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It's Cinco de Mayo ... Stay Thirsty My Friends!

Posted May 1, 2014 10:11 AM by Mark Cutler

With Cinco de Mayo just a few days away, I couldn’t help but think of the terrific Dos Equis television commercials with “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (MIMW) and his tag line: “Stay Thirsty My Friends!”

I think that line embodies a great attitude or value for an organization to adopt with respect to its performance management system—“stay thirsty,” or said another way, “never be satisfied.”  When measuring and managing your organization’s performance, you should never be satisfied because when you are satisfied and rest on your laurels, that is when your performance begins to suffer and others start to outperform you.

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The Balanced Scorecard Isn’t Just About Measurement

Posted January 5, 2014 4:45 PM by Mark Cutler

Just this past week, I was interviewing a client at a North American unit of a large international organization as part of a project to help align this unit with the Balanced Scorecard of its corporate parent, when the client made an interesting comment to me.

“I’ve been spending most of the past year working on the behavioral aspect of alignment within my sphere of control in the organization,” he said.  “So the timing of your work is good, we should start measuring now.” 

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Why you should set aggressive goals

Posted October 1, 2013 8:20 AM by Melanie Burton

As a novice runner, and by novice I truly mean novice, I have a unique aversion to running. I’ve always wanted to but I find it a truly daunting undertaking. I recently ran my first mile in… 10 years?? I’ve been talking for years about how my dream is to run a 5k, but did I ever successfully make it even a mile? No. That is, until I signed up for a half marathon. You must be thinking, as was everyone who knew me… Melanie, you hate to run WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Well, I am taking what I learned through my work experience and applying it to my personal life. Throughout my life, I’ve always been told to set attainable goals, to tell myself that I’m going to run half a mile, because I’ll feel good having done something I know I could accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure they said. I’ve since learned that taking the “attainable goals” route leads to inactivity. I know I can do whatever the task at hand is, so I don’t worry about it. It’s pushed to the back of my mind, replaced by things more pressing, things I’m more worried about.

Now, I am a convert. Forget the SMART goals you’ve heard about – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound and start setting goals that motivate, goals that push you beyond what you knew you could do - go for goals that are specific, measurable, aggressive, relevant and time-bound. I understand that there is a fear and stigma against failure driving us to set goals we know we can accomplish, but use that fear to your advantage. Let’s think about this. Say an author sold 10,000 copies of his book last year, so he decides that a good goal is to sell 10,000 again this year. But what’s wrong with this? If you were that author would you continue with the status quo, pushing this goal aside because you know you can achieve it? Or, would you focus on it, worry about it, and try something new to make it happen? You would continue as you are and because of that, maybe you wouldn’t even manage to meet that safe, attainable goal. Aggressive goals force themselves into every conversation; they force you to make a plan (like how I’m going to run a certain number of miles each day until my marathon). They make you think about the future and what you need to do to ensure that you reach that goal, or at least to get close to that goal.

Stretch goals take your fear of failing and use it as a motivator, as a driver. The goal is set, we can’t back down – so what are we going to do about it? My favorite thing about stretch goals, is that even if you miss the goal, say of selling 50,000 books this year by 15,000, you still sold 35,000 books – 25,000 more books then you might have otherwise.  Stretch goals translate to results in a way attainable ones usually cannot. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from making a difference. Set aggressive goals. 

The Vision of Great Leaders

Posted March 18, 2013 3:17 PM by Brandon Kline

All great leaders have a vision.

  • Martin Luther King saw a world of equality regardless of your race, color, or creed
  • Steve jobs had a vision to put a computer in the hands of EVERYONE
  • The Founding Fathers had a vision for a new nation
  • Even Bob Dylan had visions of Johanna

Okay, I may have gotten a little carried away with that last one, but the fact of the matter remains - all great leaders have a vision, and that vision becomes the driving force behind all their work.

Eduardo Carrera also has a vision. He sees the Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico (BGCPR) positively affecting the lives of every boy and girl in Puerto Rico. This is a vision that is shared from the president of the organization all the way down to the front line employees and volunteers.

By relentlessly preaching that vision, they have cultivated the motivation and buy-in that has helped the organization grow to 11 clubs serving over 11,000 young people annually. However, this growth and forward progress wasn’t always the norm. In previous years, they struggled just to stay afloat and remain relevant in the lives of the Puerto Rican kids. He compared this stagnation to being in a room and having the windows open while it was raining. The water just kept pouring in while they did everything possible with the buckets they had to throw it back out. SEE THEIR VIDEO HERE.

For so long, they could only see in the short-term and by operating under this approach, they were only able to scoop enough water out of the room to keep from drowning. They needed a new direction. A purpose. A vision. A reason for being that was inspiring and so large that it could only be long-term.

Their leader made this new vision very clear to all employees, volunteers, and even the kids. They were going to reach ALL of the roughly 1 million kids on the island. It was this vision that has helped them continue to grow, continue to stretch themselves, and continue to save the lives of Puerto Rican boys and girls. Whew - now that is a vision.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that a vision isn’t just what you are trying to accomplish in the next one, two, or even three years. It’s much greater than that. Take another look at the people at the top of this post (minus Bob Dylan of course). Do you think any of them thought their vision would be accomplished in the next few years? Or even in their lifetime? I doubt it.

I challenge each and every one of you in the mission-driven sector to reflect for a minute or two. What is your vision? Does it inspire you? Does it inspire others? Are you surrounding yourself with people as committed as you are?

As you reflect on those questions, I leave you with a parting quote from Eduardo’s Presentation at MDMS 2013.

“The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight and no vision.”

Reaching Your Goals In 2013!

Posted December 31, 2012 3:03 PM by Brandon Kline

Before I get started, I want to thank Angie for her post earlier today. It really got me thinking about the importance of starting the year strong, both personally and within your organization. However, while starting the year strong is important, I think we would all agree that keeping the momentum is the most crucial part (and the toughest). So, as we get ready for 2013, what are some things you can do to ensure that the momentum from the New Year is sustained?

First, make sure everyone knows that change, especially in an organization, is not a single event, but a process that takes time. You don’t simply decide to change something about yourself or your organization and then, poof, it’s done. It takes energy, focus, and a plan.

Next, develop a plan with specific goals. Specific goals help you to focus. Let’s say you set a personal goal to “lose weight.” It’s great that you want to lose weight, but as a goal, it’s not specific enough to force you to focus. Instead, try something like, “lose 20 pounds by the end of May.” By making your goals specific, attainable, and time-bound, you create a framework that you can manage to. In addition, it helps you (or your organization) visualize what success will ultimately look like if goals are met.

Once you have a set of goals, make sure someone or something holds you accountable. The first step towards accountability is making sure your goals are well known. If nobody knows what you are trying to accomplish, they can’t possibly hold you accountable. So, write your goals on the wall, post them on your website, or send a letter to all employees. Do whatever it takes to spread the word.

Okay, your goals are set, you’ve got an accountability mechanism, but how do you know if you’re getting any closer to success? That’s why you need to clearly and consistently measure progress against your goals. Tracking your progress not only lets you know if something is going awry, but it can also provide positive reinforcement when you’re doing well, and nothing is more motivating than proven success.

So, now that people know your specific goals, are ready to hold you accountable, and understand what progress looks like, just GET STARTED! Sometimes the hardest part is getting the ball rolling, but whether you’re trying to lose 20 pounds by May, or raise an extra million to support your cause, the only way you will reach your goal is by getting started.  

Cheers to reaching your goals in 2013 and beyond - Happy New Year!


Leaders - On The Field and In The Boardroom

Posted December 4, 2012 4:41 PM by Brandon Kline

If you know me, then you know that last night I was watching the Redskins v Giants game. Of course I enjoyed watching the Redskins win, but I also enjoyed the pure entertainment of watching two great quarterbacks battle it out. I can’t imagine the pressure a rookie quarterback encounters when facing a veteran, Super Bowl-winning quarterback. This of course got me thinking about the two other great rookie quarterbacks this season, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Each of these players has a set of characteristics that makes them and, as a result, their team, successful. Then, like any consultant would do, I thought about how these characteristics could be applied to the leaders of the mission-driven organizations we work with.

Below I’ve highlighted a few of the attributes that make these rookie quarterbacks successful. So, take a minute, think about these characteristics, and hopefully you’ll be able to see how they translate to the leaders in your organization.

Team Comes First Attitude. Have you ever seen a press conference with one of these guys? Reporters always ask questions about them as an individual, but they always seem to steer the answer back to being about the team. A good leader knows that they are only as good as the team that surrounds them and they acknowledge that fact openly.

Always Pushing Themselves. Everyone watches their talent on the field, but it’s when they’re off the field that the talent is nurtured and grows. After a series on the field, they come to the sideline, grab a drink, and sit down with the offensive coordinator to discuss the previous plays. They may be resting their legs, but never their brains. They are always learning, making adjustments, and strategizing about how to execute better next time.

They Have An Unrelenting Desire To Win. Do you think these rookies smile after they get beat? I don’t think so. They want their team to win, and not just once or twice, but always. If you ask them what they want from the season, I’m sure each would tell you that they want to win a championship. They want to be the best. A leader doesn’t settle for mediocrity, they always want to be better than the competition.

Respected. Despite their youth, these rookies garner respect from veterans with 10+ more years of experience. Yes, their talent has a lot to do with this, but it also relates to their discipline, work ethic, and commitment to the team above themselves. Not only do they have the respect of their teammates, but they show respect to them as well. Leaders recognize that respect is a two-way street.

They Make Everyone Around Them Better. This is the characteristic that really amazes me. Somehow, someway, everyone around them seems to play to their fullest potential. When all of the above characteristics come together, this is the result. These guys make everyone want to be better, work harder to get better, and ultimately become better. In my mind, this is what true leadership is all about.

I always find it interesting to compare leaders that operate in different atmospheres and, more often than not, I find that the skills and characteristics of good AND bad leaders are similar regardless of the environment. Hopefully some of these characteristics resonate with you and help you think about the leader you are or would like to be. 

Down. Set. Hike!

New Talking Points: Birds, Worms, Strategy

Posted November 7, 2012 10:46 AM by Angie Mareino

The election is (finally!) over, and we have just the thing to fill the void. (What’s that you say? You’re perfectly content with the sound of silence for the next month, at least?)


Each year, we host a conference* for strategy and performance managers across the social and public sector. We host a slew of presenters and keynote speakers that you’ll be pleased to meet, listen to, and learn from. Not to mention, ASMG will moderate and host workshops that serve to build your skills in alignment, visioning, goal setting and milestones, and more. It’s the kind of focused event that you’ll walk away from with news you can actually USE.

We’re pretty proud of our Summit, because we make sure our speakers know their stuff, practice what they preach, and present ideas that relate toward your mission-driven organization. In other words, at the Mission-Driven Management Summit, it's here’s to you.

That’s why I URGE YOU to check out our website with the full agenda and details, and sign up before November 16th–THAT’S 10 DAYS—to take advantage of can’t-beat, early bird pricing. And, with that in mind, over the next ten days I will count down with you, listing our top ten reasons the strategy Summit is the kind of event you’ll want to talk about (to your coworkers, your boss, your network….).


Meet fellow strategists and performance managers across the Mission-Driven sector (school districts, municipalities, nonprofits, federal government, and NGOs) and expand your network while learning how others manage strategy and performance.


Eventbrite - Mission-Driven Management Summit STAY TUNED FOR REASON #9 TOMORROW… and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

* (and no, not one of those giant, tradeshow-style conferences, but a small, focused, two-day event that’s centered on content, not vendors)


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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An Ode to Napping and Night Owls: When Do You Feel Most Alert?

Posted September 26, 2012 10:28 PM by Angie Mareino

Finally! I will not be ashamed! Let the truth be told: I am a night owl whose sleep patterns resemble sprints, not marathons. 

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What do Alabama Football and the Balanced Scorecard have in Common?

Posted September 24, 2012 8:56 AM by Ted Jackson

I’m originally from Alabama, and thus I’m a big Crimson Tide fan.  These are good times to be a fan with Nick Saban as coach and two national championships in the past three years.  Imagine if this was your organization.  It means that two of the last three years, you executed your strategy the exact way you designed it.  You accomplished all of your organization goals and excelled in all measurable areas.  It appears that you are on track for long term success.  For the University of Alabama, it means there is a lot of media attention to try to figure out the formula for the success. <more/>

There have been many articles in sports magazines, and there have been them in business publications as well, including the Wall Street Journal.  I was reading Fortune magazine’s article by Brian O’Keefe about Alabama, and it reminded me of the Balanced Scorecard.  O’Keefe quotes Saban as saying “First you’ve got to have a vision. Then you’ve got to have a plan to implement it.”  I agree completely.  We’ve been helping many nonprofits and NGOs with visioning exercises, change agendas, and strategy maps to lay out the plan to implement the change needed in an organization.

As for the implementation plan at Alabama, there is a phrase for it “the Process.” The Process is a disciplined operational approach that keeps the assistant coaches and players focused on execution.  He thinks about all of the components and aligns all of the activities, including training, recruiting, practices, and academics to the Process.  Now, imagine your organization.  Do you take all of your business units or key functions and think about how they operate?  Are they all aligned in executing the strategy and getting the right things done?

One of the things I found interesting in the Fortune article is that O’Keefe points out that the Process gives the coaches and the players more confidence in what happens.  If they need to adjust on the field, in the middle of the game, they can, because they know they have a set of activities that they have been working on and they trust that everyone knows their roles.  Again, if you have a clear strategy in your organization, you will be able to adjust when something extraordinary happens because your entire team will have a vision of where you are trying to go.  In the mission-driven space, I’m confident that Saban would love City-Stat, School-Stat, and strategy review meetings as a way to examine the activities, look at data, and make decisions to help achieve results.  His results speak for themselves: 48-6 in the last five years.  They are 4-0 this year (at the time of this blog). Two crystal trophies are in the cabinet so far. David Norton would be impressed with the Achievement Results.   Roll Tide!!!

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