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Communicating Your Mission

Posted October 31, 2012 9:25 PM by Brandon Kline


On a recent trip home to see my family, I spent some time watching TV and hanging out with my 16 year old sister. I noticed that, like most people her age, she was texting friends like crazy on her phone. If you have kids or spend any time around people of that age, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Texting is their primary mode of communication.

With the texting phenomenon and sites like Twitter, the ability to get your point across in 160 characters or less has become increasingly important. This got me thinking about the way organizations communicate with their employees, volunteers, customers, and constituents. In the same way that it’s important for high school and college age individuals to communicate a highlight of their day or an upcoming party in a succinct and to the point manner, the same is true for an organization when communicating its mission.

Think for a minute about the organization you manage or work for. If a friend sent you a text and asked what your mission is, would you be able to clearly articulate the mission of your organization in just one or two text messages? Would that text message highlight your unique reason for existence and reflect the values and priorities of your strategy?

If the mission is communicated properly throughout your organization, everyone should be able to send back a text message answering that question. I tested this out by asking a friend at IBM what his mission was. He replied, “We’re working to build a smarter planet.” He immediately asked me the same question about Ascendant, to which I replied, “Our mission is to help social and public sector organizations increase their impact.”

I’d like to encourage everyone who reads this post to think about how they would respond to a text message that asks, “What is your mission?” If it takes some time to decide how you would respond, you might need to take a step back and think about the reason for this. Is there a lack of communication? Could the mission be poorly defined to begin with? If the answer pops right into your head, that’s great! Do you think everyone else in the organization would say something similar?

Send a text to any of us here at Ascendant. We’ll tell you that our mission is to help social and public sector organizations increase their impact.

What is your mission?


Can you Know Too Much?

Posted October 29, 2012 8:42 PM by Ted Jackson

I led a training session in New Brunswick Canada last week.  The participant feedback was generally very favorable.  But there is always one negative comment that gets my attention…..this time the comment that got my attention was, “the instructor was too knowledgeable.” Hmmm.  Then it occurred to me that strategy management, like any other discipline can sometimes get so sophisticated that the beauty of the simple idea gets lost.  I value the reminder.  The simple question is- Does your Balanced Scorecard (or your management program of choice) enable you to make strategic decisions that accelerate the achievement of your strategy? <more/>

Step 1.  Create a simple one page picture. 

We call it a strategy map.  But any picture that brings your strategy to life will do.  Make it so that management and staff alike will understand the direction of your organization.

Step 2.  Monitor a few measures

Maybe it is only five or ten. But not more than 15 measures.  Together they should tell you if you are achieving your strategy and if you are on track for the future as well.  If the measures don’t help you make strategic decisions they are not the right measures.  If they are too difficult to collect, they will not work in the long term.  Find the measures that work for you.

Step 3.  Determine if there are initiatives worth watching

If there are a few internal projects that will help advance the strategy (and the measures) it might be worth leadership watching progress.  This is really where the rubber meets the road – real work making a difference.  Be careful to keep operations separate.  Leadership as a group only needs to discuss strategy.

Step 4.  Data, Dialog, Decisions

All of this needs to inform strategy review meetings so leadership can look at performance data, have a constructive dialog about key issues and make decisions.  You know your team; you know what works and what does not.   Provide information ahead of time, equip leaders to contribute to the dialog and track decisions.

Seizing Control of Your Strategy

Posted October 24, 2012 10:44 PM by Mark Cutler

As I was listening recently to a client leadership team discuss the merits of “publishing” a high-level description of their strategy, I couldn’t help but think about the importance of the environment in which organizations operate and how different organizations can react differently to similar environments because of the attitude they have.

Here was the leadership team of a large department of a federal government agency discussing the pros and cons of publishing their high-level strategy document.  Those arguing against publication raised the concern that many other organizations “above” them in the hierarchy would take exception to the client publishing the strategy without their input.  They felt that without providing enough detail – which was still being worked on for later release – it would create more questions than it would answer and would cause the other government organizations to start giving direction where they thought it was needed.

Filed Under Balanced Scorecard
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EnvisionEAST 2050: A Regional Visioning Exercise with 30,000 Legos

Posted October 23, 2012 1:58 AM by Dylan Miyake

Bright and early Wednesday morning, I will have the honor of joining my father for an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Reality Check involving thousands of legos, lots of yarn, and a regional challenge requiring creativity and cooperation not only across county lines, but also between a diverse set of interests.

The Reality Check exercise brings together a diverse set of leaders from a nine county region of Eastern North Carolina to address critical growth issues. Participants represent various viewpoints including business and commerce, agriculture, conservation and environmental interests, city and county managers, leaders from education, healthcare, transportation and utilities, as well as residents who “like it just the way it is”.

The EnvisionEast 2050 program summarizes it best.

“Growth is coming to our nine-county eastern North Carolina region.  Projections show as many as a million more people here by 2050.  Where will all of us live, work and play then?  How can we maintain our quality of life and build a sustainable future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren in the face of record growth.

On October 24th, 300 regional business, development, community, government, environmental, academic and military leaders will gather for EnvisionEAST-2050, a ULI Reality Check collaborative regional visioning process of the Urban Land Institute,   Working on maps without county lines participants will suggest alternative scenarios to accommodate growth through the year 2050.

Reality Check is not a new concept. Since 2005, twelve regions including Tampa Bay, Washington DC, the Uplands Region of South Carolina, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham, Jacksonville Florida, Hampton Roads and the state of Maryland, have staged Reality Checks.”

YouTube details a similar event from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia in the video below:

Jim Oliver’s quote captures the essence of the event;

“We are so overwhelmed with thinking little, all of our structures are built about being small, but if the global economy is really about regions, we have to figure out ways to make regional decisions as well as good local, even neighborhood decisions.”

Participants will be working to develop and test different sets of guiding principles throughout the day. I look forward to sharing the best of those soon after this event!

Dave Norton: Innovator, Entrepreneur, and Mentor

Posted October 15, 2012 12:51 PM by Dylan Miyake

I saw in a press release today that WPI had named Dave Norton their "Innovator of the Year."  Dave Norton is a lot of things -- an incredible innovator, a world-renowned author and speaker, a serial entrepreneur, a long-distance cyclist, and recipient of innumerable awards for his contribution to business.  But, after reading this news, I wanted to share a more personal story about how Dave has inspired and encouraged me -- over the past 15 years -- to develop as a strategist, as a leader, and as a person.

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Getting The Job; Getting The Job Done

Posted October 5, 2012 7:10 AM by Dylan Miyake

As regular readers of the website know, we posted a job yesterday.  And we're already getting a flood of great resumes coming in (thank you!)  But, there are a few things I've noticed.  Some of you aren't that good at reading.  Or spelling.  Or maybe you think that we're just going to pick the resumes at random from the top of the pile.  We're not.  We're really careful about who we hire, and why.  So, a few tips for you prospective job seekers (I think this applies anywhere, but especially here at Ascendant):

Filed Under Ascendant
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Looking For a Great Person To Fill A Great Job

Posted October 4, 2012 8:41 PM by Dylan Miyake

Ascendant Strategy Management Group is looking for an associate consultant in the Washington, DC area to support our rapidly growing consulting and software teams.  As an associate consultant with Ascendant, you'll get a chance to contribute immediatelyon client engagements, to support building a cloud-based performance management software business (ClearPoint Strategy), and to help us grow as a company.

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Using the Balanced Scorecard in Nonprofit Organizations: Plan, People, and Process

Posted October 3, 2012 10:34 AM by Angie Mareino

Today's guest post comes from Evan Stisser, a MBA candidate at Cass Business School in London. Evan, who is working on his Master's thesis regarding Balanced Scorecard (BSC) implementation in nonprofit organizations, spoke with Ascendant's Managing Partner Dylan Miyake about Ascendant's nonprofit work and BSC best practices. Here's Evan:

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Can the Sectors Learn From Each Other?

Posted October 2, 2012 9:06 AM by Ted Jackson

Private sector organizations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize return to shareholders.  Government agencies are tied to the political platform of their city, state or nation.  Charities are required to achieve their mission.  Can these organizations operating within completely different sectors learn from one another about strategy management?  Of course they can!  Let’s look at how.

Filed Under Best Practices
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