Improve Your Business Operations
By Eileen Koch
A Letter from Barack Obama to Corporate America
Ok, so this isn't really a letter from Barack Obama to Corporate America. But if it was, I hope it would say the following:
Effective immediately, please follow the steps outlined below to operate more effectively (so you are working on the right things) and efficiently (so you are doing the right things really well).
1. Always operate in cost reduction mode - Do not wait for a down economy to realize that you need to monitor expenses. You should be doing this every day. No more lavish parties, no more private jets, and enough with the huge colorful PowerPoint decks. There are simple things you can do on a daily basis to make sure you are working smart and keeping an eye on costs.
- Review your entire project roster. Reprioritize projects that bring the greatest return.
- Identify a business process and analyze it. For example, review your procurement process. Determine if you can consolidate vendors, negotiate better contracts, or eliminate services that are no longer needed.
- Review roles and responsibilities, and make sure you have the right people in the right roles
2. Run better meetings - According to Fortune Magazine, roughly 25 million meetings take place in Corporate America on a daily basis. If 30% of those meetings are unproductive and they average an hour, that's almost one million workdays wasted every day. Ask yourselves these questions before calling your next meeting:
- Is a meeting required, or can you simply pick up the phone and hammer out a discussion?
- Do you have an agenda? This is the MOST important step. In preparing the agenda, it is key to think about the objectives and then anticipate the potential barriers to meeting those objectives.
- Take notes and record action items
- Send a meeting summary and hold people accountable for the actions assigned throughout the meeting
3. Eliminate email abuse - Email can be the most impersonal and least descriptive method of communication. For many situations, having a conversation is a far more effective form of communication. It is unlikely and unrealistic to eliminate email altogether (you know how much I like my BlackBerry), but try to focus on these simple tips to at least use email appropriately:
- Do not use email for urgent communications
- Do not hide behind email on sensitive or complicated issues
- Do not deliver bad news or apologies via email
- Do not be "tough" because you are hiding behind a monitor and keyboard. If you are not willing to say something in person, do not write it in an email.
4. Make performance reviews a non-event - Companies rely on the performance review process to give employees feedback. But to gain true effectiveness within your workforce, you should give employees feedback on their job performance on a daily basis. Immediate feedback allows people to make adjustments quickly. Waiting for a semi-annual or annual performance review allows bad habits to persist. When giving feedback remember these golden rules:
- Be positive
- Establish a rapport with the person
- Own the feedback, don't blame it on someone else
- Be specific
- Focus on the impact
- Don't overstate the behavior ("You always...")
- Stick to one subject at a time
- Be timely
5. Encourage quality of hours worked, not quantity - People are working harder now than ever. I surmise that working harder does not meaning working smarter. I believe some people just like to hang around the halls to prove to people that they are "working hard". I met a woman on the campaign trail who was President of a company. She made a habit to walk around the office at the end of the work day. Anyone who was still there, in her opinion, was not working efficiently and should learn how to get their work done during the normal work hours.
6. Promote people when they are ready - Corporate America has a tendency to promote people according to some pre-determined time schedule. As a result, people are promoted to leadership positions before they are ready. Just because someone is a good worker does not mean they will be a good leader - yet. Test them in that position first and then promote them.
7. Keep politics in Washington DC not Corporate America - Employees must be allowed to voice their opinions, on everything from whether a product will perform in the marketplace to whether a project is going to succeed or fail, without fear of retribution. Create a safe environment for employees to voice their opinions. Don't promote pet projects; promote projects that will yield the best results.
8. Praise those who deliver the bad news, not those who spin it for you.
Your attention to these guidelines is appreciated. I will do my best in my new role. I expect nothing less from all of you.
Barack Obama (Not Really)
LeadVantage is a management consulting firm in Chicago. We are experts at helping organizations and managers handle change. We offer experienced business people that can help you by running projects, improving processes, building organizations and developing managers. Learn more about us at http://www.leadvantage.com or call us today at 312.701.0101.
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