more 2 Second Lean

Following up on my 2 Second Lean post, here is a short video Verne Harnish did with the author Paul Akers after the talk I heard Paul give in Orlando last week.

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Story Selling

I heard Nick Nanton speak at last in Orlando about his book Story Selling. What’s super-cool about Nick is how real he is. He used his own concepts to give us pieces of his life story to start out his talk and then to add color and depth throughout. He has a law degree, but only so he can understand legal concepts in order to make his mark in the entertainment industry. He advises celebrities and creates branded videos to highlight how awesome someone is. He took us through the 4 main types of archetypical plots: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Rebirth. He showed us how Hollywood comes back to these over and over because audiences love them.

My takeaway is to figure out which parts of my life history make sense us use to craft a narrative about myself and what I do. For example, the summer before my senior year in college, studying electrical engineering, I had an internship trying to teach math and science at a day camp in Trenton, New Jersey in a neighborhood with very little economic opportunity. One morning I arrived early and watched the breakfast process. The littlest kids were about 5 years old and had a really hard time standing still and in a straight line. The junior counselors (maybe 13 years old) were yelling at the little ones and the adults were yelling at the junior counsellors to try to keep order. I was moved to tears by the differences between their lives and mine. My decision in that moment was that designing smaller, cheaper, faster computer chips wasn’t for me, that I needed to use my human skills to make a difference for people. I changed my class schedule for my senior year to minimize the technical and instead of focus on sociology, women’s studies, politics and education and then spent more than 15 years working in non-profits and government, trying to make a difference directly with those who needed help.

I look forward to honing this skill over time. I’d love to hear your comments on this.

See also: More Story Selling

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2 Second Lean

Last week at the Fortune Leadership Summit, I saw Paul Akers’ keynote about his book 2 Second Lean: How to Grow People and Build a Fun Lean Culture. If you already know about lean and you’re already to click away from this post, stick around. Paul’s approach is totally different. If you don’t yet know about lean, you’ll love this. Paul’s whole talk could be boiled down to “Fix what bugs you.” He has a whole bunch more theory about the 8 kinds of waste and how they’re related to each other and how to start the day with the 3 S’s, all of which you can also learn by reading the book (which I recommend), but if you’re not going to do that, here’s your takeaway: Spend 5 minutes a day looking around your work area (desk, kitchen, etc.) and notice what bugs you. Make the smallest change you can that will help. Repeat tomorrow.

Here’s a video Paul made about his lean desk, which does give the idea:

Update: I moved our home coffee percolator today, inspired by 2 Second Lean. I had to relocate some teas and things we don’t use all that often, but now the percolator is right by the sink, and the coffee and filters are there too. Took me a bit longer to make today’s coffee since I was doing that relocation, but from now on, it’ll be easier!

See also: More 2 Second Lean

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Smart Tribes

At last week’s Leadership Summit, I was blown away by Christine Comaford‘s talk about her book SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together. There’s a ton in this book, but to sum it up, we’re all better off if we can keep our brains in their “smart state” and avoid being pulling into our “critter state.” The critter state is what she calls being run by our reptilian and/or mammalian brain, rather than using our whole brain, including the neocortex, that part that really makes us human, and smart. Any why do we fall into that critter state? We need to feel safe, that we belong, and that we matter. When any of these are put into doubt, we go into our critter state. There’s a lot of detail in the book about how to organize our companies such that our people feel part of the tribe and can access their smart state most of the time. If you decide not to read the book, here’s your action: Think back to earlier today or yesterday or last week if you have to. When were you in your critter state (lost your temper, felt alone or misunderstood, frustrated, etc). What was the cause? Did you not feel safe (money stuff is often the root here)? Did you not feel like you belong (your contributions not being accepted, for example)? Did you not feel like you matter (working just to work without making a difference, for example)? What about the people close to you? When was the last time your spouse or kids were in the critter state? What could you have done differently to leave them feeling safe, belonging and mattering?

See also: More Smart Tribes

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Dumb branding

I’m staying at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa. Their pads in the conference rooms don’t make any sense to me. Do you agree?


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Purpose Drives Execution

Purpose Drives Impact Framework.003Everyone knows that great ideas and strategies aren’t worth anything without great execution, right? What we mostly fail to ask is “Why?” Why are we executing the way we are? The Purpose Drives Impact framework gives us a way to examine execution that will keep you on track.

Quick review of Purpose Dives Impact:

Purpose is where everything starts. That’s the Why of your business (also applies to organization, family, etc).  Purpose is what you’re committed to in the world. Impact is the outcome. Impact is the result of everything you do. Impact tells you how you’re doing with respect to your Purpose. If your Purpose was happiness, for example, then Impact would be some measure of the increase in happiness that you cause.

The circle in the middle of the model represents everything that you do between Purpose and Impact. See Purpose Drives People and Purpose Drives Strategy for more on those aspects of the framework.

Purpose Drives Impact Framework 6 executionNow let’s turn to Execution. At it’s most basic, to upgrade your Execution, use the Execution Triangle.Purpose Drives Impact Framework 7 Execution Triangle


Your entire team needs to know what the current priorities are, otherwise, people won’t know what to do at any particular moment. Is it more important to fix this bug right now or work on new features? Should I call a current client or a prospect? Should I schedule a prospect meeting that involves a cross-country flight or work on copy for the new website? Any of these choices could be the right ones, but without priorities, who can tell?

This raises the question, “What should my priorities be based on?” Your purpose, of course, keeping in mind the impact you’re trying to make and measure. See also: Effective Priorities Lead to Less Reliance on the Boss


Imagine a sport stadium without a scoreboard. How would anyone know what’s going on? How could the fans stay in the game? What about the players? And what if the scoreboard was only available online, so you had to get out your laptop or tablet in order to look at it? How effective would that be? The other aspect of scoreboards that’s important to notice is how they force us to display only what’s most important. It’s likely you’re tracking many different KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Which of them are most important? Creating a scoreboard is a great way to force yourself to choose. And when you’re choosing, remember Purpose and Impact.

Just as important as the KPIs, your scoreboard needs to track progress towards the priorities we just discussed. See also: Without Keeping Score, There is No Game


If there’s one aspect of business that garners the most complaints, it’s meetings. Why is this? Two reasons:

  1. Status reports. Just stop giving everyone 5 minutes to report on what they’ve been working on. They don’t serve any purpose. How do you know what’s happening with key initiatives? Look at the dashboard! If it’s not on the dashboard, it’s not a priority, so why are you spending time on it?
  2. Not driving towards next actions. Anything discussed at a meeting needs to benefit from the collective intelligence of the team, otherwise, why bring it up? If the issue is a priority, then the team can be asking questions to make sure the accountable team member has thought things through clearly and giving feedback to make the plan better (brainstorming, debating, etc). The outcome of this discussion is then the action steps to accomplish that priority. If the team is dealing with a customer issue, then the next actions you’re looking for are either the next interaction with customer, an improvement to the process or both. If there’s a strategic question that needs an answer (e.g. Should we acquire this company?), then the next actions are either an answer to the question (yes or no), or actions that will move the process forward, like research to be done, advisors to consult, smaller group conversation to hash something out, etc.

See also Is your weekly meeting a waste of time? and Cancel Your Weekly Meeting

Purpose Drives Execution

To sum up, the reason Execution matters is because you are about accomplishing your Purpose, which you measure by Impact. If you stay focused on Purpose and Impact, you can stay out of the Execution weeds and make changes that really matter. If you’d like to talk this over, please get in touch: or 312-371-6625.

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Purpose Drives Strategy

Purpose Drives Strategy

Purpose Drives Impact Framework.003How do you make a difference in the world? The Purpose Drives Impact Framework is one way to think about the question, and to organize your own work. For an overview, see Purpose Drives Impact. See also: See Purpose Drive People, Purpose Drives Execution

In this article we explore Purpose Drives Strategy.
Purpose Drives StrategyStrategy is one of those words that everyone has a sense of, but very few people are actually clear about what it means in practice. There are many different definitions for strategy that you can find fully explained elsewhere. I like to think of strategy very simply: Strategy allows us to make decisions very quickly. What do we say “yes” to, and just as importantly, what do we say “no” to.

For example, Southwest Airlines, profitable every year of the last 40+ in an industry that routinely loses money (not just one or two airlines, but the industry as a whole), has a very simple strategy: Wheels Up. When we unpack this, we start to see the power of strategy. Airplanes in the air are adding value to their customers and therefore make money. Airplanes on the ground do not. What does this mean? Let’s look at some of their decisions:

  • No reserved seating means their customers push each other down the aisle, loading the plane more quickly than other airlines, meaning less downtime in the turnaround.
  • A fleet with only one kind of airplane (other than planes that came when they acquired AirTran they only fly 737s) means flight crews are interchangeable, as are mechanics, galley service, etc. In fact, when a plane has a mechanical problem, it is easy to swap in another airplane without needing to adjust seating on that plane (plays well with the no reserved seating as well, even if the planes aren’t configured identically).
  • No fees for baggage. This again allows them to turn planes around faster, as passengers aren’t spending so much time cramming their over-large carry-ons in the overhead bins.
  • Labor relations. This point would not have needed a caveat had I written it last year, but 2014 labor troubles notwithstanding, Southwest has historically had incredibly positive labor relations, even to the point of allowing pilots to assist baggage handlers when necessary. This again allows for faster turns and keeps planes in the air more hours per day. This year’s strife might be a sign that Southwest’s strategy has come to the end of it’s remarkable run. Time will tell.

Strategies do need to evolve over time. Who you are, as an individual or a company, is your purpose. How you choose to organize your actions in the marketplace is your strategy.

Southwest’s purpose, announced in 2013, is:

We exist to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

If they had asked me, I would have coached them to simplify this to We connect people to what’s important in their lives or perhaps better yet Connecting to What’s Important. Their longer statement actually has some of the strategy baked-in. Friendly, reliable and low-cost air travel could be seen as their brand promise, a key component of strategy. There are two reasons I wouldn’t put that in the purpose.

  1. The shorter and simpler purpose is, the easier it is for people to remember and use to drive action.
  2. An effective purpose doesn’t change over time, no matter what happens in the marketplace. Strategy needs to be updated as the market changes. When we mix the two in our articulation of purpose, we’re likely to outgrow that purpose as market needs change.

Let’s bring this back to Purpose Drives Strategy now. Without purpose, any strategy will do (with variable effectiveness). With a purpose that’s permanent, a north star, strategy can be free to evolve as necessary as conditions change.

Remember the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign? That represented a strategy that embraced the market situation they found themselves in, #2 to Hertz. They narrowed the gap, but never caught Hertz, over 50 years of using the slogan. Eventually they both were overtaken by Enterprise. Another piece of Avis’ strategy in the 60s was to focus on airport locations. Hertz was almost exclusively downtown, and essentially copied Avis’ airport moves for years. How did Enterprise take over? By focusing downtown, for people who’s cars were in the shop, and outstanding customer service. Enterprise’s culture and strategy differentiate them in an undifferentiated car rental world.

Turning to a company that does have clear purpose, here is what Whole Foods says about itself:

Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people — customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general — and the planet.

For most of it’s 30+ year history, Whole Foods’ strategy has focused on charging premium prices for healthier, more sustainable food (or at least the perception of same). This strategy lines up perfectly with their purpose, as they have been able to generate very impressive free cash flow and thus self-fund tremendous growth. Now that there are many more organic and health-conscious options in the marketplace, they are shifting to smaller stores and more affordability, especially in low-income areas.

As an aside, not only is this purpose driving strategy, it also keeps impact at the forefront of their strategic decisions. Whole Foods has been derisively referred to as “Whole Paycheck,” referring to its higher prices. Imagine what would have happened had they bowed to this kind of criticism and shifted strategy to serving lower-income people at lower prices? They wouldn’t have generated the kinds of free cash flow that they did, and wouldn’t have been able self-fund growth. As it stands, they have created ample room in the marketplace (they enlarged the pie) for lower-cost competitors and extended their impact well-beyond their own direct actions.

In summary, strategy driven by purpose doesn’t guarantee we’ll create the impact we’re committed to (if we make poor strategic decisions, for example), but when the right strategy is driven by purpose, that’s when impact results.

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Purpose Drives People

Purpose Drives People

Let’s explore the Purpose Drives Impact Framework further, this time focusing on Purpose Drives People.

First a quick review of Purpose Drives Impact. We start with purpose and use that purpose to drive impact (with action). This action looks like People Executing Strategy.
Purpose Drives Impact Framework.003
To dig deeper into the People area, let’s frame it this way, as Purpose Driving People:
Purpose Drives Impact Framework 4 people
As we think about People, Purpose takes on several roles.

  • When a business (or an organization) has a purpose larger than itself, that purpose (you may call it your mission, but I think purpose is more accurate) is the essential tool that the marketing or HR departments use in recruiting (Yes, recruiting is a marketing function, wherever it lives in your company.). This is why non-profits can get away with lower levels of compensation. Their people are passionate about the cause. I’m not at all suggesting you reduce compensation. Instead, you can get a much higher level of productivity from your people if they are as motivated as you are by your purpose.
  • In addition to purpose, core values play a big role in hiring and retaining the exact right kinds of people for your company. If you’ve ever flown Southwest Airlines, for example, you’ve found that their flight attendants use a lot more humor than you find on any other airline. They don’t train for humor, they hire for it. (As an aside, I won’t fly Southwest because I find the boarding process and lack of seat assignments extremely annoying and stressful. I also prefer to be able to compare flight options across all in one place, and I cannot do that with Southwest, but this simply means that I am not their core customer. They’re not trying to win my business, and that’s perfectly okay.)
  • One lens to use when thinking about people is that of culture. Culture is how we interact with one another. It is not what we do, but how we do it. Every company has a culture, whether its leaders have ever thought about it or not. When you’re intentional about your culture, that culture can reinforce your purpose. For example, one of Whole Foods’ purposes (the fact that they have more than one is a topic for another article) is “to improve world health.” To reinforce this in their culture, they need to hire people with healthy eating habits and continually support those habits. Many companies give employee discounts, but in the case of Whole Foods, doing so is actually aligned with their purpose to improve world health.
  • Another aspect of people is leadership. Without purpose, how do you motivate employees? How do you get the most from your front line employees and your leaders? With money? There is ample research showing that money is nice, but doesn’t ultimately motivate employees. Yes, it does help get the minimal level of effort, so you’d best not eliminate employee compensation, but if you want your employees to choose to give you their discretionary effort, you’d best pay attention to what Dan Pink calls autonomy, mastery and purpose. When your team members are motivated by purpose (which they will be if your purpose is alive and you hired them with that purpose in mind!), they require much less direction. They want to contribute more and they will figure out what to do. This means they don’t need to be managed. Your leaders are then free to remove barriers, help people find more rewarding roles, and overall pay more attention to where we are going than to the minutia of what folks are doing day to day.

See also: Purpose Drives Strategy, Purpose Drives Execution

And remember, this purpose drives people arrow is only part of the story. To produce impact, your people need to take actions. When your people and culture are aligned with your purpose, you (collectively) will be able to produce much greater impact.

See also:

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Purpose Drives Impact

purpose-drives-impact-framework-001If you want to change the world, what should you do? On one level it’s simple, really. Get clear on your purpose and then take action. That action, driven by purpose, is what creates impact: Purpose Drives Impact. This is simple cause and effect, really. Clear purpose leads to impact. Purpose without action is simply dreaming (You can prove this to yourself by pulling out an atlas – remember those? – or Google Earth and look up a place you’ve always wanted to visit. See? You’re dreaming), while action without purpose is running in circles (To prove this, turn on your GPS without a destination and go for a bike ride. See where it takes you. No helpful voice in your earbuds.).

All of this raises two questions: “What is impact?” and “What is the action?”

What is impact?
We’ll cover this in greater detail in a post of its own, but for now, we can think about impact as all they ways we contribute to creating the world we want to live in. Business typically uses revenue or profit as measuring stick, but impact goes beyond those simple numbers, which really only capture impact on the owners of the business. What is your impact on your customers? On your employees? On your suppliers? On your community? On the environment?

What is action?

Let’s go one level deeper with our framework. The most effective action, where Purpose Drives Impact, can be boiled down to People Executing Strategy. If you think back to high school physics, you will recall that problems were vastly oversimplified. Friction, air resistance and the like were simplified away because if they weren’t, we’d never be able to learn the basic concepts of inertia or work. We’ve done the same thing here:

An inspirational purpose allows you to mobilize the right people. Once you have the right people, you can formulate a strategy that aligns with your purpose and the strengths of those people. Those people then execute your strategy and that’s how you produce impact. Let’s look at each of the pieces of action.

Do you have the right people? Are their accountabilities aligned with their strengths and the needs of the business? Are they fulfilled? Are they motivated? If you’re not having fun, you have a people issue. Your people need to be aligned with your purpose. They are the ones that create the impact.

An effective strategy gives you a way to say “yes” to those activities that fit, and more importantly, a reason to say “no” to those that don’t. There’s good revenue and bad revenue. If you have a clear strategy, the difference between the two is clear. If you’re not growing (however it makes sense to measure growth) as fast as you’d like, you have a strategy issue. Effective strategy tells your company story, about how your Purpose Drives Impact.

Execution is the actual doing. How do you communicate? Are your meetings effective? Does everyone have the information they need to do their job? Effective execution is how you turn growth into impact. If you’re growing as expected but lacking the impact you expect, you have an execution issue. Effective execution (of an effective strategy) is where impact is generated.

Just as in high school physics, those simplifications we made make the thought experiments easier, but once we’re clear on the basics, it becomes obvious that the simplifications mean those thought experiments don’t match our real-world, observed reality.

In thinking about Purpose Drives Impact, you may have already spotted the problem. No one has time, capital or perfect foresight to bring on the right team before formulating the strategy. And we can’t just go off on retreat somewhere for 6 months to create that strategy and expect to have a business to come back to when we’re ready to execute. We can’t afford the time away, and we can’t exist without our connection to the marketplace.Just as clearly, our execution is never perfect, and needs to be refined over time.

What’s needed is akin to refueling in the air, or fixing a flat tire while riding your bike. Here’s what it looks like in our model:

Both strategy and execution inform how we need to strengthen and grow our team, what we learn from our people executing gets fed back into our strategic conversations, and execution improves when we periodically check-in both with our strategy and with our people.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more detail about each of the 5 aspects of the Purpose Drives Impact Framework. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about these basics, including how it helps you think through your own business. Please send me your thoughts:

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Posted in Uncategorized is now a Certified B Corporation! is a Certified B Corporation

We are proud to announce that as of May 2014, has been recognized as a Certified B Corporation. As of May 30, 2014, there are 1020 Certified B Corporations in the world, including New Seasons, Ben & Jerry’s and B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery.

We’re in the business of helping businesses maximize impact (your bottom line is one kind of impact, but we’re talking about more than that; impact on your customers, your employees, your suppliers, your community at large and the environment). We became a B Corp both to be recognized for the work we’re already doing and to continually hold ourselves to a higher standard.

B Corporation FAQs

Q: What is a Certified B Corporation?

A: Certified B Corporations are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business
to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to sustainable business
what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.

Q: Why do B Corps matter?

A: Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business.
By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance,
Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a
positive vision of a better way to do business.

read more

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