Kickstarter Project: Overcoming Organizational Myopia

Overcoming Organizational Myopia, stovepipes, sandboxes, short sightedness

At 2:30 pm, Central Time, on June 27, 2015, KS Project, Overcoming Organizational Myopia lifted off.  Overcoming Organizational Myopia will be a new nonfiction book about successfully breaking through stovepiped organizations to obtain organizational effectiveness.

The Short Story: I discovered that it really does not matter what company or organization I work with, they all have stovepipes.  What I learned is that they are a product of human nature.  The problem is that everyone wants to “break down the silos” as the typical management response. Unfortunately, this NEVER works! All you do is cause confusion and drive unproductivity as the people in your business seek to rebuild the stovepipes that make them feel secure.  This book is about breaking through the stovepipes to become an effective and efficient organization.  It respects the stovepipes and teaches you how to navigate through them using a consistent and systematic application of full-spectrum strategic and organizational methods.  The book is designed to provide you with situational examples so you can self-diagnose your organization.  Across nine areas, the book helps you identify problem areas and, like a business doctor, treat the root causes with solid business solutions.

Content Marketing FAIL

What is content marketing? I’m sure you have heard the term and some know it really well, but many are getting it wrong.

If you have a business or are a professional with a blog, then you probably are touching on content marketing. There are many other ways to leverage content marketing.

Basically, content marketing is freely sharing of good information either through your business blog, in business documents (like a statement), in a free webinar, etc.

Here are some keys to it:

1. It is free. You don’t have to pay for it, you don’t have to sign up with your email to get spammed for the rest of your life, no one is going to psycho dial you to see if you are interested in buying their product or service. It is free.

2. It is information that you can use. The article is complete and good information that someone can apply. Not only does it bring up good points, but it is complete and has value. Posting a couple of sentences highlighting a problem, but not providing any advice or detail is not content–that’s a tease. All you are trying to do is convince me to ask for more information (see item 1).

3. Weaving in your product or service as part of the content is nothing short of an advertisement. It’s spam. You haven’t figured out content marketing. Having a bio at the top or bottom with infomation about your product or service is content marketing

I have seen a lot of this non-content marketing lately on LinkedIn and Facebook. Word to the wise…you are not doing yourself a favor. People are not stupid. If you want to share information, share it, if you want to sell something stop trying to disguise it as content when it is not.

Bad Leadership is Becoming an Epidemic

It might be me, but the more I look around, the more I am finding bad leadership. Specifically leadership apathy and leaders that lack accountability. “It’s good enough” leaders and leaders who are “just getting by.”

“Why are we seeing this,” I ask myself?

Bad leaders hire and promote bad people. Bad Leadership isn’t just destroying corporate America, but they are doing it at a record pace and doing it way into the future.

These leadership charlatans are building armies of apathy to follow in their footsteps. If you are someone that gets things done, you are kept in a position to get things done because bad leaders don’t want you–you threaten them.

No wonder more than 70% of employees are disengaged at work. Who wouldn’t be with such a sorry leadership outlook.

Often, we talk about the qualities and actions of good leadership, but I think it is important that we learn to spot bad leadership. Here are the top ten results of bad leadership:

1. The realm under the leader has little if no strategy or plan to inspire and drive people. Literally there is no vision, the purpose of the business is primarily focused on making money, becoming bigger, and taking care of itself. Any goals are developed to ensure each subordinate leader can justify their position in the strategic plan and do little to overcome barriers to a future vision. Any vision and goals are such low targets that they in most cases have already been attained.

2.  Program accountability is slowly eroding and nothing is done about it (i.e., deadlines are missed, people not qualified are in positions, reports are misleading, etc.). Expectation barely exists in the organization because targets, rules, and requirements are ignored. Organizations like audit, risk, and compliance are seen as the enemy and kept away from the organization. When there is a finding from one of these organizations, the leaders spends all resources to make it go away and cover it up, but does little to nothing to solve the root causes that created the issue in the first place.

3.  There is a complete lack of organizational performance and process management and accountability. No one knows deeper than monthly what they are doing from a measurement perspective and there is a complete lack of process focus. Everyone simply does their own thing and what little process documentation is lodged tightly in the heads of the employees and passed down like tribal knowledge. Knowledge systems are busting at the seems with senseless information without any organization. Variance across processes run rampant and unchecked.

4.  There is a significant lack of communication both internally and externally. What communication that is occuring lacks any direction or strategic intent. The leadership doesn’t even know who their stakeholders are to communicate to. The term customer is used, but they are a faceless entity that nothing is really known about. Specifications for work are all internally created and bear no resemblance to competition or what customers actually want. In some cases, the customer is seen and portrayed as the enemy.

5.  The organizational structure looks like a Christmas tree and is broken into functional and operational departments that are so siloed that the company looks like an island chain. There is little communication and less cooperation across departments. Each silo is only focused on what they do for themselves, they see everyone else as a competitor for money and manpower, and they simply throw work over the wall versus work in an end-to-end process.

6.  Education and training opportunities might exist, but there is no plan or strategy to develop employees and leaders. The activity, if it happens at all, is chaotic and clearly broken. Employees mainly spend resources to gain skill through training so they can leave the company.

7.  Operational effectiveness, based in things like defect counting, process timing, first pass yield, on time delivery, customer satisfaction, etc. is barely looked at (if at all) and nothing of substance is done about it.

8.  Leaders across the organization focus on tactical operations, ignore problems, lack methodical problem solving, micromanage work, and have little vision at work.

9.  Good, hard working employees are consistently overlooked for promotion opportunities and are kept “getting the work done.”  The great employees have either turned apathetic in the workplace, are looking for other opportunities, or have already left.

10.  Almost all the leadership and management below a bad leader looks the same. The problems above spread to every corner what that leader controls. Bad leaders conspire with other bad leaders to corrupt the entire organization because this eliminates the need for accountability. Soon, the disease has spread to the highest level executives and even possibly the president or CEO. The leadership ranks become bloated with high-paid executives who do little and hold no one accountable to organizational values.

These companies are like the undead. The disease has corrupted the body so badly that it doesn’t even realize it’s dead. It just keeps operating and destroying everything in its path. This mindless company lumber on making money in spite of itself and it decays and starts to collapse. Yet, the bad leadership are so unaware of the situation that they can’t even fathom there is a problem.

Bad leadership is running rampant in corporate America and the undead companies are lumbering across the landscape. Is there nothing that can be done?

When You Need A Swiss Army Knife in Business

Lately I have met several organizations that are at a crossroads in their own evolution. Many companies realize the importance of things like strategy, change management, process improvement, strategic communication, and employee engagement. However, these organizations are making tactical decisions on the direction of these areas versus truly looking at this from a strategic perspectives.

Instead of hiring several different individuals or creating separate teams all focused on doing the same thing, companies today should should focus on bringing all their Operational Excellence activities under one team working directly for the CEO or President of the company.  This group should be led by a senior leader that sits at the same table as the companies other leaders.

This Swiss Army Knife professional–SVP/VP, Operational Excellence–should manage things like:
– Strategy development, execution, and change
– Performance optimization through process, product, and functional continuous improvement
– Strategic communication inside and outside the organization
– Strategic human capital management to include education, training, and development and employee satisfaction, commitment, and engagement
– Information and innovation engagement

This team does not need to be big…depending on an organization’s size, it could be as small as three or four people.  However, it should leverage other support areas throughout the organization, like Human Resources, Finance, IT, etc. These organizations would not report to the position, but work with the position.

Today, some organizations have some or all of these activities occuring, but they are scattered across the organization and have very little singular direction. By bringing the functions together into a small effective team, an organization is equipped to deal with the challenges of today and the future.

Of course, the leaders of these types of organizations have to have a solid understanding of all these functions at strategic, operatiomal, and tactical levels and not focused on creating some massive sandbox of people with various skills. They need to be highly skilled with a focus on lean and mean.

Do you have an open door policy or an open door?

A lot of good leaders out there will tell you that they have an open door policy. They will share with you, when talking about communication in their organization, how they have instituted an open door policy to facilitate communication in their organization. “My door is always open,” they will say.

But is it really?

How many employees ‘walk through your open door’ to talk to you on a regular basis?

If your answer is a low number or none–aside from the senior leaders in your organization–then maybe you should ask yourself if you really have an open door?

Now an open door policy really is a misnomer, because the reason leaders have offices and others have cubicles is so that they can have closed door meetings. These are either discussions where they want to discuss things in private or they want to have a meeting without being bothered. This way, leaders can have a series of meetings without finding a conference room all the time. Makes sense.

But then their door really isn’t ‘open’ all the time, now is it? But an open door policy really doesn’t mean that your door is actually always open when you come by or that you are free to walk in at any time. An open door policy is really about how approachable you have made yourself.

Your open door policy is really about a level of trust and honesty you portray in your organization and a level of openness to talk freely to employees. It’s not about actually having an open door.

Some things to consider to promote more of an open door culture in your office is to get up from your desk on a regular basis and walk around talking to people that you normally would not.

Take the door to them so to speak.

Get to know people by name. Know if they are married and have kids, are they going to school or do they have hobbies, if they like sports or volunteering, ect. Basically, find out a little more about them that demonstrates that they are more like you than you or they realized.

Sure, probably, as the leader, you make more money, park closer to the front door, and probably live in a different part of town, but in many ways you are very much alike. I think that people forget this.

Everyone from the lowest level employee to the highest paid CEO are the exact same–a human. They’ve just had different experiences in life that have led them to where they are today and the CEO now has access to way more information than the other employee. If you treat everyone like a fellow human being and not an employee, you will promote an open door policy.

I work for a guy that loves coffee. He’s very good at management by walking around. He can often be seen, especially in the morning and late afternoon, around the office talking to people. But he made his actual door more approachable one simple way…

In the front office, he put in an instant coffee maker and keeps it full of different coffees, teas, creamers, and sweeteners. When his door is open, his desk faces straight at the coffee maker. The coffee is open and free to anyone in the office and people often come by to get some. If he’s not busy, the door is open, and he’s in the office, it is not uncommon that he say hi or even get up and come get a cup of coffee for himself. He even has a time blocked on Thursday, that he tries to keep open for people to come get a cup of coffee and sit down in his office and simply talk.

Think about the simplicity of an open door. It’s not about the policy, but how you promote open and honest communication and make yourself approachable.

Blogging Weekly with National Graduate School

john knottsHappy Cinco de Mayo!

I am now a weekly guest blogger with National Graduate School.  Please check out my blog there.

Follow us as we explore how to build a culture of continuous improvement.

Building a culture of continuous improvement isn’t easy and can take a considerable amount of time.  However, it’s very possible and results can be felt within weeks of embarking on the journey.  Over John’s 25 plus years of experience, he’s developed a model rooted in strategy and designed to build this culture in any organization.  Join John and National Graduate School as we weekly explore this model and ways to drive this type of culture.  We look forward to your thoughts and inputs along this journey, so join us and watch for our future blogs about once a week with the tag line “CIC.”

Are you leaning out the value of your call center?

What is the focus of your call center? What are the metrics that you look at and what behaviors do these metrics drive?

Is your call center focused on answering calls quickly, providing a quick call turn over, and getting to the next call? If so, I hope that the sole purpose of your company is to answer questions for customers as quickly as possible.

If your company’s business to to do pretty much anything else, then you’re not focusing on the value of your call center and you probably are not looking at managing all your channels to drive the right calls to your call center.

See, many companies, as they’ve dealt with scalability and capacity issues, they’ve moved to a very lean model in their call centers. Many business process outsourcing firms have jumped on this opportunity to provide less expensive and very manufacturing-like processes around call centers. On shore, near shore, and off shore, there are people answering phones for all kinds of companies.

Because we have to answer calls and as we grow the number of calls significantly increase. Thus, we search for ways to deal with the increased call volume without significantly increasing our staff. Instead, we focus on really leaning out the operation, because it’s seen as not having value.

So let’s talk about that for a moment–value.

Value in a process is defined pretty much as, “what a customer is willing to pay for.” When a customer has a problem, question, concern, etc. with a company, they want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a real person to resolve and respond to their issue. I know that as a customer, the value I expect and pay for is someone answering the phone and someone responding to my needs on the phone. So, if this is a value to a customer, are we diminishing it by forcing computer automated responses and focusing on getting them off the phone as soon as possible?

Let’s look at the “other type of value”–business value. Sometimes there are activities and steps in a process that aren’t of value to the customer, but are of value to the business. In other words, the customer won’t pay for it, but we clearly will. Again, unless your company’s sole purpose is to answer customer questions, anytime you have your customer on the phone is an opportunity to learn more about them, to deepen your relationship with them, to provide them advice, and to sell them other key products that they might need, but didn’t even know you offered.

Unfortunately, when you are focused on managing the call volume in a traditional lean approach, value tends to be over looked. Both value to the customer and value to the business.

What’s worse is that our other channels tend to drive the wrong kind of calls to the call center and not the right ones. Many times, your physical mail channel, your web channel, your mobile channel, your social channel, etc., deliver inconsistent and non-integrated messages. These create confusion and drive up call volume from concerned customers. Thus, the reason they’re calling is to clarify, complain, and the like. So, you see the call center as a necessary burden to literally deal with communication rework answering questions that should have been clear and consistent in all channels in the first place. When it’s seen as a burden, then you try to minimize the expense and time involved in it.

Change your way of thinking…

You have your customer–the most valuable person to your organization–on the phone. Do you realize how hard it is to get someone on the phone these days? Take advantage of that!

Figure out what is driving your call volume and focus on eliminating the communications rework–answering something that should have been answered by another communication. Focus on other channels to drive the right call volume to your call center–volume that increases your relationship, understanding, and sales with your customer.

When you have the customer on the phone, don’t focus on answering quickly, getting them off the phone, and moving on to the next call. Focus on building your relationship, deepening your understanding of your customer, and providing them with information they didn’t have about your products so they might buy something else they need or want from you. Measure that–customer and business value of each phone call–and see how your behaviors around your call center change.

Simply put, the day you stop having meaningful conversations with your customers is the day that you go out of business. This will happen no matter how lean your call center is.

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