SOME THOUGHTS ON MANAGEMENT

Recently I was called upon to prepare a presentation for a group of university business students from Brazil. The presentation was to include Leadership and Strategic Management. In thinking about what would be valuable to convey, I didn’t have to think much about Leadership as that is one of the things we’re know for in our industry  but I wanted to find our more about so-called Strategic Management so I did a little research into the subject.

Here is one definition for Strategic Management.

“Strategic Management is all about identification and description of the strategies that managers can carry so as to achieve better performance and a competitive advantage for their organization. An organization is said to have competitive advantage if its profitability is higher than the average profitability for all companies in its industry.”

Now, having been in Business and Management Consulting for about 30 years, I have come to understand that many in my profession have a habit of taking something common, even old, and renaming it as if it were new.

For some reason, not only consultants but Executives and Managers in business seem to delight in creating complexity where it does not need to exist. When operating businesses, there’s really not that much under the sun that is truly new. Now clearly, things like virtual employees, the global nature of business today and technology are new but “business basics” are really not.

So, in looking at one of the latest “new” things to come down the pike, I found Strategic Management not to be new at all. Back around 1960, a gentleman named Eric Gillberg introduced a practice to management known as “Goals and Controls”. This system was based on the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) and was paraphrased to mean “concentrate on the “vital few” and ignore the “trivial many”.

In practice, each supervisor, manager and executives breaks down what they do into a short list of categories that can be easily measured. Each month, results oriented performance goals are set and managed to for these  “vital few” areas in the context of the overall business plan. Three months of successful goal accomplishment role up into a successful quarter and four quarters role up into a successful year.

Now without getting too granular here, one quick example. During the course of any month a sales organization will do thousands of things but to measure all that activity would be foolish. What needs to be measured is gross sales and gross margin. Regardless of how “busy” everyone is, if these two categories of goals are missed, the business hurts.

When done throughout all areas of the business, this becomes a precision management system. Now, there are meetings to report progress and formulate corrective actions if someone is off target and a lot of other things that take place but the fundamentals remain the same. There’s nothing wrong with Strategic Management, it’s just nothing new.

So, take some time to analyze the various complexities in your business and determine if they are really necessary. If they exist for legacy reasons, take a hard look at eliminating or changing them.

Sometimes, going back to basics is the most innovative thing you can do.

How’s the complexity in your business?

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SOME MUSINGS ON TEAMWORK

I’ve just returned from a 3 week motorcycle trip to the East Coast that I took with a few fellow riders. We rode from the Los Angeles area through 17 states all the way up to Bangor, Maine.

During the trip which totaled over 5200 miles, we experienced, bad storms (the kind where cars & trucks are pulled over to the side of the Interstate), hot weather, cold weather and multiple other distractions that could have delayed or ended the trip but we pressed on and ultimately prevailed.

Our main goal was to attend a 93 year old motorcycle rally in Laconia, New Hampshire and that goal was achieved.

As with any venture, we were dependent upon each other for many things among just a few were planning, navigation, gas stops, food stops, motel reservations and, most of all, safety. We had no accidents, no mechanical breakdowns, no tickets and no one was injured.

There were times when we disagreed, compromised, argued (from spirited debates come better decisions) but generally went with the group wisdom. We have all ridden together for several years and consider each other to be friends. We knew that it would take all of our cooperation, collaboration and discipline to achieve the goal.

At the end of the trip, I reflected on how we worked together, what went well and what was difficult for us and it struck me how similar this was to almost any business situation.

Sure, we had a ride leader but this group was comprised of strong, opinionated individuals all with a great deal of riding experience. When you consider running a business or a major project, isn’t this the general make-up of most teams? I am convinced that what made us successful were a few important things.

  • Mutual respect for each other
  • Sharing a common goal
  • A healthy disdain for failure
  • Wanting very much to win

When faced with business challenges, it is important to look at your resources in a positive way, consider the depth of experience at your disposal, deeply internalize the team’s commitment to success and always listen to each other. When bright people learn to appreciate each others strengths and to compensate for their weaknesses just about everything is achievable.

How’s the teamwork in your organization?

IS HOLDING PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE PASSE’ ?

There’s been much written of late regarding the changes in the workplace and how management and leadership need to change with it. While, in many ways this is true, there are some things that should be maintained.

We all need to learn new skills and techniques. Increasing our knowledge of how to lead and manage virtual, global enterprises, how to lead and manage a multi generational workforce and how to restructure our organizations and our
thinking to accommodate the ever increasing rate of change are but a few things to keep up with.

But, some things shouldn’t be eliminated. There is a tendency in American business to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when a new trend or fad comes along. I’ve read recently how holding people accountable for specific, measurable results is somehow old fashioned and we should just let people perform as they wish. To me, that is akin to “participation trophies” and it is the fast lane to business failure. People still need to be challenged, their performance measured and good performance rewarded.

We certainly need to treat people with dignity and respect, we need to coach and counsel but we also need to demand performance. When goals are not clear, measurements not visible and everyone is rewarded the same, we create mediocrity.

I don’t know anyone who is in business to become mediocre. Do You?

WANTING TO GET AWAY?

Many people never seem to find the time to get away. Between work, family, social commitments and just the pace of the world, it is truly difficult to plan and execute a getaway.

One thing to remember is that you can never find time for anything, you have to make time.

Your getaways don’t need to be a major trip. Two weeks in Tahiti is nice but so are long weekends. The important thing to remember is that you NEED breaks from normal life pressures.

If you breakdown the word recreation, it means to recreate. Time away for yourself and as a couple with your significant other is time to recreate yourself, time to recharge your batteries, time to find yourself and reconnect with that one special person.

Here are some techniques I use personally to ensure that I make time for myself.

At the beginning of each year, I plan two major vacations. I identify places I want to visit, I schedule the days on my calendar and, if possible, I spend some money on it in the form of a deposit. Having the trip on the calendar and actually shelling out some money ensures that I will take the vacation.

In between major trips, I do the same thing for long weekends and mini-vacations throughout the year. For many, building some of these mini-vacations can be centered around your favorite hobby and they can be by yourself or as a couple.

One of my majors this year is riding my motorcycle from California to Laconia New Hampshire for a major motorcycle rally. This is a trip that I make with fellow riders and it is time just for me.

When I return, I will be mentally rested, physically exhausted (in a good way) and ready to get back into my business.

So, don’t wait until the first of next year to begin your planning. Do some things with family and friends, do other things as a couple and make sure to do a few things just for yourself. You will be a better business leader, employee, parent and spouse because of making time for yourself.

What are you waiting for?

MAKING MEETINGS WORK

For decades managers and non-managers alike have voiced dissatisfaction with participating in nonproductive, lengthy meetings.

The keys to successful meeting management are twofold. First there must be an established and supported process or structure by which all meetings are conducted. This “recipe” for conducting meetings eventually becomes part of the management culture of the organization and is an important element of integrating new people into the culture.

The second, and equally important element is the behavior of the meeting participants. Certain “norms” of behaviors must be established and adhered to. A culture of trust must be established where people can both offer and receive “course corrections” in meetings when they either observe the meeting getting off track or when they stray from established norms themselves.

In order to make meetings work, you must take the well known fundamentals of meeting management and cast them in an entirely new light — how people “show-up” for meetings largely determines the effectiveness of them. Face to face, Video-Conference and Teleconference forums all suffer from the same difficulties. People show up late, distracted and unprepared. The stress and anxiety caused by these bad habits are the root cause of many meetings failing to meet their desired outcomes.

Here are a few things you can do to begin to change your meeting culture and therefore their effectiveness.

Determine Existing Realities – Gather data from employees regarding the current “norms” and practices for conducting meetings. Compare current practices with industry “best practices” and perform a gap analysis to re-engineer your processes to establish “future Practices”.

Set Meeting Structure and Operating Guidelines – Review meeting mechanics and procedures.

Determine Roles and Responsibilities – Study the various roles and responsibilities and re-define as required. Facilitator, Team Leader, Time Keeper, Action Minute Recorder, Participant.

Focus on Meeting Management – Sharpen facilitation skills and decision making. Become a master of accountability, and crowd control.

Facilitate Positive Confrontation – Learn how to surface difficult issues and use “Appreciative Inquiry” as a foundation for problem solving and resolution.

Here are some guidelines for conducting successful meetings:

  • Start on time
  • Select or acknowledge the chairperson
  • Select a time keeper
  • Select an action minute recorder
  • Ensure all participants have their calendars
  • Begin with and stick to the agenda (Allocate specific amounts of time to each agenda item)
  • Achieve balanced participation (Don’t let some members dominate while others don’t participate fully)
  • Avoid going off on tangents (Use action minutes to schedule and track other meetings with the team or various members of the team)
  • Use the action minutes to record and track specific action steps that are important to the team
  • End on time

How productive are your meetings?