Management Article

John Bell’s picture

By: John Bell

How often have you heard people say, “Our strategy is to become the biggest and the best?” This isn’t strategy. Strategy is not the what. Strategy is the how: How will you become the biggest and the best?

Of course, within that definition, there are good strategies and bad ones. Good strategies help to define a company or differentiate a brand. But that seldom happens without sacrifice, without giving up something to strengthen the chosen niche.

You can’t be all things to all people. Or can you?

Today, shareholder and customer demands have never been greater. Leaders and managers are expected to do more, to do it better, faster, and at lower costs. Strategic focus is taking a back seat because people find strategy constraining. They won’t admit it, but they secretly want to be all things to all people; hence, the quest to seek every opportunity to boost sales and profit.

Most of these opportunities fall outside of the company’s core competency or the positioning of the brand. The fallout? An organization taken in several nonstrategic directions.

Chad Kymal’s picture

By: Chad Kymal

ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and ISO 45001:2015 establish clear expectations for top management. Not only are executives accountable for the effectiveness of these respective systems, they also have specific tasks ranging from establishing objectives to supporting relevant managers in their roles.

All of these standards require that managers integrate requirements into the organization’s business process, thereby creating the need for an integrated management system (IMS). These managers will need to focus on the planning process to ensure that these systems meet the intended outcomes, as well as to establish performance objectives.

For those implementing an environmental management system (EMS), ISO 14001 expects the organization not only to include the prevention of pollution, but also protection of the environment. This requires top management to learn and understand what the standard means when it says “protect the environment.” Topics such as sustainability, climate change mitigation, and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems are suggested by the standard in a note.

Gilles Hilary’s picture

By: Gilles Hilary

In March 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared on its way to Beijing. To this day, the fate of the plane has not been established. The tragedy of the aircraft’s disappearance was exacerbated by the images of distressed relatives herded into hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing and being drip-fed information, initially via text message.

The cold approach was ill-suited to the situation. The media also mixed with the relatives, and some of them, desperate for information, stormed a press conference. The scenes made for top news around the world, and the effect on the company’s image was disastrous.

Malaysian Airlines had followed a “managed communication” approach. It was designed as a one-to-many strategy. The company was supposed to be an indisputable source of information and fully in control of its dissemination. Its traditional press conference approach proved to be challenging in an environment that was extremely fluid, involving a complex web of stakeholders from families to various national governments and search agencies.

Kevin Cundiff’s picture

By: Kevin Cundiff

Ask how you can help, always keep a smile, respond to requests promptly... the list goes on. You’ve probably been exposed to an abundance of tips and tricks about how to become more customer-friendly.

That kind of advice can definitely be valuable, but what you likely don’t hear—unless you’re a downright terrible salesperson—is what you’re doing that’s not so customer-friendly. These unfriendly things, that you may not even know you’re doing, are scaring away potential customers and sales, and eliminating return business.

A single action can change the tone of your sale in a second, steering it for better or worse. If your actions lead a customer down the path of bad experiences, it could affect your business well beyond that one person. Once an unpleasant interaction takes place, word of it can quickly make its way to other potential customers. A bad review here, a personal recommendation to bypass your business there, it all adds up—very quickly. When this happens, you have to put out fires and rebuild your reputation before you can return to the good graces of those valuable consumers again.

What’s the answer? Avoid a bad reputation altogether. By dropping these six insulting actions, you can do just that:

Joe Humm’s picture

By: Joe Humm

While contemplating the teachings of Edwards Deming, who is widely known for being vocal on the topics of quality and statistical analysis, I thought I’d delve into a few areas where he was a little less known, but just as passionate and to a certain extent influential: leadership and innovation.

My choice in tackling this topic was motivated in part by the fact that coupling leadership and innovation together to drive business growth for positive outcomes has seen a bit of a revival during the past few years. As such, I thought it would make sense to dive into some of my own thoughts on these two areas based on my studies of some pretty remarkable scholars.

Let’s start with Deming, who was famous for saying, “Driving your business based on your profit and loss is like driving your car by looking through the rearview mirror.” In other words, in order to grow your business, you must innovate quality products that solve a customer’s problem, and provide an exceptional customer experience. None of which is related to your profit and loss, because it’s nothing more than a great barometer of your past decisions.

Deming was also well known for saying that “quality starts in the boardroom,” and that “quality is everyone’s responsibility.”

Katherine Watts’s picture

By: Katherine Watts

It amazes me how seemingly disparate ideas, when considered together, can create new ways of seeing the world. Bear with me for a minute, and I’ll share an insight I’ve received lately based on two seemingly unrelated ideas.

Here’s the first idea: New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler gave a TED talk a couple of years ago about how to apply the concept of agile programming to families. He said that when using an agile programming model, teams meet once a week to answer three questions:
• What is working well this week?
• What is not working well this week?
• What can we focus on in the coming week?

The project leader doesn’t answer the questions, the team does—and the team then decides how to respond, based on their understanding of the answers. Many business books have been written about the efficacy of using this approach in situations that have nothing to do with programming. Feiler introduces the idea as a way to create calmer, happier families with parents who are less stressed. He describes a model (that includes the children) which sets goals for the week and then reviews performance.

Niranjan Deodhar’s picture

By: Niranjan Deodhar

As process improvement practitioners, we get hired to drive waste and variation out of our clients’ businesses. But what if we hired ourselves, provided frank advice, and then listened to it to drive waste out of our own business or process?

Could we then drive down the cost of organizational transformation, and reduce the time to the realization of benefits? Can we increase the certainty of benefits actually being realized? Can we identify and realize more benefits than otherwise? Last but not the least, can we ensure longer sustainability of the changes implemented?

Jason Furness’s picture

By: Jason Furness

We all have problems in life, in business, everywhere. Many of us have “solving problems” as the key component of our daily roles. Management and any form of supervision only exist in order to help solve problems. If problems disappeared, a great many of the structures within our businesses and society would be unnecessary.

“Life is not a continuum of pleasant choices, but of inevitable problems that call for strength, determination, and hard work.”
—Indian proverb

Our goal in solving a problem shouldn’t be just to solve it for today. Our goal should be to provide lasting solutions, not so we can become problem-free (this just won’t happen), but so we can move on to solve other, more important and valuable problems and continue to upgrade the value of our organization.

Organizational problem solving tends to focus on the hard technical and practical techniques used to develop solutions to problems. Solid analytical training in Six Sigma techniques, data analysis, and financial reporting are taught, trained, and deployed continuously in most organizations. Many detailed techniques for engineering analysis, simulation, and testing consume millions of dollars and thousands of hours in order to solve problems.

Annette Franz’s picture

By: Annette Franz

When people at your company think about “customer loyalty,” are they thinking about your customers’ likelihood to recommend, likelihood to repurchase, or likelihood to purchase additional products? How does your company define customer loyalty?

Recently I experienced a situation that caused me to call on a provider to whom I’ve paid thousands and thousands of dollars via monthly premiums for more than 20 years. I had never filed a claim until six weeks ago. It’s not been a good customer experience since that day.

In conversations I’ve had with family and friends about this incident, they’ve questioned customer loyalty. What does it mean? What does it really get you? Is that loyalty about being a long-term customer and receiving an experience that befits a 20-year relationship, or is that loyalty about them wanting you to be customer forever, at any or all costs?

In other words, which side defines customer loyalty?

Why do I ask? Because typically after incidents like the one I had, companies drop their customers, regardless of said loyalty. Where’s the loyalty in that, for either one of us? (Because, hey, maybe I’ll drop them first!)

Christine Schaefer’s picture

By: Christine Schaefer

As a city leader, Tommy Gonzalez started using the Baldrige Excellence Framework in 2008 to achieve operational excellence within a municipal government. In his role as manager of Irving, Texas, at that time, Gonzalez introduced the framework to improve the city’s performance in all areas. The ultimate goal, of course, was to improve the quality of life for residents.

During the next four years, propelled by the systems perspective and other core attributes of the Baldrige framework, Irving leaders examined and changed the city’s approaches to its work to build systematic processes and continuously improve them. Like those in other organizations who use the Baldrige framework in earnest, employees became more focused on customers and more capable of delivering their desired results. The city’s performance soon demonstrated how it earned national recognition with a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2012.

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