Sunday, May 4, 2008

‘7 Habits' guru offers timeless advice

The Arizona Republic, 2 May 08

Nearly 20 years have passed since Stephen Covey became a business megaguru with his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Since then he has added The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, produced a slew of further variations on the habits theme and helped lead Salt Lake City-based FranklinCovey Co. into a multimillion-dollar enterprise best known for its effectiveness training services and time-management planners.

Covey comes to Scottsdale Wednesday as the keynote speaker at the company's Greatness Summit. Staying true to the "7" standard, we talked to Covey for effective insights into business and life today:

1 The 7 Habits philosophy and why it's important

When the book came out in 1989, 80 percent of the value added to goods and services came from manual labor and machines. Today, 70 to 80 percent comes from knowledge work.

Unless managers get with it and realize that people are the most important asset they have, they'll be mired in the old practices of the Industrial Age.

I'm proposing a break with the old way of thinking. You can see in history that nothing fails like success. It makes companies most vulnerable when the whole place is mired in Industrial Age, top-down, bureaucratic control, and rules and regulations take the place of human judgment.

2 The three circles of greatness

The first is personal greatness, using the seven habits and finding your voice. It's still relevant, and even more so, because unless people have integrity and the ability to synergize, they can't develop the leadership circle.

The second circle, leadership greatness, inspires others to find their voice. Inspire trust, clarify your purpose or what you're trying to accomplish, and align the systems. Then you unleash the talent of the person and the team.

Here's why you need the third circle, organizational greatness. If you don't institutionalize the principles of the seven habits and the four leadership imperatives, the organization won't last. It's totally dependent on who happens to be the leader today. And the real test of leaders is that their successors do better than they.

3 Managing a business in tough economic times

Involve your people in the problem and work out solutions together. Don't try to use the top-down approach and say, "This is what we should do."

Let them become economically literate - on the industry, the economy and their own company - so you have a very open-book management style with the employees. It's risky initially, but as their education increases, the trust goes up and the risk goes down.

4 How his ideas apply to small firms

In small businesses, entrepreneurial businesses, sometimes it is so geared around one person with a vision. They try to wear all the hats, but their strengths become weaknesses.

I just finished talking to an entrepreneurs' group in San Antonio. I asked how many knew their strengths and how many knew their weaknesses, and all the hands went up. I asked how many had created a team to address their weaknesses, and just one-fifth of the hands went up.

The problem is ego. They invest in the old ways because the old ways brought success. Until people can emotionally accept it, they'll have a hard time without that team.

5 Finding your next career

The basic approach is to be a solution to their problem. Do your homework on the economy, the industry and the company. Interview associates, customers and suppliers, and get to know their concerns.

It takes a lot of work, which is why most people won't take this advice.

6 What he's working on now

I'm working on a book on the end of crime. We're researching different cities that have a new paradigm based on prevention, not just on finding the bad guys.

Another book is Blessed are the Peacemakers. It's for attorneys and people who hire them, on how to communicate.

Other books are on how to bring character education into schools, how universities can transform communities, and one for college students on management.

Then there will be Live Life in Crescendo, which says the most important work you're going to do is ahead of you, with your children and grandchildren.

It's geared toward serving your community, not what's in it for you.

7 The Highly Effective man's typical day

When I'm on the road, I'm speaking during the day and at night, and I do pro bono work with families. I work with businesses, health care, government, military, heads of state. They are hungry for this. They just don't know how to communicate and they fall into the old paradigm.

When I'm not on the road, I spend a lot of time with my book projects. I stay away from meetings, voicemail and e-mail.

I have a team that does that so I can spend time at home. I find I can get more done then.

We have nine children and the 50th grandchild on the way, so I organize a lot of family things.

towards excellence>>

The Key To Management: A Balanced Scorecard

Forbes, 29 April 2008

Ever try to keep a scorecard at a little league baseball game? After a while, you learn to track what's most important, ignore the niggling errors and just make sure there's a snack at the end. Well-managed businesses--large and small--use a similar approach.

The concept of managing by "balanced scorecard" has been around awhile. It boosts performance using a combination of metrics, goals and process improvements. The U.S. Navy, City of Newark and the Atlanta Public School System are just a few large organizations that have benefited from this approach. Small businesses can too.

"The big thing that a balanced-scorecard approach does is that it helps management focus on strategy and results instead of tasks," says Howard Rohm, chief executive of the Balanced Scorecard Institute, a nonprofit consulting firm. "When effectively implemented, companies improve performance by measuring what matters and prioritizing work."

Balfour Beatty, a $2.4 billion (sales) construction firm headquartered in Dallas is in the balanced-scorecard big leagues. "All of our scorecards are structured around people, process, customers and financials," says John Parolisi, a senior vice president at the company.

Parolisi uses multiple scorecards, each drilling down on a different aspect of the business. Each scorecard lays out 2-to-4 strategic objectives and 1-to-3 metrics per objective--so 2-to-12 metrics per card. "For example, we have a process objective called 'consistently deliver the signature experience' where we measure customer satisfaction through surveys," says Parolisi. "This is a critical metric for us." Other key metrics could include employee turnover rates or on-time delivery performance.

For many of us, Balfour's complex metric-management system is probably overkill. We'd do just as well with a little league version.

Alex Phinn takes this approach. Phinn, a little league coach, is also president of Griff Paper and Film, a 50-person manufacturer and distributor of protective films, silicone-coated liners and specialty labeling materials in Pennsylvania. Phinn started with a sheet of paper and chose a handful of important operating and financial metrics, including, open purchase orders and open quotes, as well as daily receivables, payables, cash balance and year-to-date sales (vs. the prior year). He also threw in some other tell-tale performance and quality indicators, like the number of employee absentee days and customer complaint calls. Phinn peruses these numbers every day over his morning coffee.

While large companies need all kinds of sign-offs to implement a detailed scorecard approach, the lighter flashcard version is easy to install for small business owners. Says Phinn: "Once my [three] bothers and I signed on to the daily flash report, we had all the executive approval needed."

Phinn isn't buying special Balanced Scorecard software (and there's plenty of it out there), nor is he hiring a lot of expensive consultants (there are plenty of them out there too). He's doing today what will make him quicker, better, wiser--and richer--tomorrow.

towards excellence>>