Management practices that lead to excellence

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Business Management

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Let me be unequivocally clear, management should always start with a rational business model that works like a well-oiled machine. This model consists of an efficient structure with several organization charts. It is crucial at this juncture to understand, this aforementioned structure is a precursor to strategies needed to make decisions expeditiously and get things done throughout any enterprise. Moreover, the organization charts of a sound structure give employees, management, and all interested parties a line of authority referred to as “hierarchy.” A chain command of this hierarchy as it is often called, can have several layers depending on the size of the organization. Regardless of the size of your business, I prefer three (3) levels or layers of management: line supervision, mid-management, and upper-management or corporate headquarters. Having too many layers to a management system will lead to a matrix of organizational structure with way too many charts, a very complex system indeed. Complexity is never better in business, a caveat to conglomerates and big businesses. According to many different studies, the U.S. mega corporations that succeed keep things simple in spite of their humongous size and those that add unnecessary layers to management and keep their strategic plan too complicated, fail. They move around like dinosaurs before facing extinction. This brings to mind the old adage: “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” rather than “too big to fail.” And, a behemoth is not necessarily fierce. Complexity causes lethargy and inertia, which makes too many big companies unresponsive. I should point out, however, it’s not the mere size of a big company that causes its failure. Substituting a rational business model with a complex one is usually the culprit. An alternative to complexity is fluidity and flexibility, which allows people in a businesses of any size to really talk to each other regardless of their geographic locations and the large number of units in those companies. As a result, people employed by those successful companies can solve problems, fix things, and are attune to customers’ needs rather than posture, debate and delay a given process. Once you are operating in a rational business model, you know who is in charge. Be mindful that an organization chart by itself is not a company but accountable people are. The people working for a successful company represent one of its most valuable assets. There is enough empirical knowledge around to determine that a good manager is always needed to shape company values and hence motivate the people who work for that company. To motivate people, you need a good philosophy. Looking at the basic premise of psychology, I have concluded that human beings of any background are socialized to think of themselves as winners. Therefore, it is safe to say and assume, as employees, we all think that we are tops. Consequently, make sure that your organization adopt that positive outlook of its people, a philosophy that will generate high returns for any company and always pay dividends to stakeholders of any business. Don’t just write “catchy phrases” in the company literature, correspondence or any place else for that matter, you must live the adopted philosophy. It is a paradox but that philosophy represents the starting point of the corporate culture that will motivate most, if not all employees to strive for success. In any country, the quality of products, services, and productivity of workers depend on good management. Why not take the time to understand the psychology of work and human performance, and adopt the right philosophy for your company. So much of performance has to do with people being motivated by simple, beautiful and compelling values. My determination makes it emphatic that a manager convey an organization’s shared values to all employees and once accepted by all, those values should be continually emphasized until and after they become the dominant corporate culture. Based on a plethora of business studies, the excellent U.S. companies are marked by very strong cultures, so strong that you either buy into their norms or you get out. A cohesive and dominant corporate culture is always accompanied with hoopla, fanfare, and a certain level of excitement. An employee not affected by the culture that’s being fostered, will either be terminated or leave of his own volition. An advantageous position that allows a unit manager to deal with sub-standard performance in a proactive manner.  A manager’s job is to keep things tidy and under control. Well-run organizations ultimately become institutions as they are infused with consistent values. Pervasive values that demand that the performance of every employee be above par, an integral part of efficient business operations. In order for a company to remain successful, it will hire and then institutionalize new employees by infusing the system with those values mentioned above, company values that go beyond the technical requirements of any task. Moreover, other incentives should be put in place to achieve optimum performance – e.g., employee of the month, a bonus, being assigned to a special project … etc. A proactive manager will also look for coaching opportunities, a management tool that prevents any employee from falling behind. Then, and only then, can progressive discipline and punishment be used as a last resort instead of a way forward to supervise. The ubiquitous values of the excellent company often lead to employees initiating their own peer reviews and quality circles, a productivity proposition based on loyalty, commitment through effective training, and personal identification with the company’s overall success. I attest to the fact that peer pressure in this instance rather than orders from the boss becomes the main motivator to employees’ productivity. An experienced boss can now comfortably shift most of his/her attention to “quality control” and its objective measures while developing good instincts that tell immediately whether things are going well or when something is wrong . If performance is under control, what else can go wrong? Let’s say for the purpose of this blog, corporate headquarters is lean and decentralized simply because responsibilities are proportionally delegated to unit managers and line supervisors, respectively. A two-way communication is maintained between branch offices and the main office, a necessary component that permits line supervisors to identify corporate malaise given that extraordinary contributions on the part of every worker are regularly reported and verified by quality control. Corporate headquarters, in turn, don’t delay in bringing immediate corrections and change by keeping the rational business model responsive, relevant, and efficient. I did start this Blog post with a philosophy that emanates positive energy followed by a value system that gets responsible adults exciting about their work. Lastly, we find ways to stay close to the customer. The world of the excellent companies is especially open to customers, who in turn inject a sense of balance and proportion into its rational business model – even determining which slogans are used. For instance, at CentEx Cargo, we used the slogan: “The Next Level of International Shipping” to the Caribbean. Our goal to be a quality logistics company and provide quality international shipping service together with feedback from customers helped our company come up with that slogan. We then tell the people we hire over and over again, we are a customer oriented company and they are great for getting that slogan and our philosophy right every time. Doing a quality job is the only way. The customer orientation approach is by definition a way of tailoring our niche market where we can be better at something than anybody else. Moreover, allocation of company resources and building a team ought to be swayed by the paying customers. This way, management cannot only deal with unforeseen problems but turn customers complaints into marketing opportunities. Customers quickly realize that in this excellent company, employees are not only committed to doing a quality job but if things go wrong, those same employees can fix a problem to their satisfaction. Management, in turn, is confident of its capabilities. And when there is a major problem or crisis, they can bring the right people together on an ad hoc basis and expect them to bring about tangible solutions in a timely manner.

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