Saturday, February 25, 2012

Management Matters

When did it become passé to be good at being a manager and to hire people who were expected to be good managers? People want their managers to work with them, to guide them, to support them and hold them to established expectations. So, why am I continuing to see people who are, in fact, good at management the ones not advanced into management positions in favor of those with stronger technical skills or like-minded thinking with existing managers. ‘Tis true what they say, the Peter Principle lives.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Annual Appraisals Are the End, Not the Beginning

Performance appraisals are a necessary and wonderful thing, but too many people approach them with dread -- if they acknowledge them at all.

If you supervise people and dread the annual appraisal, reframe it. The annual appraisal is not a once-a-year review, it should the culmination of conversations that have taken place over the course of the year.

Take on a “bit by bit” mindset and remove the dread of performance discussions for the supervisor and for the employee. Remember that when you avoid something, you often end up making it a much bigger deal that it need be.

Think about how your weekly staff meetings become the foundation for tracking progress and adjusting expectations. Then, remember that weekly check-ins feed into monthly milestones, quarterly reviews and annual appraisals.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

A (brief) Word About Six Sigma and TQM

Six Sigma is highly rigid and structured, whereas TQM offers greater flexibility and fluidity for implementation. There is a shared focus on reliability and consistency, but the approaches are quite different. TQM places a higher emphasis on developing the people side of improvement through knowledge transfer and decision-making, whereas Six Sigma focuses on the process side of improvement through things such as batch reductions and streamlined activities.

While the language is different, both approaches do focus on value-added aspects to promote greater efficiency and effectiveness. One could argue there is a similar success to their applications, though one could also postulate there are additional nuances required for the implementation of improvement projects using a Six Sigma methodology.

It is not enough to train people in the basic principles of any employee involvement and enhancement methodology. It must become an expected way of life and rewarded when witnessed. Otherwise, the tools become relegated to the expectations of few and the mass misrepresentation of many.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Harder Side to the Soft Side of Business

Downsizing can be essential for an organization to survive. Its use as a successful strategic intervention, however, is too often marginal. Leaders often fail in the design and falter in the deployment. They connect the wrong tactic with the right intention. They use it as a means to a different end. They seem to forget the power of fear and bury the emotional implications of affecting someone’s livelihood (and/or reputation).

Downsizing as an improvement strategy is limited in its success. Perhaps it is semantics, but downsizing as a strategy seems wrong. In my work, it is a means to a strategic end. It may be an essential activity in order to align the resources with the intended outcomes and put people in better positions (literally) to advance the mission and achieve success.

The very challenges that bring an organization to this crossroads are often the circumstances that undermine its successful execution. A poorly managed business with a lack of leadership is not necessarily going to benefit from systemic redesign, organizational redesign or downsizing if the intended outcome doesn’t address the leadership void and the lack of business acumen. Also, cutting positions to reduce expenses can be “penny wise and pound foolish” when you diminish the ability to deliver on service or damage relationship channels with key clients. An organization that suffers from poor or disingenuous communication will only suffer more as a downsizing unfolds and people are left wondering or worrying about their future. Executive management without vision will not see more clearly after the downsizing is complete.

Successful downsizing requires broader consideration and visionary planning that starts with the end in mind (ala Stephen Covey). If institutions followed the steps outlined in the text perhaps downsizing would be perceived less negatively and the impacts felt less dramatically. Organizations that consider the options and the consequences are more likely to find success through the downsizing effort. Companies that work from a platform of respect and consideration are inclined to realize the positive results.

Downsizing can be brilliant when truly connected to the strategic intentions of an organization. It can make unworkable situations manageable. Downsizing can even help address weaknesses, when it is intended (and known) to be occurring for that purpose. Downsizing has a necessary place in the quiver and should be used by those skilled in its integrated design, multi-faceted deployment and long-term delivery.
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