Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Posts Tagged ‘personal planning

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More

leave a comment »

Taking time to figure out what really matters in the long run shouldn’t be such a rare luxury. But it is.

Find time to breathe.


(Within this self-talk is a testimonial to the importance of personal, values-based connecting, and the need to check in with the plan now and then. A few links below may help to make it more clear-ca)

Maybe a little air time will ensure some accountability on my part to git r done… if you’ve peeked in here before you know by now that personal vision, values, planning and alignment are a big deal in my world. So big that I’m on a mission to get something out there to help others make their connections.

There is a grander purpose behind being personally connected. Quite simply: things are a mess on a global, national, societal scale. The only way we can collectively impact things is to first tidy up our own lives one-by-one. I want to contribute at that level. It’s absolutely critical to me personally as my long-time personal vision is: make an impact, leave a legacy.

A few months back, I asked What Drives You?  preceded by What’s Your One Thing?  (remember Jack Palance as cowpoke Curly in City Slickers?)

My One Thing is to Connect. First with myself, so I can more effectively help others do the same. My strategic intent is to do my part to make others’ lives more meaningful, therefore making the world a better place, all in the interest of The Greater Good  — a group I host on the Employee Engagement Network.

It all comes down to leveraging the power of influence we each have: One Pond, One Pebble

This Connections book project has consumed me, as it targets my vision and matches up with my core values: creativity, freedom from unnecessary constraints, helping others. Even my interpretation of the value spirituality is tapped. In its essence spirituality to me means connecting…with myself, with all that is around me, (the Tao or the Force, which is it?) with others, with a greater purpose and the being who is greater than me.

I’m lucky-all this high-falootin’ stuff has been important to me for quite some time. Not everyone can claim that. And there is my Driver to help me reach my Vision! I now have to gear up to attack the “helping others” value factor in the equation, something that has been missing in my values-based action plan lately.

As I maintain throughout the Connections project, it is absolutely essential for each of us (and for society / the world / the Greater Good!) to connect with our values, to establish a values-based purpose in life. Out of the collective of individuals with strong personal values comes strong shared values, norms, healthy culture, healthy companies.

All this with a renewed sense of urgency. See Gotta Love Those Life-changing Events.

My most powerful strategic lever for propelling me toward my vision is the Values piece from Connections. Gear it up!

Ain’t Wastin Time No More!


So that’s what’s up with me lately. How are you doing? Are you connected? Taking time to figure out what really matters in the long run shouldn’t be such a rare luxury. But it is. We’re continuously reacting to our surroundings, inundated with the pressures of daily demands, juggling an abundance of urgencies thrown at us from every direction.

Find time to breathe.


Written by Craig

September 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

The Secret of Life

with one comment

A little Brain Dump is always a good way to start the work week. I feel better already.

Engagement and success are kissing cousins. Need one to have the other. To me, these few things make or break whether you are “successful” whatever success means to you. No matter if you’re talking about a relationship, being a parent, or being in any position from president / politician, from the big boss all the way to a factory worker or admin assistant to the assistant.

This is not nuclear physics. It won’t solve world hunger. I’ll take care of that this afternoon. But for now…add something to the Secret of Life short list and “Like” if you think this isn’t out of reach. If you don’t like this, I probably wouldn’t ‘like’ you!

  • Do what you know is right.
  • Do what’s expected of you. If you don’t know, ask. Ignorance is not an excuse.
  • Take time to consider the other person’s needs and feelings.
  • Find what you like to do, and were meant to do. Then, Just DO it!

Reward those people who deliver on these things. No matter whether a simple “thanks, you’re appreciated” or a little well-earned respect. Money sometimes works too, but those other things are free.

Get rid of or at least distance yourself from those who don’t deliver. They may be contagious and life’s too short. It may sound cold, but Darwin was right.

Add anything to the list?


Written by Craig

August 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

Gotta Love Those Life-changing Events

with 3 comments

It’s June 16, 2012. A beautiful Saturday morning except that it’s my third sunrise looking out a hospital window. I’ve had a heart attack, fairly minor but still way up there in the hierarchy of life-changing events.

The realizations creep in one-by-one. This is my third too-close brush with being finite. I’m 58 and maybe I’m not indestructible after all. Maybe I need to finish writing those songs. Maybe continuous 13-hour days are not as do-able as I thought. Maybe I do need to pay attention to what I eat. Maybe I need to pay more attention to my wife’s nagging (?) and start taking all those supplements. Maybe I don’t have forever to do all the things I really want to do.

We’re each given only so much of it…maybe I need to stop wasting time.

This book project has plodded along for well over two years, through numerous direction and design changes and spurts of progress before stalling out again. The irony: Connections makes the case for identifying, understanding and relentlessly pursuing your values-driven goals, to become fully connected with what is truly important to you, to set your direction then doggedly stay on that path. The destination: a happier, more productive, longer and healthier life.

Physician, heal thyself!

They told me this morning it would be at least two weeks before I go back to work. That’s a great chance to get things in perspective and get back on track, even though I hope to negotiate that “two weeks” down a bit (see, there I go).

One thing I’ve learned that I hope you can take to heart: the wake-up calls we get can be extremely rude and obnoxious if you don’t tune in and pay attention to the more subtle signals.

Tomorrow is my first day on the outside. It’s also Father’s Day, and I’m going to ease into this recovery business. Going fishing with my daughter.

Look, listen, connect. It’s a good place.


Post-fishing excursion update: I’m afraid I exceeded my 10lb weight restriction a couple of times. What was I supposed to do, hand the pole over to my daughter and say “you better handle this one-it’s too big for me”? Not gonna happen.

Written by Craig

June 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

What Drives You?

with 2 comments

Connecting is a personal thing, the essence of being human. Connecting is the fuel that keeps the fire of high engagement burning, and engagement is the great difference maker in peoples’ lives. Lasting engagement is driven by connecting—first connecting with myself, then with others one-on-one, in up close and personal relationships.

This thing called ‘connecting’ is what drives me. I can look back on my path and identify significant things that have happened and helped shape the person I am.

What drives you? What experience(s) really stick in your mind and have a good deal to do with who you are, what you think, what you do? Of the two drivers that really stand out for me, one is more personally impactful than the other, therefore tougher to relate. I’ll start with the less challenging of the two.


I first came across a short story called Cipher in the Snow by Jean E. Mizer in a college textbook that has been long lost. Even though Cipher is fiction, Cliff Evans has haunted me since. My fear is that this fiction all too often reality.

I was a substitute teacher for a couple of very rewarding years. Teachers would typically pass along their insights as to who to watch out for…the problem students. I was expected to be the regular teachers’ surrogate iron fist for these problem students, and march them to the office at the first sign of insurrection which, they assured me, was sure to come.  

A school administrator once told me the toughest thing to accept for any educator is that you cannot win every battle. I was just a substitute but the story of Cliff Evans drove me every day, not those all-knowing cautions.

If I am heading into battle, I first develop a strategy. My favorite substitute strategy was to convert any alleged Enemy I received intel on. If successful, the battle is won. So I made special efforts to connect with those tough cases I was warned about, those who had been written off. More often than not, I won.

That was several years ago. Still, when I run across one of those tough cases now and then we are genuinely glad to see each other. They remember and appreciate that I cared enough to connect with them. We still have a genuine connection.

What really drove me in education, and what still drives me in business and socially, is this burning question posed by Mizer in Cipher:

How do you go about making a boy into a zero?

     The grade-school records showed me. The first and second grade teachers’ annotations read “sweet, shy child;” “timid but eager.” Then the third grade note had opened the attack. Some teacher had written in a good firm, hand: “Cliff won’t talk. Uncooperative. Slow learner.” The other academic sheet had followed with “dull;” “slow-witted;” “low IQ. “ They became correct. The boy’s IQ score in the ninth grade was listed at 83. But his IQ in the third grade had been 196. The score didn’t go under 100 until seventh grade. Even shy, timid, sweet children have resilience. It takes time to break them.

How about beyond education? How much influence does ranking individuals drive the reality of who they are and how they perform? Can we make a worker a “zero”? It seems we are obsessed with making people “average” starting very early in the education system and continuing with traditional performance assessments and competency-based development.  

All in all, we’re just another brick in the wall.  If this link is still functional, it is a powerful piece on human mass production.

A while back I revisited Cipher. It’s easy to Google. I had never forgotten the story’s title, or the lesson. Or Cliff Evans. But I had forgotten just how powerful Cipher really is.

How could a person not care?

Driver #2: Steely Dan

I’ve lost good friends I played music with, some of whom self-destructed. While I’m rather fond of Steely Dan the band this is about Steely Dan the man, and it is a tough one to relate here. “Steely Dan” remains deeply unforgettable thirty years later.

Dan had destructive habits. I believe we must chart our own course, and I felt back then there were personal space lines I shouldn’t cross. So I was the bandmate who was always there to pick Dan up and put him back on his stool. No judgment, no criticism, no meddling.

I wasn’t there the last time Dan fell off his stool. I was hundreds of miles away. Just like Cliff Evans, he collapsed in a snow bank one cold January Iowa day and died. I realized I had been an enabler. I didn’t connect with Dan like I could have.

Those things have shaped me, along with my professional experience in influence-wielding prior roles. When is it my responsibility or duty to step up, voice my concern, get involved? Conversely, when do I need to make the choice to shut up and let it go? And, can I live with the results of shutting up?

 These drivers have set the stage for a great internal conflict, and it is a continuing source of stress for me. Life really is all about choosing your battles wisely, about being able to deal with the reality and the consequences of not winning them all. But when you are driven to connect, driven to be the great problem solver and wise counselor for all, how do you survive?

Still looking for the answer. If you join the search please let me know if you come across the key to this dilemma. There’s a lot at stake.

Written by Craig

January 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Reinventing Myself

leave a comment »

People have emailed me, wondering why I haven’t posted anything lately. That’s a bit humbling, as this blog has been primarily to help me frame my thoughts. But there are people who have actually been paying attention to these musings…thank you!

Briefly, I’ve taken a break for introspection triggered by a “hard right turn” career change. A summary of that inward look follows. The result-I am starting a more focused blog, yet to be published. Some of the themes found here will carry over, some will not. I do plan on keeping this blog up and running, but with even more random thoughts and probably more fun than it has been. Stay tuned.

Besides this reinvention I’ve had an epiphany along the way too, thanks again to my career / position-on-the-ladder shift. See John Everyman.  As an immensely respected mentor inscribed in a Max Depree book he gave me in 2001, “never lose sight of yourself.”

 I did, and didn’t even realize it.

The Road to Reinvention

Over the past 20+ years I have worked for two multi-billion dollar multiple-location corporations, with projects at both the business unit and corporate levels. I’ve been both a follower and a leader. Hopefully, the experience in one has had a positive impact in my ability to be the other. I have been involved in development of people and process improvement, in business process and manufacturing environments. Most recent projects included culture change, leadership curriculum development, alignment and action planning, developing and managing systems (performance management, quality management, and communication systems), re-engineering, standard work and lean implementation.

After losing my position in February 2009, I stopped to examine my direction. Did I need professional re-engineering? Are my knowledge base and my core competencies a good fit with my values and beliefs, and career plans? More importantly, was I focusing on critical areas that businesses need to achieve excellence, and were those areas worth devoting my efforts to in this phase of my career?

In short…is my direction personally relevant (engaging) and professionally relevant (marketable)?

I’ve moved past ladder climbing; I simply want to make a meaningful contribution where that contribution is truly valued and strategically significant. I do not care to work in a large corporate environment again; I prefer being part of a smaller organization that is flexible and insightful enough to do what it needs to do.

I have always been a huge believer in “involvement”. Involvement has transformed into the loftier concept of “engagement”. But what you call it matters little. Either way, two truths stand out:

  1. If you don’t pay constant attention to the “soft” stuff (the human side of the business—working relationships, personal development, teaming, involvement etc) you will never fully achieve the maximum level of “hard” results (### and $$$) that your business is capable of. And,
  2. If the soft stuff does not have a strategic impact, what good is it? Who has time for irrelevant hugs and kisses classes with no purpose? Forget Kumbaya, show me the cash.

Over the past half year I produced a random series of essays loosely focused on what is becoming the basis of Roadmap. Thousands of surfers visited this blog without any active promotion on my part. For me this affirmed the power of cyber space, but also indicated a high level of interest in Engagement, Alignment, Communication, Systems and Involvement…my reinvented focus.

Mission: Within my sphere of influence, enable individuals and leaders to leverage the power of engagement to more fully realize flawless execution of strategy.

Vision: Improve quality of life and protect our standard of living. Serve as a catalyst who enables highly satisfied and productive people, leading to greater business and industry profitability and success.

Unlike some missions / visions, I feel confident that mine has sturdy legs: supporting objectives, strategies, and action plans. One strategy is to produce what you are reading right now, and my target market and how to reach it are both detailed in my objectives.

 The Relevance

So why all this personal disclosure, and how is it relevant here? Why should anyone but family and friends care at all about any of this?

One: I wanted to share my experience with you, so others can understand my perspective. Two: personal re-invention comes highly recommended to other individuals. Three, the introspective analysis I conducted is roughly the same process a company goes through, or should go through, on a regular basis to re-evaluate, validate and adjust its strategic direction. My reinvention was reactive, out of necessity, caused by a “crisis”…career change. I would strongly advise others to be more proactive-don’t wait for the bleeding to start. Rather, prevent the injury!

In my chosen avocation, if you’re not continuously evolving you’re falling behind. The opposite of growth is stagnation, atrophy and, eventually, death. I don’t want to look back when it’s too late and do the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” thing.

In that respect is your business, career, or life any different than mine?

Written by Craig

December 28, 2009 at 4:14 am

What the Heck is an “Integrated System of HRD”?

with one comment

This post briefly describes the elements of a Human Resource Development (HRD) system (see diagram), and how the elements are integrated in an ideal system.

People flow effortlessly without friction through an integrated human resource development system, just like product and work flows through any production process. “Integrated system” simply means that all the processes and practices of the HRD system shown below cannot be stand-alone.

The critical input to the HRD system is the company’s strategy, and the most important element that aligns all the HRD processes to strategy is the job write-up, or position specification.

 HRD Diagram


 Integrated HRD Starts With Alignment, the Position Spec is the Enabler

What is the company’s strategy and what are the key challenges the company faces? How does each function and its positions support the strategy and help to address the challenges? The job write-up is the justification for a position’s existence. The write-up must clearly connect the position to strategy, and describe how the position helps support the strategy and achieve goals.

Strategy is cascaded down through the company, as goals are set with increasing levels of specificity. Accountability is established until each function and each position is clearly aligned with the top and is directly responsible for a portion of the strategy.

Promotions, hiring and placement decisions are driven by the position spec. The position spec serves as the basis for recruiting and interviewing, and eventually placing a person into a vacant position. If the company knows what positions will come vacant through known attrition (retirements, promotions, backfills). The write-up for the position being vacated is the list of qualifications the successor will need (succession management).

People are groomed for advancement ahead of the need and are ready to move up when the need arises, minimizing the impact of attrition. The performance management process is the planning and monitoring tool for development of employees, and provides essential input to the training and development function. Input from performance management plans is used to determine the curriculum for meeting the developmental needs of individuals and the position needs of the company.

For background on the work-in-process Flawless Execution project, go to the FE Home Page. For more information on this topic go to the Flawless Execution Systems page.

Engagement: Now We’re Getting Personal!

with 2 comments

Engagement-Now We’re Getting Personal!

The challenge: come up with a working definition for engagement. Not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot based on four attributes I hold as truths. OK, not “universal truths” but my opinion. I feel these truths are pretty indisputable, but if you want to challenge any of them we can have some fun with this.


In Post Three, I promised to take a stab at defining engagement. So here comes my personal take on engagement, with examples of what my engagement journey has looked like. What’s your personal take on engagement, and what has your journey been like?

First installment of this “In Search Of” mini series was What IS Engagement Anyway?

Second installment: Engagement Per Commercial Authorities

Third in the series: Engagement: the Gap Between Academics and Shop Floor



ONE, engagement is highly personal, as it is based on an individual’s core values and how fully you are enabled to living those values. My core values did not formally present themselves to me until the middle 1990’s. But these have been with me since early grade school: creativity, learning new and different things; freedom from constraints. Based on the next three attributes and these core values, I can easily track my engagement journey going back many years.

TWO, engagement is not just touchy-feely as it is also based on a person’s level of contribution. BlessingWhite spoke very clearly to me in their definition of engagement as the apex of maximum satisfaction and maximum contribution level. Which again becomes very personal, as contribution is driven by how fully a person is utilizing their unique strengths.

THREE, strengths are more than just “talent” or being good at something. Strengths are talents that are aligned with the person’s core values…when I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of utilizing a skill because that particular skill means a good deal to me.

FOUR: a person’s level of engagement, even in one specific position or career, is not a carousel, it is a roller coaster.

Putting all this together, here are a couple examples of my own engagement roller coaster ride.

I didn’t like school-boring classes, boring assignments. Disengaged. I learned very early how to give myself a believable temperature with tap water. But I didn’t read comic books or watch TV. I studied what I wanted to and the extra credit for projects I turned, and a God-given talent for BS’ing through most tests carried me. Note-this strategy did NOT work in college.

I played music professionally for a lot of years. A great match for my core values, and I was quite good at it. There were some musical endeavors that were extremely creative and the other musicians were great friends. But as my career digressed I discovered I was doing more for money rather than for the love of it. In the most dynamic phase of my music career I had my fully engaging creative band, but also signed on as a mercenary with a couple other bands for the steady money. The wrong music, the wrong juke joints, the wrong personnel, but good money and I was still a maximum contributor. Just disengaged.

When the “disengaging” assignments began to more and more outweigh the engaging, I knew it was time to give it up. That was over twenty years ago. I still hold my love for music, have still played but not in bands until fairly recently. I found a couple of other people who liked the same kind of music, were good to be with, and didn’t need to play for money. Engaged again. We’re even thinking about trying out the next time “American Has-Been” auditions come to Iowa.

I could have just as easily tracked my engagement journey through my post-rock-star professional career. It probably would have been too revealing, and you never know who reads these things.

But I can assure you the four “truths” and my core values have played out at least as much in my second life.


Written by Craig

April 21, 2009 at 5:31 am