books - business 2008

Kiss Theory Goodbye

Five Proven Ways to Get Extraordinary Results in Any Company

by Bob Prosen

There is a bit of a story behind my reading this book. As part of a Learning Model team, I introduced the concept of “main things” from Monday Morning Leadership, by David Cottrell. This idea resonated with a director on our team, and I happened across Bob’s manifesto here: I sent the manifesto to the director with the words “this is how to operationalize ‘main things”! Turns out he owned the book – picked up at the airport a while ago but hadn’t had a chance to read it, so he sent the book my way to enjoy.

My flags…

pg 6 There are five crippling habits that get companies and organizations nowhere fast:
1. Absence of clear directives
2. Lack of accountability
3. Rationalizing inferior performance
4. Planning in lieu of action
5. Aversion to risk and change

pg 8 Actions to take now – start getting results immediately by taking these actions now:

– Write down and quantify your top three objectives. How do you know you are achieving them?
– Send a memo to five members of your top management team. Ask them to send you their top three objectives and the ways they know the organization is achieving them.
– Send a similar memo to five of your best middle managers. Also ask them to send you their top three objectives and the ways they know the organization is achieving them.

– Compare and contrast the responses you get from top executives and middle managers. What have you learned? What will you do to increase alignment and teamwork resulting from everyone knowing and delivering against the top three objectives?

pg 15 Being able to differentiate between excuses and real problems is an essential part of management. Be responsible to people, not for them. By removing roadblocks to success, leaders enable employees to become fully responsible for delivering results.

pg 16 When the most productive leaders hear someone rationalizing inferior performance, they switch the conversation from negative to positive. Instead of asking why an individual hasn’t met a goal, ask what he’s doing to get there. Does he need help? What stands in the way? During these conversations, make certain ownership and accountability are maintained while you focus on actions required to achieve the desired outcome.

pg 21 Actions to take now – Before proceeding, begin learning about these proven execution models by taking these actions now:
1. List your three worst work habits.
2. Write down your management team’s three worst habits.
3. What steps will you take to address your habits and what requests will you make of your team to improve theirs?
4. How can you make the culture more welcoming to change?
5. How do you know rewards are tied to measurable results throughout the organization?
6. Schedule two walkabouts per month to ask employees what they are working on and to see how well they are performing.

pg 34 Here is a secret I use to increase the probability of making the right hiring decision: During the latter stages of the interviewing process, after my colleagues and I have met with the prospective hire several times, I ask the candidate to write a one-page action plan describing what he or she will do during the first sixty days on the job. The next time we meet, I ask the person to present the plan. This not only allows me to evaluate the candidate’s style, approach, and critical thinking skills, but it also gives me a ready-made performance plan by which to evaluate the person in the months to come. If I’m hiring to fill a senior position, I ask for a three-month action plan.

pg 40 Tips on how people learn and remember. People retain the following:
– 10% of what they read
– 20% of what they hear
– 30% of what they see
– 50% of what they see and hear
– 70% of what they say and write
– 90% of what they say and do

pg 47 Actions to take now – But before you move on, here are some actions to take now:
1. Write down the three most important ways for you to improve your leadership abilities along with key milestones and dates for achieving them.
2. What are the three most important ways for your managers to improve their leadership abilities? How and when will you communicate this to each member on your team?
3. How can your company or organization communicate better with its employees and stakeholders?
4. Who needs to delegate better? How can you get him or her to do that?
5. Do you have the right people in the right positions? If not, what actions are you prepared to take to accomplish this?
6. Does the company or organization make and meet commitments without having to follow up? If not, what actions will you take to make this a reality?

pg 57 Salespeople who meet and continue to exceed their quota should be able to earn as much as possible. Remember, all good salespeople immediately decode the compensation plan to determine how to max out. If they see unlimited earnings potential, their motivation will extend beyond quotas and plans. Yes, it’s expensive, but what a return on investment!

pg 58 I’m often asked if it’s better to hire people with strong product and service experience and teach them how to sell, or hire people with proven sales ability and teach them the company’s products and services. I strongly recommend hiring people with proven sales experience in your industry or an adjacent industry. The next-best alternative is to hire people who know how to sell and teach them your products and services. It’s far too difficult to teach people how to sell, and it rarely works.

pg 60 To increase sales, try using the following vernacular:
Language to use / Language to avoid:
Presentation / Pitch
Investment / Price/Cost
Own / Buy
Future Client / Prospect
Companies we serve / Customer
Agreement / Contract
Approve / Sign

pg 69 At NCR, I had the opportunity to work for Mark Hurd, who was recently named chief executive officer and president of HP. Mark is one of the best at improving operating efficiency.

pg 71 If not closely managed, these costs mysteriously grow by one person or investment at a time until they represent a significant and unnecessary burden on the business. In lieu of increasing these costs, look for alternatives; for instance, outsourcing functions such as recruiting, training development, payroll, and copy reproduction. Deploy technologies such as PDAs to allow employees to manage their own schedule, and e-mail and follow up on calls without administrative support. Automate expense reporting, document approval processes, and benefits administration.

pg 79 One of the most effective ways to reduce unnecessary costs while improving product and service quality is to have a robust quality process that utilizes root-cause analysis (RCA) and irreversible corrective action (ICA).

Step 1- Identify the problem. The problem must be quantifiable and measurable.
Step 2 – Determine the most likely cause categories.
Step 3 – Collect data (i.e. one month period).
Step 4 – Represent the data (i.e. bar charts, graphs of the four weeks of data).
Step 5 – Create a Pareto diagram to determine which cause category represents greater than 80 of the problem. The objective is to avoid spending time on the less important cause categories.
Step 6 – Determine RCA for the 80% cause categories identified in step 5 (can be several categories added together to equal 80%).
Step 7 – Implement ICA test.
Step 8 – Track results for three weeks to validate improvement.
Step 9 – Institutionalize ICA. (i.e. train entire department)
Step 10 – Repetition (repeat steps 5-9 with the next largest cause category until the company is once again achieving its goals on the particular problem.

pg 105 There are also a number of key questions you should regularly ask your existing customers: What can we do to better serve you? What do you want more of? What do we need to do to win more of your business? Remember, asking these questions is just the beginning. Taking action on the answers is where you begin to build customer loyalty.

pg 130 Ultimately you should have a direct line of sight from individual objectives through the operational plan to the business plan and the company’s financial performance. Every person in your company should know exactly how his or her individual objectives tie directly to the success of the business. The concept that everyone is a part of a larger process becomes part of your holistic culture.

pg 133 In an accountability-based culture supercharged for action, you shouldn’t have to tell anyone how to do his or her job, but just what needs to be done. If you’ve hired smart, made certain your team understands the objectives, put the right people in the right jobs so they can fully use their skills, and empowered them to do what they do best, then you should rarely have to get involved in how things actually get done.

pg 134 Part of what drives an accountability-based culture is unyielding commitment and belief in the company’s primary objectives. Everyone must believe in the mission and agree that the chosen path is right. To test this commitment within your company, get into the habit of walking around and talking to people. Get off your beaten path and talk to people you don’t regularly encounter. Then simply ask them what they’re working on and why they’re working on it. The relevance of walking around (in this chapter) is that you can use this technique to better instill an accountability-based culture. To help accomplish this, determine the following: Can employees tell you how their work directly contributes to achieving their organization’s top objectives? Do they understand why they’re doing what they’re doing? Can they explain the company’s objectives in their own language, or do they simply regurgitate a mantra?

If they can’t do these things and do them well, pay attention. Look deeper. This is exactly where superior leadership makes a difference. These seemingly small adjustments add up, and if they are not addressed, they grow into big problems that are much harder to solve. Most often this is caused by a breakdown in communication or commitment. Generally, middle management is the key breakdown to successful execution of objectives. Middle managers bridge the gap between the plan and what employees would be working on every day.

pg 141 If you’ve removed or substantially reduced the roadblocks and your company or organization is still not progressing toward profitability, chances are you have people in the wrong positions. Clearly, people must be given more than once chance to achieve. Then, if they fail repeatedly, it’s the leaders job to recognize that these people are in a position to fail and make a change. In retrospect, leaders often say they waited too long to act.
I was once asked by a company to work one-on-one with the vice-president of sales, who wasn’t making quotas. My first order of business was to ask him what was standing in the way of making the numbers. He identified three issues that we resolved in less than thirty days. Without any other roadblocks, he agreed that at the end of sixty days, if he wasn’t making quota, it was on him, not the company. As it turned out, before the sixty day mark, he saw that he was in the wrong position and left on his own to pursue other interests.

pg 146 Everyone needs to know the company’s most critical objectives – from top leadership down to the line worker. Everyone should be able to articulate what business you’re in, the top objectives for the current year, and their personal alignment with those objectives. To lead everyone to this point of understanding, stay on message. Talk often about the things that matter the most. This is an extremely effective way to gain alignment.

The old “open door” policy goes a long way toward helping leaders and workers clarify information so that people can do their jobs and meet their objectives. There’s no quicker way to lose touch with an organization than to close your door to write memos and send email. Get out and talk to people, and stop sending email to people who sit right next door. Trust is built one-on-one, not in electronic relationships. Sometimes we solve the problems faster face-to-face when we don’t have to deal with repetitive memos and emails.

pg 148 One way to encourage an open, communicative environment is to be free with your ideas. The more information you disclose, the more information people are willing to give you. It’s a leader’s role to being the process. A good way to do this is to speak often in front of employees and field questions. When answering questions, give enough information to ensure understanding. Ask people what they think of certain ideas. Get them involved and feeling like an insider.

pg 154 There’s no better way to stay in touch with your organization than to take frequent walks around the company and listen, ask questions, and observe. This is not management by wandering around, but purposeful visits to ensure that all employees understand how they contribute to achieving the company’s top objectives. If you don’t schedule time to do this, you won’t do it, and avoiding this responsibility can lead to big problems. The objective is to look for and ensure alignment between the company’s stated objectives and what people are actually doing. To accomplish this, you to ask only two questions: What are you doing today to help the company achieve its objectives? What one thing could we do to make your job easier? … Take this purposeful walk at least a couple of times a week. Don’t plan where you’re going ahead of time, just block out the time and do it. Don’t announce your plans in advance. Show up in places you haven’t been. Go to the loading dock. Go to the customer service desk, accounts payable, or the manufacturing floor. It only takes twenty or thirty minutes to mind a few people you haven’t talked to in a while and ask them those two questions.

pg 156 Another way to talk to people you don’t normally have contact with is to host skip-level meetings with people who don’t directly report to you. …These can be casual meetings over lunch, with you in your best listening mode, or you can ask to attend an meeting impromptu. When you do this, I strongly suggest just being an observer. Remember your purpose: You’re verifying alignment and finding out what stands in the way of the organization achieving its top objectives. You’re not there to take control or to get people to like you. Instead, you’re assessing the culture to determine what changes are required.

pg 157 If your bad news is likely to be on the ten o’clock news, it’s even more important for you to be the one to tell employees first. Sometimes this is impossible, either because the information is privileged or legally can’t be shared in advance of public disclosure. If this happens, hold a general conference with your employees as soon as possible, even if it means a conference call at midnight. Clear the air and answer questions. People can handle bad news if you tell them about it early. Explain why the situation occurred, what’s being done, how it impacts them, and how they can help.

pg 160 As a leader, you must be attuned to communication that promotes a victim mentality. If you’re hearing excuses, you’ve got victims. Here are some common victim excuses: “I couldn’t get it done because the other department didn’t …” “It’s not my responsibility” “I’m not paid enough to be proactive” “I don’t have enough resources” “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work”. The best way to break out of this negative cycle is to ask why three times. If this doesn’t work and the conversation wanders into excuses, get back on course with one question: What do you need to accomplish your objectives? Stay focused there, and employees will have no room for excuses.

pg 188 Are you watching for busywork? Pay special attention to staff and other corporate functions, such as accounting, human resources, and information systems. Are they engaging in non-essential work and generating unnecessary reports instead of action that supports the company’s top objectives? If so, how do you root out busywork? Ask your P&L and business-unit leaders to annually evaluate the effectiveness of the support they receive from each central staff or headquarters department. Ask them to list what they want the staff or department to continue doing, stop doing, and start doing. Then take action and hold the leaders accountable.

pg 189 Have you run out of time to plan?
1. Determine your top priorities. There should only be three or four. Write them down and keep them on your desk so you won’t get distracted.
2. Delegate, delegate, and then delegate some more.
3. Perform a three day time study. Write down where you’re spending your time for three days and, at the end of the three days, assess yourself:
– are you spending time on too many things that aren’t priorities?
– what types of activities are taking more time than they should?
– Where are you gravitating in the business?
– Is that the best place for you to be spending your time?
– What issues are coming to you that shouldn’t?

From the middle:

Daily Checklist – end indecision, increase your productivity, kiss theory good bye and get the results you need. Take these seven steps every day:
1. Give clear directives. Be short, be definitive, and get to the point.
2. Require accountability. Focus on results, not on activity.
3. Never rationalize poor performance.
4. Avoid overplanning. When a plan is in place, execute.
5. Embrace change. Search out opportunities to improve your organization and results.
6. Help every member of the team win.
7. At the end of every day, ask yourself, “Did my actions today help move the organization closer to meeting its objectives?”

The Leader’s Role – make everyone who report to you win! Four steps to achieve winning results:
1. Clearly define everyone’s objectives, establish quantifiable metrics, and measure performance.
2. Have each person identify the top three barriers to acheiving his or her objectives.
3. Agree on specific actions, responsibilities, and time frames to remove or minimize the barriers.
4. Hold everyone accountable for results and disproportionately reward those who acheive their objectives.

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