Situation: The CEO of a small company is concerned that the loss of a key individual could seriously impact operations. Alternatives include adding an assistant to the affected department or cross training another individual who could serve as a short-term back-up in case of an absence of 2 weeks or more. How do you mitigate temporary loss of personnel?
Advice from the CEOs:
In cases like the current pandemic, planning for multi-week personnel absences is essential. Though systems are documented, subtleties of key jobs may not be documented. This is where cross-training becomes an important alternative.
Train another employee as a backup for the person in question and refresh the training every 2-3 months. If the company runs into an emergency due to short or longer-term loss of an individual, hire a replacement for the individual and have the individual who is cross-trained train the replacement.
Have the key individual and the individual who is cross training refine the ISO 9000 documentation as the key employee trains the back-up individual. This will assure that ISO 9000 documentation is being updated regularly.
Establish a plan with appropriate procedures that all positions must have a back-up. Include this within the company’s personnel procedures.
Rewarding the key individual with a bonus for selecting and training his or her back-up is the wrong thing to do. It’s both the wrong incentive and the wrong reward. Training a back-up is an essential part of each key employee’s job, not a special task that deserves separate recognition or reward.
Situation: A rapidly growing company is expanding both in its primary market and into new verticals. A number of companies are interested in strategic partnerships. How do you select the right partner in the right space?
At the end of the day it’s about a connection with the partner which extends across both organizations.
Look for cultural synergy with the other company. Do your and their managers and employees “click” or are they oil and water? This is a gut assessment.
Is the quality of people in both companies complimentary? Is there similar drive for quality and attention to detail?
Will technical integration be smooth? Are systems complimentary? At a minimum are there the right skills on both sides so that this won’t hinder the project.
Are sales and marketing approaches compatible? Will teams be able to work together? What about other departments?
You need to have strategic commitment across both organizations.
Partnerships don’t work if there is only alignment at the top. Executives can’t shove a new opportunity down the throats of those who report to them. There must be excitement about the opportunity across both sides of the partnership.
There must be complimentary competencies, capabilities and commitment.
Is there a clear understanding of the goals and objectives succeed?
Reward structures and incentives must be aligned down through the two parties. Conflicts will lead to struggles.
There must be a strategic alignment between the two organizations so that both see the partnership as complementing their broader strategic plans.
There must be a fundamental strategic win-win. The venture must be seen by each party as core to their business, plans and results. If this isn’t present, the collaboration can be drowned when a better opportunity that comes along.
Look for some gauge that the partnership is as important to the other party as it is to you. What other partners do they have? Is the size of the opportunity enough so that you are assured of their ongoing attention?
Interview with Jennifer Choate, President, Green Country Integrated Resources, Inc.
Situation: There are many opportunities to team with other companies, whether through partnerships, joint ventures or M&A. This is accompanied by the challenge bringing together different teams to succeed in new roles and tasks. What are best practices for bringing teams together?
People are an investment. Just like the stock market is not up every day, neither will be the performance of your people. Bringing people into new relationships, roles and responsibilities takes patience, work and nurturing to build skills and to get the best out of people.
Build the organizational chart of the new organization that you will build. Fill in all spaces with the individual who currently holds responsibility for each role. This means that some people will have several different roles. This is OK. As you add additional people, they will fill many of these roles.
Build a set of company or project values to guide individuals through the trade-off decisions that will drive future growth. Involve the full team in this exercise so that ownership of the resultant values is broad.
Develop and express in a consistent way the boundaries of the company or project. If Enron had had as one of its boundaries “we don’t embezzle” a crisis would have been averted.
Focus on systems and processes, not just on tasks. The core of any organization is people and relationships. These are best expressed through systems and processes, not tasks. Tasks express discrete roles, even if these may be sophisticated, but don’t encompass the richness or complexity of systems, processes or the people involved.
When dealing with people always ask “What is my role?” and “What is their role?” In each situation, work to understand the other’s perspective and what opportunity or concern they are bringing to the table. Trying to make someone into someone that they are not doesn’t work.
Particularly in a company or venture that focuses on high levels of customer service, act urgently, but avoid emergencies. You want your response to customer needs to be swift, but do not want to destroy operational rhythm.
Situation: The Company wants to be prepared in case of emergencies including water, fire, earthquake, and the possibility that owners or employees may have difficulty communicating or traveling to their offices for an extended period. What have others done to create an emergency response plan?
Advice of the CEOs:
One company developed a disaster recovery plan, including:
A communication plan.
Employees taking notebook computers home in the evening.
Data back-up and server restoration capabilities.
The plan was relatively easy to build and is summarized in a 4-page document in the possession of each employee.
What have others done to address emergency preparedness?
Daily systems back-ups.
If you use a web-based CRM, check whether they have a disaster recovery program.
Assuring that there are sufficient cash reserves to manage through 30 days with no invoicing or collections.
Drafting a full emergency plan is essential. Start simply:
Look at the obvious risks in your location.
For each that you identify, develop a back up or contingency strategy and put it in place.
Let the list of contingencies grow over time as you recognize more risks.
Start this exercise NOW.
Once you have a plan, drill the plan. Make sure that employees know what to do in a variety of emergencies so that they are prepared.
This can build the confidence that your employees will be able to handle emergencies.