Back in the 1980’s one of the biggest musical bands of the time was a group called Fleetwood Mac. They were great. One of their biggest albums of the time was an album called Rumours. It was a great album. However, from a business point of view “rumours”are no good.
Rumors are what occur when you do not communicate regularly with your team. They will invariably be worse than just about anything that reality can offer. If people are presented with a blank page, the story they write will be worse than the one you will tell them.
Once started rumors take on a life of their own. You only lend credence to them even when you deny or rebut them. It almost seems that people would prefer to believe the worst hearsay instead of the actual information – if they hear the rumor first.
The key is to get ahead of the curve. Regular team or all hands meetings enable everyone to hear what you have to say, and to get questions and concerns out of the way. It is more difficult for rumors to get started if everyone has the same level of information, and all heard it at the same time.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours wasgreat to listen to. All other rumors in the office shouldn’t be heard.
You’re running your business. You’re paying attention to the big issues and the details. You’re on your targets, making your numbers and living within your budgets. Life is pretty good. Then at one of your boss’s staff meetings you are told that there is a headcount reduction scheduled and you are told what your participation in this activity will be. It turns out that other functions are not performing as well to their targets as you are, and now all are going to have to participate in the unpleasant task at hand.
It is the dreaded “peanut butter” effect.
The peanut butter effect occurs when it is easier to take an overall general action than it is to take a focused and specific targeted action. It can be 10% reduction across the board instead of a greater number in the offending groups, or a travel or a hiring freeze for all instead of just for those declining functions. I think we have all seen it.
Peanut butter provides a disincentive to good business performance. If a function that is performing must participate in a down side activity to the same level that a non-performing function does, you are mitigating the cost of poor performance to the underperforming function.
Fast forward to now, and you are now the leader. If your business is not performing to its overall requirements, and you are looking to take actions early on to try and bring its bottom line back on track, make the effort to understand where both your good performance and your problems lie. Take specific, focused business actions based on the businesses performance. Don’t spread peanut butter.
We have all worked for managers who were very assured in the manager – subordinate relationship. If they wanted to talk to you, they called you into their office. If they wanted you to do something, they told you what it was they wanted you to do, probably when to do it, and possibly how to get it done. They were very much into reaffirming both with you and with themselves that they were the boss.
That type of situation and management practice will have a tendency to reduce the interaction, and flow of information upwards to the manager. Since subordinates opinions will seem to carry less value, they will eventually stop being offered. This type of management structure will be successful only if the manager is never wrong. I think it has been a long time since the last infallible person was on the planet.
Leaders must remember that they are part of the team. Everyone in the organization will know that they are the manager. There are normally all sorts of announcements and group meetings to introduce and reinforce this fact. The leader should however make sure not to set themselves so far apart from, or position themselves to be the superior to the rest of the team.
A good leader needs to adapt themselves to interpersonal requirements of the situation, but still be able to be the leader. Being able to deal with and talk to the team on a peer basis will be key. Inviting, respecting and acting on opinions other that your own will assure that you will continue to get good advice from the team. Phrasing requirements in the form of a request and using please will probably get more things done quicker than shorter, direct orders.
At least that is what I have found to work well, with the possible exception of anything I ask my kids to do.
In every assignment you will see that there are things that will need to be changed. They can be large or small items, but you will want them done your way. The issue will arise from the fact that they are not currently being done your way. They are being done some other way. Further complicating the issue is that the people currently performing these tasks in some other way than your way are comfortable and capable of doing them that way.
Now if you were able to follow all that you are doing well.
The point here is that any change that you may want to make to your business will be met with a built in resistance from within the organization itself. People may understand that what they are currently doing may not be the optimal or even correct course of action, but it is something that they know how to do. When you ask them to do something else that they may not have done before, you will meet up with resistance. You will be asking them to leave their current comfort zone.
The greater the change that you want the greater and more widespread will be the resistance to it. The success of proposed change will be directly proportionate to how resolute you are. It may actually come down to your force of will. If you show a willingness to accept anything short of the new level of performance that you want, then that is what you will get. The closer people can stay to the status quo, the closer they can stay to their current comfort zone.
Resolute leaders make the changes they want. They don’t accept anything less. Resolute businesses get changed only incrementally, if at all. They have a built in impedance and resistance to change. How resolute you are, when it comes to changing the way your business runs will have a greater impact than the type of changes you decide to make.
We have all heard the phrase “cycle time”, but what does it really mean to your business? The simple definition of a “cycle time” is the amount of time it takes to complete an operation or activity. It has now been adopted by, or applied to just about everything in a business. Again, simply put, you need to know and understand the various cycle times – how long it takes to do things – in your business.
Each aspect of your business has an associated cycle time. Your sales cycle time is the time it takes from when you initially introduce the sales opportunity to the customer, to when you get their signature on the order. Your production cycle time is from when you get the order to when you actually have a completed product meeting the order specifications ready to ship. Your development cycle time is the time from product concept to generally available deliverable product.
Another lesser know but equally important cycle time is the Marketing cycle time – The time from when you introduce a marketing program to when you actually see a change in the sales volume from it. It will take time for the market to understand the program. The program will then (hopefully) modify buying behaviors and change the sales cycle time. It will then appear as a change in sales volumes.
Although we might all want our business actions to take immediate effect, we must understand the cycle times we are affecting when we do things. We must understand how long it takes for effects to be seen. We do not want to tie up scarce resource resources waiting for the effects, but we also do not want to be caught without resources when the effects are manifested. Understanding the cycle times of a business enable you to plan and schedule business instead of react to changes as they occur.