The "Excuse Culture"
In order for an business to be successful, the excuse culture must not be tolerated. An excellent book on the subject is "Let's Get Results, Not Excuses" by James Bleech and David Mutchler. This provides a great level of detail into the "Excuse Culture" that the author’s claim dominates corporations. A culture needs to be developed which supports action, not excuses. It is also believe that the "Can Do" attitude and creative problem solving are linked.
Deadlines will blowout if people do not have the ability to focus and solve problems in a creative manner. In a situation where a person is asked to complete a task before the next meeting, they will often wait until the actual meeting to mention something like, "I couldn't do it because…" If that same person knew an excuse would not be accepted, there would be greater incentive to complete the task or creatively solve the problem.
The "Excuse Culture"How to get things done! - A reminder system
Businesses need a reminder system. Business priorities and plans can be overshadowed by the day-to-day activities of the operation. 'Fire fighting' often absorbs us to the extent that major deadlines can be missed and forgotten.
In the perfect world, a business should develop a reminder system to help with deadlines. This would constantly remind people of the tasks at hand (e.g. launch a new product or book some advertising). A reminder system keeps everybody focused.
Management in a nutshell
Successful management is not only coming up with the ideas but also ensuring that the business implements the plan.
Sign-off on priorities
Well-managed business involve their staff and service providers in the planning process. There is no point in telling your staff or service providers what to do if they do not agree to do it. Tasks should always be established in agreement with your employees and providers. Once agreed, they should then be documented and signed off by each party.
Winning back control of the business
A performance management system is not designed to create 'Big Brother syndrome'. It is a scheme that if implemented in the correct manner could constitute a great deal of encouragement of employee achievement levels.
In any typical business there needs to be some appraisal of employee effectiveness. While naturally the measurement criteria are different in different businesses, essentially a good employee is someone who focuses on the priorities and makes sure they are successfully achieved. A good employer is someone that communicates clearly what is expected and fairly allocates resources to achieve the business's objectives.
The major problem in most business is that there are limitations in the formal systems for ensuring employees know the priorities of the business. Communication about what is expected and what is achieved are often confused. Morale problems can occur as a result.
Problem solved using a performance management system
The performance appraisal process is going to benefit from:
Listing employee priorities each week and monitoring progress daily;
Having a comments section in the program so that performance observations can be recorded.
Employee incentive programs are popular motivation tools. Incentives include for example offering a $200 cash bonus to the employee of the month or on a larger scale, offering a trip around the world at the end of the year for the highest achiever.
Incentive systems only work to motivate if employees understand exactly what is required of them to earn the reward. The criteria must be communicated and understood by participants and the measurement system must be fair, objective, and achievable within a reasonable time frame.
If the program is totally unachievable, not understood or subjective with too long a lead up, not only will no one be interested, it may actively have the opposite effect and lower staff morale.
Monitoring different departments
A typical larger business has multiple departments such as sales, marketing, production, research and development. Like any business, they have objectives to achieve to keep the business moving forward that are made more complicated by the number of different departments - each with their own plans, objectives and priorities.
In complex business structures, senior managers often have difficulty monitoring different departments to ensure they are achieving their objectives and contributing overall. In addition, data provided by different areas may not be in a format that can be reviewed and accessed easily.
In many business, communication is either confused or non-existent. Let us take an example of an business experiencing problems of low morale and negativity amongst the employees. This can often be because the employees do not feel adequately informed of what their objectives are and do not feel they have good two-way communication with their team leaders.
Having no communication system in an business can cause negativity as employees and managers alike do not know what is going on in and outside the business.
Any business that exists must have data that relates to its development. For instance, a scorecard in the sales department could be the number of direct mail letters sent out, number of follow up telephone calls made, number of appointments made, and number of sales converted or total amount of sales in dollar terms.
The problem in most business is that people forget that keeping up the activity levels within an business should lead to more sales, more customers and more products that are new. In short, more revenue and innovation.
How to increase the level of commitment from your people!
In our research of businesses, we have established that in many cases the level of commitment by employees is dynamic and ever changing. This means that on occasions it will be above expectation and on other occasions, below. As part of our experience, we have also established a number of key elements that will allow us to influence our peoples' level of commitment.
Supervisory authority - It is crucial for employees to be shown leadership and on occasions for management to exercise their authority, although not in the "big stick" sense. Human nature will dictate that it is easier for subordinates to accept an assigned goal or responsibility from a recognised manager or leader than it is from a peer of equal status. This can easily be facilitated through the development of an business chart that will allow management to map clear levels of authority and communication.
Fighting for the same cause - When all efforts in a team are channeled to achieve the same objective, it is a lot easier for people to feel as if they are part of the team, hence increasing the level of motivation.
The enthusiasm shown by a team working together will become infectious and is certain to improve the levels of commitment throughout the whole business. Through the Company Milestones, we can keep track of the major causes we are fighting for.
Public display of commitment - Recent observations have suggested that commitment levels are generally higher when commitment to the goal or activity is publicly made in front of a group of people. This can be promoted through the facilitation of weekly or monthly meetings. This is a time when individuals can not only voice their achievements but can also proclaim their objectives and current projects, setting an inspiring platform for the meeting.
People who are committed to their goals generally believe in their own ability to achieve success. In some instances, belief in your own ability is not enough, it will also take the encouragement, belief and support from management. The key is in a high belief of expected success. Team leaders can foster these expectations by training employees in how to achieve these milestones. An individual who lacks self-belief or lacks the expertise to achieve the expected success is less likely to feel committed to a goal or target.
Knowledge to exceed expectations - Some questions to ask yourself:
Have you ever-addressed self-development programs for employees?
Do you foster coaching sessions for team members?
Do you practice the much-proclaimed exercise of visualisation?
Have you ever actively tried to encourage your staff to attend seminars?
Do you support your team members in their efforts to further their education?
Do you promote role-playing exercises?
If the general answer is no, then we would encourage you to reassess the way in which you contribute to your most important asset in the business - your people.
The above exercises are all practices that will contribute to the team member's belief in their ability. Since "information is power", why not empower your team to succeed? Your subordinates will respect and feel inspired by a leader who is covertly investing in the success of his/her business and overtly investing in the careers of his/her team member.
An inspired team is less likely to abandon ship when it hits an iceberg. They are more likely to stay and contribute to the ship's survival.
Involvement in goal setting - be it a business or marketing plan, a sales budget, a production quota, or even an expected work behavior, in order to engender a higher level of commitment it is necessary to involve the individual in the implementation process. Sometimes involving all of the people who are part of these tasks is virtually impossible. In this case, it is important for your people to have a clear understanding of why you have taken that particular avenue or set particular goals, otherwise the level of commitment is in jeopardy.
The importance of effective communication channels in business cannot be underestimated.
Human Resources Management System
What are the important elements of a detailed management system?
Prepare a good business plan and compile a set of milestones.
Develop sub-milestones and project plans. Make sure you have clearly defined responsibilities and deadlines.
Establish agreed performance goals for all employees. These should include goals of the following nature:
Activity goals: Goals related to quantity of work achieved such as "make 35 debtor calls each day".
Outcome goals: Goals related to the outcome of activity such as "generate $60,000 in sales each month".
One off major tasks and action goals: Goals or tasks related to the follow up of an action plan such as "purchase a computer by the 25th December".
Regular system goals:
Goals related to activities that need to happen on a regular basis such as "write a month-end sales report".
Ensure that the goals become systemised by doing the following:
Have new employees sign an employment form that states the goals.
Ensure existing employees sign-off on agreed targets after consultation.
Send all employees an update of your policies and procedures manual. Ensure that they understand that it is a requirement of employment that they fill in a weekly action form that specifies how they progressed towards their goals and what their priorities over the next week are.
Divide your business up into teams and appoint team leaders.
Implement a system to ensure the goals and activities are automatically updated each week.
Have your team leaders conduct a weekly team meeting with each team member.
During this meeting, discuss the priorities for the week, what was performed in the previous week and what will be performed in the week to follow. Use this as a communication exercise to praise and motivate as well as encourage under achievers.
Have regular competitions, incentive programs and bonus schemes. Publish staff performance and praise high achievers.
Conduct formal half-yearly and yearly reviews that measure both activity and goal performance as well as the more intangible and non-quantifiable performance elements.
How a performance management system will help YOU!
A performance management system will help you to plan, delegate and track tasks and goals. It will lead to improved business performance, employee productivity gains and better communication throughout your business.
A performance management system can help you achieve a number of objectives.
Plan and Monitor Tasks and Projects:
Operating a business successfully means planning and monitoring the various activities and projects in which the business is involved. It is not enough simply to plan the direction the business is heading. Each project should be treated as a separate entity that needs to be effectively planned. Time schedules should be set and costs budgeted on an ongoing basis. This is crucial to ensure your resources are being used effectively and that each employee, including yourself, has a clear idea of what needs to be done and when.
Prepare Working Business Plans:
Research suggests that businesses with a working business plan are likely to achieve a 63% higher revenue growth than those businesses that do not plan. Furthermore, it has been shown in studies that the key element to successful planning is the actual implementation of the plan. A performance management system will help you to take the business plan out of the drawer and implement it effectively through better delegation and focus.
Improve Marketing Performance:
The higher the number of well-targeted marketing activities you engage in (e.g. sales calls, direct marketing, newsletters, product development), the more revenue your business will generate. A performance management system can be used to plan these activities and ensure they actually happen.
Breaking down major objectives into individual weekly priority reports will help focus on getting that newsletter, direct marketing campaign or new product launch out on time.
Manage Teams of Employees:
It is easy to keep control of one or two people. However, as the team grows in size, it is important to have a system to help manage team activities. The common symptoms of poor management are lack of deadlines, reduced communication with employees, low morale and loss of control. Performance management systems are designed to help overcome these by providing staff and employees with clear objectives and constant feedback.
Improve Customer Service:
A performance management system can be used to remind you to call your major clients at the beginning of each week, month or quarter.
Most business have difficulty focusing on the priorities of the business. This is common from management right through the entire hierarchy of an business. Assigning team leaders within groups and conducting better planning at the beginning of each time period (e.g. week, month, year) will lead to a clearer understanding of priorities.
Avoid Legal Litigation:
Firing employees can be expensive! Research indicates that 32% of businesses are subjected to unfair dismissal claims, regardless of size. To avoid litigation, you must be able to show accurate documentation of the reasoning behind your decision. A performance management system can keep track of your employees' achievements and your comments on their performance on a weekly and/or monthly basis.
Develop Incentive Programs:
Many business have seen the value in offering incentive programs to their employees. These programs can lead to a marked increase in performance. A performance management system will help you to easily administer almost any reward scheme.
Prioritise Departmental Objectives:
A performance management system can be used to monitor the key milestones of an business. A weekly or monthly departmental priority schedule can be printed out to enable teams to focus on the key priorities of the business.
Improve Time Management:
Each employee will be able to effectively manage and coordinate their most valuable asset - time. A performance management system should be designed so employees are able to formulate daily, weekly and monthly plans with clear outlines of priorities and objectives. As part of these plans, each employee should be able to quantify his or her goals and deadlines at the click of a button. This instills a new sense of urgency in the completion of short-term plans as well as saving hours of lost productivity.
Most business do not communicate effectively. A performance management system will encourage the development of teams and effective communication between team leaders and team members. Team members will be encouraged to focus on business objectives.
Motivate your staff and third Party Service Providers:
A performance management system provides visual re-enforcement of achievement levels. See the Human Resources Management section of this web site for more details.