Are You Holding Employees Accountable?

Are You Holding Employees Accountable?

How many times have you tried to implement what seems like the perfect strategy only to fail because you can’t seem to get your employees to make it happen? Oftentimes the success of a strategy execution or performance management system hinges on whether leaders can create a culture of accountability in their organization.

Dr. J. Ed Barnes summarizes two approaches to accountability below. Even though the lists, taken together, read like a simple management 101 reference, I have found that many accomplished leaders and mangers are simply not very good at many of these key skills. The punitive approach is an instructive straw man for how NOT to approach accountability, while the second list outlines basic motivational methods for creating accountability.

 We’ve also created a simple assessment based on the above lists that anyone can use to assess how well your organization is at creating a culture of accountability. Any leader or manager can assess his/her performance by simply reviewing the statement and assigning a score between 1 and 10, with 1 being low.

If you scored yourself low on the formulation or communications of goals and expectations, you might investigate our Balanced Scorecard Professional program. If measuring success or reporting progress is a challenge, you might consider our KPI Professional program. If you score yourself low across the board, you might consider our Strategic Leadership course.



Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Strategy Failing Because of Leadership?

Mike Tyson

Regardless of what type of strategy planning system your organization utilizes, there is one thing you can be assured of;  not everything will go as planned.  Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson put it bluntly, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower stated it like this“…the very definition of “emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”

 Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower

While strategy can fail for any number of reasons, it is the leadership of an organization that bears the responsibility for ensuring the successful execution of an organization’s strategy. Another Eisenhower quote simply states, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” 

There are a number of reasons why leaders are unsuccessful. In some cases, leaders are simply out of touch or living in the past. They have failed to stay abreast of the changing times in a changing world. Other leaders may have delegated responsibility to incompetent staff or have allowed “venomous” individuals to be able to exert too much power and influence within the organization leading to chaos, dissent and dysfunction. Another problem may be incompetence at the top level of the organization based on the “Peter Principle,” where people advance up the chain of command until they reach their level of incompetence. Finally a fourth area that can severely hamper an organization is organizational structure and bureaucracy.

Effective leadership starts with an individual in a leadership role who is effective in delegating responsibilities and empowering employees with the ability to accomplish what needs to be done. Leaders must inspire their subordinates to action, challenging them to perform at the highest possible level and developing future leaders for the organization. Simultaneously, the effective leader will also be building a culture of trust. Outstanding leaders not only are able to accomplish these things, but also create a culture with a positive view of change and accountability.

Granted, a leader cannot do it alone. He or she must build a team of individuals who are aligned for the purpose of obtaining organizational excellence and achieving the organizational goals. Effective leaders listen and observe; they solicit honest feedback and recognize what the healthy heartbeat of their organization looks like. They are not micro-managers, nor dictators, but rather have the ability to build and encourage teamwork and creativity. Leaders must learn to exercise discretion in selecting future leaders and managers in the organization and should also not be afraid to address issues and individuals detrimental to the success of the organization.

The fact is strategy often does fail. Sometimes it may be the right people were not included in the effort, or perhaps the goals set forth in the strategy were unrealistic to begin with. Maybe the organization lacks accountability, honesty and is resistant to change. Whatever the reason, leadership, in one way or another bears the responsibility for the failure. Often, the tendency is to shift the blame to lower levels of the organization, but in truth, strategy failure ultimately falls on the executive level of leaders in the organization.

The Nine Steps to Success™ methodology for building a balanced scorecard is one approach that supports the empowerment and delegation of responsibility throughout the organization. It utilizes a healthy cross-section of employees from throughout the organization, obtains their commitment and buy-in and fosters active and open communication through all levels of the organization. As a result, silos begin to disappear, employees become engaged, energized and responsive to change. Communication improves and the organization moves towards alignment and becoming an organization of continual improvement.

For more information on the Nine Steps Balanced Scorecard process or to see how it could work for your organization, contact



Business Strategy – The Art, Science and Craft of Decision-Making: Failure of Strategies, Retrieved from:

53 Insightful Dwight D. Eisenhower Quotes that Are Timeless. Retrieved from:

Organizations from Hell: When Leadership Fails, Ronald E Riggio, Ph.D., 2019, Retrieved from:

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Mike Tyson Explains One of His Most Famous Quotes, Retrieved from:



Why “World Class” Performance Isn’t Measurable

Why “World Class” Performance Isn’t Measurable

Let’s say our organization needs to buy a fleet of vehicles and we have two procurement teams. We tell team 1 that we want quiet, blue, four-door, fuel-efficient cars. We tell team 2 that we want world-class, high-quality, great-value, high-performing cars. Then we give both teams a few weeks to find their vehicles. Guess which team will be able to produce measurable results?

Team 1 will have the easier time, as it is clearer what is meant by the criteria provided. Team 2 will struggle because their criteria are too ambiguous. Without further clarifications, “world-class” could be interpreted to mean a hot rod sports car, a luxury sedan, or even a nice SUV. And if the team cannot agree on the specifically desired result, how can it measure success?

This example demonstrates an important principle of good measure design. Before you can design a measure, you first must agree on what result you are trying to achieve. And not all results are created equal. Results written in abstract language are less measurable and harder to implement than those written in concrete language.

Abstract language refers to concepts or vague ideals. Examples of abstract words or phrases include sustainable, innovative, reliable, leadership, quality, effective, leverage, efficient, resilient, optimized, or responsive. Strategic plans are often littered with this type of language, as we aim to deliver best practices, thought leadership or world-class performance. These “weasel words”, as they are often called, are notoriously hard to measure without first translating into concrete terms.

Concrete language is sensory-specific, meaning it describes things you can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel. Because they are observable, concrete results are measurable. Team 1 will have no problem determining the percentage of cars procured that meet their specifications. Concrete results are also more memorable and easier to implement.

So if you are struggling to design measures for your organization, your first step should be to clarify what result you are trying to achieve, in concrete terms.

To learn more about developing concrete results or related measures, please look into one of our KPI training or certification programs or visit

Strategic Thinking vs. Strategic Planning?

Strategic Thinking vs. Strategic Planning?

Recently a client asked a very simple, and yet extremely complex, question: “What’s the difference between ‘strategic thinking’ and ‘strategic planning’?” Great question! A quick Google search reveals that academics have pondered and debated this question since the early 1990’s. One extremely helpful scholarly overview can be found in the June 1998 volume 31 of Long Range Planning, in a very high-level discussion by Loizos Heracleous entitled “Strategic Thinking or Strategic Planning?”  Heracleous presents a variety of perspectives from business academicians differentiating between the two.

While these scholarly discussions are intellectually stimulating, we are left lacking a simple and practical explanation to differentiate between the two. At the Strategy Management Group, we suggest that “strategic planning/management” and “strategic thinking” exist in a symbiotic relationship. The two not only work together…but they require each other. Strategic planning without strategic thinking will digress into a sluggish and lifeless process of setting goals and measuring objectives.  Strategic thinking without strategic planning/management will cannibalize itself in a quest for structure and process. Strategic thinking informs strategic planning/management.  Strategic planning/management gives voice, action and structure to strategic thinking.

In working with our clients, we find that most have a relatively strong understanding and appreciation for the value of strategic planning/management. Likewise, we find that many are hungering for an organizational culture which is bettered trained and more engaged in thinking strategically. So in our attempt to remain practical and engaged in the “real world” of our clients’ business, we underscore that at its essence, “Strategic Thinking” is a way of viewing challenges and opportunities from a variety of perspectives and altitudes, in order to proffer the very best solutions and directions. It is the habit of visualizing alternative futures for the organization and their impact on others. It’s not just a way of thinking what could be, but also a way of seeing what should be.

That said, training and cultivating an organizational culture to think strategically is a vital tool throughout the strategic planning process. During the high-level strategy formation phase, leaders thinking strategically will drive alignment around analyzing the opportunities from the widest possible perspective and understanding.  During the operational and implementation phase, a strategic thinking organization will ensure that the higher level strategic direction cascades throughout the day-to-day decision making at all levels. C-suite executives, middle managers, and front line staff are entrusted with the freedom to think through solutions and trade-offs, to ensure each decision is best aligned with the overall strategic direction. Finally, during the all-important evaluation and control phase, strategic thinking ensures that an organization is measuring those drivers which best lead to success of the overall mission.

Strategic thinking is more than just “thinking outside the box” . . . it is also knowing which box to think outside of!



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