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The Sensei Decalogue

  1. Most companies measure the wrong "unit" of performance - which means the majority of their performance improvement efforts are misdirected. Click here to learn in what way...

  2. Most companies measure individuals through their HR systems. Performance management systems are geared to individuals. Goals are largely assessed for individuals. Related costs are measured in terms of individuals as company assets primarily, and most talent management and leadership development has an individual focus.

    This is strange as most organizational results are not produced by individuals but by groups, committees and teams. The real unit of performance is the team, or group, or network. Yet team effectiveness is rarely, if ever, measured insofar as it directly translates to business results and performance. There are however, ways to do this, in real-time and relating to real results.

    Great individuals are important, but we know they can nullify their own talent and that of others when they relate and collaborate dysfunctionally (think of "star" sports teams that sputter out or self-destruct at high pressure moments).

    Strengthening the most critical teams in your organization, in the context of their business accountabilities is the fastest and most effective way to improve your organization.

  3. There is a critical component to business performance that comes from human performance. Yet this has not been defined or studied in the context of its link to business performance. Click here to read about the Human Performance model and how to leverage it for strategic business results.

  4. One of the primary ingredients of business performance is human performance. In other words, how our human assets act, interact, behave, collaborate and engage with each other in functions, across functions, within and between teams. Yet human performance as an overall component of business results is not explicitly measured or tracked. This seems crazy!

    In fact, without measuring the impact of human performance, the things we are measuring are likely to be symptoms of what are often human performance issues. After all, who does the leveraging of resources, who manages costs, builds and maintains brands, serves customers, innovates, and more?

    In algebraic terms, human performance would be the "x" factor. Human performance multiplied by company assets and company capabilities (themselves manifested through the actions and interactions of leaders and teams) delivers business results.

    Our 20 plus years of global consulting, research and interaction reveals FOUR KEY COMPONENTS to human performance:

    Sensei White Paper Human Performance Index
    1. LEADERSHIP FOR DRIVING GROWTH. Setting the right visionary goals, allocating and prioritizing resources, mentoring and role modeling, removing obstacles and making sure the right things are done and followed through on.
    2. TEAMS THAT WIN. Ensuring the right teams are established, in the right roles, with meaningful resources and accountability. Ensuring these teams become net capability multipliers and are focused on and acknowledged for progressing meaningful priorities for the business.
    3. DRIVING FOR RESULTS. Making sure we track progress in real-time, test assumptions in the crucible of results, create successful relationships with customers, enable innovative ideas and choose the ones to back.
    4. TALENT AS A PATH TO PERFORMANCE. Getting recruitment and induction right, giving people goals that ensure both they and the business grow, coaching and developing them and recognizing and rewarding the right behavior and outcomes.
  5. The organization chart supposedly describes how work takes place in your organization and the hierarchical links between people. Yet there is more than one paradigm of the organizational chart and three critical possibilities. Click here to find out what they are.

  6. The organizational chart is our theory of how we want the organization to work. However very few organizations studied report that their organizational chart accurately describes how work is actually done.

    Firstly, some work is done in ways that are far less ideal than envisaged by the organizational chart – with greater confusion, inefficiency, breakdowns and opportunity costs. Ask any organization if they can say for sure this doesn't happen to any great extent. Virtually no one will say so.

    Then ask where these pockets of missed opportunity or ineffectiveness are. Most of us don't know.

    Secondly, some work is clearly done as described by the organization chart. That doesn't mean it's ideal – it just means it's compliant. Here the "Three Lenses" approach pioneered by Sensei can help. You can view the key processes, work flows and business interactions as described by your organizational chart as follows.

    The Three HPI Lenses

    In evaluating them, we have to look through THREE LENSES.

    1. Are systems and processes present for each of these areas? Have they been institutionalized or are they ad-hoc?
    2. Are they acted on as described, and subject to review and continual improvement so they can be simplified, amplified and made more powerful?
    3. Is the quality of engagement present that will make these more than a charade – that will make them vital, living activities that build relationships, capabilities and results?

    Thirdly, some activities may take place in ways that are superior to what is portrayed in your organizational chart. However, as they are currently outside the "norm", they are likely to be stealth initiatives. This means you can't study them or learn from them. Therefore we have to identify and learn from positive as well as negative deviances.

    Finally, we should note that the purpose of hierarchy, as established by the organizational chart is to indicate who takes key decisions and where accountabilities lie. It was never meant to determine the nature, or subservience of relationships. But as we have wrongly turned hierarchy into the primary basis for relationships, this is a rich vein of opportunity to mine and tap in creating positive change.

  7. Most strategies look far better on paper than they do in execution. There is a simple reason why, and it can be addressed far more readily than we think. Click here to find out what it is.

  8. The primary reason that strategies look better on paper than they do in fact is lack of alignment. It seems axiomatic, but if so, the understanding is honored more in the breach than in the observance.

    Strategies have to be converted into organizational priorities, and the goals and accountabilities of key leaders, departments and functions have to be synergized and aligned. Until they are, each faction will promote its own agenda.

    It is also a fiction that stating a strategy in overall terms means it is understood in terms of implementation or execution realities, or that necessary trade-offs have been understood or agreed.

    When we, using a simple diagnostic, get senior leaders to assess how aligned they are in strategy and tactics, we often find they're not even aligned on whether they are aligned!

    Exceedingly capable people fall into this because of lack of communication and engagement, not lack of intellectual ability or business acumen.

    Try this. Get senior leaders to list the key initiatives they are working on. Then separately, have each initiative graded based on whether it "advances the strategy", is "neutral to the strategy" or "goes against the strategy" (in some ways at least). Color code these as green, amber and red. And then put these up.

    You'll see an ocean of amber and red. It is also an ocean of improvement opportunity!

  9. The most powerful and penetrating way to assess your vision is ignored as leaders lack the courage for it. Click here to find out how you can make sure you don't join that club.

  10. Many companies state a "Vision". Many of these are not in fact a Vision primarily; they are a statement of objectives.

    A Vision is an envisioned aspirational future...hopefully it also embodies a cause, a reason why, a sense of purpose.

    But having stated a meaningful Vision, one that expresses an aspirational future, is underwritten by some core purpose (the why), is to be brought to life via key strategic priorities (the what) and cultural values (the how), rarely do organizations test the reality of this.

    We have helped companies conduct a "Vision challenge". They, in advance of their business planning cycle, invite key stakeholders (customers, partners, peers, internal influentials) and ask them to assess the success and vitality of the Vision and provide both feedback (how the company has been doing) and "feedforward" (requests for the future).

    In addition to bringing the "outside in" as John Kotter calls it, this throws down a powerful gauntlet. If you do this annually, it will be hard to face such a group if you haven't raised the bar or acted on what you heard as way to move the goal-posts forward.

    To have a Vision and never expose it, in living terms, to those who actually and regularly experience your real strategies, tactics, behaviors and choices is both bizarre and unfortunate.

  11. Here is the greatest untracked cost in companies and yet we cut everything else to the bone and let these proliferate. Click here to find out what they are.

  12. The greatest untracked cost in companies is untracked commitments.

    How many meetings and Conferences take place, at what cost, for people to fill flip charts and to be inundated with deadening Power Point presentations that result in stated intentions that are never seen again, never tracked and virtually never acted upon?

    Conferences rarely get people to really confer. They hear presentations. They fill up largely pointless charts in "workshops". They have utterly unrelated team-building exercises that are at best a sugar high (as they are not integrated with the overall experience). And then they socialize, largely in pre-established cliques, as little has been done to help them to meaningfully connect or engage.

    We believe that Conferences and meetings should be based on what we call "radical action conversations". They are "radical" in that they address root, core issues of consequence to the team and organization. They are "action" based in that they should deliver forward momentum that is tracked and built on thereafter, through leaders and teams that are given clear accountability. And they involve real dialogue and courageous engagement, role-modeled and facilitated by leaders.

    Three checkpoints:

    • Leadership time should be about resolving issues, co-creating future commitments and priorities, taking key decisions, not just "reporting" things people can easily read or finessing real issues.
    • It's not meaningful leadership time if it doesn't create a sense of shared ownership and mission-relevant esprit de corps, not generic "team-building".
    • Leaders have to create opportunities outside these formal get-togethers to confer, to consult early, and to "check IN" with, not "check ON" each other.

  13. It is axiomatic to say "change is difficult" and that "no one likes change". Meaningful change is actually easier than anyone thinks, and you can prove it to yourself. Click here here to find out how.

  14. Change is only hard because of the way it is embarked upon. It's true that top-down, leader-mandated, hierarchically imposed and bureaucratically administered (with all the hoopla, bells and whistles of many change programs complete with decoder rings and t-shirts) is hard — and it should be!

    But instead if you identify the key influentials in your business — those people at various hierarchical levels who have a disproportionate (to their role or level) impact, are listened to, are deferred to, exercise non-hierarchical leadership among peers, and first "stress test" the proposed change with them, you are halfway home.

    Refine your understanding based on that, and sharpen the bull's eye. Then create teams made up of these influentials that advance key projects that will deliver the change. And let these teams represent the entire organization, and become a lab for leadership development, building teams, and delivering change. These teams can become coaches and assets for each other, sharing best-practice and creating positive momentum.

    Let change therefore be validated, vivified and driven forward by leaders throughout the organization through pragmatic projects.

    Let senior leaders integrate and share learnings (setting up listening posts and relay stations) and ensure calibration and course-correction takes place.

    Let these things happen and change becomes bracing, and exhilarating and as exciting as experiencing a new play, activity, skill, restaurant or relationship.

    Fake change is hard. It is the elevator music of organizational transformation.

    Real change is an exciting challenge...let it be owned and energized by those who can help you make it real.

  15. Many people suggest that discretionary effort is the Holy Grail. They're wrong. It can actually be very dangerous. Click here to find out why.

  16. Discretionary effort is certainly valuable. After all, you can order "compliance". But you can't order "commitment". You can't order it because you can only see the difference between the two over time.

    Also real commitment leads you to doing things that can't be ordered, or mandated, or even anticipated. It makes you seek for ways to make things better. It's not just the extra mile, it's the right mile.

    However, if you don't focus discretionary effort and align it, you can have lots of excited people seeking to raise the bar in eccentric and poorly synchronized ways.

    The Holy Grail is actually focused discretionary effort, delivered collaboratively in ways that have a multiplier effect and which reinforce and build on each other.

    Discretionary effort shows that people know the bull's eye, agree it matters, care about delivering it (because it's meaningful and they feel it would be good for them as well), and would be proud to have made it happen. These set of conditions are far too powerful to fritter away.

    Focus, align, remove interference, and ensure we aren't blunting the cutting edge of such initiative by poor coordination.

  17. Companies think the aim is to get people passionate. It's an insulting and misguided idea...and gets in the way of the real opportunity. Click here to find out what it is.

  18. Passion is natural. Its absence is unnatural. We hire passionate people. No one who seems lackluster, dispirited or feckless would be hired by any top company.

    And if joining that company represents a good opportunity, most people would be naturally passionate to do well, to thrive, and to contribute. No one sane wakes up to say, "How can I wreck my company, my own prospects and peace-of-mind, and create a real mess for everyone?"

    Passionate people often enter companies, and many times the passion is sucked right out of them. Companies become institutionalized "passion killers".

    Rather than seeking to instill passion, we should be studying how we kill it — and get that interference removed. Become a student of your own passion killers. Prioritize those you will most go to war on — based on those you can most readily remove and that would have the greatest salutary impact if removed.

    You can also understand the passion liberators for your industry, size and nature of business, geography and cultures, and those that cut across all of these — and make your leadership about taking a stand for them. These aren't "soft". These are however the "software" of effectiveness.

    We also invite you to consult the book LIBERATING PASSION: HOW THE WORLD'S BEST GLOBAL LEADERS GET WINNING RESULTS by Omar Khan.

  19. Most problem solving back-fires as it has a recurring Achilles Heel that actually prolongs problems and may make them chronic. Click here to find out how to move past this.

Most attempts at solving problems look at their "technical" components. But the question to ask is, "Why has this problem not already been solved?"

Technical solutions can involve putting in better technology, improving systems, restructuring, cutting costs, adding additional people, developing a new product and many others.

However the nub of the problem is often the "adaptive" dimension — how people will need to adapt, evolve, change, interact and connect in order to really resolve the problem.

Every problem has 'technical' and 'adaptive' dimensions. When we deal only with the former, the problem remains unresolved, mutates, or takes on a new dimension.

When we deal with the adaptive issues, we get to the core of many problems, and we enable the technical improvements to deliver full value.

When people say, "Let's deal with the substantive matters first, and then we'll get to the relationships," they've got it backwards, and have signed up for prolonged, expensive bouts of futility. The relationships are the substantive matters, and if we get those sorted first, then better technical solutions will emerge — including those that couldn't have been envisaged before. And more to the point, they'll come online and be really delivered.