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 ]

Kill Your Darlings

If your organization is suffering from a plague of projects, stopping a few of them only fixes the symptoms of the plague. Your first step should be to change the way projects are started. One of the best tips is to make sure all projects are launched with a kill switch of some kind—that is, tangible metrics and milestones defining when the project should be … [ Read more ]

Job Hopping and Internal Job Fairs

It’s important for senior leaders to find a way that people can share information in reasonably efficient ways. I really like the example of Salesforce under Steve Greene and Chris Fry — they had a policy where engineers were free to change jobs within the company. So, every four months they’d have an internal job fair, like a bazaar with booths, where people would walk … [ Read more ]

Eliminate or Rewrite Unhelpful Policies

Two simple questions can help guide the process of eliminating or rewriting cumbersome policies. First, does the policy protect the organization from violating safety, legal, or regulatory standards? If the policy helps ensure compliance, leaders should still ask themselves if there is a better way to structure the policy to ensure compliance in the most efficient and effective way possible. Second, does the policy help … [ Read more ]

Reward and Recognition Program Ideas – Peer Recognition

One of the easiest and most effective programs to initiate is peer recognition. Peer recognition gives employees the power to reward each other for doing a good job. It works because employees themselves know who works hard and deserves recognition. After all, managers can’t be everywhere all the time, and employees are in the best position to catch people doing the right things.

For example, in … [ Read more ]

Minimize the “We-They” Syndrome

To minimize the “we-they” syndrome, have employees rotate jobs for one hour each week. For example, the person in the Sales Department works on the front desk. Someone from Maintenance will work in the Customer Service etc. This builds a stronger team and improves communication within the company.

The Distraction Index

The creeping problem of administrative BS, committees, teams, projects and three-letter management programs all seemed important and necessary when they were initiated. And individually, each of these programs or activities appears important and valuable. However, as organizations get older and more successful, they see the need for more and more of this stuff that was just not necessary in the early lean years. There was … [ Read more ]

Using the Net Promoter for Measuring Employee Engagement

Just as the Net Promoter approach has strong descriptive and predictive power with customers, it works just as well in the realm of employee engagement. Loyalty leaders measure engagement by asking a handful of simple but predictive questions: Would you ask your friends and family to work in this company? Why? And would you recommend our product or service to your friends and family? What … [ Read more ]

A Premortem for Contrarian Thinking

“The premortem technique is a sneaky way to get people to do contrarian, devil’s advocate thinking,” explains psychologist Gary Klein. “Before a project starts, say, ‘We’re looking in a crystal ball, and this project has failed; it’s a fiasco. Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project has failed.”

Start an Initiative to Kill Initiatives

Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges make a strong argument for starting an initiative to kill initiatives in their April 2010 Harvard Business Review article “The Acceleration Trap.” Far too many “walking dead” projects clog capacity in most organizations. Once superfluous activities have been cut, leaders can allocate resources according to the priority of the remaining projects and initiatives. This requires the application of a … [ Read more ]

Take the Pulse of the Room

Ask participants to write down their initial positions, use voting devices, or ask participants for their “balance sheets” of pros and cons. “Frankly, I’m surprised that when you have a reasonably well-informed group it isn’t more common to begin by having everyone write their conclusions on a slip of paper,” remarks Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. “If you don’t do that, the discussion will create an … [ Read more ]

Climate Safety is an Important Factor in an Innovative Climate

A fearless workplace frees people to take the risks innovation requires. At W.L. Gore, the Delaware chemical products company famous for Gore-Tex and other high-performance products, mistakes made in the pursuit of novel solutions are accepted as part of the creative process. When a project is killed, staff members celebrate its passing with beer and champagne. When a project fails, a post-mortem is conducted. Flawed … [ Read more ]

Making Better Investment Decisions

Always ask people making an investment recommendation to present their second-best choice. It’s rarely better than the first. But both might actually be good, and both recommendations of another business unit might not be. Considering just one recommendation from every business unit will deprive you of many investment opportunities you’d get if you asked for two.

Gaining Clarity of Purpose for Leadership Teams

Accenture ran a workshop on how to improve decision-making for the CEO of a global manufacturing company and 10 of his direct reports. At the very beginning of the session, attendees were asked, “What do you do that no one else in the company has the responsibility to do?” After 30 minutes of vigorous debate failed to produce any consensus, the CEO intervened and gave … [ Read more ]

Reward and Recognition Program Ideas

The size of your organization and the age of your workforce dictates which type of rewards and recognition program works best. One organization improved motivation and almost eliminated turnover by creating a family environment including special incentives.

Every year employees celebrate their work anniversary with a cake and receive $100 for each year employed made out in a check.

Twice a year employees’ children receive a … [ Read more ]

Reflect on Both Failures and Successes

Establish a regular review process for yourself, your team, and your organization to reflect on the reasons for both your failures and successes. This is a fundamental and critical component of learning. Based on the input of everyone involved, some organizations produce substantial documents or booklets on “lessons learned” following a major new product, service, or business launch.