Tag Archives: Change

What are the Keys to Successful Strategic Change? Six Foci

Situation: A company wants to execute a strategic shift in direction – taking it into a new business which will diversify its offering to customers. The CEO needs to assure that everyone is on-board to both speed the shift and minimize cost. What are the keys to successful strategic change?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Be front and center with your vision. State the vision clearly, in terms that everyone will understand. Focus on the benefits of the change for the company and employees and be realistic about the challenges involved.
  • Be enthusiastic. This is critical to all change efforts. Be cheerleader as well as leader.
  • Plan ahead and begin to communicate well in advance of the anticipated change. Plant seeds and encourage the team to generate options or solutions. Give all levels of the organization the opportunity to become involved and participate in both design and implementation of the change.
  • Be consistent in messaging and support across the team. Don’t vacillate or promise what you can’t deliver. Employees will watch for the presence or absence of consistency. If it’s absent, they won’t join in.
  • Conduct scenario analyses. This enables you to try out different futures and implementation options.
    • Identify critical issues. Look at possible results – first consider the “most likely”, then “best” and “worst” possible outcomes. Considering best and worst generates new alternatives, and improves the perspective on the most likely outcome.
  • Conduct visioning exercises. Create a graphic vision of possible futures.
    • This increases group participation and sparks creativity.
    • It improves group function, thereby enhancing results.
    • Visual representation is more memorable than standard bullets and lists.
  • Special thanks to Jan Richards of J G Richards Consulting – jgrichardsresults.com – for her insight on this topic.

How Do You Respond to Market Changes? Three Options

Situation: A company has a successful product, but the market is changing. Previous customers were savvy, but the market is shifting to more naïve customers who don’t understand how to use the product. How so you respond when the market for your product changes?

  • What you are seeing is a typical market evolution. (See Clayton Christensen’s book Crossing the Chasm.)
    • When a new product is introduced, early adopters are typically savvy users who quickly grasp the utility of the product. They don’t mind some inconvenience provided the product is useful.
    • As the market matures and starts to attract mainstream customers, new users will not be as sophisticated and expect the product to be easy to use.
    • If you don’t adapt to these new customers your product will languish as new competitors enter the market with user-friendly adaptations.
  • The path is clear. Figure out how to make your product easy to use. If you use a GUI (graphic user interface) make the GUI intuitive. Allow customers to get what they need with as few choices or clicks as possible.
    • These changes may alienate more sophisticated customers, but they usually only represent a small segment of your potential market.
  • Add a customer-friendly service component. This builds a service income base around the product. You have different options.
    • Align the customer with appropriate level of resource – you may not require high level resources to assist the customer, particularly if the product is one where the service consultant only needs to be one page ahead of the user.
    • Outsource the service component to a partner or use independent contractors.
  • Consider a remote monitor system:
    • A dashboard interface with easy to read visuals or messages that tell the customer when service is needed. This will enable them to perform simple maintenance using your tools, or alert them when they need to contact you for service.
    • An example is Norton’s evolving system of products that enables an unsophisticated home computer user to either use Norton tools to perform routine maintenance, or directs them to the Norton web site for assistance or more sophisticated solutions.

How Do You Shift from Craft to Lean? Four Steps

Situation: A company has an engineering structure which emphasizes function over cost. As a result, there is little collaboration between design and manufacturing, and little design for manufacturability or cost control. This contributes to a last-minute mindset and expensive solutions. How do you shift design engineering and manufacturing from a craft to a lean mindset?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Changing how people think and act may also mean changing people. Are you prepared for this? If not, then it may be difficult to achieve the change that you desire.
  • Let’s use a mindset change in another area – sales compensation – as an example. In this case, the sales team had previously focused primarily on revenue, with no incentive to drive margin. This impact was continuously eroding margins, though the company realized revenue goals. The mindset was changed by introducing a new system with dual incentives: to retain their position, a sales person had to hit at least 85% of their revenue target, however commission was based completely on the gross margin from their sales, with a bump in commissions when they hit 100% of their revenue target. This system drove both revenue and margin targets and was very successful; however, the company lost a few sales reps who couldn’t make the adjustment.
  • Transferring this lesson to the engineering situation, design an incentive structure that drives both function and low cost manufacturability to achieve both targets simultaneously.
    • Task your VPs of Operations and Manufacturing – and the key managers of your design and manufacturing teams – to create a dual incentive system that meets both function and manufacturability objectives. Measurements may include:
      • Actual vs. initial estimated manufacturing costs.
      • Margin on final product.
    • Once the parameters are developed, clearly communicate these to all affected employees up front to set clear expectations for the future.
    • Incentivize your VPs and key managers jointly on collaborative efforts and their ability to develop joint solutions.
  • Another solution which will speed the process – put design and manufacturing engineering in the same work space instead of separating them. This encourages the teams to work together.

How Do You Introduce a New Solution Without Asking for a Change in Behavior? An Approach

Interview with Kiran Kundargi, CEO, Apsora

Situation: A company seeks the best way to introduce a novel health monitoring solution. The challenge is that people don’t want to change their routines. If you can creatively fit into existing routines with minimal behavior change this facilitates adoption. How have you introduced a new solution without asking for a change in behavior?

Advice from Kiran Kundargi:

  • As the population ages health care costs rise. A solution that can reduce healthcare costs while allowing more seniors to remain in their homes this can significantly reduce health care costs. The sticky part is making this solution a part of the elder’s and their family-caregiver’s daily routine.
  • Our solution is to seek the low hanging fruit – post-hospital discharge recovery at home. Seniors who have been discharged from the hospital following treatment or surgery often receive strict instructions to take their medication, adjust their diets and engage in regular exercise. This requires changes in the senior’s routine, and non-compliance is a leading cause of readmission.
    • Effective October 2012, Medicare will stop paying hospitals for readmissions that it deems avoidable. This forces hospitals to take a more active role in follow-up care following discharge. Our online health monitoring service, Nclaves, provides a low cost solution.
    • Nclaves facilitates communication between the elder and his or her children and grandchildren using Internet and hand-held technology. This enables family to help their senior comply with post-hospital instructions.
  • We approach this opportunity in four phases.
    • We start by using the Internet. We have made our solution easy for physicians and hospitals to find. Internet activity is supplemented with presentations to monthly meetings in hospitals. By acting as an information resource on the change in Medicare regulations, we can introduce our solution to those who will suggest it to patients. Early adopters will enable us to build case studies demonstrating both technical viability of our solution, benefit provided to patients, and impact on readmission rates and cost of care.
    • Next, we will approach large employers. Employers understand that increases in hospital costs will adversely affect the cost of insurance benefits for their employees. We want them to include Nclaves as part of their employee health and wellness programs.
    • The third step is insurance companies. These companies have the leverage to specify and suggest options to both patients and providers.
    • Our final step is broad market acceptance. Once both payers and providers are on-board, we will be ready to work through alliances, the Internet and broader public relations and advertising campaigns to build market acceptance.

You can contact Kiran Kundargi at kkundargi@nclaves.net

How Can You Use Web and Mobile Tech to Bridge Different Worlds?

Interview with Jason Langheier, MD, MPH, Founder and CEO, Zipongo

Situation: The Internet and social media provide opportunities to bridge seemingly distinct worlds through common interests. For example, grocery chains that sell healthy foods and health insurance companies might be brought together through a common interest in healthy eating habits. How can you use web and mobile technology to bridge these two worlds?

Advice from Jason Langheier:

  • Interests and industries which are at first glance distinct can be brought together using the power of the Internet and social media. For example, Let’s Move and the Partnership for a Healthy America have nudged national food retailers and grocers to improve the health of their offerings in an effort to fight childhood obesity. Success here can benefit health insurers because obesity leads to increased healthcare costs through its link to diabetes and other complications. The potential of subsidies from health insurers to promote and generate healthy food choices is interesting to food retailers, but requires new incentive and recommendation systems.
  • We want to help people harness their motivation to build lasting new eating and activity routines. We do this through rewards based commerce, supported by social networks and gamification to help reach one’s health goals. We focus on choices that people make in daily living like grocery and restaurant choices and physical activities. We highlight alternatives, create simple recommendations, and make it easy to act on those recommendations. We encourage repetition of positive choices through a feedback loop which is tailored to the individual.
  • Commitments made within a social network are more likely to stick than promises to self. We leverage existing social media networks and offer incentives for referring friends. Friends help friends make better choices by encouraging them to read labels and buy healthier foods at the moment of purchase.
  • It is important to keep the user interface simple, especially at first. Many of the most successful applications initially present simple yes-no choices. From a tracking standpoint, this also minimizes variables and improves data measurement. Featuring high contrast action buttons on our site also helps prompt decisions.  There is a sweet spot on a commerce site between presenting an overwhelming array of options, and too few choices – which we assess through A-B testing.  By starting simply and building complexity slowly we build a baseline control scenario, then vary choices simply off the baseline to improve results.
  • The entrepreneur seeking to truly achieve a social mission must plan for both the short and long-term. In the short-term, it is critical to build milestones which will demonstrate financial feasibility and sustainability for potential investors. However a long-term perspective is also essential, particularly when one is interested in long term behavioral and economic impact.

You can contact Jason Langheier at j@zipongo.com

Key Words: Internet, Social Media, Food, Insurance, Health, Common, Interest, Software, Bridge, Entrepreneur, Partnership for a Healthy America, Incentive, Tracking, Reward, Commitment, Behavior, Change, Friend, Simple

How Do You Bring A Long-Term Employee Back On-board? Three Thoughts

Situation: A company has a long-term clerical employee. While this individual has handled a wide range of responsibilities, they have not significantly grown their skills even though cumulative yearly pay raises put this individual on the higher end of the company pay scale. Increasingly, the individual is refusing to do work requested. In your experience, what can the CEO do to get this individual back on track?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Recently the CEO hired a personal assistant. The position was offered to the individual in question but declined because of hours and expectations. The personal assistant has supplanted much of the contribution that this individual historically made to the company. They are likely hurt by the resulting reduction in their role. This may explain the refusal to do certain tasks that used to be routine.
  • To have the best chance of recovering this individual, it is important that your approach be positive, not punitive.
    • Instead of going over performance variances in your next review, bring the individual into your office and let them know that “we need you.” Present a vision of the company and its future growth. If the individual shows a willingness to turn around, take them into your confidence and show them your plans. Ask them what role they see for themselves in the organization chart.
    • Simultaneously, be frank. The company has changed and is poised for growth that was not possible two years ago. Tell the person you want them on the team and set forth long-term goals. Establish and agree on objectives for 90 days and measure from this meeting forward.
    • Either the individual will rise to the challenge or will let you know within the 90 days that the company is no longer the place for them.
    • The key point is that this must be a caring and heartfelt discussion.
  • Analyze how this situation arose so that it isn’t repeated with other employees.
  • Hire for both current skills and the potential for growth. Develop new and existing staff in line with plans for growth. This is how you achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people.

Key Words: Team, Long-term, Employee, Growth, Responsibilities, Change, Review, Role, Objectives, Goals, Selection, Educational assistance

How Do You Communicate Benefits Changes After Being Acquired? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A company was recently acquired. The acquirer wants to merge benefit structures between the two entities. While company contributions are similar, distribution of benefits between retirement plans, health plans, and other benefits between the entities varies considerably. How do you approach the staff about the changes in a positive manner?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Ideally, you want to survey employees on what is and is not important to them about their benefits before the package is finalized. This will help you negotiate on your employees’ behalf.
  • Ask the acquirer whether a “cafeteria” benefit program is feasible. This would allow your employees to make choices among benefit options, and to fund these choices either at a company-paid base level or to supplement their choices through payroll deductions.
  • Inform the acquiring company of your state’s regulatory policies on state-specific benefits.
  • Once the new benefit package is finalized, ask for assistance communicating the new package to your staff. Create a simple and concise grid for the program:
    • Amount of company contribution,
    • Old program and benefits,
    • New program and benefits,
    • Use the grid to demonstrate that while the allocation may be different, the company contribution remains the same and the total value of benefits offered is unchanged.
  • If you know that a highly valued benefit is being reduced, consider a short-term subsidy to ease the shift.
  • Be clear about decisions that your employees must make in the new program.
  • If you have access to industry or regional comparisons for like-sized companies, you may wish to share these.

Key Words: Acquisition, Benefit Structure, Change, Employee Input, Cafeteria Plan, Options, State Requirements, Short-term Subsidy, Comparison

What is an Agile Leadership Paradigm? Three Perspectives

Interview with Jorge Titinger, CEO, Verigy, Inc.

Situation: The environment has become more complex for leaders. Not only must leaders perform classic roles, they must also deal with increased uncertainty and change. How do you build a new leadership paradigm to address ongoing change?

Jorge Titinger’s Advice:

There are three challenges facing leaders today.

  • First, given that change is constant, what does the next likely settling point look like in your environment look like and how is this different from past settling points?
    • Everything starts with the people.
    • Once you determine the likely next settling point, do a capability inventory within your leadership team to determine whether you have the right people to handle the new reality.
    • Can current members be trained?
    • Do you need to bring in new talent?
  • Second, are your processes limiting or enhancing your flexibility?
    • Do current processes encourage adaptability and cross-functional connection and communication?
    • If not how will you change them?
    • Deconstruct/reconstruct all critical processes to make them more agile.
  • Third, how are you linking desired outcomes with rewards and incentives within the company?
    • Growth in the past focused on building up infrastructure – adding more people and capacity.
    • Knowledge management focused on tools and processes to make people more effective. Individualized assessment and reward structures became an obstacle and had to be shifted to emphasize the importance of collaborative versus individualized performance.
    • Agile leadership and management focuses on reaching outside the boundaries of your own company. To deliver differentiated value suppliers and customers must be included in the exercise. We must reinvent how we engage with suppliers and customers so that they are part of the collaboration.
    • The agile paradigm focuses on the unspoken needs of suppliers and customers. This takes the conversation beyond the transaction and includes quality, on-time delivery, and other differentiators that are mutually important. It can include competing for your competitors’ suppliers by being a better customer!

You can contact Jorge Titinger at jorge.titinger@verigy.com

Key Words: Agile, Uncertainty, Change, Paradigm, People, Training, Talent, Process, Communication, Reward, Incentive, Supplier, Customer

Can do You Change Culture Without Losing Key People? Five Ideas

Interview with Cameron Tuck, CEO, ImperfectCEO

Situation: A mid-sized Company is more than three decades old. The challenges are modernizing operations and updating company culture to keep pace with customer expectations. They also need to diversify into new growth markets. Can they change the culture of the company without losing key people?

Advice:

  • Let people know that you value them. Consistently express your appreciation for what they do for the company, and don’t blame them for not being perfect. For them to be willing to grow as company culture changes, they need to feel safe – to understand that a change in culture does not mean the loss of their job.
  • Give employees consistent face time. Ask questions and seek their solutions instead of proposing your own. Involve them through collaboration. Tolerate the fact that their solutions won’t be exactly like yours.
  • Pick your battles. Select what you want to change and conserve your emotional capital. Think about what’s important and what’s not before you intervene. Let minor issues slide as long as they don’t impair schedules or performance.
  • Maintain an open door to all levels of the company. However, when an employee comes in with an issue or complaint, defer judgment to their manager. Never undercut your managers.
  • Your most important strengths will be patience and understanding. Stay mindful that change can be threatening, particularly if employees find it hard to see the big picture. Keep your themes and messages simple and repeat them as often as necessary to keep everyone focused.

You can contact Cameron Tuck at imperfectceo@gmail.com

Key Words: Culture, Modernize, Change, Collaboration, Delegation, Messaging 

How do you Maintain Morale in the Face of Uncertainty? Three Guidelines

Situation: The industry is changing and the Company must adapt both structure and focus. This may require a layoff of staff not aligned with the new focus. How do you maintain morale in the face of uncertainty and possible layoffs?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Ask for employee input as to industry trends and what possible directions for the company.
    • Employees are closer to the customer than the CEO and have valuable insights.
    • Gather input in small group meetings to prompt discussion and ideas.
    • Make this a research talk. Leverage the “wisdom of the crowd.”
  • Research other industries that have undergone similar changes.
    • What strategies did the most successful companies pursue? Could these work for you?
    • If faced with protracted uncertainty, what did they do while waiting for market clarity?
  • If a layoff is necessary, conduct it in one day:
    • Monday is better than Friday.
    • Do it early in the day. Give final checks the day of the layoff.
    • Provide instructions for filing for unemployment assistance via the Internet.
    • Hold a company meeting for remaining staff immediately after the layoffs. Focus your message on the future and positioning the company for the future.
    • Prepare a brief summary of your message, to distribute as a take-away.
    • Be prepared for a grieving process following the layoff. Consider outside assistance on grieving to overview the process.
    • Following the company meeting, have key employees conduct smaller group meetings to lead discussions and allay fears about the layoff. Fully prep these individuals about the situation with written responses to likely questions.
    • The benefit of a Monday layoff is that you will see everyone on Tuesday, and the team can continue to address their concerns.

Key Words: Strategy, Layoff, Change, Morale, Employee Input, Analysis