With changing landscapes and blurring borders between countries, the landscape of Leadership is forever changing. A good Leader is one who is able to become better by the minute in sync with the environment that he is operating in. Read the views of some seasoned Executives on leadership in this section.
The Indian Economy is undergoing a tough phase. Top line growth and Bottom line existence are coming under threat. Companies need to raise their game in using their teams to the next level. Traditionally Indian companies have not been focusing on developing the People. It is time to realize that without developing the team, we will keep having BIG teams of lowly skilled team members contributing sub-optimally. Let me discuss a few examples that I observed in Companies to stress the importance of focusing on Competencies of Team members.
Shyam is the Materials Manager of Exwhy Limited an Autoparts company. The Company’s Raw Materials Inventories hover around 55 Days most of the year. Shyam is simply clueless about how he can control the Inventories. There are no methodologies in the Company for controlling Inventories. Shyam is simply unaware of practices like Kanban, Supermarkets and other Inventory Control Methods. Every month the blame for high inventories is put on lack of Forecasting of Demand and Inventories continue to be very high eating away the Profits of the Company. In addition, the Company keeps losing out on Top line due to Material shortages.
Ram is the Machine shop head. There are 55 Machines in the Machine shop. The Production Scheduling in the Machine shop is very inefficient, and Machines keep idling for significant amount of time. The Company has high Variety and low volume. There is absolutely no focus on the SMED. Ram is not aware of any of these Techniques. He had been in the Company for 12 years and wields a lot of clout with the Senior people in the Company. Company keeps losing out on the Utilization of Machine shop which is around 52% in good months!
Som is the Materials head of the Company. The Company’s Manufacturing involves a lot of Assembly activity. The Assembly just does not work as per the Production plan released by the PPC. Everyday there are many Schedule changes due to Material shortages. The Company is not able to supply on time to its’ Customers. Their Ontime delivery is around 40%. Company is losing out on Market opportunities in a big way. Som is simply not aware of how to eliminate these Material shortages. To give a good solution for this Som needs to have knowledge of Kitting, Kanban, Production Planning concepts, Supplier Development, Some Leadership Qualities to bring the teams across the functions together for solution.
Peter is the Sales and Marketing Head of the Company. Due to the tough Economic situation, the Demand for Company’s Products is low. But there are opportunities in the market for New Product introductions. The Company is very inefficient at New Product Development and launching the Product into the Market. They keep taking very long time to do this and inevitably they keep losing 2-3 years of Sales in the process. Peter needs a combination of Competencies to drive this better in the Company. He needs to learn how to collect VOC (Voice of Customer) properly, coordinating a faster Product Development, Managing the Launch Process, learning how to select the Segment where he wants to operate in the market and so on. Peter lacks most of these Competencies. Company keeps suffering due to this.
I can quote a number of Examples like this where the Companies are having huge inefficiencies as their teams are not having the Competencies required to resolve the situations on the ground. Many a times these situations require a combination of Functional and Leadership Capabilities. Normally there is no help available to the teams. Management keeps sending the teams to some General training programs and keep struggling to measure the Training effectiveness!
What is the Solution?
When we look at the Solutions that Companies have to attend to this, not many companies have any solution at all! They keep suffering continuously! Companies keep losing top line and bottom-line opportunities.
Time has come when many companies cannot afford to ignore this any longer. If these inefficiencies are not addressed, now the Companies will start to fail in the market. They may even close down in next few years. Some Companies are recognizing the need to change and starting to address while many more are simply clueless what the problem is.
What needs to be done?
I recommend that Companies start focusing on the Competencies of its’ Team and recognize the importance of Processes in their Companies. They need to develop a methodology for People Development that becomes a continuous process in their Company.
I am not talking about a one-time training. I am talking about developing a Process in the company that will help you maintain the Competencies of your team and keep improving it as the Business situation demands.
Developing people cannot be done on a standalone basis.
Following is the Process that I recommend:
01. Define the Competencies required: As a onetime activity it is required to work out the Competencies that are required for your Team. Be ruthless in linking these Competencies to your Business needs. If you say your Team requires ‘Planning’ Capability you should be able to define a ‘Business Context envelope’ around this Competency. What problem will it solve if your Production Manager learns about ‘Planning’? What improvement in Business Result can you see by teaching him about ‘Planning’? You need to define the Functional and Leadership Competencies required.
02. Select the Annual Agenda: When you work out the Competencies required you may work out a longer list of Competencies. Any team can develop in 2-3 Competencies in a year. Nothing more. Do not attempt to make your Team competent in just about every Competency in one year. It won’t happen. Go step by step. Select the Annual agenda in line with the Business Agenda.
A Company that is trying to improve Sales will have to focus on developing the Competencies of teams towards this. If New Product Development is inefficient, then prioritize the Competencies related to this area in every Function. Let the focus be clear.
If you train the Team in these Competencies, you should be able to see improvement in Business Results.
At the end of the year, you should be able to improve the New Product Development Process in your Company and get the Products out in shorter lead time and with better Quality. Your Customers should be able to feel the difference.
By keeping it close to your Business Agenda, you just eliminate the problem of measuring ‘Training effectiveness’. It is a silly discussion. Why do we train our Teams in such a way that we can’t measure the effectiveness of Training?
03. Define Micro Skills: Do not end with defining Competencies alone. Define Micro Skills that your Team needs to deliver better Results.
Eg. In the above example of improving New Product Development process in your company, the Team needs to learn about ‘Quality Function Deployment’. Team needs to learn about ‘Collecting Voice of Customer’ or ‘Working out a Validation plan’ that can capture most of the problems. These are Micro Skills that will give you better Business Results!
04. Appoint a Business Coach: It would be very helpful if you can get a Business Coach for your Team. This Business Coach should be someone who worked in the industry and who can talk your Business language. Engaging just Trainers who do not have deep Business perspective simply will not help.
This Business Coach should be able to understand the Business side and Leadership Side of developing your Team.
You should engage this Coach for longer periods to get best Benefits.
05. Methodology of Training: You need to have a strong methodology for the Training. One needs to recognize the fact that teaching the Concepts is only very small part of Training and Development of your Team.
a) Defining Micro Skills as explained above.
b) Prepare the Team by giving them feedback about the current status on these Micro Skills. Create a ‘need to learn’.
c) Develop E-Learning Modules for the Micro Skills. These will remain with you for training / Re-training of your team.
The E-Learning modules will address the Concepts as well as Practical application stories in the company.
Eg. While addressing the Micro Skill of ‘Taking Voice of Customer’ from the Customers in the market, you may address the different types of Customers that your Company has and Problems in taking VOC from them. Here, already there will be experience in the Company about types of problems. The E-Learning module will capture these examples and advice about how to handle it.
d) Apply the Micro learning on a weekly basis. Encourage the team to learn for 2 hours every week. You can declare Weekly Learning hours in each Function when the team would learn the E-Learning modules.
e) Define the Certification Criteria for each Micro Skill and implement it. Eg. For the New Product Development skills discussed above, the Certification criteria may be as follows:
i) Learning the Concepts – Level 1 Certification.
ii) Level 1 and doing the activity under guidance (Eg. Actually, collecting the VOC) – Level 2 certification.
iii) Level 2 + Improving the VOC for a specific Project – Level 3 Certification.
This way you would certify the Team members on the basis of actual results.
Implement the Certification Criteria. The Business Coach should certify so that the focus Is clearly on meeting the criteria.
f) Continuous feedback: The feedback to the team can be given from at least two sources. 360 Degree Feedback from a group of people with whom the Team member interacts regularly. Feedback can also come from the Micro Results that are expected. Eg. When the Team member learns about ‘Time and Motion study’, we can see if he is able to do a study on his own without guidance.
g) Business Reviews: The Business Coach should accompany the Company’s Leaders in the Business Reviews. He will be the observer who would look at the application of the Micro Skills for improvement in the Business results. The Supervisors of the Team can interact with the Business Coach to give him feedback about the Business Coaching. This will ensure the Business Coach is in the right direction.
h) Link to results: The whole process should be measured with Business Results in a close manner. It will keep improving the process itself. The results expected should be defined at a Micro Level. Results can be Process results and Business results.
This way the Business Coach can help you establish a methodology for People development in your Company and bring the focus on to Competencies of the Team.
How focused are you on the Competencies of your Team?
I have been dealing with several Mid-Sized / Small Sized Companies (Not Micro) as part of my work earlier as a fulltime employee and now as a Business Coach for the past 7 years. I have been dealing with the Head of the Company in all the cases. I have seen the Head of the Company dealing with his Company / his top team in different ways. Some had been very effective some not so effective and some more have very confused way of dealing.
These are the Companies who would have crossed about Rs 50-75 Crores when the Owner is feeling the need for Professionals to come into his Company and help him grow the Company. The type of companies that I am talking about have a Topline from Rs 50 Crores right up to about Rs 2,000 Crores. The Companies that I have seen have similar issues in all these sizes. This had been my experience.
Let us look at the role that the Managing Director can play in these companies. How can he/she lead the company firmly while not becoming the one and only Power in the Company.
I see that the Managing Directors are playing some of the following roles in these companies:
01. The Do All: In many Companies the MD is firmly in charge and is controlling / trying to control just about everything in the Company. He would know how many visitors reported at Security yesterday! The Top team look to the MD for Direction in everything. You would hear the MD say that his Top team is absolutely ineffective! Some of these companies would have put together the Organization structure that is needed for a nice Delegation. But Delegation just does not happen due to various reasons.
02. Semi-organized chaos: There are some companies where the control is given to the layer next to the Managing Director. But the Company is not directed firmly by anyone. The responsibilities seem to be slipping into the cracks between various people in the senior team. Critical slip ups are avoided as the Senior team is attentive but not taking full control. These companies do grow. But they do not achieve their potential and if Business conditions get tougher, we don’t know whether they can face up the situation.
03. Family team in control: In some of these companies the Family is omni present. They occupy all the critical roles. A Family works in very different way compared to the Professional team. There can be lot of shooting from hip as they all have a lot of authority without the capability(sometimes). The Managing Director is loosely controlling the Family members. There is no structure for this control. This Type of Company would typically take sudden turns and changes in direction in the way Business is run!
04. Delegated but not able to scale: There are some companies where the MD recruited a good senior team, is able to delegate well to them. The Professionals are more or less running the Company. The MD is busy in several other things and the Company is not achieving its’ potential for top line and Bottom line.
As you can see in the above description, the Companies have different Organization structures.
Managing Director and CEO
In some companies the MD recruited a CEO who is supposed to take care of the Business. The CEO would have a team of Functional Leaders reporting to him/her. But several of the Functional Leaders may also be in touch with the MD directly. I can see the MD struggling to give up his control and strengthen the CEO. This is not very easy. In this structure, the MD showing his intention to give up control. It depends on the CEO and the MD whether this can become a success.
Managing Director and Top Team
Some Companies who have an active Managing Director who is controlling on a daily basis and he has a top team of Functional Leaders. The MD may want his team to take control. It is more difficult for this to happen in a structure like this. The Managing Director is wired to control everything in this type of structure. He is too close to action to give up control. Someone is needed to coordinate with all the Functions. If there is no administrative head, the MD becomes the default head.
Managing Director and Family members as Functional Heads
There are some companies where one Family member is the Head of each function. These companies would be having more structural problems. A Family member as a Functional head may not be very ideal as he/she would have lot of power and they would keep taking decisions that would have far reaching consequences. When this happens without much control at the center, an organization can suffer.
What is an ideal role for a Managing Director in these Companies?
An MD should put a good Organization structure in place where there is a team of Professionals for each Function. It would be best for the MD to appoint a CEO who would control the Business. This gives the MD an Investor’s perspective. If he manages the Business himself, there is no one who can look at the Investor’s perspective.
From my experience I identify 5 things that a Managing Director should do and One thing that he/she should not do.
Let us talk about what he/she should not do.
Don’t get involved in the Routine
It is ideal for the MD to leave the Routine to the Professional Team. The regular Sales / Operational Targets should be left to the Professional Team. Achieving the Annual Business Plan should be the domain of the Professional Team. MD should learn to be away from this Routine. Sometimes the Team may fail. But that is part of the game. The Performance Management System in the Company should ensure that the success / failure is squarely placed with the Professional team. I have seen some very structured way of doing this and some unstructured ways that still achieve this result as the MD simply keeps away from this temptation.
If an MD is hands on and controlling the Routine, then he/she can become the Obstacle for the Company’s growth. He would be acting couple of levels below his level and no one would play his role in the Company.
What the MD should Do?
01. Strategic Business Plan focus: The MD should definitely be in control of where the Company heading to. He should coordinate the work for getting the Vision, Mission and the Medium-term goals done. He should play a big role in working out the Strategy of the Company and the Strategic Initiatives to put the Strategy in place. This does not mean he should not take the role of top team into this activity. He should encourage the forming of the Strategic Business Plan by the top team. But he is responsible to get this done. He should ensure that the Top team is not lost on the routine and they keep focus on the Strategic initiatives.
02. Set up Business Systems: The MD should play a good role in setting up the Business Systems in the Company. Business Systems is the process with which a Company would achieve its’ Medium term / Annual Goals. The MD should not get swayed with everything that he/she comes across in the Industry. I have seen MDs who get interested in all the latest buzz words and want to implement in their Companies without an overall understanding. They have to take up the role of setting Business Systems more seriously. They need to learn the systems that are running well in other Companies across the world. They need to develop a larger vision for the Business systems in their companies.
They should not look at this responsibility as a one time one. They need to set up the Business Systems and keep improving them forever. It is not a one-time responsibility.
An MD should get into the small details in the Company to set up a good System in the Company. This is an opportunity for him/her to know how routine is happening in the Company.
03. Product and Process Technology: MD has to be in control of the Product of the Company and how it would keep developing ahead of Customer requirements and Competition. He should ensure that the Company’s Products are at the top end. He also has to pay attention to the Process with which the Products are being manufactured. If you are doing it in the same way as every other Competitor is doing, then your Competitive edge may soon disappear. He may look for Technology and Technical associations towards this end as required.
04. Using Industry 4.0: In Manufacturing some phenomenal changes are happening world over with the usage of Industry 4.0 elements. It is quite possible to redefine your Business using this technology. A Managing Director should help his Company to rediscover itself with the help of this technology over a period of time. A Company should do it before its’ competitors do it. An MD has to learn towards this.
05. People Development: An MD should focus on developing a good Team and ensuring this team is continuously learning towards the Business Goals. Most of the Indian Companies are not focused on the Skills of the employees. For continuous progress of a Company it is very essential for a Company to have a good Team and a system for developing the Skills of the team. It is possible to develop a good Learning System in the Company using Micro Learning Concepts and E-Learning. An MD should enable this system in the company. The day to day execution may be taken up by the HR function.
It is very important for an MD to play his/her role well. Operating either at a very high level where he/she can’t see anything on the ground or operating in the small daily detail will make this crucial role in the Company ineffective!
How are you operating in your Company?
In many Companies, there is a Corporate structure at the Head Office and then there are different Manufacturing Plants and/or Regional Sales Offices. Sometimes there may not be physical offices in the regions. But there may be Sales Team members all around the Country/World. Sometimes the Company may be spread around several Countries and then there may be more complications involved such as Cultural differences.
The relationship between Corporate and Regional structures is very often tense, ambiguous to say the least. Many a times Companies may be wasting lot of energy trying to manage the relationship between the Corporate and Regional Teams. If there are no issues between the Corporate and Regional teams, that does not mean the relationship is working the way it should. One of the teams would have given up and surrendered to the other. Most of the times it is the Regional teams who give up trying to get their views recognized and start ‘Managing those H.O Guys’!
I can almost hear these Regional Plant / Sales Teams telling their Teams to just grit their teeth and bear the ‘nonsense’ for two days when ‘those H.O guys’ would visit their Region/Plant!
A Company should be cognizant to this issue and ensure they nurture the relationship in such a way that the Company would get maximum benefit from the Synergy of these two structures. Having worked in both areas in my career, I can understand if a Plant Head talks about the ‘Spies from H.O’ who encourage the employees to ‘tell something’ about their Bosses so that the ‘masala’ can be carried to the Corporate Gods at the H.O!! I can also understand the viewpoint of Corporate HR Head who complain about the wide differences in the way Employee relationships are managed in different Plants or the way different Sales Teams adhere to / not adhere to the Work Timings / Expense statement rules.
A small percentage of the readers of this article may be saying to yourselves ‘Nothing of this sort happens in our Company!’. It may be either of two cases. One – You may be dominating the other part of the Structure in such a way that everyone has given up on you OR Your company may be part of the very small percentage of the Companies who are really managing the Corporate / Regional structure to the benefit of the Company. I know you would like to believe that you are the latter one. Just confirm with your other partner to know the reality!
Unless a Company deliberately puts in practices to manage the relationship between Corporate and Regional, it will go the wrong way and wrong way only.
Corporate clubbed with one Region/Plant: This is the Worst type of combination! Some of the Corporate structures are clubbed with the Mother Plant or Regional Sales office of the one nearest to the H.O. If your Senior Management is in Delhi, your Regional Sales of Office of Delhi may be clubbed with the H.O / Corporate.
Here, the roles of Regional and Corporate are mushed up. The Corporate guys start behaving like the Plant guys. The whole Corporate team would be straddling the poor Plant / Plant Head / Regional Head. They will not let this Plant / Region work independently. The Company Head would become the Plant head for that plant. The Corporate Heads for various functions would be stifling the Plant / Regional Teams.
This does not happen because the Corporate guys really want to do it. It happens over a period of time. The Company Head and the Senior Team are available in the location. So, the Plant / Regional Office start ‘leaning’ on them. Trying to take quick approvals and so on. As they are available on the location the Senior Team will start getting ‘involved’ a bit more. Very soon you will find the Conveyance statement of the Commercial Clerk being approved by the Finance Head of the Company! After some time, the Finance Head will be very unhappy if that does not come to him for approval!! The Plant Accounts Head would only be happy to send it up!
There are several serious disadvantages of this type of Structure. You would find that the Plants that are clubbed with the Corporate structure / Regional offices clubbed with Corporate Structures are the worst performing ones. In the odd case of a Regional Sales Office clubbed with the Corporate structure performing well, the Regional guys would have nicely delegated everything upwards and enjoying the quick decisions coming their way! It is doubtful if the real output is coming from both structures!
I dealt with Plants that are near the Corporate office in another article.
Let us look at a few Best Practices in ensuring that the Company gets the full benefit of both the Corporate and Regional structures.
01. Company View Vs Regional View: The Corporate team always has this advantage of having a Company View. Usually the Regional Leaders do not enjoy this unless they adapt it specifically. Regional Leaders should be encouraged and given opportunity to participate in some Corporate Projects to give them this view. They should be involved in some Company level Projects to adapt this view. Similarly, the Corporate Leaders should be involved in some ‘Hands on’ Projects in a Plant / Regional Office. This will help them retain the ‘Local view’.
02. Functional Expertise: Usually Corporate Functional Heads are senior to the Regional HODs. These Corporate Functional Heads should aim at contributing to the Functional practices in the Company. They should be really having the expertise and should be able to command respect due to their superior knowledge. If they are just relying on their ‘Corporate Designation’, then they will lose their respect very fast. A Corporate Quality Head should show a value to the Regional Quality Heads with the Common practices that he may introducing. He should be able to get the respect of the Regional Quality Heads from his wide experience in handling Customers and the Best practices he is bringing in. They should not be just ‘Bossing around’. Head of the Company should keep a watch on this.
03. Companywide Initiatives: Companywide initiatives like a ‘Business Excellence’ Initiative is best initiated by the Corporate Teams. But it would be best to create a ‘Steering Committee’ having participation from Plants / Regional Offices even to create the Companywide Initiative.
04. Enablers and not Doers: The Corporate Teams should act as ‘enablers’ not initiators alone. They should be trained to exhibit the ‘enabling’ Quality as against ‘doing’. Their KPIs should be to ‘Enable the Regional Teams’ and not to do it themselves. This is more mature point of view. All the Corporate Team members may not get it from beginning. I have seen a few Corporate Functional Heads behaving like Regional Heads of Department and thereby holding on to ‘their way of doing’ too strongly. They should elevate themselves to a higher point of view in a Corporate role.
05. Leave Results related work to Regions: One simple way of bifurcating the work between the Corporate and Regional teams is to leave everything Directly about getting Results to the Regions / Plants. Here, the Corporate teams can at best advice. If a Regional Leader is consistently not delivering on Results, you may deal with the non-performance. But while sitting in Corporate Structure, you cannot be doing a Regional Role! Not good for the Company! The structure will be weakened.
06. Train them to be better Leaders: The Corporate Leaders should be trained to ‘Work on the system’ as compared to working in the System. They should also be encouraged to manage the Regional Structures loosely and not tie them to a rope and take them for a walk! I have seen many Corporate Leaders who are not comfortable unless they get a call from their Regional / Plant Colleague at Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner – Three times a day!! Leaders like this have to be trained to become better Leaders. At the same time, we do not need Regional Leaders who delegate everything upwards!
07. Motivating the Regional Teams: Every Functional Leader should be a good cheer leader for the Regional Teams. He/She should set the Functional expertise benchmarks to the Regional teams and encourage them to elevate the Functional practices in the Regions. They should encourage the Regions that are creating Best Practices in the Company. This would get some respect for them from the Regions.
08. Role rotations: After the practices in Regions and Corporate comes to some maturity, the Rotation of people between Regions / Corporate can be encouraged. This will prevent the people becoming ‘Corporate’ / ‘Regional’ for life! Don’t attempt this if you do not have good amount of Standardization of practices in both Corporate and Regions. That would make the work worse. Everyone will do it in their own way.
Leadership of Company: The health of Corporate and Regional structures is normally defined by the Type of Leadership the Company has. There are many Leaders of the Company who are weak in their knees and encourage lot of ‘reporting’ by the Corporate teams on the Plants / Regional offices regularly. Usually the Regions / Plants do not work well in these cases.
You get what your actions deserve! If you can encourage the Regions to become strong and you want your Corporate Teams to help them become Strong, that can happen!
I know many Corporate Leaders who take the excuse of their Boss expecting them to report in a particular way!
If you are a Leader who is worth your salt, you would know how to stand on your feet at Corporate level and define the Culture of the Company!
Every Company has to manage their Cost in a systematic manner. Ideally there should be no need to cut Costs. But almost every company has this need to drive Cost reduction. The Profits are under pressure continuously and the Competition & Customers always gives you a reason for Cost reduction.
Many a times when the Cost reduction is taken up the Teams take up an approach of ‘Somehow’ reducing the Costs. If you are approaching serious Cost reduction after a few years in your company, then very good chance is that you would do well and achieve a good amount of Cost reduction. Usually the Top Management are happy with that and Serious Cost Reduction is set aside for next few years.
But I feel there is a need for Continuous Cost Reduction in a Company. The Cost should always be looked at and we should continuously find more economical way of doing things. This has to become a continuous focus of every organisation.
To ensure this happens, we need to put a Cost Reduction System in place. The system would have following components.
01. Cost Data: The first step in ensuring a good Cost Focus is to ensure the Cost data is available in the Organisation. I have seen many instances where the data is not available on the Costs and the Management does not get awakened to the need for Cost reduction. The Cost data should have at least two sides. The Internal data giving the various components of the data and second aspect is Benchmarks with external data. It is ideal if we can get Cost Data Benchmarks with the Competition. But we may not get it every time. We can also look at the Cost on Zero basis.
The Cost data should be available in every area. It is worthwhile to have a small team to analyse the data and bring out the important components.
I have seen several companies that do not know the Cost data for their Products. So much so that they do not know whether they are making money on all their products or not. This is not a good situation to be in.
02. Cost Reduction Target: There should be a Target for reducing Cost just in every Function / Department. The Target should be a reasonably tough. The CEO should have a target at the Company level. This is very important as there are some Cost escalations that happen despite our best efforts. Most of the time, we do not have any control on the escalations. We need to have something to fight back with. Only this will ensure that we achieve our Profitability target for each year.
Cost Reduction target has to be taken to every Function / Department.
03. KPIs: Every employee should have a KPI that is about Cost Reduction. This KPI should have a reasonable weightage. This will ensure that the employee gives a good priority for the Cost reduction.
04. Process for Cost Reduction: Every Company needs to have a good Process for Cost Reduction.
a. War room: There should be a War room for Cost reduction in every company. The war room will have the Cut samples of Products, the Products that are broken down to parts, Competition product Samples and so on. It will also have the Target Vs Actual displays of various teams that are working on Cost reduction.
b. Daily Meeting of Teams: If you want your teams to deliver on Cost reduction, they should spend time EVERY DAY on Cost reduction. Every team should meet for at least 45 minutes in this room The War room should have the schedule for the meetings of various teams.
c. Brain Storming Sessions: Cross functional Teams should meet in the War Room for Brain Storming Sessions. There should be a schedule for Brain Storming sessions. The number of Brain Storming sessions will depend on how much progress you have to make in that particular area. If there is a big target and you are very much behind, then you should meet more often.
Every Brain Storming session should be held with a good Procedure. The team should prepare for the Session. The target for the session in terms of a Value for which you should find ideas should be given ahead of the meeting. The specific topics for the Brain storming session should be announced in advance.
d. Invite SMEs: Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) should be invited for the Brain Storming sessions. These SMEs may be in the Company or they may be Suppliers, or they may be Professors at IIT and so on. You can get different thinking into the Company by inviting the SMEs from outside.
e. Full Time team: Every company needs to have a full time team as needed for implementation of the Cost Reduction ideas. Sometimes it would be very beneficial to have a Task force (Full time team) for implementation of the Cost reduction ideas.
I have seen this Process give wonderful results in Companies. Every Company would require some home-grown processes to ensure effectiveness. But the above standard practices work everywhere.
05. Techniques: Every team needs to learn some formal Cost reduction Techniques like VA / VE, Total Cost of Operation and so on. The teams need to be taught the techniques that work best for the Company. Every company should define these Techniques specifically for each Team and teach them these techniques with the help of E-Learning Courses.
06. Learning from the past: Finally, the Company needs to learn from the Cost reduction Projects / ideas to improve their Products / Processes. A Company need to become better and better at Cost Management and their experience in Cost Reduction can help in a big way towards this objective.
07. Cost Council: It would be good to formulate a Cost Council headed by the Finance Head to monitor the Cost reduction efforts. This Council would be responsible to manage the Cost reduction efforts across the Company. The Council should work out ways and means of encouraging the Employees and motivating them towards the Cost reduction Goals.
08. Total Employee participation: Company should encourage participation from Employees as well as Vendor Community. For this it would be useful to have standard Schemes that will help the Company to encourage the employees and Vendors to participate in the Cost reduction actively. The Employees and Vendors would be rewarded suitably for the Cost Reduction efforts.
A continuous focus on Cost Reduction would definitely help the Company in managing their Profitability much better.
As Leaders all of us Professionals and Entrepreneurs interact with several people in the Business. We need to manage several relationships to succeed at the job. One of the most important relationships is that of Boss and Sub-ordinate. I see several Professionals not being able to manage the relationship with the Boss. I feel this happens to many Professionals at some point of Career or the other. Usually when you become more senior Professional.
Let me give an account of my own experience in my career so far with my Bosses!
Totally Aligned: I have experienced a wonderful relationship with a few Bosses with whom I was totally aligned. The relationship was wonderful. The Boss was appreciating my strengths, I was worshipping my Boss’s Qualities and trying to learn. The relationship was just perfect. I was able to have this relationship at a relatively early stage in my career.
Absolutely no fit: There was this type of relationship with one or two people where there was no common ground at all. My methodology and my Boss’s methodology just did not match at all. The relationship just did not click at all. This happened to me when I was early into the Job as well as mid stage.
Trying to align and give up: Then there was this type of Boss where there were some disagreements, you try to manage them respectfully as you have seen some amount of life. But when it is going on beyond a point, you just give up. This happened after good number of years of experience.
Manage a Respectable relationship: Then, I have experienced a few relationships with my Bosses (Both in full time job and in Consultancy) where there are number of disagreements. But we deal with them respectfully and keep going forward. Looking back, I could do this quite early in my career. Of course I do it day in and day out as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur.
When I look back, I am able to appreciate the point of view of every Boss with whom I worked. I am able to look at the relationship that I had with them from a distance and able to appreciate why some of them worked and why some of them did not. I feel it depends on the stage of your career as well as the Compatibility of the People involved.
Fresher and Boss: In many ways this is a very nice relationship. The Boss does not have any axe to grind as the subordinate is a fresher. The Fresher is also starry eyed and looking at his Boss with admiration. Of course, there are again some relationships where the Fresher and the Boss just do not see eye to eye. In this case the Fresher quickly changes the job.
Growing Manager and Boss: There is that stage in your Career when you start growing rapidly. If you and your Boss are aligned, your Boss may be the one who is helping you grow. But in other cases, the Boss may be very uncomfortable with this guy who seems to be growing in stature every day!
Challenger: Then there is this stage where you may be just as senior and competent as your Boss. You are too close to him for his/her comfort. The relationship will be tense. The Boss would be peeping over your shoulder perennially. Boss may feel that you are a Challenger to his position.
Senior Colleague: Then you would gain years of experience and become a Senior Colleague to your Boss. Technically he is your Boss. But as both of you are senior Professionals, the relationship is more like a Senior colleague rather than a reportee.
With my personal experience of Managing / Mis Managing the relationship with my Bosses in my career and with my experience of watching many Senior Professionals as a Consultant / Coach / Entrepreneur, I would recommend some Best Practices in Managing the relationship with the Boss.
You need to Manage the relationship: First of all we should recognize that there is a need to ‘Manage’ the relationship with the Boss. Many a times you may think that just working with all your heart is what is just needed. Everything else will fall in place. It may not. You need to recognize that your Boss is another Human being with his own imperfections as you have imperfections yourself. When I say you have to ‘Manage’ your relationship, I mean the good way. I am not talking about the practice of just trying to please the Boss. Those who are doing it and doing well do not need to read this article. I can’t add much value to them. Recognizing that there is a need to Manage the relationship is the first step.
If you are not able to agree that you need to Manage the Relationship, then spend more time on this. Talk to your friends. You are welcome to talk to me. You need to be convinced about this basic foundation.
Many a times we may take extra efforts with our Team. But we may feel the Boss has to do it with us and we may just not take any effort to manage our Relationship. But I feel this argument is flawed. At a senior level both the people need to put in effort. The Boss may be finding it difficult to ‘Manage’ you. Give him a chance!
Understanding the Priorities and aligning: Usually after you have put a good number of years in the industry, you would develop your own way of working. If you get a Boss who is able to just leave it to you, then it makes the job easy. But many a times you may have a Boss who is as Strong willed and who is having as much experience as you are. Then it is required to understand his /her Priorities and align with him. It is just fine to modify your Goals and methods of reaching them. Either he listens to you or you listen to him. But if the disagreement is strong, don’t just duck it. Try to deal with it. As Marshall Goldsmith says we have to make peace with the fact that it is the Boss who decides many things around you. You need to accept this fact.
Communication: Understand the amount of Communication your Boss needs. If in doubt, you can ask. But many Bosses may not be able to articulate well about how much Communication they need. For example, I need a lot of communication from my Team. I am happy with someone who communicates a lot with me and then understands what need to be communicated and how. Understand your Boss’s preference. Please note that it is worth doing this.
Reach out to him as a Human Being: Very often you label your Boss with Positives and Negatives at work. You may not see the Human side of him/her. Try to reach out to your Boss to just do that. I have seen many Bosses who do this very well with their Team members. I had a Boss who would invite the team to his home and play a wonderful Host! I could see a very different sensitive side of him in those interactions. Another Boss was very good in feeding people! You would go back home much heavier if you go to his home for Lunch/Dinner! You need to take the same effort with your Boss! It is needed!
Genuine appreciation: You need to give Genuine Appreciation to your Boss when it is due! This is a smart way of letting him know what you like about what he is doing. You may get more of it in return! Without this, your Boss would not know what you like about him/her. Don’t fake it. He/she would know it.
Formal Feedback: Try a formal feedback session with your Boss at least once an year. Sometimes you may need it twice a year. This will work with some Bosses and does not with some others. Where it is not working, look for subtle signals to understand the feedback. It is tougher. But you need to put in the effort. There is a Danger of misunderstanding him/her. Try your Best to validate your understanding.
Learn from your Team’s feedback: Many a times you can learn from the feedback that you may get from your own Team. If you can reflect, you can pick up many learnings. You can look at gap in reality vs your thinking about various team members opinion about happenings in the team.
Managing a Disagreement: With all your efforts too, you would have disagreements with your Boss. Expect them. The problem is bigger if you are expecting a wonderful stain less relationship!! If you are old enough, you would have understood that it is quite okay to have disagreements with your Children and your Spouse. So why you can’t live with some disagreements with your Boss?
When there is a Disagreement, look for what is the Best solution for the situation. Don’t get hooked to your position beyond a point. Take the opinion of various Colleagues. Do not go only to like-minded Colleagues. It is comforting to gang up with similar thinking colleagues. It is important to go to Colleagues who think dissimilar to you in these situations. You need to put effort to understand the other point of view. We need to have belief that the other person is having the Best intentions when he/she is suggesting something. This may be your opportunity to Learn something different.
My own experience of such situations is that when I managed such situations, my learning was wonderful. It took me to the next level as a Professional and as a Human being. When I ducked those situations, I missed out on the Learnings!
We need some Humility!
My experience is that those with some Humility can manage the Relationships much better! Those of us who are still having rough edges find it more difficult to manage relationships. Rough edges (in terms of our behavior) would hurt others and they hurt us more!
One good practice to learn Humility is to have Gratitude.
You need to write down what all you are grateful about in your life. Thank those who helped you to gain in them in your life. Do this every morning. This teaches you Humility! This would totally rewire you if you are sincere to the cause.
With more Humility we would manage our relationships much better. We would understand that taking everyone along with you (including your Boss) is more important than having some Bright ideas in your head and a feeling that your thoughts are superior to everyone else’s. You would become more tolerant to others’ ideas.
Wish you more Harmony in your Relationships! It is needed to reach your Goals!
In the Last article, we examined how a Company can use the Business Awards to further their Business Goals. One should be very clear about what is the End and What is the means. In the heat of the awards, one should not get lost that getting the award is the End.
In this article, I am looking at the process of challenging a Business Award.
Run your Business like a series of Sprints
To ensure the Company pursues its’ Business Goals with full vigor, a Leader needs to create surges of energy from time to time. The energy levels go down by default. This is quite apparent in many companies when you see their failure rate towards their own Targets.
It is ideal if a Company can be run in a manner wherein the Teams pursue the goals with great vigor. I am sure good number of Companies may be running like this across the world. But many other companies need help in this area.
Challenging the Business Awards is one way of maintaining the Mojo within the Company.
What Award should you challenge?
Before you decide what Award would you like to challenge, you should decide what Improvement methodology works for you. Some companies go for 6 Sigma, some go for TPM, Some others for TQM and so on. Some Companies may have their own Business Systems within their company. But they may borrow the principles from all Best Practices. I would recommend this route.
I would further recommend that you don’t use the Specific Terminology that is used in TQM, TPM and so on. Put your own names for each of the practices. That would give it your own company flavor. For example, you need not use TPM as a term. But you can have a term like ‘Good Maintenance Practices’ (GMP) and formulate your own practices. I say this as it is better not to bring in the baggage of other companies into your Company. You should formulate the Best Practices in Maintenance that work for you!
Once you have an outline of your own Business System, you would of course have to start practicing the Business System. You can use a Business Coach here. Someone who Is experienced in implementing the Business Systems.
After you form your own ideas about what works for you, then you can look at challenging an award. Don’t just look at one award. One award would give you energy for may be 2-3 years. Think about at least next 10-12 years. What next after this award? Is there a next level of this award? Eg. Deming Award, Deming Grad Prize. After you get all awards, what will be your way of generating this extra energy in the Company? Ideally you should learn how to generate this energy in the organization with the experience of challenging couple of awards.
There are several Business Awards. You can Google them, and you would get a long list. Depending on your Business Practices, you can choose which Award and which methodology would fit you. You can go to other practicing companies and listen to them. It is important to listen to their failures as well as their successes.
What happens when you challenge an award?
Your company has to adapt the Standards and Processes that this Award / Methodology prescribes. So, be ready to make a major improvement in your Business Processes using these criteria. You are going to practice each of the Criteria, and you are not going to pretend you are practicing it to get the award!
Most of the Awards allow you to adapt the Criteria, to your needs. Do not believe if someone tells you that you have to use them as they are.
Use the Award criteria and the Best Practices from that Methodology genuinely to take your Business Practices to the next level. This is a must. If you do not do this, you would end up doing something to just get the award and you would lose focus on your Business!
Choose your Guru
Many of the Awards like TQM / TPM awards require you to take the help of a Japanese Consultant. This is quite fine. They do add a huge amount of value to a Company. But after looking at these Sensei for many decades, my learning is that a Company can get maximum benefit from the association if there is a Local Guru who Is aligned to this Sensei’s thinking. I have seen many companies that are not able to use the help of the Japanese Sensei fully as many of the Sensei struggle to be understandable to Team members beyond the senior level. This is also a reason why the TQM / TPM efforts stay at the ‘top’ in many companies.
I believe that the Local Guru and Japanese Sensei can together give Best output to the Company.
Practicing the Principles
Once you choose the Guru, work out your next 3 Year Goals and look at how the Best Practices of the chosen methodology (TQM / TPM / 6 sigma) will help your Company to achieve the 3 Year Goals much better.
You should create internal champions for each of the Major Principles. You also will need a full time Business Excellence team.
The Principles should be genuinely put into practice to get a better result in each of the Goals of the Organisation. We will not practice any Principle that does not seem to add value somewhere.
The practices have to be continuously improved as they are practiced.
The chosen Gurus will play a role of auditing these Practices and helping the Company to get the best out of the Principles.
Some of the ‘Must Dos’ in this area are:
- Work out the Major Goals for every Function.
- For the big three goals, formulate Cross functional Teams that would get the BEST results for the company. Eg. A Company may decide to improve their market share in three years by 5%. This requires Cross functional working.
- Create a sense of urgency by working out the Audit schedule by the Gurus till the final audit. Please note that this is the major purpose for which you got in to the Award route!
- The Audits by the Gurus should be linked to specific progress that various Teams need to make.
- Create a good Progress chart that would motivate the Teams. Create enthusiasm around the Goals.
- Improvement Story writing: There is a practice in all major Award journeys to write an improvement Story. This is called as Schedule A and B in Deming Award Criteria. This is a very powerful practice. When you write your Function’s Improvement story over past 2-3 years, you may or may not be happy with the improvement curve. That dissatisfaction actually sets the ball rolling. Through the Story, you would gain an upper level picture of the progress that you are able to achieve. When you are not satisfied or when your Boss is not happy with the progress, the real change will start!
- Write this Improvement Story early in the journey and keep repeating it / updating it every 6 months or so. This helps you to keep having a Bird’s eye view of your progress.
Create Learning avenues
While your Team is shown the three-year goals and you have also created the extra energy towards those goals, you also need to equip the team with much better skills in their Functional and Leadership areas.
You need to make some serious progress in some of the following areas:
- Engineering Problem solving ability in your Company. This is fundamental to a Manufacturing Company.
- Your Product Technology. You should be able to push the boundaries of Product efficiency and become much better player in the market.
- Your Manufacturing Process should become as Lean as possible. You should formulate your own Manufacturing Systems during this period.
- All your Processes like Sales Process, Marketing methods, New Product Development process etc should mature during this time.
- Using I.T and Industry 4.0 elements you should go to a much higher level in Productivity / addressing Customer needs.
There can be more areas.
Create Learning avenues for Employees to learn in these areas and implement their Learnings.
Shifting the focus of the team members on their Skills is the progress that a Company should do. Using technology in the form of E-Learning can be a good idea. The Company should re-engineer the learning using Technology.
Inspiring the Teams
The Leaders in various functions should be able to inspire the teams towards the goals. The Leaders need to be developed to ensure this. Putting the Leaders on to a Personal Improvement journey through a Leadership Development program can be a good idea.
Each Leader should be helped to inspire their teams.
Some of the Best practices in this area of getting results are as follows:
- Recognize the better performing teams.
- Communicate much better using the Technology available today. Many Creative possibilities are there in this area.
- Bring out the Employee participation in the Goal Achievement. There needs to be many methods of engaging the Employees. Few methods may not fit ALL employees.
- Celebrating the progress made by individual teams and Company as a whole.
- Diagnosis of Performance every 6 months. Align this with the review by the Gurus. Guru as an outsider can evaluate your analysis of your Progress and help you make corrections.
Your own Sprint Process
The Leadership should be quite aware that challenging and winning this award is the end in itself. It is a means to learn the process of ‘Motivating the teams to pursue the Business goals in a vigorous manner’.
You should develop your own ‘Sprint process’ towards your Goals using the Award journey!
All the very best !
Four Indian Companies have won the Deming Prize for 2019. With that 33 Companies from India won Deming Prize so far. One of the Companies that won Deming Prize in 2019 is ELGi Equipments Limited, an Industrial Air Compressor Manufacturer from Coimbatore. I worked for this company for about 7 years and that is a reason to be extra happy and proud of ELGi’s achievement! Congratulations to all ELGians world over!
ELGi is a good example of sustaining the Excellence over a period of time. I can see two big reasons for this sustenance of Excellence as an outsider with some inside knowledge (though outdated now).
The first Big reason is the commitment of the Leader. The Managing Director, Jay is fully committed to this process. This is a very big reason why they have won the Deming Prize now. I can’t imagine ELGi going anywhere near the Prize without this. His Commitment, I am sure would have trickled down to every ELGian.
The Second Big reason is the ‘Full Time Business Excellence Team’ called as ‘ELGi Business System Team’ or EBS Team in ELGi. I have seen many companies who do not care to spend money on this full-time Team, and I have seen that their practices collapsed over a period of time. A Full-time team is needed to sustain the practices and keep improving them continuously. This is a strong team in ELGi that motivates the employees to sustain the practices.
There may be more reasons that ELGians would know. These are my top two looking from outside.
So, how do Awards help companies? Should you go for an award?
There are many Excellence Awards available for Manufacturing Companies to challenge. Deming Prize, Deming Grand Prize, TPM Excellence award, TPM Sustenance award, Rajiv Gandhi National Quality award, Bajaj Award, CII Award and so on. You can Google and you will get many of them.
Running Business is a Sprint or a Marathon?
An Athlete who runs Sprints is generally Muscular and his approach to the run is to put his full effort and cover the distance at full speed. He aims at putting in his full energy for that limited time and get the best result.
An Athlete who runs Marathon is generally lean and strong. He aims at conserving his energies and run for the long distance. He aims at completing the Marathon in Best possible time.
So, should you run your Business like it is a Sprint or like it is a Marathon?
We are good at focused efforts!
My observation is that many Companies struggle to maintain the momentum of improvement within the Company. Teams keep losing their interest towards the Goals, Senior Management keep wondering why Kaizens do not happen on the Shop floor, why the Sales team is not pushing with full vigor towards improving their market share and so on.
We can observe the same behavior in our Society too. The Corporation cannot maintain the Sanitation in the City. The Police cannot maintain the traffic discipline. The Road works seem to be happening forever. The Flyover project seems to be going on without end!
But we are good at getting things done if there is an emergency! Remember the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in Delhi? Even before couple of weeks, the games looked doomed. Lot of work was left incomplete. The foot over bridge in front of the stadium collapsed with just 12 days to go to the Games! Yet, we managed everything, and Games were conducted without any major embarrassment to the Country!
I remember Tamil Manadu (A World Conference on Tamil Language) in Coimbatore in 2010. The whole city was in a mess with 10 days to go. But then the Government pulled its’ act together and got every work done in those last 10 days! Coimbatore got a face lift during that time!
Everyone who works for a Manufacturing Company would know the ‘Tremendous efforts’ that the teams would put in hours before the ISO Certification / Renewal audits or the ‘Fantastic effort’ that the New Product Team has put in after threats from the Customer that he will cancel the Order if another deadline is missed out!
There can be many more examples of focused and concentrated effort under duress! We are good when it comes to focused effort with clear goals. This effort has to be for a limited time. Otherwise, the problem of maintaining the momentum returns!
Run Business like a series of Sprints!
It would be nice to run Business like a series of Sprints! Focused efforts with Clear goals for everyone in the Company!
If you can manage to do this without going for outside Awards, it is better. The concentration is on Business and Business only! You can do it if you can create enthusiasm around the Annual / Three-year Goals of your Company!
I would say the following are very important to make this happen:
- CLEAR goals for the Company / Individual Employee. These Goals have to be Clear for the Year / Quarter / Month / Week / Day.
- Company and Individuals should be having good Continuous LEARNING opportunities. The environment in the Company should be encouraging and enabling Learning continuously.
- LEADERSHIP should be able to INSPIRE the teams to raise above their normal potential and deliver something superior!
If these three elements are there in your Company, you can definitely create Sprints that would keep motivating your team to keep delivering continuous superior performance.
I would prefer this as the whole Company would be focused only on Business.
Many companies use the Award route when the Internal Motivation is not happening or they may chose it to add to internal motivation! There is nothing wrong with it. This is like an Athlete taking a performance booster. You would agree with me that you can’t be on Performance Boosters forever. Many companies learn how to create this ‘Sprint like situation in the Company’ after a few awards. I also know companies who got stuck to the Award culture forever! I do not recommend this!
All said and done, Companies do get slightly distracted when they go for an award. The award criteria can be nicely aligned with the Company’s Business Goals. But if it is not done properly, you would be ‘doing a lot of work for the award in addition to your regular work’ ! This is where the Companies get distracted. The Leadership has to ensure this does not happen.
There are many companies who have failed to make their effort for an award align with their Business Goals. These companies will also loose the benefits of the Award very fast! The Excellence which seems to have got them the award fitters away very quickly.
How to get maximum benefit from an Award?
You won the award and you are on the top of the world! Savor the moment. The Business exigencies are always there to remind you of reality that you need to handle.
You need to ensure that you get maximum benefit from the Award you just won. You can do some of the following.
- Ensure the Goals of the Teams and every individual in the team are clear and continues to be challenging. Don’t let the team go for a ‘Long unwind’ after the award. If they are achieving something continuously, they can’t be getting tired of achievement. If ‘they’ feel their work is an achievement!
- Ensure the Continuous Learning environment is improving in the Company. Celebrate Learning in the Company. Put Learning Goals for the entire company and every individual. Use Technology like E-Learning to help employees Learn continuously. Micro Learning is a great concept that can help Companies to build that elusive momentum towards goals!
- Address the Employees and put them on to a medium-term Leadership Programs. Help them to sharpen their Functional and Leadership Capabilities. Give regular feedback to the Senior people. Help them become better Leaders who can INSPIRE the teams. Every Leader at every Level should be able to Inspire their teams. Focus on encouraging the Leaders to hit the road and work hands on.
- Develop your own ‘Sprint’ Practices without the Award. These practices should be put in place immediately. While you may challenge another award, you still need to build the ‘Sprint’ practices without the award.
Use the Award to get over the Award!
In the next article, we will look at the process of winning Prizes and Awards!
For a Leader to be successful, especially in these fast-changing times, he/she has to be Learning continuously. But Learning is one of the first casualties once a Graduate join a Job. Somehow the habit of Learning dies once someone joins a Job. As one gets promoted and goes to senior positions, the Learning habit gets buried in the ‘heap of experience’. One can Learn from own direct experiences and from what is happening around them. My observation is that most of the Executives are very resistant to Learning. The more senior a person is the more he/she believes that there is nothing more to Learn.
To Learn or not to Learn?
If you are the Senior Leader in the Company, you may be even thinking that it would be counterproductive to say that you are learning, or you want to learn! The proportion of Learning Leaders is very small.
How do I learn?
It is not that no one wants to Learn! I observe that many of us want to Learn. Learn something new and so on. But, most of the times we fail to Learn! I notice that many people may not know how to Learn!
When you were in College or in formal Education, there is a structure to your Learning. I remember when I went to a 3-year MBA while working. There was a strong structure of Monthly classes, Assignments, Residentials, Group discussions and so on. I was able to Learn a lot! I am always thankful to my employer then, Rane Group who sponsored me for that excellent Course! When you are dealing with many issues live, you can learn much more than when you just completed your Degree!
Now, how do I learn at Job where there may not be a structure for learning? How do I learn in my Business? This seems to be the issue many people are facing.
There is nothing to Learn!
Of course, other than this there is this callous attitude of saying ‘I don’t have time to learn’! For these ‘Busy bodies’ the time has not yet come! We can try to help them by trying to rise their ego to Learn. But responding or not is still their choice!
While working in a job and as an Executive and Business Coach, I have always tried my best to Learn as fast as possible. I remember one celebrated Teacher commenting about me as an ‘Osmotic Learner’ meaning someone who learns with every breath! This had been a god given strength for me.
I have been trying to teach the art of Learning to many people with whom I had the fortune to work with.
I would like to present you a few Best practices in Learning.
01. Learning is Highly Technical: While some of us can learn fast and naturally, many of us require a structure for Learning. If you agree with me that this Human Body is a sophisticated machine, then there is a way in which this Machine Learns. I think David Kolb captured this very well in his Learning Model.
Kolb says as we go thru many experiences in life, we need to Observe what we are going thru in a reflective manner. We then have to conceptualize the Learning to our context and then experiment it in our life.
We need to ensure we follow these steps. Many of the Training programs stop at Concrete experience stage.
We have to Learn the art of Reflection. This is very critical step in Learning. No reflection – No Learning! But once you cross this stage the other two are as important.
In the area of Reflection, writing Diary / Writing Logs of incidents that we go thru can be very useful. This is the way we try to practice what we learnt!
02. Your own Leadership Model: I would encourage every Leader to formulate his/her own Leadership Model. This model should reflect how he/she is practicing the art of Leadership. This does not mean we will not improve this model. We are going to have the model so that we can improve what we have. If there is no Model you don’t know what you are practicing and you may not be able to improve.
I am reproducing my own model of Leadership below. This is one model. I am sure you can do even better than this one.
I continuously keep improving this model.
03. Career Goals / Learning Goals: You need to be clear about the direction in which you would like to learn! For this, you need to have your Career Goals and Learning Goals for at least next one year! Without this, you may work hard and still not find yourself with good direction!
04. Showing Gratitude: Showing gratitude for what you already have is very important to Learning. Acknowledging what you have is important to get more! Once you start showing gratitude, your attitude towards world changes radically. It opens you up for more Learning. Try it! You can write down all the good things that you already have in your Life and thank whoever has helped you to get them. It may be your Teacher, your Boss, your Wife, your children. It would be great if you can tell them personally. You can keep going thru this in your mind every day!
05. Partners in Progress: In your Learning journey, you need the help of your Friends / Colleagues. Without them, you would be simply Blind to your Strengths and Weaknesses. It would be good to have a group of Colleagues/ Friends to get a 360 Degree feedback and a feedforward as to what you can do to improve yourself in a specific area. Please be bold to pull in a few people who do not see eye to eye with you on a few issues. When someone is not agreeing with you, it is a chance to improve. If you ignore them, you are going to lose chance to improve!
06. Use Technology: We are going thru Fourth Industrial Revolution! These are exciting times. There is a lot of technology around us and we can use it for our Learning too. You can rewire your Learning using the Technology. Use E-Learning courses. A Good E-Learning Company can help you to use the Courses in a systematic way. Micro Learning is a concept that can help you to learn regularly and at a Micro Level. You can keep learning the Micro Skills continuously.
Kick off a Learning Journey!
My experience of observing myself and others says that the whole journey has to start with ‘Reflection’. Please look at the Video of Robin Sharma on Reflection. He puts the concept together very well.
A few years back I had a chance to visit Toyota in Nagoya, Japan. We were allowed to go on to a ramp that goes on top of the Manufacturing Line across the factory. You could stand there for about an hour and observe the Manufacturing process at various places on the shop floor. It was a Car assembly line running in the shop floor with all the support functions available right next to the line.
Typical to Toyota Culture, the line was stopped frequently to fix problems. The problems were so small, and the response was so swift that each of the stoppages was for not more than a few seconds! The relevant team would run to fix the problem. We understood that the line was running so well that they had only problems that can be fixed in a few seconds. But they were still encouraging their employees to stop the line and fix them. The line had the traditional Andon String running the length of the line.
It was obvious that the Assembly Line is the center of the whole Factory. Everyone was focused on the Assembly Line and supporting it. They were all clear that they are there to ensure the Line is being run continuously without stoppage. The Support to Manufacturing was overwhelming.
Status in many of our Manufacturing Companies
There are few Companies in India that run like this. I am sure all the Vehicle manufacturers run like this. Automotive Companies have evolved this way. One helpful factor is that huge moving line in the Shop floor.
The Status even in the Auto Parts Companies is not as good. The status in non-Automotive sector is worse. The focus on the manufacturing is simply missing. Everyone is worried about the Production and if it is not coming, everyone is preoccupied with that worry. No doubt about it.
But the Companies do not work with the Manufacturing at the Centre. The Manufacturing would be suffering for want of attention in the midst of the ‘Worry for Production’. It sounds like I am talking about opposites! It is true. In the midst of their Concern for Production, the Companies are not positioned to support Production.
In fact, I have seen a Company where the Top Management target the Plant teams regularly as they feel the Plant Team is not performing! All the Corporate Functions regularly target the Plants for their ‘inefficiency’. The heads of Plant Heads roll regularly due to their ‘non-performance’. This type of Top Management and a Corporate team is a nightmare to all Manufacturing Plants!!
While the above Problem of Top Management targeting the Manufacturing Plants is not very rare, there are several other happenings in these Companies where the Manufacturing does not get good support.
01. People: The Work of the Supervisor Engineers and the Manager in charge of the Shop starts with running for the Workmen. Almost on every day, they lose some of the NEEM Trainees or the Contract Workmen and they can’t run the lines right from the beginning of the Shift. They run to HR department to plead with them to give them more people. Then, there will be usual rush to get more people and HR pleads with the Contractors to get them more hands. It is not overstatement to say that most of Indian Manufacturing runs at the mercy of these Contractors!! The first 90-120 minutes in every shift is spent by the Supervisor running around to get people! Who is worried about the Shift Startup procedures!!
02. Material: In most of the Companies the Production Plan simply does not work as there will be Material shortages almost on a daily basis. The Production Plans have to be changed. If changing is not possible, then the Shop will idle till the material comes. The Supervisor Engineer is again running around to Stores / Materials Department to plead with them to get him the Material. Most of the times the Production team Produces the Product for which the material is there. Not what is planned and not what is needed by Customer today!
03. Quality: Next task to the Supervisor Engineer is to run after the Quality Inspectors / Quality Managers to take their help in resolving the Quality Problems. The Supervisor Engineers are conditioned in such a way that they have forgotten that they are Engineers and even for a small problem, they search for ‘Quality Engineers’. The Quality Engineers / Managers have to take a call about the Quality issues either about Incoming material or about the Process.
04. Maintenance: Suddenly there may be a Breakdown of a Machine and the Supervisor Engineer has to run for the Maintenance team. These guys may be available mostly on the Shop floor. But they may be busy in something else! This Supervisor Engineer has to go to them and impress upon them about his line/machine.
05. R&D: Most of the days there will be a few New Products that are running on the Shop floor. They don’t behave in a predictable manner. The Parts are not settled, and Process is not settled. So, the Supervisor Engineer can be seen running to the R&D to get the experts to handle the problems with the New Products. The Production Manager also will get involved in this as he has to handle some Big Shots!
This way the Production Supervisor and the Production Manager have to run around the whole day to various people to seek their help! Sometimes the Top Management will get angry with them that they are not coordinating well with all functions!!
In fact the HR would recruit the Supervisors who are good at coordinating. The demand for Problem solving skills, Product / Process Knowledge etc in Supervisor Engineers may not be even asked about. It is decided in most of the Manufacturing Companies that the role of Production Engineer is to go around pleading with the various Powers in the Company to help him run the Production!
As the whole Company’s focus is on the Production numbers (?!), the Supervisors / Managers in Production have to ‘Perform’ and they dance the whole day.. all around the Company!!
This has to change. In Manufacturing Companies, the Manufacturing has to be at the center of the Company along with the Customer. If we do not have a stable Manufacturing, then the whole company right from the Managing Director has to focus only on that. This is good enough reason to change this set Paradigm of Supervisor Engineers / Managers running around the whole organisation!!
How it should be?
Settle the Age old problems: A Manufacturing Company has to settle the traditional problems of Material Shortages and ensure the Manufacturing runs as per a Plan ! This is not impossible. Every Supplier wants to maximize his Business with you. So, if someone tells you that Suppliers are not supplying, read it as ‘the Supplier engagement’ is not okay in your Company.
Should be Available on the Shop: All the People who directly contribute to the Manufacturing should be available on the Shop floor. The Andon signaling is a simple system that can be used to alert the concerned persons when there is a stoppage of a machine or a line on the shop floor. All concerned persons should be able to see the Andon light physically.
- A HR Officer should go to every line in the morning and check about availability of manpower and take care of problems if any.
- A Maintenance Engineer should have a simple system of getting notified about a Breakdown and he should be measured on his response time.
- A Material Buyer should be going to every line and looking at the Kanban cards. He should be held accountable to any Shortages.
- An R&D Engineer should be held accountable to occupying the shop floor beyond the time agreed.
- A Production Engineer should be encouraged to own the Quality. He need not be running around to fetch Quality Engineer/Manager.
Restrict the Meetings: The team who are on the Shop floor cannot be called for meetings. If they are required for a Meeting, then someone has to step into that role while the person is away from Shop floor. This has to be implemented strictly. If you are not allowing the Engineers to do their job, then how do you expect them to deliver?
Review of Losses: The Losses on the shop floor should be given utmost seriousness at all times. The Plant Management has to treat the Production Losses as a very serious issue. They need to minimize the losses continuously. There can be no other priority to the Plant Management till the Losses are addressed squarely. The Top Management should support this approach. Many Companies try to do too much on the shop floor without these fundamentals. Top Management wants to implement every fancy concept before they settle this. That is the main reason why the new initiatives do not work on the shop floor. So, we have to be patient with Manufacturing Plants. Build the Foundation first.
Accountability: The various Functional Heads should be held accountable to the Production line stoppages. This should be the biggest focus of the Functional Heads. Someone who is not focused on this has to be corrected firmly. If they are held accountable to the losses, I am sure the Functional Heads will deliver.
Manufacturing should be the focus: The Manufacturing Team has to be given very high focus and support. They should be treated as very important people and they should have the ear of every Senior person in the Company. We are not talking about individuals. We are talking about giving priority to the function. When you do it, the focus on the Manufacturing will improve.
Change the Paradigm
Change this existing / outdated Paradigm of Manufacturing running around everyone else in the Company to take care of daily Production. It makes Business sense.
A Company where the Manufacturing is not settled, cannot do anything else. Right from Managing Director would be preoccupied only with that worry!
It makes a lot of Business sense to settle this problem here and now!!
In the past 6-9 months, most of the Industries across India have started complaining about their Businesses slowing down. May be this problem very much exists in other countries too. But, let me focus on Indian Companies. The Slow down panic is there in many industries and everyone has his/her own theory about how bad it is, why it is happening and how long it will last.
In this article, I would like to just focus on ‘What a Company can do during the Slow down’.
Every Company would have expanded their capacities with some expectation of Sales every month. When that Sales is not happening consistently for a few months, they would start panicking. Usually, you would see following happening in Companies where the Sales is not happening as per plan and it started dipping below the last year and last few months average.
- Sales Team looks help-less. They are not achieving the Targets consistently and Sales numbers are falling steadily. The Sales team keeps reporting bad numbers. After a few months, the Management may start accepting that there is nothing that can be done, and Sales team is trying their best!
- Employees get fired. The Contract employees are the first to be fired. As the Sales Dip continues, the firing will extend to other types of Trainees, Junior Staff, in Some companies’ Senior people will be fired as it gives better bang per firing. These same Employers talk about the need for Employees to work as owners in good times and when things go wrong, they fire the employees (Rajiv Bajaj put this wonderfully in his interview with CNBC).
- Inefficiencies increase in Factories. The Factories start idling and the Production efficiencies increase. Again, this keeps getting accepted as okay as the Volumes are down.
- New Product activity reduces. Most of the Companies will see their New Product activity reducing as they do not want to take more expense and more risk during the slow down.
- Mad rush to reduce Fixed Costs. The Semi Variable / Fixed Costs get cut ruthlessly. Maybe it is right to do that. But even the essential ones will get cut.
- Negativity all around. There will be a mourning environment and the energies are down. Senior Management pet topic is about how to cut Costs (Again nothing wrong with this approach. But that can’t be the only chant.)
- Company starts going into a shell. You can almost see the company getting into a shell withdrawing all signs of life! It is almost like closing your eyes hoping the storm will just pass and it won’t affect you if you close your eyes!
- Everyone starts asking for Government help. Last but not least, everyone starts looking to Government to rescue them. Government can help Companies to enter in to new markets across Globe by passing on some subsidies to them. This is done by many Governments across the world. China is a wonderful example of supporting their Industries selectively so that they can penetrate the Global market. But, you can’t expect Government to come to your aid whenever there is sluggish demand or more serious slow down.
What else we can do?
I would argue that most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have huge possibilities for improving themselves. The inefficiencies that are there in the Companies are huge. The Slowdown that is happening can be used to rediscover themselves in many areas of Business. We can look to becoming a stronger Company that can withstand these Slow times! I am not talking about throwing lot of money at problems. I am talking about fundamentally restructuring your P&L in such a manner that you can withstand these Slowdowns.
Let me highlight a few ways below. We will deal with each of these areas in detail in articles that will come in subsequent weeks.
01. Skill up your People: A Company is built only by the People that it has. When the Top line dips, Companies should not look at firing its’ People. This is foolish and it is akin to shooting yourself in your foot. When you look at the Shop floor Employees, most of the Companies are living on Contract employees and Trainees whom they can fire immediately! This is no great Leadership! You can show great Leadership by:
a) Re-engineering the Learning: Defining the Skills required for each of your Employees, Skill them up by using Modern Technology like E-Learning. Use this Slow down to re-engineer the way you focus on Skills.
b) Make Learning Contextual: Define Micro Skills and Micro Learning agenda for employees depending on your Business agenda for this Year. Train them for the Context by using the E-Learning.
c) Bring Skills to the center of the Business: Link Skills to Performance and link Skills to Performance assessment. This will ensure your Employees create a pull for Skilling up.
The Business Goal for this activity should be to Triple the Sales Turnover created by each employee in the Organization over next 2 years. This is very much possible. Leaders need to take up this challenge.
Do not look at firing Employees. Rather, build a Team that is totally committed to your Organization and this will make you win in the Longer run. In the Short term too, only this can create good results. If you fire people and improve your Bottom line, the Investors would see it clearly. You would be harming the Company by doing this.
02. Re-engineer your Business Systems: Most of the Indian Companies do not have a clear way of working. The SOPs are there in ISO files and they get dusted before every re-certification audit. After that no one looks at them and no one follows them. Some of the following can be done:
a) Re-engineer the way you Manufacture. If you have not implemented the Lean Concepts on your Shop floor, this is the time that you should do. Everyone will understand the seriousness of the Situation in a Slowdown.
b) Re-engineer the way work happens in various Functions. The Productivity of every activity can be at least doubled if you have not applied Lean principles to it. I am talking about the activities that your Staff does. Time taken for releasing a P.O, Time taken for accounting a Bill and so on.
c) Define the way of working in every Function. You should define your ‘way of working’ in every function. New Product Development System should be defined, Cost reduction System for your company should be defined, Sales Process should be defined, Marketing Process should be defined and so on.
The Objective of this exercise should be to get every activity in the Company done in 50% of the time compared to what it is now.
03. Re-engineer your Costs: The Opportunities for reducing the Cost in a significant manner are there for many companies. In the past decade or so, the Companies are focusing more on Costs. But still there are opportunities to reduce Costs. Some of the activities that can be taken up are:
a) Taking up Big Targets for Cost reduction.
b) Conducting Brain Storming sessions.
c) Involving Subject Matter experts.
d) Bench marking with World Class Products.
The Objective of this exercise again should be to improve the Profitability by 35% or more. A Big target will make your team to think entirely in a different manner. Have trust in your team, they will deliver the results.
04. Re-define the Market Place and the way you approach it: In the current status of the Industry where there is a big change that is coming up in Auto sector in terms of surge in Electric Vehicles and reduction in IC Engine vehicles, many Companies have to have a relook at their focus areas. They may have to redefine their Industry focus. A Foundry / Machine shop that is focused on Auto sector has to realign itself to other Industries.
When a Slowdown happens, it is not that the whole Business has disappeared. You are not growing. But there may be several other Companies that are growing. Indian Economy is growing by 5% right now. You are not aiming to capture the whole Economy. It is just fine for you if you are able to capture a few more new Customers. Every Prospective Customer is looking for new ways to save money and reduce costs in this environment. How can your Team deliver this to these Prospective Customers? If you are skilling up your Team, you can ask them to deliver this result for you. If you are firing them, then there is no one to deliver this result for you!!
If you have been rejecting RFQs that are 20% below your Price expectations, then can you challenge your team to start reducing the Costs and accept more of these RFQs?
05. Re-engineer your Products: Use this time to align with your Customers much more. Every Customer wants the same product at much lesser price. You may be having ideas for reducing the Cost and come out with a new Family of Products. But you would have been postponing it due to the pressure on the Factories and R&D Team. Now, the Factories are not having the Pressure. Focus more on New Product Development, come out with the Family of Products that may be Priced 20% cheaper and most of the functionality.
This is the time to teach ‘Frugal Engineering’ concepts to your New Product Development team and become more attractive to your Customers.
Fill your Company with Positive energy
There may be many more Initiatives that can be taken up. What I am suggesting is that you should use this time of Slow Down to energize your Employees and ask them to take your company to the next level in terms of Competitiveness.
Use this time to create some World Class Benchmarks!