Monday, September 30, 2013

Ruin Your Company: As CEO, be as vague as possible

Ruin Your Company series introduction. For the humor-impaired, the text in italics is sarcasm.

As the CEO, you have achieved the pinnacle of your career. You have networked, self-promoted and blown-out out of proportion (ehem, I mean rebranded) your minor successes ( plus the successes of a few other people) all the way up to the top. Basically now, 'work' is for other people.
Trust yourself when you think that being a CEO is about being vague. People should know how to do their work, so why should you provide a clear direction? The company will drive itself. Just point to Success, Profit and Market Leadership and the people who work for you will get you there. Call this: Demanding Results.
In fact, focus on Demanding Results. Leave the execution to other people working for you. Trust in the fact that someone in the company loves their job or cares enough about their job that they will do it well. Utilize these resources and trust your managers / empower them / let them take the responsibility for the fallout.
Explains the details enough so that your managers know you mean business and no more. You can further ensure this by making it clear how you want success to be achieved. It doesn't matter if the how doesn't connect with the what of the results. That's someone else job to fill in the details. Remember, yours is to be vague and Demand Results.
But if you see yourself as the hands-on CEO, don't stop at Demanding Results. Continue on to specifying the expected results in vague terms. Make sure the people who work for you know that you expect them to know the details of what you expect, just don't them what it is. Remember, don't stop being vague. 
As a guide, here are some way how you can be consistently vague
  • Answer questions with another question and demand your questions be answered first. Repeat if the answer is provided promptly
  • If you have to be truthful, do so in as few words as possible. Remember: details are someone else's job. (People say that the devil is in the details, so avoinding details avoids the devil, right?)
  • when people working for you ask for details, demonstrate leadership by providing answers that are ambiguous and filled with buzzwords. Remind them that keeping up with the meaning of buzzwords is their job and that you can't be expected to do everything
  • if you have to provide details, provide specifics on the general topic instead. The two do not have to related. Making the relationship is the job of the people around you. Everybody confuses the details with specifics
  • when details are discussed in your presence, act uninterested and focus on something else because it most likely not related to you
As CEO, you understand that being a CEO is generalist job. It is about management or the how of managing. You don't have to know anything about the industry you are in. When someone thinks you do, take another company doing the same things and use them as a comparison. This technique is successful because it works either way. Validate your success by comparing with another less successful company. When you need to provide direction, take a more successful company and point out that to achieve the same success, it requires doing the same things that company did.
As CEO, you must focus on your success. Measure this by your compensation. Only a successful company can provide you with the compensation package you demand of them. If the company is able to continue to do so, it is a clear demonstration that it is doing well. When the company is doing well, your job is done. 

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Run Your Business into the Ground 10 ways or less: An Introduction

There are so many books and articles on achieving success. Sometimes, success can be achieved just by avoiding failure. Sounds stupid doesn't it.
But the truth is that many managers don't know what failure looks like. They don't have the experience of working in a failing company. They may not have worked for people who can't manage themselves out of a box.
So rather than writing about how to be successful, this series is going to be about what failure looks like. However, avoiding them is still your job.

Let's start at the top.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Demystifying Best Practices

What makes one business more successful than the other? Surely, the more successful business is doing something better than the a less successful one.
This question has probably entered the minds over every business owner at one time or another. A good manager would probably have thought of this at least once.
At some point, someone notices that the more successful businesses are doing roughly the same thing. It's a simple enough correlation to make: good practices result in successful business. It's not far from the adage, "you do good, you get rewarded". Thus, best practices was born.
Books are written about best practices in specific industries. In seminars, consultants drone on endlessly about them. Today companies throw around the buzzword "best practice" around until they feel meaningless. But is Best Practices really meaningless? Undoubtedly, they do work for the companies that became successful. But will they work for you?
Before proceeding, let's get a bit of perspective. First of all the concept of best practices is not new. It's not even a few decades new. It has been around for a while but in various forms. The most common form for Best Practices is a form of benchmark. When something that produces a result is measured, the measurements that is recorded when the best results are produced is called a benchmark. Think of Best Practices as the best benchmark of benchmarks.
Benchmarks comes from scientific management. This is when the scientific process is applied to ways of working in the search of productivity and efficiency. Benchmarks were recorded performances of a certain process that created the best results of a particular output. Other similar processes that produced the same output are judged on how close it was to the benchmark. Then, the benchmarks of different processes producing the same output were compared. The result is a winner, the best process. Quite often, each of these processes have their own peculiarities. So they were generalized into Best Practices. Best Practices within the same industry were put together to act as a template, a so-called template for success.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reporting positively when you can't report on failures

In many organizations reporting problems or failures is not possible. It is either 'unacceptable' or has been proven counter-productive in the past (too much finger pointing, not enough done to prevent it from happenning again). In these organizations, there is a sense of denial: denial of the failures themselves or/and a possibility of failure. It is also the belief that being deaf to bad news ensures that only good news are listen to and thus contributing to an environment of positivism. These organizations tend to not last long either in structure or form.  More on that some other time.
So what does a responsible manager do?  Action has to be taken regardless of organizational belief and doing the right thing (reporting on issues and addressing them) is not an option. You can turn this around by reporting instead on successful recoveries and near misses. This way, it keeps to the mantra of good news.
The first step is to capture near misses. This is when the system or processes resolves issues before they become noticeable. This includes issues that are within acceptable service levels. This focuses these reports on the successful execution of processes and systems. These types of issues are statistically higher than actual problems. Near misses, as we are going to call them, happen more often than the problem itself (or a hit). So expect to provide summary reports for many similar problems.
Once this becomes acceptable, expand reporting to actual problems. The way to do this is to capture issues, resolve them within your structure and report on the successful result. This can be difficult when additional resources are required. In the spirit of positivism, frame the request for additional resources on the need to succeed in your efforts, that it is contributing to success. This is in no way an encouragement to prolong or even hide issues. Since service levels have been breached, efforts to rectify the problem will take priority. It's just you can't talk about it.
The key focus is to end reports on a positive note. Spend as much time and space in the report on solution and preventive action as long as the report ends on with a note of success.
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