Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 25JAN10

January 25, 2010

This week’s focus: strategy and execution

What is more important? Strategy or execution?

A failed strategy can keep your company or department from thriving just as can failed or poor execution.  Both are essential to thrive in your marketplace.

More executives “leave for personal reasons” due to failed execution than bad strategy.

Do you have the right strategy?  Is your execution on par with expectations?  If you are concerned about either of these, are you taking appropriate corrective action?

Thought for the week:

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” –Alan Alda

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting



Entitlement and the Danger It Represents

January 19, 2010

Few things frustrate me as much as working with entitled people or organizations.  I see this played out by individual employees and teams as, “It does not matter whether I do a terrific job, a mediocre job, or a horrible job–I’ll still have a job!”  It does matter. There is no need to reward mediocrity or less.

Common examples we see every day:
  • Customer service people with no sense of enthusiasm for their customers, their products or their company
  • Wait staff who treat customers with indifference
  • Manufacturing folks put vehicles in the delivery center for customer pick-up that aren’t built properly or have obvious manufacturing defects
  • A few government employees we encounter at the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Internal Revenue Service

There is a wonderful example of entitlement being played out in Massachusetts just today: the election of new U.S. Senator to replace the seat Ted Kennedy held for 46 years.  [Note: This newsletter is not about politics–it is about entitlement, so please stay with me.]

I lived in Massachusetts from 2000-2002 in a community named Marlborough just outside Boston.  Though I knew little about the politics of Massachusetts before moving there, this is a dominant Democratic state. I should have suspected that this was the case given the stature of the Kennedy name.

When Ted Kennedy died, there was little doubt in my mind that this U.S. Senate seat would continue to be held by the Democrats. Ted usually won elections with more than two-thirds of the vote.

And, that is what the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, believed as well.   According to a 16JAN10 Boston.com article called Amid Tight Race, Coakley’s Campaign Goes Full Bore:

After Attorney General Martha Coakley sailed largely unscathed through the Democratic Senate primary, her aides set a course for the general election that fit her status as the perceived front-runner: protect her statewide popularity, and ignore the little-known Republican opponent.

Off the record, Coakley campaign officials now say in the same Boston.com article:

…they were convinced that Brown faced too many hurdles to be a viable challenger in the race to replace Edward M. Kennedy. His political profile signaled no threat. They felt he was too conservative for Massachusetts, and that his legislative career had been unremarkable.

Mistake: Coakley believed she won the U.S. Senate seat the day she won the election primary and never mounted a serious campaign to aggressively secure her victory.   Boston.com calls it complacency–I call this entitlement.  She thought she had this one in the bag.

Entitlement in business is just as dangerous:

  • Employees treat customers with indifference
  • Employees treat other employees with indifference
  • No sense of urgency to address customer and market needs
  • Employees don’t see a connection between the how the experience a customer receives today influences their feelings about buying from the company in the future
  • The company culture is resistant to and/or impervious to change

Michael C. Hall, winner of Best Actor in a Television Series Drama for his role in “Dexter” at the Golden Globe Awards last evening, said something during his acceptance speech last night that really gets to the heart of an organization that does not suffer from entitlement:

“It’s really a hell of thing to go to work at a place where everyone gives a damn.”

While the language may be a bit rough, Michael nails it.

So, what to do about entitlement?

  • Watch for the signs of entitlement and let it be known that the behaviors associated with entitlement will not be tolerated.  Executives and employees need to show up everyday with their game faces on ready to give their teams and their customers the very best they can.
  • Companies cannot feel entitled about their position in the marketplace.  Market leaders work every day to improve their standing in the marketplace and earn their ability to continue to do business with their customers or they risk becoming irrelevant.
  • Excise the cancer of entitlement–it will not get better on its own.

If there are people on your team who are not willing to give up their sense of entitlement, they need to understand that there are people who are willing to do just that.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 18JAN10

January 18, 2010

“Thank God It’s Monday” is intended to help businesses thrive!

This week’s focus: leadership

Do employees who are continually working through disruptions do their highest and best work for the organization and its customers? Certainly not!

In the business world, there is far too much emphasis on correcting disruptions—the things that aren’t working for us or serving us well—and not enough emphasis on doing things that create excitement.

Leaders owe it to themselves and their teams to constantly evolve their organizations to a future state focused around excitement. Excitement is uplifting for the entire organization and contributes to higher employee loyalty, higher customer loyalty and reduced churn.

If there is no excitement, what is the point?

Thought for the week:

Southwest Airlines recently advertised that they loved their passengers’ checked bags and didn’t charge extra for the first and second checked bag. They showed video of excited baggage handlers longing for the return of the bags.

This week United, Delta and Continental announced the increased fees they would begin charging for passenger’s checked bags. How do you think their customers feel about this? Excitement? Not! Which airlines continue to struggle financially?


Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

Dave Gardner’s “Thank God It’s Monday” 11JAN10

January 13, 2010

Dave Gardner’s “Thank God Its Monday” is to help companies thrive!

This weeks’ focus:  business execution.

Business does not have to be complicated, especially for companies that are thriving.

  • Your capacity to get the things done that matter to customers is meeting the needs of and enhancing relationships with your customers.
  • Your employees are excited and enthusiastic about coming to work.
  • Your company’s profitability is meeting or exceeding your expectations.

If one or more of these attributes do not characterize your business, you would be well-advised to identify and resolve impediments that are keeping your business from thriving. You could even seek outside assistance!

Thought for the Week

“In the successful organization, no detail is too small to escape close attention.” Lou Holtz

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


Boeing and Airbus in 2009

January 12, 2010

I’m certain the Boeing and Airbus sales departments are thrilled that 2009 finally ended.

The Associated Press reports on 07JAN10 that Boeing’s new 2009 aircraft orders were 142 (about 1/10th the number of orders back in 2007) while Airbus received about 194 new orders.

Boeing delivered 481 commercial aircraft during 2009 and Airbus is expected to announce that it shipped 437 new aircraft.

Boeing’s total backlog is about 3,375 aircraft.  I don’t have the figures for Airbus at this point.

Healthy backlogs will help these companies weather these challenging, global economic times.  I expect many additional orders will be pushed out as the airline industry struggles with weak demand, lower profits and the effect of the recent terror attempt on Northwest Flight 253 over the Christmas holidays.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting


How to improve the Department of Homeland Security

January 10, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security is not securing our safety from terror as we should expect. How should they approach this challenge to improve speed, accelerate collaboration and improve efficacy?

The unsuccessful Christmas Day terror attack (a.k.a. the underpants bomber) involving Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit has highlighted inefficiencies and process breakdowns that a reasonable person would have thought would have been eliminated years ago.

In spite of receiving what should have been considered actionable intelligence from the terrorist’s father, critical information was not acted on appropriately or in a timely fashion by governmental agencies. This breakdown could have caused the death of 288 people on the aircraft and perhaps more on the ground.

The American people deserve better. This predictable event was an entirely avoidable business execution failure on the part of those charged with protecting us.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security[i] (DHS) was established on March 1, 2003. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. This cabinet-level department’s mission is to protect the U.S. from terror attacks and to respond to natural disasters. This cabinet-level department was created after the September 11, 2001, terror attack by the Bush Administration. The Department of Homeland Security works in conjunction with other federal departments.[ii] Homeland security policy is coordinated at the White House by the Homeland Security Counsel.[iii]

A Simple Solution

I am for simplicity in business process and system design. I prefer speed and agility over elegance. From a simplistic viewpoint, here’s what should have happened after any human being in any government agency receives a report about a real, possible or potential threat.

  • DHS is immediately notified by any government employee about any potential threat,
  • The individual(s) is/are added to the terrorist watch list and no-fly list,
  • A report dispatched to all federal agencies and international partners who need to be aware of this intelligence,
  • Any outstanding U.S. visas are immediately revoked,
  • Appropriate post-report actions are taken

If it turns out the report is a mistake or a hoax, apologize and move on.

Political correctness, not having sufficient details of a threat, etc., is no reason to not immediately escalate our response to a potential threat.

How Anti-Terror Processes Should Be Designed

The business processes should consist of a series of business process modules with each module reflecting a likely scenario that may be encountered.

Example: Human #1 advises Human #2 within a government agency that Human #3 represents a specific threat. The response to the specific scenario should consist of very simple business process steps that can be executed with a minimum of delay and minimal need for training. The process described under “A Simple Solution” above could be adopted very quickly.

Information technology availability always lags the needs of the organization. Therefore, information technology may not take a lead role in a solution. As information technology becomes available to tie together the modules together, this can be implemented. It is not, however, acceptable to wait to eliminate gaps and breakdowns in current business processes until information technology is available. There can be incremental improvements over time.

Impediments to Change in the Federal Government

Forming the Department of Homeland Security has not immediately resulted in business process improvements or improvements in business execution. Lesson learned: we cannot legislate improved business execution.

The biggest impediments to improving business execution are leadership and culture.

All governmental departments are led by political appointees. The career employees in each department know that they need only stall for 4 years, 8 years or sometimes even less, and this new political appointee will be gone, they won’t have to radically change what they do or how they do it, and they can pretty much be impervious to all but the most minor amounts of change.

Whenever people want to push back on major change, one of the first things the change agent will hear is, “Well, you just don’t understand.” And, by the time the person does understand, the gig is up, a new department head comes in and the process starts all over. Net impact: almost none. The “line in the sand” barely moves.


Why is Change So Difficult?

Most people start with the details rather than the view from 20,000 feet, get clear on the required objectives or outcomes, and adjust the processes to fit the objectives or outcomes. It is so easy to get mired in details that one loses sight of the desired outcomes.

Making required changes to existing processes requires intense, laser-like focus on specific objectives and outcomes that have to be achieved within a rapid time frame. It is important to remember that, all the while, the culture is pushing against change.

The leader must keep pushing back to make sure that changes are not being undermined for the sake of delaying or denying change. The leader must also overcome the inertia and resistance to sharing information outside of agency silos.

Roles and responsibilities need to clearly defined for employees in each scenario. Employees need to be held accountable for executing the process in accordance with expectations and need to understand that there are immediate and dramatic consequences for non-compliance.

There is never a viable excuse for not being fast. Just as readers here are looking to become fast companies, government processes must become fast as well.  And, please, if you think I don’t understand, help me understand how you would make change to improve the efficacy of this critical need, not why change is not possible.


David Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author, blogger who specializes in eliminating business execution problems that threaten profitability and growth. He can be reached through his web site at www.gardnerandassoc.com.

[i] The Department of Homeland Security has over 200,000 employees in federal organizations that include:

  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • National Protection and Programs Directorate
  • U.S. Secret Service

[ii] Several key federal departments that are also charged with protecting the U.S. include:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Department of Justice
  • The Department of Energy
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of State

[iii] The Homeland Security Council is chaired by the President of the United States. The statutory members include the Vice President of the United States and the department heads from treasury, justice, defense, homeland security, health and human services, federal emergency management agency, FBI, and the homeland security advisor. Other cabinet-level secretaries may be called upon to participate as well as the chiefs of staff for the President and Vice President, and other key members of the executive branch.

Manufacturing grows at fastest pace in 3 years

January 4, 2010

The Associated Press reports today:

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index read 55.9 in December after 53.9 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

That is the fifth straight month of expansion and the highest reading for the index since April 2006.

The ISM report said new orders, a future of future production, jumped last month to 65.5 from 60.3 in November.  Indexes measuring production and employment also rose.

A very positive trend indeed for the start of the new year.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting