Friday, November 30, 2007


Tom Peters has an article today about Big Hairy Audacious Goals and how they often fail to gain support by employees because they are not clear and compelling enough. He recommends that it be renamed Clear Compelling Audacious Goals.

I buy in to the idea of the BHAG and the refinement of it as CCAG. But having the BHAG is only the start of the opportunity. It is the plan that makes the difference. The Maver Management Group has helped many clients dream the big dream. Then we put together the strategies and plans to make them a reality. Having a plan makes the BHAG realistic and able to be supported. We also make it simple and actionable so that it doesn’t sit on the shelf in a binder.

Aligning employees with the strategy is critical and Peters has written about that for years. As a leader you can’t make the dream a reality unless you have the people having the common dream.

I would be happy to share our simple framework. Send me an e-mail or give me a call. Together we can give Tom Peters another company for his new “In Search of Excellence.”

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another reason to Align Employees with The Strategic Plan

Lewis Green has written an article today Leaders Reap the Benefits of the Reality They Create. It talks about the very high number of employees, 65%, that are "job hunting". While the stated reason is salary it is much more.

The 65% number hits home with me. In many companies with whom I speak, the employees are frustrated "by management". Management is the catch all. Their dissatisfaction comes largely from not understanding or having ownership of the company’s actions. Yet they seem to be responsible for the results. What a waste of potential!

One of the articles that I have published is Aligning Employees with the Strategic Plan and the importance of doing so. My thoughts are similar to Lewis' in terms of the criticality of actually talking to the employees and letting them participate. In all of the strategic planning work my company has done, we have cascaded the plans down so that there is a buy-in and the human resources are harnessed and not driven away.

It seems so simple and yet so few are doing it.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Police Dogs and Recruiting

By John Maver

You may very well be asking "what does that have to do with me and the issues I face in building my team as a CEO or senior executive."

A leader is judged in terms of what others do to obtain the results he is placed there to get.
Vince Lombardi

I spoke this week with Pat Duggan, a police officer who had recently got a new police dog. He explained how they find and select the dog to get the best fit and chance of success. They used to rely on high quality German Sheppard breeders and select the dogs that looked and acted the best. After about a year it became clear as to whether the dog was a good fit or if it had to be passed on to a new owner. The track record of success was about 50%.

That has all changed. “Recruits” are being brought in from Europe where they have been specifically bred as police and guard dogs. They have had at least 2 years of training and thinning out the ranks. There is a premium cost to these high potential recruits. Here, they are tested by their handlers to select the right skills, temperament, smarts and ability to be trained for the specific needs. The handlers have very specific criteria and know exactly what for what they are recruiting. Some dogs just need to be aggressive guard dogs. Others, like the police dogs, need to have the ability to rout out suspects and capture them as well as visit schools and the elderly as part of show and tell. The track record is now 90-95%.

Oh yes, since they were trained in Europe, they speak the native language of those countries so English is their second language.

So what does that have to do with me running my company successfully? A lot, it is a great lesson in recruiting. If you are going to be successful you have to have the right people in the right jobs.

Here are some lessons:
* If you aren’t going to invest in training at your company you have to be willing to pay more to get the talent. Plan and budget for it.
* You have to know specifically for what you are looking. Create tight specs.
* You can’t afford to have less than fully operational employees. Be willing to decide quickly and cut non performers loose.
* English as a second language presents some challenges if you are to mine the talents successfully. Find a “translator” process.
* Bringing in experts to coach and train increases your chances of success. Use the pros.

One last thought. I feel a lot more comfortable knowing just how good these dogs are and that the dogs will make so few mistakes. Just be careful when you pat them.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Time to give thanks!

It is that time each year of the big sale where retailers make or break their year and a holiday where we get to eat too much turkey and watch too much football or even when we start to put up the Christmas decorations. At least there is no snow here. This is a big day!!!

For most of the year, many of us spend our time focusing on what we don’t have or of what we want or need more. That can be resources, people, market share, revenue, stock price or the financials to fund the projects that can accelerate our progress toward our goals.

Far too seldom we reflect positively on what we do have. Thanksgiving is a time to step back and see our gifts and be thankful for them. For the pilgrims it was just the fact that they had survived the winter. For us it is so much more.

You will have a number of encouragements to thank God for His bounty and I recommend that too. I really do!! We are so blessed.

In addition, perhaps this is the time once we have re-identified our gifts to determine how we can use them more productively to our advantage. That could be the positive relationships with our loyal customers, top quality products, current market position that we have earned, our core competencies or even the fantastic collection of talents we have in our people.

Take some time to think. Just think, not do. Think about what you do have and how you can make it all work more effectively for you. I know that you will benefit from the exercise. And yes exercise after the turkey will also benefit you.

Call me if I can help because I am also thankful for folks like you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Magic of Alliances

Robert Middleton has an article on his The More Clients Blog entitled The Magic of Alliances.

I added the following comment

Alliances can be magic, particularly for single proprietors or small groups which covers most of us. I have found with the Maver Management Group which does business acceleration consulting that alliances have had the following magic and benefits:

  1. They enable me to focus on my core competencies which are identifying issues and opportunities for my clients and then creating the business and strategic plans to take advantage of them to drive the business forward.
  2. Alliances extend the services I can offer to my clients.
  3. In doing so it provides a barrier to entry that insulates the clients from competition of mine.
  4. They enable me to provide more in depth knowledge in a particular industry or problem.
  5. Alliances can identify additional clients and opportunities for me with their client base.
  6. My alliances are smart people and I learn from them. They provide “summaries” of the days important topics that I can then use with my clients to show my “brilliance”.
  7. They make me a better consultant from their input on what I do and I reciprocate.
  8. They give me someone to talk with and we provide a sounding board for each other.
  9. My alliance partners are great people and I just enjoy their company

    Yes there are other reasons too but these are the main ones. Thanks for the trigger to me publishing these magic benefits.

    John Maver
    Maver Management Group

Performance Cornerstones for the 21st Century

By Cathy Hammond
Cathy Hammond & Associates

Get what you’re paying for by instituting these three proven practices.

There are three performance cornerstones proven to sustain the leadership style, culture, and best practices that grow strong businesses. Enforced together throughout your company, they form a foundation for ensuring that your people are actively engaged in achieving success.

Read the full article.
Performance Cornerstones

Monday, November 12, 2007

Aligning Employees with the Strategic Plan

By John Maver
Maver Management Group

How do you turn the vision from your strategic planning into a reality that really drives your business forward? It takes more than great strategy and implementation. Aligning everyone in your organization with your strategy is one of the most important things you can do. Alignment will make it much easier for you and your management team to lead the organization in the direction you intend. Without good alignment with the strategy, every bit of forward motion will be a struggle.

Without everybody embracing what we want to do, we haven’t got a chance. - Jack Welch - Ex CEO of GE

How do we get this alignment? Talk to your people. All of them! Involve them. Train them. Make them owners of the impact of the plans just like you are. That’s a start but there is more.

First, you have to have the right people at the top and in key positions. The key employees have to have the ability to think strategically and understand the necessity for strategic business plans. They must be capable of making decisions with strategic impact in order to be aligned with the company's strategy. This does not mean that every employee needs to be a great strategic thinker, but employees must be able to understand that their work fits into the success of the organization and how it fits in. People must understand enough of the basics of business that they can see how the strategy is going to make them better off through job security, promotions and pay increases in the future as well as making the company more successful.

Second, the company must have selected a strategic basis for the company’s plans. Good strategy requires focus. There are three basic ways to satisfy customers according to strategic gurus: 1) price, 2) quality or product superiority including a host of other value-adding features, and 3) service delivery, support, follow up, etc. In a strategically focused organization, the choice has been made as to what element will be dominant and all the activities must flow from that. Clearly there will be some of all three but one will be dominant. That means the people, plans, products and processes all are going to be based on this dominant factor.

Third, buy-in, getting people to buy into a strategy means, they must to believe in it. The strategy itself has to have some credibility with them. If you have an employee who thinks the strategy isn't good, you won't have alignment no matter what you do. If the strategy is wrong, change it. If the strategy is right and the employee won’t buy in, you will need to part ways. Even if an employee performs satisfactorily, not adhering to strategy will cause basic problems and conflicts which will hinder that person's growth and the growth of the company. It's easy to get people really excited about strategy if they participated in creating it. Also people may be very excited about your strategy if they understand and believe in the concepts involved. This is one of the reasons why the Maver Management Group pushes for involvement in the strategic planning process for as many people as is practical. We cascade the overall company’s plan down through the functions and work units to the individual.

Fourth, organizational structure can greatly help or hinder strategic alignment. Most companies are function dominated and this creates “silos”. The organization is very effective within a department or division, yet lacks efficiency and flexibility in activities which require cross-departmental cooperation. This effect works well if these "silos" have been created around areas which may become separate strategic business units, but may present obstacles to integrating an acquired company, or tackling organization-wide strategic change in areas like Finance, HR or IT, which typically require cross-functional teams to succeed. Some very successful organizations have taken this concept into account by creating "matrix" organizational structures particularly in the staff functions.

Fifth, your hiring and job structure plays a role. It's very important that the way you hire, train, compensate and retain the employees you have in key strategic areas works with your strategies. Where you are hiring smart expensive people – “A” players, you want to be sure you can use the skills of those people to drive your productivity up and costs down; otherwise all you're doing is driving your cost up. A major challenge that companies face is the tendency to use “A” people in places where they should use “Bs” or even “Cs” - or vice versa. This drives costs up, and the potential for added value is lost. In fact it erodes business growth potential. There is no question that matching employees and their jobs to strategy has a big payoff.

My experience is that companies that take these few simple steps to build alignment between their employees and their strategies find greater success. In helping the San Francisco Police Department create a process that brings them quality recruits and in sufficient numbers to meet their needs, we started from scratch and created a full plan that went beyond just recruiting. We did it with the help of police personnel at all levels from first level up through the Chief, Heather Fong. The result was a plan that was enthusiastically adopted by the organization. The recruiting program run by Commander Harper’s team is dramatically improved over where it was six months ago and the results are showing it.

Next step
Do you have a written Business Plan to actually align with employees?

If we can help you accelerate your business progress by working with you to create, implement and align the plan give us a call.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leadership Responsiveness

By John Maver

Everyone has an idea of what leadership responsiveness is all about. Responsiveness usually means reaction to changing market conditions, competitive threats or opportunities. But that’s not what I mean in this article. I mean responsiveness to people. Responsiveness to people and to their ideas. Being able to harness that incredible brain power that exists both in and outside of companies.

Most executives claim to have an open door policy. Possibly, if you can get past the security guards onto the executive floor or the executive row and then past the ever vigilant gatekeeper, the administrative assistant and then find the executive not in a meeting or on the phone or even bent over the computer. The door itself may be open but the message is clear. “Not Open!”

My company does business acceleration consulting and our success is based on first hand experience at the CEO/President/General Manger level with Fortune top 10 companies down through start ups. I am amazed at how many leaders are actually becoming more and more closed off to new ideas. They just don’t seem to care and they are unaware of what they are doing.

It’s understandable that leaders can’t reply to every message, e-mail, phone call or employee note or even being available to their own employees. Leaders are busy people. They are out there leading. However, I have encountered far too many instances where leaders are insulated and miss significant opportunities to learn and grow both themselves and their business.

I’ll bet most of you have experienced the “really not open” open door policy described above. And it can get worse. Everything isolates the CEO. Beware the Emperor’s new clothes – Everyone wants to make you happy and not want to share bad news with you – Kevin Sharer – Amgen CEO. So be careful to find ways to open the door.

Let me give you a couple of examples involving external shut off.

I have been part of an executive forum group, three actually. Following a presentation created specifically for these groups, I sent personalized e-mail follow ups to each of the CEOs/Presidents with specific reference to their particular issues and opportunities that had surfaced during our discussions. I received 2 responses out of 14 and the two were from executives from the same company. A month passed and I send another personalized e-mail to all 14 again with specifics for them and this time with business acceleration article I had written for CEOs. 2 responses. One from one of the first responders and a new one. 2 out of 14 twice!

A CEO of a small company asked me for some of my materials for his use. I sent it to him later that afternoon. Response? No. Response to a follow up asking if I could help him use the materials? No! Full benefit to him and his company? No!!!

On the other hand, I commented on an article on the blog of Lewis Green, Bizsolutions ( To my surprise, I received a thank you note from him. I’ll comment again and share ideas.

This all could be construed as business etiquette and it is. But it is also a lack of openness to the awareness of new ideas and leadership unresponsiveness. It would be easy to say that this is just me. Many others are writing and commenting on this phenomenon.

Let me ask you who do you think is going to get the new ideas? Which companies are actually going to benefit from the ideas? Which executives are going to get the personal growth opportunities? Some are eventually going to get the ideas but they will pay a much higher price.

Here are some good ideas. Google lets the workers speak their minds and harvests the ideas. They have posted white boards everywhere to capture ideas, thoughts, notes, debate and even cartoons. Input is encouraged.

Corning brings in experts to help spark new ideas. Experts who have a breadth of experience are really valuable since they have ideas that have worked in other industries and have not been "siloed".

Bloomberg uses office design to keep "the queen in with the rest of the bees".

So if you are a leader or hope to be one some day, start being responsive to people. Have an actual open door policy for at least some time every week and make it known. Respond to e-mails, phone messages etc. in some way so that you stop being rude and you may actually get some ideas. Leaders interact with the people. It is only through the people that you are going to be effective in responding to new market conditions, competitive threats, opportunities.

Give me a call or drop me a note if you see the benefit in this idea.

John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Twelve Tough Times Tips

By John Maver

Here are twelve tips to not just survive but thrive in the midst of tough times. (They will also work when times are good.)

1. Re-examine your business plan and recheck your business fundamentals. You may be surprised at the opportunities that will be presented.
2. Do what it takes to remain profitable. Negative numbers become an excuse for almost anything and you will not only lose focus but you will lose more business.
3. Focus! Cut what's non-core. Invest in what is. Know who and what you are and BE THAT!
4. Simplify something – it will help cut costs. Complexity equals expense.
5. Look outside for good partners both as alliances and suppliers. Leverage relationships to save money or make money.
6. Do what you already know is right -- only this time, really do it. Many companies know the right path but continually choose not to take it for a variety of reasons.
7. Go talk to your customers. They are probably hurting too and want your love and leadership. They will remember you when things turn around.
8. Invest in your R&D. You'll need it. This can give you the competitive advantage when the sales start to flow again.
9. Look for technology-based efficiency. Use the Web to cut costs and boost productivity
10. Enlist your employees' support. Ask them for ideas. They are closest to the action and will have more good ideas than you could possibly execute
11. Hire a good consultant. Their experience and objectivity can show you ways to accelerate your positive business progress. The ROI can be astounding.
12. Believe in your own business and your future. There will be brighter days ahead and you want to be part of them

John Maver
Maver Management Group