Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stealing Part Two

Following up on my last blog about governments stealing efficient ideas from other countries;  it begs the question, "Are you stealing best practices from other companies around the world?" I wonder, do you even know what the best practices other companies have in place?  In some cases, you may have some best practice policies but unlikely that your entire business is run that way.

How would one go about finding out who does it best, especially when it comes to their employees and customers? You could always call on McKinsey, they are so well plugged in globally they actually do know who does it best in every category of every different sector of the economy. Just read one of their Quaterly Reports. However, McKinsey may be out of your snack bracket, I am sure there are others that may not be as global, but could fill the spot adequately.

You see in this day and age there is absolutely nothing stopping anyone from figuring out how to improve. There are plenty of self-help books, management consultants and market research analysis in all fields. I am pretty sure even if you just typed into Google " how do I ....better" it would be surprising what would come up. But that's not what I am talking about here, I mean real deep down commitment to truly improve the quality of life for both employees and customers, which in turn should take care of the shareholders quite nicely wouldn't you think?

Since the core of every business is their army of evangelists spreading their message, aka, employees it follows that a review of best practices or company efficiencies, management should start with their employees. If they are all inspired, believing in their products and full of confidence in the management team, shouldn't that somehow come through to the customers? If customers are met daily with a high level of enthusiasm and service, wouldn't you expect that given a reasonable choice the customers would choose your company and products? Seems pretty intuitive to me.

I remember years ago when I had just been made President of CIBC-Wood Gundy and we were hosting the new Chrysler management team after they had gone bankrupt the first time. What was amazing was their enthusiasm for their products, not selling but truly marveling in what they were producing and fighting over each other to tell the story. It was a unique view into a group of people that believed together in what they were building and selling.  Damn it was exciting,  so exciting that I went and bought the stock the next day at $8 only to watch it goes as high as $45,  I was out in the 30's.

Are your employees that excited about your company and products? Do they rave about what a wonderful place your company is to work? Would they recommend to their children that they build a career at the company? Isn't that  the acid test of how good a job you are doing as CEO, Division head or any other level of leadership? Are those following these principals being publicly rewarded so that other people know and trust that those doing the right things will succeed.  Alternatively are your employees looking at your leadership team and asking the question, " How did they get that job  and why do they still have it?

It's hard work to be best of breed, class or whatever you want to call it. But,  it appears to me, that if you concentrate your efforts on your employees the rest should actually sort itself out.  Concentrate on having the right people in leadership positions who are both encouraged and compensated on both performance and collaboration with others. Do those that work well with others and continue to work collaboratively rise to the top or is it the others? The others that worry solely about their personal advancement? We all know who the others are don't we? What type of culture exists within your firm? Do you even know?

My wife tells me my blogs sound a bit rantish. That's always been a bit of a problem for me, I believe in things passionately.  I have a tendency to sound like I am preaching whether I am speaking or writing. Particularly in this case, I probably sound a bit rantish, I feel very strongly that the success of organizations management is so intwined with employee satisfaction and success that I start every business assignment with a round of employee interviews.  In fact, that is when I really find out what kind of company, division or department has hired me. The troops always know what the real deal is, they live it every day on the front line. I can't tell you the number of times my assignment has changed after interviewing all the foot soldiers and not just relying on management's interpretation.

 For example, one assignment that we had was to hire a replacement for a very senior person who was soon retiring. The head of the firm gave us a long speech and even a job description of the characteristics they wanted. They even had us meet the individual so that we could find his clone. Fortunately, because of how we run our business, we did not begin our search for that person until we did our round of employee interviews; otherwise, we would have hired the entirely wrong person for that job and the firm. After interviewing all the other senior people we learned that while the incumbent was great and had done a fabulous job, but at that point what they actually needed was the total antithesis. The situation had changed and the firm needed a different skill set going forward.  It actually happens quite regularly, surprised ? We are not any more.

So, I would suggest you take some time this summer to honestly review your business efficiencies and employee situation.  I believe that people in leadership positions should always be striving to run this kind of "happy employee"organization and if you have to steal an idea or two from somewhere, it's all just part of the learning curve!

It just makes good business sense, doesn't it?