Tag Archives: management

Pitch your idea

Pitch your ideaEverybody has ideas, but how do you sell them?

It’s good to have ideas, but if you can’t sell them to your team or your leader, you only have ideas and no implementations. The process I describe below is for pitching your idea (and not for explaining the business plan behind it).

The rationale behind is that you will need to convince an investor, a sponsor, or maybe even a jury. And your time is limited, to be compared with an elevator pitch.  I always give following example: you enter a lift and your general manager is in it. He heard you had an offsite activity and asks you: “So please explain to me, what did you do that afternoon?”.

Your Pitch

Start with the ‘why‘ of your idea.

I know this will be hard, but if you start with the ‘how’ right away, you will lose your audience. They will be hearing a rather technical explanation and still can’t imagine what it’s for.

Explain the impact of your idea.

What will you reach with your idea? Will it be Steve-Jobs-world-changing-great or rather small?

Dive into the ‘how‘ of your idea.

If you explained the reason why and the expected impact, you explain the how of you idea. But keep it rather high level. Your time is limited and it would be a shame if you didn’t have it to explain the other parts.

Explain who is involved

Who is going to implement your idea? Is it a great idea, but the other department has to do it? Well, a lot people have great ideas about how other people need to work, need to improve. But what is in your area of influence?

Create an action list and assign names and dates.

How are you going to follow-up and measure success?

How will you avoid that this remains an idea? That the action list is classified in someone’s desk? How do you know if your idea is succesful? How do you know when to pull the plug?


Some tips for helping you sell your idea:

  • Avoid the word ‘actually’. It gives the impression that you are not sure about your idea.
  • Practice your pitch. While practicing you probably notice where the explanation is going a bit harder or discover your uncertainties (let a colleague help you and count the occurrences of ‘actually’.
  • Study your audience. Who are they? What is their background? How do you need to adapt your pitch to their ears?
  • Study the location where you’re going to pitch. How can you use this in your advantage?

Additional reading

We read for you: Presentation secrets by Steve Jobs

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Request for comment: The power of employees to overcome the bank crisis

Change management in action! Writing about it is one thing, but now you have the chance for a sneak preview in the approach of our change management program at KBC Group.

KBC Group is an integrated bancassurance group, catering mainly for retail, SME and midcap customers. It concentrates on its home markets in Belgium and in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe (daughters in Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Bulgaria). Elsewhere around the globe, the Group has established a presence in selected countries and regions (Ireland, USA, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Asia Pacific).

In October 2012 KBC launched the PEARL Strategy. This is the corporate change program for the entire KBC Group which combines the best of different change approaches of the past (e.g. Slim, Lean). PEARL stands for Performance, Empowerment, Accountability, Responsiveness and Local embeddedness.

Building the future together with Pearl

The competition

We are open for feedback to our approach and have participated in the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize “Leaders Everywhere Challenge“. Our story, “The power of employees to overcome the bank crisis“, was chosen as a finalist for the Leaders Everywhere Challenge.

Your contribution – call for action

One of the key criteria in the final judging for the winners of the “Leaders Everywhere Challenge” will be how we further develop our entry (both in response to judging comments and the comments and questions from your peers). For this we need your feedback, opinion and votes.

So I would like to invite you to comment, share and vote and help our contribution to win the competition:

The power of employees to overcome the bank crisis

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Ron Rolemodel takes it serious

The importance of role modeling explained with a short fable of Ron Rolemodel, CEO of ChemCo and big supporter of ChemCo’s “Safety First” program.

Safety linesRon Rolemodel has been a manager for years. He really grew up with the company ChemCo and knows it from the inside out. Recently he got promoted to CEO. Safety is the number one priority for ChemCo, since accidents with chemical spills and vapors are listed as the most hazardous work accidents.

Ron is a convinced follower of the Lean Methodology and he refers to it whenever he gets the possibility. His colleagues even refer to him as the “lean preacher”. But Ron is also aware of the importance of role modeling at the work floor. Especially by him. Ron knows that ChemCo’s employees look to him and copy his behaviour. Almost a bit like his grandchild does with the grandchild’s father, his son. This way Ron makes sure his behaviour is always consistent with that what he preaches. Safety first. No exceptions.

One day Ron was a bit late for a visit to the work forces at the factory floor itself. Did he know he was going to be put to the test! “Damn”, Ron thought when he rushed down the stairs, “I’m already five minutes late and I hate it when I cannot make my meetings. It sets a bad example to others.” Ron came down from the top floor of the factory and made it to the bottom.

On the bottom floor there’s a big door where forklifts pass through. When a forklift approaches the door from the other side, an infrared sensor detects the vehicle and swings open the door automatically. The big doors are fire secured and weigh very much. A swing at an unexpecting passer-by could knock him out cold. On the floor there are safety lines printed, but with the door closed, they look strange and their logic seems far gone. Notwithstanding the many safety measures and the “Safety First” program at ChemCo, these safety lines and area around the door are never respected by the personnel at the bottom floor. Accidents at work were an exception these days, you know?

Ron didn’t notice it, but all eyes were on him when he approached the door. His employees know safety is important to him, and Ron knows they know. Even in a rush to be not too late, Ron decides to follow the safety lines. This means he has to take a small detour while the group was right in front of him. They are just a few meters between them and he could easily haste through the safety zone, but still he made the detour like there was a big wall between him and them. Even if this looked very strange to a distant observer.

Ron knew that if he was not going to respect the safety regulations himself, all the following efforts that the company would take the next years, would all be in vain. Ron knew this and Ron sticked to ChemCo’s “Safety First”. Ron walked his talk. His employees see that he sticks to it and now get confirmation that’s “Safety First” is not the next organisation fab.

Role modeling

Role modeling is an important concept that is used a lot in the education of our children, but is often forgotten when we start our working day. “Practice what you preach”, “walk the talk” and “actions are louder than words” are statements that are shouted a lot, especially in big change programs. But when the push comes to the shove, it is often forgotten.

In big change programs we often try the change culture, but culture is a non-tangible thing. Culture is the some of all behaviours of the people in the organization and can even vary among different sites of the organisation. Nothing so hard as changing culture. It is best to start with changing behaviour.  Make a list what behaviour is wanted and what is not wanted. Often you can start with the values and principles that are important to your organisation, like openness, honesty, empowerment, etc.

How do you start? With small steps and actions. There’s no need for big communication and programs, but you do need some ort of a charter and consistent behaviour. And it starts with you. Today.

Additional reading

Change culture by changing behavior – part 1: role modelling

Leading in books – Leadership lessons by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Viral Change

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10 pitfalls for coaching success

Bad coachingNot all will end well. Following are impediments for coaching I have experienced:

  1. There are no clear objectives for coaching.
  2. The coach has no mandate for coaching.
  3. There’s no designated time for coaching (coach + coachee).
  4. There’s too long time between event and coaching feedback.
  5. Coach nor coachee are measuring results (effectiveness).
  6. There’s no “walk the talk“: management is not coached themselves.
  7. There’s no support from line management.
  8. The coachee is not open for feedback.
  9. The coachee is not open for change.
  10. The coach has no empathy.
  11. The coach is using assumptions and slander instead of objective facts.


Please submit yours too!

Now let’s translate these pitfalls to positive ones and you have your checklist for coaching success!

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Ecopolicy game – Coaching at performance review meetings

Ecopolicy game

Ecopolicy game

In June we did the Ecopolicy game as an exercise for coaching at performance review meetings (or also: steering meetings).

The game was done in two phases and the goal was:

  1. To lead or attend a performance review meeting and have a similar experience like the management of your organization has each week, month, quarter, …
  2. To coach an attendee of the performance review meeting and practice your coaching skills.

Game contents

You and your team are the leaders of Cybernetia, a cyber state that needs a government to survive. Politics, production, environmental stress, quality of life, education and population are the measured sectors of human life and are expressed in KPIs. In the game these KPIs are all interlinked in such a way by mathematical relations that each decision results in a chain of effects and repercussions just like in real life.

Lead or attend a performance review meeting

In a 20 minute long performance review meeting the ambassador decides together with his 5 ministers on the policy of Cybernetia. Some and certainly not all KPIs are under the influence of the government.

You get 5 attempts of 20 minutes to lead your nation, Cybernetia. In one session, the goal is to take at least 12 decisions in up/down grading the KPIs which you can influence.

If the quality of life for your population is getting worse, your population will question your policy. When it escalates, the population does a coup d’etat and you loose.

What did I learn as board member?

In the first round I was the ambassador of Cybernetia and together with the board, we determined the policy.

  • A performance review meeting can be very stressful! The first round went almost completely to trying to understand the tool.
  • When all board members are coached individually you see strange behavior and changes in behavior between the board meetings.
  • Because you are also coached individually, the board sees your behavior changes and reacts on it.
  • Group dynamics are always happening. I repeat: group dynamics are always happening! Even if the team work moments are very short, the group will go through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages. Be aware of it.
  • After each performance review meeting there is a recap session. Use it as ambassador to give feedback on people behavior. But don’t wait to the recap session if the behavior is not acceptable during the PRM.
  • Use your dashboard. Look at the facts. When emotions take over, our rationality stays behind.
  • It is not needed as team leader to know all the details.
  • It is not needed as team leader to facilitate the discussion. If somebody else is better, let him do it.
  • It is needed as team leader to take decisions based on uncertain elements.

What did I learn as coach?

In the second round I was the coach of a minister of Cybernetia. I watched my coachees behavior, the group interaction and the process.

  • Write down facts and observations, not interpretations. Interpretations are assumptions that you have the right answer.
  • Coaching on behavior and facts is a hard job. You need to be observing and writing at top speed to get everything right.
  • Giving feedback is not always easy. You coachee can go in resistance. Use a much facts as possible. Pick your battles.
  • Try to ask questions during feedback talks. Challenge, but try to understand. Why did he do that? Did it have the wanted result? What could have gone better?
  • If your coachee doesn’t do anything, he still doing something! Don’t fall in sleep when your coachee remains below the radar. Why is he doing so? What does his body language see? How is the group interaction?
  • Observe the process of decision making.
  • After the coaching talk, make a summary. What is the most important thing he learned? What will he do different next time?

More information on the game



News message


The inventor


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Lessons from triathlon for corporate athletes

Last week I went to a presentation where the athlete & Belgian triathlon champion, Simon De Cuyper, gave an interview about setting clear targets. Just like in the corporate world, in the sport world is setting targets an important part when acquiring results. During the interview Simon shared some of his experiences and lessons learned.

Triathleet Simon De Cuyper

Triathlete Simon De Cuyper

I’ve made a list of key insights for you to share.

Focus on the process and process targets

When you’re only focussing on the end result and the end target, you might get caught up by stress too much. Simon has learned to focus on the process and set process targets. For example, the start of the swimming part of the triathlon and the change-over between the sports in triathlon.

When you only keep the end target in mind, focussing on it might freeze you. When you focus on the different steps and parts to make it to your target, you’re focussing on how you’re doing your job in the best possible way.

To quote Steven Covey: “Begin with the end in mind”.

Set a target

One of the differences between a professional and many recreative athletes, is the principle of setting targets. When you want to improve upon something, whether it’s triathlon, squash or incident management, you’ll have more chance to success when you set a target.

The target will keep you focussed and allows you to measure progress, which motivates.

Set a realistic target

Simon has set his target for the 2014 Olympic Games to be in the top 8 of triathlon ranking. “Why not go for gold?” was the next question of the interviewer. Simon replied that he was aware of his capabilities and choose to pick a realistic target. A target where he needed to stretch himself, but which he could make.

I’m not sure what to do with this takeaway. I understand how this could work, but history has learned us that setting inspiring targets can work too.

See for example Microsoft, Apple and the Nasa.

President John F. Kennedy, May 1961: “I believe that 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”

Bill Gates, Microsoft: “A computer on every desk, and in every home”.

Steve Jobs, Apple: “What we want to do, is to change the way people use computers in the world.”

Use a coach

Unlike in the corporate world, in the sports world it’s very common to have a coach. A coach who coaches you, supports you, challenges you. The coach doesn’t have to be better than then athlete, but who is committed to the success of the coachee. A good coach will make you stick to the commitment of running 4 hours a week, even when it’s raining.

In the corporate world the same logic can be applied to the role of a coach. The coach doesn’t need to know it all, the coach doesn’t have to be older, … The coach needs to be committed to the success of the coachee, provide an honest mirror to him and motivate him when the going gets tough.

Know your limits

Simon works at continuous improvement, but he is aware of his (physical) limits. There will be a day when continuous improvement is not possible anymore. A big “transformation” will be needed then, maybe a change to a total new sport, like long distance running, he testified.

We often hear this remark at the work floor too: is it possible to keep on improving, even with tiny bits? Instead of improving peanuts (and violating the Pareto-rule), it might be interesting to question it all and try something new. To make a transformation.

Additional reading

The Making of a Corporate Athlete by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

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Improve team flexibility and continuity with skills matrix analysis

A skills matrix (also refered to as knowledge matrix) is a map or index of the team skills, listed by each team member and cross-referenced with the different areas or expertise.

The skills matrix is used for mapping the current skills, identifying potential harmful situations and taking action.
Uses for a skills matrix:

  • A skills matrix comes in handy when a new member joins the team and you want to get him up to speed.
  • When a team member leaves the team, the skills matrix can be used to identify possible knowledge gaps.
  • The skills matrix can be used proactively to guarantee team continuity.
  • Identify knowledge sharing and development needs between team members.
  • Installing cross-functional teams (in cross functional teams, team members have no specific speciality only, but a more generic profile).
  • Check the impact of key persons leaving the team: will it be a problem?
  • Increase team strength & flexibility, but also team spirit (eg. during the huddles team members will know each others areas better).
  • Create a RACI for the different areas of expertise: who are the SPOCs? Who are the experts to be consulted?
  • Identify which roles in the team need which skills (eg. soft skills vs. technical skills).
  • Set development targets.

Why do you need a skills matrix?

You need a skills matrix when you pick up following signals:

  • Estimations for new assignments are not made when key persons are not available.
  • Estimations for new assignments need to be approved or checked by key persons.
  • Permanence is difficult to arrange.
  • Statements like “if person X leaves, we will be in real trouble”.
  • Difficult arrangements for team continuity during the holiday periods (eg. summer vacation, Christmas).
  • Single Point of Confusion instead of Single Point of Contact.
  • Unclear responsibilities.
  • During a huddle, team members have no clue whatsoever what the other team member is talking about.

Skill matrix analysis

To score skills you can determine the criteria yourself:

  • None, insufficient, basic, good, expert
  • None, trained, coached, lead, training given, coaching given
  • Scoring on behaviour types

You can also use weights for both a horizontal and vertical analysis:

  • Horizontal: the extent to which every area is covered by different team members and expertise levels.
  • Vertical: the extent to which each team member is covering different areas and taking on different expert roles.

What can we learn form a skills matrix:

  • New team members will color red over the whole line. Use the skills matrix to set priority and focus for training purposes.
  • Identify key persons which are dominant in certain areas. Make sure these areas are also covered by more team members.
  • Identify knowledge gaps in certain areas.
  • Which team members have certain expert knowledge in areas which we don’t have (eg. Java knowledge in a .NET team).

Ready, set, go!

Setting up a skills matrix without taking further action is like creating a risk matrix without a mitigation strategy.
If you invest the time & effort to create one, don’t just hang it on the wall, but use it to take action and improve your team strength!
Next to each skill assessment you can add a target for the team member in that expertise area. Not all team members will have/need the same targets.

Further, the skills matrix is outdated from the click you use to close the file. People learn all the time.
So plan a recurrent update and action time slot in your agenda to check the progress.

Additional reading


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Dance your way into change

During large change efforts you need change agents. People convinced in the better of the change and willing to take the first steps, to make the first move.

This goes beyond management. Although getting sufficient management support from day one is an important need, you need change agents, change leaders, on the work floor too.

These profiles are the ones taking the first steps and showing the wanted behavior. Coworkers who are early believers will join and mimic their behavior. And by time more and more (believers or mimickers?) will join until the critical mass joins too.

Don’t invest too much time in those who are opposed. Work around them and try to get the masses into moving. Follow the high lights and invest in them.

The analogy of the dancing leader is shown in following video on YouTube:

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

It tells the story of one person dancing crazy at a festival. At first, people think “what the hell is he doing there?”. But after some time a first one joins, some more time is past and few others join, while at the end, the group is getting so big, you’re crazy if you would not join!

First Follower - Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

First Follower – Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy


When all those people start to dance on different places in different ways, it could be that you need choreography too. I saw this in action at another festival, Tomorrowland 2012. On a certain time during the performance of Yves V, there were multiple groups at multiple location trying to do the same dance. There was only one person who could see what was happening, but he could also see that it wasn’t going to work this way: it was the DJ. So he stopped the music and gave following feedback:

Ok Tomorrowland, listen. We are going to try and move this forward to epic proportion.
Every now and then you see a formation breaking out here and a formation breaking out there, and it looks absolutely amazing.
And I know you want to be part of it.
So what we are going to do: is just keep it simple. We’re going to move things forward, move things backward. Move things to the left, move things to the right. Ok?
Follow what you feel, do what you like, you don’t have to listen to me. It’s all about house music.
One two three four, backwards, forward.

The DJ took on the roll of coach here, not regarding if it was a manager coaching, or a designated coach (eg. lean coach). To give feedback, he used the feedback framework :

he described facts (multiple groups trying the same dance)
he described the effect it had on him (it’s not going to work out this way)
he gave advice (dance instructions)
and his advice was for you to consider (you can choose what you do, it’s all about the music)

To conclude, for making a successful change effort, you need believers willing to lead the dance and you need coaches to make sure we’re all dancing to the same beat. The rest will follow.

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Where are you on the honeymoon curve?

A colleague of me addressed me in the hallway about the difficulties his staff association is having.
The member involvement is declining and the board is also less committed to their activities.
They were in some kind of crisis situation now and the day after our talk I found an email in my inbox with a desperate call to the members to get involved as board member.

The story sounded familiar because the staff association we’re leading is having similar problems. We also see a decline in member involvement since “the good years” and the board is also questioning itself .
And then it hit me: both staff association were started about the same time somewhere in 2009.

Change transition & acceptance


Kubler Ross curve

Kubler Ross curve

It’s all about going through a big change and dealing with acceptance.

If we apply the theory of the Kubler Ross curve, aka. the change curve, we see that over time, after a period of excitement, a period of lowered performance follows. The theory has it origins in the different phase of dealing with grievance.

The same effect is noticed in other areas:

  • Culture shock: going to a foreign country might be exhilarating at first, but after a few week the food tastes bad, your stomach is sick and you get home sick. 
  • Learning shock: at first a new training program is inspiring and interesting, but after a while you get a kick back when the first assignments need to be delivered, when you have your first set backs, …
  • Honeymoon curve: the first years of marriage are the best. It’s new, you’re committed, but after a few years it becomes common practice and less exciting.

The good news is that there’s a way back up the curve again! The typical curve for relationships takes about seven years to go from the honeymoon feeling, through the depression valley, over the getting better highway to the honeymoon feeling again.


Some tips to deal with the situation:

  • Be aware that there’s something like the change curve (or whatever it’s called in your context).
  • Accept the fact that you’re going through it. No matter what.
  • Be aware better times will be coming
  • Bite through the hard parts.
  • Celebrate small successes.
  • Adjust your approach to the phase you’re in (for example used in case of coaching change).

Additional reading

Culture shock http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_shock

Kubler Roos Change Curve http://staff.napier.ac.uk/services/hr/Documents/Kubler%2520Ross%2520Change%2520Curve.doc

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin

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We read for you: (re)DISCOVERing VALUE – Leading the 3-D Enterprise to Sustainable Success

Rediscovering value - Leading the 3-D Enterprise to Sustainable Success

Rediscovering value – Leading the 3-D Enterprise to Sustainable Success

(re)DISCOVERing VALUE – Leading the 3-D Enterprise to Sustainable Success” is a book by Geary A. Rummler, Alan J. Ramias and Cherie L. Wilkins which describes the need for changing to a 3-D enterprise to gain sustainable success.

With the concept of a 3-D enterprise, the book describes the need of three-dimensional management of complex organizations on the resources, value and management dimension.

The book addresses the problem with resource management in organizations: the fact that there’s only one-dimensional management in the resource dimension.

Let me explain.

Resource management vs. end-to-end ownership

Currently in many organizations the performance is measured in budget spending of the different functional silo’s and not in value delivered to the end customer.

The result is a yearly battle for getting the most resources (money, human capital and other) for the specific silo’s in the organization. In this process, each manager does it best to acquire the best and most resources to optimize its own functional pool. Further, there are also no end-to-end value stream owners assigned with end responsibility for the process and it’s results.

The end result is that hard problems which affect the end customers are not solved because of silo politics and no end-to-end ownership.

When each silo get’s its budget to optimize, there could be continuous improvement in progress, but it could be done at the wrong places. Compare it with optimizing the chain of your bike while the rear tire is flat.

Pick up end-to-end ownership

So how could you as an organization grow out of this non-productive situation? By identifying the core value streams, laying organizational focus on them (top down) and assign resources to the places that need it.

If you have the process mapped, the RACI defined, the end-to-end owner assigned, critiques found, etc, you can optimize the process by assigning resources (yes, resources, not only money) to the areas which need it the most.

This implies that one year department X will get more of the resources, and maybe the other year department Y will get the most.

Key takeaways

Creating the value creation system:

  • Start with mapping the current state.
  • Assign end-to-end value stream owners.
  • Work top down with mapping the value stream, planning, budget rounds, performance measurements, …
  • Management involvement is important: let’s get your hands dirty.

Details of the value creation system:

  • Add possible errors, trends and corrective actions to your KPI explanation.
  • Add the reason WHY you are monitoring the KPI + what do you want to learn from it to your KPI explanation.
  • Divide budget by priority in value stream, not by bottom-up silo requests.

Working with the value creation system:

  • Avoid suboptimizing.
  • Technology changes only on specific request of the business.
  • Don’t make linear cost cuts, but look at the value stream and its priorities.
  • Cross-functional reporting per value streams and find solutions together. Overcome the “it’s not my problem” attitude.
  • Create an early detection system for problems so lagging actions are avoided.

Launching the new way of working:

  • Change will not happen overnight: this shift to value implies a culture change.
  • Use incremental changes to switch from the old system to the new. Wait with the next step until each step has proven itself.
  • If you start too many initiatives, you will lose overview and work floor engagement.

What will I do with the book?

I read the book but remain with an empty feeling. I have some key takeaways, but lack more information about bringing it to the next level. The book describes three generic processes, but remains at a high level. How would you switch from an old system which is in use for years to a new value based system?

The book uses a lot of charts and many details about the generic systems, but for me they are not adding value. There’s no use in studying a generic process like “product developed” because each step is so common, you could use it in any organization.

How would you bring a modern organization with many value creation systems of many kinds which are intertwined to the new way of working? The challenge remains and I guess it’s up to us to find our way and apply the key takeaways where possible.

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