The Challenge of Interdependence Day


How ’bout them fireworks?


During a recent client presentation, I shared a great deal of information with a stellar group of professionals in the financial services arena. About half-way through my presentation, I made a reference to a lesson I learned many years ago when I worked for a large financial institution. Here and there, words and phrases that have become a part of my professional advisory process found their way into the conversation. And then it occurred to me. Those ideas were certainly the result of 25 years of my own personal professional experiences, but also the experiences of my former colleagues, managers, and professors.

As a consultant, I have always prided myself on my ability to provide fiercely independent analysis and direction to our clients. And as an American, I am independent down to my red, white, and blue core, right?

But in reality, I’m neither a rock nor an island. From the educators that gave me the facts and insight that opened my eyes to the world of economics, to the lessons I learned when I first started out in the banking business, to the current projects I am currently leading, I’ve learned something new along every step of the journey with the help of so many different people.

So, on this Independence Day 2014, I challenge you to go beyond independence. I call on all those that believe that independence is the ultimate to grab a pencil and piece of paper and follow along. Or not. You are, after all, free to do as you please. Well, I say that knowing there are provisos, and, of course, limitations.

Force is never forceful

Independence is the direct result of having, on prior occasion, terrible dependence on some other force, be it voluntarily or involuntarily. Many have come to understand, unfortunately much later than they would prefer, that force is not forceful. That is, force cannot make a person do what they do not want to do. So, be it with ourselves, our spouses, our children, or our colleagues, force cannot lead to a positive and replicable outcome: trust. The same applies to systems-level thinking, such as religion, political and governmental systems, and social structures. Force does not work. In my readings of late, this concept often crosses my path.

In the graphic below, with force, we seek to contain a person to inside the circle. That simply will not work.


Independent living demands all of you

Independence and freedom are oftentimes linked to one another. The reality is that both require a great deal from the individual. And both of them require a great deal of focus on your duty to yourself, your family, your community, and then, ultimately, to all beings. Independence comes when you are able to think for yourself, create a new paradigm, and enliven your intellect. It does not mean that you can do whatever you want. For doing whatever you want will ultimately force someone else to live by that paradigm, which we decided is not forceful and is certainly not helpful.

Independence means to move outside your circle, but it still places the focus on person #1 in your life, you.

Interdependent thinking challenges you to go beyond

Change the arc of independence and challenge yourself to think interdependently. Dr. Covey spoke of interdependence in his classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. On this Independence Day 2014, do not think solely on the independent nature of those around you. Thank those around you and honor those that have gone before you for they have provided a  great deal of advantage in the life you lead. More importantly, strive to leverage your independence to advance an organization, a nation, and a planet by employing a culture of interdependence. Go beyond yourself.

Happy Independence Day!

Some enchanted evening in a high school auditorium

I believe that all of us are created with a  purpose in mind. Last evening, I had the opportunity to visit my daughter’s future high school to see where she will start, in earnest, her journey to discover her true purpose. It’s a big deal, right? Well, not so much. I mean, we’ve all been to high school. We sat through the orientations. We listened to the merciless drone of the administration and staff. Why is it such a shock? We’re all getting older. All of our kids are getting older. Times they are a changing, n’est-ce-pas?

I regret being so negative. It ultimately turned into a very spirited presentation about what the kids have to look forward to for the next four years. The PTO presentation at the beginning notwithstanding, I was generally impressed. I know there is a focus on STEM (for those of you living under a rock, and I was one of you until about 18 hours ago, that’s science, technology, engineering, and math) and a focus on testing. We are compulsive scorers. We’re always keeping score. I digress.

I was happy to hear the English lead discuss logic, reasoning, and argument. I was elated to hear about the art program. People need to be able to think their way out of a wet paper bag. As you hire and train and retrain, seek out players that can think and can realize a purpose for themselves and your institution.

PS – I do not wish that I was back in high school. Those chairs in the auditorium are darn narrow.


Reconn Radio: Podcast #12 – Week of 02/24/2014


The Economy, Investment Services & Farewell to Spangler

This week, I discuss the economic items for this week. We also delve into investment services with our special guest, Joel Beck of the The Beck Law Firm. Joel brings a wealth of information on broker/dealers and general considerations in forming an investment business unit for your bank or credit union. You can learn more about Joel on his website,, or follow him @brokerdefender. Finally, we say farewell to Harold Ramis. He has, indeed, crossed the stream. May he rest in peace.


To listen to more of our podcasts, then please click here.

02/10/2014 – Our weekly perspective on the economy

The economy continues to show signs of uneasiness. Last week, we saw a surprising drop in the Institute of Supply Management’s Report on Business. What was most shocking to us, as pointed out by Marketwatch, was that we had, “the biggest one-month reversal in the new-orders index since December 1980.” The new-orders index is a component of the ISM. You can get to the ISM report here. This added to the already dower mood on Wall Street. The DJIA is down 3.96% since January 10, 2014, or approximately 650 points. Get the chart here.

This week brings more interesting news on the consumer confidence front as well as Janet Yellen’s testimony to both the House and Senate. More detail can be found on Marketwatch’s calendar here. We’ll keep you posted. Always keep one eye, or half an eye if you can manage it, on the macroeconomy.


The Zen of When Part 2: Orchestrating the plan

As we discussed in our last post, the focus on the when of planning is critical. Start there and work backwards. Many strategists, spiritualists, and everyday folks have stated that over and over again. “Begin with the end in mind.” Dr. Covey’s explanation, in my mind, is the most sublime. It requires illustration.

Another one of my favorite movies is Amadeus. Our tragic, and sometimes mischievous hero, Herr Mozart, grapples, unwittingly, with a demon in the form of his arch nemesis, Seniore Salieri. Towards the end of the movie, Mozart, frail and near death, enlists Salieri to finish his Requiem Mass in D Minor. Now, I know this is a highly fictionalized work in celluloid, but there is something about the exchange that haunts me to this day. Mozart peppers Salieri with demands to hurry in the writing of the Confutatis movement. Get on with it. “Do you have it?” Mozart exclaims. Salieri, in a fit of frustration and panic, advises Mozart that he is impatient. “You go to fast,” he says to Mozart. One gets the sense that Mozart understands and believes his impending mortality. His plan, his vision, according to the movie, will be left to an unmarked grave. Salieri realizes more now than ever Mozart’s towering musicality.

The following video is an amazing interpretation of this scene. It highlights the conversation while showcasing the actual composition. Vision cast by a visionary, interpreted and chiseled by his scribe, and executed together. What is the lesson? There are many notes that go into the development of a strategy, a vision – that which is in your brain, spinning around in your culture, demanded by the market, or all of the above and more. There is much more as it relates to the execution, the timing, the when. There is a balancing act between demanding results before the score is complete. There is the pressure of missing an opportunity to execute while developing the notes and rhythm. Paralysis by analysis. Yes. Collaboration and cooperation. Absolutely.

Have a listen. Watch the unfoldment of this amazing piece of art, this wonderful vision.


As the piece suggests, we are among the blessed. We have the ability to think, the ability to engage the Zen of our existence. This is something only us humans are capable of accomplishing. As we work towards better planning and engagement, we must think about our systems and planning such that we get to the when deliberately and judiciously, but expeditiously. Time is our friend. Time is also our enemy.

For a better understanding of the Zen of When, give us a call or contact us. Commission us to help you compose a better strategic plan and create a project execution environment.

Reconn Radio – Podcast #5 (Week of 01/06/2014)

2014. Zen. When. When it comes to intelligence versus intellect, we believe intellect wins. Have a listen. Also, have a read about the Zen of When here.

Executing your strategy: 2014 Project Management Office – Your PMO tools and talent

People use hammers to encourage nails into a solid material, such as wood. Not always easy. Not always successful. And it is not always without pain. Practicing good project management requires good tools. Executing great project management requires dedicated talent. Success is not always painless as you steer a project to completion. Thinking through tools and talent helps. So, let us explore in more detail.



  • Methodology
    • The PMBOK is the classic methodology used in the project management universe.
    • I studied something slightly different, VPIC. Originally offered by the folks at Franklin Covey, this has since been modified into something that resembles the PMBOK.
      • Visualization – using information gleaned from key stakeholders, develop a vision for the project that includes qualitative and quantitative goals and objectives. Be sure there is a specific tie-in with the strategic plan.
      • Plan – create a work breakdown structure (WBS), identify hot spots, and automate all that is the plan.
      • Implement – get to work, holding everyone accountable.
      • Close – determine success and failure by conducting a post-mortem; identify changes to be implemented into the next round of projects.
  • Technology
    • Choose a tool that will enable better project management. The tools should provide for collaboration, document management, and reporting.
    • Provide the tool to the organization. In doing so, the tool should be easy-to-use and intuitive.


  • Dedication

In choosing your project manager, there are two items to consider in the context of dedication: your own and that of the person you’re putting in this role. Dedication to, if not downright enthusiasm for, the strategic plan as well as the project management office are paramount. To that degree, this individual or team must be brought into the strategic plan communication loop (see our posts regarding communication here and here).

  • Organization

The individual or team for this job must be organized. Now, they don’t need to be militaristic about their organization. However, they must a particular mindset for living a clutter-free life. This also extends to their minds.

  • Candor

This is likely the most important factor of all. Candor. We talked about it earlier (see our post on communications here). Action is the mainstay of the project manager and/or project management team. To get action out of others, sometimes there must be straightforward communication. Demands must be put forward. Demands must be met. If not, then things falter.

This is the last in our series on the project management office. If you’d like to see our earlier posts, then please proceed here for information on driving strategy to projects. For information on PMO philosophy and culture, click here. If we can help your firm execute a project or assist with setting up a PMO, then please reach out to Beth Bumgarner via our contact form.

Reconn Radio – Podcast #2 (Week of 12/16/2013)

Welcome back, folks, to Reconn Radio. This week we discuss:

  • Focus. Urgency. Organization. Communication. From 2013 to 2014 and beyond.
  • Dashboarding. No, not snowboarding.
  • A tribute to Peter O’Toole.
  • Thinking about and creating around your purpose during the upcoming holidays.


Executing your strategy: 2014 Strategic Plan Review – The Living Plan

There it sits. Shelf #2, row #5. Doesn’t it look nice? Isn’t the cover the tops? Isn’t it grand? And what about the weight?

We’ve all written them or seen them. The strategic business plan. Dead on arrival? I hope not.

In the first two installments on this particular topic – the close out meeting, which can be found here, and the welcome back meeting, which can be found here - I discussed closing out the planning continuum as you head into 2014. Executing in 2014 requires that the plan be a living plan.

Here are four guidelines for keeping the plan alive:

  1. Hold the two meetings discussed. It’s simple and doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time.
  2. Transfer critical projects and tasks to a project management office. And then follow through with it. Put some one in charge.
  3. Refer back to the plan in at least every other management meeting and/or staff meeting (assuming you are having weekly staff meetings).
  4. If you are really daring, have your supervisory committee or a third-party consultant review the plan to date and report back to the board monthly, or worst case, quarterly.

It is my belief that planning is just the beginning. Quality should prevail over quantity. However, the arc of quality should not forestall the advancement of the plan. Where will you be in 2016? 2020? It is imperative that there be an urgency to your business planning. Whether your are on top or whether you are climbing back from the edge, there must be an urgency. This will give your plan life.

Executing your strategy: 2014 communications plan – managers and supervisors

Last week, we discussed business plan communications to your senior team, which one can find here. This week we focus our attention on the managerial and supervisory group. Take a look at this brief introductory video and read below for more detail.

Clear and concise communication. Performance orientation. Realism. Communications to those not on the senior team needs a different approach. Clarity of the plan’s major components drives performance at the supervisory level. All of it must be realistic.  It’s nice to wave the banner. It’s a whole different scenario to proclaim victory before the first battle. Work precedes reward, so focus on the former and not the latter.

Clear and concise communications

At times, I can be verbose. I admit it. When you are communicating the 2014 plan to the next level of management, it is important that 1) they understand it and 2) it is in simple terms. Brevity is a must. Done.

Performance orientation

This component is closely linked to the prior component. Use performance metrics, which we will discuss in a future post in detail, to bring clarity, brevity to your communication. But, do so in such a way that it is personal to a business unit or department. Nobody wants general metrics thrown at them. Nobody. Craft a personalized performance story.

Realistic communication

We will not be climbing Mt. Everest twice this year. Now that we have that out of the way, we can all breathe easy. Realistic communication follows on the heals of a realistic plan. If the captains and lieutenants on your team see the communication of the plan as unrealistic – as puffery – you’re sunk. No base camp one. No sherry and giggles at year end.

The wrapper on all this is this straightforward statement: we are going somewhere and we will know when we are there; until then, keep pedaling. By the way, where we are going is not the end of the rainbow.

Up next: Communicating to all hands.