Posted tagged ‘President Elect Obama’

Building a Team

November 7, 2008

Now that the election is behind us, the hard work for our new president truly begins. President-Elect Obama’s first responsibility is to put together capable of leading our nation. Today, he began announcing his staff with the selection of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff. This, therefore seems like a very appropriate time to discuss hiring and that is what the next few posts will address.

Executives spend more time managing people and making people-related decisions than anything else, and they should. No other decisions are as enduring in their consequences or as difficult. It is the people decisions that have the greatest impact on the cultural fabric and the performance of the entire organization.

Yet, according to Peter Drucker, the noted management guru, most executives bat no better than .333. At most, one third of these decisions turn out to be right, another third are minimally effective, and the remainders are outright failures.

Drucker goes on to say that this level of performance is unnecessary, and while we will never be perfect, there is no reason why we can’t bat closer to 1000 if the leadership and hiring executive adopt these basic principles.

  • If I put a person into a job and he or she does not perform, I have no business blaming the person, the Peter Principle, or complaining. Rather, I have made a mistake.
  • Employees have a right to competent leadership. It is the duty of management to make sure that the responsible people in their organizations perform.
  • Of all of the decisions that an executive makes, none is as important as decisions about people because they determine the performance capacity of the organization. Therefore, I’d better make these sorts of decisions well.
  • Don’t give new people mission critical assignments without very strong monitoring and guidance. Doing so compounds the risks we all face with a new employee. Giving this sort of assignment to someone whose behavior and habits you know and who has earned trust and credibility within your organization is always better. Putting a newcomer into an established position in which expectations are known and help is available is the ideal. Many small companies though don’t have this luxury. In those instances, you would be wise to monitor and guide.

Once these beliefs have been adopted, how does one become effective at making the right hiring decisions? Here are a few important steps that will enable you to select the right people for your company. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the way one should go about hiring the team.


How many business improvement initiatives can a company manage at any one time?

October 24, 2008

Operating a business in these challenging times is certainly not easy. In the last two posts, I introduced a number of strategies that make sense during an economic downturn. One of these strategies can best be classified as a sales strategy – that is, how to reignite opportunities that one would otherwise expect to stagnate when the economy is in difficult straits and businesses are adhering strongly to the philosophy of hoarding cash because “cash is king.”

The other strategy looked to the internal workings of a company and focused on how a company might best use underutilized resources that are suddenly available because sales are lagging. In this context, we discussed the development of best practices and the optimization of internal processes.

It is on this internal opportunity that I would like to discuss in today’s post.

The internal business process redesign discussion begs the question as to how many initiatives can a company manage at any given time. Is there an optimal number and if there isn’t, how does one determine how many initiatives are manageable so that business opportunities and the needs of clients continue to be addressed?

In all of my research and studies, I have yet to come across a discussion that addresses this particular question. To address this question, I will rely on my thirty years of experience as a CEO and consultant and share with you what I have learned from my experiences as a strategist.

To perform this analysis, one must:

  • Understand your company’s strategic goals
  • Define what tactics are required to support these strategic goals
  • Establish what each department must do to achieve the strategic goals
  • Determine the time and effort required by departmental staff to support the achievement of the core goals that essentially enable the company to deliver value and stay in business

What remains after performing this analysis is the amount of time available for personnel to address new improvement initiatives.

In other words, this analysis is predicated on assessing the company’s priorities and the core roles that must be fulfilled. After all, customer support personnel must perform their support function or the company risks client defections. Sales and relationship professionals must be engaging prospects and customers to assure growth. Accounting and internal support staff must make certain that the infrastructure exists so that the organization can run efficiently. These are the prime functions of these departments.

So is there an optimal amount or maximum number of initiatives a company can manage? As best as I can tell, the number of enterprise-wide initiatives that a company can swallow is typically between one and three. (Note added 11/09/08: Interestingly, several weeks after this post was written, the Obama Transition Team was enagged in a similar conversation and may have reached a similar conclusion.)

The reason that I believe this to be so is that I have concluded that most people have a difficulty managing more than five significant goals or projects simultaneously at any given time. And if one considers that the average person has two or three core functions for which he or she is accountable, this only leaves so much space for professional and organizational development without impacting the core responsibilities that each of us have.

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