mindset among all team members to the mission, vision and key strategic initiatives developed during the retreat. Not consensus, but a genuine overall agreement as to the best direction to follow at this time, knowing that a pivot may be necessary in the future.

5. Communicate, Mitigate Risk & Align

Changes and new strategic directions developed during the strategic offsite often give birth to several potential risks. You and your executives must be on the same page on how you will manage all the risks that comes with the changes.

The participants of your strategic planning session are your best project leaders and champions in implementing and communicating the changes. Therefore, before you end the strategic planning meeting, an essential step is to secure the commitment of your management team in adopting and owning the changes agreed upon during the sessions.

Finally, your employees are both your most important stakeholders and have the greatest impact on whether your strategy will work or…you’ve just engaged in another “offsite rope climbing exercise”. Make these internal communications a top priority. We have frequently seen the effective use of alignment “business model maps” deployed to communicate strategy.

Internal or External Meeting Guidance?

Internal (employee) facilitators often have an advantage of knowing the company and key  players well, but may not have the position power, be limited politically and/or have a  limited strategic skill set. Even if they have all three attributes, many internal experts often prefer to remain neutral and be part of the offsite experience as opposed to facilitating it.

You may instead want the objectivity of a professional strategic adviser to keep the meeting moving forward, overcome conflicts, and recognize/help the group pivot when necessary. A good facilitator is not only an expert at strategic planning, but they know how to manage the session “flow”, group dynamics, energy levels and when to limit or extend strategic discussions.

We wish you the best of success in 2016 and beyond.

The “Prodaptive” 100 Day Plan

Getting Your Team Aligned for an Extraordinary 2016

7-steps-infographic-v81We are less than 60 business days away from 2016, and the economy, while not perfect, is in the most receptive shape we have seen in years for new market plays. How well is your team prepared to adapt, focus, and deliver results that will carry your organization forward in 2016? Are you truly ready to capture new business in a revived marketplace? Do you have the right team and successors in place to capitalize and execute on opportunities?

Chances are, if you approach your strategic, brand and operational planning meetings the same way you’ve done it in the past, you are likely to wind up with the same status quo results.

This article summarizes much of what we have said to thousands of leaders this year in 35 conferences and multiple private corporate retreats. At NextWORKS, we’ve been using the term “prodaptive” to describe leaders that are able to forecast and interpret market impacts on their strategy and make changes in an anticipatory  fashion vs. waiting.

This ability to see ahead and stay focused is crucial to strategic initiative success. Even the most successful companies (Apple, Netflix, others) are continually adjusting some aspect of their business model- even to the point of pivoting away from the initial concept (think Instagram).  In addition, both short cycle (Food) and long cycle (Engineering  & Construction) organizations face the same challenges- maintaining alignment, customer centricity and how to tap the collective intelligence of their workforce.

Where to start?  The Prodaptive 100 Day Plan

Perhaps you’ve decided to meet as an executive or departmental team to recast or update your strategy for 2016. Congratulations, now the key question- how do you design a plan of action given the urgency and need for insight, alignment and quantifiable outcomes?

The most effective outcomes from these strategy meetings are met by reaching a unified mindset about where to go, when to go, and how to get there.

Seven Key Steps to a Successful and “Prodaptive” Strategy:

  1. A Relentless Focus on the “Mountaintop”

IMG_1434 Vision is great, absolute clarity of what success will look like when you arrive is even better.

What are the 3 to 5 highest value initiatives that your company needs to achieve? Will in fact these initiatives produce both external market growth and build superior internal capability?  This will allow you to focus on the things that truly matter and prevent you from being sidetracked or overwhelmed by too many “priorities”.

What is the “burning platform” or market imperative that drives the need for a strategic  update?  A cross functional representation of your key leadership should weigh in on your  agenda planning to finalize the meeting scope, length and final participants.

  1.  Market and Operational Intelligence

All relevant research on your industry space, current & forecasted market conditions and internal capability assessments should be done prior to your strategy session so that the actual meeting is focused on action, not analysis.

Your 100 day strategy agenda should contain a comprehensive list of topics to be discussed as well as a brief on external speakers. Feedback should be solicited from all members who will participate. The feedback is often gathered in a pre-offsite interview with the session facilitator and designed to anonymous.

  1. Hire a Professional Facilitator

photo How you conduct your meeting is almost as important as the outcomes themselves. Once you have identified the need to do a strategic planning meeting with your executive team, it is important to decide whether or not to engage an external adviser to facilitate the meeting.

Internal (employee) facilitators often have an advantage of knowing the company and key  players well, but may not have the position power, be limited politically and/or have a  limited strategic skill set. Even if they have all three attributes, many internal experts often  prefer to remain neutral and be part of the offsite experience as opposed to facilitating it.

You may instead want the objectivity of a professional strategic adviser to keep the meeting  moving forward, overcome conflicts, and recognize/help the group pivot when necessary. A good facilitator is not only an expert at strategic planning, but they know how to manage the session “flow”, group dynamics, energy levels and when to limit or extend strategic discussions.

  1. Build an “Emotional Engagement Arc”

Strategic planning sessions and executive retreats can be an extraordinary venues for collaboration among the members of your executive team in your pursuit to achieve a purpose. Hence, limit the number of formal, elaborate PPT presentations during the retreat to allow more time for your participants to share their insights and exchange ideas with each other.

Just like a stage play, a retreat should have an emotional arc. Typically, you would want to have a lower level of emotional engagement in the early stages as the issues and environment are explored, building to a fully engaged, passionate discussion of the issues and potential solutions as key strategic initiatives are identified. At the end of the retreat, participants should feel energized and ready to act vs. beaten down by an overcooked agenda, or rehash of past failures.

  1. Leading and Milestone Metrics

How will you know you have arrived? Leading edge indicators, dashboards and visually oriented tracking techniques are all important to
establish during the course of your offsite. These are generally supported by clear project plans with owners and timetables. Additionally, goals and objectives should follow the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based)

  1. “Break it” for Breakthroughs

newsletter2“Next practices” are best developed across functions, where hand-offs occur and new standards and processes can be developed. No company can progress if they remain in siloed thinking. Your offsite can be a source of significant breakthroughs if the different functional areas are allowed to “free-stream” ideas for improvements in a collaborative way.

It means having the courage to confront and “break” legacy systems, behaviors and practices. Additionally, we have seen several CEOs literally extend a session until they were sure that they had a unified mindset among all team members to the mission, vision and key strategic initiatives developed during the retreat. Not consensus, but

a genuine overall agreement to the best direction to follow at this time, knowing that a pivot in direction may be necessary in the future.

  1. Communicate, Mitigate Risk & Align

Changes and new strategic directions developed during the strategic planning session often give birth to several potential risks. You and your executives must be on the same page on how you will manage all the risks that comes with the changes.

The participants of your strategic planning session are your best project leaders and champions in implementing and communicating the changes. Therefore, before you end the strategic planning meeting, an essential step is to secure the commitment of your management team in adopting and owning the changes agreed upon during the sessions.

Finally, your employees are both your most important stakeholders and have the greatest impact on whether your strategy will work or…you’ve just engaged in another “rope climbing exercise”. Make these internal communications a top priority. We have frequently seen the effective use of alignment “maps” deployed to communicate strategy.

We wish you the best of success in 2016 and beyond.

Check out our upcoming events on the speaking tab above.