When to Write Use Cases – A Checklist

May 7, 2019

A use case has been described as a formalized story that illustrates how someone procedurally interacts with an existing or proposed system. Alistair Cockburn popularized the concept of use cases in his book, Writing Effective Use Cases. I have found in my practice as a business analyst, use cases provide invaluable guidance to analysis, development, and testing teams in the creation of a new system.

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Managing Conflicts Effectively in Teams

April 16, 2019

Among the skills we develop in the Center for Professional & Executive Development’s Project Leadership Communication course are those skills necessary to manage conflict effectively.

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Five Tips to Asking Your Employees the Right Questions

April 2, 2019

Good questions (and good questioning) require practice. Fortunately, we’ve been practicing our whole lives and we’re surrounded by professional question-askers. Think of talk show hosts, television and radio journalists, or inquisitive children. Questions abound for us to study and learn from.

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Expected to die, John O’Leary now teaches others how to truly live

March 31, 2019

Hosted by the Wisconsin School of Business Family Business Center, May 9

MADISON, Wis. – Hear the inspiring story of acclaimed speaker and bestselling author John O’Leary, who was given just a 1% chance to live after burning 100% of his body at nine years old. John’s story reminds audiences of the significance of daily attitudes, the power of gratitude, and the impact of serving others with courage.

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How Creativity Can Benefit Your Organization

March 31, 2019

It is well accepted that creativity in the workplace — more commercially referred to as “innovation” — has significant benefits to the economic health of an organization. New products, services, and improvements, driven by human creativity, typically yield improved bottom lines.

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What’s More Important than Profit?

March 19, 2019

Cash is the life blood of any business. Cash matters. Cash is King. Cash may be more important than profit. According to a New York Times article on the cause of business failures, four of the ten reasons cited link directly to cash. And here’s one more quote, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”

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Innovation Requires Unique Leadership Skills for Real Success

March 13, 2019

While good leadership is important in any endeavor, leading an innovation group is different from leading other areas of an organization. The right leadership of an innovation group can make the difference between whether an organization innovates successfully or not.

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What Business Leaders Need to Know about IT

March 6, 2019

Before I became an executive leadership consultant and full-time board member, I was the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for two Fortune 500 organizations, and a CIO mentor/adviser for nearly 40 Gartner CIO clients annually. In nearly every case, business and IT leaders alike expressed extreme frustration with each other. In fact, I am often implored to “fix” the other party! With the ever-increasing range of new technology capabilities (AI, Big Data analytics, Internet of Things, etc.), that “disconnect” exacerbates the lost opportunities for greatly improved business operations, innovative business strategies, and projects that are routinely completed on time/budget. It doesn’t need to be that way!

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‘Keep it simple’ Method is Key to Successfully Innovating

February 26, 2019

In an effort to be innovative, organizations will often pursue a complicated idea rather than a simple one. Complication can be a way to achieve uniqueness and make a new idea stand out. However, sometimes the best innovative idea is one that is simple — simple to execute and simple for the intended market to understand.

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Take a Strategic Approach to Evaluating Your Sales Ecosystem

February 19, 2019

One lesson I’ve drawn from working with over 40 different sales organizations is the importance of sales execution in a well-developed business ecosystem. Picture a glass bubble with a fully enclosed habitat in which organisms can be born, develop, and thrive without ever leaving. All that’s needed is contained within a complete ecosystem. Most of my work as a management consultant focuses on strategy and organizational issues (like acquisition integrations and restructurings). These engagements usually bring the sales group into play since that is where execution succeeds or fails – at the point of customer contact. Frequently, execution weaknesses trace to the supporting elements in the sales ecosystem, not to the talent base.

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Costs of Innovation Must be Weighed Against Standing Still

February 12, 2019

When faced with the decision of whether or not to invest in an innovative idea, managers often measure the cost of the incremental investment. That is, the cost of investing in the innovation which is above and beyond current operating costs. However, the error in this analysis is that it doesn’t take into account the cost of doing nothing — the cost of standing still.

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The Importance of Employee Conversations

February 7, 2019

The work of a manager revolves around conversations. Only through conversations with your team, your peers and work partners, and your own manager, can you influence productivity and engagement. Every responsibility that attaches to the manager’s function as a leader of people depends on the interaction you have with others, most especially your staff.

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Define Your Decision-Making Style

January 24, 2019

I was beyond excited to pitch my new leadership development program to my boss. As the CFO, I was certain he would share my enthusiasm and embrace the impact the program promised to deliver. After all, great leaders mean more engaged employees, and more engaged employees means better business results, right?

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Why It’s Critical to Have Sound Financial Acumen

January 9, 2019

Warren Buffet once said, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.“ This advice from an American business magnate and investor is a pretty valid reason why you should improve your financial literacy and business acumen. Sound financial literacy doesn’t mean you have to be a junior accountant, but it does mean you can “speak the language.” While you might not ever be fluent in finance-speak, you can develop the acumen to carry on the conversation in the language of business. Finance folks alone shouldn’t dominate the conversation - better decisions and greater alignment occurs when all departments are balanced throughout an organization.

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Engage. Coach. Develop.

December 11, 2018

Not long ago, I spent time with a group of managers who had all assumed new management roles. Some had been managers before, but for most, it was their first time. We talked about the basics: building relationships, driving performance and improving skills. I offered them some thoughts on how to think about these critical manager accountabilities. Happily, there are many resources managers can turn to for help.

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Don’t Change for the Sake of Change

November 28, 2018

How to diagnose the correct change to improve your organization’s performance

I just started working with an R&D team at a large packaging company that had fallen on challenging times. At one time, the R&D team was thriving and developing breakthrough product after product. They were the original developers of an innovative packaging product, but in recent years they’ve struggled to develop similar products.

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You Won’t Survive as a Commodity. Differentiate on Value!

November 12, 2018

It’s been several months since State Fair season. By now my waistline is back to normal. However, I was inspired as I ate State Fair Squares, Cornbrats, Tiramisu on a Stick, and Octo-dogs.

My visit to the State Fair inspired me to write about another vital business learning topic – differentiation.

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Agile Estimation – Feature and Story Sizing Scales

October 10, 2018

Agile practitioners bring differing points of view on their sizing scales for feature and story point estimating. It is important for scrum masters, product owners, and teams not to outsmart themselves when developing their relative sizing scales. Effective agile teams must develop a simple, repeatable scale for feature-level sizing and story point estimating.

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Developing ‘Soft’ Skills as a Leadership Strength

October 2, 2018

I often chuckle when I consider that the skills of navigating difficult, conflictive conversations are seen as a “soft” skills set. Is it because they are so elusive to master and so “squishy” to comprehend? Might it be that we can’t plot out these conversations on a GANTT chart and fit them into a neat package? The reality is that these skills are critical to effective leadership and success as project managers, so I am grateful that the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED) creates opportunities for such skills to be developed and applied to the real situations faced by leaders.

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How Business Rules Complement Business Process Modeling

September 19, 2018

I enjoy playing board games with my family. Perhaps you have some favorite board games, too. Have you noticed there are two dimensions to most of these games? The first, of course, is playing the game – the operational dimension – rolling the dice, moving a token, or taking a card. The second dimension is the set of rules that govern play. These rules typically define terminology, constrain player behavior, and trigger action in the operational dimension. In short, the rulebook governs the operation of the game. Let’s face it - without the rulebook, a game would be hard to understand and very frustrating to play.

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Becoming the Hero's Coach

September 8, 2018

It’s a rite of passage in most organizations that if you are at the top of your game as an individual contributor, you are likely to be tapped to take on people management at some point in your career. This happens for several reasons, sometimes because it’s the only promotional path to increase pay for high potentials, sometimes because of a shallow pool of managerial talent within the organization, and sometimes it’s because high-performing individuals crave the authority and power that is perceived by being “the boss.”

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How Flexible is Your Business Strategy?

August 15, 2018

Do you know what these four companies have in common?

  • US Air
  • Dexter Shoes
  • The Buffalo News
  • World Book Encyclopedia

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You Can Stop Project Management Chaos

July 16, 2018

Part 3: How to Balance Project Portfolios

Read Part 2: The Enterprise Staging Project Pipeline

Once the project portfolio has been defined and approved, it needs to be optimized and re-balanced for performance and business value within resource capacity constraints. The frequency depends on the size of the projects and programs within the portfolio. For example, a company with fast-moving, quick projects, could re-balance monthly or quarterly.

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You Can Stop Project Management Chaos

July 9, 2018

Part 2: The Enterprise Staging Project Pipeline

Read Part 1: The Problematic Project Pipeline

The goal of project portfolio management is to work on the right projects at the right time for the right costs balanced to resource capacity to achieve the strategic and business objectives of the organization. Project Portfolio Management consists of three overall processes: Define the project portfolio (prioritization), manage the project portfolio (re-balance) and measure the project portfolio.

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You Can Stop Project Management Chaos

July 2, 2018

Part 1: The Problematic Pipeline

Unrealistic deadlines, scope creep, poorly defined goals, everything has to get done now, or whatever familiar refrain knocks around your organization, know that you’re not alone. Students in my professional development Project Portfolio Management class empathize with each other over these situations and feelings of being so overwhelmed, they don’t know where to start. There are solutions.

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Why Work Breakdown Structures Matter

June 3, 2018

The foundation for any successful project is a comprehensive and realistic project plan. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a key tool in a comprehensive plan, and it serves as a foundation for many other needs.

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Know the Relationship Between Price and Volume

April 26, 2018

“Wow! That’s sticker shock!”

Who hasn’t felt sticker shock when shopping these days? It’s almost like some merchants are insulting you with their prices. Recently, I paid as much for a single serving of my favorite beverage at a sporting event as I would have paid for a case at the grocery store. I complained, and my wife pointed out that I still had a choice. Nonetheless, I still bought it.

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3 Reasons Technology Changes Fail

April 16, 2018

Imagine you’ve “gone live” with a new technology initiative. Success! You’re well on your way to meeting ambitious new performance goals. But wait, the issues the new technology was intended to change are still “live.” What happened? Key project milestones were met, testing was completed, “go-live” happened on schedule, and training was completed on time, but now there’s a lot of finger-pointing.

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Wisconsin School of Business Names Jon Zulawski Director of Learning and Development

April 10, 2018

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development is pleased to welcome Jon Zulawski to the newly formed position of director of learning and development. Zulawski will help the Center grow its learning portfolio for organizations and individuals.

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How Business Analysts Use Agile

April 4, 2018

If you’re new to developing use cases or process flows, you may be wondering where to start. In the system you plan to document, there may be many roles, the scope of the effort may be unclear, or perhaps there are plenty of complex interactions. It’s easy to lose your way, become frustrated, and give up altogether. I have several secrets for success in these complex situations, and I’ll share one of them with you: Agile can help your team get a good start on developing use cases or process flows.

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How to Help Your Leaders Grow

March 16, 2018

Are leaders born or made? Any employee could display a natural sense of confidence, charisma, or a desire to lead; however, research shows that the best leaders possess some combination of self-concept, emotional intelligence, and constructive behavior. The best investments in leadership development will combine technical knowledge and assignments of increasing breadth with opportunities to cultivate the perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors of successful leaders. Here are some ways to attend to the “softer side” of developing leaders.

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Tips for Resolving Conflict on Your Project Team

March 8, 2018

Throughout the life cycle of your project, it isn’t a matter of if there will be conflict, it is a matter of when. Conflicts are inevitable. They arise around issues like administrative, technical, differences of opinion, failure to follow through, behavioral and/or interpersonal challenges, just to name a few.

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Why Sales Risks are Worth It

March 1, 2018

As sales professionals, it’s not uncommon for us to fall into patterns: how we schedule our appointments, who we see, how we follow-up. It’s easy to turn these on cruise control and keep repeating. After all, it’s been working, and you’re meeting quota so why rock the boat, right? You might want to think twice about that.

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Preparing for Life After the Family Business

February 9, 2018

For a business owner, preparing for retirement is typically focused on financial and business succession planning, while the personal side is often overlooked or deemed less important. Chris Snider, the CEO/President of the Exit Planning Institute, discussed this planning phase recently at a Family Business Center Speaker Series event. He described this as the three legs of the stool - financial, business, and personal. Chris emphasized that if one leg is too short the stool will be unbalanced and not functional.

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Tracy Nelson Named Vice President of Learning and Development

January 10, 2018

Wisconsin School of Business welcomes an award-winning talent development leader

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development is excited to welcome Tracy Nelson as vice president of learning and development. Nelson will lead the Center’s open enrollment and custom learning portfolio focused on serving client organizations and individuals by providing premiere leadership and professional development education designed for the modern lifelong learner.

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4 Ways to Keep Strategic Planning Focused

Jan 9, 2018

Imagine you’ve been tagged with facilitating a business strategy workgroup. Having participated in similar planning exercises before, you know the traps that can keep the group from achieving high-value outcomes.

Often, people get lost in the weeds of operations and tactics, eating up far too much valuable meeting time while the real strategic issues and decisions go looking for a home. Here are some ways to help you avoid this trap and stay focused on what matters most.

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Wisconsin School of Business Names Heidi Landmeier Director of Corporate Learning

January 3, 2018

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development has hired Heidi Landmeier as director of corporate learning. She will provide corporate businesses with customized lifelong learning programs designed to gain a competitive advantage and resolve specific business challenges based on an organization's structure, processes, and people.

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It's More than Profit - The Circuit of Capital

December 28, 2017

How Business Acumen Can Deliver Real Business Impact

Recently, a friend invited me to join a meeting of the Practical Farmers of Iowa. Being an Iowa farm boy, I thought I would tag along to learn about sustainable farming practices. What I saw surprised me; it was the Circuit of Capital playing out before my eyes. This model can help anyone understand what’s going on in their company and how business acumen can drive real impact.

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Is it Time to Review Your Organization’s Design?

December 8, 2017

Have you heard the saying, “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”? Unfortunately, the design is usually not the product of an intentional and deliberate process. Instead, organizations tend to evolve through a series of independent changes in structure, operations, people, and management practices. These changes result from specific challenges, or through the adoption of various processes in different departments. For this reason, it’s not surprising that some businesses may have more in common with a Rube Goldberg contraption (like the one above) and struggle to perform at a high level.

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Blindsided: The Employee Conversations You Should Be Having (But Probably Aren’t)

Nov 29, 2017

According to a Right Management survey of over 4400 employees and managers in 15 countries, 82 percent of today’s workforce would be more engaged in their work if managers conducted meaningful career conversations with them on a regular basis. And yet that same research found that two-thirds of managers are failing to support their employees’ career development.

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3 Barriers to Building Relationships at Work

November 21, 2017

In first grade, my whole world revolved around my neighbor and best friend, Jill. Both tomboys living in the country, we spent hours outside building forts, hunting frogs, and playing epic games of hide-and-seek in the woods around our houses. She was my partner in crime. We’re still friends—with a little help from Facebook.

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3 Ways to Improve Your Group Problem-Solving Sessions

November 13, 2017

In an earlier blog post, we examined why “lack of training” can never be the cause of a process problem. I received feedback from several readers that asked for help with their group problem-solving issues using root cause analysis.

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Ruthless Prioritization in Project Environments

October 31, 2017

In resource-constrained project environments where everything is a priority, nothing can truly be a priority. A key responsibility of senior leadership is to provide ruthless prioritization and leave no doubt as to the organization's top projects.

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How to Develop Your Organization’s Future Leaders

October 27, 2017

In a 2017 survey by Training Magazine and Wilson Learning Worldwide, 64 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that “Leadership is a source of competitive advantage.” This survey also showed that high-performing organizations invested about 20 percent more of their budget on leadership development than low-performing organizations. With the changing demographics in the workplace, leadership development is now more important than ever.

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Hey Sales Pro, Be the CEO!

October 17, 2017

(The CEO of your territory, that is.)

It’s that time of year: budgets, expenses, strategies, planning for next year while still trying to finish the current year strong. Each week feels more time-crunched than the last, and you aren’t sure how you’ll ever get it all done. The clock is ticking, and Dec. 31 is just around the corner. Pressed for time, most sales professionals struggle to keep their head above water this time of year. While this pressure might seem like an unfortunate necessity, it’s likely that you’re not, in fact, setting the path for a more successful future. So, how can you stop running in place? Taking a few small steps in the direction of tighter territory targeting can set your GPS on the path for a new year characterized by enhanced growth.

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Process Modeling - Why You Need It In Your Toolkit

September 13, 2017

Requirements take many forms. The International Institute of Business Analysis’ (IIBA), Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), describes a requirement as a “usable representation of a need.”1 There are numerous business analysis models that can be used to represent requirements.2

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A Framework for Strategic Growth: Deliberations and Decisions

August 25, 2017

A wonderful executive I worked with for years was fond of saying to the senior team at each year’s strategy review meeting, “You can’t stand still on a bicycle. It’s either forward or backward and forward means growth. Let’s find the high-growth routes for the future.” The executive would then remind the group of the central questions to tackle:

  • Where are the most attractive opportunities for growth the next three-to-five years?
  • What are our best opportunities to strengthen our revenue and profit streams, create new ones for the long-term, or gain market share and enhance our margins?
  • Which of the many growth opportunities out there are we best suited to dominate, or at least differentiate, given our core competencies and what we’ve done well in the past?

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4 Strategic Capabilities Needed in Leaders

August 9, 2017

One of the most common questions we hear from clients is: "How can I create leaders who have strategic capabilities?" Organizations need leaders who can develop and implement strategies, so it’s understandable why this is a top concern.

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When Company Culture Works

June 28, 2017

What Johnsonville can teach us about organizational culture

We all know Johnsonville as a sausage producer in the U.S. What you may not know is that the vision Johnsonville sets for its culture is nothing less than to "Be the best company on earth - that also happens to make sausage.” That vision speaks volumes about how engaged and employee-powered Johnsonville’s culture is.

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3 Keys to Business Team Success

June 8, 2017

Teams are complicated. Different personalities, preferences, work styles, career goals, and communication approaches can create enormous variation and often cause conflict within teams. However, these ever-changing, ever-evolving dynamics are essential to a team’s effectiveness, despite the challenges they pose to the leader and individuals during group collaboration.

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3 Tips for Project Management Spring Cleaning

May 18, 2017

For many families, spring is not just the season of renewal, it’s also a designated time of the year to clean house. Whether it’s the garage or the closet, the living room or the kitchen, many of us use spring as a time for getting rid of clutter, making repairs that we’ve put off, or adding a new touch to make the home more livable. Spring cleaning was on my mind when I took a look at an organization struggling with the projects they were working on.

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Custom programs keep Johnsonville Sausage coming back for more

May 12, 2017

Customers vote with their feet and satisfied customer Johnsonville Sausage has voted three times to retain the Center for Professional and Executive Development (CPED) for custom training programs. Starting with a 2012 program at the full-service Fluno Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Johnsonville followed up with two programs in Madison in 2015 and one in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.

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