Oil and water

30 05 2007

Oil and water don’t mix.

That’s what I believed until today.  Oil and water do mix after all

In an organization there are departments that don’t mix well, or not at all.  Sales, finance and production departments are notorious for having problems or “not mixing”.

Each of these groups has a different way of thinking, they create very different processes and final products, it makes sense that they will not agree to, or understand what the other departments are doing.

Tension, misunderstandings, frustration and chaos can result if left unattended.

Sales and marketing is concerned with creating or identifying demand for the product and negotiating an agreement.  It’s about people and relationships, emotions, taking advantage of opportunities, being creative innovative and adaptable, exploring new ideas, making sure the customer is satisfied.  Uncertainty is a large part of every business day.

Finance focuses on numbers.  What did we do in the past, what are we doing now, what will we need in the future and how do we reduce or eliminate our risk.  Structured, predictable, logical, they label everything.  Their evaluation and decision making is based on guaranteed outcomes and not on uncertainty.

Production is concerned with efficiency and is also numbers driven.  Processes are studied, analyzed and standardized in order to maximize control and eliminate  errors.  They prefer set plans and actively resist rapid or constant deviations and modifications.  Believers in contingency plans and backups, logical, not fond of uncertainty.

The goal is to acknowledge that every group is very different, with different points of view, and that these differences are essential to the success of any organization.

The entire system (organization) benefits from the interaction, questioning, and controls required by each department.

If there is total agreement, all the time, something is wrong.

Leadership’s role is to provoke, question, listen, analyze and push this chaos toward a goal.

Successful leaders know how to make oil and water mix,  and make it happen on a regular basis.

Related Links 

New Scientist – Oil and water do mix after all

Are we killing team performance by over communicating 

Leadership, want the job or just the title and benefits

Leadership – who do you want to lead

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The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

19 10 2006

Will our future entry level workforce be competitive and competent?

Are we ready to build a nation full of entrepreneurs and world class workers?

I highly recommend you read the study published by the The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, entitled:

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce”

According to this study of 431 companies in the US, representing over 2 million employees in a variety of industries and geographic areas, the future is bleak.

“The future U.S. workforce is here—and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.”

The basic skills and knowledge identified and considered to be very important elements for future employees include:

  • English Language (spoken)
  • Government/Economics
  • Reading Comprehension (in English)
  • Humanities/Arts
  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics History/Geography
  • Science

The applied skills, which are increasing in importance as criteria for success in the future:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
  • Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
  • Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
  • Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  • Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
  • Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
  • Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
  • Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

Excepts from the study:”Business leaders must take an active role in outlining the kinds of skills we need from our employees for our companies and economy to thrive.”

“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people.
Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify
new and creative solutions.”

We assume that our schools are producing graduates with fundamental business abilities, why isn’t it happening?

Are we going to accept that the training of the future workforce is in the hands of private business, and not the educational system?

What is the cost to business when new employees must be given remedial training, just to get them up to entry level?

What is your organization doing right now to ensure, or create talent for the future?

Read the study, pass it around the office and makes sure the boss and human resource people get copies.

This is no longer someone elses’s problem.

“ The numbers don’t bode well for the future—the future of our workforce. It is in our interest to help solve the problem. And business has the capacity to help solve the problem by partnering with education and community leaders to create opportunities for young people to practice the skills they need to be successful.” – Bill Shore, Director, U.S. Community Partners, GlaxoSmithKline

Related Links

The Conference Board: Are they really ready for work?

Are they really ready to work (PDF)

Most young people entering the US workforce lack critical skills essential for success

Young Workforce is “Ill-Prepared”





Customer driven or customer ignorant

5 10 2006

“When people talk about successful retailers and those that are not so successful, the customer determines at the end of the day who is successful and for what reason.” – Gerry Harvey

Talking about it or Doing it.

  • There are organizations that talk about serving the customer.
  • There are organizations that do what customers want.

Enemy or Friend

  • There are organizations that perceive and react to the customer as an adversary.
  • There are organizations that listen to, seek out and embrace the customer and the customers ideas.

Products or Solutions

  • There are organizations that create products and services because they can, and hope that the customer will find them.
  • There are organizations that innovate and create better products and solutions for the customer.

Now take the word “organizations” and replace it with “governments”.

“This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this, people will keep coming back.” – John Ilhan

Related Links

There are no new management and leadership ideas

 





10 things you should do on Friday afternoon

18 08 2006

Friday afternoons are not known as the most productive times in an organization. Why not take advantage of Friday afternoon, and do the following:

10 things to do on Friday afternoon

1. Clean up your desk, file the important documents, throw out the rest. Make your desktop visible again.

2. De-fragment and tidy up your computer and files, backup important information. Boring, but has to be done right?

3. Make a list of the projects and tasks you wish to deal with on Monday morning. Make Monday easier.

4. Review your calendar and schedule for the coming week, confirm appointments and make sure you’re prepared for meetings and presentations. Be on time and prepared.

5. Return all pending phone calls that have accumulated during the week. Follow-up.

6. Clean up your email inbox. Follow-up, follow-through, keep the communication moving.

7. Smile a lot, get excited about the weekend. Think of the future, not the past.

8. Call your spouse, significant other or best friend. Tell them to get dressed up and go out to a casual relaxing place that you have not been to in a while. It should remind you why you worked so hard all week. Give yourself a reward. Enjoy it.

9. If you are in a leadership or management position. Get out of your office and walk around, talk to people about anything but work. Ask if they have something special or exciting planned for the weekend. Listen and learn.

10. Do small random acts of kindness for subordinates and co-workers, these might include; give out Milk Duds and Lemonheads, buy a lottery ticket for everyone, take the “front line” workers out for a drink. Random acts of kindness. No ulterior motives.

Related Link

10 things you should never do on Friday afternoon 





20 challenges faced by a family owned business

17 08 2006

Every business organization has a unique set of challenges and problems. The family business is no different. Many of these problems exist in corporate business environments, but can be exaggerated in a family business.

Family business go through various stages of growth and development over time. Many of these challenges will be found once the second and subsequent generations enter the business.

A famous saying about family owned business in Mexico is “Father, founder of the company, son rich, and grandson poor” (Padre noble, hijo rico, nieto pobre). The founder works and builds a business, the son takes it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and the grandson inherits a dead business and and empty bank account.

Prepare now and help your grandson avoid the poorhouse.

20 challenges for the family business

  1. Emotions. Family problems will affect the business. Divorce, separations, health or financial problems also create difficult political situations for the family members.
  2. Informality. Absence of clear policies and business norms for family members
  3. Tunnel vision. Lack of outside opinions and diversity on how to operate the business.
  4. Lack of written strategy. No documented plan or long term planning.
  5. Compensation problems for family members. Dividends, salaries, benefits and compensation for non-participating family members are not clearly defined and justified.
  6. Role confusion. Roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
  7. Lack of talent. Hiring family members who are not qualified or lack the skills and abilities for the organization. Inability to fire them when it is clear they are not working out.
  8. High turnover of non-family members. When employees feel that the family “mafia” will always advance over outsiders and when employees realize that management is incompetent.
  9. Succession Planning. Most family organizations do not have a plan for handing the power to the next generation, leading to great political conflicts and divisions.
  10. Retirement and estate planning. Long term planning to cover the necessities and realities of older members when they leave the company.
  11. Training. There should be a specific training program when you integrate family members into the company. This should provide specific information that related to the goals, expectations and obligations of the position.
  12. Paternalistic. Control is centralized and influenced by tradition instead of good management practices.
  13. Overly Conservative. Older family members try to preserve the status quo and resist change. Especially resistance to ideas and change proposed by the younger generation.
  14. Communication problems. Provoked by role confusion, emotions (envy, fear, anger), political divisions or other relationship problems.
  15. Systematic thinking. Decisions are made day-to-day in response to problems. No long-term planning or strategic planning.
  16. Exit strategy. No clear plan on how to sell, close or walk away from the business.
  17. Business valuation. No knowledge of the worth of the business, and the factors that make it valuable or decrease its value.
  18. Growth. Problems due to lack of capital and new investment or resistance to re-investment in the business.
  19. Vision. Each family member has a different vision of the business and different goals.
  20. Control of operations. Difficult to control other members of the family. Lack of participation in the day-to-day work and supervision required.




Build your organization, don’t destroy it

14 08 2006

Pragmatic business people know that strategies must be reviewed before, during and after implementation. Difficult questions must be asked and answered throughout the organization. Results analyzed and reviewed in order to identify flaws and errors.

Many times this exercise can push us into seeking and identifying problems instead of solutions. Too much time spent on what can go wrong and not enough focus on what can be created. Gridlock sets in, no solution is good enough, there is always a flaw.

All to often we find ourselves criticizing the work of others and the efforts that did not succeed as expected. We spend time taking things apart to find out what went wrong, and seeking to identify who was responsible for the “failure”. Our days are spent destroying the ideas of others.

Why not focus an equal amount of time on the positive aspects?

What did or will work, and why?

Creation is much more difficult than destruction. Support the creation of ideas and solutions in your organization, make your first analysis focus on the successful or positive aspects.

Ask yourself, “what am I creating today”.





Leadership by default

12 08 2006

I have had the misfortune to have worked in organizations where the leadership, management and decision-making style could be called leadership by default. This is characterized by leaderships and management’s inability to make decisions on-time or to make decisions at all.

Leaders who are consistently unable or unwilling to make decisions can be a dangerous element in the organization. Often they are insecure about their position, or don’t have skills and abilities required to fulfill the obligations of leadership.

The usual excuses are often repeated to cover up and justify the absence of decision making. These would include; we don’t have enough information, the situation is volatile, and that there is too much information available. The excuses are covering up the inability to sort, organize and prioritize data and the inability to identify and recognize opportunities. Grave leadership errors.

By not making a decision on-time, the options become limited, and with more time, factors come into play that eventually corner the organization into a situation where a decision is virtually forced upon them. It is the only remaining option. The decision maker says they are ready to make the decision, everyone reviews it and agrees it is the right decision (as it is the only option remaining), and life goes on. The decision maker feel validated. It’s leadership by default.

If you go to purchase tickets to the theatre for an event that will be presented in 3 months there are plenty of choices, all different. If you purchase tickets on-time you can have your pick of the event, the seat you desire and the date that is just right for you. By waiting until 5 minutes before an event begins your options are extremely limited, perhaps the event you really wanted is gone. You made a decision, and got tickets with both scenarios, but the results (seats and events) are very different.

It is not fair to the shareholders, customers or employees to allow management to consistently stall and postpone decision-making. Efforts should be focused on finding the right people in the organization who are willing to research, evaluate and identify opportunities and make important decisions on-time, every time.

Related Links

Thanks to Lori for the inspiration – Iwan Cray Huber Horstman and Van Ausdal LLC