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





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





Sales and marketing terrorism

10 08 2006

The recent media coverage of political terrorism throughout the world has me reflecting on terrorism and extreme sales and marketing tactics in the business world.

Every industry has individuals or organizations that use drastic, pointless, unethical or dangerous economic tactics in order to increase income or market share in the short term. This use of drastic and irresponsible actions can be called sales and marketing terrorism.

The goal of sales and marketing terrorism is to create immediate change, instill panic and chaos, or further the goals of one group who cannot or are not willing to work with the current system of rules, regulations and norms.

Many times the reaction to these isolated incidents will severely impact the industry, market or specific businesses. Reactions can result in increased government legislation, more government or industry intervention, increased costs of doing business, loss of revenue and reduced customer confidence in the organization or industry.

Some examples of “sales and marketing terrorism”:

A competitor who initiates a campaign of extreme discounts or low prices (dumping) in order to eliminate a competitor or increase market share.

A marketing campaign that uses lies and innuendo to reduce the reputation of a competitor or industry segment.

Products of extremely poor quality (below expected consumer beliefs or expectations) substituted for products known for their quality.

Don’t confuse sales and marketing terrorism with innovative ideas and paradigm shifts in how to do business. The difference is that a sales and marketing terrorist has no plan other than disruption.

Sales and marketing terrorism is a short term strategy or single event that has no regard for long term collateral consequences. They believe their actions will be justified because of short term increases in profit or market share. Rarely do they succeed, but often create chaos and disorder in the marketplace that have an impact on the industry and consumers that can last for a long time.





The “Lightning and Thunder ” sales and marketing strategy

7 08 2006

Thunder and lightning are impressive natural phenomenon that have the power to frighten, exhilarate, and inspire awe. We’ve seen severe lightning and thunderstorms hundreds of times, and yet can be continually surprised or shocked by the power and ferocity of the thunder and lightning.

Lightning is swift, if you blink you might miss it. It is always an unusual and unique form that appears in the sky. It is dazzling, it can light up the entire sky for an instant. We cannot predict where it will strike or what type of damage it may cause. It’s wild and uncontrollable. Unforgettable because it is unique, elusive and enormous.

Thunder always follows the lightning. You can’t miss it, whether it’s a sudden roaring clap or a booming rolling bass note. Thunder is often impressive, and one relates the sound of thunder to the power of the lightning bolt that precedes it. In fact thunder is all about power. It’s the announcement that lightning has passed through, and the thunder’s volume and duration represent an event that has passed away. People rarely forget a huge thunderclap.

Are you giving your customers thunder and lightning with your products, service, sales and marketing?

Do your customers see a brilliant “flash” from your organization, do they hear and feel the power of the thunder after the event?

Are you offering products or services that dazzle and amaze, that light up the customers sky for a moment?

Do they see the lightning and hear the thunder from your efforts?

If your organization is only creating cloudy skies or drizzle for your clients, it’s time to change and create something to make them sit up and take notice. Make some lightning and thunder.





Do you have a destination in mind?

30 07 2006

Do you have a destination in mind for your life, job or career?

Remember going out with high school or college friends just “driving around”, no destination in mind.

No objective or destination, just killing time or waiting to see what turns up.

Maybe something happens, maybe not, but it kills some time and got you out of the house and your regular routine.  It didn’t require commitment or planning, it didn’t require compromise and follow-through, it was just “driving around”.

How are your managing your life, your career, and the people who work with you?

Do you have a plan or objectives?

Do you have clear objectives or destinations?

Are you just “driving around”, killing time and hoping that something different will turn up?





Is hard work important, is it still valid?

28 07 2006

Working hard…paying your dues…are these concepts still important and valid in today’s information economy and jobs?

What characteristics do you think of when someone says “she’s a hard worker”?

Is being a “hard worker” a positive or negative trait, something you aspire to?

In the US, the Puritan work ethic still provides a model of how we should work to many people. The Puritans believed that hard work was morally important, physically demanding, difficult or exhausting, required sacrifice and discipline, long hours, and usually referred to physical labor (the dominant labor required at that time). If an activity was pleasant the Puritans were pretty much against it.

Perhaps a better definition of hard work, taking into account the new information economy, is better related to; preparation and research, creating and using your information networks, taking the initiative, follow-through and closure, discipline, focus, efficiency, finding and communicating the solution in a timely manner.

Perhaps hard work is no longer a valid term or concept to apply to information workers.

The time required to do our work has, and is changing. When our principal job was agriculture, long hours were required to plant and harvest. Long hours are no longer required in order to say that someone is working hard in an office, or are they?

As long are workers are hired for an 8 hour day and 40 hour week, employers want to see their employees at their posts, ….doing something. So for many companies working hard still means being in the office for many hours, and extra hours represents hard work.

Long hours in the office could be the result of; research and investigation (good for all), inability to finish your work during the prescribed time (inefficient or fearful employee or workload is too heavy, bad for all), enthusiasm and desire to do more than the norm (good for company and possibly for employee advancement).

“Paying your dues” and sacrifice are also part of our definition of hard work. Paying your dues is part of the initiation into an organization, industry or group. It’s a sacrifice (usually related to long hours) that is part of, or required for, that specific culture. A new employee in many companies might be expected to work extra hours and make personal sacrifices to show they are working hard and paying their dues, trying to become part of the corporate culture.

There is a trade-off for employees between their personal life and business life. In order to succeed and advance in business working in a corporate culture, you must be promoted. To get promoted you have to been seen as possessing profitable skills and be a hard worker and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the company. As our culture becomes more competitive, we are faced with more people willing to work more hours and make more sacrifices, reducing our time with family and friends.

This debate regarding work-life balance is gaining momentum in the US. Workers are evaluating what role work should play in their lives and how many hours they should dedicate to working, and where and who they should “give” their time to.

Our definition of work is changing and evolving, and with it our definition of hard work is also being modified.

At what point do our evaluation and compensation systems take into account new elements that reflect the new realities and definitions of work in the 21st century?





The Cronos Syndrome – is it affecting your career?

27 07 2006

The Cronos Syndrome is a term used to describe the behaviour of managers who deliberately attempt to destroy the careers and successes of their subordinates.

Not to be confused with the Greek god Chronos, the god of time.

Cronos (Kronus or Kronos) was a Greek god (known as Saturn in Roman mythology), the son of Uranus, father of Zeus, he became ruler of the universe. He was told in a prophecy that one of his children would eventually dethrone him. In order to protect himself and stay in power, he ate several of his children at their birth, but eventually was tricked by his wife and Zeus was left alive.

The Cronos Syndrome affects managers who have been in their positions for 7 or more years, have moderate or limited education and suffer from moderate to severe personal and professionally insecurity. They fear and take action against persons under their control, who they perceive as threatening their power, therefore the comparison “they eat their young”.

It’s a frightening proposition to discover that your boss is out to get you….we all imagine they are…but how many are suffering from the Cronos Syndrome and actually are plotting and planning your downfall?

Related

Greek Mythology – Cronos

Greek Mythology Link – Cronos





First jobs and “front line” workers – are we willing to accept mediocrity?

27 07 2006

Everyone starts out with a job at or near the “bottom rung” of the career ladder; initial positions are often low paying, low level of decision-making required, repetitive and/or part-time positions.

These first jobs are often “front line” jobs and require the following skills and abilities in order to do the job well:

Retail – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, power of persuasion, work under pressure, time-management, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving, enthusiasm.

Restaurant, Food and Beverage – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, work under pressure, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, communication skills, and enthusiasm.

Manufacturing, Assembly Line – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, attention to quality, communication skills.

Services – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, communication skills, power of persuasion, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving abilities, enthusiasm.

It appears that the skills and abilities required for these positions are important and sought after for ANY position in the company no matter the title or salary level.

There is a massive difference in the quality of your experience when you interact with a superior retail employee, a motivated trained restaurant worker, or diligent member of a manufacturing company.  We all know this, so why are there more bad or neutral experiences as compared to the good or great ones?

Why doesn’t your organization spend more time on training, motivating and compensating these critical “front line” employees?  They are critical to the company’s image, sales and quality and eventual success or failure in the marketplace.

The argument used by many employers is that it doesn’t pay to train this level of employee.   Upper management is content and satisfied with paying low salaries, avoiding training costs, and live with high employee turnover…. and by logical association are willing to accept mediocrity and sub-standard performance in their organizations.

Perhaps the problem is not with the employer, but lies with the educational system.  Are we teaching and reinforcing the skills and abilities required for life and career success?  What is the role of our schools, to “baby-sit” for 12 years or prepare the minds and develop the skills required for success in the future?

Is it all about money? 

Are consumers and employers willing to accept mediocrity and poor service as a trade off for low costs?  

Is this as good as we want it?

Related 

First impressions, what can you do to change yours? 

Leadership is not about watching the competition 





13 Tactics Guaranteed to Kill any Project

26 07 2006

How many of these tactics can you identify and how many are at work right now in your organization?

13 tactics guaranteed to kill any project

1. Assemble and invite a huge group of people to participate, most of whom have no stake in the outcome.

2. Do not assign or elect a leader, or better yet, assign leadership to several members.

3. Never make the goals and objectives of the project clear. Leave them as vague as possible.

4. Never assign responsibilities to specific members and never set firm dates for the completion of tasks.

5. Stifle and block all new and alternative ideas, never allow questioning of procedures or goals, eliminate all creativity and any dissension.

6. Plan lots of long, unplanned meetings without an agenda, where nothing is achieved, goals are not reviewed, and no new compromises are agree upon. Especially good are meetings very late in the day, on Fridays.

7. When asked for information and interaction with other members, take a long time to answer and do not give them what they are asking for. Never respond to emails from other members.

8. Never participate during a meeting, but outside the room complain to everyone that the project is doomed and that everything is wrong.

9. Allow meetings to be interrupted by phone calls and visitors, let everyone answer emails and do work on their laptops during the event.

10. Make sure there are no resources assigned to the project or members, this includes time and money.

11. Give all the decision-making power to one individual, and make sure they never make a decision. Good lines to use to delay decision-making include “this is an important decision, I think it should be reviewed and studied further”, “we don’t have all the facts yet”, “I’ll take it under advisement”. This person should also travel often and be difficult to contact.

12. Big decisions that affect the project should be shared with only a few of the participants.

13. Always blame other members for anything that might be wrong. Attack aggressively, loudly and in public if possible.

Related

Effective Business Meetings

Create a debate – find out who really wants the project to work

Step by step beginner’s guide to project management





Who cleans up the problems generated by upper management at your company?

25 07 2006

I’ve often seen hard-working successful salesmen and purchasing managers devastated and years of relationship  development undermined when upper management changes a deal, strategy or situation without consulting or advising those directly involved. 

The success of salespeople and purchasing managers depends upon trust.  Trust between your company’s representative and the unique individual from the other company.  Trust based upon past performance and promises kept.  Trust developed through quality products and services.  Trust developed by creating a dialogue, listening and exchanging information in order to develop mutually beneficial solutions.  Trust takes time, patience, and a series of negotiations and transactions over time.   Trust that your company is supporting, and will continue to support sales and purchasing and existing relationships.

How many times have you seen executive corporate decisions provoke severe disturbances in the level of trust developed by sales and purchasing departments with their clients and suppliers?

Why don’t upper management executives value and protect these relationships? 

I think it is in large part due to the fact that most executives don’t have to “clean up” their own mess.  Executive management has no individual responsibility for their decisions that affect trust in other parts of the company.  They also expect customers and suppliers to accept that conditions can and will change at any moment, and in effect, are reducing the future effectiveness of their own sales and purchasing departments.  They rely on other departments to “clean up”, to explain, to renegotiate and to make the new policies work.  It’s considered part of the perks of executive management, to make decisions, but let others implement them.

Are there policies and procedures in place at your organization to review the effect a strategic or policy decision will have on trust and current relationships with suppliers and customers? 

Who is capable of “making a mess” at your organization? 

Who is responsible for “cleaning it up”?

Do you think that’s the way it should be?

 

Related:

Corporate Leadership and Managers still aren’t listening

Who do YOU trust?





When leadership fails – an example – the Mexican shoe manufacturing industry

24 07 2006

It’s quite interesting to watch certain businesses and industries succeed and fail, and try to identify the factors that lead to these very different outcomes.

For example in Leon, Guanajuato, the shoe-making capital of Mexico, the industry is under severe pressure from imported product, and lower costs from China, Vietnam, Brazil, and other countries.

It’s quite clear to everyone in the industry that there are several solutions to the problem.

  1. Ask the government to create trade barriers and import tariffs. This will only support the inefficiencies in the national industry, postponing the inevitable.
  2. Invest in design and create a brand. Shoes are purchased for two reasons, fashion and protecting your feet. The fashion market has much higher profit margins, but requires constant investment in research and development and marketing.
  3. Invest in technology. If your product is focused on low prices in the market, you must have low costs, and lower costs than your competitors. This might be achieved with new technologies.
  4. Create alliances within the industry. If China production costs are cheaper, but it takes 60 days for the product to reach the US, doesn’t it make perfect sense to create an alliance where the initial production comes from Mexico (5 days to market), followed by the mass production from China?
  5. Purchase the shoes from the overseas competition and close your production facilities.
  6. Create new markets, export to new markets.

Those are the choices, and what do you think is happening?

The majority of companies are pointing out the danger and requesting government intervention, but not implementing any other strategies to avoid the “doomsday” scenario.

The few companies (industry leaders) that have invested in branding, design, technology and purchasing from competitors are thriving, earning money and making profits.

Why is avoiding the obvious or inevitable, such common behaviour in most organizations and groups?

I believe it has to do with the failure of the leaders to move out of the Thinking-Identifying stage and into the Planning and Implementation stages.

The cycle of business leadership and management consists of:

  • Thinking-Identifying. Thinking and identifying important internal and external factors and understanding how they interact.
  • Planning. Using the data and information to formulate a plan and strategy
  • Implementing the strategy. Putting the resources and motivation behind the plan and “making it work”.
  • Reaction-Modification. Reacting and modifying the plan as the conditions change.

Many leaders are uncomfortable or unable to identify the major factors that are and will affect their companies. They are unable to create strategies and delay important and critical decisions because they lack data, or have too much of it, or don’t know how to properly analyze it and find conclusions. Without a strategy there is obviously no implementation, and the organization begins to react to situations created by others (crisis management).

This inability to read the market, identify market forces, create strategies and adapt to changing conditions will eliminate those organizations from the market. Creating strategy is not easy, and creating successful strategies is even more difficult. It requires excellent leadership and management decisions.

What are the known problems in your organization and industry?

What strategies are waiting to be created and implemented in order to prepare your business for the future?

Why isn’t it happening now?





Leadership is NOT about watching the competition

21 07 2006

Who is the leader in your industry and why? 

Is their leadership position related to: cost structure and distribution, creativity and innovation (research and development of new ideas and products), image and marketing (selling better), leadership and vision (creating the future and successful strategies)? 

At Slow Leadership, there is an excellent piece entitled “Slow Down and Play to your Strengths” which puts the idea of leadership and monitoring the competition into perspective.  It asks the question, do you have the courage, focus, patience, and thoughtfulness to manage and grow your organization on your terms? 

At first glance it appears very safe to follow, copy and react to the competition.  But what if the competition is watching and reacting to you?   This can only lead to a slow spiral of mediocrity and eventual stagnation and death of the participants. 

  • What are you creating and selling?  Why?
  • What strategies are you evaluating?
  • What risks are you willing to take to reach your objectives?

This concept also can be applied to your role and position at your company.

Who are you watching and copying or reacting too?

What strategies can you embrace or create, to become a leader and innovator inside your department or organization?

Related Links

Slow Leadership (Link)

Business Strategy, has it become a commodity? (Link)





9 steps to better decisions

21 07 2006

Trying to pin the blame for a bad decision on an individual or group is fairly common corporate activity.  We believe that errors are not to be tolerated, and that anyone who commits an error should be identified and punished.  Too often this search limits and inhibits people from speaking up and making good, creative and bold choices in their organizations.  The fear of failure prevents action. 

We have to “blame” the process more and the people less. 

But who doesn’t make bad choices, mistakes, and accidents due to omission or over confidence? 

It’s part of life and learning.  The more I learn about chaos theory, and the butterfly effect, the more difficult it is to identify an individual who can be singled out as the responsible party for a “decision gone wrong”.  The trial and error decision-making process is still prevalent in the natural world, and will continue to be part of the corporate world.

What would happen in your organization if you stop seeking someone to blame, and focus on the decision-making process itself and the evaluation of results, independent of individuals? 

Where there is a failure, first take a look at the following list, answer the questions to determine if the decision-making system was at fault, or if it was an individual failure within the process. 

Run de-briefings and analysis of outcomes, good and bad, and find elements that were responsible.  Let your people know that mistakes can happen, and can be tolerated, but that a systemic process should be used in order to eliminate or reduce errors. 

9 steps to better decisions 

  1. What are our objectives and expected outcomes?
  2. What information should we accumulate in order to make a decision?
  3. What information is not important for this decision?
  4. Who is evaluating and processing the information?
  5. What criteria are being used to evaluate and process the information?
  6. What are the possible scenarios based upon the present information?
  7. What is the most likely scenario or best decision for the company at this time?
  8. Who are the decision-makers for this issue and why?
  9. What elements are critical and essential for success?

Shift your focus from the person to the process itself, what is or was missing?  Why? 

Related Links

More access to information – more mistakes

How to set up a beginner’s “Business Intelligence” system 





Ideas from the “World’s Best Companies”

19 07 2006

I was reading the April 2006 issue of Business 2.0, entitled “Best Kept Secrets of the World’s Best Companies”. What struck me was that the companies profiled are jumbo, mega-corporations (immediately causing a frown and the question “why aren’t there any small or medium sized companies?”.

I doubt that these are the company’s best kept secrets, but the ideas are interesting if you remember they were designed for and implemented in large organizations (which we seem to associate with success).

The ideas presented were:

  1. Benchmarking – compare everything to the competition
  2. Lending library – have materials available that can provoke creativity
  3. Devil’s advocacy- promote debate
  4. Physically put the boss in the day to day operations
  5. Look for bad news and talk about it
  6. Use external consultants to promote ideas and research
  7. Creative equity arrangements for start-ups, new projects
  8. Everyone is the HR department
  9. Review and question strategy
  10. Peers chose their leaders
  11. Creative economic solution to avoid theft and loss
  12. Executive pay determined by results and collaboration
  13. Prediction markets
  14. Graffiti, promote communication outside “normal” channels
  15. Use greed to motivate, sell and inspire
  16. Maintain work related contact with retirees
  17. Crowdsourcing and open-source advertising
  18. Use employees to watch trends and monitor the market
  19. Hire someone to watch shareholder interests, not the CEO
  20. 3 minute daily morning meeting
  21. Get board members out regularly with customers and front-line workers
  22. Get executives out with customers and product/service users
  23. Pay your people if they save you money
  24. Take the “hard sell” out of your sales force
  25. Become a customer of your own company

First thought: Is it practical or necessary for small and medium sized companies to embrace and implement these ideas and strategies (In a large organization there are large problems, in a small organization there are small ones)?

Second thought: Given the multi-tasking of all employees and executives in small and medium sized organizations, is it realistic to expect results that echo the large corporations if these ideas are implemented on a smaller level? If you believe that a large organization will be populated by specialists and in small organizations generalists are predominant, are the ideas presented applicable to both environments (What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander)?

Third thought: How much of the success attributed to the ideas and strategies are because employees feel part of a large important project that has purpose (Everyone smiles during the parade)? How much of the positive response is because workers feel that leadership is aware and concerned about them and their problems (I am important, my contribution is important and they know it)?

How many of the 25 ideas are related to communication, strategy, customer feedback, cost savings, knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the customer, agility and flexibility….aren’t all these factors inherent in a small business? In fact, without competence in these areas the small business fails quickly.

Perhaps a great idea, number 26, for big corporations would be to take a look at the core competencies required by successful small business owners, and insure that these specialties and areas of expertise are well represented and disseminated throughout their large organization.

Related Links

Crowdsourcing, a potential resource for your business





Business Strategy, has it become a commodity?

18 07 2006

Here’s something I’ve written about earlier, but worth thinking about often.

Umair Haque has written Laws of the Post-Network Economy: Strategy is a Commodity in the BubbleGeneration blog.

His basic idea is that organizations are all creating and implementing strategy, it no longer provides clear differentiation from other companies as it did in the past. Strategy has become part of a “standard operating procedure”, it is a commodity process found in every business.

The playing field has been levelled.

Strategy is necessary, but no longer the important tool of change and value creation it was 20 years ago.

He suggests that the next value creation “tool” that organizations are and will be using is that of creativity.

“I think it is going to have to do with creativity. In a world where strategy is a commodity, creativity becomes the vital factor from which value flows. When everyone can think strategically about everything, the locus of value creation shifts from out-thinking everyone to out-creating them. The prime mover of value creation becomes putting the ability to create (goods, services, processes – even strategies) at the heart and soul of the firm.” (Link)

I’m a big believer that the best business ideas are those that no one else is currently using (Link). Once your business tools, human resources, sales and marketing and finance departments are all doing it like everyone else, it’s not going to be great, it’s not going to be exciting, it’s not going to create a profitable future.

What could happen to your organization and your industry if creativity is viewed and promoted as the most important business tool you have NOW, to create and prepare for the future?

On the other hand, what if Umair is wrong, and strategy is not a commodity?

What will occur if the future requires that we constantly “out-think” the competition?

Related Links

Strategy Redux – The Execution Economy

There are no new management and leadership ideas