Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Realizing an Organization's Potential

One of the most gratifying things for me in being a part of ExecuNet is the chance I have every day to learn from other members. You can say what you want to about "senior managers" but the fact is that experience is indeed the best teacher and when you get a lot of people willing to share those experiences with their peers, it can be very powerful stuff. It is not only intellectually very stimulating, but on a practical level "learnings" that we all can use as we manage on a day to day basis.

We get these "learnings" from members in a number of different ways but one of the most potent is the online roundtable discussion groups. In the past week or two, we have had a fascinating discussion going on amongt our General Management group on the subject of what one can do to help an organization realize its potential. Pretty important topic since that is usually the charge when management changes are made.

Andy Kankula is one of our members who has been participating in this discussion and in adding his two cents he shared a list of 12 "learnings" that he felt were the keys his succeding. In his case, it was in turning around a major business unit in South America.

If you were looking for a one page list of how to go about managing the kind of change it takes to move an organizaiton forward, what you see below is as good a list as I had seen for a long time. I asked Andy if I could share it here, and I hope that readers here will be as grateful to him as I am for his willingness to let me use it. In doing so, he was quick to point out that his list was not original to him but rather his summary of things that he "learned" from others over the years, all of which just makes me all the more gratified to be part of a group where helping each other is what the roundtable groups are all about in the first place.

Andy's List

1. Brutal honesty and identification of the problems and why the problem exists. This needs to be done without blaming anyone.

2. Simple messages that create a vision and path forward. These messages should define the discipline and should be easy for people to remember.

3. Consistent metrics that relate to tasks that need to be achieved and the goals of the business.

4. Continual feedback about performance expectations.

5. As a leader be confident in your direction and your communication of expectations.

6. Recoginize where and what your peoples capabilities are; define their strengths and exploit them, identify their weaknesses and minimize them. Develop and improve competencies right down to the production floor.

7. Understand your customer and why they buy from you; position your products and services to maximize profitability.

8. Keep asking questions about why we do things the way we do until you get to the point no one can give you a good logical answer. It is at this time people are ready to ask the question " what's the best way to do this...?"

9. Once the discipline is established stick to it and do not waiver unless someone can demonstrate logically why we should detour.

10. At every milestone poor on the praise for the successes and identify what we could have done differently for future revision. And always keep the expectations high.

11. Create good succession plans so that people understand the possible rewards for good performance and development of their capabilities.

12. Plan your own departure to give those that have contributed to the success the opportunity to lead in the future.
Andy closed out his remarks to the other members of the roundtable with this:
After reading all the excellent input its appears very easy to write what makes each of us successful in our own situations. Living it and fighting your doubts and or the doubts of others as they wait for the results of your efforts is the hard part. You always have to ask yourself " am I doing all the right things for the right reasons?..." I think that if you can answer yes to that question you can trust your own direction through many Shakespearean "dark nights".
Any executive knows exactly what he means!

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