Communications and Messaging Guidance for Your Managers

I’m a big believer in teaching leaders to fish. That’s why we’ve rolled out a weekly(ish) email for leaders … that summarizes all the things they need to be thinking about in terms of managing and messaging to their team. We break it down into a few sections: things to know, things to do, things to share. It sounds simple, but let’s be real, leaders … [ Read more ]

Upward Feedback and Culture Feedback Surveys

Managers must be evaluated both on what they get done and how they get it done. The “how” is often overlooked and undervalued. In terms of the “how,” determine whether the person works well cross-functionally, represents the company‘s values in both word and deed, receives strong upward feedback, and whether their team of reports has a high level of satisfaction working at the company.

To measure … [ Read more ]

Skip-Level Meetings

If you manage managers, it’s very powerful to set up a recurring catch up with their direct reports. These are commonly referred to as “skip-level” meetings, and they’re the only way to get an accurate sense of how your direct reports are leading — and how people on their teams are feeling about the business and the strategy you’ve set. It’s also an efficient way … [ Read more ]

Assess Your Organization’s Bureaucracy Mass Index (BMI)

An excess of bureaucracy costs the U.S. economy more than $3 trillion in lost economic output per year. When you look at all 32 countries in the OECD, the cost of excess bureaucracy rises to nearly $9 trillion. To dismantle bureaucracy, the first step is to be honest about how much it’s costing your organization. These costs fall into seven categories:

  1. Bloat: too many managers,

[ Read more ]

New Leader Tip: Learn What Is and Isn’t Working

One of the first things I did when I joined [Philips], in late 2010, was to write an open letter to about 700 people—basically, the group we call the Consumer Lifestyle leadership and a layer below them. I invited them to tell me what they thought was working well in the business and what wasn’t. This gave me a pretty good idea of what was … [ Read more ]

Onboarding Program for New Executives

Bank of America … has created an onboarding program for executives one to two levels below the C-suite. The program aims to ensure that the new executives understand role expectations, quickly develop a network among key stakeholders, build relationships with their team, and learn from other leaders what it takes to succeed, especially in their particular role. To achieve these objectives, the program must transfer … [ Read more ]

Get the Metrics Right

Many less-successful companies approach cost reduction with blinders on. They may look at only one part of the P&L, such as general and administrative (G&A) expenses. Or they may confine their efforts to individual business units. They fail to view the business as a whole, often because they rely on metrics that reflect part of the business rather than the entire P&L.

Consider an Asian telecom … [ Read more ]

Diminishing the Influence of Rank

At Honda, employees wear white pants and white shirts with their first names embroidered in red on the upper right side. It’s the uniform that every Honda Motor Company employee, whether pipe fitter or president, wears on the job at every factory or office. This is intended to diminish the influence of rank; in the moment-to-moment give-and-take of Honda workers’ daily responsibilities, all points of … [ Read more ]

Look at Suppliers’ Input Prices with a New Lens

As commodity prices increase, suppliers come knocking, pushing through commensurate increases. But what happens when those same commodity prices fall? Too often, purchasers fail to get a break. Consider the situation of an aerospace and defense supplier. As key metal prices rose, the company grudgingly accepted its suppliers’ price increases for machined parts. Trouble is, the company lacked good tracking data on commodity indexes. So … [ Read more ]

What does this mean over the long term?

Organizations can become obsessed with short-term results. But Harvard Business School professor emeritus Michael Beer believes that the intense focus on quarterly results can impair an organization’s ability to create long-term value both for investors and society. By asking about a longer time horizon, you can encourage someone to contemplate issues and unintended consequences that could result from trying only to satisfy one group of … [ Read more ]

Develop Your “Talking Points”

Develop your “stump speech” or “talking points” among your management team before any of you heads out to give your version to the rest of the organization. This generally includes messages around your Change Drivers, Focus and Context (vision, values, and purpose), key goals and priorities, change/improvement plans, and such.

Displaying Progress Toward Organization Goals

Develop highly visible scoreboards, bulletin boards, or voice mail, electronic or printed announcements of progress toward team and organization goals and priorities.

Sharing Strategic Measurements

Share all core strategic measurements (including “confidential” financial, and operating data) with everyone in your organization. Treat people like full-fledged business partners and they’ll act that way. But don’t snow them under with a blizzard of meaningless reports and numbers. Train everyone how to read these data. Show them how to relate the measurements to their daily operations and improvement activities.

Snowball Sampling: Identifying People with Informal Influence

Employee resistance is the most common reason executives cite for the failure of big organizational-change efforts. Companies need to develop strong change leaders employees know and respect—in other words, people with informal influence. But there’s one problem: finding them. How can company leaders identify those people beforehand to better harness their energy, creativity, and goodwill—and thereby increase the odds of success?

One way we’ve found … [ Read more ]

Recognize and Make the Most of Linchpin Roles

Not all roles are created equal. Many companies don’t take the trouble to understand which are their linchpin roles—as distinct from high-performing or high-potential people. These are roles that have a big influence on the customer experience or that provide critical support or coaching to employees who shape the customer’s response. Given scarce resources, targeting these roles can be an efficient way to raise employee … [ Read more ]

The Aggravation Index

Leading companies like FedEx and others have found that a daily metric that tracks occurrence of errors that frustrate customers can be a simple and easy way of measuring and predicting when a customer might leave and never come back. By holding focus groups with customers from a variety of industries and locations, FedEx gathered a long list of things the company had done to … [ Read more ]

Profit Mapping

A profit map, the core analytical tool of profitability management, displays the profitability and cost structure of every product in every customer in the company. Profit maps show exactly where profit is flowing and where it is lost.

A profit map is not especially difficult to develop, but it is completely different from the information developed for financial reporting. Many finance managers make the … [ Read more ]

Switch Roles for Longer Staff Longevity

To foster staff longevity, organizations can arrange for group members to switch roles with one another. Google, for example, encourages employees to leave their positions and take on “bungee” assignments for three months to one year in different areas of the company. Employees can acquire new skills and find out whether they like a new job (or are good at it) before committing to it. … [ Read more ]

Review Profitability Before Expanding Capacity

When faced with the need to expand manufacturing capacity and the inherent investment required, first perform a thorough profitability analysis (a profit map) of each product produced from the capacity-constrained factories (this includes profitable products being sold unprofitably to selected customers). Since many companies have a significant amount of unprofitable business, it is quite possible that stopping the unprofitable sales can free up enough capacity … [ Read more ]

Understanding Your Employees’ Goals

Leaders can reduce the risk of losing good people for the wrong reasons by working with them to understand their passions and career goals and serving up challenging assignments that help them grow from where they are to where they would like to go.

Customizing opportunities to each employee requires understanding that person’s goals, motivations, and values. It’s a simple process, but very few … [ Read more ]