Monday, May 21, 2012

Take Care of Your People…..and They Will Take Care of You!

This is a mantra that has been around for ages.  People are your greatest asset.  People are what make companies.  People are the greatest source of ingenuity.  Yet, many companies squander, squash, and belittle their greatest asset….people.

A few years back, I got an amazing 15 minutes in an event green room with Jack Welch.  I was looking at him and he was pretending not to notice.  Finally, he lowered his paper and looked back at me and said, "You get one question."  Exited, I asked, "I am a small business owner.  What are three things that I should be doing to ensure my success in this economy?"  He didn't hesitate.  He gave me three points: 

  • Whatever you think you are going to do in revenue this year and next, cut it in half.

  • Pay your best people.  Don't give them bonuses, don't give them vouchers, give them cold hard cash.

  • Find the best people from other organizations and pay them what they are worth.  This is the time to find the people that are being ignored by other companies and snatch them up.

It was great advice.  I did just that, and we continue to grow.  However, I don't think that just paying them is enough.  David Maister did a study that I reference in my book Project Management That Works.  In the study, he asks team members to rank what is most important to them at their work.  Then he asked the managers of those team members to rank the same list, but to do so in the way they think their employees would answer.  The managers selected salary as the number one thing.  The team members picked being appreciated for a job well done as theirs.

I blogged a while back about my dad and his company (read it here).  I wanted to follow in his footsteps.  I wanted to ensure the employees of R2 felt appreciated.  We just finished our first annual Stretch Goal Incentive trip.  Each year, I determine our goal in revenue for the year.  Then I establish the "Stretch Goal."  This is the goal over and above our normal achievement rank.  If we hit the stretch goal, then everyone who is a part of that will go on an all-expenses paid vacation.  We just completed our first one!  The team went to New York City for a few days and celebrated a phenomenal 2011.  It was an amazing trip.  Not only was it fun, the team got a chance to reflect what we accomplished and built a stronger bond with each other.  I'll never forget it!

The trip made me reflect what it was like to work for other companies.  Profit reigns above people.  Some of the HR practices and ways we deal with employees absolutely just crush the human spirit.  I remember as a young HR manager running an office, the goal for the office was to hit 60% of milestones and production dates.  In the first year, we hit 99.7%.  Every single person exceeded everyone's wildest expectations.  I, in turn, rewarded my employees with a 5 (exceeds expectations) on their annual review.  When I turned this in, I was told that I could not do that.  I was told by HR that it is impossible for everyone on my team to exceed my expectations and if that was the case, I was the problem for not creating higher expectations.  I was then forced to choose one or two people on my team to give the 5 to.  How is that possible after the fact?  Stupid.  Crushing.  A perfect way to take a highly functioning team and destroy them so that the "numbers" match the "theory" of HR.  This is precisely why I am not in Corporate America anymore.

I know for 99% of you out there, you do not have the ability to take everyone on a vacation.  You can't give them the money that they deserve.  However, you can give them the number one thing that was on their list; true, heartfelt appreciation for a job well done.  Showing people that you truly care and want to see them succeed is the best way to take care of your people.  However, if you can, it is also fun to take them on vacation!

No Day but Today!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Effective Waste Management: Curb the Ego's and Meetings!

It amazes me how much time and money companies and organizations can simply throw away to satisfy various egos.  There are so many examples to pull from:

 -          Executives having outrageous demands and systems just to see information "their way."  There are companies out there that will take information from a system of record, massage it in a variety of tools to present to the executive team.  The executive team will question the data or make adjustments and then another team will adjust the data in the system of record.  When asked why not just look at the system of record, the answer is, "The executives just like to see it in Excel."

-          Organizations hire industry leading experts to improve processes.  They bring in the organizations because they did not have the expertise on the team to perform the functions.  Then they allow the internal team that feels that they are experts to subject the known experts to micro-management and questioning of every technique.

-          Executives that have had project failures in the past create so many processes and checkpoints that the resulting workflow is so chaotic and time-consuming as well as a perceived lack of value. 

Most of these items have to do with ego.  The ability to be right or to prove someone wrong can create countless hours of waste and cost to an organization.  Yet, this cost often goes unchecked.  As a consultant, there is always a tremendous amount of "low hanging fruit" that can be found in companies plagued by pointless process.  Most of the workers within the process will be the first to complain or question the value… other people.  So what can we do and how can you curb this behavior? 

The first item is to create a system of measurement.  While time tracking is done in many companies, the value of the information sometimes does not match the effort.  Find a way within the current time tracking activities or if there is not time-tracking today, start by tracking your time.  At the end of each activity, record your time with a note or marker as to whether or not there was any value to the activity.  For instance, if you go to a team meeting and the meeting was an hour long to provide information to you that is beneficial, then that was a valuable activity.  If you went to a meeting about a project where two people argued about the same things over and over and no resolution was found in the meeting, mark that as a non-value add activity.  Run this time tracking for about a month and start to look at the amount of time in the non-value add category.  What is the data saying to you?  What can be done with the data?  After just a few weeks, you will begin to see where the time wasted activities are.  Now begin to classify those.  How many of those can be categorized into areas such as ego, mistrust, or pointless meetings?  You will be absolutely surprised at the outcome! 

When you are faced with a process or an individual that is a constant source of ego and waste, find a way to measure those interactions.  How many e-mails, communications, or documents are required?  When these documents or communications are negative towards them, what do they do?  All of these data points are key to understanding and navigating the political minefield of ego.  The collection of these statistics may point you to stay away from certain topics or may teach you a way to communicate effectively.  Whatever the case may be, finding the data point to measure and then studying the outcome will point you to the path of resolution.

I am interested in hearing from you on this topic.  Do you see waste and cost simply due to ego?  What do you think can be done?