Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Please Take a Moment to Answer This Question…

So that I can deliver timely and focused information to you in these blogs, it would be great if you’d take just a minute to give me your comments on this question…

 

What are the top three key challenges you are facing in your business right now?

Your feedback will help me keep on track with what is important to you – just type in your answer in the “Leave a Reply” section below and I will begin putting together articles to address the major issues that people point out. Thanks so much for your help —  John

Comments

  1. 1) Motivating and managing people through change — getting them on board and getting them active in driving the change themselves, rather than being skeptical, passive resistors, or, worse, active resistors who throw up constant roadblocks.
    2) Dealing with task overload — too many things going on that it is hard to handle any of them well or even find time to get organized about dealing with them.

  2. carol albanesi says:

    3 challenges in business

    1. Matrix managment. Acting as a leader or project manager for a project that crosses
    departmental lines. Gaining cooperation from people not under my direction.
    Particularly when the topic or job is difficult.
    2. Developing managers and supervisors in my areas of responsibility
    3. Maintaining focus and getting what you need in conversations when stakes are high and
    there is a power gradient

  3. 1) Focusing everyone towards the same goals.

    2) Finding the time to get everyone on the same page, as well as keeping internal development moving. All while not sacrificing client projects.

    3) Combination of 1 & 2

  4. Andy Williams says:

    Three Key challenges:
    1. Getting/keeping great people
    2. Maintaining profit margins, cutting expenses.
    3. Keeping people motivated/pumped up to generate business and revenues.

  5. Jim Trunick says:

    senior management commitment and execution of people development consistent with programming being launched for lower level management development.

    Alignment of management programs consistent with goals and competencies

    Improving business acumen skills in sales personel.

  6. Jane Jones says:

    1. Developing performance elements and standards that are measurable?

    2. Developing our managers/supervisors

    3. Rebuilding morale

  7. Creating an environment where the team members have an ownership mentality towards daily goals; Creating personal and business team superior levels of customer service that are real and recognized to create new referrals;Selling the value of the product and not just the price

  8. As a fellow consultant, I’m curious about how you might go about helping consultees to understand how important process is to their outcome goals. I’ve found that most outcome-oriented problems (poorly motivated people, bad customer service, frenzied managers, etc.) are caused by an ineffective process in play throughout the entire team. At the same time, I’ve found that many team leaders are not as motivated to get to this “root cause” of poor outcomes as they might need to be (and thus continue to experience the same problems over and over again). How would you raise awareness of the frequent need to be process-oriented in order to get more desired outcomes?

  9. Brian — this is a very difficult question – one I have been struggling with for several years. It is truly a tautology that process is necessary for consistent and on-going improvements… but the hard work, rigorous thinking and attention to detail required to effectively apply precise processes to a system seem to be too much of a challenge for many companies to overcome. The biggest excuse I hear most often is “we don’t have time” — they already feel so overwhelmed that the thought of adding more measurement and more process (even if in the future it will actually give them back lots of time) is met with huge resistance. Which brings me to a second challenge of introducing process — it takes away all of the places to hide — it actually makes people accountable for their work – and if you work in a company where it has been easy to hide and coast – the idea of knowing that everyone will be able to see your results is frankly terrifying. So, how to overcome this??? My only tool is to try to demonstrate through research, case studied and beta tests — that the positive results from embracing process FAR outweighs any temporary pain – and that long-lasting business success in most organizations (200+ employees) nearly always involves several interconnected processes and systems to ensure effectiveness, efficiency, consistent quality and accountability. It has been my experience that when you can show them the real numbers involved — they will at least give it a try. Once the program is underway, if upper management has truly bought-in and makes it clear that the process is here to stay (tying compensation and termination to adherence) then people will reluctantly fall in line and will eventually see that the process has had a major positive impact – which usually takes about 2 years of tweaking and adjusting to realize those results. However, if ALL members of upper management are not 100% committed – the program will flounder and fail within 18 months… probably sooner. I am sorry that I do not have a better answer right now — I wish I did — but first I have to figure out how to help executives see that they MUST make time for this — that they have to learn to say “no” to some things in order to spend time on the areas that will truly give them the most ROI. Hope this helped a little — John

  10. Hello again, John,

    I appreciate your taking the time to answer my comment so thoroughly. I have found that many of your thoughts match my experience as well. For example, I have found that leaders who stick with a process-improvement orientation see great results – and that those who need a process-improvement experience the most are typically the least likely to be looking for it. Indeed, it is often this very problem (inability to see the payoff for a process improvement) that is causing many of their problems, isn’t it? For example, the team that is filled with people interested in “hiding” and “terrified of accountability” is typically indicative of a damaged process, I think. One that has promoted a feeling of needing to hide and be scared.

    So, based on your response above, I guess my top question to you this year is something you’ve indicated above that you are still working on: the most effective way, in your experience, to get enough of the right people committed to improving a system (process) that attracts and/or continues to employ so many people that are interested in hiding and/or terrified of accountability. I think even the desire to hide/not be held accountable is a symptom of a sick process – and am interested in your thoughts on how to help people understand that the SYSTEM is often the problem (even the problem of not wanting to get better) within troubled organizations. It may be that an appreciation of process in teams who do not pay attention to it will only come after a competitor that does appreciate it puts them out of business.

    I’d love to hear if you come to any new insights this year on this – in order to help teams before they hit “rock bottom.”

    Thanks, John – love the blog!

  11. John Sturm says:

    Brian Higley and John Spence,
    Are you saying that the insights Henry Ford had in mass production apply — at least indirectly — to non-manufacturing operations?
    If you are, has using this analogy helped or made it more difficult for people to accept your ideas about applying systems to their work?
    John

  12. A: John — very interesting question. My answer: No, not really. I believe the Henry Ford – Adam Smith approach of highly ridged, very controlled process to ensure consistency and optimization of effort are too mechanical for non-manufacturing processes. What I am talking about (and remember, this is from a guy who chafes at having to create and follow processes/systems) is more along the lines of clearly defining the intended outcome of a customer interaction — what would truly make the customer happy and loyal (by their definition of happy) — and then outlining key processes to help ensure that the desired outcome is reached consistently. Now, that does not mean that the path to that outcome is always consistent — for I feel it de-humanizes workers if they have no flexibility to engage their brain and personality in their work — only that the company has taken the time to clearly and specifically define the outcome they want the customer to enjoy — given a good framework to get there time-after-time — and then empowered people to use their own best judgment in their effort to bring their intelligence and heart to the act of serving a customer. Rather than a Ford example — I would put forth a Starbucks or Ritz Carlton example — where they have superior systems and processes, guided by dedicated and intelligent employees who have been give wide latitude in deciding the very best way to serve the unique customer in front of them.

    I hope this helps — and I welcome your comments and feedback — thanks — John

  13. John Sturm says:

    John,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Perhaps one part of the difficulty in convincing people to adopt systems is in the complexity of what you describe:
    “. . .outlining key processes to help ensure that the desired outcome is reached consistently., . . . to clearly and specifically define the outcome they want the customer to enjoy — given a good framework to get there time-after-time — and then empowered people to use their own best judgment in their effort to bring their intelligence and heart to the act of serving a customer.”

    You have (at least) three parts
    Definition of the outcome
    A framework (system?) to get there
    Openness to best judgment

    All in one gulp. But perhaps that’s necessary. In the businesses you work with things may get worse unless all the parts work together.

    But your comment is getting me to wonder what would happen if someone developed an expertise at guiding businesses to adopt your ideas a step at a time. Definition. Then system. Then opening the system to judgment. (And to wondering whether system or judgment would come first.)

    John Sturm

  14. Hello John Sturm and John Spence,

    I’m enjoying our exchanges. Regarding Mr. Sturm’s quote:

    “But your comment is getting me to wonder what would happen if someone developed an expertise at guiding businesses to adopt your ideas a step at a time. Definition. Then system. Then opening the system to judgment. (And to wondering whether system or judgment would come first.)”

    I thought you might be interested in a system my organiztion put together to do this very thing “The Execution Boost Support System.” Would love your thoughts on it! If interested, have a look at: http://www.excellenceuniversity.net/online/ebss_information.php.

    Thanks to both of you for this great conversation.