Bridging the Gap of Capability – the First Step
As Eric Morecambe once said, “I am playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order!”
On the surface, you seem to have good processes and systems and a wealth of experienced subject-matter experts, yet there is something missing.
Well, there are plenty of books on business transformation and change management that lead the way on approach. The difficult part is translating the theory into what that means for ‘your’ business.
Even when you have successfully accomplished this first translation and you better understand the gaps, you are then faced with the even more difficult question of how to change those requirements into practical actions and activities - making it happen!
So, where to go from here?
A quick look around for inspiration and you spot the phrase, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’
As you tender your requirements to specialist consultancies, you start to realise the enormity of this task and the sheer cost that it implicates. You know it’s the right thing to do, but just cannot commit to such a financial burden with no real guarantees at the end of it.
Where on earth can you find resource, with the right skills and straight forward approach, practical performance improvement with the ability to ‘change and train’ at the same time?
Welcome to the world of Teal Partners
All you need is the courage to take the first step, to start the journey of bridging those gaps that will enable your business to flow and optimise performance.
Drive for Show and Putt for Dough
Back in the 1970’s in the world of Golf, everyone wanted the golf swing of Johnny Miller. His swashbuckling style swooned global audiences, gaining him all sorts of rewards and recognition around the world as the big-hitting American star, whom people would turn up to tournaments in the hope to catch a glimpse of the magic.
There is a famous saying in golf, ‘Drive for Show and Putt for Dough’. This was so true in the 1970’s, because although everyone wanted Johnny’s swing, distance and panache off the tee, the fact is, they would have preferred Tom Kite’s bank balance.
Tom was far less flamboyant off the tee, conservative in fact and although hit most fairways, gained very little recognition as a result, but the real difference came from 100 yards and closer. Tom’s expert approach play and exemplary putting skills put him right at the top of his profession, earning more money than any other professional on tour at the time, hence the saying, ‘Drive for Show’ - driving the ball well catches the eye and has the wow factor, ‘Putt for Dough’ - the more boring bit of chipping and putting is where the game is won or lost and brings the money in.
How can we learn from this in business?
In most large companies I have been involved with, there is one overriding factor that brings about the hero culture and gains most reward and recognition status, ‘firefighting’.
The team, or individual who saves the day, by pulling the proverbial rabbit from the hat at the last minute. These are the guy’s that gain the most credit for their daily work.
Although, far from swashbuckling, a good longer-term planning process can highlight the level of risk and enable timely options and decisions to be made by the Executive Team to minimise the impact.
If you imagine the cost of firefighting and all that it entails, there is a lot of energy spent across multiple areas of a business, not to mention money, i.e., extra production shifts, overtime of office staff, material costs, delivery costs, the list goes on…
And guess what, the same thing happens again the following month, and we again credit those swashbuckling firefighters for getting the result.
Maybe it’s time for a change? It’s time to put some basic longer-term planning capability into the business. A standard, repeatable (almost boring) process of risk management would be worth developing and keep most of that firefighting to a minimum and your balance sheet at the maximum.
Remember, ‘Drive for Show’ and ‘Putt for Dough’ - which would you choose?
The Serial Plate Spinner! Investing in a Balanced Life
If you can manage a successful business, take your 7-year-old to gymnastics, pick up your 2-year-old from nursery and get your 12-year-old to athletics, laptop and phone in hand all on schedule, then you know you’re on a winner for the day!
As I write this from my kitchen table, I sit down and reflect what it’s like to be a working parent with three children and the constant churn of working to achieve a balance. A balance of investment into my family and into my career, then somewhere at the end a little time for me. It’s not easy but what in life is?
From a working-class background, my parents always taught me from an early age you only get out what you put in. Investing your time and effort into something and seeing a result or an impact is a reward in itself.
I spent the early part of my career investing heavily and in doing so I can openly admit I neglected and missed out on several important family events. My career undoubtedly shaped me into who I am, which I’m grateful for. When the reality hit in the initial stages of expecting our third child, I realised something had to change. It wasn’t going to be possible to give my family what they needed or even deserved and be successful in my current position. Even for a serial plate spinner and a very good one at that, I had to sit down and re-evaluate my situation.
I wanted and needed to invest in both or have the ability to flex my schedule at the right times in order to achieve ‘the desired outcome’, for me this is a balanced approach to life. My goal to have a reasonable standard of living, not to be greedy but enough to be comfortable, with the ability to invest more time into my children to develop them as I naturally have done with the many teams that have worked for me over the years.
I’ve learnt so much during the last 2-year transition in my career from full-time functional role to a more flexible working approach supporting businesses and making improvements within their Supply Chain and Operations. Whilst I’ll always be a serial plate spinner its one that I can manage and be successful at.
Like any complex supply chain sometimes there are unexpected peaks in demand, but on the whole, being more balanced has made me a better person who is more equipped to deal with those peaks. As the business develops and the children grow the challenges will change, so it’s going to be even more important to be flexible with the ability to adapt in times ahead.
For me to achieve this it’s all about future planning, the things you can control and being agile enough to manage unexpected events. My husband and colleagues will agree and anybody who knows me will be laughing out loud at my beloved whiteboard and action lists!
By using the skills I’ve developed in business and in parenting, by applying the right approach and control methods that are appropriate to the situation, I hope to aspire to reach towards my ever stretching and challenging goal of investing in a balanced life and reap the benefits along the way.
Experience or Prejudice?
One of my small theories about life concerns people’s perception about capability, mainly personal capability.
When we are young and start to learn about life, we resemble a human sponge, soaking up information and copying the things around us, gaining experience if you like, of the things that we need to survive in everyday life.
As children, it would seem the ability to dream of endless possibilities is completely uncapped. Their fresh imaginations are free from clutter and genuinely can see everything as possible.
Getting older, even into early teenage years, there is a change. Probably using parents and peers as benchmarks, the ceiling of possibility drops and the world for these young people starts to get a little smaller.
“You’ll never be an astronaut son, you live in Peckham!”
“My mates say it’s impossible to become a professional footballer, so I’m giving it up.”
“I’ll never be able to drive, I’m rubbish.”
By the time we are middle-aged, the world has truly become a smaller place. We already know what we can do, what we can’t do (even if we have never tried), this is seemingly the application of experience.
My theory suggests that this is much more aligned to prejudice than experience!
Now I’m not talking sex, creed or colour, but more about using our perceived experiences and other people’s perceived experiences in a negative way. This way of thinking ultimately reduces opportunities to learn, expand and get the most out of life.
If you can imagine from a very early age, taking on experience as a weight you must carry. As you get older, the weight of experience gets heavier and heavier. Eventually, we can hardly move due to the weight we are carrying.
This is probably why in most cases when we are very old, we live in a very small environment, talking mainly about the things we can’t do, or won’t do with a complete lack of imagination.
What has this got to do with business life? Well, everything!
I’ve been working with large Companies that want to be imaginative, expand their horizons, challenge the status-quo, become world leaders in their chosen field.
The reality can be that when you start to work with the people and challenge their experiences, to open a dialogue of change, the responses become very closed.
“You don’t understand, I have 25-years experience and this won’t work”
“We’ve been doing this the same way for years and it works perfectly well”
“What I don’t know about this job, you could write on the back of a box of matches”
These types of comments will only serve to reduce the value of the output and make the input side much longer to wade through.
My challenge to you going forwards is two-fold;
1. Be more open minded to the endless possibilities of life, before jumping in with your weight of experience to crush what could be a great idea or opportunity.
2. For the person who quotes the 25-year experience piece - ask yourself
Is it truly 25-years-experience, or is it 1-years-experience, 25 times?
Experience or prejudice? You decide.
It’s All About the People
Changing people’s behaviour is a very difficult thing to do.
As parents, we teach our children from an early age and this gives us the experience of coaching a hearts and minds belief system or a set of values which we trust they will retain for the rest of their lives, but even starting this from birth is not easy.
At a given point in time, outside influences can take over and the ability to change mindsets become more difficult – I have a teenage son so have experienced this first hand!
When it comes to change management and making wholesale changes to a large organisation, we talk about three principal areas of change: People, Process and Tools.
Difficulties arise when you have created a set of new processes from a Central Group and you need to deploy it out to all relevant sites. My personal experience, as a Deployment Consultant, relates to the amount of push-back by the people on the local site, comments like:
“That won’t work here”, “We don’t have time to spend with you”, “You don’t understand, this site is different”.
When you hear these types of comments, you already know this is not going to be an easy journey and will probably result in schedules being late, budgets being broken and benefit realisation being compromised.
Success comes from involvement, if we are going to resolve an issue, then we do it together, we can share in its success and feel that it was ‘our solution’.
Now I’m not suggesting that a global company generate new business models or processes, by committee as that generally doesn’t end well!
However, I might suggest the following approach (even if you have the solution already in your pocket for deploy):
· Approach a site or department with some design principles, to which the business will not deviate. These are your ‘four corners’ or boundaries if you like.
· Make the statement that you want to include the Team into the design, so the new processes can be optimised, not only for the end-to-end solution but also for the site. Build some confidence that they have a say in the design, this will breed ownership in the longer term.
· Use your ‘four corner’ principles to edge closer to the predetermined design and question the Teams responses that challenge the design and applaud the design suggestions that are totally in-line. This builds the Teams confidence that they are being heard and will undoubtedly uncover some real issues and opportunities that the Central Group did not think of. This is adding value to the design and will deliver major benefits when running the initial implementation.
This approach can take double the allotted time for explaining the ‘defined design’, but there are major benefits when implementing and for the longer term, predominantly:
· When people are engaged at the design level, there is a feeling of involvement and that feeling breeds good ideas that help shape the quality of the results – this is a good thing;
· If the people involved feel they have built the design, then they are more inclined to take ownership, which will pay the organisation back in next to no time;
· If the people own the design, they will sell its benefits to the rest of the Team and push for implementation, rather than fighting it;
· If the people own the design, the likelihood of creating a sustainable change on that site has just trebled.
I have completed many process re-engineering programmes and IS configurations to resolve the process and tools piece, but nothing comes close to the reward and satisfaction that comes from working with people and seeing the change in behaviour that promotes a united front to the business.
It is, ‘All About the People’.
Human Nature Driving Productivity
If someone was to ask you what the most precious commodity on the planet was to you personally, I wonder how you would answer?
My personal experience in life has told me that most people would chase ‘The Coin’ (money), to provide the best life they can for their loved ones. This is a typical response in the UK, where success is often measured by the bank balance.
From a business point of view, the Profit & Loss is King and the balance of competing priorities (service, cost and cash) requires our companies to constantly demand more for less (more service for less cost) from our workforce.
So, a key question to answer is: How can we drive productivity, reduce costs, make more profit and simultaneously deliver the most precious commodity to our workforce?
The answer for me lies in the very fabric of our DNA – Human nature if you prefer.
Before I give you a real example, let us agree what the precious commodity is (which is not money) the answers ‘Time’. Something that no level of ‘Coin’ can buy and yet we so easily give it up, to fund our various lifestyle choices.
With our baseline commodity agreed, let us consider the following example: A company who has a large, skilled workforce, delivering maintenance contracts needs to find ways of increasing productivity. The management team believe there is a considerable amount of waste in the process, but to date have found little in the way of change management to create the results they need. Teams of different trades have worked for years on 6 days per week and projects often run over deadlines, with circa 20% overtime bill to boot.
The management style is to drive productivity targets into project management teams and get the managers to really scrutinise the daily work and push their team’s harder. This is clearly a ‘top down’ approach, which has been proven several times not to work, so what to do?
For this example, the proposal was to:
Let the workforce know that they would automatically be paid the 20% overtime, whether they work the additional hours or not - a bonus, if the critical project dates were met.
The workforce could leave on a Friday afternoon if the total project schedule was up-to-date – all trades, not just your own team, or workload.
Any breach in health and safety (H&S) by any of the individual team members would result in penalties for the whole project team – reduction in the bonus.
There were a few other conditions, but these were the main points.
Several significant changes in behaviour were projected:
a. Within 6 weeks, no one would be working 6 days a week.
Why? – Human nature suggests that if they are getting the money anyway, there is no reason to stretch the work out longer than required.
b. Within 6 months, the project team would be leaving on a Friday afternoon.
Why? – Human nature suggests that if they put the effort in as a team, they could now be working 4.5 days per week and not 6.
c. The project management team would no longer need to constantly chase for productivity.
Why? – The trade leaders would be approaching the management team with ideas of how to reduce the time required to do certain tasks because human nature suggests it would be in their interest to make the process as slick as possible.
d. The trade teams would quickly identify all those individuals that do not ‘pull their weight’.
Why? – These individuals would be putting the bonus at risk, so the rest of the team would inform the management of whom does not fit in and why.
e. H&S records start to improve, as ‘interventions’ (usually reserved for managers) are constantly self-managed by the trade teams.
Why? – If the management spot any infraction, there is a consequence to the whole team bonus. There is also a key train of thought here, which is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and H&S often does not allow this, so it must be closely monitored.
The management team said of the proposal, “Are you crazy? Why would I consistently pay the 20% as a bonus or overtime?”
The reasons and the benefits for the business takes a little time, but is as follows;
In the initial (trial) project, you prove productivity. Six days per week comes down to 4.5-5 days and the projects are delivered on time.
Once productivity is proven, you can use the teams feedback on non-team players, to reduce the size of the teams themselves.
Future projects are running with more motivated, smaller teams, with a keen eye on H&S.
The team members constantly drive productivity, whilst the total cost of headcount reduces.
Every member of the team gets more time to spend with their loved ones. Time that money cannot buy!!