Roy's Blog: Business Strategy

April 15, 2019

How to prevent people from turning off and bailing out

One way to think about employee engagement is to identify the new practices an organization should adopt to motivate and retain its employees; this is the normal approach promulgated by the experts in the field.

To get employees more engaged by this method typically requires an organization to select a best practice and then convince everyone to start applying it. This usually requires a lengthy implementation cycle with engagement benefits realized in the medium to long term.

Eliminate the piss-off-factors

Another approach, however, is to define the things that organizations typically do today that turn employees off (“piss-off factors” — POF’s) and drive them to look elsewhere for career opportunities.

Improving employee engagement using this approach requires leadership to demand what specific current behaviours are to STOP and to identify the benefits of cessation.

Benefits of this approach are usually realized fairly quickly (assuming the practices in question are indeed stopped) and some breathing time is earned to develop and start implementing a longer term engagement strategy that adds new programs.

The approach an organization should take depends, of course, on the levels of employee satisfaction and engagement they are currently facing.
In most cases, however, there is a sense of urgency to see short term improvement in the face of market forces challenging financial performance.

This reality suggests that the most effective approach is to launch an all-out offensive on what needs to be stopped BEFORE evaluating the new programs that should be added for longer term cultural change.

As the new president of our data and internet company, I was facing some tough POF’s that completely overwhelmed the option of exploring new practices and programs to get employees more involved and committed to our strategy.

I chose to eradicate the immediate roadblocks to engagement through what I called a “Cut the CRAP” initiative which was intended to eliminate the highest priority dis-satisfiers as quickly as possible.

Based on feedback from employees, these were the things my leadership team chose to STOP! and prevent people from turning off and bailing out.

STOP! delegating

Stop delegating communicating and selling the organization’s strategy to employees.
Don’t ask junior or middle level managers to do it. Employees need to be convinced that the strategy is right and that they have a meaningful role to play in its achievement.

As president, I made it my job to be the point person to try and convince people that our chosen path was the right one, and that there were exciting opportunities for everyone. Was it easy? Hell no! Was it painful? Hell yes!
But in the final analysis it paid off as people saw their leader answer the tough questions and take the hits necessary to convince them that the proposed path for the organization was worth going down.

STOP! expecting people to get it

Stop expecting employees to somehow understand by serendipity their role in the execution of organization’s strategic game plan.
Don’t assume they will get it.
Leadership must translate in detail what people in various functions — sales, marketing, customer service, finance — need to continue doing and what they must do differently. Without understanding, engagement is impossible.

My leadership team held workshops with every function in the organization to define the precise role each had to play to execute our strategy and to develop performance plans for every individual to make it happen.

STOP! commanding

Stop directing people what to do as a leadership style.
Stop telling and start asking… for opinions, advice, suggestions and help instead of shoving instructions down people’s throats.
Why would anyone be engagement-minded if they have zero freedom to express themselves in their job?

I was satisfied that my leadership team was on the “serving page” but felt we had work to do at particularly the frontline supervisor level. We held one-day Servant Leadership workshops with all supervisors to reinforce the expected behaviours.

STOP! using social

Stop sending email and using social media tools as the primary way to communicate with employees.
Stop one-way talks and start active two-way conversations through face-to-face real time engagement. Employees need to ask questions and get immediate feedback if they are to actively support the organization’s goals and objectives.

We declared a policy to management to cease email communications as a vehicle to disseminate information on strategy and to schedule regular face to face meetings with their employees to discuss the direction of the organization and how they felt about it.

STOP! being predictable

Stop doing everything “by the book”; preventing people from stepping out and showing some creativity. Start having fun.
Introduce levity and informality.
Allow people to break the rules to stimulate innovation. Surprise people — introduce “The Greatest Risk Taker Award”.

We introduced the notion of “Dumb Rules” to our values statement and declared that rules, policies and procedures that made no sense to customers and employees would be changed or outright killed.
And we held the management team accountable to do it.
Monthly Dumb Rules contests were held to recognize the person or team (with their manager) who killed the dumbest rule. A workplace party was held for the winner and fun was the word of the day.

STOP! thinking they will fall in line

Stop expecting people to align with the values of the organization.
Today’s workforce is not a homogeneous mix of ethnic backgrounds and life values; it’s a mosaic of heterogeneous cultures and expectations.
Stop thinking everyone will support your efforts; you have to earn it by recognizing and addressing the reality of diversity.

Our teams varied considerably and we chose to communicate our actions in a way that reflected the divergent value sets of our employees. This required detailed background research work but it paid off in the end.

STOP! playing favorites

Stop favouring any particular group.
Stop treating specific functions as “the chosen ones” in terms of the critical skills they possess or the strategic value they represent.
Marketing may be a vital element of your strategic game plan, for example, but constantly putting them on a pedestal will only alienate others to the detriment of universal engagement.

We treated my entire organization — over 2,000 people — as one team. There were no favourites. Each was expected to contribute equally to our strategic goals.

STOP! thinking small things are small

Stop ignoring the little things.
Stop thinking that a small act that doesn’t align with motivating employee engagement is no big big deal and will slide by unnoticed. It won’t. People always connect the dots and burn you when your words and music don’t match.

We included this issue in the employee surveys we conducted regularly, and discovered initially there were valid criticisms which, thankfully, decreased substantially over time as we made “what we say and what we do” a critical priority.

STOP! playing ping-pong

Stop flavour of the month change. Stop jumping from one tactic to another. It’s disingenuous and will convince employees that you are not committed to the course of action you have chosen.
Stay your course and tweak it only when you are hit by an unexpected negative event, not simply because you had another brainwave.

Our action plan was to knock off each POF with the top 3 leading the way. We didn’t vary the plan. Employees believed we were emotionally invested in a solution set that would improve things for them — and for us with higher levels of engagement.

STOP! the we-they

Stop separating the leaders from the workers. Stop the “us vs them” treatment in the workplace. How can people be willing to engage more if they don’t feel important and valued?
As long as they consider leadership team as the elitist group with special privileges they won’t change and engage more. Their suspicions that upper management isn’t prepared to work along with them will be confirmed; no progress is made.

As president of an organization that was geographically dispersed, I had a number of offices which I did NOT locate on the top floor with other executives (I took some heat from my peers for this). I tried to have each office in a building location that would increase my availability to people and made it known they were welcome to drop in unannounced if they so desired.
It took a while, but eventually people believed me and took advantage of the opportunity to meet and chat — since I spent most of my time in the workplace doing my “LBSA”, my office became a secondary focal point in any event.

Preventing disengagement by addressing POF’s as the first priority WILL result in more engagement.

It plays to what people expect of their leadership — first, listening to what upsets employees, and second, doing something about it.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 4.15.19 at 04:40 am by Roy Osing
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April 8, 2019

Why gulf in class absolutely dominates the best

I’m a huge football fan (soccer to you North Americans) and live to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone and watch the Reds put me through agony every game they play.

Recently the Reds defeated Bayern Munich in a Champions League match 3-1 to earn the right to progress to the quarter finals.

Of course the Liverpool media were all over the win, and a comment by the Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce caught my eye.

He labelled the Red’s domination of their opponent this way: “Liverpool played with real maturity and control— rock solid defensively, tireless in midfield and packing a punch going forward. There was a gulf in class.”

Gulf in class

What an effective way to describe the way they beat their competitors. It wasn’t that the Reds performed better than Bayern; it was more that they completely dominated them in an incomparable way.

Liverpool outmatched Bayern and we’re in a completely different category than their opponents; it wasn’t an incremental difference between the two, rather it was a huge gulf.
I got to thinking about how gulf in class is such a great way to describe an organization that was in a different class than their competitors. One that was unmatched by any other; one that was separate from the herd.

About the gulf, Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead said it best: “You don’t want to be merely the best of the best, you want to be the ONLY one that does what you do.”

How can you develop a gulf in class — a chasm — between yourself and your closest rival? There’s no silver bullet — no one thing — you can do; rather it’s several actions taken simultaneously that act synergistically and in unison to produce consistently amazing performance.

Gulf in class organizations distinguish themselves from “the best” in these 5 ways.

Leadership

Gulf in class organizations have amazing leaders who are dedicated in mind, spirit and body to serving every member of their team based on their individual unique needs.
They are revered by their team and will do anything for them. In the face of criticism, they support their people; they take the heat when team members have an off day.
Their end game is to help develop each team member as a human being not just a player.

Family

Gulf in class organizations aren’t organizations at all, they’re a family and everything they do is to build and maintain it.

“When I die, don’t bring me to the hospital. Bring me to Anfield. I was born there and will die there.” — Steven Gerrard

They represent the ultimate of inclusivity in the truest sense of the word.
EVERYONE is emotionally invested in the organization and committed to their success: employees, customers, stakeholders — all those who touch them.

Patience

Gulf in class organizations are patient with the intent to build themselves to win in the long term. They aim to out perform their opponents over the long haul accepting that short term blips along the way are just a fact of life.
They have a long term plan, they understand the competencies they need to achieve it and they consistently keep working hard to achieve their long term goals.

They live the “form is temporary; class is permanent” mantra focussing on what is needed to create something that lasts forever rather than on transitory short term performance.

Loyalty

Gulf in class organizations focus their energy on creating undying loyalty rather than enhancing employee engagement.
They understand that loyalty is a two-way street requiring the organization to earn the right to ask for the support of their family members. They extend a hand and people respond emotionally to perform to the best of their ability.

Giving

Gulf in class organizations give unselfishly to the communities where they do business.
The family “shows up” at local events to help those in need; employees volunteer their time and expect little in return.

Community involvement is a high priority in a gulf organization. It is viewed as a strategic program that commands a non-trivial portion of their annual operating budget.
It is included as a fundamental value of the organization and has specific objectives along with customer focus and revenue growth.

Gulf in class represents the ultimate expression of competitive advantage, but is rarely seen due to the incredible investment that it requires. But to those families like the Liverpool Football Club who have chosen to follow this path, success awaits.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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How can small and independent retailers survive? — infographic

  • Posted 4.8.19 at 04:19 am by Roy Osing
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March 18, 2019

How can small & independent retailers survive? — infographic

We have seen a huge upheaval in retail in the last decade or so. The advent of the Internet means that consumers are the winner with so much choice from literally all over the world to spend their disposable income.

People don’t need to leave their homes to buy any product they desire so obviously this presents a huge challenge to all retailers, no matter their size.

Price too has become a battleground because Internet-only retailers don’t have the extra costs associated with having a physical store, store staff and other related overheads.

They can be leaner models and some then choose to pass those savings onto their customers. Offline and brick and mortar retailers are fighting back but we’ve seen many retailers fail as they simply cannot battle against the lower cost position of the online retail world.

So what about the independent or smaller retailer who doesn’t have the backing of a board, that doesn’t have systems in place to become leaner but do feel their brick and mortar offering has lots to give to consumers in terms of experience and choice?
Do they have a future or are they doomed to fail in the rising challenge of their online only counterparts?

The answer is no, they shouldn’t fail but they definitely need to be really strategic in fighting back. They need to understand those tools and skills available to them to grow and increase their retail business and make their store stand out to customers.

The guys from Storetraffic put this infographic below together that outlines everything you need to know about this niche.

The struggles, the opportunities, they’re all explained in this graphic to hopefully arm these smaller / independent retailers with the tools and knowledge they need to progress and grow.

Check out the full infographic below…

  • Posted 3.18.19 at 04:26 am by Roy Osing
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March 11, 2019

What is better than creating something epic and new?

Innovation is always associated with coming up with new solutions to existing problems; the definition of the word confirms it: innovation is described as “the introduction of something new; a new idea, method, or device”.

If you are successful creating and introducing newness, you are a respected member of the creativity crowd, and the rewards follow your achievements.
Adding stuff and consuming additional resources gets the attention, and enhancing value is defined by introducing new products and services and adding new technical functionality.
And in fact many organizations reinforce this bias by having entire teams dedicated to new product and service development.

The flip side of the coin, however, “gets no respect”. This is the side of the coin that seeks to removes stuff — takes stuff away, cuts, and deletes. The flip side of the coin has DNA based on the need to subtract not add.

We should start to recognize the importance of deleting the no-longer-relevant by changing the old school definition of innovation.

New school innovation

New school innovation — ”The introduction of something new or the elimination of something deemed no longer relevant; a new or obsolete idea, method, or device.”

This new definition of innovation is based on the principle of creating additional value in whatever fashion is appropriate at the time.

And deleting the no-longer-relevant adds HUGE value and yet it’s not on a par with its add-the-new cousin.

Take a look at your own personal life. How much junk do you have in your closet? How much stuff do you have that you never use but can’t part with? And how good do you feel — and how much more effective are you at using the space you have available — when you have a purge day and open up all that room that you can use for today’s prized possessions?

Managers of irrelevance

In organizations, procedures, practices, systems, products and services all fall victim sooner or later to irrelevance. Markets change, customer needs change and priorities change, leaving irrelevance in their wake.
The problem is no one pays attention to this lack of usefulness because the people performing the irrelevant tasks never pony up.
They are the LAST people who will admit that what they are doing should be axed.

And leadership doesn’t spot irrelevance easily because they have more lofty strategic goals to pursue. It’s no wonder that a small group of employees maintaining a system that has lost its usefulness is missed while leadership is paying attention to guiding the actions necessary to complete a strategic partnership transaction or enter a new market.

If only organizations could delete the stuff they no longer need and observe the added value they could produce.

In government, absolutely ZERO resources are assigned to mining out the no-longer-needed. When’s the last time you remember a social program of any sort being phased out? Talk about health care — budgets go up and feed a system that needs deletion and resurrection.

We no longer have the luxury to treat the new as an add-on. We can’t afford it. The new must ride on the back of the delete function.
Delete something and THEN add something new. We need the capability to create space for the new to enter; without deletion it can’t happen.

#CutTheCRAP

We need to start a “cut the crap” movement — #CutTheCRAP — to seek out and cut things no longer relevant to our personal lives, organizations and governments.

The environment will benefit because the crap that no longer serves a useful purpose is identified and recycled; customers benefit because their service providers are more efficient and able to offer new services and potentially lower prices; and citizens benefit because governments are able to deliver new services more efficiently and hold taxes down as much as possible.

#DeleteIT

The point is, we need a relentless focus on hitting the delete button in our world of limited resources. Consumption must be linked with (and in many cases dependant on) deletion — delete something if you want to earn the right to consume something else.

But as long as sexy and success is associated with #AddIT it won’t happen.

In organizations we need to make hitting the delete button a top priority and assign a new role — Chief CRAP Officer (CCO) — to expunge the stuff throughout the organization that sucks resources and detracts from doing the new progressive initiatives dictated by their strategic game plan.

The CCO’s performance plan should be based on the value created from the savings realized by removing no-longer-relevant activities and hence the capability created to take on new initiatives without adding resources to do so.
In addition to a focus on new product development, the CCO should be held accountable for the old product deletion role.
How many sku’s do organizations offer with minimal sales? These are obvious candidates for #DeleteIT.

Innovation and creativity should no longer only be associated with #AddIT activities in a world that is relentlessly and inexorably moving towards a lack of resources.
“Give up to get” must find a way into our teachings if we are to avoid the consequences of too much output and too little capacity.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

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  • Posted 3.11.19 at 04:02 am by Roy Osing
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