Monthly Archives: October 2014

The 5 Essentials of Compromise        

patriot-69492_640Compromise is one of the fundamentals of civilized society.  It is also essential in every type of organization from the United Nations to the family.  In fact, compromise is necessary whenever there are two human beings who are attempting to accomplish anything together, especially a married couple.

It is unreasonable, and rather selfish, to think that we can always have things our way.  In fact, we should expect to make compromises throughout our lives.  The following are essential guidelines that will allow us to make proper compromises without surrendering what is precious to us.

  1. Always compromise, unless it is a compromise of our values.

One of the most difficult issues in compromise is determining when we are about to cross the line of violating our core values.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.”

In order avoid compromising our fundamental values, we must determine what our values are and be able to clearly define how those values apply to everyday life.  We must also have the strength to not surrender when those values are challenged.

  1. Determine that the compromise will be beneficial to all concerned.

John F. Kennedy reminded us of the key process to keep government working in behalf of the country.  “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

This same concept must apply in our businesses, our families and in our dealings with other nations.  We must abandon our selfishness and look for the “right answer.”

  1. Readily compromise if the outcome isn’t all that important.

Examples from family life would be; what type of ice cream we buy, which family-friendly TV show to watch, how our children spend the discretionary money they have earned, if our daughters want to wear glitter on their face, etc. 

We control our kids physically when they are young and financially when they are older.  If we want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults, we need to give them opportunity to make their own decisions.  This will be a compromise.  Be assured that they will make a lot of bad choices, but we need to allow them to choose and fail, as long as the consequences are not serious. 

  1. Realize that compromise typically produces two parties that are equally dissatisfied with the outcome.

Compromise is a key component in a successful marriage.  Anyone who thinks that their spouse should always do things their way is hallucinating, unless they purposely married a doormat. 

When couples compromise, at least they will know that they respect each other.  We can take comfort in the fact that a compromise is a small step forward in the direction of having things the way we want.  This concept equally applies to nations negotiating trade agreements.

  1. Successful compromise is only possible when both parties have integrity.

A compromise struck with another party that does not have integrity is just the beginning of a larger conflict.  Lasting compromises only occur when each party knows that the other can be trusted. 

Jim Turley, former chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, said “Any great leader I have ever met has an unshakable bedrock of integrity.  Everything else they do is built on that foundation.”

Finally, these words from Zig Ziglar are of utmost importance.  “Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.”  Marriages, nations, careers and lives have been destroyed from making this type of compromise.

 A version of this article was published by here. 

Strategic Planning is NOT Dead

jigsaw-313585_640Despite articles recently published in the Harvard Business Review, strategic planning is not dead.  Roger L. Martin wrote in his article, The Big Lie of Strategic Planning (Jan-Feb 2014 issue), “This is a truly terrible way to make strategy. It may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown, but fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making.”

Based on my experience with many different clients, Mr. Martin couldn’t be more wrong.  But, he is not alone in his attempt to discredit strategic planning.  There are four reasons that business leaders tell me why they “don’t bother” with strategic planning.

1.  It detracts from innovative and truly strategic thinking (Roger Martin’s argument).

The word strategic comes from a 6th century B.C. Greek root meaning “generalship.”  It also means, “Of great importance within an integrated whole or to a planned effect.”  A plan is, “A detailed program of action.”  Therefore, a strategic plan, done correctly, is simply a detailed plan of action to accomplish the mission and vision of a company as established by its leaders.  It is a logical way to avoid unnecessary fear and discomfort, which are not conducive to strategic thinking.  Flying by the seat of your pants is not an innovative strategy.  If you are prepared, you will not fear. 

One of my clients told me recently after completing a strategic plan, “I had all these ideas rolling around in my head.  Now, I know and all my managers know where we are going and how we are going to get there.”

The innovative thinking was done collaboratively.  The strategy was established and unanimously ratified.  Now, unexpected problems and opportunities will be dealt with in a systematic manner, without panic.

2. Strategic planning is only for big companies.

This is like saying that you only need building plans when you are building a mansion.  No contractor in his right mind would agree to that.

Strategic planning is a tool and all companies need the best tools, used properly, in order to be as successful as they can be.  Any company that has at least two tiers of management needs to create a strategic plan so everyone knows how to build the company.

I have personally been involved with strategic plans for small to mid-size companies.  Without exception, the results of the planning process have made these companies much more successful.  Literally, millions of dollars have been made by following a properly structured strategic planning process.

We followed this process at a power plant where I was the CEO.   The power plant used coal as a fuel and the State of California had pledged to put us out of business because of green house gases.  The scrap value of the assets was about $1 million and the cost of site remediation was about $1 million – net ZERO dollars.  Our strategic plan converted the power plant fuel source to biomass and the plant sold for over $50 million.

3. It costs a lot of money and then just sits in a bookcase, collecting dust.

True, if it is not done correctly.  If strategic planning is done correctly, it will cost a fraction of the improvement in net income.  It will only collect dust if management does not have a vested interest in making it work.

I worked with a CEO who told his management team that strategic planning was a waste of time.  In his case, it would have been a waste of time.  He was brilliant but he treated his “managers” as minions.  A strategic plan only makes sense when management functions as a collaborative team.

One of my clients asked how many of my strategic planning sessions end in big arguments.  The answer is that there is a lot of healthy disagreement and conflicting opinions, but in the end, everyone comes to a consensus that they can support.  There is a mutual respect among people who work together to accomplish a difficult objective.  Businesses that have self-absorbed bosses don’t do strategic planning.

4. Strategic planning doesn’t work

In 1987, Congress created the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program to help organizations improve their performance and succeed in the competitive global marketplace.  Strategic Planning is one of the six essential categories for performance excellence.  The organization that was created to recognize performance excellence not only thinks strategic planning works, they insist that strategic planning be part of any excellent organization.

I am a Certified Examiner for the state-based Baldrige program for California called CAPE.  As such, I was privileged to do a site visit of a major health care organization.   Their strategic plan made them the best in their region.  They had happy employees, satisfied customers and they made a lot of money.  Strategic planning worked for them, and it will work for you.

In summary, there are a few reasons that you might choose not to do strategic planning:

a. You make more than enough money.

b. Your employees don’t need any focus or purpose.

c. Your managers never have any good ideas.

d. Flying by the seat of your pants is your style.

If none of those reasons apply, then get started today on a better tomorrow with strategic planning.