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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

BMs Of The Year

December 30, 2011 2 comments

Since BD00 is a bombastic and boisterous blasphemer of the “B” word, I just HAD to meta-blog about this infoworld blog post after I stumbled upon it: “The tech industry’s biggest bozos of 2011”.

And the winners are…..

Because Netflix is one of the companies on my faves list (and I’m a stockholder!), I’m really bummed about the Hastings-Netflix fiasco. Since I think Mr. Hastings and Netflix will recover from the faux pas, I’m keeping them on the list.

Baggage From The Past

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

BD00, the wise ass, oops, I mean the wise child that he is, maintains that it’s much more challenging to restore a fallen org to success than it is to bootstrap a startup org to success.

Unlike established orgs, startups are populated by a small group of highly enthused people with a common bond and they don’t have a history of under performance to contend with (yet) as they move forward.

It’s BD00’s belief that leadership teams who turn around fallen stars are more deserving of kudos than heroic startup teams.

Cribs And Complaints

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar‘s “Employees First, Customers Second” is one of the most refreshing business books I’ve read in awhile. One of the bold measures the HCLT leadership team considered implementing to meet their goal of “increasing trust through transparency” was to put up an intranet web site called “U & I“. After weighing the pros and (considerable) cons, the HCLT leadership team decided to go for it. Sure enough, the naysayers (Vineet calls naysayers the “Yes, But“s) were right:

The U&I site was clogged with cribs and complaints, harangues and imprecations that the company was wrong about everything. The continents and questions came pouring in and would not stop. Most of what people said was true. Much of it hurt.

However, instead of placing draconian constraints on the type of inputs “allowed“, arbitrarily picking and choosing which questions to answer, or taking the site down, Vineet et al stuck with it and reaped the benefits of throwing themselves into the fire. Here’s one example of a tough question that triggered an insight in the leadership team:

“Why must we spend so much time doing tasks required by the enabling functions? Shouldn’t human resources be supporting me, so I can support customers better? They seem to have an inordinate amount of power, considering the value they add to the customer.”

This question suggested that organizational power should be proportionate to one’s ability to add value, rather than by one’s position on the pyramid. We found that the employees in the value zone were as accountable to finance, human resources, training and development, quality, administration, and other enabling functions as they were to their immediate managers. Although these functions were supposed to be supporting the employees in the value zone, the reality was sometimes different.

That question led to the formation of the Smart Service Desk (SSD), which helped the company improve its operations, morale, and financial performance.

So, how did the SSD work, you ask? It worked like this: SSD. Not like this:

The D’oh Threshold

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The figure below introduces the concept of the “D’oh Threshold“. Every institution has their own purely subjective “D’oh Threshold“. It is arbitrarily set by whoever is in charge.

The more bureaucratic or dictatorial the org, the more the threshold shifts to the left (the less the positive safety margin and the more the negative safety margin). Since bureaucrats and dictators care more about conformance to their arbitrary and personally concocted rules than contribution to the “whole“, the “D’oh Threshold” wobbles all over the place. Its setting can vary month to month, day to day, minute to minute, group to group, individual to individual – depending on the emotional state and perceptions of those who run the circus.

When humans are involved in organized group efforts, there is no escape from subjectivity. But in high performing orgs, the “D’oh Threshold” set point is relatively stationary, far to the right, and everybody knows where they stand.

The Value Zone

November 29, 2011 4 comments

Even though it’s been on my Kindle for a year, I just finished reading HCLT CEO Vineet Nayar‘s book, “Employees First, Customers Second“. It was low on my priority list because I already had read a slew of articles about the book when it was first released.

In EFCS, Vineet describes “the value zone” and “the so-called enabling functions” as follows:

So, how did Mr. Nayar “force” the superiors who dwell in the enabling functions to be accountable to the value-creators? He did it by effectively implementing the HCLT “Smart Service Desk” (SSD) – a twist on the typical problem management system employed by most companies to resolve customer issues. Here’s how it works:

  • Whenever an employee has a problem or needs information, he or she opens a ticket that is directed to the appropriate department for handling (including senior management and the CEO).
  • Each ticket has a deadline for resolution.
  • The system is transparent so that all could see the contents of the tickets and where they are in the process.
  • The employee who had opened the ticket is the one to determine whether the resolution is satisfactory, or if the issue has been resolved at all.

Shortly after placing the SSD into execution, people “were opening tickets at an average of thirty thousand per month (at a time when there was a total of about thirty thousand employees in the company)“. Vineet sums up the system’s success as follows:

People were embracing the system. It was a victory for honesty, transparency, and openness!

Miraculous Recovery

October 23, 2011 2 comments

It’s a miracle, a true blue spectacle, a miracle come true – Barry Manilow

The business equation is as simple as can be: profits = revenues – costs. For the moment, assume that increasing revenues is not in the cards. Thus, as the graph below shows, the only way of increasing profits is to reduce costs.

By far, the quickest, most efficient, and least challenging method of reducing costs is by shrinking the org. However, the well known unintended consequences of reducing costs by jettisoning people are:

  • increased workload on those producers “lucky enough” to remain
  • the loss of bottom up trust and loyalty,
  • lowered morale, increased apathy and skepticism
  • less engagement, lowered productivity
  • the loss of even more good people seeking out a better future

Unless these not-so-visible unintended consequences are compensated for (which they usually aren’t), the increase in profits may be short-lived. Sometime later, revenues may start decreasing as a result of customer defections triggered by deteriorating product and service quality.

As the system dynamics influence diagram below shows, the start of customer defections may trigger a vicious downward spiral into oblivion in the form of a positive feedback loop. An increase in customer defections leads to an acceleration in the decrease in profits, which leads to an increase in cost cutting measures, which accelerates decreased product/service quality, which increases the number of customer defections.

Once the vicious cycle commences, unless the loop is broken somehow, the extinction of the org and all of its “innards” is a forgone conclusion:

So, how can the cycle be broken? Well duh, by increasing revenues. So, how can revenues be increased? By somehow “miraculously”:

  • Creating new products/services that customers want and competitors don’t have yet
  • Enhancing the existing product/service portfolio to distinguish the org’s offerings from the moo herd’s crappy products/services

But wait, you say. How can an org enhance their products and/or create new ones with no capital to invest because of decreasing (or no) profits? Then, uh, that’s where the “miraculously” comes in.

In a tough business environment, it doesn’t take much to cut costs  (that’s what dime-a-dozen MBAs and mercenary hatchet men are for). It takes talent, ingenuity, lots of luck, and real leadership to increase revenues when little to no investment resources are available. No matter how sincere, text book exhortations, rah rah speeches, and appeals for increased focus/dedication/loyalty (with no reciprocating commitment for compensation should the ship be righted), aren’t characteristic of real leadership. They’re manifestations of fear.

The Null Set

October 14, 2011 1 comment

Few would argue that Martin Luther King and Albert Einstein didn’t change the world for the betterment of the human race. These two stunningly similar quotes unveil one of the keys to their hard won success:

Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from prevailing opinion. – Martin Luther King

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. – Albert Einstein

Something tells me that this is an ironic twist on the cliche that “great minds think alike“. Great minds think alike, but so do mediocre minds. It’s just that on matters of importance, great minds don’t think like mediocre minds. D’oh!

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