The Power of 360 Assessments In the Evolving Workplace

By Patty Crabtree, Sr. Consultant

Back in math class, you learned 360 degrees meant to go full circle, a whole circuit, the complete cycle, or a literal round trip. In other words, to circle around to get a full view. In today’s evolving workplace, leaders are taking a complete new full look at the 360 assessments.

by Gerd Altmann

Beginning in the 1990s, the natural desire to improve the performance of leaders through feedback gave rise to the popularity of 360 assessments. The objective was using these assessments is to create high-performing organizations by tapping into the collective feedback of many colleagues, rather than just a top-down approach.

In today’s evolving hybrid work environment, 360 assessments can be an important tool. The fundamentals of remote interactions are different than having everyone in the office. Attaining meaningful feedback regarding interpersonal interactions can help guide a company leadership and overall team training. Meaningful dialogues can lead to individual and company development plans that support the desired growth and success.

That is the power; however, there is a danger. The amount and level of training of those providing 360 assessment feedback can impact the level of accuracy of the feedback. There can also be a lack of follow through with the feedback. Without guidance from a trained professional, bias may distort the value of the feedback.

But there is a way to avoid this feedback peril.

Why The Waning Effectiveness?

Naturally to some degree people are resistant to feedback. We all have defenses against feedback, so the process needs to be mediated by someone who is trained to do this.

Before using 360 assessment assessments, some people are curious about the origins of the approach. It all began around 1930 when military psychologist Johann Baptist Rieffert developed a methodology to select officer candidates for the German army.

by Dorothe

The jump to the business world occurred in the 1950s when the Esso Research and Engineering Company gathered information on employees, which arguably is the first recorded business use of the technique.

Also called multi-rater assessments, 360 assessment feedback is a process through which feedback is gathered from an employee’s supervisors, subordinates, and colleagues, as well as a self-evaluation by the employee themselves. The 360 assessments can be contrasted with downward feedback from the boss or upward feedback delivered to managers by staff.

Over the years, 360 assessments have lost some of its effectiveness. This is due to many factors. Automation has taken away from the meaningful aspect of the feedback. A lack of creating development plans and holding others accountable to their growth commitments has lessen the impact. Follow through on growth commitments wane as other priorities take over. These assessments have become routine and just part of the process.

A worst-case scenario is to just grab some 360 assessment tool from the Internet and let the recipients interpret the feedback from the various people on their own. Looking for the cheap option does not make it the best approach.

360 assessments, done in an effective and meaningful way, can be a powerful tool for development. Being curious about the feedback as opposed to just gathering the data can elicit more opportunities for growth.

An automated approach limits the opportunity for this curiosity. Many automated systems will have options to rate multiple factors on a scale of 1-5, which is typically done anonymously. People can be skeptical of the anonymity and will give high ratings or incomplete feedback fearing potential backlash or just wanting to check this process off their list. They don’t see change from the effort of providing worthwhile feedback so there can be ambivalence to the process.

The Return of the 360 Assessment Gift

Feedback is a powerful growth tool. Understanding how others view your performance and your impact on those around you can make your stronger. Feedback is truly a gift.

Recently, one growing company decided to perform a 360 assessment on their senior leadership. They had weathered the pandemic, implementing some hybrid positions and were seeing a post-pandemic rebound. Their first reaction was to take operations back to the way it was done prior to 2020. This is what they knew, what was comfortable and a quick response to meet the client needs. It caused some conflict as staff were looking to continue the new ways. On top of this, they also faced a change in senior leadership as a retirement occurred.

by Headway

They wanted to take embrace the evolution, but leadership had some blind spots. They needed to know if they were ready for everything coming their way and decided to get a better understanding of how leadership was being viewed.

Using the 360 assessments, a picture was painted showing the strengths of the team along with opportunities to grow their leadership skills. There was an opportunity to embrace the changes the pandemic brought and enhance communication. The leaders listened to the feedback and heard the messages shared.

They created a developmental plan to strengthen the areas where staff felt some growth needed. Leaders saw how they were holding back the company’s momentum by not embracing the lessons learned over the past few years. They also understood how they needed to step up communication to ensure everyone felt included and were clear on the company’s vision. The lessons of a hybrid work environment became a larger part of their culture.

We also worked with them to keep the conversation alive and provide tools for the leaders to meet their goals. By using a professional coach, leaders had a safe environment to share their successes and struggles and discuss new ways to embrace the opportunities.

Avoid the Misuse of the 360 Assessment

Any tool can be used for good or for harm.

Some people see 360 assessment feedback as punitive and unproductive. This comes from how companies use this tool. It is not a process to check off the list but an opportunity to have thoughtful feedback that can support growth and change.

by Jason Goodman

Lighthouse Consulting uses an interview style and collaborative approach to the assessment. We partner with the organization to help ensure the feedback is effective and inspires change. We have conversations with the participants to elicit meaningful feedback and cultivate a deeper understanding of the individual’s strengths and opportunities. Follow up questions happen in the moment that supports a more effective discussion of their observations.

Debriefing with each client helps manage the potential emotional response to the feedback. This partnering method puts the focus on the opportunities and empowers the leaders toward growth. This partnership continues through coaching to achieve the desired goals.

When successfully implemented, 360 assessment feedback can be a game-changer for a business. This process can initiate positive changes and provide more accurate performance evaluations leading to accelerated professional growth.

When professionally conducted, interpreted and coached, the results can be significant. Without a trained professional, the value of their results can be diluted and meaningful change lost in the process.”

If you are open to a conversation about the 360 assessment process or how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style and personality assessments for new hires and staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching, and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division. For more information, please visit our website, to sign up for our Open Line webinars and monthly Keeping On Track publication.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Protecting The Workplace

By Howard F. Fisher, Esq.

What is keeping you up at night as you consider returning to the office?

Employers and employees are navigating a rapidly changing landscape of workplace safety concerns from policies touching on vaccine or mask requirements; potential of political or civil unrest; employee and guest vaccination status; remote or hybrid work, scenarios; and a full return to an in-person workplace environment that will look and feel very different than it was prior to the pandemic.

Further adding to the concerns is the unfortunate situation where employees may have experienced economic difficulties, increased domestic tension or other impacts that will increase the risk or opportunity for workplace violence to occur.

Employers Have a Duty To Provide a Safe Workplace

Employers must maintain “a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm …”, according to OSHA/MOSHA requirements.

Failing to prevent workplace violence is expensive. The human cost of workplace violent acts is immeasurable. The financial impact can cripple a business. Medical bills covering physical and psychological support for victims and witnesses, liability expenses, negligence lawsuits and physical site damage can be extensive.

As employees return to work, there has never been a better time to review physical security as well as workplace violence prevention policies.

Understanding the gaps in your organization’s physical and technical security is a critical first step in prevention-focused security risk management. Workplace violence prevention programs cannot and should not only protect employees as they face these situations, but also prevent a perpetrator from committing violent acts in their own or their victim’s workplace and includes but is not limited to physical violence, threats or threatening behavior communicated through verbal, written, electronic or physical means.

Physical And Technical Security Assessment

Employers should consider an independent assessment of security gaps for their facilities. Assessments may include one or several facility types to allow for a holistic assessment of overall gaps. Facility types may include multi-tenant Class-A office buildings, corporate headquarters or integrated complexes, mixed-use properties, retail and shopping centers, event halls, embassies, data centers and critical infrastructure sites.

The strategic scope of the assessment should cover factors such as risk, threat and vulnerability profile; geography and local environment; criticality of operations; sensitivity of information used, stored or generated; size of facility and number of personnel; regulatory mandates; and internal risk criteria.

The tactical scope of the assessment should focus on factors such as perimeter alarm systems; access control systems; closed-circuit television coverage; intrusion detection systems; fire and life safety systems; emergency plans; mail and package delivery; and backup power availability and adequacy.

Work-Place Violence Prevention Policy Assessment

As an employer, you have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to respond and intervene when the reported actions of an individual or group threaten your workplace. The goal of a workplace violence prevention program is to enhance employee safety and identify opportunities for early intervention to assist employees who may be in crisis.

When some people think of workplace violence prevention programs, they imagine acts of violence and punitive zero tolerance policies. But a properly developed and effectively implemented program prioritizes prevention and creates an environment of trust, respect and courtesy, so when issues arise anywhere (including in the home) employees feel comfortable bringing them forward.

Employers should examine existing policies in critical areas such as onboarding, employment screening, privacy, compliance and issue resolution and escalation. assess their current programs with the goal of creating a security roadmap that:

• Gains a baseline understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in current policy.
• Advances the company’s ability to prevent, mitigate and respond to incidents.
• Incorporates threat assessment into your plan.
• Factors in best practices in emergency preparedness planning.
• Views the company’s security risk management program holistically.

Assessments will identify gaps and opportunities for improvements and provide guidance on execution. The analysis should include key functions and departments such as Security, HR, Operations, Legal, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and line management.

Closing the Gaps In Workplace Security Has Long-Term Benefits

Employers today are tackling a spectrum of issues ranging from post-incident internal investigations and messaging to employee populations deeply concerned about their own safety, to formal workplace violence prevention program development and – very importantly – the broader framework and integrity of each company’s respective physical and technical security protocols and practices. Here are some resources as well as the link to the LCS Open Line event on the same topic:

Additional Resource Links

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC Open Line event
Advancing best practices in workplace violence prevention

Jensen Hughes Service Offerings
+ Workplace Violence Prevention
+ Security Assessments
+ Active Assailant Awareness and Response Training

Jensen Hughes Publications
+ Workplace Violence Prevention in the Automotive Industry
+ Creating a HR Services Workplace Violence Prevention Program
+ Improving Security while Workplaces are Empty

External Resources
+ US. Department of Labor: OSHA Workplace Violence page
+ Federal Bureau of Investigation: Active Shooter Resources page

Taking an all-in approach to workplace violence prevention is vital to protecting people, property, performance, and reputation. Aligning security and safety with strategic business issues such as production and profitability brings broad business benefits that include increased workplace security, higher employee morale, greater cross-functional collaboration and information sharing, and uninterrupted business operations.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022 Jensen Hughes and Lighthouse Consulting Services.

Howard F. Fisher, Esq. a senior vice president with Jensen Hughes, advises on security risk consulting. He works with senior executives and their legal counsel who want to better manage security risk and emergency management. Jensen Hughes, a leading safety, security, and resiliency professional services firm, is a joint venture partner with Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC. Howard has held executive positions at several large professional services firms and corporations where he was entrusted with rapidly increasing responsibility for the strategic, operational, and financial performance of multiple teams.

Don’t read the horrible headlines about other businesses and think it will never happen to you. Hopefully you may never need their services, but isn’t an ounce of prevention worth looking into?

To learn more, click here:

If you are open to a conversation about how to better manage security risk and emergency management, please contact or 312.560.0336.

We strongly recommend you sign up with Howard to receive a 24-hour hotline number to call in an emergency. If a security or violence problem hit your business, who would you turn to? Sadly, workplace violence is becoming more commonplace. Obviously, this is not something you want to do at the last minute. When something happens that is not the time to scramble for help. Having the 24-hour hotline number to call can give you a measure of peace of mind.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style and personality assessments for new hires and staff development. Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops on team building, interpersonal communication, and stress management.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code, and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to:


First Things First: Set Your Family Governance Plan for Success

Some Tips to Preserving Your Wealth, Your Family and Your Legacy

By Ken Ude

My lifetime business mentor taught me that if a business has a strong Mission Statement and defined Values, tough decisions become easier to make. A strong Mission Statement and defined Values become your moral compass. The same holds true for families. If you know who you are and what you stand for, family decisions become easier. In the process of discussing who you are what you stand for, the family unit becomes closer and more aligned. In working on a Plan to build your family’s foundation you become stronger as a family unit. This is particularly important for families of wealth.


For the past 10 years PwC has done a worldwide survey approximately 500 family businesses to identify emerging trends. One of the findings of the 2021 PwC Family Business Survey was a strong correlation between defined and written values and overall business performance. Well defined and written values promote:

Better performance. 58% of family businesses with values in a written form saw growth vs 52% Those family businesses that did not.
More transparency. 77% of family businesses with values in a written form say information is shared in a transparent and timely way between family members, vs 54% for those that did not.
More supportive staff. 54% of family businesses with values in a written form provide emotional/mental health support to staff, vs 39% for other family businesses.
Better prepared for succession. 41% of family businesses with values in a written form have a robust, documented and communicated succession plan in place vs 20% for other family businesses.

I believe that wealth is relative. You don’t have to have a multimillion-dollar portfolio to have some of the challenges that come with wealth. If you have significantly more money that your prior generation you can run into some of the same issues many HNW families face: poor communications, lack of mutual trust, misunderstandings, entitlement, lack of motivation and not understanding the responsibility that comes with wealth.

Learn From Others: Build your personal network and learn from others by joining YPO, Vistage, FOX or other family business peer groups.


Where do you start to set your family up for success? It depends on your definition success and what you want your Family Legacy to look like. Some of the components of success that many families consider include:

• High functioning and motivated youth.
• The operating and/or investment businesses beating all benchmarks.
• Great stewards of the wealth.
• Good balance between business, family, community, faith and personal growth.
• Supportive communications.
• Family unity and having fun together.

Defining and creating a plan for success starts with a well-defined “business plan” for the family. A Plan that defines Mission, Vision and Values. A Plan that creates communications, transparency and governance. A Plan that addresses the purpose of the wealth and stewardship of the wealth. A Plan that educates and motivates the next generations to be entrepreneurial and to create additional wealth to extend you legacy. When you tie all of these topics into one document you have effectively created a Family Constitution.


Before diving into the components of a Family Constitution, we need to consider the different aspects of wealth. Wealth is not just financial in nature. In his book Family Wealth, Keeping It in the Family, James Hughes, Jr, outlines that family wealth is more than financial. There are three different capital accounts: financial capital, intellectual capital and human capital.

Human Capital: consist of the individuals who make up the family including effective parenting, communications, consensus building, conflict resolution, leadership training, values, morals, ethics, spirituality and goal setting.
Intellectual Capital: is comprised of the knowledge gained through the life experience of each family member, or what each family member knows including education, career choices, coaching and mentoring, governance and the rights and roles of trustees and beneficiaries.
Financial Capital: is the movable and immovable property that it owned. Financial capital allows the Human and Intellectual Capital to grow and flourish. Topics include creating wealth, managing and investing wealth, effective transfer strategies, financial parenting and understanding the psychology of money.

A legacy family understands and executes a Plan to build on each of these Capital Accounts. As you start to think about your constitution and governance structure you need to consider and make provisions to build each of these Capital Accounts within your family unit.

Ask the Following Questions … Often:  Who, What, Where, When, Why, How, How Much


The Constitution of the United States defines how the Country will operate. It is a concise statement of national principles that has evolved to meet the changing needs of a modern society. The preeminent book in creating a Family Constitution is The Legacy Family, by Lee Hausner and Douglas Freeman. They point out that “a very common step used by Legacy Families is the create of a Family Constitution, which formally sets the rules for the family’s governance, power sharing, communications and problem solving”. A Family Constitution normally includes some of the following topics:

Mission Statement. The Mission Statement defines who your Family is and what it stands for.
Values. What you believe is defined in your Values. Examples of family value statements can include:
– Honesty
– Humility
– Integrity
– Giving back
– Caring for others
– Empathy
– Faithful
Vision Statement. If Forbes profiles your family’s journey 40 years from now … what do you want the headline and the message of the article to be? Were you good stewards of all of your Capital Accounts and leave a lasting Legacy, or did you come up short? An inspirational Vision Statement can become the North Star for your Family’s journey.
Governance. Think about how your family is going to make decisions in the different areas of its journey. Who is going to decide what and in what manner? What areas do you want non-family members involved? Do you need an Investment Committee? Small families might not need a Family Council, where larger ones do. If there is an operating business, who oversees it and how? Who will be the next leader of the business and how does that transition occur? Does the Family Office need an advisory body? Who do these governance polices apply to? Your governance structure should reflect that families are dynamic as they grow and change. Allow for that to happen.
Family Employment Policy. If you have an operating business or a family office a Family Employment Policy can be helpful. It defines under what conditions a family member can enter, be employed or exit the family business. Consider some of the following questions:
– What education is required?
– Does the candidate need to get outside experience before entering the business?
– Does there need to be a legitimate business reason for the position?
– Do they get paid the same as non-family members?
– How are promotions handled?
– Who do they report to?
– Can they get terminated?
– What family members do these policies apply to?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all of the above defined and agreed upon in writing, before your brother calls and says that his son lost his job and is hopeful that you can give him one …
Communications Plan. “If they don’t know the truth, they will make something up” … and it will become their truth, so it is better to get ahead of this train right at the beginning with open communications and transparency. People learn and digest information differently. Some are verbal learners. Some visual. Understand how the different members of your family absorb and process information and tailor your communications plan accordingly. Define who gets access to what information. At what age? At what level of detail? What about spouses and in-laws? Define the timing and cadence of the flow of information. What information do you want accessible daily, vs monthly, vs quarterly or for an Annual Report.

Model the Behavior that You Want Your NextGen to Have:
• If you want them to work. Go to work.
• If you want them to be healthy. Live a healthy lifestyle.
• If you want them to be humble. Be humble.

Education Plan. Education is about helping family members become the best version of themselves as possible. This includes formal academic education, continuing education, retreats, seminars, motivation, inspiration. Define, in writing, what funding is available to whom, for what, and what is the expected outcome.
Financial Literacy is really important. Not everyone is a ‘numbers person’ but to be a responsible owner I believe that every adult family member needs to be able to read and understand an Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows. Moreover, they need to understand investment performance benchmarks to be able to access whether their operating company and their portfolio is performing to expectations. Building business and financial acumen should be an important part of the Communications and Education plan. Financial Intelligence, A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Medan by Karen Berman and Joe Knight does a good job of explaining numbers in a non-accounting way.
• Family Health. Most families make family health a priority and make resources available to support it. If it is also important to you define to what extent your family’s wealth will support. Covering health insurance premiums might be in the Plan, while paying for yoga classes might not be.
The Family Bank can be used to spur NextGen entrepreneurial spirit. This is an interesting concept. Assume that the family business is in manufacturing, but someone in the NextGen has NO interest in manufacturing but does have an interest in restaurants. The Family Bank could be tapped into to secure a franchise so that the NextGen can learn if they really like the restaurant industry, or if it was a passing fade. There is one Orange County family that used their family bank to motivate the NextGen’s to learn about real estate and become real estate investors. Some of the ground rules of their bank was: a) The investment had to be in real estate. b) There had to be a formal business plan. c) The Plan had to be approved by the Family. d) The funding was in the form of a no-interest loan. e) The loan had to be paid back within 18 months. If these conditions were met, the father would make all of the resources of his company available to the project. You can guess that the father was a successful real estate developer an investor.
Philanthropy and Giving Back. Your family plan may wish to address your desires and plan to give back.
Family Fun. A family Governance and Communications program cannot be all work and no play. You need to weave some fun and team building into the program. Best in Class families create a series of:
– Family Meetings, to make sure the communications remain open and transparent.
– Family Retreats, that are a combination of business updates, personal development and fun.

Develop well planned Family Leadership Summits


This journey takes time, and it is important to get started. It can, however, very difficult to accomplish by yourself. Most families find it useful to engage a guide to help you navigate all of these topics before they become issues. It is important to understand that there are “Quantitative” issues and there are “Qualitative” issues. Most of the family business consultants and advisors are “Quants”. Most of the tougher issues to navigate are on the “Qual” side of the house. A balance of Quant and Qual is important since there is potentially so much at risk.


The 2021 Global Family Business Survey by PwC had the following recommendations for families to consider:

Professionalize family governance. Having a professional governance structure and a clear process for conflict resolution, preferably involving an independent party, make business sense, particularly for a family business. A professional approach strips emotion and personal bias, common stumbling bocks for families, out of decisions.

Governance should reflect that families are dynamic. Family businesses need to revisit governance structures regularly, because the structure of ownership can change as NextGens enter the business or through marriage. Therefore, it is important to set out parameters in a family constitution and keep them current.
Write values down. A written accounting of a family business’s value helps with communications and transitions.
Allow external help. Conflict and difference of opinion are inevitable – we’re only human. But the emotions involved in family discussions can be difficult to resolve internally. Many on the panel see the benefit of involving a neutral, outside perspective.


Here are some additional resources that I have found useful when thinking about creating a Family Constitution and Governance structure:

The Legacy Family, The Definitive Guide to Creating a Successful Multigenerational Family, by Lee Hausner and Douglas Freeman.
Family Wealth, Keeping It in the Family. How Family Members and Their Advisors Preserve Human, Intellectual and Financial Assets for Generations, by James Hughes, Jr.
Your Business, Your Family, Your Legacy, Building a Multigenerational Family Business That Lasts, by George Isaac.
How to Develop Your Family Mission Statement, by Stephen Covey
Financial Intelligence, A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean, by Karen Berman and Joe Knight.
Hats Off to You ~2, by Lee Hausner and Ernest Doud
The Destructive Power of Family Wealth, Guide to Succession Planning, Asset Protection, Taxation and Wealth Management, by Philip Marcovici
From Trust to Impact, Why family businesses need to act now to ensure their legacy tomorrow. Results of the 10th annual Global Family Business Survey by PwC.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022

Ken Ude’s career spans 40 years of running small to mid-sized private equity businesses as CEO/President before becoming Director of the USC Marshall School of Business Family Business Program. At USC he partnered with Lee Hausner, PhD, and George Isaac, two thought leaders in family businesses and family dynamics. The Mission of the USC Marshall Family Business Program was “To Create and Preserve Value by Increasing the Professionalism of the Business and the Effectiveness of the Family”. They did this through a series of workshops and programs focused on the dynamics of the entire family enterprise and system. Ken heads up the family business practice for Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC. If you would like additional information, please reach out to Dana Borowka at 310-453-6556, ext. 403 or email

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to

Improving Your Odds For A Successful Manufacturing Workflow Strategy

By David Shaffer

When it comes to succeeding with manufacturing workflow, we are drowning in data but starved for wisdom.

That thought was first put forth by futurist John Naisbitt 40 years ago in his classic book Megatrends. Naisbitt the futurist was indeed a prophet.

His prophecy is true because today even with the ever-expanding use of technology, there is an overabundance of data. The challenge is to disseminate that data into information that can be acted upon to achieve the organization’s mission.

The overall mission and foundation of business today, as it was 40 years ago and undoubtedly will be true 40 years hence, is to maximize customer service. Today this is also referred to as the customer experience.

Great business thinkers like the late Peter Drucker said that without customers, there is no business. Giving the customers what they want, when they want it and how they want it is an ongoing challenge. Simply put, keeping the customer satisfied requires improved manufacturing workflow.

Because improving your manufacturing workflow is about keeping the customer satisfied, the best manufacturers are obsessed with it. These organization’s want to make themselves as easy as possible to work with from a supply chain, distribution and services standpoint. The good news is applications including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) have greatly improved manufacturing workflow.

However, almost daily you can read or hear of information systems like ERP not fulfilling manufacturing workflow expectations established at the time of acquisition. In fact, despite the most diligent efforts in defining requirements, evaluating options and selecting systems, the probability of higher-than-expected investments and system implementation issues are extremely high.

If it sounds like the odds are stacked against you, there are ways to improve your odds. ERP needs to be seen as an investment, rather than an expense, and therefore you must find ways to maximize the return on investment (ROI).

How To Improve ROI

Improving your manufacturing workplace is a bet, a gamble, a wager. Author Damon Runyon once said: “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

No business plans to lose its bet on ERP. It is fair to assume that all participants in the implementation of technology are focused upon improved manufacturing workflow results for their individual and collective departments. The aggregate of these improved results should be focused on, and result in, improved results for the company as a whole.

Specifically, a concise definition of measuring improved results as a positive gain in the implementation of technology. If there is nothing to gain then there is obviously no reason to change.

If you want the biggest gain, bet on quality. To all organizations, quality is what is expected. To that end, in the absence of standard operating procedures, the result is variation in process and by definition; variation is the enemy of quality. By determining the least wasteful method of performing a task, quality is improved, cost is reduced and on-time delivery is the final result. By performing a task the same way each time assures consistency and eliminates variation.

As workflows are identified and the standard operating procedures are put in place, the success of these procedures will be directly determined by how effective an organization is at answering the following questions:

• What are the required inputs?
• How were you trained?
• What do you do?
• How do you know your output is good?
• What feedback do you receive?
• Who are your customers?
• What keeps you from doing error-free work?
• What can be done to make your job easier?
• What would you change as the manager?

It is hopefully fair to assume that all employees want to do a good job and would rather do an activity right the first time and not be faced with rework or quality issues. Standard operating procedures, as information or product, are passed from one group to another allowing for consistency in both input and output, resulting in improved quality and happy customers. That is a winning parlay.

Those Pesky Competitors

For a significant number of businesses however, changes are dictated externally by competition, customers, and vendors and for publicly traded companies, possibly the shareholders. This external pressure, when coupled with potentially internal conflicting goals tends to increase anxiety levels and can further contribute to poor system selection and/or utilization. How often is it heard that if we don’t change we will lose? The Internet and e-commerce are recent examples of technology forcing many businesses to react.

One of the ways businesses have tried to deal with change and the expected pressures is through strategic planning. When done correctly, and shared appropriately throughout the organization, the strategic plan becomes a roadmap and a source of reference throughout the year. By establishing a Target Operating Model (TOM) that reflects the strategic plan, the selection of the appropriate ERP can be measured against its alignment with the TOM along with value derived.

Procedures And Policies Are Linked To ROI

It is assumed that the procedures and policies associated with a new system will be integrated as part of the implementation process. Vendors of technology and software will do their best to provide the appropriate operational training however are not generally in the business of assuring that the organizational infrastructure can absorb the change. That is left to the management and implementation team.

Recognizing that a new system carries risk as well as rewards, the management team is functioning under its’ own level of pressure and may not be the best in soothing the concerns, issues and change being felt by the employees. The good intentions associated with the new system may indeed be counterproductive without the corresponding balancing of the attitudes, goals, objectives and concerns of the people that comprise the organization.

Implementing The Strategy

Regardless of the status of the current information technology, that is utilizing an existing system or entering into the selection process of a new one, it is essential that the TOM and value to be derived are clearly defined. That is, just how will we as an organization measure the ERP value and, equally important, how will our customers measure us to decide if we are in fact successful in implementing our strategy. In addition to this measurement is the strategic plan. It must be reflective of where we want the business to be and how we will measure our success.

Finally, the integration of technology and infrastructure are essential to maintaining the balance of maximizing customer service. We must place equal emphasis on understanding and implementing positive attitude as we are in implementing technology.

Defining and achieving improved results is critical to the on-going success of most businesses. To invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology and systems without recognizing that tools are only as good as the operator is a formula for disappointment. It has been said that the majority.

Monitor And Communicate Progress

Many organizations struggle with the implementation of key initiatives; accountability is frequently a major stumbling block. By assigning Project Managers and the consistent use of project chartering, project plans can be well defined, resourced and monitored. The aggregate results of the charters collectively address the implementation of defined key initiatives. It is customary that on a weekly basis, each Project Manager reports the status of their charter so that combined project plans are managed by a single source. That is, for quality and consistency the overall progress of the initiatives is maintained in a central repository accessible to the entire management & leadership team.

There are many ways to distill strategic planning into execution. Chartering is a great way to focus on execution while creating accountability & buy-in throughout the process.

If you are open to a conversation about improving manufacturing workflow or how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021

David Shaffer, Senior Consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of business including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, sales management, sales strategies and operations. David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of management information systems solutions. His range of company support includes start up through Fortune 500.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress and time management, leadership training as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division. To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code, and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to:

Grow Your Business! 10 Winning Strategies for the New Decade

By Patrick McClure

Congratulations, and welcome to the New Decade.

Today we start writing the history of YOUR business in the 2020’s. What will it include? Will we see spectacular growth, stellar revenue production and champagne toasts? Or will your decade be filled with lost business deals, declining revenue and sour grapes? The outcome is up to you, and now is the time to plan for your future.

Much of the future is uncertain, of course, but one thing we know for certain. Every one of us just got a year older! And every one of our customers and prospects got a year older. Time marched on for all of us, and this means we need to recalibrate, refocus, and refine our plans. What worked in the 2010’s will need to change to match the 2020’s. And if we don’t change, we risk getting run over by the onrush of technology, ideas, and youth.

In this spirit, we’ve put together this article to help prepare you for the future decade. After considerable research (both past and future), consultation with our focus groups (including millennials and Gen-Z), and getting feedback from industry peers, we are now prepared to put together the following list of the TOP 10 WINNING STRATEGIES FOR THE NEW DECADE.

Here they are:

1. Correct Target Market & Cohort

There are 4 major cohorts in today’s Marketplace, and it’s vital that you understand these generations and the changing buying patterns they bring. Here’s a quick snapshot of the essential features:

You can’t sell anything unless you understand your target market and who is doing their buying. This means understanding the environment they grew up in, the events that shaped their lives, their age, what they’re challenged by, and what’s important to them.
It’s also important to document the buying process at your key prospects. Oftentimes, you will find the actual buyer is a Baby Boomer or a Gen X, but the influencers are really Millennials or Gen Z. Typically, the busy executive will have “someone on their staff” research new products or directions and bring back a short list of what they found. If you are not influencing these younger influencers, you might never make the short list!

2. Unique Value Proposition

We don’t sell products anymore, and we don’t really sell benefits. The world has gone way beyond product details (unless you’re selling highly technical products). Buyers today are constantly asking “What’s in it for me,” or what will it do for my business and my bottom line. This means we need to shift our focus to the Unique Value of our product or service.
If there’s nothing unique about our product, we need to go back to the drawing boards and figure out WHY people are buying from us. Sometimes, the best way to understand your unique value proposition is to ask your buyers.

The key is to understand your UVP, and then BRAND your product with it. And for heaven’s sake make sure that you solve an actual problem for your customers. Don’t make the mistake of creating a “me too” product that doesn’t really solve a problem!

3. Marketing across Generations

If you understand the generations, you’ll appreciate something called “screen size.” Baby Boomers grew up with the television, and some of them were there when color screens were first introduced. They viewed the world through the lens of a television screen, and they received news on 3 major channels only.

Generation X (age 38-54) grew up with television, but increasingly their attention shifted to computer screens. First the desktop with an attached screen of varying sizes, then in later parts of the cohort this transitioned into laptop devices. The screen became smaller, and cable TV was introduced which expanded the number of channels.

Millennials (age 25-39) grew up with laptops and tablets, but their screen now included cell phones which now included email, texting, and web access as well as making phone calls. The screen size was now even smaller. And the next cohort, the sons and daughters of millennials (age 12-25) can seamlessly split their time across all 5 screens but are mostly focused on their cell phones. Indeed, 46% of their waking hours are spent peering at their cell phone screen, which is now leading to multiple medical problems and cell phone addiction (nomophobia).

If important for marketeers to understand their target market and concentrate their efforts on the best screen for their market. If you’re selling to Gen-Z, then you wouldn’t spend your marketing dollars on printed brochures or email campaigns! Conversely if your target market is baby boomers, you wouldn’t feature google ads or gaming consoles. You must match your marketing dollars to the correct screen!

4. Selling in the “New Normal”

Sales today occur at light speed. Buyers are demanding short, concise, value-based branding and gives them an instant WIFM (what’s in it for me). Everything today has accelerated, and you don’t have time for complicated messages. Keep it direct, simple, relevant, and compelling and don’t waste your buyers time!

5. Replace Cold Calling with Warm Calling

The years of cold calling or cold visits are pretty much over. In fact, one of my associates has written a best seller entitled “Never Cold Call Again,” (Frank Rumbauskas) in which he argues that cold calling is not only ineffective, but it damages credibility and drives away potential customers! My advice is simple: if you’re going to be using the phone for sales, make sure you are making “warm calls.” Research your prospects in advance, know their names and their company, and figure out a way to make the call valuable and not a waste of time. Pre-stage your calls by sending a text in advance (if you know their cell phone #), research them on LinkedIn, and try to get a warm referral from an associate or networking partner.

6. Deliver what they REALLY want at light speed

Speed of delivery is incredibly important. Customers are used to near-instantaneous results. They can order product and have it on their doorstep the next day (Amazon Prime), they can purchase and download movies and play them NOW, they can have groceries and products delivered by Wal-Mart or Target within minutes. They are used to near-immediate gratification and simple interfaces. If you have delays in your order fulfillment process, your customers will not tolerate it. Fix it!

7. Use Free as a Strategy

I can remember marketing a Presentation Skills training course for a bargain rate of $499 for an entire day of training. It was a killer price and always sold out in the past! But after renting a hotel room and filling it with 3 attendees (OUCH) I did my research and discovered that one of my competitors was offering a one-day class that same day in that same town for FREE!

The new selling strategy has evolved. Savvy marketeers are now enticing customers to try it out for free or nearly free, and then making their margins on upselling the next step. For instance, SalesForce.Com (the dominant CRM vendor) will happily give away a version of their CRM software to individual users. You can download it for free and use it if you like, and it works just fine. However, when you expand and want to add users or implement more advanced features of the software, you must upgrade (for a hefty fee).

On the retail side, visit Costco and cruise their aisles, and you can try dozens of samples. Of course, this drives huge incremental sales. Ergo Free as a strategy can really work!

8. Replace Selling with Influencing

Millennials and Gen-Z do not like the term “selling.” No one likes to be sold anything, but we all like to buy. The modern sales model uses a lot of “influencers” to generate brand awareness and buzz. Many influencers have hundreds and thousands of followers, and when they endorse a product (via Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or shapchat) it can lead to massive sales and profits.

One of the biggest influencers in social media today are performers. For instance, pop singer Selena Gomez (age 27 net worth $75MM) has 123 MILLION followers on Instagram! BTW, the last we checked her fee for simply mentioning your product in a post (implied endorsement) was over $1 MM.

Of course, you may not be able to afford a superstar endorsement, but your sales planning needs to include a strategy to attract influencers and get their support for your product/service.

9. Take advantage of Technology

Of course, make sure you’re taking full advantage of any technology at your disposal. Depending on your target market, divide your sales & marketing budget accordingly. There are huge benefits to be tapped into with social media, web design, social media marketing, gaming, virtual reality, and online advertising.

10. Hire a Gen-Z or Gen-Y

In order to fully implement technology, my best advice is to hire a Gen-Y (Millennial) or a Gen-Z for your marketing department. First job is to have them review your marketing plan for 2020 and tell you what’s wrong with it! They will not back off from their honest opinions, and they’ll probably give you some great advice.

You might have to bite your tongue and learn to tolerate a younger brash employee who expresses their opinion freely with no filter, but it will be worth it. Especially if you want to connect with a younger target market, it pays you to listen well.

So, there you are! 10 quick strategies for survival in the new decade. Good luck and let me know your success with these tips!

Permission is needed from Patrick McClure and Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Patrick McClure is a senior sales consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC as well as speaker, trainer and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful and specializes in sales training. To learn more and receive Patrick’s free newsletter, please email Patrick at Or call him at 310-453-6556, ext 415.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to

How to Pick a Strategic Planner and Use In-Depth Work Style Assessments to Improve Planning Performance

By Dana Borowka

Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, has lampooned strategic planning for years.

“I’m putting you on the strategic planning team,” announces Dilbert’s boss. “It’s like work, but without the satisfaction of accomplishing anything.”

There is a grain of truth in Dilbert, because strategic planning can fall short without the right facilitator and approach.

“Planning is simply not that hard; but finding a great consultant who can help you get a great plan written, and implemented, is critical,” says Steven Phillips.

Phillips has built an enviable reputation for his strategic planning. He is a sought-after speaker for conferences and organizations worldwide. He has solid advice on how to choose the right strategic planner.

“Too many times consultants will lock themselves up, do amazing analysis, offer up a plan, and then it sits on a shelf and never gets implemented,” says Phillips. “The secret to getting the plan implemented is to take a high involvement approach with the senior team while creating the plan. Consequently, hiring a consultant who will be seen by your senior team as credible and likeable is very, very important.”

Some consultants say it is critical the strategic planner you hire should know the industry.

“Choose a strategic planning resource that knows your industry and is willing to understand how your existing capabilities are or are not capable of achieving the strategy,” says Paul David Walker, a strategic planner with specialized expertise in many industries.

“If they produce the ideal strategy vs. one that works for your existing talent, then the plan will just gather dust,” adds Walker.

Beyond the Standard Screening Criteria

The standard screening criteria when selecting a strategic planning consultant is experience, results, references, and chemistry/fit.

Barri Carian, a former senior executive for two Fortune 500 companies who has been a partner or in the embryonic stages of three start-up companies, is a strategic planning consultant who believes in today’s fast paced and disruptive world there are two additional areas companies should pay attention to in their selection.

“The first is can the strategic planning consultant take us through a deep dive into the trends that will impact our future success?” she asks. “This includes societal (demographic and psychographic), industry and technology trends. Strategic plans that do not take these trends into consideration will not serve the company well.”

For examples of those who didn’t take trends into account think Blockbuster, the music industry, the taxi companies, and Kodak.

“Second, the plan must be executable.,” adds Carian. “So often, strategic plans sit on a shelf never to be referenced again. Or they are so lofty, it’s overwhelming and companies don’t know where to start. Can the strategic planning consultant help you operationalize the plan? That means prioritizing initiatives, assigning owners or champions, breaking large strategic initiatives into smaller bites and developing systems to track progress and removing obstacles.”

The challenge, says strategic planning consultant Marc Emmer, is that a lot of consultants are generalists. Many are very good facilitators, and they may or may not be true strategists.

“If you really want a formal, strategic plan based on research, it may be worth your while to hire a strategic planning firm, that has the resources to run a true strategy process,” says Emmer. “The first thing you should ask potential consultants is how many strategic plans have they written? How companies have they facilitated strategic planning meetings for? If they have done ten or twenty you might wonder if they have enough experience to help you.”

If they have many practice areas such as leadership or process improvement, you should consider if they are focused enough on strategy to be any good at it, advises Emmer.

“Finally, ask to see the tools and processes that they will use to ensure your team has an actionable plan that can drive competitive advantage,” adds Emmer, who recently published his second book, Momentum: How Companies Decide What To Do Next.

“People who understand strategic planning and do it well view it as central to their evolution of a company and the source of competitive advantage,” adds Emmer.

Insight Leads to Better Strategic Planning Team Performance

After a strategic planning consultant is selected, in-depth work style and personality testing can be a valuable resource for the strategic planning process. The true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective.

Here are five ways to use in-depth work style and personality testing for strategic planning:

1. Get the real picture when choosing strategic planning team members. Naturally all candidates for your strategic planning team want to put their best foot forward. However, through an in-depth work style and personality test, you can uncover a great deal about their ability to work well with other personalities, their problem-solving abilities, their thought processes and their ability to tolerate stress. This testing gives you objective information that can help you make an informed decision about whether these candidates would be good fit for the strategic planning team.

2. Help team members be all that they can be. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Find out the real truth with an objective measure. Once you pinpoint the good and the bad, then you place them in the right positions and coach them on where to improve.

3. Treat team members the way they want to be treated. In today’s fast-paced world of business there is little time to get to know many of your coworkers. Using in-depth work style personality assessments as the basis for team building exercises can quickly get everyone to have a healthier respect for other ways of seeing the world.

4. Make strategic planning leaders better team leaders. When team leaders understand what makes their people tick, then they can be better leaders. Knowing the work style and personality traits can help with stressful planning sessions.

5. Set up strategic planning teams for success. Sometimes we hire the right employee and then give that person the wrong job. Understanding preferred work styles and where a person would be happiest goes a long way to improving retention and productivity.

A proper test should reach beyond simple profiles and decipher an employee’s underlying needs. This is key for team building, conflict resolution, and succession planning. Some tests only use five or eight traits to make an assessment; this is not enough. We recommend a test that utilizes the full sixteen traits to get a complete picture of the person.

A final thought: once you have used assessments to pick the right team, it might be a shame to use them only once a year.

“My view of so-called strategic planning is that today it is less an event and more an ongoing conversation,” says Larry Cassidy, a group chair with Vistage International for 30 years. “The most effective organizations are evolving, and for me that moves viable strategic thinking away from being an annual event and toward an ongoing conversation.”

Robert Scherer, president of TAG, an outsourced accounting and software solutions firm, believes that in order to maximize the likelihood of executing a strategic plan that attention to detail and follow-up are critical.

“Over the years, TAG has worked with many companies in various stages of their strategic plan, with many attempts to accomplish too much in one year,” Scherer said. “With planning it’s better to break down goals into shorter sprints, as it puts more urgency and focus on your goals, which defaults to a more agile approach.”

Trends to Take Into Account for Strategic Planning

Before his consulting career, Marc Emmer spent over 20 years in the food business, in operations, marketing and business development. Emmer, who writes regularly for Inc. magazine, offers these trends to take into account in your strategic planning:

• Get great tax planning advice now.
• Have a nimble strategic plan, that can change on a moment’s notice. Review it quarterly to ensure you are in a position to seize the opportunities ahead.
• Invest in technology. Ask of your management team, how is technology a strategic advantage? If your team doesn’t have the chops to answer the question, find the people who do. Weave technology into your strategic plan.
• Hire people before you need them. If the economy continues to heat up, and unemployment levels off at 4 percent or so, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find talent.
• Be a best-in-class employer and push the envelope on providing a flexible work environment (including virtual office space).
• Utilize collaboration tools that allow you to provide your team the ability to be effective, in any location at any time.
• Execute flawlessly. Given the rate of change, customers expect on-time delivery, great quality and seamless communication. Utilize agile principles to ensure your team can pivot quickly to meet evolving customer demands.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit,

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner. Are You Ready?

By Dana Borowka, MA

Whoever coined the phrase, “What goes up, must come down” must have been an economist. Nothing does a better job of explaining the cyclical nature of our economy. The problem faced by business managers is that once we’ve identified which part of the cycle we’re in, it’s too late to do anything about it. Forecasting the next upturn or downturn, and preparing accordingly, is the secret to business survival.

To give our friends and clients time to adjust for the next change in the economic cycle, we’re recently held a special Open Line web event entitled, “Planning for the Next Recession – Now!”: AudioSlides.

The purpose of this article is to highlight a few of the points our panelists explored in more detail: Why expect a recession and what to do now to prepare your business for it.

The Ups and Downs of the U.S. Economy

History has proven there is a 7-10 year cycle in the U.S. that consists of periods of recession, recovery, accelerating growth, and declining growth. Like clockwork, every decade we cycle through all the stages. The last recessionary period was 2008-2009. Since then we’ve experienced a long period of recovery culminating in what some expect as accelerating growth in 2017. So far so good. But remember, what goes up must come down.

The Next Recession is Just Around the Corner

If the U.S. economy has been climbing its way out of the recession for the past eight years, we’re approaching the time when we can and should expect another downturn.

There will be another recession in the U.S. The only real question is when, but based on historical trends, that time is 6 to 12 months away.

It’s important to note here that I’m talking about the “normal” economic cycles we experience, not those triggered by major unforeseen events such as occurred September 11, 2001, or the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Recession? You’re Crazy, Business is Great!

For most of our clients and readers, business is good to great. Everyone is bullish about higher sales and profitability in 2018.

However, the clock is ticking. Our panelists from our monthly Open Line web conference believe it will likely be pre-staged by a series of financial events that trigger a severe pull-back in the market and a rapid slowdown of the economy.

One way to suspect that the downturn has begun is to study your order board. Are sales tapering off? Are orders being placed less frequently and for smaller amounts? This tells you your customers are feeling the change.

Are you noticing an uptick in job applicants? This can mean other businesses are beginning to shed workers.

Now What?

Rather than get distracted by attempting to pin-point the time of the next recession, it’s wiser to simply agree that there will be one, and it’ll likely occur within a few years. With that agreement in place you and your staff can prepare the ship for heavy weather.

Beginning immediately, you can take the following steps to prepare your business for operating through a recessionary period.

  • Your management team must accept the same economic picture and be driven to succeed in spite of it. This is a great time for imagination. Work with the team to build action plans based on three different scenarios: a. recession, b. fast growth, c. slow growth. Or, look at it another way. Build a plan for what actions to take if sales drop by 20%, another plan covering if sales drop 40%. If you don’t have an executive dashboard, ask your CFO to build one with indicators for business growth or decline.
  • Make sure everyone on the team is mission critical to building value for the business. Get lean, or refocus some jobs so they are contributing more to the value of the business in some way. If you’ve been adding staff the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve taken on some “dead wood”.
  • Keep the team motivated. One good way is to identify and acknowledge key people in the organization and make known the succession plan.
  • By all means, get the right people into the right slots now so they are confident in their roles by the time the downturn is really felt. A recession is no time to be breaking in key managers.
  • Don’t overlook your Accounts Receivable department. This may become your lifeline during tough times. Invest in top-notch people and systems.
  • Get your line of credit set. Reduce debt.
  • If you believe the downturn will be accompanied by higher interest rates, do what you can to lock in prices for your raw materials and leases.
  • Take care of your customers. Go out of your way to be seen as invaluable.

The Secret Code

Did you notice a common thread in this advice? Six of the eight recommendations involve the quality of your employees and how well they work together as a team.

Placing the right people in the right positions, for example, requires skillful hiring aided by in-depth work style and personality assessments. Reduce the risk of hiring or promoting the wrong person. Learn more about our in-depth work style assessments.

Pulling the team together and driving forward with a single purpose requires serious team building, not feel-good exercises. An investment in team building now will strengthen the company’s ability to thrive when other companies falter. Learn more about LCS team-building services.

Developing your managers to have excellent communications skills is vital to an organization’s growth, and absolutely mandatory during trying times, such as recession. Learn more about how LCS empowers key personnel so projects flow more smoothly without frustration.

In closing I recommend a book by two economists who have been extremely beneficial to our business. The economists are Alan and Brian Beaulieu from ITR Economics. Their most recent book is, “Prosperity in the Age of Decline.”  I encourage you to read the book, listen to our Open Line panel discussion audio / slides –  and be prepared for the Next Recession.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit,

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Creating a Culture Strategy — On Purpose — For Today and Tomorrow

By Suzanne Mayo Frindt & Dwight Frindt – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

Is your company culture and your leadership practices designed for success in today’s world?

By Brian Hefele

By Brian Hefele

In the face of unrelenting change and increased complexity of issues facing us in business today, our past based practices and structures may not be sufficient to succeed in this new paradigm. Let’s take a look at how company cultures and leadership must shift to respond powerfully to the circumstances we are currently experiencing.

People don’t really fear change itself; they can become afraid that they won’t be successful in the new paradigm. It is the job of leadership to create conditions, a culture, where people can learn, grow, and adapt to be successful in today’s world.

Change and Change Again

Our world is rapidly shaping in many amazing ways:

♦ As the video, Shift Happens has pointed out to the millions of YouTube viewers who have seen it on the Internet, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, who will be using technology we haven’t yet discovered, to solve problems we don’t even yet know about yet” (Shift Happens video, created by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod).
♦ The quantity of information, its availability, and speed of delivery are increasing at an exponential rate as costs are approaching zero.
♦ The number of people accessing and using this information, and the many ways it is disseminated, has exploded since the advent of personal computers and the Internet — which in turn exponentially speeds up the rate at which new technologies are developed.
♦ Women are stepping into leadership roles at all levels, in diverse venues and in unprecedented numbers all over the world.
♦ Awareness that our global environment cannot continue to withstand a collective human consumption race is spreading quickly.
♦ Our children are being born into and growing up in a world that is so different than the one we grew up in, that it requires a new way of being for them to lead successful lives.
♦ More people over 65 are alive today than have ever lived to that age, so that group will be looking for whole new models for leading healthy, successful lives.

The list of changes that we have already experienced is inexhaustible. And as soon as you read this article, there will be even more changes that have occurred. Accelerated change has become the new normal. At the same time, we hear many clients say “as soon as it slows down or gets back to normal.” Those who think there will be a return to the “good ole days” are in for a great shock.

Our cultures, leadership, and structures have to shift from top down to valuing learning and expanding capacities to problem solve in the face of uncertainty, mining all available wisdom and creativity.

Culture…What’s That?

By rekre89 (Flickr)

By rekre89 (Flickr)

Excellent companies have Financial Strategies, Operational Strategies, Marketing and Sales Strategies, and commensurate Resource Allocation Strategies (including People, Time, Money, Equipment/Assets, etc.). How many companies actually have a Cultural Strategy? Yet all companies have a culture, implicitly if not explicitly. They have been developed on a historical basis and impact productivity, success, and health for generations. And, they can be experienced differently depending on one’s position within the organization.

Our first conversations with executives about Culture and Culture Strategies begin with a definition — a shared definition. Since so much of what comprises a culture is often accidental and somewhat invisible, some people have a hard time accepting that there is one, or that it can be defined or even changed.

Once we work through a few of the definitions below, most CEOs and executives agree they do have a definite culture. Then comes the question of whether it is the most productive culture given their purpose, values, and the changes we are experiencing every day.

A company culture can be defined as:

♦ A cognitive framework consisting of attitudes, values, behavioral norms, and expectations. (Greenberg and Baron, 1997)
♦ The collective thoughts, habits, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behavior. (Clemente and Greenspan, 1999)
♦ The pattern of arrangement, material, or behavior, which has been adopted by a society (corporation, group, or team) as the accepted way of solving problems. (Ahmed et al., 1999)
♦ Includes the organizational values, mission, norms, working language, systems, beliefs, and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and even thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)
♦ A set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for certain situations. (Ravasi and Shultz 2006)

From this collection of definitions of culture, it becomes clear that a group or an organization’s culture is foundational to the success or failure of all other strategies, and yet little, if any attention, is consciously placed on the care and feeding of a productive culture. It is the invisible glue that binds together ever more diverse workforces, including people from many cultures and generations. Since it is invisible, most executives are not conscious of culture or of the implications of their decisions on the development of, or the degradation of, culture. Organizations in a high growth or acquisition mode are at a high risk of failure due to culture clashes. It is very unusual for us to see organizations that understand the criticality of this dimension of an acquisition, or adding lots of employees in a short period of time. Without a clear and intentional culture strategy, along with the allocation of resources to be sure that it is communicated and very well understood and incorporated into every day business interactions, the culture is drastically impacted by whatever the acquisition brought with them, or what the large numbers of employees bring with them. The sad reality is that productive organizational cultures often suffer a demise due to an unconscious neglect by leadership.

What people often complain about is usually a description of the unproductive aspects of the culture, at least from their perspective. We have heard from executives: lack of accountability, defensiveness, competitiveness at the expense of the company, or customer outcomes. In an organizational 360 tool that we use, we have heard from the workforce: micro management, lack of trust, no clear direction, compensation, and reward systems that emphasize individual results rather than company success. This was all within the same company!

Many organizations that we have encountered through our leadership development firm, 2130 Partners, have had what we call “accidental” cultures. Perhaps it was generated initially by a founder entrepreneur, mirrors other cultures in the same industry, or was created by a particular hiring practice or compensation structure. Nonetheless, most cultures develop by accident.

Cultures can be designed on purpose, and existing productive cultures can be maintained and enhanced intentionally.

Leadership — Replacing Commands with Vision

In this evolving new reality, successful leadership will have a very different nature than traditional approaches.

By Aadi Sing

By Aadi Sing

It was quite different to be a leader in simpler economic times and when the world moved at a slower pace with less connectivity. There were successful models and practices in place as well as more easily identifiable and attainable goals. Patterns of entitlement offered at least the illusion of security, and there was more time and predictability in producing results. However, now — when previous business models and assumptions have been turned on their heads, when people’s livelihoods are changing and disappearing regularly, and when successful businesses are being transformed for the new realities — the leadership required is radically agile, proactive, and creative.

Leaders who will be effective in this time of incredible opportunity are those that lead as if they are in a dance with reality — that is, they look to create exciting new paradigms, processes, and even companies based on creating the next game while being responsible for the current and unfolding global economy. They are not simply waiting until the economy gets back to normal or using past experiences to map out current pathways. Being in a dance demands conversations appropriate to dancing. Think about it — when you get out on the dance floor, do you tell your partner, “I need these four steps from you in the next minute, followed by a repetitive pattern until I tell you otherwise”? If you have done that, perhaps you have found that it leaves you with very few dance partners. How then do you engage with others in this new reality?

We call the management model we use to replace the old “command-and-control” paradigm, Vision-Focused Leadership, which is an approach grounded in shared vision and built through collaboration.

Vision: A mental image produced by the imagination

Vision-Focused Leadership as a mental model shows how thinking, listening, speaking, and actions — most importantly those that you employ to lead others — are focused and informed by a shared vision. Focusing on your shared vision allows you to make choices; orient your creativity, energy, and resources; and correlate your thoughts and actions and the actions of people working with you on your shared intention. In the absence of shared vision, it is easy to become victims of or be distracted by circumstances, worries, and fears, and to react based on instant, automatic, unconscious, and unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and judgments stored in your mind. Without necessarily realizing it, the past winds up driving your bus.

When we talk about leadership here, our intention is to stress that leader- ship can be evoked anywhere in an organization — that is, every person can exhibit leadership qualities, no matter what his or her job description may be.

If you and your team members have done a good job developing and sharing the vision, then creating powerful actions will flow much more naturally. People will be able to individually source their ideas, actions, and interactions from the shared vision. If you replace commands with shared vision and broaden the source and responsibility for creativity to the entire team, you will maximize creativity, ownership, collaboration, and velocity in fulfilling the shared vision.

We use the term “Yonder Star” to include shared vision, goals, objectives, and strategies to obtain it. It can be applied at any level from a strategic corporate vision to your vision for the outcomes you intend to produce in a single conversation or meeting. The Yonder Star is the ideal, out in front of you and up above the path you are currently traveling, that provides a common focus and inspires your actions. Rather than hanging onto sacred past-based activities and processes (i.e., “what did we do and how did we do it last year?”), priorities, plans, and milestones are designed from a focus on the Yonder Star. From this mind-set, actions are prioritized by their value in fulfilling the Yonder Star. All members of the team are inspired to explore their own integration of the goal with their passion to contribute and the specific role their work will play in its fulfillment.

From shared dedication to the overall outcome, a pervasive attitude of “I’ve got your back” naturally develops within each member of the team. Dissent, one-upmanship, and agendas fueled by self-interest tend to fade to the background.

Collaboration Requires

Connection, Alignment, and Focus

Yonder Star clipartThis graphic is our shorthand illustration of this notion. Here we show a group of people who are interacting from a solid foundation of mutual trust, respect, and safety to reach their mutual Yonder Star. In this case, a collection of aligned Yonder Stars, shown in a stack of different sizes, depicts the many intermediate goals that lie between your current situation and fulfillment of your Yonder Star. To sort out which actions will be most productive on your route to your Yonder Star, look back from your fulfilled Yonder Star and ask, “What’s missing in our current reality that, if we work on it, will accelerate fulfilling our Yonder Star?” From your list, determine the decisions and actions that will be most leveraged in closing the gap. By leveraged, we mean the actions that produce the greatest impact while requiring the fewest resources and taking the least amount of time to accomplish. Get started, monitor results, recalibrate with new position updates, and continue on your path or make adjustments as necessary to stay on course.

Collaboration — New Ways of Working Together

As we go forward, those who lead will be the ones taking advantage of the creativity and productivity gains available by focusing on the human, collaborative dimension, while laggards will suffer in the face of unrelenting change.

The extremely affordable, and nearly instant, access to vast amounts of information and ways of interacting with whole communities that are becoming available, combined with a productive attitude toward change and the new realities it brings, creates huge opportunities for you and your leadership. However, leading effectively will require a new mind-set to unleash potential and creativity and to capitalize on opportunities.

The challenges lie in strengthening your ability to choose the direction, form the goals, and then communicate and enroll others so that you build groups and organizations that can collectively navigate shifting realities. This means improving your ability to communicate, work together collaboratively, and lead others to do so as well. If you learn how to identify and utilize the navigational guides to traversing this uncharted territory, you will experience higher productivity, more rapid innovation, and greater organizational agility. Additionally, responsiveness to the needs of customers and other stakeholders in the organization and more rewarding relationships will become something you can rely upon.

Building Collaborative Capital — It Begins with Me

To effectively change our outer reality requires being willing to shift our inner reality.

Today, talented, educated people who know how and are motivated to work interactively with each other are the key to success for more and more businesses. This new collaborative approach means many more minds are put to work on the opportunities and challenges facing us whether in business, in our organizations, or even in our families.

When we were born, we came equipped with the most powerful computers on earth (although Shift Happens cites projections that the quantitative computing power of a supercomputer will pass that of the human brain by the year 2013). These innate computers serve us well in producing new ideas and dynamic solutions — as we can see in all that has happened just in the past twenty years of technological growth. The core thought processes that guide our reactions and interactions were mostly loaded into your brain and ours when we were children and have been chugging along ever since, functioning as an unconscious and unexamined operating system.

Don’t change the world, change worlds…starting with your own.
Adapted from St. Francis of Assisi, Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment

Being able to think in new ways requires challenging the very basis of your own thinking — your self-concept, worldview, and automatic ways of interacting with others.

What Is a Productive Culture Anyway?

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

We don’t use terminology such as “good” or “bad” cultures, which is a binary and simplistic assessment. We consider the organization’s purpose, or vision and mission to determine if the existing culture supports the achievement of that purpose while calling forth the best from the people within the organization. Does it call forth high performance and productivity on a sustainable basis? Does it reward Self-Generated Accountability and Productive Dialogue? Does it foment gossip, jealousy, politics, CYA, or individual success over company success?

What is productive in a culture is what people are proud of about their company or their work. When shared values are demonstrated and memorialized in great stories, people tell about “the time when…”

What If You Created a Learning Culture?

A Learning Culture is one where the individuals and teams consciously invest in growing and developing themselves. In a Learning Culture, executives are conscious and purposeful about the impact of decisions and strategies on the fabric of cultural development. There is a purposeful focus on reducing friction and waste in communications and developing productive working relationships. People know there is an expectation for growing and learning. Hiring decisions are made with an interest in an individual’s ability to learn, adapt, grow, and shift outdated mental models, as much as their past-based, functional experience. An atmosphere of curiosity, forward thinking and ‘how can we learn from this’ thinking permeates. It becomes the foundation or platform on which everything else is built.

What Are The Payoffs of a Learning Culture?

For an organization, this type of culture provides much more innovation, creativity, flexibility, agility, and expedited problem solving capabilities. It also affects retention and even hiring decisions of individuals in the firm.

For individuals, it provides opportunities for learning and growth; enhancing marketability and value to this or other organizations. It also provides forums to be challenged, to add value, and to contribute at a high level. Some CEOs have actually expressed concern that growing their people will make them more vulnerable to their best people leaving. However, if looked at from the individual’s perspective, why would they leave unless they have fully used up the growth opportunities where they are right now? Why would someone leave a position where their value and contribution are recognized, supported, and rewarded?

How Can We Develop a Learning Culture?

There are many books and articles about learning organizations including work by Senge and Argyris that explain in depth about the what and how of learning organizations. Our 2130 methodology (and terminology adaptation in some instances) ties to the 5 aspects of a learning organization that are generally accepted by leadership “gurus” as follows:

1. Systems Thinking: Understanding how things influence each other as a whole. Our view is that executives and organizational leadership are accountable to the entire organization and all stakeholders for this larger view. This includes strategy development, planning, implementation, review, and adjustment. This is a level above what most executives contribute on a day-to-day basis from their functional expertise (Finance, Operations, Sales, Marketing, HR, etc.). In addition to a responsibility for systems thinking on an individual executive basis, it is also critical that the entire executive team itself operate as a productive, learning system. Most organizations develop a Vision statement, Mission, and Values that constitute the overall framework, (we call it the ‘Yonder Star’), and then on a regular basis develop strategies, initiative, goals, and actions in the dimensions of finance, operations, marketing, sales, resource allocation, and to a lesser degree, culture. Our methodology, “Vision-Focused Leadership” is designed to support systems thinking. We work with top executives — the CEO, President, or entrepreneur — in a trusted advisor or executive coaching assignment to create a learning culture. We also work with the team of top executives to support the development of and focus on all the strategies required to be successful. Our Operating Principles create a platform for a productive, learning culture with the executive leadership team and then the entire organization.

By Gerd Altmann

By Gerd Altmann

2. Shared Vision/Values: “A vehicle for building shared meaning” from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline. Unfortunately, this often looks more like the version from Dilbert: “A long meaningless statement that proves management’s inability to focus.” Over the last 20+ years we have worked with organizations to develop Vision, Mission, and Values using our “Vision-Focused Leadership” methodology. Leadership gurus have been espousing for at least two decades the value of a shared vision to focus and align resources. Absent a shared vision, individual agendas rule the day and gaining personal power becomes a major executive focus. Shared Vision/Values encourage a learning culture by emphasizing the gaps toward our Shared Vision/Values, what is missing and what is next, versus what is wrong from the past.

3. Productive Mental Framework: We talk about busting mental barriers, increasing mental agility, and increasing capacities to deal with the unrelenting pace of change and increased complexity of issues facing leadership today. It requires skills at reframing for ourselves and others, and developing focus in chaos and high emotional states. Past-based arrogance and rigidity undermine productive cultures. It is critical to become aware of our blind spots and biases to be able to think clearly in the present to make the best decisions in a complex business environment. We use our Operating Principles and Essential Notions, developed and validated over the past 20 years to help build a learning culture platform and equip leaders and man- agers with the mental and collaborative skills needed in today’s world.

4. Personal Mastery: This is the commitment of every person in the organization to improve, develop, and challenge themselves to be more than they are today, and to proactively challenge themselves inside a framework of contribution and collaboration. Individuals who insist on status quo and structural barriers to communication usually self-select out of a Learning Culture. In our book, Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World, we say that when individuals develop themselves they have increased their collaborative capacities. We will get older automatically, however to grow as we age requires a conscious choice. In our work, we describe conscious choice as the Leadership Choice Point. Every moment of every day presents an opportunity for choice. Will I relate to the world around me, the circumstances of my life as the defining parameters, or will I choose to use the circumstances as an opportunity to grow toward the Yonder Star?

5. Team Mastery: In addition to individual learning and development, organizations must realize that groups of people, (of any size of two or more), creates yet another “entity” with its own dynamics and productivity levels. Two or more people, who may be very developed individually, when put together in a group or team may not be as productive together as the sum of their individual productivity. The question becomes: will we synergize our efforts where 1+1=3 or more, or will we diminish productivity potential with friction and waste to make 1+1=1.5 or less? There are numerous examples of sports teams that have all “star” players, yet a team of “average” players can beat them because of the way the average players have developed their team effectiveness. The sum of what the players produce together is much greater than adding up individual skills — and so it is for organizational groups and teams. There are group skills and developmental opportunities that build on, yet are distinct from individual capacities. When groups develop these capacities we call that increasing their collaborative capital.

So What Will You Do Now?

1. Take stock of your culture. What are the stories being told about your organization by employees, clients, and vendors? What stories would you like to be told? What attributes of this powerful, invisible platform are important to you? Where are the gaps? What will you commit to taking on, challenging the status quo, and BEING as an example of the cultural aspect you are committed to developing? (We use an online organizational assessment to gather objective and confidential data to understand the present condition in an organization).

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

2. What cultural “artifacts” do you have in place? (We call the collection of these items, all on one page, your Strategic Focus.)
a) Compelling Vision, Mission, and Shared Values (We also use our Operating Principles as a key piece of culture definition because they are design principles for productive conversations.)
b) Business strategy that fulfills the Vision and Mission
c) Bold Goals that clearly take ground toward the strategy and mission, and are consistent with your vision and values

3. Is your Leadership and management team aligned behind #2 above?

4. Has your Strategic Focus been clearly communicated? Does your team know how to communicate it to their folks?

5. Are your departmental and individual goals lined up with the Mission, Vision, and Strategy?

If you are missing any of the above, fill in the missing pieces immediately! If your Vision or Mission statements are a paragraph long or no one remembers them anymore, throw them out! Vision and Mission statements have a positive influence on culture only when they really “live” inside the hearts and minds of people in the organization. It is not a job for the marketing department or your PR firm to “word smith.” It is the role of leadership to capture and communicate and nurture the Vision and Mission and Values. Each executive and management team member must be willing to have their leadership and management practices be guided by these major cultural influencers you create. When the actions or practices of people in management positions are contrary to what have been espoused as values and the mission then there is a huge disconnect for individuals in the organization, resulting in cynicism and resignation.

If you need help, consider hiring a professional facilitator to work with you and your leadership team to help define the existing reality, clearly define each aspect of your Strategic Focus and identify the gaps. Accomplish this first, before working with the balance of your organization, to develop thinking and behaviors consistent with a learning culture and self-generated accountability.

Above all, keep growing and learning and Accelerate your Leadership.

If Leadership is not consciously strategizing, designing, and developing culture, what is left to form it? Culture exists and is alive in the stories employees, (and vendors and customers), tell about what it is like to work there, how people get treated, how to get ahead, whom to hold your tongue around, whom to please, whether merit or seniority count to a greater extent, what happens if you are ill, what are the opportunities for development, promotion, raises, learning. What stories are being told about your company? What stories would you like to be hearing? How does leadership affect those stories? What are the payoffs? These are the questions to ask to get conscious about the affect of your culture.

by Devanath (pixabay)

by Devanath (pixabay)


Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World by Suzanne and Dwight Frindt – to order go to

“Developing a Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage” by Golnaz Sadri and Brian Lees .

Peter Michael Senge is an American scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is known as author of the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (originally 1990, new edition 2006).

Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a thought leader at Monitor Group. He is commonly known for seminal work in the area of “Learning Organizations.”

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching. In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them, please visit

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit,

Cracking the Strategic Planning Code – Ideas from the Experts

By Larry Cassidy, Marc Emmer, Diana Ho, Brian Oken, Steve Phillips & Paul David Walker

When the topic of strategic planning comes up, some individuals get very excited about the planning process while others consider it just a waste of time. With so many different styles and approaches, we thought that we’d ask a number of experts for how they approach this topic and the top three key points to think about before your next strategic planning meeting.Team activity

Larry Cassidy

Strategic Conversation

My view of so-called “strategic planning” is that today it is less an event and more an ongoing conversation. The most effective organizations are evolving, and for me that moves viable strategic thinking away from being an annual event and toward an ongoing conversation.

The idea that we can somehow nail down where and how things are (and, projected, where and how they will be into the future), and then craft a lasting response, is ineffective. The world in which we operate is constantly changing; thus, we too must participate in that same game, which requires a continuing and continuous conversation.

As that applies to crafting strategy, I recommend frequent sessions in which the “team” comes together to discuss the future. For each session, step one is to identify the most important questions which must be answered; step two is to arrive at agreement on the answers; and, step three is to define action steps based on those answers (what, why, who, how, when, resources and milestones). As you prep for these ongoing sessions, consider:

  1. Inviting more of, rather than less of, your management and supervisory team. Interesting ideas often come from the “less likely” participants. And participation invites a sense of “ownership.”
  2. Requesting from the attendees, in advance, the questions they feel are the most important to the firm’s future. You may be surprised at what you get.
  3. Building each session around a few key questions, using multiple breakout groups to discuss each question, and mixing people and functions within breakout groups for each topic discussion (thus creating fresh energy and different chemistry around each question).
  4. And, inviting a few key outsiders to participate in each session (good strategic thinkers, creative types, folks who will challenge and “stir the pot”). You will find their input tends to raise the bar for those on your team.

Marc Emmer

Strategic Planning: The Entrepreneurs Dilemma

There is one thing that almost all entrepreneurs have in common; they want to grow. Yet determining where and how to grow can prove elusive, even to the most savvy strategists.

Which wayOften, management teams face gut wrenching strategic choices. While growing a core business incrementally offers a high probability of success, companies with a singular focus are subject to concentration risk that inhibits enterprise value. The more the company grows, the bigger the problem becomes. A diversification strategy reduces concentration, but growth far afield from one’s core competency, increases the probability of failure.

Often, entrepreneurial companies also lack the talent to focus on transformational business model innovations that could drive competitive advantage. Unfortunately, many companies create a 12 month forecast within their core business, and pass it off as a strategic plan. A well thought out vision balances the short term and the long term and clarifies the company’s value proposition and strategic priorities.

Here are some success factors to consider before engaging in strategic planning:

  1. Market Analysis-A thoughtful review of trends in the industry that will impact future demand.
  2. A level of preparedness on the part of the participants so that they are in a position to make fact-based strategic decisions.
  3. A process that enables execution on strategic objectives.

As we approach the time of year when many companies formalize their business strategies, it is important to structure a framework that ensures that management takes the time to think, both about the core business and potential disruption. Great companies weave strategic thinking into their management DNA and then convert strategies into actionable measurable tactics that drive results.

Diana Ho

The Art of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning has fallen in and out of favor numerous times since my earliest days as a planning facilitator. While my experience base and process toolbox has grown over the years, so has my “beginners mind.” Rather than bringing a methodology that works for all, I approach each planning engagement as a blank slate, pay attention, listen deeply and design each process based upon the unique characteristics of the client mtg

Every organization has a strategic plan whether they know it or not. The opportunities embedded in a “strategic planning process” include a) making the plan explicit, b) aligning expectations, c) leveraging resources and d) building a skilled planning- and accountability-minded team. The process of planning is equally as important, if not MORE important, than the resulting “plan;” and the effectiveness of any planning process is directly correlated to the extent that it is aligned with the leadership/power structure of the organization. So design the process well, Grasshopper!

When considering external resources, decide where your needs lie along the continuum of “expert” (who will tell you what your process and strategy ought to be) and “facilitator” (who will leverage your organizational resources, ask questions, provide options, build capacity and hold your feet to the fire).

Three things to consider before having a strategic planning meeting:

  1. What is the organizational “appetite” for planning; should we be thinking in terms of a “planning meeting” or a “planning process and mindset?”
  2. Who needs to be at the table?
  3. What are the organizational and personal rewards and consequences for planning or not planning?

Brian Oken

Strategic Planning for the Rest of Us

If you’re like most of us, you’re leading a small to medium-sized business with limited resources, no time and a million things you need to get done. To get the best results, I believe you should narrow your focus, engage your team and make your efforts count.

But before you proceed with any group planning activities, you should:

  1. Be clear about what you want for your business. Do you want to grow market share, sell in the near future, build a legacy…?
  2. Have a competent management team in place.
  3. Decide whether you’re going to use an outside facilitator or Do-It-Yourself.

Here’s my approach to strategic planning:

Be focused and realistic. It’s impossible for any group to successfully accomplish more than 1 or 2 strategic goals a year because of all the associated projects and tasks. If you global-teamtry to do too many things at once, it will dilute your focus and compromise your results. Remember, you want to actually achieve these goals.

Generating great financial results is a team effort. Your plan and strategy (and the reasons for them) must be presented in such a way that everyone in your company can easily understand them. The plan must also connect daily activities to company goals. This is the only way your employees will feel connected to your overall vision. People need feedback and need to know their efforts are making a difference. Be transparent about your results and celebrate your successes!

Implementing a strategic plan is a methodical approach and an ongoing process to help you and your team work smarter and get better results. But in order for this to happen, your plan must drive the agenda of your staff meetings and be referenced and updated on a regular basis. Once you see how an effective plan can help you achieve your goals, I doubt you will ever operate without one again.

Steve Phillips

The Strategic Planning Meeting – Turbo charge your approach!

Strategic planning is by its nature, time consuming and hard! Assessing the environment and the company and then positioning and aligning resources takes tons of effort. So much effort that many Fortune 500 companies just don’t do a good job. And… it’s these companies that rarely hit their potential. But true strategic planning, (like what McKinsey or BCG does) can easily cost $1M or more. So what is the answer? How does a company do great planning at a small fraction of the cost? I think a turbo charged approach meets most everyone’s needs. It’s quick, uses your best people, gets everyone bought in to the implementation of the plan, builds-in an accountability system, and gets it mostly right. Think of it as a leveraged approach.

So what is the process for a turbo charged approach? It’s easy! I find it most useful to use a third party (not the CEO) to organize the process, collect and analyze the data, set the objectives and outcomes for the meeting (with the CEO) design the agenda, and to facilitate the meeting. In this way, people can do their work and the third party can do all the leg work. Then when it’s most important, everyone can meet and use their time together wisely.

So how to approach turbo charged strategic planning?

  1. Pick a third party to organize and drive the process. It can be a senior level consultant (like me 🙂 ) or an internal specialist but it should not be the CEO or President. They have much better things to do than the leg work that it will take to make the meeting effective.
  2. Collect valid data. Some folks like to collect both external data and internal data but some are fine with just picking the brains of their top folks on what we really need to do next to be most successful. (Remember, this is a leveraged “turbo charged” approach). I suggest the third party personally interview participants for about 60 minutes each. This should be plenty of time to assess what should be done next year.
  3. Create a specific and detailed agenda based upon what you learned from your data analysis. This should also include the specific outcomes and objectives for theteam lightbulb meeting and detailed agenda items. Too many times people just put topics on the agenda without ever fully considering: the type of item, the champion of the item, the outcome of the item, the process for the item, the time line for the item, the pre-work needed to be ready to efficiently use time, etc. Creating a great agenda is an art and time consuming. There are many considerations and it often takes much longer than anyone expects but when done right, huge amounts get accomplished in the meeting seamlessly and the group actually enjoys the process (and if I have my way, walk out of the room a more effective team. See #5).
  4. Use a professional facilitator for the meeting. I am not just saying this because I am one. I am saying it because it works a thousand times better than not having one! I would much prefer to be maximizing everyone’s time and using each person’s brain in the room rather than have one of those folks worrying about lunch, the air conditioning or making sure the conversation stays on point. A pro will pay for themselves a hundred times over.
  5. Use the strategic planning meeting to tune up your team. There is no question that teams outperform groups of individuals on complex tasks about 99% of the time. It used to be that we did “teambuilding”. Now I find the best way to build your team is while they are working on a real project. A professional will know how to do this seamlessly and effectively and at the same time you are setting up your plans for the future. It’s a win win win win. Better strategy, alignment, direction, and teamwork!
  6. Do quarterly follow-ups to create a built-in accountability system, adjust the plan as needed, speed up the team, and continue to develop toward high performance. It only takes about 4 hours for the quarterly meeting to meet its objectives but most groups try to leverage or maximize their precious little time together. High performing teams will rotate who is in charge of each meeting and give them total freedom to run the session where and when and how they see fit. They can be at client sites, hotels, new offices, wherever will work for the theme of the day. Most groups put in place a ¾ day or all day quarterly meeting and use the extra time to develop everyone, either with team building, leadership development, site tours, or expert panels or guest speakers. It is a day everyone looks forward to. And then once a year, usually 4th Q, we do a longer retreat to close the year formally and kick off the next, all in alignment with the executive committee and shareholders meetings.

So there you have it. A leveraged approach to your strategic planning. Pick a third party to run the process, collect and analyze data, create a specific and detailed agenda, hire a professional facilitator to run the meeting, and create a built-in accountability system that ensures people stay on track and in alignment. This process works like crazy, takes very little time, is not terribly expensive, uses your people where they are best and does not waste their time. It creates ownership and buy-in, decreases resistance and makes full implementation almost assured, creates strategic alignment, builds your team and helps them to achieve and stay at high performance. It gives you a full opportunity to participate as a leader, makes everyone smarter and leaves your organization aligned, agile, collaborative, and highly productive.

Paul David Walker

Understand Present Reality

There are flows of intelligence that manifest as multidimensional streams of cause and effect at every level of life. These flows have momentum and move forward with or without you. In business these flows are formed by market wants and needs. As you consider your business strategy, it is important to understand these flows and position your window of opportunitycompany to use these flows, like a surfer at the sweet spot of a wave, to move forward accurately. It is pointless to try to swim against the current. As you ride these flows forward you will be able to see opportunities as they emerge before your competitors. The objective is to find emerging trends that lead to a window of opportunity, as we do with our clients illustrated here.

The Right Plan For You

It is dangerous to develop a strategic plan that does not take into account your companies true capabilities. If a surfer chooses a wave that is too big for their skills they will be drowned or seriously hurt, the same is true of a company. It does not serve well to develop a business strategy that requires more resources, talent, or momentum than the company can realistically achieve. Find a place in the flow of your market that acerbates you, not one that will drown you and your company. Once you succeed and gain power and skill, develop a bigger plan.

Explosive Targeted Actions

After understanding your place in market trends, build a simple focused strategic plan. Then eliminate all activities that do not support that plan. Make sure every executive understands that this is not a drill. It is a road map for all actions. Paint a compelling picture of the outcomes at every stage in your plan and develop the courage to act. Teams with clear missions, a sense of urgency, the stillness of a master, and explosive targeted actions are the ones that will win in the 21st century. Those that hesitate will lose. To summarize:

  1. Understand present realitytarget road
  2. Develop the right plan for you, not a grandiose fantasy
  3. Commit to explosive targeted actions


Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Larry Cassidy has been a Group Chair with Vistage International (formerly TEC International) for over 27 years. He currently works monthly with more than 50 Southern California executives, in three chief executive groups and one group of key executives, regarding all aspects of their businesses. Larry can be reached at and 714-460-3090.

Marc Emmer is President of Optimize Inc. a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning. Marc is the author of Intended Consequences, Design the Future you Wish to Create. Marc can be reached at or at 661-296-2568.

Diana L. Ho is a seasoned facilitator/executive coach, percussionist, book-binder and kick-ass project manager. She began her career in retail merchandising and was Vice President and division head in a Los Angeles management consulting firm before founding Management Arts in 1995. Contact her at or 310-475-6563.

Brian Oken has a 20 year track record as a successful President/CEO, having effectively guided organizations through aggressive revenue growth to sustained profitability. Throughout his career, he has been involved in managing, operating and strategically positioning companies in the public and private/family sectors. He is well known for improving the profitability of organizations while also creating great places to work. Prior to opening his own firm, Brian spent two decades running manufacturing and service based businesses as President and CEO. His accomplishments include significantly growing income and cash, being listed on the Inc. 500/5000 fastest growing company list, engaging in international strategic alliances and the launching of numerous successful new products. CEOs, Presidents and business owners call on Brian as a trusted advisor to help grow their companies, make better decisions with greater returns and create the highest performing workplace cultures. Brian can be reached at or 310-466-2804.

Steven Phillips, Ph.D., Founder and CEO. In his relentless effort to deliver uncommon results, Dr. Steven L. Phillips has built an enviable reputation for his senior team consulting service that focuses on results-driven off-sites for senior leadership, strategic planning, and executive leadership. Dr. Phillips has helped thousands of individuals and organizations establish new levels of teamwork, transformation, and performance, all specifically targeted toward bottom-line results. Dr. Phillips has extensive experience as an Organization Development professional. For many years he served as a SVP Chief Talent Officer for a privately held 1B company with 10,000 employees. As a consultant, he has worked with Senior Executives at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Viacom, Mattel, Boeing, and many others, helping individuals, teams, and entire organizations successfully implement change. Steve also works one-on-one with Presidents and CEOs helping them strategize for powerful and successful leadership. Additionally, Dr. Phillips creates customized team development activities for executive teams designed specifically to shorten cycle time to high performance. Dr. Phillips’ best-selling books are used in corporations throughout the world. His latest book, The Senior Leadership Off-site Playbook, is soon to be released. Steven can be reached at or 310-456-3532.

Paul David Walker, Founder & CEO of Genius Stone Partners was part of building the first leadership firm to align Strategy, Structure and Culture, and has been a business leadership adviser to the CEO’s of Fortune 500 and midsize companies for over 25 years. He is the author of Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams and Corporations, two other books, and will publish a new book called Invent Your Future. He has succeeded by unleashing the genius of the people around him and is known to be a visionary leader and master of collaboration. Paul can be reached at or 562-233-7861.


Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance
Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant.  We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz?
Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.


If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code please go to