Posts tagged with ‘organizational effectiveness’

13 mar

OperationsRx: The Gap Nobody Knows

MichelleKerriganThe gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.”—Larry Bossidy, former CEO, Honeywell International and General Electric

The gap nobody knows is bridged by day-to-day operations. Everything comes from it. It’s where your company lives and breathes–where ideas spring to life in the form of people, process and teamwork. It is the heart of execution–where strategy succeeds or fails. It’s a space I’ve worked in for over 25 years, and where I help leaders and teams succeed today.

Day-to-day operations comprise roughly 80% of most organizations, making it one of their largest investments. Yet this asset is often overlooked. Not leveraging its value widens the gap and means your company is leaving money on the table. In today’s economy, where resources are at a premium and you need to organize and expedite at the speed of change, can you afford to do that?

So why is it undervalued and underutilized?

I’ve asked a few leaders this same question, and they all focused on strategy as the one thing that mattered most. In fact, one leader, when asked about day-to-day operations and execution, waved his hand in dismissal and said “that’s management’s problem.”

As dieting is a favorite topic of mine, I asked this leader to compare business strategy and execution with a personal goal of losing weight. You want to lose 20 pounds. You plan on joining a gym, drinking 8 glasses of water a day, controlling food portions and counting calories. That’s your strategy—the direction you wish to take. You can repeat it a thousand times, make promises to your doctor or spouse, clip out photos of the ‘dream figure’ and attach it to your refrigerator door.

But unless you take the necessary steps to incorporate your plan into your everyday routine, nothing happens. No change. Not one pound shed. Your weight remains the same—you don’t move forward and you don’t reach your goal. Promises don’t yield results without day-to-day execution.

So, what does it really take to affect positive change?:

Have the right resources: Healthy food, personal trainer, scale, calorie calculator.

Develop realistic timelines and expectations: 2 pounds a week for 10-12 weeks. The greatest mistake most dieters (and leaders) make is being unrealistic about how long things take. Being realistic limits risk and disappointment.

Decide a deadline: Your svelte cousin’s wedding. The holidays. It’s amazing how activity levels rise as deadlines loom.

Get support: Choose the best people to help you stay on track: friends, family, personal trainer.

Take action every day: Go to the gym, exercise, eat lots of vegetables, count calories.

Stay motivated and energized: Keep your eyes on the prize—what success looks like (remember that picture on the refrigerator?)

Minimize distractions: Especially procrastination and perfectionism. Try to avoid wasting time on the wrong activities and getting discouraged if you veer off course now and then.

Allow for setbacks and unforeseen events: Parties that involve red velvet cake. Need I say more?

Monitor for results: Be accountable and follow through. Have someone record your weight and measurements on a regular basis. Monitoring is the key to successful change.

Link rewards to performance: Reinforce progress by celebrating milestones with small rewards and work towards that new wardrobe when you reach your goal.

The leader appreciated the analogy: Strategy only works when you take the necessary steps every day to move it forward. That’s how you turn promises into results.

Leadership is not just about pointing the way—it’s about being an integral part of the process from start to finish. It’s about dealing with the realistic issues of the day. It’s about tapping into your greatest asset–day-to-day operations–to get your company where it needs to go.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll lose a pound or two along the way.

Copyright 2011 Michelle Kerrigan

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at www.MichelleKerriganInc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 13th, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

05 oct

OperationsRx: Are You on a Winner? Realizing Value in Teamwork and Day-to-Day Operations

MichelleKerriganGandhi once said you can measure the civilization of a people by how they treat their animals. Translated into corporate terms: you can measure the success of leaders by how they value teamwork in day-to-day operations.

Not long ago, a law firm partner who specializes in joint ventures and venture capital transactions asked me what I look for in operational success. It was an operational due diligence exercise to help investors determine “are you on a winner?”

I gave her a list of questions to consider when assessing quality, whether you’re an investor or a CEO wondering about your own operation. Here are 4 to get you started:

1. The management: are they leaders?
2. The team: are they organized and primed to execute?
3. What happens when people ask questions?
4. Is there an overall sense of unity and positive energy?

Most investors might just focus on the first question. Totally understandable. But, if you’re investing in a company with a growing or changing operation, you may want to take a closer look at the day-to-day. That’s where the magic happens. Where the vision you’re investing in comes to life, in the form of people, process, and teamwork.

It’s where ideas are given arms and legs so they can move forward. The value in any company depends on it, and so does the value of leadership. Answers to the bottom 3 questions will tell you a lot about the #1.

Whenever I’ve been given a new operation, I closely observe the day-to-day and sit side-by-side to interview members of the team. I find out what they do and how they do it, and am very curious about the why and when as well. I especially look for a sense of unity—if each person understands the importance of their role in achieving goals, and how they affect the people around them.

The team: are they organized and primed to execute?

Means: are there workflows, processes, schedules, and deadlines with assigned tasks and responsibilities? Are there to-do lists and scheduled meetings for follow up and review? Does the team have what it takes to do their job well?

To succeed, you need structure, focus and accountability to get things done. Most people yawn over these details, but without them, even the best strategies are just air. Think of any team sport without rules, goals, timing, talent and training. Total confusion and chaos on the field. Cause for concern for investors.

What happens when people ask questions?

I ask a lot of questions. You have to. You need to know if priorities and goals are communicated clearly and often, especially when they change (which happens a lot during growth and transition). You need the team to feel comfortable asking questions too. What you don’t need is frustration caused by fear and confusion—-it wastes time and money: yours.

Is there an overall sense of unity and positive energy?

This is crucial. I cannot emphasize it enough. Even if the operation is disorganized, it can be fixed. Some disagreement is expected-—it can even make a product or service better. But if there’s no sense of willingness—to cooperate, to collaborate, to win as a team—then run, don’t walk, to the next investment. Constant conflict is a deal breaker.

Value is realized in the day-to-day. Look closely, and it will inform you about quality leadership and teamwork, and warn you about hidden costs of conflict, confusion and control.

It is the revenue line—where money is made and lost—-and that’s the bottom line of business.

Copyright 2010 Michelle Kerrigan

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at www.MichelleKerriganInc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on October 5th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , ,

14 jul

OperationsRx: Change and the High Cost of Conflict

MichelleKerrigan“Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”—Thomas Carlyle

I live and lead by this quote, especially during change, which, in today’s workplace, is often an everyday event. I have led teams through 20 years of change, and have learned that the most important thing you control is how you react to it. Your reaction is key to your success as a leader because it’s vital to the success of your team. An open mind can break barriers; a resistant one can break companies. To coin another phrase: you reap what you sow.

Conflict doesn’t just come in color, gender or sexual orientation, it comes in generations X, Y, and BB, industry, corporate hierarchy, even area of expertise (think marketing vs. finance, production vs. creative, creative vs. legal, technology vs. everyone—at least in this story).

Case in point: When I led operations for a startup, our chief technology officer created enormous conflict between his management team and just about everyone else. He ran his division tightly, and spent most of his time criticizing what other departments were doing. Here was an officer of the company who was intelligent, articulate, and expert in his field, but who disputed everything, so couldn’t learn from anyone. His intolerance and uncooperativeness were a huge drain, and were often reflected in his senior managers. It was easy to see he wasn’t a leader to help an organization grow.

Our marketing team had launched a premium product a month before I started, a high-ticket item for our VIP elite that included a custom card (similar in look and feel to a credit card), that gained them access to entertainment events, and special backstage access at concert venues. Orders were pouring in, but only the first batch went out, with incorrect information, no less. Why?

In any company, especially a startup, new processes need to be walked all the way through during implementation to ensure all the dots are connected, including who does what and when. This is where I come in. It’s painstaking and detailed, but it’s necessary and worth it because it’s where barriers to productivity are found, and where revenue can be made or lost. In this case, there were about $500,000 worth of reasons to figure out what was going wrong.

I spoke with our fulfillment partner, who had yet to receive any new or corrected files, and worked my way through every department responsible until I found the problem: data was being generated, but not being delivered. All these new members, and not one file had left the building. The files were stuck fast in the technology department waiting for someone to pull the trigger. Extraordinary!

I also discovered that certain people knew the files were still on our side of the fire wall, but they felt it wasn’t their responsibility to push past it and help resolve our problem. What???

The fulfillment house told me they could make up lost time if they received the files that day, but organized the correct way. Our support tech told me it would take only an hour to do, but warned of repercussions from the CTO and his VP. I gave the go-ahead, and got the VP on the phone. All I heard was concern over how the CTO would react…..but no realization of how our customers would react.

The CTO was, of course, furious, and wasted even more time arguing his point with anyone who would answer his call. Yes, I did speak with him. Unfortunately, his was a reaction that would repeat itself often, and looking back, quite possibly, cost us the company.

Growth means change, which means the ability to learn, adapt, and shift gears quickly. Resistance impedes progress—you want a corporate culture that reflects your best strengths, not your worst nightmare. You need all the positive energy you can muster when you’re poised for growth and change. Just think how different things would have been if the CTO’s negative energy was channeled in a positive direction.

How often does this happen in your organization? How often is a line drawn in the sand that stops the flow of progress? How often are business leaders unwilling to yield, making decisions based on resistance rather than revenue?

The chief technology officer was my superior, and I did learn from him. I learned that some managers are not leaders: they over react, don’t set the right tone, and are incapable of creating a sense of unity. I learned that leaders need to grow, to be invested in expanding their own capabilities, as well as their team’s.

I learned that an open mind is the fast track to change. It’s not about who makes the final decision, but why it’s made. I learned that you get the behavior you tolerate, and if you expect to have a global dialog in this world of change, you have to learn to be open to (and communicate with) all those X,Y, BBs, designers, lawyers and tech people sitting right in front of you.

One final note: an interesting thing happened when I ran this article by some people I know, prior to posting. When they read the opening quote, they focused on the word “man” which sent up a red flag right away. I learned from this too…if you only focus on what you don’t like, you may miss the big picture. Wow.

Copyright 2010 Michelle Kerrigan.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at www.MichelleKerriganInc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on July 14th, 2010 in Global/Social Change, Uncategorized | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

14 jun

Marketing from the Inside Out to Win Buy-in and Succeed at Change

MichelleKerriganI read a line recently, “Everything is marketing.” How true. We all have the potential to influence people every day. If you don’t believe that, you probably don’t buy products, share opinions with friends, or have a Facebook page.

I’ve worked with marketing companies my entire career—two powerhouses, one startup—and have executed some amazing campaigns for some amazing clients. A great deal of time and money goes into building a brand, gaining attention, and telling a story to consumers. But what goes on inside the brand? And is anyone supporting it?

Here’s the bottom line: a company’s success is largely based on what its employees do (or don’t do), just as much as what their customers do (or don’t do). So where’s the marketing to employees? How are they being influenced? Today’s tactic of “you’re lucky to have a job” is wearing pretty thin. Coercion is not the answer to winning in the marketplace; maybe marketing from the inside out is.

One of the many things I was asked to change when I led operations at the startup was Customer Support. I had heard a lot of complaints about their lack of knowledge regarding product, policy and membership, their inability to get issues resolved, and their habit of giving away credits (a.k.a. revenue) to soothe angry customers. So, I was very apprehensive accepting this new challenge.

The team was based in California (our headquarters were in New York) so they were far from the everyday action—a difficult situation in any large operation, impossible in a startup where change is an everyday event. It seemed like everyone in New York had something to say about this group, but very few people actually interacted with them. Why??

Here was a team of support agents who were fun, flexible, positive, social thru and thru, and passionate about our product and all kinds of media (music, movies, TV, web). In short, they were our target audience. And, one more thing—the perfect change agents.

Customer Service is Marketing and is Change. It’s where the rubber meets the road, the best advantage point of influence. Yet, it is often overlooked and underutilized. Many companies find the word ‘service’ boring. So it is not surprising how little support customer support gets—another change that has to happen if businesses want to succeed. They don’t see that customer service is change management at its finest, that the same elements needed for employee buy-in and great service—communication, participation, education, support, commitment—-are the same elements needed for customer buy-in and great sales.

Just think of all the companies you love and hate, and why, and I’ll bet your customer service experience played an enormous role in making up your mind, or changing it. Correct?

So, I knew I needed to begin a dialogue between Customer Support and Marketing, Customer Support and Product Development, Customer Support and Merchandising….you get the idea. Whether you’re influencing employees or customers, the dialogue has to be continuous, connected and contagious to work. Marketing from the inside out is effecting change through exchange. The success you have with your internal audience will help you win your external one. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Our VP of Marketing and his team got Customer Support involved in everything we were doing, and a great exchange of ideas and enthusiasm happened across all levels. We discussed customer wants and needs, new feature buzz, targeted campaigns, and product development. We shipped our latest store merchandise out to California so they could see and feel what we were selling, and flew our product manager out to train agents for a new launch. The agents tested new products and shared invaluable feedback from our customers’ point of view which helped us tailor our offerings the right way. Everyone was focused, collaborating, and on the same page: exactly where you want your customer to be.

Marketing rewrote our entire knowledge base, and we began a new story, from the inside out.

It is the job of today’s business leaders to market from the inside out, to take every opportunity to influence employees because, after all, they’re customers too. Begin the dialogue, open doors, get people involved. Share marketing ideas, do internal market research, get product feedback. Create a culture that is customer responsive by being employee responsive.

Be the brand you want everyone to identify with. Your best campaign could be sitting right in front of you.

Marketing has been defined as: “the whole company, taken from the customer’s point of view.”

How do your employees see their company?

Copyright 2010 Michelle Kerrigan

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at www.MichelleKerriganInc.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on June 14th, 2010 in Career, Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in , , ,