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Take a Little Madness Out of Your March

Posted March 18, 2014 1:12 PM by Mark Cutler

Yes, it is that time of year again, March Madness!  To most people in the U.S., this means they are frantically poring over data and statistics to put together what they hope will be the winning bracket in their office’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament challenge. 

To individuals’ whose companies do their management reporting on a quarterly basis, it means they too will soon be poring over data, but not to obtain basketball glory and the accompanying office immortality.  Instead, they are furiously pulling together data from all areas of their business to create the reports they need to hold effective management reporting meetings.

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When Bad News Is Good News

Posted November 14, 2012 8:30 PM by Mark Cutler

Ted’s blog from Friday reminded me of one of the key moments in Ford’s turnaround as Bryce Hoffman described it in American Icon – and, no, we aren’t that nerdy that we have an Ascendant Book Club – not yet anyway.  When new Ford CEO Alan Mulally began holding his weekly management reviews with the executive leadership team, he was always getting good news – which was a bit suspicious as he had assumed leadership of a company trying to stay out of bankruptcy.

Mulally’s management reviews went on for weeks – maybe even months, I don’t completely remember – while he continued to receive rosy reports from his leadership team.  Until, that is, Ford Americas chief Mark Fields, who wasn’t sure if he was going keep his job at Ford under Mulally’s regime anyway, decided that he would “go out in a blaze of glory” and see if “this guy is for real” and true to his word that all he wanted was honesty.

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Do you need a checklist for your Balanced Scorecard?

Posted November 9, 2012 1:23 PM by Ted Jackson

If you have met me or spoken to me about the Balanced Scorecard, I’m sure you have heard me say “the Balanced Scorecard is just a framework for managing your strategy.  It should make managing and achieving your strategy easier.  If you are spending more time on the framework than on your strategy, you are not doing something right.”  So, this week, I was finishing the book “American Icon” by Bryce Hoffman, and I came across a passage that reminded me of another book called “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande.  So, what do these books and the Balanced Scorecard have in common?  To me, they are both a reminder that you can’t just have a Balanced Scorecard or just have a strategy.  You actually must do something with it in order to achieve your strategic goals.

Let me clarify a little bit.  The Checklist Manifesto is a book about how creating a simple checklist can help you perform really well.  The two primary examples in the book are about flying a plane and performing surgery in a hospital.  If you have a simple checklist, then you will know the other people in the surgery room, be on the same page for the actual operation, and know many of the primary risks that can go wrong.  The American Icon is about how Alan Mulally came into Ford and saved it from the financial crisis when the other two major auto manufacturers in the US had to be bailed out by the government.  Mr. Mulally instituted weekly management reviews with data driven decision making.  So the paragraph from American Icon that brought it all together for me was one where Hoffman was quoting Mulally.

“You’ve got to trust the process.  You need to trust and nurture your emotional resilience,” he said. “Do you have a point of view about the future? Check. Is it still the right vision today? Check.  Do you have a comprehensive plan to deliver that? Check.  If you get skilled and motivated people working together through this process, you’re going to figure it out.  But you’ve got to trust it.”

So when I read that passage, I thought to myself, do you have a strategy map?  Does the map still reflect the strategy of the organization?  Are your measures and initiatives supporting this map?  Have you aligned divisions and departments around the strategy?  Are you having regular strategy review meetings?  Yes, then you have a much better than average chance of achieving your strategy.

It sounds easy, but this quote from Mulally is from when he is 4-5 years into this process.  It takes work to ingrain a process and get people to trust that it will work.  It took the <a href=http://www.ascendantsmg.com/blog/index.cfm/2012/9/24/What-do-Alabama-Football-and-the-Balanced-Scorecard-have-in-Common>Alabama Football</a> team 3 years and now it is executing like clockwork.

As for the checklist, imagine you went into every strategy review meeting with a checklist.  I’m sure you are doing strategy review meetings either monthly or quarterly.  Before the meeting, have you sent out information in advance? Check.  Have you identified the issue? Check. Do you have the right people in the room to make a decision about the issue?  Check. Do you have a process for following up from the decision with both actions and communications? Check.  OK, you are well on your way to executing your strategy.

Managing Strategy and the Balanced Scorecard Framework

Posted July 30, 2012 4:11 PM by Ted Jackson

One of my favorite clients forwarded me an article from the McKinsey Quarterly last week called "Managing the Strategy Journey." He said that this article flowed nicely into what they were doing (with our help) with the Balanced Scorecard framework. The premise of the article is that you need to have regular strategy dialog at the senior leadership level.

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Developing Your BSC – Perfect Can Be the Enemy of Good Enough

Posted July 20, 2012 3:19 PM by Mark Cutler

One of the interesting aspects of working with nonprofit and educational organizations is the very intellectual, consensual, and deliberate manner in which they do everything they do. This is a critical part of their cultural, which makes them successful in carrying out their day-to-day work and achieving their missions.

However, when it becomes necessary to change the way they do things, we consultants can view these characteristics--of needing to achieve absolute consensus and leaving no stone unturned before moving forward--as a bit of a drawback, causing inertia. This is often true especially when it comes to starting up a Balanced Scorecard at one of these organizations.

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The Quarterly Balanced Scorecard Meeting

Posted June 27, 2012 11:22 AM by Ted Jackson

Well, it is the last week of June, and that means for most organizations, they are looking at the end of the quarter or even the end of the fiscal year. If you are in a for-profit organization, that means you are pushing for sales, invoices, and collections. In nonprofits, fundraising is extremely busy as is the quest to spend budget (if you are a use it or lose it organization). So, what is so special about this week, and why is it so crazy?

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Do you have a Decision Making Process?

Posted February 15, 2012 10:23 PM by Ted Jackson

Let me quickly describe a dysfunctional organization. It is one whose leadership team meets on a regular basis. Maybe they meet weekly for 1 hour or monthly for 2-4 hours or even quarterly for 4-8 hours. They talk about all the things that are important to their organization. They discuss all of the challenges and successes. They fret over the complex and difficult issues, and then they break for the day and meet back again the next time. This might not seem all that unfamiliar to you.

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Charity Navigators New Ranking and Review System

Posted October 26, 2011 1:56 PM by Dylan Miyake

We use Yelp.com to find great restaurants, Amazon.com to find quality products, and Consumer Reports.org to find everything from from the latest gadgets to the fastest sports cars.

Doesn't everyone want to know if they are getting a good deal? Don't we all want to know if we will love the result or regret it before spending any money? In the information age, everyone is looking online for this kind of insider-information before making a purchase.

In a very similar way, donors are going online before making a decision about who they support. And it's in your best interest to know what they are seeing to ensure that your hard-earned donations do not disappear.

Filed Under Reporting
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Strategy Review Meetings – Reviewing One Objective

Posted June 1, 2011 10:40 AM by Ted Jackson

I have been asked about strategy review meetings on a more frequent basis. The most recent one was "Tell me about the best strategy review meeting you have seen. Why was it so good?" It got me thinking that there are multiple ways to conduct a strategy review meeting: Review objectives that are off track, review everything, review by theme, and review just one objective. In this blog, I'll focus on reviewing just one objective.

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Strategy Review Meetings - Review by Theme

Posted May 27, 2011 10:08 AM by Ted Jackson

I have been asked about strategy review meetings on a more frequent basis. The most recent one was "Tell me about the best strategy review meeting you have seen. Why was it so good?" It got me thinking that there are multiple ways to conduct a strategy review meeting: Review objectives that are off track, review everything, review by theme, and review just one objective. In this blog, I'll focus on reviewing by theme.

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