June 30, 2006

How do you hear the silent voices of your employees? Employees often have their own view of their bosses, colleagues, policies, culture, day to day running of company. In fact, they have their opinion for almost everything going on in the organization. But these views and opinions are very often without a voice. These are not verbally expressed, except in close knit peer group with utmost confidentiality. But as with any human emotion, these do get reflected in the day to day behaviour of employees and many a times show in their work and the way they interact with colleagues and superiors at work. Most of the times what employees feel are mere personal opinions or even prejudices but sometimes their unspoken feelings tell an organizational story. This happens when personal opinions on certain issues become collective opinion and are felt by majority of employees. And these are the opinions which really have significance for an organization because these collective opinions may be a harbinger of hope or despair for an organization. So it will pay an organization well if it keeps its ears to its employee's heart.

Reading the silent voices of the employees can help an organization in many ways. Many a time, these can give subtle keys to what’s going on in the organization, how employees are relating to key people, whether majority of employees are getting annoyed with behaviour of a certain person, how employees feel about the new advertisement, how employees are feeling about new initiatives or policy changes, etc. Careful reading and interpretation can give enough ideas to management to constructively use these for furthering the cause of business and employee engagement, or to take timely remedial actions if things are going wrong somewhere.

But the question is how to tap into this immense sea of emotions and feelings of employees and channel them for the good of organization. I feel following measures might help organizations to decipher the silent voice of their employees:

  1. Inculcate a value system where each and every employee irrespective of position and grade is treated with utmost respect.
  2. Create an open and transparent culture where everyone can freely speak his mind without fear of reprimand.
  3. Encourage top-down as well as bottom-up feedback. This means subordinates can give any kind of feedback to any of their superiors and the superiors can give feedback to any of their juniors. The only condition being that the feedback is neither taken personally nor is it used for personal attack. It should be used for constructive purposes and to understand each other better and reflect upon one's own behaviour and way of interaction.
  4. Ensure that HR policies are aligned to the goal of making employees open up and that they encourage and reward open and heart-to-heart discussion among employees.
  5. Install proper channels of communication throughout the organizational structure to ensure frank and frequent two way communication.
So next time you are practicing “management by walking around” keep your ears close to the heart of your employees. The trick is: observe, empathize, read, interpret, and act. But never judge people!

June 23, 2006

The Marketing Story

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:21 PM | with 1 comments »

The most successful marketers tell two stories at the same time. A shiny one and a deep one.

The shiny story is easy to notice, easy to enjoy, easy to spread.

The deep story is fascinating, worth your time. It has texture and mystery and it lasts.
Profound marketing thought! One arrow, two birds! It means that you are connecting with your prospect or customer at both emotional and rational level.

Well David Ogilvy was definitely not a moron when he said, "Customer is not a moron. She is your wife". So, it would make sense if you find mental as well as emotional compatibility with you customers at the earliest (just the way you would with your wife). And what better way to do this than telling a two component story that simultaneously strikes a cord at head as well as heart of your prospect or customer.

June 19, 2006

What do you do when you are faced with high attrition rate of your talented employees? Simple, you start hiring mediocre. Surprised? Well, this is what an organization is doing of late without realizing “the axe on one’s own feet” effect it will create sooner than later.

Any body with an iota of organizational wisdom will feel that this approach is nothing sort of stupidity and any rationale organization would never take such a measure. As irrational as it may sound, I have come to a conclusion that nothing – intelligent or dumb – is impossible in organizations. When sanity gives way to insanity is hard to see, at least for insiders.

Coming to the policy of hiring mediocrity, this is nothing sort of an acute organizational myopia. As the events unfolded, this particular organization was seeing high churn of its talented people. High caliber professionals hired were not staying long. Well, the problem was three pronged.

First, the culture of the organization was a closed one with high centralization and decision making authority with only 2-3 top people. So, high caliber professionals were supposed to behave like pawns in the hands of under-qualified key decision makers. Indeed a tricky situation.

Second, the organization paid peanuts compared to other similar organizations.

Third, talented employees were not supposed to challenge their boss’ wisdom. It was considered to be a blasphemy to take an opposite stance.

So, it was not a surprise after all to see mass exodus of talent from this organization. But what really surprised me was the inclination they showed towards hiring mediocrity. Well, openly they would never say that they hire mediocrity. But there seems to be a tactic understanding within the circle of people who matter to hire mediocrity as they feel mediocrity tends to stick to their organization.

In this particular organization, the recent inclination towards mediocrity and hatred for talent is because of the following perceptions:

  1. Mediocrity comes cheaper.
  2. Mediocrity sticks because they don’t have many options.
  3. Mediocrity doesn’t challenge the wisdom of his bosses.
  4. Mediocrity has low aspirations and is less ambitious.
  5. Decisions are after all in limited hands. So you need people who can do the dirty work for you.
But then this organization misses many points that might hurt it in days to come. It perhaps doesn’t realize that soon it will find itself in the following soups:
  1. Leadership vacuum.
  2. Zero bench strength.
  3. Loss of productivity.
  4. Decline in value addition at various levels as people tend to get struck with routine and mundane work.
  5. Reduced risk taking ability and low initiative.
  6. Decline in the sum total of organization’s IQ making it difficult for it to remain competitive and agile.
  7. Rule of mediocrity.
In this new age of business, when leaders talk of competing on the strength of their people, the approach adopted by this particular organization seems to be self-defeating. But what can one do when a man is hell bent on destroying himself. God bless the organization!

June 5, 2006

Productivity, Oh Really?

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:41 PM | with 0 comments »

“Companies go to great lengths to set up lists of authorized approvals, meaning who can approve what size of purchase. But you will find that people who are not authorized to spend $100 on their own are authorized to send e-mails to people and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of company time.”

- Ed Reilly, president and chief executive of the American Management Association in an interview with New York Times

And this is what Don Blohowiak of Leadership Now blog has to say about this:

“Now, if you think about it, the average organization is a huge sieve pierced by a plethora of productivity and profitability punctures: Unnecessary emails surely, but also unnecessary and poorly run meetings, and badly designed jobs, along with associates hired to do work for which they’re ill-suited, insufficiently trained and led employees, inadequate measures of performance, brain drain turnover, “make work” programs, indecision, and on and on and on…”

Well, now I can say that all my rant on ineffectiveness, inefficiency and unproductiveness plaguing organizations and managers is not unfounded. Frankly speaking, this is the biggest irony of today’s workplace – with good intention we do more harm than by bad intention. Unknowingly, we are hampering the productivity of organizations and managers by building systems, procedures, and processes that act as obstacles rather than facilitators.

June 4, 2006

A Powerful Thought

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:45 PM | with 1 comments »

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

- Peter Drucker
This is one powerful thought that should be engraved on the desk of every manager. If all managers could assimilate this wisdom, then a lot of effectiveness will suddenly appear in the affairs of businesses. Too often – and I mean it – managers are struck in doing things efficiently that should not be done at all. It’s often like – I am thirsty and instead of having water I am meticulously eating with all the table manners in place. What’s the use of doing something meticulously and efficiently if it is not required? Efficiency without effectiveness is useless.

One of the reasons for wastage of managerial time and resulting frustrations is the way many managers do unnecessary things with extreme efficiency. If the managers develop the ability to differentiate what is necessary and what is unnecessary then productivity of managers as well as the organizations will improve steeply. And in the process, both efficiency and effectiveness will improve.

Managers who stand out from the crowd are the ones who master the delicate art of balancing effectiveness with efficiency.