5 Powerful Tools for Quick Situation Analysis

Today’s leaders need to rapidly understand evolving situations. How can analytical tools help you make these assessments? By providing a structure to help you brainstorm and organize your thoughts in a relatively timely manner… which in turn provides the building blocks for better decision-making. While many of these tools are meant to provide in-depth assessments, they can also be used for more abbreviated uses, including “back of the envelope” type analysis when speed is important. Here are five tools that can be used to help you analyze a variety of situations.

Analytical tools are a staple of business. They are available to assist with everything from strategic planning to problem solving to communications planning. You can use these tools by yourself, as a team, or at an organizational level. They range from conceptual frameworks to highly structured models that include formal step by step processes. Here are five tools that give you a wide range of options:

1. People-Process-Technology/Tools (PPT): This is my personal favorite because of the simplicity and flexibility it offers. Originally, this framework was used to understand and maintain balance between those three dynamics in business situations, particularly with process design and reorganization… and typically related to technology impact. However, it also can be used quickly to frame up any number of things; for yourself, or when brainstorming with teams.

I add Financial to this to make it more robust. Hundreds of times, I’ve used this construct as a “white board” exercise. I’ve used it to understand the implications of a new client satisfaction initiative for my own teams, to prepare a recommendation about adopting a new technology, and with clients to help them work through potential organizational changes. It’s amazing what you can uncover with this exercise… including downstream impacts, important ancillary issues, and traps to avoid. And yes, I have literally done this on the back of an envelope in “emergency” situations, where I had less than 10 minutes to prepare. I wrote the situation (or question) at the top of the page or envelope, drew 4 swim lanes with category headings and jotted down some quick details. I went into the meeting better prepared and mentally more organized.

There have been numerous updated versions of this construct over the years. Here is some additional information on the original People Process Technology.

2. MOST: stands for Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics. A lot of leaders have a hard time understanding (or, at least, explaining) how lofty mission statements become specific processes, actions steps or behaviors on the part of their team members. This powerful alignment tool helps you analyze how mission translates into action. It’s effective for both leadership teams and work groups alike. MOST helps refocus teams or business areas on organizational goals and better alignment from one level to the next. Again, while it’s an effective in-depth tool, it can be used to do a “quick study” of a situation. Here’s more on MOST.

3. STEEPLE: is primarily used as an external environmental scanning construct. The acronym stands for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical. It helps you look, as an organization, at all these factors in a structured way to better understand the external forces impacting your organization. For example, what are the trends around emerging technologies that could force major changes in your business, like your own early adoption, service delivery models, or pricing implications? For more on STEEPLE.

4. The 5C Analysis model is used for marketing purposes. It helps you analyze both internal and external factors impacting your marketing decisions. 5C stands for Customers, Competitors, Company, Collaborators, Climate. This is usually meant for in-depth assessment and strategic planning. Each one of these factors has you focus on multiple sub-factors. For example, Customers looks at: market segments, customer requirements and demands, market size and growth, retail channel and information sources, buying process, consumer trends, etc. I haven’t used this approach, but I know that it can be highly effective for those taking a deep dive. For more on 5C Analysis.

5. McKinsey 7S Framework: This is the ultimate organizational alignment tool. It guides you through a process that to understand where seven key internal elements are in sync and where they’re not. This framework was originally developed by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, who once worked for McKinsey. Terminology commonly used to discuss organizational dynamics has changed since then, but the basic construct is still very effective. It has been used for performance improvement, to aid strategy implementation, and for organizational change initiatives. The model is broken down into three Hard elements; Strategy, Structure, Systems, and Soft elements: Shared Values, Skills, Style and Staff. There’s a great Mind Tools article on how to use this model that includes worksheets.

I didn’t include tools like SWOT Analysis and Stakeholder Analysis because they’re very well-known and you’ve probably used one or both of them at some point in your careers. I also didn’t cover things like mind-mapping for similar reasons. However, the links above provide good explanations and tools.

For each of these analytical constructs, you can literally find dozens of sites that provide good content and supplementary tools for each of them. And there are many more analysis constructs to explore. Some people blend concepts or steps from one construct into another for a tool that better fits their unique business needs or analytical styles. Whether you use them to do in-depth assessment at an organizational level, a 10-minute “emergency” exercise, or anything in-between, you’ll develop a more thorough analysis of the situation at hand. And that typically leads to better decision-making.

11 Decisions To Make About Your Hybrid Team

What does it mean to return to work? For a lot of people, it means their organization is implementing a hybrid model. My question is — what does that mean? I’m sure you’re grappling with this question, too.


At one level, it’s about flexibility. Organizations are allowing more flexibility about who needs to be in the office, and when. On another level, it’s cost – financial, psychological, emotional. The hybrid solution is not one-size-fits-all. An organization I partner with is implementing a hybrid model that means everyone is in the office Tuesday through Thursday with flexibility on Monday and Friday. Others are viewing it as some people come back to the office full-time and others stay remote full-time. For others, the model will vary by work function. I could fill the better part of this blog with the various options that will be implemented.

No matter the option, the question leaders and their teams should be asking on a deeper level is what does this really mean for us? For how we operate? For how we build our team?

As you and your team move into the next new-way-of-working, here are some decisions you need to make:

11 Key Decisions About Hybrid Teams

  1. How will we fulfill our vision or purpose working this way?
  2. What does success look like for us in our hybrid model?
  3. How do we ensure we don’t slip back into patterns that no longer serve us?
  4. How will we apply the lessons learned from how we worked during the pandemic?
  5. How will we communicate to our customers – internal or external – about our work arrangements?
  6. How will we ensure strong collaboration across boundaries and silos?
  7. Will we need to be more intentional about how we build or maintain our culture?
  8. How will we measure performance?  Does our current approach to measuring performance give an advantage to people who are in the office? What if it was built for a completely onsite workforce?
  9. How will we ensure career growth?  How will we create visibility for those who are remote?
  10. How will you onboard remote team members?  Will it look different from team members who are in the office?  How do you make it feel highly engaging for both?
  11. How will we increase our diversity, equity and inclusion in our version of the hybrid model?
It’s a lot to think about.  How many of these decisions have you already made?
We partner with leaders who know they need to change how their teams or organizations operate and need help making it happen more quickly. Working with teams at inflection points is one of the things we do best.

When is Bad News Better than Good News?

When is bad news better than good news?

When you put off communicating important information to your organization until you have something “good” to say to them.

There’s an old saying that “no news is good news.” That may still apply to some things in life, but it’s decidedly untrue when it comes to communicating important information to your organization.

When people don’t have any or enough information about what’s important to them, what happens? One typical result is that they get anxious. And anxious team members are more distracted and less productive. In fact, in a recent business survey reported by McKinsey, “Employees who felt included in detailed communications about what’s decided and what’s still uncertain were nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity.”

Employees (and leaders) who don’t have enough information will also begin to develop their own ideas about what’s going on. They suppose something is true without having evidence to confirm it.  And then you’re playing defense against a difficult foe with multiple tentacles: the rumor mill.

Decades of leadership research and best practice application support the “over-communication” of information to employees when an organization is facing change, particularly during the most trying of times. That means direct, open communication on the status of what’s important to employees on a regular basis through multiple channels from all levels of management.

Some leaders have a difficult time dealing with uncertainty themselves and assume others will too. For them it’s tempting to “wait until we get it all figured out before we let people know what direction we’re going in.” What these leaders often fail to realize is that it’s a lot easier as a more senior leader to deal with uncertainty when you have much more real-time information available to you; and this is especially true if you have some control over the decisions and direction the organization is heading in.

It’s better to be frank with your teams about what the challenges are, what decisions have been made and what is still pending. Explain the competing variables the organization faces and trust them understand the complexity. It allows people to process information along the way. That makes the eventual decisions that are made easier for people to accept and adjust to because they will have felt involved along the way.

The competition for talent is never over and the best talent wants to feel that their leaders are making them part of the dialogue about what’s important. It’s up to leadership at all levels to share the news… good, bad, or incomplete.

3 Ways to Improve Your Strategic Thinking

You may have heard the story of the truck that was immovably stuck under a bridge and how the solution came from an unlikely source. If you don’t know it, I’ll share it at the end of this newsletter.

I was thinking about this story when recalling a professional meeting where the topic was developing a global mindset. One of the speakers was talking about their company’s research showing that experiencing another culture has a significant impact on one’s strategic thinking. “Experiencing” didn’t mean going there on a vacation. It was an immersive, longer-term experience, like ex pat assignments or managing a global team where you had to travel to work within their culture somewhat regularly.

The speaker noted that these assignments have this profound impact because they challenge your perceptions and perspectives of the world. These different perspectives allow you to be more nuanced in your thinking about how different parts of a whole interact, the variables that impact it, and the resulting implications. Your competitors are increasingly global, not just national or local. Therefore, such experiences help you to think more like (and outthink) your competitors, to anticipate trends, and to consider solutions and strategies from a broader array of possibilities.

How, then, can you stretch your perspectives to help develop your strategic thinking when working globally isn’t a possibility (or, at least, not yet)?

  • Regularly interact with people in a different function or area of the company. Marketers and engineers don’t think alike. Operations people think differently than researchers. See how someone different from you may experience the same issues or the organization itself.
  • Interact with those outside your industry.  For years, benchmarking was the buzzword when you wanted to get a more strategic perspective and to gain some competitive advantage. Benchmarking is often practiced with a closed-system approach. Life science companies benchmark other life science companies. Tech firms benchmark other tech firms. That’s important, but it’s also somewhat limiting, especially in a world where industries and disciplines are bleeding together like never before. The perspective of someone in a different industry about your issue or situation will cause you to think about the variables and interactions more broadly, more strategically. One of the things that made Steve Jobs so successful at product design was that he included perspectives he gained from things as diverse as digital animation, calligraphy and architecture.

When we hire people who are mostly like ourselves we multiply our strengths… but also our weaknesses and blind spots.

  • Hire people who are different from you. We’re all familiar with research which shows that diverse organizations are generally more successful. In addition to the typical diversity categories we’re used to thinking about (gender, race, age, etc.) we should look for diversity of thought, experience, and education, among many other factors. When we hire people who are mostly like ourselves, we multiply our strengths… but also our weaknesses and blind spots. Make sure to regularly ask those you’ve hired for their perspective and input on the business issues you are working to address.

Thinking about your daily business interactions expansively will help you develop the broader perspective needed for strategic thinking.

So, the story of the truck goes like this. The top of the truck was wedged against the underside of a bridge, and it could go neither forward nor backward. It just wouldn’t budge. Traffic was backed up and police and tow trucks were trying to figure out how to get it out. A little boy walked up and asked what was going on.  The police officer explained the dilemma. The little boy looked at him and said, “let the air out of the tires.”

10 Things that Keep You from Hiring Great People

Over the years, one of our most popular workshops is Accelerated Hiring.  That’s because hiring great people is one of the toughest and most impactful of leadership responsibilities.  A lot of hiring mistakes are self-inflicted.  Some are a function of the organization’s approach (or lack thereof).  As we come out of the Covid pandemic in the coming months, hiring will take off, and the competition for top talent will seem like a contact sport.

I love this article by Lou Adler about the 10 Things Managers Intentionally Do to Avoid Hiring Great People.  We address almost all of these in Accelerated Hiring.  See if any of these 10 things resonate with you:

  1. Filter candidates on skills and experience
  2. Target the wrong talent pool with the wrong message
  3. Using compensation to save time but prevent the best from being evaluated
  4. Looking for the person to fit the “perfect” job rather than modifying the job to fit the “perfect” person.
  5. Use of generic traits
  6. Believe gut feelings, first impressions and that the “halo effect” predicts performance
  7. Allow a hiring in your own image mentality to exist
  8. Use gladiator voting
  9. Accept a safe “no” vote with no proof that it’s justified
  10. Don’t make hiring managers responsible

Even the most experienced leaders can find it challenging when it comes to making such a critical talent decision.  Are you guilty of any of these?

Alignment + Agility = Competitive Advantage

Our previous two articles talked about creating alignment for success in 2021. First, your organization (and your teams) need a clearly articulated North Star and strategic clarity. Second, it is imperative to build a culture that reinforces alignment between how you work and what you aim to achieve. Alignment is essential for success. However, agility – in addition to alignment – will lead to competitive advantage.

Alignment without agility is stagnation.

Agility without alignment is chaos.

Over the past year, rapid response and breakneck adaptation have been watchwords for successful businesses in the COVID environment. The pace of that agile response has left people exhausted and organizations risking burnout among their teams. Some organizations have been changing so quickly that they have prioritized adaptation too highly. They are no longer aligned with or certain about their business strategy. And some feel they no longer recognize their culture. In a deep and dire emergency, business survival trumps culture.  Nevertheless, it has its negative consequences.

On the other hand, some of my clients are already worried that, as we approach a post-pandemic world, the desire for a sense of “normalcy” and decompression will result in a temporary, but dangerous stagnation. It could be very tempting to feed the longing for some stability, and focus too heavily on alignment, deprioritizing agility.

And therein lies the conundrum. Organizations that build and maintain competitive advantage create a balance between two competing elements: alignment and agility. It can be convincingly argued that the benefits of agility are only achieved within the context of ongoing alignment with strategy and culture. It is also a fact that change and alignment are, at their core, competing forces that require constant attention.

How can you create alignment and agility within your team?

  • Clearly focus on only a handful of strategic imperatives. And don’t assume clarity. Revisit those imperatives regularly with your team and discuss how the team’s work contributes to them. Use them as your guardrails.
  • Help strategy bubble up from the bottom.  People in the organization who are closer to the customers, operations and technologies often see opportunities and threats more quickly than executives do. In my HBR article, “5 Behaviors of Leaders Who Embrace Change”, I shared these two ideas for building this capability in your team:
    • Make opportunity-seeking part of the regular conversation. Simply asking questions like “What are our customers talking about? What do you think they will want a year or two from now? What new trends do you think will impact us?” sends the message that looking ahead is important. And that you value their input.
    • Advertise successes. Nothing breeds success like success. Tell the stories at company events and recognize team members who are looking ahead and identifying opportunities. Demonstrate that the status quo is not enough anymore.
  • Encourage experimentation and learn from failure:  Too often, traditional organizations’ first response to a risk is to ask, “Why?” Change agility requires leaders to ask “why not?” and to establish opportunities for pilots, prototypes, and experimentation. Experimentation is an integral part of R&D. While an overall strategy informs the researchers’ focus, any R&D scientist will tell you that there are sometimes dozens of experiments that don’t get results and that, without those failures, they wouldn’t have been able to find the successes.
  • Reallocate resources with discipline.  As Sulls’ and Homkes research found, organizations tend to move too slowly or move quickly but lose sight of the strategy. I consulted to an organization a few years ago where moving too quickly without discipline was hampering their ability to achieve results. The CEO had started the company and was the classic early-stage entrepreneur; extremely responsive to market needs, ready and willing to change strategy, and endlessly shifting resources. However, the company was not early stage anymore and this nearly sole focus on agility led to a complete lack of follow-through, very little alignment and was seriously impacting results. The board removed him and named a new CEO who added a new level of discipline to resource allocation through a combination of centralized oversight and distributed decision-making.

Start 2021 with the ideas we’ve discussed in these three articles – defining your North Star, creating strategic clarity, building a strong culture and creating aligned agility – and you will have improved your ability to thrive.

Our Most Read LinkedIn Articles of 2020

As we all welcome 2021, we thought we’d look back to 2020 and some of our most-read LinkedIn articles.


COVID has taught us that we can and must be able to change rapidly, to transform on the fly if need be. We’ve had no choice but to go more completely digital, transforming our customer, employee, student and supplier experiences. Truly listening with empathy, and being agile became key not just for leaders, but for everyone. Change can’t just be a priority for a few people at the top. It needs to be a priority for everyone. And, honestly, that’s kind of exciting. 

1. 10 𝑻𝒊𝒑𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝑯𝒆𝒍𝒑 𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒎 𝒊𝒏 𝒂 𝑫𝒊𝒔𝒓𝒖𝒑𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝑬𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒓𝒐𝒏𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕: http://bit.ly/3q8oMg

2. 𝑺𝒊𝒍𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝑳𝒊𝒏𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝑪𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅 19: http://bit.ly/3qbjpi0

3. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆… 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑾𝒆 𝑵𝒆𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝑳𝒆𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒔: http://bit.ly/39uetOF


NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions. Please let us know how we can help you in 2021.

Conversations On The Curve: Bob Kelleher

Boost Your Team’s Engagement

Employee engagement is a challenge even in the best of times. This year, Gallup shows only 36% of US employees are engaged. Why does this matter? Companies with high levels of engagement are 21% more profitable and 22% more productive.

One of the complicating factors this year is the unprecedented change in the economy and how work is getting done. So, what does employee engagement mean in a virtual world? How do I, as a leader, meet the challenge of engaging my team at a time when stress and distractions are so high?

In this interview, Edith talks with Bob Kelleher, a leading expert in employee engagement, and founder of The Employee Engagement Group.

Here’s our conversation!

To learn more about Bob Kelleher, click here.

 

7 Ways to Make Performance Review Discussions Easier… and More Effective

Performance management is a source of some frustration for most managers, especially having the “dreaded” review discussion. There are ways to make that conversation both easier and more effective.


It’s that time of the year again.  No, not the holidays.  Performance review and annual goal setting time. Many people dread performance reviews.  That dread is exacerbated this year by the exceptional circumstances we’ve all been living through.  It’s too bad this sense of dread is so prevalent. Performance reviews and feedback could be easier and more effective, if we reframe our thinking. Here are 7 tips to make performance reviews easier and more effective:

1. Change the label. The term “performance review” or “performance management” conjures up images of passing judgement on a person’s performance, on their worth. A “performance and development conversation” is a two-way dialogue. We are sharing perspectives, insights and ideas. It’s a partnership. How we talk with our team members can put people more at ease.

2. Change the focus. Make the review all about developing your team member. The focus of performance conversations should not be primarily about the rating we are giving someone or justifying a salary increase. It’s an opportunity to help this individual perform at the highest level possible, to build on their strengths and support their development. According to McKinsey, superior talent is up to eight times more productive than average employees.  The more time and sincere effort you invest in your employee’s development, the higher the return.

3. Start with empathy. Ask about the challenges and realities the person is experiencing – balancing work and child-care, caring for an elderly parent, managing remote or hybrid learning or just the loneliness of being remote. Ask at the beginning of the review. Even if you asked last week. You want to establish empathy as part of the review. Why? Besides being a good thing to do? Among employees who said they feel cared for by their employer, 94% say they feel personally engaged in their work compared to 43% of those who don’t. Furthermore, according to IBM research, organizations that score in the  top 25% of employee experience report nearly 3x the return on assets and double the return on sales when compared to organizations in the bottom 25%.

4. Simplify. Start with a high-level narrative that summarizes past performance, development needs and goals. Then launch into the review. But don’t just read it together. Instead, think about using these five questions to drive conversation:

  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • How well are you achieving your current goals?
  • How do goals need to change to meet new business strategy or goals?
  • How are your actions aligning with our values and culture?
  • What do you need to continue doing because you are doing it well? What do you need to stop doing because it’s not effective? What do you need to start doing instead?
5. Redefine accountabilities. In light of the exceptionally difficult year, we will want to remember to reframe our expectations. For example, is it realistic to think a salesperson will have the same level of sales as they did last year? 

6. Talk about expectations and reality.  
Discuss how those expectations can be managed against the realities mentioned above.  Ask for the individual’s thoughts on it. 

7. Focus not just on what was achieved but how it was achieved. 
For example, in remote environments, collaboration is more important but can be more difficult. Make sure people are clear on what is important for success.

Performance Reviews: 4 Tips for Better Strategic Alignment

Most managers and employees don’t know their own organization’s strategic goals. So, whether you’re reviewing a middle manager or a front-line supervisor, there are good reasons to make the discussion more strategic.  For starters, you’ll have more productive and effective leaders on your team; along with higher engagement and retention of key talent.   Here are 4 ways to make that happen.

These tips are designed primarily for immediate impact with your team members in their upcoming reviews, not for how you conduct the entire performance management process.  But if you carry these ideas into your ongoing feedback and coaching regimen next year, you’ll continue to build a team that delivers more value for the organization and helps each of them build more fulfilling careers.

Make business strategy and priorities central to the discussion.  Even executives sometimes lose the forest for the trees when it comes to appraisals.  In a conversation there is a tendency to focus on specific goals or behaviors rather than how they contribute to achieving the strategy itself.  Create an opening narrative for your discussion that provides an overview of your team member’s performance in light of your organization’s strategy. Then keep referring back to strategy as you break into specific content.

Have a conversation.  Shared responsibility for the discussion feels more engaging and will increase ownership of the results.  Asking questions is always an effective leadership skill.  Here it pays extra dividends.  How clear is your direct report on the business strategy and her role in making that happen?  What you’re looking for here is a way to frame up the discussion of their performance in a strategic way, even as you’re gaining information on how they perceive their performance and its alignment to strategy.

  • What business priorities do you think you made the biggest contributions to this year? Why?
  • Which of your goals do you feel was most aligned with (for example) client retention, and how so?
  • Which of next year’s business goals do you think our team will impact the most?  How do you see yourself supporting that goal?
  • What skill development would help you be a more strategic asset to the organization?
Make strategic alignment explicit.  That means drawing a straight line from strategy to business function to their role and finally, their goals.  For example… “John, you’ll recall that another one of our company’s biggest priorities this year has been to retain our biggest clients in the face of the pandemic.  One of our jobs was to provide systems enhancements that allowed for higher volumes of online traffic.  And I asked you to make that happen by getting your team to…”  Your most strategically plugged-in team members may require a lighter touch, but it’s important to be certain they’re fully aware how much their performance impacts specific organizational priorities.  And to keep it at the forefront of their mind.

Motivate with strategic involvement.  Explain how their future performance will impact their ability to advance to projects and roles that increasingly have more impact on strategy.  Link their ability to develop key skills to becoming a more valuable asset to the organization.  Ask them what part of the strategy motivates them the most.  Ask what roles, projects, and skills they think will help them get there.  Provide your input and agree to a plan.

You want your team to not only understand business strategy, and how it aligns with their work.  You want them to internalize it as part of what drives them to succeed.  You want to help them make it a part of how they develop skills and reach career goals.  This feeds into three of the biggest needs we all have… knowing what’s expected of me, knowing that my manager cares about me and knowing that what I’m working on matters.