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Practice Makes Perfect in Executing Your Strategy, Too

Posted February 22, 2013 8:30 AM by Mark Cutler

After reading a blogpost the other night stating that to become good at strategy requires practice, I just had to share it because I couldn’t agree more.

The author, Roger Martin—dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto—says that to be an “accomplished strategist” the first necessary element “is belief, the second is work, work, and work some more. This means making strategy choices, seeing how they work out and then learning from them.”  This is what we at Ascendant try to impart to our clients when implementing a strategy management framework like the Balanced Scorecard (BSC).

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You Thought Your Organization’s Business Model Was Broken? Talk to a Librarian

Posted February 14, 2013 2:52 PM by Mark Cutler

Way back before there was Wikipedia and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, or even Ask Jeeves there were these quiet buildings in towns, cities, and schools across the country called libraries.  You may even remember being in one at some point if you are over 30 years old.

Anyway, the point of these “libraries” was to provide information in the form of books (and magazines and newspapers) to the general public – or students and faculty in the case of school and university libraries – basically for free.  And, acquire your collections through funding you received either from property taxes, tuition, or donors who understood the importance of maintaining free and open access to information.

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Why Stat Programs Aren’t Just for Sports Fanatics

Posted February 8, 2013 10:24 AM by Melanie Burton

Stat Programs, performance measurement tools that focus on data analysis, are becoming increasingly more ubiquitous. One could say they are the new black- not only are they the color of the season, but they’re here to stay and will soon be looked upon as classics. When using Stat Programs, you know you’ll look good because they help you make headlines. Stat Programs drive performance, and the results are change, success, and innovation. While sports enthusiasts have undoubtedly heard of Stat Programs, they may not be acquainted with the new face of the Stat Program movement: government. 
Stat Programs, or at least data driven reviews in general, are becoming increasingly popular and important among all branches of government (state, local, and federal). Political candidates are deploying them on the campaign trail, and laws are being made that require them. Stat Programs themselves have broadened their original focus on numbers to functions that include and demand a management style, making them useful beyond winning baseball bets with your buddies.  
Stat Programs tell a story and create a culture.  Unlike Stat Programs that sports aficionados are familiar with, these new Stat Programs move beyond data analysis and toward creating a performance-based culture. They create a decision making process as well as a management style. Stat Programs in the government allow one to not only hone in on a problem definition, but also help identify the cause of the problem.  This in turn helps you determine how well your proposed solution is working.
The management style that is built in to the implementation of a Stat Program requires you to continuously gather the data, analyze the data and infer what the data is really saying. So, if the proposed method to solving a problem isn’t working, the very nature of Stat Programs puts the user in a position to recognize in a timely manner that a new approach is needed. And, what’s more, Stat Programs put you in the room with the right people to drive and demand change. The executives, the approvers of new directions and strategies, are there. Stat Programs both elicit and require involvement. They streamline the decision-making process using facts to clarify the problem. If everyone at the table can agree on the problem, and the movers and shakers are there to facilitate the transition from brainstorming to producing actionable strategies, then real progress can begin. Bob Behn put it best in stating, “PeformanceStat is not a system or a model. It is a leadership strategy. For to achieve the strategy’s potential, to produce real results, requires active leadership.” 
This is the first in a series about Stat Programs. Tune in next time to learn about what a successful Stat Program entails.  
And, just in case you’d like learn more about Stat Programs in the government, a great example is Governor O’Malley’s Maryland StateStat. http://www.statestat.maryland.gov/

Dave Norton on Targets and Performance

Posted February 6, 2013 3:29 AM by Dylan Miyake

In my 15 years working with organizations on implementing the Balanced Scorecard, targets have always been a challenge.  While critical, targets (especially non-financial ones) are often a guessing game -- should we do last year plus 10%?  15%?  5?  No, wait -- what's our sector benchmark?  Should we go for best practice or average?  And how do we even make a target for that anyway?

I've seen (and even participated in developing) scorecards where fully half of the measures didn't have targets.  Or if they did, the targets were "baseline" -- code for we don't really know what the target is, so we'll punt this down the road a bit and see how we do.  And then make targets later.  Which, like many compromises, is sometimes the exact right thing to do.  And sometimes the exact wrong thing to do.

Fortunately, Dave Norton will be speaking at the Mission Possible:  The Mission-Driven Management Summit 2013 on targets.  In his presentation (which  I had the great fortune of previewing this week), he'll discuss the many different ways that organizations set targets, and present some tools which we can use to make the process of setting targets more transparent, and more importantly, more effective.

Not to spoil the presentation (which I assure you is great), but Dave focuses on two areas:  The BHAG target (big, hairy, audacious goal) which, ironically, is the lag indicator, and the driver measures that help you understand whether or not you are on your way to accomplishing your BHAG.  With examples from throughout the public and social sector, Dave makes a strong case for effective target setting.

Join us in Washington, DC next month for this presentation and other great speakers and cases to learn how you can execute your mission for breakthrough results.