Nuggets of Knowledge

Basic Business Cents

Advanced Strategic Improvements Practices

2014 Conference

Dr. Charles Liedtke, owner of Strategic Improvement Systems, hosts the Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference each year in the Twin Cities where representatives from selected organizations present their performance improvement initiatives, results obtained, and lessons learned. It is a great day of sharing and learning from each other. Presenters at the conference this year were from Hennepin County, MN Office of Continuous Improvement, MN Department of Human Services, Mayo Clinic Health Systems, IBM, Buckman Associates, Hormel Foods, Cargill, Strategic Improvement Systems, Toro, Process Management, and Seagate.

This year was the best yet as the activities appeared to be more complete, well rounded, and focused on the leadership and people aspects as well as process improvement.

Some of the nuggets of knowledge that resonated with me are:

  • Tap the power of hidden influencers. In every organization there are untitled leaders at all levels, who demonstrate that they can get things done beyond what their title on the organization chart might indicate. Enlist the aid of these hidden leaders to further the improvement activity.
  • Leaders may provide direction, but do they provide leadership? Are they modeling the way? Do they recognize that they have work processes that they perform and do they work to improve those processes? Perhaps we are not doing enough to help senior leadership become effective change agents. Training and coaching are important for both formal and informal leaders. They need to become role models by improving their own processes. Leaders lead!
  • Government entities do not share knowledge improvement lessons learned internally as well as industry. Promotional opportunities are fewer and individuals sometimes hoard knowledge learned to increase their chances of advancement. Unfortunately, this is true in industry as well.  Improvement lessons learned must be shared openly and applied across the organization.
  • Provide education and coaching for all employees to understanding and obtain commitment for performance improvement and innovation.
  • Improvement ideas can come from anywhere; sometimes the best ideas come from the front-line staff. Everyone in the organization has a brain and do not overlook any resources.
  • The following quote from Roger Milliken was shared, “Operational Excellence secures the Present.  Innovation Excellence secures the Future.”   The world is changing so fast that we must continue to innovate products and processes.
  • One organization gave the Baldrige Explorer Survey to 200 employees and discovered that there was very little understanding of what their work systems were. As a result, the feedback on strategic improvement had marginal utility.
  • Create current Value Stream Maps for Engineering (and other departments) first and then create future Value Stream Maps for review for all employees. Once these maps are developed, they will generate ideas for improvement and innovation. As the ideas are generated and maps redrawn, more ideas will emerge.
  • Make sure improvement changes are sustained and do not slip back to the old way of doing things. Building a sustainable enterprise needs to be integrated with the Strategic Planning Process as an explicit strategic intent. Business needs to completely incorporate sustainability action in the way of doing business; it needs to permeate every decision and every part of the operation.

This sharing of knowledge learned in the various strategic improvement practices added useful knowledge to all the attendees. The presentations get better each year and this year was no exception. It was a privilege to attend and learn.

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Strategy Execution

Basic Business Cents

Football coaches are fond of explaining a loss by assuring reporters that they had a sound game plan but the players just didn’t execute. In my opinion, that is just a cop out by insecure coaches as they have the responsibility to prepare the players. Tragically, that is also often the case in business.

Strategy Execution is an interesting term, but does that mean to implement it or kill it?  Unfortunately in many organizations strategy faces a slow death by neglect. It is just as necessary to develop and follow up on an execution plan, as it is to develop the strategic plan. Words without action are useless.

But, development and execution are not the only elements of good strategy management; communication and revision are also key elements to address.

Typically organizations look at their strategy as either brilliant or mediocre and their execution as brilliant or mediocre. The aim of the organization is usually developed by the top executive, followed by the top management team, who develops the strategy to reach that aim. This strategy is then handed down to employees to execute. In this way, each group can blame the other if desired results are not obtained.

We must remember that each employee has a brain and it is an asset that should not be overlooked by management. In addition, employees are closer to the work and usually closer to the customers.

Upon development of the strategy, it must be communicated to all employees in such manner that they fully understand and embrace it. In the past, strategy was often considered company confidential and many employees were considered to not have a need to know; they were just considered as arms and legs to do what they were told.

To obtain that level of understanding and enthusiastic buy in, in-depth discussion needs to be held with management willing to listen with an open mind to feedback. Ideally, all employees would be involved in the development of the strategy but that is not always possible. All people need to understand that communication is comprised of two parts, sending and receiving, so time must shared equally between presenting and listening. Reasons for the strategy, assumptions made, rationale, marketplace trends, available technology, etc., should be discussed and understood. It is always a good idea to document the assumptions because often we cannot remember at a later date why we made certain decisions.

Following the communication sessions, the strategy implementation can commence. The strategy is cascaded downward through the organization with each level defining the action required of them to meet the overall strategy. Leaders should be identified for each strategy and progress monitored at monthly meetings. Management should visit all work areas and discuss what problems are being encountered with the implementation of the new strategy. With full understanding of the strategy, the employees should feel empowered, not constrained. If not, management needs to investigate the obstacles and remove them. At this time, management needs to be flexible and if real problems are encountered, be willing to review and adjust the strategy. Mutual trust and respect must be obtained, up, down, and across the organization, so that employees are enabled and empowered to change if needed. A good strategic plan is a living document and grows with implementation and changes in the market. It should be dynamic, growing, and exciting.

Good strategy management does not just consist of development and execution, either of which can be brilliant or mediocre, but four elements-development, communication, execution, and revision. It then become “our plan” and is in a constant state of continual improvement, always keeping the aim in mind.

 

 

 

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Strategy Execution

Basic Business Cents

Football coaches are fond of explaining a loss by assuring reporters that they had a sound game plan but the players just didn’t execute. In my opinion, that is just a cop out by insecure coaches as they have the responsibility to prepare the players. Tragically, that is also often the case in business.

Strategy Execution is an interesting term, but does that mean to implement it or kill it?  Unfortunately in many organizations strategy faces a slow death by neglect. It is just as necessary to develop and follow up on an execution plan, as it is to develop the strategic plan. Words without action are useless.

But, development and execution are not the only elements of good strategy management; communication and revision are also key elements to address.

Typically organizations look at their strategy as either brilliant or mediocre and their execution as brilliant or mediocre. The aim of the organization is usually developed by the top executive, followed by the top management team, who develops the strategy to reach that aim. This strategy is then handed down to employees to execute. In this way, each group can blame the other if desired results are not obtained.

We must remember that each employee has a brain and it is an asset that should not be overlooked by management. In addition, employees are closer to the work and usually closer to the customers.

Upon development of the strategy, it must be communicated to all employees in such manner that they fully understand and embrace it. In the past, strategy was often considered company confidential and many employees were considered to not have a need to know; they were just considered as arms and legs to do what they were told.

To obtain that level of understanding and enthusiastic buy in, in-depth discussion needs to be held with management willing to listen with an open mind to feedback. Ideally, all employees would be involved in the development of the strategy but that is not always possible. All people need to understand that communication is comprised of two parts, sending and receiving, so time must shared equally between presenting and listening. Reasons for the strategy, assumptions made, rationale, marketplace trends, available technology, etc., should be discussed and understood. It is always a good idea to document the assumptions because often we cannot remember at a later date why we made certain decisions.

Following the communication sessions, the strategy implementation can commence. The strategy is cascaded downward through the organization with each level defining the action required of them to meet the overall strategy. Leaders should be identified for each strategy and progress monitored at monthly meetings. Management should visit all work areas and discuss what problems are being encountered with the implementation of the new strategy. With full understanding of the strategy, the employees should feel empowered, not constrained. If not, management needs to investigate the obstacles and remove them. At this time, management needs to be flexible and if real problems are encountered, be willing to review and adjust the strategy. Mutual trust and respect must be obtained, up, down, and across the organization, so that employees are enabled and empowered to change if needed. A good strategic plan is a living document and grows with implementation and changes in the market. It should be dynamic, growing, and exciting.

Good strategy management does not just consist of development and execution, either of which can be brilliant or mediocre, but four elements-development, communication, execution, and revision. It then become “our plan” and is in a constant state of continual improvement, always keeping the aim in mind.

 

 

 

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Written Communication

Basic Business Cents

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Winston Churchill in a radio broadcast in 1939

No, this not a political article but the quotation is useful to point another puzzle wrapped in an enigma that we are faced with today. Communicating through writing is essential in the modern world and is becoming ever more so as we participate in the information age. Yet, the current generation is thought to have terrible writing skills and use of proper grammar. We are living in an era where we have a flood of information but a drought of knowledge. We need to overcome this puzzle wrapped in a riddle if we want to be successful.

Written communication is more permanent and raises accountability. It is a lasting document that can be used for reference, guidance, and holds the author accountable for the truth of the document. Therefore, care must be put into the content. Fortunately, time can be taken to proof read, think about what is said, how others may interpret or misinterpret, and whether it clearly conveys the intention of the author. This is not always the case with oral communications.

Written communications need to be complete, concise, clear, and courteous. The document should contain the facts needed to support the aim of the communication but only those pertinent. It should rarely be more than one page long or it is in danger of being put aside until the reader finds time. Most people are very busy today and that time to read long treatises rarely is found. At the same time, do not fall victim of saving time by using acronyms. They mean something to the author but often not the reader. I sometimes jokingly say, “I would like to stamp out all acronyms ASAP” to prove a point. I need to follow my own advice; ASAP stands for As Soon As Possible.

It helps to clarify intent if you use active verbs to be more action oriented, and clearer about what you want to accomplish. Improper grammar can cause the reader to focus on mistakes and miss the point of the message.

Always remember to be courteous; don’t burn bridges that will haunt you later. Remember written documents are permanent. You are more likely to receive support and cooperation if you show respect and trust.

Emails have become a common means of communication and most of the common sense rules above are applicable in this medium as well. We tend to become lazy, hurried, and less formal with emails, but they are still are permanent documents in which we need to take care.

The first, and maybe most important, thing to remember about emails is to choose the subject line carefully. It may determine whether the reader opens the email. Clearly define the topic, relevant times and places, and key words. Personalize the subject line if possible.

Use only one topic per email and keep it short and to the point. Bullet points and formatting are helpful in adding clarity and conciseness.  Other rules above apply. If action is required, list desired results and times involved.

If replying to emails, direct your response to only those who have a need to see it; don’t hit reply to all if not required, so you are not cluttering up their inboxes.

In this age of smart phone messages, tablet computers, and other electronic help, writing skill is more important than ever to business success. If only I had paid more attention and studied grammar harder in school.

 

 

 

 

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Reinventing Your Organization

Basic Business Cents

Are you in the business of manufacturing buggies or people movers? Most industry-changing innovations come from without the industry. Why? Because companies are so focused on their competition that they lose focus on the needs of their customers.

You can never win a race by following the leader, yet we do it all the time in business. We spend too much time studying the competition; trying to anticipate their next move. We should be aware of competition and their trends, but we need to spend more time studying the customers, desired customers, and their trends. There is no substitute to holding dialog with your key customers. They may not know their real needs in the future but you will not know that until you talk to them.

Many organizations today find themselves in a mature or declining industry that does not bode well for the future. It may be that the more important aspect of the business is that the leadership is mature and not providing fresh direction.

Imitation of your competition may be the sincerest form of flattery but it will not get you ahead. “If you want to get ahead, you have to get ahead” said W. Edwards Deming. You need to challenge conventional wisdom of how to run your business. You need to develop a creative plan for the future.

As with any plan, top management needs to share an articulated aim of the organization around five years forward. This is easier said than done as it requires stepping out of your comfort zone and think outside your usual framework. By asking difficult questions of yourself and agonizing over the proper answers, you can stretch your imagination and develop an inspiring, compelling, and memorable aim for all employees to strive toward. Some examples are:

  1. What business are you in?
    1. What business should you be in?
    2. How are you differentiated from your competition?
    3. Which customers do you desire to serve in 5 years?
      1. What will be their wants and needs?
      2. By what means will you reach them? On-line sales or promotion? Electronic word-of-mouth? Some method not yet available or thought of?
      3. What will be the required delivery method and in what time?
      4. What do you have to create to satisfy those needs?
        1. Is the technology required in view or does it have to be invented?
        2. In what areas do you need to build your skill base to be successful?
        3. How can you be financially successful meeting those customer needs?
          1. Do you have a financial projection for the next year by month including cash flow?
          2. Do you have sufficient cash capital to carry out your plans?
          3. What are your expectations for profitably for the next five years?
          4. In what way can you define your market so that you can dominate?
          5. What changes are required in hiring, compensating, communicating, and treatment of employees?
          6. Are you having fun?

Once the aim is shared and enthusiastically accepted by all employees, then a strategy can be developed to reach that aim in the 5-year time frame. Involve all employees as each of them possess a good brain and can contribute good tactics and strategy. They are closest to the work and probably closest to customers. By participating in the development of the strategy, all employees are more likely to execute the strategy. They will help management keep everyone’s attention focused on reaching the aim in the planned timeframe and achieving success.

All work is a series of processes that need to be constantly improved and innovated. Business strategy is no exception. The first organization to act on a new idea usually reaps the benefit. All we want is an unfair advantage and we can get that with creative planning.

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Successful Public Speaking

Basic Business Cents

So you have been asked to give a talk; are you excited or apprehensive? It doesn’t make any difference if you prepare and rehearse properly, you will become comfortable with your ability to effectively get your message across. It doesn’t matter if your talk is 5 minutes to your church group, 20 minutes to Rotary or Lions, or an hour key-note address to a large crowd, the home-work is the same.

Harvey Mackay, author of Outswimming the Sharks, said, “The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about.” It is important to research and study your subject so that you can develop a focused message that will be a valuable take-away for the audience. But it may be more important to research and study your anticipated audience. Ask yourself what are they interested in and what are their expectations. Relate your message in terms of benefits to the audience. They are not there to hear how smart or how eloquent you are, they are there to hopefully hear something that might be useful to them.

A secret weapon in speaking is to create a mind map that can be visualized. Start by dividing your talk into three main points you wish the audience to remember. Place them in three circles on a sheet of paper and add additional points radiating from the appropriate circle. If you try to put your talk into a standard outline form, you force your brain to think serially and it just doesn’t work well that way. Thoughts come randomly and they can be placed on the proper circle as they come to mind. Keep audience interest by adding stories or anecdotes to emphasis points throughout the talk.

Having done this in your preparation, you will be surprised at how you remember this map in the delivery of the talk. You will find that you may not need notes, or at least only this one page. When finished with this map, you have the body of your message detailed and only now it is time to develop the introduction and conclusion. A professional speaker once told me that the audience will only remember three things after your talk; the introduction, the conclusion, and the stories. This is rather disheartening after you have studied your subject so hard but there is probably more truth to it that you might like. This only emphasizes that your stories must be relevant and properly enforcing key points of your message.  Stories and anecdotes keep the audience interest and, properly used, reinforce key points of your message.

The introduction should be a “grabber” to get the audience attention. The conclusion should be a memorable one-line summary of your key points that leaves the audience on a high note.

Next comes rehearsal- practice, practice, practice. When you think you are ready, ask a friend to listen to you or tape yourself so you can listen and learn. Practicing out loud is important. When you become satisfied and comfortable with your talk, you are ready for the delivery.

First of all, remember to teach and not preach; the audience will appreciate you more and you will be more effective. Pay attention to your appearance and personality. The audience will feed off of what they see of you. If you look like you are having fun, they will have fun. If you appear dismayed, they will be also. Put a smile on your face; be confident, and enthusiastic. Be animated, energetic, gesture, and be alive. Maintain eye contact and talk to the audience, not at them. Be engaged with the audience, ask for questions if you like, or use other means to get them involved. Any talk worth listening to, is worth learning by the speaker, so don’t ever read your talk. If you use slides, remember no more than three lines per slide and no more than three words per line. Use slides to emphasize points, not as an outline to follow.

The talk may be over but not your effort. Write a hand-written not to the person responsible for your speaking opportunity. Take time to criticize your performance and list what you can do to improve next time. Obtain email addresses of attendees to expand your network. If questions were raised and you are not satisfied with your answers, follow up with a short email containing further thoughts.

You prepared well by studying your audience and subject, you developed a mind map and rehearsed so you did not need notes, and you were comfortable in your delivery. You are now an effective and successful public speaker.

 

Basic Business Cents

Successful Public Speaking

So you have been asked to give a talk; are you excited or apprehensive? It doesn’t make any difference if you prepare and rehearse properly, you will become comfortable with your ability to effectively get your message across. It doesn’t matter if your talk is 5 minutes to your church group, 20 minutes to Rotary or Lions, or an hour key-note address to a large crowd, the home-work is the same.

Harvey Mackay, author of Outswimming the Sharks, said, “The best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is to know what you are talking about.” It is important to research and study your subject so that you can develop a focused message that will be a valuable take-away for the audience. But it may be more important to research and study your anticipated audience. Ask yourself what are they interested in and what are their expectations. Relate your message in terms of benefits to the audience. They are not there to hear how smart or how eloquent you are, they are there to hopefully hear something that might be useful to them.

A secret weapon in speaking is to create a mind map that can be visualized. Start by dividing your talk into three main points you wish the audience to remember. Place them in three circles on a sheet of paper and add additional points radiating from the appropriate circle. If you try to put your talk into a standard outline form, you force your brain to think serially and it just doesn’t work well that way. Thoughts come randomly and they can be placed on the proper circle as they come to mind. Keep audience interest by adding stories or anecdotes to emphasis points throughout the talk.

Having done this in your preparation, you will be surprised at how you remember this map in the delivery of the talk. You will find that you may not need notes, or at least only this one page. When finished with this map, you have the body of your message detailed and only now it is time to develop the introduction and conclusion. A professional speaker once told me that the audience will only remember three things after your talk; the introduction, the conclusion, and the stories. This is rather disheartening after you have studied your subject so hard but there is probably more truth to it that you might like. This only emphasizes that your stories must be relevant and properly enforcing key points of your message.  Stories and anecdotes keep the audience interest and, properly used, reinforce key points of your message.

The introduction should be a “grabber” to get the audience attention. The conclusion should be a memorable one-line summary of your key points that leaves the audience on a high note.

Next comes rehearsal- practice, practice, practice. When you think you are ready, ask a friend to listen to you or tape yourself so you can listen and learn. Practicing out loud is important. When you become satisfied and comfortable with your talk, you are ready for the delivery.

First of all, remember to teach and not preach; the audience will appreciate you more and you will be more effective. Pay attention to your appearance and personality. The audience will feed off of what they see of you. If you look like you are having fun, they will have fun. If you appear dismayed, they will be also. Put a smile on your face; be confident, and enthusiastic. Be animated, energetic, gesture, and be alive. Maintain eye contact and talk to the audience, not at them. Be engaged with the audience, ask for questions if you like, or use other means to get them involved. Any talk worth listening to, is worth learning by the speaker, so don’t ever read your talk. If you use slides, remember no more than three lines per slide and no more than three words per line. Use slides to emphasize points, not as an outline to follow.

The talk may be over but not your effort. Write a hand-written not to the person responsible for your speaking opportunity. Take time to criticize your performance and list what you can do to improve next time. Obtain email addresses of attendees to expand your network. If questions were raised and you are not satisfied with your answers, follow up with a short email containing further thoughts.

You prepared well by studying your audience and subject, you developed a mind map and rehearsed so you did not need notes, and you were comfortable in your delivery. You are now an effective and successful public speaker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Improving the Health of Your Business

Basic Business Cents

Everyone would like to find the magic recipe to improve his or her business. I have a secret; it doesn’t exist unless you consider thought and subsequent action a secret.  Deming said people hope for instant pudding. Kano said improvement is a hot and sweaty job.

Maybe it is not so hard if we break it down to the three major business areas, marketing, production, and finance, and then work on those areas.

All work is composed of a series of processes. There is a tremendous breakthrough when people understand their processes and then seek to flow chart, improve, replace, and/or innovate better processes.

This certainly applies to marketing, which includes sales, promotion, advertising, networking, and planning. What works and what doesn’t work? Improve continually those processes that work and stop or cut back on those that don’t work to bring desired results. You probably would be better off replacing some marketing processes as the field of marketing is changing rapidly with electronic media rapidly bringing new marketing opportunities. Be critical of your marketing actions; if you are doing something solely because that is the way it has always been, you can be assured that it is wrong.

Production is a broad term; I use the context meaning of performing the transaction of the business, the changing of input into output. It can be the assembly of a product, the performance of a service, or the movement of merchandize in retailing. Start by identifying the major processes of the business and then chart all the action steps in each process. Once you see it in black and white, you will inevitably find ways to streamline and simplify the process. You will be looking for ways to remove complexity, improve quality, and improve throughput, or simply put—better, faster, and cheaper.

Finance is typically thought of as the reporting of the results of marketing and production, but it has a bigger role. This means its processes can also be improved. Certainly it means the reporting of the revenue and expenses with the resulting net profit and cash flow. It should also detail a pro forma projection of these four elements for the next year as a minimum by month. Without this prediction of the future, it is like driving your car by looking in the rear view window. With this financial forecast, management can see the effect of their decisions by the impact on the future projection, thereby making it the most valuable management tool at their disposal.

This brings us to leadership. Leaders need to set the example by charting, improving, replacing, and innovating steps in their work processes. Leaders are the role models; people will follow their actions, not their words.

Maybe there is a magic recipe after all; it simply involves time, thought, and effort.

 

 

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Improve Your Decision-Making Process

Basic Business Cents

I have a friend who used to become so stressed when faced with a decision at work that he became physically ill. His doctor finally advised him to resign from his position and he retired early. That is an unusual case and most of us are much luckier when faced with decisions.

You make many decisions every day. Some are easy, some are challenging, and some are difficult. Some are of little consequence, and some are very important. Some of you find making decisions easy and some find it very stressful. No matter the conditions, higher quality, more timely, and easier decisions can be made with a standard process that you follow on a regular basis. Acronyms are sometimes useful in aiding our memory of the steps of a process, such as the CADET Decision-Making Process.

C. Classify the Type of Decision. Some decisions must be made instantly because time demands an immediate decision. In this case, you must rely on your experience, intuition, and training and make the best decision that you can. When you have more time, you can categorize your decision into one of three types. If it is of little consequence, you can again use your experience, intuition, and training and make the decision and go on to more important work. If it is more important or challenging, then walk through the CADET Process in your mind and make the decision.  It is useful to make a chart of the pros and cons of the decision, either on a flip chart or white board if in a group, or simply on a plain sheet of paper if by yourself. If the decision is critically important, then research the problem necessitating the decision and analyze the data collected on the consequences of various decisions.

A. Identify and evaluate Alternative Solutions. You might go to the people directly involved with or affected by the decision and brainstorm all possible alternatives. Two to ten heads are usually better than one.  More than ten begins to diminish the effectiveness of the time used and quality of input. Collect data on the problem requiring the decision. Good data always simplifies decision-making. Again, talk to the people involved and evaluate alternatives and their consequences. It is possible to do research on what others have done, both inside and outside your organization, when faced with a similar decision.

D. Make the Decision. After you are satisfied that you have sufficient data and input from the people involved, don’t procrastinate. You are probably being paid to make such decisions and not for waffling. Waffles get eaten. Remember the maxim attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

E. Execute the decision. It is wise to communicate the reasons for the decision to the people involved and to management. Remember, don’t just tell them, discuss it with them to make sure they understand and agree.

T. Test the impact of the decision. If possible, implement on a test sample and support your theory used in making the decision. If the results are positive, roll it out across the organization. If not, reenter your decision-making process armed with what you have learned. Whether or not you implement on a test case first, monitor the results to ensure you are achieving what you desire.

Learn all you can from your experience with the CADET process to improve your decision-making ability for the future. As with any process, regular use will improve your comfort and ability to get results, improve your skills, and increase your usefulness to your organization.

 

 

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Is Management a Profession?

Basic Business Cents

Debate rages in academic circles on whether management is a profession similar to medicine, education,and law. Managers like to think of themselves as professional but there are many different characteristics. Management as a profession does not have a certification examination or barriers to entry like law and medical. It has no code of conduct; it has no yes-or-no criteria.

Business management is not expertise in a narrow field but ability to integrate excellence in a number of fields such as finance, marketing, engineering, production, quality, inventory control, and personnel. This raises the interesting question, “How does one prepare to become a professional business manager?”

Three areas should be integrated into a manager’s preparation, formal education, learning from others, and experience.

Although education is provided in individual fields as listed above, the most popular formal program is the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Most MBA students have prior work experience. Each is building on a different base, learn different things, and go on to different careers. The universities recognize and build upon their experience and knowledge and use collaborative learning so the students can learn from each other. Harvard is noted for their case studies of real world situations and has been the leader in this group analyses and development of approach for solutions.

The London School of Business sent teams of students to analyze my company for several years.  We welcomed their scrutiny because we learned much from them. They expressed their views strongly and caused some discomfort to some of our people with their critique, but it was a very beneficial process and only made us better. Hopefully, they also gained some knowledge.

Another preparation step is to learn from others. This learning can be done informally by helping friends and acquaintances analyze their business problems and offering solutions or in a formal setting like SCORE®. This is a national organization that provides mentorship to small businesses at no charge. Consultants always learn from their clients so volunteering to help has dividends.

Collaborative sharing of experiences can also be informal or in a formal setting like the CEO Roundtable. This organization charges a modest fee and has a paid moderator for groups of about twelve heads of non-competitive organizations. They have monthly meetings and discuss a problem at one of the organizations, which the moderator selects from interim one-on-one meetings with each CEO. They focus on one problem each month but all gain because problems are often common from organization to organization.

Experience is the third step in preparation is experience. Always take time to analyze what you learned dealing with a problem. Develop your own theory on the best solution and compare it to what actually worked. Do not report a problem without a proposed solution so that you appear to be part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Volunteer for assignments so that you can learn. Identify the next desired position and prepare for it.

The profession of business management is indeed different than that of law, education, and medicine. Certification of qualification for business management would be problematic and arbitrary. It would be counter-productive and dysfunctional because it would inhibit cooperative learning. Management preparation must be a collaborative effort in each of three steps: formal education, learning from others, and experience.

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Achieving Job Satisfaction

A friend stated recently that his Dad worked his entire life at a job he hated. What a shame! We spend so much of our life at work that it should be something that we enjoy and receive satisfaction from doing something well and worthwhile.

Our job, our career, should bring us pride in what we do. Our accomplishments should be something our children like to talk about. Our work should bring fulfillment to our life. How do we find that work?

Let us talk first about our managers’ role in helping us achieving that pride in our work. After they hired us and placed us in the present position, they have a responsibility to help us achieve our job satisfaction and happiness. A question the manager should ask is, “Do I work in the system or on the system.” Typically, the employee is given a work process and does the best he/she can within the guidelines of that process. The manager’s primary job is to manage the process and not the employee. The employee will do the very best they can; they can’t help it. No one goes to work to do a poor job, but is often limited by his or her work processes. The managers therefore need to focus their attention on improving the work processes that will allow their employees to do better. Oh, and by the way, how does the manager receive more job satisfaction, micro-managing the employee or improving the process that allows the employee to do better? No doubt, the manager receives more job satisfaction by process improvement, which provides more productivity and pride in work by the workforce. Education, training, and positive feedback in real time also play a part in work improvement and employee satisfaction. Delegation of authority as the employee is capable and ready can give the employee an opportunity to blossom and grow.

Now for the employees’ responsibility: attitude, pride in work, enthusiasm, and happiness are all important in work productivity and quality. First, prepare yourself for promotion. Learn the requirements of the next position you desire and lay out a plan to improve you qualifications. Take advantage of education and training opportunities, learn from others, apprentice or intern, and volunteer to gain experience.

If that desired opportunity is not available where you work, don’t be afraid to seek it elsewhere. Gone are the days where we do the same job for our lifetime for most people. Most people today will have several different careers in their life as they seek opportunities leading to better work fulfillment. Technology is eliminating many jobs, social media is changing marketing and communications, and improved and innovative knowledge through electronics means is changing the work world. Display initiative and prepare yourself for change that will bring opportunities.

Money and titles are not the most important; job satisfaction and enjoyment are. Position yourself into an upward cycle of enjoyment in what you do, which leads to becoming a more productive employee, which leads to more satisfaction and pride in your work, which leads to becoming a better employee, which leads to ………..

 

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