Saturday, May 10, 2014

Profits not keeping pace with revenue?


To remain competitive, organizations must boost operational efficiency wherever possible.  Common sense tells us that lack of operating efficiently and effectively leads to erosion of profitability and potentially the demise of a business.  Does an increase in your organization’s profit margin continue to elude you?

Some reasons for lack of increased profits:

·        People are working hard to gain sales, but company inefficiencies prevent increased profitability.  Is the focus on revenue or profitability?  Are you paying attention to the sales margin or just taking any work?  Insist that every job makes a profit.  

·        People don't share data.  Is there enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company?  Will the expansion into additional markets be profitable?  Make it a point to regularly talk about what customers are saying, what data has been collected, and what the numbers are telling you.  

·        The wrong people are in the decision making process.  Is your management team dysfunctional – does it lack focus, vision, planning, and high standards?  Are the right people in place to make necessary changes?  

·       Old habits remain which prevent growth.  People are reluctant to switch over to new systems. Businesses stagnate when people are slow to change.  Are people holding profits hostage due to stubbornness, or being risk or conflict averse? 
  
Poor change management during the introduction of IT systems can cause chaos.  Whenever software is replaced it's disruptive to workers, which results in lowered productivity.  By adding a poorly functioning IT system to the mix, you have grounds for anarchy!  Minimize or eliminate such disruptions by carefully determining short- and long-term business objectives and then carefully develop technology solutions to those objectives. Don’t forget, organizations that regularly monitor efficiencies and have a business plan in place are the ones who outperform competition. 

The Pro/Axios Diagnostic Approach allows you to detect and correct these issues and more.  Contact us for further analysis.  If your people aren't working together, you're losing profit.



Monday, February 10, 2014

Leadership courage in the face of employee challenges: Part 1 - The Incompetent - those who cannot.



The Tough Stuff of Leading ... Difficult Team members must join or be removed. 

Leaders generally experience a rhythm to their roles, learning of challenges, developing teams and solutions, resolving issues and celebrating the results.  This tends to be the day-to-day experience of most leaders. Yet there are times when we are either put into a broken team or a team member is given to us and we need to take hard, drastic steps to manage them, or we, and those we lead, will be ineffective. While every team member deserves the opportunity to shine and be successful, some simply cannot produce what is needed for the project or team to be successful.  There are two ends of the spectrum: those who cannot and those who will not.

Incompetence.  Those who cannot.
This situation often happens because someone was placed in your team by another manager or executive.  You are asked to hold on to this person whilst they wait for a new role.  Or another manager has a need for team cost reduction, and this person is singled out as unnecessary.  Your HR team seeks a place or role for this individual and your team becomes the landing zone for someone who was displaced from a former role.  Neither of these situations is helpful for a team, but they are a part of corporate and organizational life. 
 
The challenge with this person becomes one of incompetence in the role.  I recall one individual who sent out customer information from one company to another company simply because of a lack of attention to serious details.  That individual ‘cut and pasted’ information because it was the easy way out.  He had been placed into my team with a view to a much larger job and he simply did not take the role seriously.  He had no skills within the domain of the team, and though he talked a good game, he accomplished very little. 

After about six months with him on the team, I knew he had to go.   The rest of the team was suffering because of this individual and they were looking to me to resolve the matter. In the life of a leader, this crisis must be resolved or your team will lose respect for your skills.  Your credibility will erode. 

All professionals know the route that is taken when you’re going to remove them from the team, and they prepare accordingly.  They get their own stack of documents and accolades from various people to validate their need to stay on the team.  It is not an easy task to remove them.  Leaders at this stage must build a very thorough coalition with HR and other executive leadership to ensure the ‘I’s have been dotted and the ‘t’s have been crossed.   Then a careful plan must be put in place and executed. 

I worked with the HR team and appropriate executives to state very clearly that this individual would have xx number of months to improve his skills for the team, or he would be gone.  Expectations were set and I carefully articulated the requirements to him.  Face-to-face is best, and this is that moment of managerial courage we must all face, acknowledging, whether we like it or not, this individual’s family and his whole life will be upset by his departure.  But that cannot stop us as leaders.  Compassion is balanced with realism.  

Within three months I conducted a painstakingly careful performance review demonstrating this individual’s failures in the role.  It was nothing personal, but it was clear and straightforward.  One of the challenges we face as leaders is how our emotions get the best of us when we’ve been put in an awkward spot by an incompetent member.  I had to overcome my anger to be professional and effective.  I told him he had a few more months to improve, and if he did not, his employment was over.  He said he understood and signed off on the plan.  

Ultimately, we demonstrated that he was not able to complete the work required, and thus he had to move on.  He knew he was incapable of doing the job, and so were we.  In the end, he found something that matched his skills at another company.  It was a tough situation, but keeping him on the team would have further destroyed morale and caused others to work harder to pick up the slack he left through incompetence.


Leadership courage in the face of employee challenges: Part 2 - The recalcitrant - those who will not.

The Tough Stuff of Leading ... Difficult Team members must join or be removed. 
Leaders generally experience a rhythm to their roles, learning of challenges, developing teams and solutions, resolving issues and celebrating the results.  This tends to be the day-to-day experience of most leaders. Yet there are times when we are either put into a broken team or a team member is given to us and we need to take hard, drastic steps to manage them, or we, and those we lead, will be ineffective. While every team member deserves the opportunity to shine and be successful, some simply cannot produce what is needed for the project or team to be successful.  There are two ends of the spectrum: those who cannot and those who will not.


Recalcitrant.  Those who will not. 
In our leadership roles, we sometimes encounter individuals who simply will not follow direction.  There are many reasons for this: sometimes people believe they should have your role, and in their bitterness, they rebel against your leadership.  Sometimes people have an allegiance to a former manager whom they believe was a better boss than you are.  Sometimes people don’t like the work that is involved in the direction you set.  Ultimately, these people need to be on your side or off the team: there is no in between.  

Don’t get me wrong, detractors and naysayers are part of the game in management.  We don’t expect everyone to agree with everything we say … and sometimes our style as managers makes people resistant (something we need to think about.  Are WE responsible for employee backlash?)

In the end, it is far easier to deal with the recalcitrant, than it is to deal with the incompetent.  For the recalcitrant, the choice is clear: get on board or get off the ship.  I had that conversation with several people in my 40 year career.  It went like this: “I am aware that you do not like the approach I’m taking as a leader.  I respect that, but I must add that we have work and responsibilities to do.  So, you don’t have to agree with me to stay on the team, but you need to understand I’m taking a direction and we can’t go two ways to get the job done.   If you’re willing to work with me, I’ll be glad to use your talents; if not, you need to find another job.”  

In one instance, I was taking the person’s job and he reported to me.  That one was the toughest of the tough.  He felt he was being disrespected in the highest possible way, and he knew it.  But he was not effective in the role, so they hired me.  I wanted to ensure he felt respected by me, BUT I had the role and I was responsible for the output of the team.  

The conversation was done one-on-one in a private area where no one else could interrupt.  It was done quickly without allowing the person a lot of time for preparation.  By grabbing a moment to do so, you prevent anxiety on his part and on your part.  This conversation needs to be done and over with.  I needed to be direct, to the point and brief … and most of all, very, very clear.  I brought several very specific instances of borderline insubordination to the person’s attention.  Then I said “No one will know of this conversation except you and me.  I will not contact HR or my leadership.  But today is a day of choice for you.  We have a lot of work to do, and no time to waste on which direction we’re going to head.  If you support me, we will never speak of this conversation again.” 

Both instances turned out well for me.  The former recalcitrant individual became an ardent helper and the incompetent individual moved on.  These elements of leadership are very difficult, but if we are to be effective as leaders, they must be done. 



Saturday, January 4, 2014

Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder - Sources and Solutions


*Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder is an organization’s inability to focus on the critical few, accepting any and all projects as worthy of priority #1 effort, resulting in employee burnout and organizational ineffectiveness.   
 As I continue to analyze this complex but growing issue, I want to drill down on some of the key sources of the problem. Here are a few examples:

Sources:
  1. The introduction of new IT systems for manufacturing, finance, HR, and operations cause much disruption in organizations, resulting in confusion and disorder.
  2. The development and distribution of policies, programs, processes and practices from any and all teams without a coordinative center cause confusing among middle managers trying to implement ... everything that is sent to them!
  3. The immense amount of change happening in any organization at one time is a major source of OADD.
  4. Management changes cause disruption, since people are uncertain about what priorities will matter to a new leader.  
  5. Organizational restructuring causes disruption, since people will focus on their next job rather than the work at hand.
  6. Executive teams are sometimes 'at odds' with one another, creating uncertainty in the ranks.  People wonder 'who will come out on top' in a organizational battle for dominance (yes, it happens ...) and thus play a 'wait-and-see' game.  
Solutions: Knowing where we're going.
  1. Early analysis is the key to a long-term strategy.  Shoot-from-the-hip strategies often fail and cause chaos in organizations. 
  2. Providing clear direction is the key to organizational focus. The opposite is also true.
  3. Air-traffic controller activities are a mandatory exercise.  The collision of conflicting organizational strategies is dangerous. 
  4. Hard-edged decision making assumes some feathers will be ruffled, but the organizational battle cannot be won with infighting.  
  5. Especially in the midst of organizational change, executives play the role of gatekeeper and decision maker to ensure employee clarity.
Over the long haul, employees and team members learn how the organization manages OADD.  We will always be distracted by something - a new technology, a new Federal requirement, a new competitor, but showing employees long term focus on the critical few sets a stage for achievement and success. Team members want to know that their hard work will result in achievement of the goal.

Managing Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder