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2020 Kick-off meeting

Make a Bigger Impact at Your 2020 Kick-Off Meeting

Make a Bigger Impact at Your 2020 Kick-Off Meeting

2020 Kick-off meeting

Most CEOs and business leaders have their business plans complete well ahead of the next operating year, let alone their kick-off meeting. However, planning is just one part. You can probably agree that the best-laid strategies of any organization are useless without proper implementation. 

How Will Your Company Make a Bigger Impact?

That being said, strategies are often far from straightforward, because a corporate strategy is by its nature conceptual and often complex. In a recent study from the Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by the Project Management Institute, 61% of respondents acknowledge that their firms often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and day-to-day implementation. Moreover, in the last three years, an average of just 56% of strategic initiatives have been successful. Such poor implementation means that a company’s stated strategy fails to shape what happens in practice: only a small minority of respondents say that their business model is extremely well aligned with strategy. Not surprisingly, companies that are poorly aligned with their strategy also report weaker financial results than their peers.

Most companies have likely already had a 2020 kick-off meeting, but now is an important step. Following up, and following through with the plans you laid out.

Best Practices to Help Us Stay on Track

Stay engaged:

Survey respondents say the number-one reason for the success of strategic initiatives at their organization is leadership buy-in and support. Yet 50% of people who participated in the PMI study said that strategy implementation does not receive C-suite attention. 


Rather than micromanaging, C-suite executives should identify and focus on the key initiatives and projects that are strategically relevant.  Let your assigned team members focus on the details.


Ensure you have the infrastructure to support the implementation of your key initiatives. This may mean hiring the right staff, or perhaps hiring an interim executive(s) who have the specific skills or leadership ability you need and who will provide the focused energy to implement your strategic initiatives.


Incorporate feedback mechanisms along the way. That way, you know you are on track with the initiatives being implemented and can monitor your progress.

See Your Plan Through

If you can keep these best practices in place throughout the year, you can prepare to reap the rewards.  Of the companies that implement these best practices, 65% also report much better financial performance than their peers.  Don’t be the 18% that doesn’t!

Implementing Organizational Change

Implementing Organizational Change With The Brain In Mind

Implementing Organizational Change With The Brain In Mind

Implementing Organizational Change

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein

Think about where your business was five years ago, what has changed? In retrospect, what was the impact of the changes on your organization?  The pace and structure of our lives and the business world today is fast and continually moving. The more changes we institute the easier it is to either forget, ignore or get lazy about managing change down to the individual level where it happens.

We recently had Kristin Evenson from Junctures speak to us at EAG about the brain and change. The main message of her talk was how the brain organizes everything by threat or reward, even change! Things that are perceived as threat literally reduce our brain’s processing capacity and ability to respond. She explains how as leaders we have the opportunity to change and manage these perceptions to the greater good of the individuals and the organization as a whole. 

How the Brain Reacts to Change

First, it’s about being aware of the social threats—SCARF threats, as defined by David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute—that govern the brain.

The five SCARF threats are:

  • Status – feeling less than or better than others
  • Certainty – ability to predict outcomes
  • Autonomy – sense of control
  • Relatedness – in-group or out-of-group
  • Fairness – perception of fair exchange

Organizational change initiatives—whether large or small—can trigger any and all of these threats!  So how can we as leaders help mitigate and better manage these while keeping our employee’s minds open, positive and creative?

How to Implement Organizational Change

The most productive way to implement change is by thinking of each SCARF threat and be realistic with what will happen with change.

    • Status – “How will this impact my job, title, team, influence?”
      • Ask people’s opinion and seek their advice
      • Listen and demonstrate empathy
      • Include and show appreciation
      • Be transparent with what you do know
    • Certainty – “How will this all shake out?”
      • Refocus on what is certain
      • Be open about what you ARE certain about
      • Set goals & expectations and stay the course
      • Communicate often and with transparency
    • Autonomy – “Do I lose control over my work?”
      • Delegate clearly and co-decide on tasks
      • Coach and encourage self-directed learning
      • Allow the team to make their own decisions
      • Pay attention to when directive is needed
    • Relatedness – “Does my role change or might I lose my job and therefore all my colleagues at work?”
      • Find things everyone has in common
      • Get to know what motivates people
      • Encourage everyone’s input & team cohesion
      • Listen, coach and mentor
    • Fairness – “Will everyone be treated equally?”
      • Ensure everyone has access to information
      • Acknowledge emotions and show empathy
      • Understand that fair does not mean equal
      • Don’t shy away from behavioral issues

Our goal as leaders is to not only introduce and lead change but to also increase our people’s capacity to navigate and execute it.  Being proactive to address SCARF threats is a critical investment in ensuring needed change actually happens, and that your people are able to respond at their fullest capacity—able to think creatively and courageously about what’s next.

Meeting Business Milestones

Leverage Project Plans to Meet Your Business Milestones

Leverage Project Plans to Meet Your Business Milestones

Meeting Business Milestones

Milestones are applicable to any business as well as your clients. They can even be applied to your personal life, but we’d guess that there might be an argument on who the project manager is!  A practical way to manage and adhere to these business milestones is by creating a project plan. A successful project plan is simple, straightforward and should be tied to your business plan.

“Life is like a grindstone whether it grinds us down or polishes us, depends on what you’re made of.”—Jacob M. Braude

Starting Your Project Plan

The components should include concrete terms, budgets, deadlines, and management responsibilities. Tasks associated with the plan should also be integrated into your project management platform – to ensure that the tasks are being completed and that people are accountable for the plan.  We recommend that you assign a project manager to oversee the plan. This can be a good training step for an emerging leader within your organization. Or, assign a team leader to schedule meetings regularly (bi-monthly or monthly) whereby each responsible party presents a progress report. There are also milestone tracking apps that can be integrated into your project management platform.

Here is a link to five project milestone tracking apps: https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/five-apps/five-apps-for-tracking-project-milestones/.

Choosing Your Business Milestones

It’s a good idea to incorporate some bite into your plan and management by listing specific actions to be taken. Each action becomes a milestone. This is where a business plan becomes a real plan, with specific and measurable activities, instead of just a document.

A go-no-go back up plan should also be a consideration as well and be incorporated into key decision points.  Let’s say your plan includes adding a new location and you are unable to do that from a financial perspective, bear in mind not all milestones are realistic. 

In a recent study that featured companies “reasons for success” (see the Startup Genome report). They found 14 indicators that may resonate with you, and that tie back to the rationale behind creating and monitoring milestones:

  1. Founders are driven by impact, resulting in passion and commitment
  2. Commitment to stay the course and stick with a chosen path
  3. Willingness to adjust, but not constantly adjusting
  4. Patience and persistence due to the timing mismatch of expectations and reality
  5. Willingness to observe, listen and learn
  6. Develop the right mentoring relationships
  7. Leadership with general and domain-specific business knowledge
  8. Implementing “Lean Startup” principles: Raising just enough money in a funding round to hit the next set of key milestones
  9. Balance of technical and business knowledge, with necessary technical expertise in product development

On a final note: “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” –Nelson Mandela


Innovative Business Ideas

Innovative Business Ideas to Set You Apart From the Competition

Innovative Business Ideas to Set You Apart From the Competition

Innovative Business Ideas

Innovation generally refers to changing processes or creating more effective processes, products, and ideas.

According to statistics, 96% of executives have defined innovation as a strategic priority. However, while most leaders have a lot of innovative business ideas, they don’t know how to implement them.  What’s more, their direct reports typically don’t embrace change. This is especially true for established companies when optimization of existing business really needs to become a priority. They can become scared stagnant. 

Examples of Companies Who Didn’t Act on their Innovative Business Ideas:

From an article published by Valuer


Kodak is a technology company that dominated the photographic film market during most of the 20th century. The company blew its chance to lead the digital photography revolution as they were in denial for too long.

Steve Sasson, a Kodak engineer, actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. “But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it,” says Sasson. The leaders of Kodak failed to see digital photography as a disruptive technology.

A former vice-president of Kodak Don Strickland said, “We developed the world’s first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market.” Kodak management was so focused on the film success that they missed the digital revolution after starting it. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The Kodak failure surprised many.


Another one of those big business examples of failure is Xerox. Xerox was actually first to invent the PC, and its product was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the management thought going digital would be too expensive, and they never bothered to exploit the opportunities they had.

Their CEO, David Kearns, was convinced that the future of Xerox was in copy machines. The digital communication products invented weren’t seen as something that could replace black marks on white paper. Xerox failed to understand that you can’t keep perpetually making money on the same technology. Sometimes technology fails too.

The reality is, according to a recent article from Harvard, “Unless the CEO makes innovation a priority, it won’t happen. Innovation requires a level of risk-taking and failure that’s impossible without executive air cover.”

According to this article, businesses go through a predictable cycle of growth and maturity, often depicted as an S-curve whereby ultimately your unique selling proposition fades, and you don’t see the curveball coming. 

So how do you make these innovative business ideas a reality?

Here are some real-world examples of CEOs who have integrated innovative business ideas into their best practices: 

  • Howard Schultz decided Starbucks had lost its way. He flew in every store manager from around the world to help redesign its café experience
  • Google encourages employees to spend a day per week on new ideas
  • P&G tracks the percentage of revenues from new products and services

The bottom line is that anyone can innovate.

Innovation means coming up with new ways of doing things. Bringing innovation into your business can help you save time and money and give you a competitive advantage to grow and adapt your business in the marketplace.

For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products, or improving your existing services. Innovation can be a catalyst for the growth and success of your business and help you to adapt and grow in the marketplace.

Being innovative does not only mean inventing. Innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services. Successful innovation should be an in-built part of your business strategy, where you create a culture of innovation and lead the way in innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.

Innovation can increase the likelihood of your business succeeding. Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance.

4 Key Steps Towards Achieving Your Business Innovation Ideas

Find areas and ways to innovate in your business through research and planning:

  1. Conduct a market study of the trends in your business environment. This should include conducting research of your customers’ wants and needs compared with your competitors. A blind market study is great for that.  You can also vet new ideas and validate their viability as a part of this study to determine its potential financial impact.
  2. Conduct IDI’s. In-depth interviews (IDI’s) conducted with an outside research firm are helpful for getting real unbiased information on how customers and employees see your company. You can use this process to capture ideas on improving processes, products, and services both internally and externally. 
  3. Incorporate your new ideas into your strategic plan, make sure you promote innovation as a key business process across the entire business. 
  4. Train and empower your employees to think innovatively from the top down. Consider implementing a reward program for the best idea on an annual basis.

Remember, innovation is the key to a competitive advantage for your business.

While developing an innovation strategy isn’t necessarily difficult in itself, aligning it with your overall business goals and ways of working is what takes most of the time and effort. And, nothing grows forever.