IT Projects & Black Swans

Have you ever been involved in an IT project that was difficult and resulted in a less than optimal outcome? I still joke about being a survivor of a large-scale IT implementation project. That was more than ten years ago and the memories are still fresh and painful. That is not to say that all IT projects end in disaster and I have seen a number of IT projects succeed in my career. Still the stigma remains and there is ample anecdotal evidence in the workplace that IT projects are particularly prone to failure.

Does this belief hold up under more rigorous scrutiny? According to Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg, who has spent his career studying this subject, IT projects are actually not the worse type of project. He found that globally, across all industries, the percentage of projects that come in over-budget are:

Ø  50% of IT projects

Ø  60% of Energy projects

Ø  70% of Dam projects

Ø  90% of Olympic Games[1]

So only half of all IT projects come in over-budget. That somewhat mixed news for IT projects is tempered, however, by the obvious fact that IT projects are much more prevalent. IT projects are happening every day in organizations all over the world while large energy projects, dams and Olympic games are much fewer in number and less frequent.

In another study, Flyvbjerg and his colleague Alexander Budzier, focused solely on a sample of almost 1,500 IT projects.[2] The projects in the study included enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, document management, and other management information systems. Many of the projects looked at were in the US public sector but surprisingly the results showed little difference when compared to projects in the private sector or other locations around the world.

Here is what they found:

Average IT project cost overrun is 27%

While that average might not seem alarming what they were startled to find, and what that average was hiding, was this reality:   

1 out of 6 IT projects had cost overruns of 200%

1 out of 6 IT projects had a schedule overrun of 70%

That means nearly 17% of all IT Projects are nightmare projects or what they call “black swans”.[3] Using a term popularized by best-selling author Nassim Taleb, black swans are “high-impact events that are rare and unpredictable but in retrospect seem not so improbable”.

There are many reasons for this high rate of IT project black swans but Flyvbjerg and Budzier point out a common finding was that sales and product development engineers and managers often have less than adequate skills in implementing the technology itself.  

The end result of these IT black swans is usually the same: increased financial pressure, reputational damage, and often loss of jobs, particularly those deemed responsible for the project. If a private sector organization is already weak before the black swan, the black swan IT project can often be fatal to its very survival. In the public sector, the organization survives but the public is left to pay for the mistakes through additional tax burden.       

To avoid becoming the next IT black swan case study, Flyvbjerg and Budzier say that we should always assess our organizational readiness through a 2-part stress test before beginning our next large IT project:

1.       Can the organization afford the cost if our largest IT project goes over-budget by 400% or more and if only half the benefits are realized?

2.       Can the organization absorb the impact of having 17% of all our medium sized IT projects coming in over-budget by 200% and missing the project deadline by 70%?   

These scenarios seem far-fetched when viewed at the outset of the latest IT project but the records show they happen all too often and no organization or industry is immune.  

As I said at the outset, many IT projects do succeed coming in on-budget and on schedule. According to Flyvbjerg and Budzier, the IT projects that are successful all share these common 7 key characteristics:

1.       Stick to the schedule

2.       Avoid scope creep

3.       Break the project down into manageable pieces

4.       Have the right people

5.       Minimize turnover of team members

6.       Align with business needs

7.       Focus on single objective and measure all activity against that target

  

  


[3] Nassim Taleb, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”, Random House, 2007

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Ontario Announces New Municipal Modernization Funding Program

Shortly after the Province let the air out of the tires of the Regional Government Review convoy, it announced another round of funding as part of the new “Municipal Modernization Program” (MMP). Small and rural municipalities across Ontario now have access to an additional $125 million through 2022-2023.

This new program allows municipalities to apply for funding to “undertake expenditure reviews with the goal of finding service delivery efficiencies and lowering costs in the longer term.” 

Some of the criteria include the use of an independent third-party reviewer who would identify savings and efficiencies. These reviews could include; a line-by-line municipal budget review, a service delivery review, modernization/technology opportunities, and a review of administrative processes, all in an effort to create efficiencies and reduce costs.   

The reviewer would present an actionable series of recommendations and the threshold for these reviews is anticipated to be between $20k and $200k.

The Province requires the municipality to provide the local Municipal Services Office with its intent to participate in the program by November 22, 2019 and there is a formal application (Expression of Interest Form) that the municipality must submit by December 6, 2019. The timelines are rather tight in that the work can start November 1, 2019 with the production of a final public report by June 30, 2020.

Each submission will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the Province determines which submissions are approved in the January – February 2020 time frame.  The Province also requires the third-party reviewer’s draft report by June 15, 2020, with the intent that the final report would be posted publicly by the municipality by June 30, 2020.

If you are feeling somewhat rushed to make the timelines, the Province has also indicated a second round of applications will be considered in the spring/summer of 2020.

It’s rather unfortunate that the Province won’t make public their third-party reviewer’s report (Regional Government Review) so that municipalities could determine if some of the gems provided to the Province might be worth considering as part of this next phase of municipal modernization.  

No doubt some of the suggestions made throughout the extensive consultation process may have provided some insight for the municipalities who now are tasked with establishing their priorities around the modernization program. Wouldn’t it have been great to capitalize on the work of Mr. Fenn and Mr. Seiling and launch into initiatives that had already been vetted by independent third-party reviewers? 

Ontario is approximately $350+ billion in debt and once again committed millions more of taxpayers’ dollars to municipalities to look to find efficiencies and reduce costs.

At the end of this regional government review process the Province backed off and did not advance anything meaningful despite the expectations that changes would be forthcoming.

In an era of outdated governance models, aging infrastructure, strained debt capacity and lack of funding for programs and services, who are we kidding here?

Why do we still need to kick the tires?          

Just saying…

So don’t, miss out on your chance, don’t let the short timelines intimidate you. 

You are encouraged to express your letter of intent followed by your formal application in order to be considered for these additional funds. After all you are no longer the passenger but instead you have the steering wheel in hand.

We work with several municipalities across the Province. We know that there is still so much that your organization can do in order; to streamline your processes, to create efficiencies, to source and implement new technologies, to better respond to your customers, to improve your programs and services, to explore shared services and to ultimately save $$$$.

“You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.”

 ____________________________________________________

Using improvement methods of LEAN Six Sigma and AccessE11 technology we will make your organization; simpler, faster, better and less costly. We help you cut the red tape, remove the non-value-added activities and defects in your processes, improve customer service, help you to achieve measurable results and achieve a costs savings.

Contact us today at [email protected]

 

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How Do I Set up a Webinar? Productivity Tools to Help

muniSERV’s professional members know that as part of their membership, we advertise their webinars directly to our municipal members. We know it’s hard to get past municipal gate-keepers so what better way is there to increase your visibility and credibility with municipal decision-makers, than with a webinar?

 

And our municipal members love webinars – particularly the free Lunch & Learn type webinars.  We know this because our open and click-through rates for our newsletters are consistently higher than the industry average rates.   

 

To be successful though your webinar must be educational and address a topic of interest to municipalities.  Municipalities won’t register for your webinar if they think it’s just about “selling” your product or service.  

 

Here’s What Our Members Say

 

“At Emergenetics we are always looking for strong, credible partners as we build our international brand in Canada and I have loved partnering with muniSERV and muniJOBS.  

I am continuously impressed by the outreach opportunities we receive with our muniSERV membership, the response we receive to our webinars and the quality of the audience it attracts.”

Gail Green, President – Emergenetics Ontario  April 2019

 

Ideas for Webinars

 

If you sell risk management software, provide some educational – or even scary statistics and inform municipalities on ways to mitigate online losses.

 

If you sell HR services, speak to the importance of performance reviews and what led you to develop your solution.  You can even provide a sneak peek of your solution with a quick demo – but again, it must be delivered as a solution to the problem you are educating them on and not just a sales pitch for your services.

 

Here’s where I feel a bit hypocritical though. I know the value and the power of providing webinars (that’s why we encourage our members to do so), but I confess, that while I have co-sponsored some webinars, I have never actually set one up myself.  (because shamelessly – I don’t know how to do it!)

 

So, in order for me to help you I had to help myself by learning how to conduct a webinar.  Here are some tricks and tools I learned along the way.

 

Webinar Tools

Your webinar can be as basic as creating PowerPoint slides and delivering a webinar by using remote conferencing services that use cloud computing, such as Zoom or JoinMe.  

 

I use Zoom to share my screen and provide online demos of muniJOBS.  While I pay the annual fee for Zoom, you can use many of their features for free. However, their specific webinar service comes at an additional cost.

 

If you want folks to register for your webinar (and you will so you can gather leads), you will need a way to handle the registrations even if registration is free.  There are many registration tools available, but one I’m familiar with is Eventbrite.

 

To create and deliver webinars you may want to consider using specific webinar software.  Here’s an article by Joe Warnimont for codeinwp, that summarizes and compares the Best Webinar software of 2019.  

 

Once you’re ready to start creating your webinar content, these Six Tips for Success are a great guideline to follow.  Don’t forget to engage your audience with a poll, some direct questions or an icebreaker to make it interactive and fun.  There’s nothing worse than listening to a “talking head”, with no opportunity to provide input or ask questions!

 

Also, be sure you turn off any chat windows and on-screen notifications that could (and will) pop up while sharing your screen.

 

And finally, be prepared with extra batteries for your wireless mouse and a fully charged headset – because we’re all well aware of Murphy’s Law!

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Service Delivery Reviews 101

The Province of Ontario recently announced they will be partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach. (a.k.a. not proceeding with regional restructuring). 

Instead they will be providing municipalities with the resources to support local decision-making with additional funding of $125 million through 2022-2023. The funding will help municipalities conduct service delivery reviews, implement recommendations from previous reviews and undertake a range of projects such as IT solutions or process improvements.  The Municipal Modernization Program is application-based and all applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  

Why?

Well, over time, as municipalities and the needs of their citizens change, some services that have historically been provided may no longer be needed, or perhaps there’s a better way to deliver them.  Often times a review of the service is necessary to address budgetary pressures or to improve efficiencies and practice fiscal restraint.

As a result of the recent funding announcement, over the next while many municipalities will be engaging outside professionals to work with them to conduct service delivery reviews. Due to the level of detail and analyses that takes place with these reviews, municipalities often engage a knowledgeable, experienced, objective third-party to guide them through the review and to remove any bias or perceived bias with the evaluation process. 

Even though there are many consultants who can provide quality expertise it’s important to have a basic understanding of what a service delivery review is, its purpose and the work and analyses it will encompass.  

What is a Service Delivery Review?

A service delivery review is a systematic review of municipal services and programs to determine the most appropriate way to deliver them. 

It focuses on setting priorities and where possible, finding new, more cost-effective ways to deliver the services the municipality has determined it wants or needs to continue providing.

A review of local services and programs can be undertaken to improve a current service, meet new service demands and/or maintain a current service by finding efficiencies to reduce the costs of delivering it, for example.

A service delivery review is a rigorous evaluation process that ask questions such as;[1]

  • Do we really need to continue to be in this business/service?
  • What do citizens expect of the service and what outcomes does council want for it?
  • How does current performance compare to expected performance?
  • How is demand for the service being managed?
  • What are the full costs and benefits of the service?
  • Are there alternative/better ways to deliver the service?

There is a role for staff, Council, citizens and other stakeholders during a service delivery review and each should be asked these questions.

Service delivery reviews are labour-intensive, so identifying up front the staff with the range of knowledge and experience and the resources necessary for the review, is extremely important to its success. Typically, this will be the staff who is familiar with the operations of the service or program being evaluated.

The review will look to see if there are internal improvements that can be made or if there’s a need to investigate other methods available to deliver the service/program.  For instance could the service be outsourced more cost-effectively than trying to deliver it in-house, could staff receive quality training digitally rather than travelling to classrooms, is there a different bill payment solution to use, etc.?

Council has a critical role in representing the public and consider the well-being of the taxpayers by determining which services the municipality provides, as well as providing direction on the  specific outcomes or deliverables they want the review team to achieve.

Summary:

This is a very brief, high-level look at service delivery reviews. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has a great online resource, “Making Choices A Guide to Municipal Service Delivery Reviews for Municipal Councillors and Senior Staff”, that sets out a six-stage approach to service delivery reviews.

The full guide was invaluable to me as the first CAO of a newly restructured municipality who was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the services and programs of each of the five former municipalities and assessing whether they were still relevant in the new municipality and/or if there were better more cost-effective ways to deliver them.

Yes as mentioned, service delivery reviews are labour-intensive, but they are also an extremely interesting challenge – and a process, I thoroughly enjoyed.  When you open up your mind to thinking outside the box and adopting new ways of doing things it will save the municipality time and your taxpayers money.  And that’s rewarding!

One Final Word

My article just wouldn’t be mine without including a small plug to remind municipalities that over this past year, we have added more professional members who offer a wide variety of amazing new and innovative products and services that can help you achieve those efficiencies directed by the Province.

Why not search muniSERV for the service you’re looking for?  You’ll be amazed at some of their offerings!

You may even find that consultant who can help you with your service delivery review! 

Susan Shannon is the Founder & Principal, muniSERV muniJOBS

Susan can be reached at [email protected]   855.477.5095

[1] A Guide to Service Delivery Review for Municipal Managers, Ministry of Municipal Affairs

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Using Technology to Expand Municipal Capacity

Transparency in politics has become a hot-button topic, especially over the last five years. Government mistrust is at a peak and people are demanding answers and access to information. Voters calling for transparency was witnessed in this past Federal election of a minority government. Federal and Provincial politics are having an influence on how municipalities operate. Most municipalities are the principle point of contact for the average citizen which forces them to adapt faster than what’s been happening at the provincial or national level.

The Government of Canada is committed to being an open government, which they believe can be achieved through three streams: open data, open information, and open dialogue. The goals being to empower citizens, fight corruption, and strengthen technology, which helps overall governance. Providing citizens with these three streams will allow government to create trust and accountability. Once data is openly available, citizens will be informed and educated. With the rise and access of new technologies, governments can combat these problems and secure public confidence. It’s the governments responsibility to enable technology to combat these concerns.

At the local level, many municipalities are adhering to these three streams far better than their national counterparts. They are posting their bylaws, procedures, meeting minutes and agendas online, so their constituents are informed and up to date. In fact, some municipalities are going as far as taping council meetings so there’s full disclosure and little room for mistrust.

To read the full BLOG click here!

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The Art of Story-Telling – The New Marketing?  

Everything I’ve been reading lately tells me that people love a good story and that story-telling is a way to position yourself as an authority in your field.

Anyone who know me well, knows I’d much rather tell a story than create marketing material.  Full disclosure here – marketing is not my forte and marketing to me often feels forced and unnatural.  That’s just not who I am.  I want to help people, not “sell” to them!

However, I do recognize that marketing is critically important to the growth of any business.  After all, people need to understand what you’re selling and how it can help them, if you want your business to succeed. 

So, let’s give this a try.  I thought you might be interested in knowing why I created muniSERV and why I’m so passionate about helping both municipalities and my professional members alike.

In case you didn’t already know, earlier in my career, I was a municipal Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), in small and medium-sized municipalities in Ontario.

We wanted to continually improve service delivery and operate more efficiently but with shrinking funding and legislation constantly changing, we were increasingly under pressure to find new and innovative ways to collaborate and streamline operations.   

Frustration #1

It used to drive me crazy when I needed to get 3 or more quotes in compliance with my purchasing by-law, but I didn’t know where to find companies or professionals who provided the services I needed and often couldn’t find one!  (I’m dating myself here, but the introduction of Pay Equity legislation comes to mind as an example).

I’d call a neighbouring municipality to see “who they used”, but every municipality’s needs are different, so a one-size consultancy doesn’t necessarily fit all.  We couldn’t afford the large firms but were legislated to comply the same as larger municipalities who could afford them. There was nowhere to search for more servicing options (i.e. smaller, independent consultancies, early retirees, etc.).  The result of this frustration – the development of the Find Municipal Experts & Services database.

Frustration #2

The RFP process also frustrated me (still does actually). RFP documents were time-consuming to develop, costly to advertise and opportunities for exposure were limited, with no focus on my target (posting in newspapers comes to mind). This resulted in limited and often no responses. A big waste of time and money! The result of this frustration – municipalities can post their RFPs, Bids & Tenders for free on muniSERV and our partnership with bidsandtenders gets them broader, national exposure and tracking of plan-takers capabilities, resulting in more responses and ultimately, more competitive quotes.

Frustration #3

Fortunately, in the municipalities in which I was CAO, we didn’t have too many job openings.  In fact, I am pleased to note that some of the folks I placed in positions after restructuring almost 20 years ago, are actually still working in the same municipality!  But, when we did need to post a job, the price was high, there were limited places to post it and the ROI was low, often with no one responding to the job ad.  The result of this frustration?  Working with municipalities to develop muniJOBSCanada’s only online recruitment and career platform that brings municipalities and talented people together.

Frustration #4

I’m a big believer in coaching and mentoring people to become tomorrow’s leaders.  But, sending someone away to a course was out of the question by the time you considered; the cost of the course, the travel, the accommodations, meals, and time away from the office.  The result of this frustration?  muniLEARN – that provides digital training solutions for today’s environments.

There are numerous other resources, tools and strategic partnerships we’ve developed along the way and I don’t want to go through each one here. But by now you’ve guessed it – the common theme here is that every one of them was developed out of a frustration I felt in the CAO role – and I knew I was not alone! 

CAOs are busy people. They don’t have a lot of time to research things and in smaller municipalities they often don’t have the staff resources to do this for them either.

It seemed to me to be a no-brainer that municipalities should be able to go to one platform and quickly and easily find what they need – all in one convenient location.

But that’s not the end of the story!

All of this led me to thinking though, well, then how does a new or smaller consultancy or someone with a new municipal product or innovation for municipalities, reach municipal clients?

When I first entered the consulting world, I’d often hear complaints from professionals, that they couldn’t get past the gatekeepers in municipalities and that attending municipal conferences was cost-prohibitive for them as a new consultancy or business just starting out.

Then, when CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) became law, this further eroded their ability to reach municipalities because it eliminated their ability to send emails to them. (and honestly, with my CAO hat back on here for a minute, if I didn’t know who was emailing me, it went straight to my trash folder) 

I realized there was a real disconnect here. 

Lightbulb moment!

The result of these two merging pain points; a) municipalities not being able to find consultants and services, and, b) consultants and professionals not having one location to market effectively to municipalities, is the premise of muniSERV.ca – “Connecting Canadian Municipalities and the Businesses That Serve Them.”

So, there you have it.  That’s my story.

I hope it helps you understand my passion for helping you, why I’m always working on your behalf to find new ways to do things – and why I will continue to always think outside the box! 

Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].  I’d love to hear Your Story!

Susan Shannon is the Founder & Principal of muniSERV.ca, muniJOBS.ca & muniLEARN.ca

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The Biggest Mistake I See New Managers Make

When I became a manager, I made the same mistake myself. It’s the most common mistake that I see many first-time managers make. It’s a mistake that causes so much anxiety and stress in their lives, and it can be avoided. It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but not so easy to fix.

I call it “The Expert Syndrome”. Let me explain…

In my case, my expertise got me noticed and got me promoted to a management position. I was on cloud nine. I was feeling euphoric. That’s when it hit me. My staff were not as “expert” as me. As a result, I unwittingly communicated to them that I was smarter, more experienced and certainly more effective at their work than they were.

This attitude of mine caused a very interesting dynamic to occur. They would bring me their work, and their problems to solve. I later discovered there was a name for this…upwards delegation! I found my in-tray and inbox overflowing with work that was certainly not managerial. The biggest issue I faced was that I loved the challenge, I loved being the expert!

I had to find a way to let go of the need to solve all their problems. That’s when my mentor showed up. He was an experienced manager, and quite successful too. He asked me to describe my role as a manager. As I reached for the job description that HR had given me, he stopped me in my tracks. “You don’t need that” he proclaimed. “Just tell me in your own words what your role as a manager is, and make it brief!”

I was stuck. You see, I thought that the role of a manager was complex and multi-layered. Too difficult to explain in just a few words. He left me to ponder on it for a few days. When we met again, I was still struggling to come up with a clear definition of the role of a manager. My mentor was not about to let me off the hook. He knew I was struggling, but he felt the struggle was natural and would pay off in the end. He left behind a little booklet titled “Servant Leadership” and suggested I read it.

That little booklet set me off on a journey that continues to this day. At times, it’s been a somewhat crazy yet exhilarating journey. I’ve now reached a point on that journey where I can explain the role of a manager in a few words, here they are:

Your Role As A Manager Is To Help Other People Succeed

Now I know, with all the articles, books, courses, online content on management and leadership out there, that this definition may seem to be overly simplistic to many of you reading this. I understand. It’s my definition, unique to me. It works extremely well for me. It may or may not work for you. I get that.

I learned along the way that all the management and leadership competencies (and there are many!) I needed to master could be summed up in what I call The Management Trilogy:

  • Daily Management – Leading with Values
  • Crisis Management – Leading with Valor
  • Strategic Management – Leading with Vision

You need to help others succeed in these three areas. When they succeed, you succeed.

To learn more about The Management Trilogy, subscribe to our free four-part online course at Management4m.com

 

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Leadership Skills: You Can’t Become a Leader By Attending Courses on Leadership

 

Every successful leader I know learned to be a leader, not by attending classes on leadership, but by “being” a leader. When I look back on the successful leaders I personally know, and examine those larger than life leaders in history and business, a number of striking similarities emerge:

  1. They were hell-bent on achieving an ambitious goal. This was their primary motivation.
  2. They learned primarily, not from leadership models developed by leadership “experts”, but from real-life role models whom they admired.
  3. They sought out trusted mentors who were not afraid to ask them the tough questions when they hit the inevitable roadblocks on the way to achieving their ambitious goal.
  4. They mastered the relational, networking and communication skills needed to attract and retain the resources and talent that would help them achieve their ambitious goal.

I call the above the 4Ms:

  • Motivators
  • Models
  • Mentors
  • Mastery

I know many people who are leadership development professionals. I have the utmost respect for them. Yet every one of them I know will attest to the fact that despite billions of dollars spent annually on leadership development, effective leaders are still in very short supply. And the same leadership development professionals will tell you that the demand for inspiring, transformational leaders in their organizations is huge. I believe that people in organizations are disengaged for this reason alone.

Why is this? My own take on this is that leadership is a decision, not a position. By that I mean, if you really want to be a leader you need to make a decision to go after an ambitious goal. Too many people in leadership positions, especially senior ones, avoid this because their career and pay-check are guaranteed to them regardless of what they achieve. If a CEO decides to play it safe, then that decision has a trickle-down effect in their organization where everyone in a leadership position plays it safe. I’m not advocating reckless goal setting, but I am suggesting setting the bar high to begin with.

You start your journey to becoming a great leader by getting motivated to achieve an AMBITIOUS goal, not by attending more leadership development courses. Leadership skill-building and courses are important only after you make the decision to lead by setting an AMBITIOUS goal. If you are having trouble setting a truly ambitious or big goal, here are some real-world examples (some are missions/visions, some are strategic goals):

  • President John F. Kennedy: This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
  • Susan G. Komen® for the Cure: A world without breast cancer.
  • Novo Nordisk: To prevent, treat and ultimately cure diabetes.
  • FedEx: The World on Time.
  • Disney: We Make People Happy
  • Mattel: To be the premier toy brands — today and tomorrow.
  • Amazon: To build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
  • SpaceX: Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.
  • AIESEC: Engage and develop every young person in the world.
  • Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.
  • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.
  • SolarAid: Eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020 through the creation of a sustainable market for solar lights.
  • Zappos: To provide the best customer service possible.

Leadership is a decision, not a position or title. So you first have to make a decision to lead others towards a worthwhile goal.  After that, by all means, attend courses on leadership that will help you develop the skills and insights necessary to lead effectively.

 

About the Author

Brian Ward is co-founder and CEO of Affinity Consulting and Training. Based in Edmonton, Alberta he provides leadership and management development to organizations in the private and public sectors throughout Canada.

Receive a free downloadable copy of his book Lead People…Manage Things: Master The Five Key Facets of High-Performance Leadership when you subscribe to his weekly newsletter Monday Morning Mentor.

 

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The Five Key Facets of High Performance Leadership

What makes a good or even a great leader?
Many people in leadership positions struggle with understanding what makes a good or even great leader. While billions of dollars are spent annually on leadership development, quality leadership is still in short supply.

Organizations have responded to the demand for effective leadership with a steady stream of education and training resources, which seem to be plentiful, (for example, at the time of writing, Amazon.com had over 9,000 references on leadership), yet most attempts at building high-performance leadership are either far too complex or too simplistic to be of any practical use to leaders who need to make things happen. So what does work?

While successful organizations focus on three imperatives: aligning strategy & people; developing world-class leaders; and building world-class teams, when we look at what successful leaders personally do to succeed, we find that they concentrate on building their capacity around what we call five key facets of leadership:

Focus – Authenticity – Courage – Empathy – Timing

Focus

Effective leaders stay focused on the outcomes they wish to create and don’t get too married to the methods used to achieve them. They provide this ‘outcomes focus’ for their organization by emphasizing the mission, vision, values and strategic goals of their organization and at the same time building the capacity of their organizations to achieve them.

This capacity-building emphasizes the need to be flexible, creative and innovative and avoid becoming fossilized through the adoption of bureaucratic structures, policies, and processes. It also means letting go of lines of business, products, and programs that don’t support the focus.

Authenticity

Leaders who are authentic attract followers, even leaders who are viewed as being highly driven and often difficult to work for. Simply put, they are viewed as always being themselves.and therefore followers know what to expect from them and can rely on them, come thick or thin.

Authenticity provides the leader with the currency to obtain ‘buy-in’ from key stakeholders, because it builds and maintains trust. Authenticity is the bedrock upon which the other facets are built.

Courage

The challenges facing leaders today are immense and require great courage to overcome. Leaders are constantly being challenged by others, be it their own team, customers, the public or stakeholders. Standing firm in the face of criticism, yet having the courage to admit when they are wrong, are hallmarks of courageous leaders.

Also, shifting an organization from being introspective to becoming customer-focused requires courage when people pay lip service to the new direction…it means calling people on their bluff.

Empathy

Effective leaders know how to listen empathetically. thus legitimizing others’ input. By doing so, they promote consensus building and build strong teams. They coach others to do the same, and so create a culture of inclusiveness. They tend to be great listeners who capitalize on the ideas of others and provide recognition for these ideas, yet they don’t get bogged down in overly complicated dialogue.

While they create learning organizations that place a high value on dialogue and continuous feedback, they know when to take action, when to ‘fish or cut bait’, which brings us on to the fifth facet…

Timing

The one facet that can make or break a leader is in knowing when to make critical decisions and when not to. All of the other facets must be viewed as subservient to getting the timing of critical decisions and actions right. There is a need to be focused, authentic, courageous and empathetic, but get the timing wrong on critical decisions and everything else stands to be nullified.

Great leaders move with appropriate speed. They don’t believe that everything must be done immediately…they know how to prioritize, and how to get their team to prioritize. As well, they engage in timely follow-through to ensure actions that are committed to happen in a well-coordinated and timely way.

Is that all it takes to be a great leader? These facets of high-performance leadership are not exhaustive. Just as one would look at the facets of a diamond, upon closer observation other facets become observable.

Any person can aspire to be a great leader by starting with these facets. If you are in a leadership role, regardless of your position in your organization, start by asking yourself the following key questions:

Key Questions
1. How focused am I? How much of my time do I spend communicating and inspiring people about our mission, vision and strategic goals? How much focus do I create in my organization? How married am I/my organization to methods that have outlived their usefulness?

2. Am I viewed as authentic? Do people see and hear the real me? Do I wear a mask at work, and remove it when I leave each evening?

3. How courageous am I when my values, vision, and goals are challenged? Do I stand firm and only change my position when I know that I am wrong?

4. How empathetic am I? Too much/too little? Do I create enough opportunities for open and candid dialogue? Do I ever find myself getting bogged down in consensus building, or leading my team to false consensus? Is there a feeling of inclusiveness and engagement amongst the members of my organization, and with other stakeholders, including customers?

5. Do I make and execute decisions in a timely fashion? Do I know when to ‘fish or cut bait?’ – do I demand well-coordinated and timely execution of strategy from others?

What can you do to create a high-performance leadership culture? Asking these questions in a candid way will open up many possibilities for you, your organization or your clients…if you have the courage to do it. Building and sustaining a high-performance leadership culture takes time, patience and a clear focus on the vital few characteristics that leaders can develop naturally and authentically.

Listening to what people expect from you as a leader, and then responding empathically, in a timely fashion, will move you dramatically towards mastering these five key facets of high-performance leadership.

Above all, you need to TAKE ACTION.

 

About the Author

Brian Ward is co-founder and CEO of Affinity Consulting and Training. Based in Edmonton, Alberta he provides leadership and management development to organizations in the private and public sectors throughout Canada.

Receive a free downloadable copy of his book Lead People…Manage Things: Master The Five Key Facets of High-Performance Leadership when you subscribe to his weekly newsletter Monday Morning Mentor.

 

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For Immediate Release – Announcing Exciting New Partnership

September 5th, 2019

           

 

muniSERV and ASI Technologies Announce Exciting New Partnership 

muniSERV.ca and ASI Technologies have joined forces to bring even more value to our respective customers and members to bring enhanced membership value to clients of both organizations!

Both companies offer well-known, powerful online platforms that focus on the municipal marketplace throughout Canada.  This unique alliance will provide additional reach to hundreds more municipalities through our numerous partnerships with municipal associations and organizations across Canada.

By working together muniSERV and ASI Technologies are able to provide incredible savings to our professional members to boost their exposure with both joint advertising opportunities and joint memberships, including The Road Authority™ (TRA), which is delivered in partnership with the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA).

See the Press Release – TRA and MuniSERV announce partnership to learn more details on joint advertising and membership opportunities.

Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal, muniSERV & muniJOBS – [email protected]

Steven Desrocher, President, ASI Technologies Inc. (The Road Authority) – [email protected]

 

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