Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meeting Management & Agendas

  • How much money do you spend annually on meetings?
  • Do people show up on time, follow an agenda, and end the meetings on time?
  • Do meetings regularly create and review actions?
Meetings need structure and process, yet most meetings happen because of momentum.  "We always meet on Fridays as a team."  We meet to discuss and communicate.  Yet this discussion is typically around individual status updates, and less about what needs to happen, or hurdles that need to be cleared.

Shouldn't every meeting have a well defined purpose to specifically create an action.  Change "meet to review project status" to "meet to analyze project performance, understand risks, and make recommendations."  Now we go from asking people to attend the meeting TO preparing the team for the meeting. Roles and tasks should be assigned and materials need to be reviewed prior to the meeting.

Here is a link to Seth Godin's blog on the same subject - Getting Serious about your Meeting Problem

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rewards - The "R" in continuous improvement

In continuing to explore a framework for driving sustainable continuous improvement in operational performance management, I'm taking this opportunity to outline the most critical, and often most difficult element of the Expectations-Capabilities-Rewards "ECR" model discussed in a previous entry.

There has been no shortage of press coverage recently about executive compensation. Even before the AIG bonus debacle of late, terms such as “performance pay’ and ‘retention bonuses’ have become a regular part of the business press vernacular. While we can all debate the ethical, moral and logical merits of these compensation practices, when an organization is implementing a performance management system to drive sustainable continuous improvement, the total reward system, not just compensation, is the most critical lever of change.

However, unlike these currently accepted pay practices, particularly in the financial services industry, reward elements within an effective performance management system don’t just translate to paying people more. The crux of an effective reward system is the alignment of rewards, recognition and compensation to the strategic goals of the organization - paying employees for the desired behaviors.

As example of a misalignment of rewards with corporate strategy; a personal experience. In a past role, I joined a $300mm public software company to launch a value-added services business unit. The CEO’s strategy was to transform the company from a hardware & software seller to a services-led solution provider; eventually generating +60% of revenue from services. The CEO was making significant investment throughout the organization in this transformation. However, there was institutional resistance to changing the sales compensation plan in order to drive sales people to focus more on selling these services. While corporate leadership was investing in service capacity, training sales people how to sell services and promoting this new value proposition in the press and to the investment community, sales people had no quota for selling services, received no quota relief and had no bonus kickers for including services in their software deals. The result? The strategy failed. Officially, the executive committee decided to refocus on software licenses, acquiring two other software firms two years later. But it was clear that the refusal to change the incentive comp plan contributed to this failure.

While traditionally the most difficult element to evolve, in order for any change to sustain within an organization, the rewards and recognition system must align with the expectations and strategy in order to drive the desired behavior that results in improvement in the new KPIs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alignment beyond Metrics

When evaluating improvements in operational performance management, many focus on insuring that the metrics, KPIs and measures are aligned with the corporate strategy. We want to exel in customer intimacy so one of our KPIs will be CSat scores. This is a valid starting point but what happens once the 'right' metrics are established? KPIs are indicators, goals, targets. How then does the orgainzation align itself to those metrics and move them in the right direction?

A simple framework for consideration is the E-C-R model: Expectations, Capabilities & Rewards. Alignment needs to extend across all these components of the operating model. KPIs are expetations; this is what we state is important to the business and will measure our alignment with our strategy. In order to move those KPIs in the desired direction, the organizational capabilities need to be aligned to those goals. Everything from human capital skills, technology, plant & equipment, business processes need to be evaluated and, most likely, retooled. We can't implement CSat as our KPI and rely on the same call handling processes that leave customers' issues unresolved but optimize AHT. Finally, the most critical and most challenging component is the reward systems. From cash compensation to promotions, career pathing, and public recognition, the "R" will ultimately be the driver of change. If the company is in a mature market, with a KPIs of market share and customer profitability, then why is the sales comp plan still focused exclusively on new logo acquisition and bookings?

Don't underestimate the change management required to implement an effective operational performance management system, aligning metrics to strategy.

Continuous Improvement - 3 Acts at a Time

One of the key items we seem to struggle with is creating a process for continued process improvement.  We typically look for dramatic and immediate improvements and lack patience to see things through.
  • When was the last time marketing sat down to specifically improve its top three marketing programs?  
  • When was the last time, sales management took the top three clients in each territory to lunch?
  • When was the last time you promoted your three top suppliers?
How do we create a mentality and culture of continuous action?  Simple, don't think, just pick something and get it done this week.  All too often we get stuck in a mentality of trying to figure how to improve everything at once, instead of tasking a bunch of good people with three things to do by the end of the week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hope...(Part 2)

In following up to Sunday's post...

Always nice to heard it said officially.  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope...In a Not-So-Brave New World

This week brought us a glimmer of good news...

Citigroup's CEO claimed they were profitable in the first 2 months of 2009, the Dow saw 4 positive days in a row, and Jon Stewart handed CNBC's Jim Cramer (and financial investigative reporting in general) a stunning lecture on journalist responsibility.  

It is fitting after this long economic winter, that spring is slowing coming in starts and fits.  In the midst of this good news, we see AIG (under new management) is still paying lavish bonuses citing "best and brightest retention" needs and Bernard Madoff is heading to jail amidst controversy that he may be protecting something or someone.

Like most things, the beginning of the end of a recession falls under the category of "I can't explain it, but I will know it when I see it."  Some good news is a change in the trend and perhaps the indicator that the darkest days of winter are behind us.  For a while, the market's inability to fall below 8,000 was a hopeful sign though we knew it wouldn't hold with the waves of layoffs and the growing pool of the unemployed.  Yet and perhaps most importantly...a sense of entrepreneurial spirit is in the air.

Are you ready?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Part of every sales methodology is the phrase "become a trusted advisor." Yet we devote little time helping people become advisors to our clients, let alone trusted ones. Our sales methodologies are typically geared more towards a scorched earth policy, than a build for the long term approach. Sales people are rewarded for large, upfront contracts that help the company meet short term sales goals. And they are often punished for long sales cycles. Turning over sales reps then makes it more difficult for the next rep, as the client's first question is "how long will this one be around?"

It is often entertaining to see how this manifests itself with clients. One can not ask (and certainly not beg - which was entertaining to witness), nor expect it. The right is earned over time.

A few things to consider as you are developing your "Trusted Advisor" sales program:
1. Are your people intelligent and insightful about the market and their customers?
2. Can they talk about the customer's business without selling all the time?
3. Can they put the client's needs ahead of their own?
4. How well do they listen, and ask insightful questions?
5. Are they likable, and trustworthy?
6. Are your campaigns and people consistent, or opportunistic?

There is a great deal that goes into a "Trusted Advisor" and the program, the people, and the organization need to support long term customer value. To get there, you must has a passion for your client's goals.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Analytics & Actionable Information

I have worked on many projects where the outcome was "just provide us actionable information."  While this is always the goal, I find most people use this term quite loosely, as if it were merely an additional option.  In reality this is quite difficult to create.  Many things need to come together to create action, and it is far more than just information or a report.

To create effective actionable information, we need to integrate people, information, and tools.  We also need to have the right skills at different times.  All too often, the expectation is for IT to write a single report that will answer all questions.  Yet, what typically happens is that report often just creates more questions as IT cannot predict all of the needs.  All this has done is create more activity for IT and delayed action.

Let's look at this from more of a process point of would it look:

First of all, we have a tremendous amount of data.  And it would be easy to argue way too much data, hence the need to create some layer of relevance.  How often do we get lost looking for what we need, or recreate something because we don't understand the business rules of the data we find.  All of this is wasted effort that ends up costing the business money and time.

We have the information we need, now we need a good analytical mind to review the data creating various analytical models or what-if scenarios.  What typically happens here is a finance, or IT analyst runs a few numbers.  This is probably OK for many instances, but the best options would be to both a mind of the business as well as a statistical curiosity (though at this stage we need more of a statistician).  IT and Finance often lack both of these to some degree - as their primarily skill is data or fiscal governance.

Now we have some level of analytical information, but still have some work to do.  In general the statistical mind tries to cram in too much detail and wants to discuss the process of discovery, instead of the finding.  To transform analytical information into action, we need the business to present the finding in executive terms - the value created.  The presentation is more than likely to include multiple reports, synthesized into a couple of charts.  The next step is to foster a discussion of the recommendations and potential options.  The discussion will focus on gathering feedback and coalescing them into an agreed upon plan.  It is common here for people to not feel comfortable with the information and ask for additional information and analysis, but we need to fight the urge to delay and put the best foot forward.  There will be times when the need for rework is great, but if the discussion included the right people and the facts then there should be enough to make a decision and move forward.

The risk is creating a culture of endless analysis.