Tag Archives: Culture

How Do You Manage Change? Four Perspectives

A company is experiencing change in both organizational complexity and culture as it grows. Employees feel that the company doesn’t have the same team atmosphere that it had when it was smaller. How do you manage change associated with growth and new opportunities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Change is an inevitable part of growth. Employees need to understand this simple fact. Change is tied to: age and stage of growth, changes in leadership, performance challenges, changes in customers and competition, and changes in the working environment. For example, the simple addition of Millennials to the employee pool will change the nature of a company.
  • What else do we know about change? That it is: an opportunity, filled with uncertainty, complex and disruptive.
  • Typical responses to change from staff are: denial, resistance, anger, fear, confusion, being divided about the impact of change, and chaos. It is important to understand this and to communicate to employees that their reactions are normal. They will also get over these reactions as they adapt to new conditions.
  • Denison Consulting has developed a model that represents four factors – Mission, Consistency, Involvement and Adaptability – with measures under each factor. The model provides a visual representation of how the organization currently measures up in each of the twelve factors, and provides a clear and understandable map of where the organization needs to focus to make the changes required to survive and thrive.
  • Special thanks to Paul Wright of Denison Consulting for his input to this discussion.

What’s the Best Way to Develop a Partnership? Four Factors

Situation: A company has been approached by another company with complimentary technology concerning a partnership. The other company is young and rapidly growing, though at this time they are much smaller. The two companies are already collaborating on a project. There have been hints that this could develop into a merger. Under these circumstances, what’s the best way to develop a partnership?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • It’s always best to date and get to know the other party before exploring a deeper relationship. You are already collaborating with this company, so just continue on this path as you get to know them. See how the relationship and value of the partnership develops before exploring options that could result in loss of ownership and control.
  • Partnerships and moves beyond partnership are really about culture and values. Cultural fit is a huge question that is too often ignored when companies discuss partnerships and mergers. This requires more investigation than you’ve done to date. Wait until real challenges develop, and see how the two companies respond. Do they collaborate effectively to develop a solution or does the relationship become contentious. This will tell you whether a deeper relationship is worth exploring.
  • To be successful, relationships have to offer a win-win value that surpasses the cost of collaboration. There is always a cost to collaborating with another company if only in time and effort put into the relationship. Find a way to measure this cost so that you can compare it to the value received. The other company should be doing the same.
  • If you could buy the other company right now would you?
    • If you can’t tell the value of the company based on the information that you have, why would you consider a deeper relationship at this time?

How Do You Eliminate a Them-Us Cultural Divide? Six Thoughts

Situation: A company acquired an office in a new geography at no cost – just a commitment to keep the office going. The immediate challenge is transferring the previous owner’s client base to the new owner’s service. The people in the distant location are OK, but it will take coaching for them to deliver the new owner’s level of service. However, these people are proud and resistant to change. How do you eliminate a them-us cultural divide?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Involve the person who facilitated the acquisition in the integration process. Get his opinion of what is needed.
  • Your prime commitment is to the client base and past practices that built the client base. Maintain or surpass this level of service.  As long as the team meets this level of performance, they are serving your objectives.
    • You and the key manager of the newly acquired office should meet with their most important clients. Help the manager convert those clients for you.
  • Your other implied commitment is to the manager and employees that you inherited through this deal. Educate them on your approach – “we will do all that we can to create success for our clients.” Connect with the manager, understand how this person serves clients, and coach the individual.
  • Be fair – the fairest method of managing is a meritocracy.
  • Manage by results, not process – if the core values between the two sites are similar, allow for cultural differences in local practice.
  • If all this doesn’t work and you want for “them” to become “us” you will have to have someone from the home office move to the distant office and manage it.

Would You Dedicate Staff to a Single Client? Five Considerations

Situation: A company has received an inquiry from a large client requesting that they dedicate a significant portion of their staff to that client. The company hasn’t done this in the past, and the CEO seeks advice on the advisability of this choice. Would you dedicate significant staff to a single client?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Provided that the terms offered by the client are favorable, the proposition may make sense. However, there are certain terms that you may want to assure are included in the contract:
    • In return for your dedicating choice staff to this project, ask for a substantial upfront payment – perhaps 50% of the total contract – to reimburse you for the opportunity costs that you incur committing your resources to the project.
    • Insist that the contract allows interchangeability of personnel if circumstances prevent initial personnel from continuing with the project.
  • Internally, work to assure that this project does not adversely impact your culture.
  • Talk to other companies that you know who have had similar arrangements with large clients. This will give you an understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of the arrangements.
  • Do everything that you can to assure that this project does not distract from your broader business strategy. Cash from the project may be nice, but if it inhibits your overall business strategy it may not be worth it.
  • If the employees assigned to this project are not happy with their assignment, the project may lead to unwanted turnover.

Do You Lead with Your Head – or Your Heart?

While doing some last minute holiday shopping this weekend, I noticed a book, The Spell of New Mexico, by one of my favorite writers, Tony Hillerman; a collection of essays by renowned authors with reflections of their visits to the state. Perusing the Contents I saw an essay “The Pueblo Indians” by the famed Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, whom Sigmund Freud called his “crown prince and successor.”

Jung’s essay is about a visit to Taos Pueblo in 1924-25. He recounts a conversation with a Taos chief in which the chief described his perception of the Europeans and European Americans that he had met.

“See,” said the chief “how the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”

Jung asked the chief why he thought the whites were all mad. “They say that they think with their heads,” he replied. “We think here,” indicating his heart.

Jung then reflected on the history of European civilization. Instead of seeing the “sentimental, prettified color prints” that artists painted he saw another view of European culture. “What we from our point of view call colonization, missions to the heathen, spread of civilization, etc., has another face – the face of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry – a face worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen.”

We who pursue the practice of business sometimes fall into this face. We think about technology, numbers like ROI, ROE, growth of sales and profits, and profit per employee. We don’t always consider the impact of our focus and actions on our employees, customers, business partners, and the community and world in which we live. We don’t see the bigger picture that we might see if we thought with our hearts instead of just our heads.

So throughout this holiday season and as you enter the coming year, consider spending more time thinking and leading from your heart instead of just your head. It may soften your face and actually improve both your business and your business model.

What Should You Ask When Evaluating New Opportunities? Five Foci

Situation: A CEO recently sold his company and is evaluating new opportunities. What are the most important questions you should ask when evaluating new opportunities?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Perhaps the most important thing to evaluate is your passion for the choice that you select. As you evaluate options look closely at the business involved and your enthusiasm for that business. In addition, how does the company feel to you? Does the staff and culture reflect your values? Are you comfortable with the sense of teamwork and collaboration that you see?
  • Doing a cost/benefit analysis on each opportunities, with a focus on:
    • Financial stream – financial prospects for the company as well as the financial package and incentives that you are being offered. In the case of an early stage company, what are their prospects for obtaining financing? If you will be an investor, what is the investment required on your part and what it will cost to support family until you can replace your recent salary?
    • Personal enthusiasm and satisfaction associated with each option.
    • Consult several trusted advisors throughout your selection process
  • Any new CEO assignment requires considerable work and focus, especially in the early phases. Anticipate long hours. The more that you feel compatible with the company and culture, the easier this will be.
  • Look for an appropriate balance between your personal and career priorities, and the financial opportunity offered by each option. If there is an imbalance, you will have to determine which – financial or personal priorities – you want to give the greatest weight.
  • In addition to personal, career and financial priorities, determine the most important factors that you want in your lifestyle. As you evaluate options, assess the match that each option offers to your results.

How Do You Shift Culturally from R&D to Production? Seven Steps

Situation: An early stage company needs to move from an engineering/R&D focus to a production focus. Cash availability and business plans dictate that this must happen very rapidly – within 4 months. How do you coordinate a rapid cultural shift from R&D to production?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You will need an experienced VP of Operations.
  • Operations and production engineers are a different personality type than R&D engineers. The latter are creative and seek new and more effective ways to solve problems, while production engineers thrive on perfecting a process and getting it right every time. You will likely have to adjust the team to assure that you have both types.
  • Reorganize the current engineering team into R&D and Production engineering teams.
    • A core R&D team reports to the CTO.
    • Another team reports to VP Ops and will cover product manufacturing, process improvement and logistics and QA.
  • What are the most important steps to take first?
    • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with the individuals who you have assigned to production responsibilities.
    • Get back together in small groups or one-on-one with your production group and explain that to meet the company’s objectives – and everyone’s long-term financial objectives – there must be a change. Explain the cost in stark dollars of what the failure to make this change means to the company and to the team. Challenge them to assist you in developing solutions that will allow you to meet your corporate objectives.
    • Allow some learning opportunities to arise. Let team members make the occasional mistake and use these as coaching opportunities for the group to show what happened, why it happened, and why it can’t be repeated.
    • Separate standard and special order production into two groups. Each group will have to meet their own performance objectives and metrics – but all objectives and metrics must support the company’s objectives.
    • Early on you may want to require CEO sign-off on production sheet changes, but within a system that allows you to easily determine material from non-material changes.

How Do You Target and Prospect Acquisition Candidates? Three Guidelines

Situation: A company wants to grow by acquiring companies in similar verticals that have different but complimentary offerings. The targets will most likely be boutique operations. How should they target and prospect candidates?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Before you think about either targeting or prospecting an acquisition do your internal homework. Establish your strategic plan, including strategic capabilities that you want to develop. Look for synergies within your plan, and assure that any new capabilities complement these synergies.
    • Will current customers be interested in the new strategic capabilities, or will you have to build or buy access to new customer segments?
    • Determine the leveraging factors. How much incremental business can you expect to gain compared to current business? Look at both top and bottom line impact.
    • Do a build/buy analysis to determine whether the capability is more effectively built using your own resources or purchased.
  • Leverage both internal and external resources to develop a target list. Ask what current employees may be knowledgeable of potential candidates.
    • Use your industry network to identify and gather information about candidates.
    • Retain a firm to assist you in identifying candidates. They can approach candidates from a neutral position to assess interest in acquisition.
  • It is critical to negotiate a deal that retains key talent. Founders and key staff of the acquired company must see the combination as a means to facilitate and expand their own vision. In many successful acquisitions you will see the following traits.
    • The acquiring company did not change management, accounting methods, or operational procedures of the acquired company.
    • They acted as a bank to facilitate pursuit of the acquired company’s dreams and already successful strategies.
    • They took a “hands-off” approach with the acquired company and did not try to force cultural change.

Key Words: Acquisition, Candidate, Plan, Capability, Market, Customers, Leverage, Build-Buy Analysis, Target List, Talent, Retain, Culture, Compatible, Due Diligence

How Do You Control Expenses As You Grow? Four Foci

Interview with Andy Wallace, CEO, Maxx Metals

Situation: A company, noting that business conditions have improved, is planning for growth. This means keeping current customers and taking on the next tier of customers. They are also focused on improving customer service and the customer service experience. All of this costs money. How do you control expenses as you grow?

Advice from Andy Wallace:

  • As a small business, you can’t spend more than you have. You need to focus on all expenses from supplies to workers compensation. Major expenses are inventory and payroll. You need to focus on the line items, control the little things and control the big things.
    • There are three areas that we monitor frequently: inventory control systems, overtime, and assuring that safety is first to reduce accidents and control workers compensation costs.
  • Employees respect employers who respect them and their families. Recently we had an employee who was called by school because their child was sick. We told the employee to take the rest of the day off to take care of the child. The employee was back in an hour, having made other arrangements for the child’s care.
  • As you grow your payroll, hire the right folks with the right skills. Take time and don’t rush – you need to fill the position with the right person. As a small company having the right skills is important and reduces the costs for training and on-boarding new employees.
    • Important skills for us vary by position but include solid computer and technology skills; attention to detail, as well as writing, communication and math skills; the ability to multitask and respond positively to interruptions.
  • The culture of our company is extremely important. It’s the foundation of the company and we want to perpetuate it. Culture starts at the top with the leadership as examples for the employees to follow. It can’t be “do as I say, not what I do.” Employees know who arrives early and stays late, who is attentive to details. If we don’t set the right tone as leaders of the company, we can’t expect them to follow.

You can contact Andy Wallace at andy@maxxmetals.com

Key Words: Plan, Growth, Expenses, Inventory, Payroll, Overtime, Workers Comp, Respect, Skills, Writing, Communication, Culture

How Do You Unify Culture in a Geographically Diverse Company? Six Ideas

Situation: As a company has grown to multiple sites around the world they have lost some of the culture that originally bound the company together. Many new hires are hired locally by regional managers and don’t have a strong bond to headquarters or the broader company culture. How do you build a unified culture in a company with many geographically diverse sites?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Company culture starts with a common set of values. These values should drive everything, from hiring, through on-boarding and training, to performance measurement and evaluations.  In a strong company, these values should be reinforced regularly and expressed in the day-to-day behavior and decisions of the company.
  • Look at how you hire new personnel. Is alignment with company values part of the selection process?
  • Next, look at your on-boarding and training process. Company values and culture should be thoroughly expressed and reinforced in the training process.
  • There is no substitute to face-to-face meetings to build shared company values and culture. At least once or twice a year you should host national meetings that bring the regions together. At these meetings company values should be reinforced, there should be business content, and there should also be recreational bonding component to help employees get to know one-another.
  • Consider an annual reward or recognition trip or special event, and include spouses at company expense. This creates a completely different level of bonding, and spouse involvement communicates a company commitment to the families of the employees.
  • If you have a large number of locations, you should also have a human resources department. Among the important responsibilities of the HR department will be developing uniform selection criteria, uniform training which includes emphasis on company culture and values, and assistance in planning national or multi-regional meetings.

Key Words: Culture, Regions, Multi-site, Diverse, Values, Hiring, On-boarding, Training, Company, Meetings, Bonding, Award, Trip, Spouses, HR, Human Resource