Destiny is not a matter of
chance; it is a matter of



You’ve come to the right place.

Here you’ll find models, methods, practices, and processes
to help you develop the right focus, create the right environment,
build the right team, and embody the right commitment.
To get the right results.

Make Sure Your Incentives are Incentives

Customer feedback is an essential input for developing strategy. But how do you get your busy customers to give you feedback?

A sushi restaurant I frequent in Denver provides an incentive. After each meal they send me an email with an incentive to complete a brief survey. If I complete it I have a 1 in 5 chance of receiving 5 “points” in their frequent diner program. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

For every dollar I spend at the restaurant I get one point. When I earn 200 points I get a $10 reward. So, stay with me, if 200 points is worth $10 then 5 points is worth … 25 cents. Which means that taking my valuable time to complete a survey gives me a 1 in 5 chance of receiving 25 cents worth of points! Seems a touch light, don’t you think?

If you’re offering your customers an incentive, yes, make sure the odds don’t seem astronomical. But also make sure the payoff is significant enough to truly act as an incentive. Otherwise, there’s little incentive in having an incentive program.

Your thoughts?


Attack Your Assumptions – Wall Street Edition

No sooner do I post a blog on attacking your assumptions (May 7 2012), on how our judgments of people can be misguided or just plain wrong, then some of the suits on Wall Street express their horror that Mark Zuckerberg – the 28-year-old, now multi-billionaire CEO of Facebook – wore a hoodie and jeans when conducting pre-IPO meetings with analysts.

The noble defenders of capitalist society were unequivocal in their pronouncements. “Not the smartest thing.” “Disrespectful to investors.” “It just pisses off people who can wreck your IPO.”

Who can wreck your IPO? Yaaaaa, to show the little punk who’s boss, let’s torpedo his IPO. Forget about our usual motive – greed – we’ll show him. Riiight.

Of course Wall Street analysts, whose clothing choices are inspired by the former Soviet Politburo, are well positioned to be dispensing advice as to what is and is not appropriate attire.

Forty-five years ago if you didn’t sport short hair you were obviously a hippie and had no chance of succeeding in business. Twenty-five years ago if you wore jeans to work (wait, didn’t a guy named Steve Jobs do that?) you obviously weren’t serious about business. And today …

Don’t get distracted. It’s not about the hoodie. It’s about performance and results. Revenue, customer growth, retention, profits. Attack your assumptions.

Your thoughts?


Attack Your Assumptions

I often challenge my clients to attack their assumptions – the shared beliefs that go unquestioned yet drive strategic decisions, and if wrong, can be disastrous.

Traveling in the Middle East has caused me to attack some of my assumptions. Like many Westerners, my belief was that the abeyya, the black cloak seen on many Islamic women, is an austere garment worn either by those with fundamentalist religious beliefs or those who are repressed. While undoubtedly true in some cases, what I’ve learned in Oman and Jordan is more complex. Far from being austere, many abeyyas have fashionable design elements like colored silk accents, embroidery and beadwork. And speaking of fashion, don’t be surprised to find that abeyyas are worn over the latest skinny jeans, high heels, and attention-grabbing jewelry.

Many women consider the abeyya a natural and modest over-garment for going out in public. Going without would make them feel about as comfortable as a Manhattan banker going into a board meeting without a suit.

What does this have to do with you, an organizational leader?

Attack your assumptions. Assumptions about your customers, competitors and suppliers. Who they are, how they think, and what they want and value.

Attack your assumptions. You just might find the truth cloaked in mystery.

Your thoughts?


Demographics and Psychographics

Each year Bernadine and I return to a small island that caresses us with the word “real.” There are no famous golfer-designed golf courses, no avenues lined with swank resorts, and no gated driveways that separate those who are allowed from those who aren’t.

Which got me thinking about demographics and psychographics. Because the kind of travelers who come to Isla Mujeres cannot be easily classified by demographic categories such as age, gender, race or ethnicity. But they can be classified by psychographic categories like what they value.

People who come to Isla Mujeres value real. To live amongst the locals, not to be quarantined behind the walls of some resort. To eat in restaurants where Mom is the server, Dad is grilling the fish and Gramma is looking after the kids. Where there’s sand on the floor and that’s OK. Real.

Think of your customers in terms of psychographics. Their beliefs, likes, dislikes, wants, needs and values. Then you’ll be able to provide them an experience that connects with who they truly are, not just a list of descriptors.

Your thoughts?



Every major change initiative I’ve ever worked on reminds me of how important it is to recalibrate.

It’s impossible to design the flawless implementation of a major initiative from A to Z. There are too many moving parts, too many unknowns. You can’t anticipate everything. That’s why you recalibrate.

Get feedback and ideas from those involved with the change and those affected by the change. What isn’t working as planned? What obstacles have emerged? Which people are leading the charge? Which people are lagging behind? Why? Are there resource constraints? Are incentives – monetary or non-monetary – misaligned? Do people have the required skills? Which communications have been effective? Which haven’t?

Everything is subject to change. The goal isn’t to defend and justify your initial thinking. The goal is to successfully execute. Assess where you’re at, get your people’s input and make the changes you need to make. Then give them the credit. That engages them and lets them know you listened, heard and took action.

You always reserve the right to do what makes sense. Recalibrate.

Your thoughts?


Your Customers' Addiction

Ever been addicted to heroin? Me neither. But an M.D. will tell you that over time a heroin addict builds up a “tolerance” to the drug. Which means it takes more of the drug to produce the same high.

Why is this relevant? Because your customers are like heroin addicts. Except what they’re addicted to is value. Over time they build up a tolerance to your products and services. What wowed them in the past has a diminishing effect.

Think of yourself as a customer. At one time you were probably wowed by flat-screen monitors, smartphones, GPS navigation and online shopping. Now? Not so much. Yesterday’s wows have become today’s expectations. Which means they don’t help you win the game, they only keep you in the game.

And that’s why you can never get complacent. That’s why standing still means you’re falling behind. That’s the impetus for change. Either you feed the addiction or your customers will find someone who will.

Your thoughts?


The Zen of Strategy

Developing your strategy? Wanting to create organizational focus? Then decide what you’re not going to do. Which markets you’re not going to serve. What you’re not going to offer.

Every organization struggles with focus. With ambition-creep. Seemingly everything is important. Yet, sometimes, a conscious decision to not take action is the right course of action.

Trying to do everything doesn’t guarantee that everything will get done well. It all but guarantees that everything won’t get done well. The antidote? For each potential new project, market or offering, ask:

  1. To what extent will this siphon attention and resources from our current priorities?
  2. Is that cost justified by the projected benefits?
  3. If so, should some current priorities go away or should we find additional resources?

Be realistic. Prioritize and focus. Do less, but with greater intensity and heightened expectations.

Your thoughts?


Winning Coaches Don't Focus on Winning … Really

We’ve all heard stories of coaches who inspire their teams to victory with impassioned speeches. “Win one for the Gipper!”

What you may not know is that many successful coaches rarely talk about winning. What they talk about is improvement. Making yourself better every day. Performing, reflecting, learning and improving. Focusing on what you can control. Becoming the best you can be. No excuses, no rationalizations. Just you.

Winning in a team sport depends on a lot of factors. Some you can only influence. Ultimately, you can’t control whether or not your team wins. All you can control is you.

Sure, there are times for an impassioned speech. But the secret to ongoing success isn’t fire and brimstone. It’s a commitment to constant improvement.

Your thoughts?


Google "Experimentation"

Is your organization continuously improving? Are you evolving your products and services? At a pace to not only keep you in the game but help you win the game?

Google makes around 100 upgrades to its search engine each quarter. At any given time they’re running between 50 and 200 experiments to test potential improvements. How do you measure up?

Think of your organization as a science lab. You encourage your people to think and to generate hypotheses about how to do things better, how to make things better. They test the most promising hypotheses, many of them, but one at a time so as to control for the effect of other variables. They draw conclusions and implement the most promising ideas. Maybe they develop broader theories which lead to the testing of new hypotheses.

Hypotheses, testing, control, conclusions, theories … this is the language of innovative organizations as well as science.

Your white lab coat awaits, professor.

Your thoughts?


One Thing

The New Year. For many people it’s a time for reflecting, setting goals and making plans.

Most of them will fail. So if you commit to anything at all this year, commit to this one thing:

One thing.

That’s it. Start one thing. Stop doing one thing. Make one significant change. Select one thing that you want to do, can do and, regardless of what obstacles or challenges arise, will do.

Feel good, feel successful when you do that one thing. Then, and only then, consider one more thing.

What am I going to do? I’m going to change which websites I look at each day. To take in different perspectives and stretch my thinking.

Do it. One thing.

Your thoughts?


Climbing the Right Mountain

When I was young and foolish, my buddy Ken and I decided to test our rock-climbing skills on Mt. Cascade in the Canadian Rockies. Having done almost no research we drove to the mountain, picked out a route that looked promising, and began to climb.  Without ropes, of course.

It was all going well. Until it wasn’t. The climbing got increasingly difficult and we realized we were at the limits of our abilities and risk tolerance. Just one problem. We now had to downclimb. Hmmm, hadn’t planned for that.

At one point Ken couldn’t find the next move down and his legs started shaking from fatigue. “I don’t think I can hang on,” he yelled, his voice faltering. This, at the exact moment I was about 20 feet directly below him on the rock face. Which meant if he were to fall, he would crash into me and send us both plummeting off the mountain and into the obituaries section of the annual alpine journal.

Fortunately, Ken was able to steady himself, find the next move, and with considerable anxiety we were able to downclimb to the base. At which point we noticed for the first time the memorial plaques bolted to the rocks for the climbers who had lost their lives there.

The point? It’s easy for you and your team to get jacked up about a goal. Just make sure it’s the right goal. Know your capabilities. Know the risks. Do the research up front. Be clear on why it’s the right goal.

One more thing. Have a strategy for retreat and know when to trigger it. It may keep you out of the obituaries section of the annual business journal.

Your thoughts?


Ruthlessly Consistent and Consistently Irrelevant

It’s one thing to be ruthlessly consistent and another to be consistently relevant. Aligning people, processes, structure and infrastructure with the wrong focus can be very effective … at leading you to failure.

Stuffing your products with even more features doesn’t make sense if what your customers really want is simple (ever see an 80-year-old struggling with a cell phone?). Cutting people to cut costs can be self-defeating if exceptional service is growing your customer base (think Zappos).

So where does the right focus come from? A well-designed strategic management process. Once you’ve got a handle on the competitive landscape, your internal situation, and the larger societal factors that are impacting your business, you can establish your focus. Then align your people, processes, structure and infrastructure.

First comes focus, then consistency. Now you’re relevant … and winning.

Your thoughts?