Clarity Management Consulting

Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

A FEW BASICS FOR EVALUATING YOUR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AND QUALITY MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Leadership: Are executives and managers trained in quality and process improvement (Baldrige, Six Sigma, Lean Management and/or Manufacturing, others)?

  • Leaders who are not trained in these areas are not committed to quality and continuous improvement, nor can they create an organization that can effectively implement such systems. This is reflected in the quality of the product or service.

Process Reviews and Documentation: Are there periodic reviews of processes, including business and manufacturing processes? Are these processes properly documented? Is the documentation maintained and updated as needed?

  • Periodic reviews and well-maintained documentation suggest a degree of awareness of needed changes.

Data Management: How is process data handled in terms of collection, analysis, and maintenance, and storage?

  • Data management is the lifeblood of any manufacturing process irrespective of the product type. The same can be said of business processes with relatively high volumes, such as invoicing or call center activities. Access to data will drive the ability to measure and improve process performance. Inadequate collection, analysis, maintenance, or storage of data suggests inattentiveness to quality.

Visibility of Process and Quality Culture: Is there visible evidence of the implementation of process and quality principles?

  • Work areas, particularly in manufacturing, should display visible signs of basic process and quality discipline. Examples include work procedures documented at each workstation and implementation of 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain).
  • The absence of such things is a visible sign that the organization lags the industry in basic quality procedures.

Individual Training and Certifications: Have employees been trained in critical quality disciplines?

  • Training and certification in quality disciplines such as Six Sigma and Lean empowers and equips employees. This training is critical for continuous improvement.
  • Such skills are essential to supporting quality and customer satisfaction, and ultimately, shareholder value.

Organizational Certifications: Has the organization earned (and does it maintain) general quality and industry-specific certifications such as ISO 9001 and others?

  • ISO 9001 is a well-known and foundational standard. Documentation should demonstrate the organization’s aptitude for and commitment to the tenets of ISO 9001.
  • Other industry standards may also be in order, such as AS9000, the Aerospace Basic Quality System Standard used by defense and aerospace companies.

Occupational Safety: Does the organization have a history of compliance with OSHA and other standards?

  • Past infractions and/or fines will suggest a degree of risk depending on the severity of the problems. The extent of the financial risk could be mitigated in the eyes of customers by demonstrating that plans are in place to prevent further incidents. This would include training, reviews, inspections, and adequate data to indicate that improvements have taken hold.

IDENTIFYING A MODEL FOR FOSTERING GREATER COLLABORATION

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Many organizations are interested in improving collaboration across business units and functional groups, as well as with external partners. To do this requires a culture that is effective and entrepreneurial in nature. Clarity has defined a model for effecting this kind of cultural change. This model consists of five areas that require attention: Training, Networking Technology and Events, Tools and Templates, Policy, and Metrics. These areas are described below.

MODEL FOR IMPROVING COLLABORATION

Area Description
Training

Employees will benefit from participating in training programs that reinforce critical success factors and provide for skills development in collaboration.
Networking Technology and Events

Existing technology offers a number of tools that are designed to enable the communication and knowledge sharing/transfer that are critical to successful collaboration. There are also industry best practices such as internal networking events that foster collaboration as well.
Tools and Templates These may consist of process maps, articles, assessment tools, leadership aids, templates, and/or other tools that can be used in developing a collaborative approach to a given project or program.
Policy

Management policies such as performance appraisals, intellectual property guidelines, and organizational boundaries affect the way teams work together within an organization and with other companies. Some policies will need to be modified, added, or deleted to enable greater collaboration.
Metrics

Organizations that have been successful in developing a collaborative culture cite the fact that they incorporate measures in their performance appraisals to ensure collaborative behavior.

The Executive Suite Versus Wall Street

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

“…you can’t make men work for money alone – you starve  their souls when you try it; and you can starve a company to death the same way” – from the movie “Executive Suite” (1954, Robert Wise, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

I had never seen the movie “Executive Suite” until one day last week when I caught the last few minutes on one of my favorite cable stations. In 1954, this masterpiece of a movie captured the essence of the conflict that many companies still face decades later.

Across industries, strategic decisions in many companies are influenced by concerns about the way Wall Street analysts will interpret them. Corporations have focused on short-term gain in the hopes of affecting share price. Auto manufacturers’ incentives, which are designed to pull sales forward simply to make monthly or quarterly numbers, are but one example of this dilemma.

These observations are reflected in a variety of studies on similar issues. Several papers by Mary J. Benner, Assistant Professor of Management at Wharton, assert that Wall Street analysts are reluctant to embrace the innovative efforts of companies when they are designed to expand their technological horizons. The bias is for extending current offerings as opposed to breaking away from the pack. This is remarkable given the fact that one of the top commandments in marketing is that an entity must differentiate itself from its competitors.

Wall Street analysts, of course, are not to blame for the effect they have on a company’s product decisions. Analysts are constrained by the need to be able to quantify the effect of any given action. As such, they must evaluate every decision in terms of its financial impact, particularly the short-term results. Net present value and payback period are critical financial metrics that must be accounted for, and rightly so. That said, corporations cannot live on near-term success alone. Yet leaders are still rewarded for the current month, quarter, or year despite the fact that their short-term success often comes at the expense of the future.

It is up to the management of every company to settle these matters for themselves. Strategic product moves must reflect a willingness to be true to the corporate mission, vision, and strategy. Ultimately, customers will judge such product choices. If leaders take the easy route and construct product portfolios to match analysts’ expectations, they will likely fail to satisfy customers who are the real arbiters of their success. The commitment to the corporate vision must serve as the counterweight that keeps the desire to please financial markets in its proper context. It has to be the overriding factor if a company is going to enjoy long-term viability beyond the next quarter, the next decade, or the next century.

Comments on Management Styles

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Changes in Management Styles

Management styles have evolved to meet the challenges of a tumultuous business climate.  The global environment has been in flux for well over five years.  The financial meltdown of the last three years exacerbated this.  The managers who have been effective during this period are those who were either adaptable already, or who learned to adapt as things changed more rapidly.  In turn, they helped their teams become flexible as well.

The Role of A Manager

Managers must realize that they play multiple roles.  Managers are part of the team and as such, they have to know when to play a collaborative role.  They also serve as coaches when needed.  On the other hand, they must communicate the overall strategic direction, as well as defining boundaries and required outcomes.  Teams are rendered ineffective when a manager is not proficient in juggling these roles or does not recognize what is needed in a given situation.

How to Identify the Impact of Your Management Style

You need to find out how you are affecting your team members, and the only way to do that is to ask.  360-degree feedback is indispensable.  The approach can vary.  I recommend that managers do things to cultivate relationships with direct reports so that healthy communication becomes the norm.  This will help ensure that feedback comes naturally rather than just being part of a formal discussion.

Ways to Change Your Management Style

Build a level of trust with a few key direct reports who can serve as sounding boards.  These people will benefit the most from any improvements in your behavior.  Conversely, they will suffer the most if you do not change.  Why not get their input on how to change?  A simple approach would be to ask a team member to observe various behaviors and report the observations, with some thoughts on how to be more effective.  This will provide some critical and, perhaps, surprising insights.

Great Tweets From Great Tweeps

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Wisepreneur1

9 Truths for Leaders to Learn—and Live By #leadership #business http://bit.ly/9Ds5Du

Fusionbpo

Telstra, a #callcenter giant is finally hiring #BPO agents to handle their #answering service http://www.fusionbposervices.com/blog/?s=telstra&x=0&y=0&=Go

J&J Recall: A Lapse In Vigilance In a Process-driven Culture

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Johnson & Johnson consumers complained about berry-flavored Pepcid being mingled with mint-flavored tablets. These complaints should have been the early warning system that would have uncovered failures and trends in managing/controlling the manufacturing process.

This means that process discipline broke down in at least two areas that haven’t been the focal point of our attention:

(1) The method for handling complaints failed. If handled properly, customer complaints could have served as a gold mine for data on where things were going wrong.

(2) The manufacturing system failed. Processes were either broken, not followed, or not maintained.

In both cases, processes are the key. J&J will need to reevaluate its culture to understand how it evolved to the point of allowing vigilance in process management to fall off. This is reminiscent of the theme that surfaced in the Toyota recalls.

A key lesson from the Toyota and J&J stories is this: companies have to manage the basics. Neglecting them is not an option. The cultural attributes that enabled success must be maintained and nurtured. Both of these companies have a reputation for keeping an eye on their processes. They know that processes do not manage themselves. It will take a lot of digging to find the root of the underlying cultural shift that created these issues.

Identifying Waste and Standing out as a Project Manager

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I recently saw some interesting questions on LinkedIn. I captured two of these questions in today’s blog post.

Question 1: “How does management create an environment where people are inspired and motivated to identify waste and continuously make process improvements?”

In my view, leaders have to demonstrate that they are willing to make process improvement and waste reduction principles operational. This is done in several ways. Here are two examples: (1) Organizations have to be structured and measured in such a way that allows waste to be uncovered and dealt with. This means breaking down walls or silos as they are called in some companies. (2) The CEO must lead by example and reward the right behavior. In addition, they must make sure their staffs do likewise.

Item (2) could and should mean changing the way variable compensation is handled. I am of the opinion that everyone should have a portion of her or his compensation driven by quality in the field and customer satisfaction. Both of these metrics benefit from an organization’s ability to eliminate waste and improve processes. Good marks in these areas drive sales, especially repeat purchases. When companies perform poorly in these areas, they are really failing to serve the customer, which means they are not living up to their mission.

Question 2: What do you do to “stand out” as a project manager?

I think of this from the standpoint of the customer’s need. When I hire a consultant to do some marketing or editing tasks, I do it to relieve some of my pain, namely, the pain of time constraints. I choose service providers because I know that I am going to be better off with them than without them. I also believe that I will be delighted with the end result, particularly the quality of the service or product.

Why should I assume that my clients would feel any differently?

The client believes they are going to be better off by having me on the team. My work should help them get out of pain into relief, then into being satisfied with my work, then into being delighted with the end result.

The key driver in this is that customers hire me to relieve their pain. From a project management standpoint, this means demonstrating that (1) I am progressing, (2) things are under control, and (3) they are going to achieve their goals. That’s why I’m there.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #5: Collaboration, confidence, and persuasion (7/16/2010)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #5: Collaboration, confidence, and persuasion (7/16/2010)

There are plenty of situations in which Hogan must convince his team of the feasibility of a given assignment. His method is to demonstrate confidence in the crew’s ability to pull off even the most challenging tasks. He prefers persuasion, not coercion.

This is particularly interesting, given the fact that Hogan is the senior officer in a time of war and could easily order the men to carry out his plans. His approach clears the way for him to get buy-in on a solution without beating his team into submission. In addition, he assumes the lead role in a given task when the level of risk calls for it.

This collaborative method is usually the more attractive and more sustainable means of mobilizing an organization, because the members become intrinsically motivated. Rather than being compelled by the rank of the person in charge, they are inspired by the mission and the significance of their role in achieving it.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #4: Confident yet transparent (7/16/2010)

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #4: Confident yet transparent (7/16/2010)

Confidence is a hallmark of Hogan’s leadership.  He believes his team can pull off anything even when no one else does.  He is neither cocky nor arrogant, however, and is able to identify the risks involved.

Sometimes Hogan’s confidence is tempered by cautious optimism, especially when the only choice is to take a high-risk course of action that seemingly has no chance of succeeding.  He is completely transparent in these situations and does not hesitate to share his concerns or misgivings. This is when he is at his best. He is able to lead in the midst of his own fears, which bolsters the commitment and confidence of those around him.

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #3: Leaders take the blame, but they give the credit (7/14/2010)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

As a reminder, this week’s blog posts cover the nuggets of leadership wisdom mined from the sixties hit TV show Hogan’s Heroes. Here’s what we’re looking at today. Enjoy!

Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #3: Leaders take the blame, but they give the credit (7/14/2010)

It is interesting to note that Hogan takes the blame for failures, and he rarely takes credit for the successes. He gives credit to the team for every win, and gives significant praise to the lead on the assignment.

Hogan is also quick to acknowledge his mistakes and take responsibility when things don’t work out.  There are instances where he agonizes, but only briefly.  He never dwells on defeat.  Typically, the team discusses what went wrong, another scheme emerges from the ashes of failure, and they move forward with the new plan. Key point: move forward!