Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Instituting a Learning Culture - an Ingenious Turn-key Organization pt iii

Act Strategically by Training Tactically

In I wrote about delegation. Teaching your executives this one skill can increase their effectiveness measurably. I also asserted that to be a great leader you should train your employees to replace you. We'll continue talking about what it takes to develop a turnkey organization: a business or department that you run, not a job that runs you.

To achieve your ultimate goal - that of creating a self-running entity that doesn’t require your constant supervision - requires you to implement long-term strategies, not rely solely on short-term tactics.  To define the two: a tactic is giving a man a fish; a strategy is teaching him how to fish. The tactical approach requires you to perform the task yourself each time you need it done. The strategic one allows you to leave and it will continue to happen without your involvement.  Your objective is to set up as many tasks as possible so they will happen without your direct involvement.

Delegation is a tactic. Instructing your managers how to train their people in delegation is a strategy. By leading your people in top-down delegation and instructing them to copy your training methods, you encourage them to think and act strategically. This is the essence of creating a turnkey organization, one that functions in your absence.

What’s the #1 Reason an Employee Leaves?

Many research firms have studied why employees stay or leave a company. In fact, pay isn’t even in the top three reasons and often not even in the top five. The number one reason surprises most leaders. Do you know what it is?

Poor management.  

It's well known among human resource professionals that Employees leave managers, not companies. For further reading on this topic, pick up a copy of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham.

So what’s the implication? Can you keep your best people if you provide good leadership, upward mobility, challenging work, and praise? The data suggests it. Guess what? These are all things you can provide your people without added expense to your organization.
As a recent McKinsey white paper shows, larger companies are also adopting more non-monetary strategies to attract and retain the best employees.

How to Cultivate Employee Loyalty?

At the consulting firm when starting a job, we routinely surveyed the senior management of our clients. One series of questions that always drew similar answers had to do with employees.When we asked why employees departed, almost all managers listed inadequate compensation, poor or inappropriate benefits, and lack of upward mobility. When asked how they were able to retain those employees that remained, these same managers reported: good pay and benefits, good company culture, and challenging work. The managers were always very confident in the accuracy of these answers.

Why Involve Subordinates in Strategic Planning?

Here's a way to forge intense bonds of loyalty in your subordinates even if the company is small, pays below market salary rates, has high turnover, and the job and industry are very difficult.  You can continue building your direct reports’ critical thinking skills by having them practice strategic planning.

Give each subordinate a copy of your business plan and have them read it thoroughly.  Then brainstorm What If? scenarios with your people and have them devise solutions.  Write down all the scenarios and their proposed solutions in your business plan. Institutionalize critical thinking in your organization to develop action plans that your team can instantly implement in a crisis.

There’s a natural gravitas, an air of stuffiness that arises when a company starts to practice strategic planning. Many executives think that only the highest ranking employees should be let in on the future view, that the whole process should be approached ultra-seriously, ultra-secretively, that everyone should walk on eggshells, and all that failure to design the right plan equals corporate death.
Balderdash! Make it fun. Be as outrageous and childlike as you can. Encourage your people to devise their own what if? scenarios and make a game of it. Give cute prizes for creativity. The best way to cement knowledge it to play with it.

By enabling your subordinates to brainstorm and solve scenario problems, you're giving them the absolute best leadership training you could.  They'll be ready to think and act on their feet when they encounter real-world problems. They won't act paralyzed as do so many managers when confronted with a problem they haven't encountered before.

A manager confronted with a crisis is a more effective leader when s/he has a plan.  And either they'll already have solved a similar problem and have a ready action plan which they can apply or modify.  In the rare event they confront an entirely new problem, they'll be so accustomed to brainstorming because of your scenario training that they'll proceed to solve it.  Eventually you won't even need to manage the process!

If your direct reports are themselves managers, encourage them to run strategic planning groups with their people. By doing this you get everybody on the same page and start to develop a turnkey organization.

Compile all the contingent scenarios and their respective solutions into an annex of your business plan to develop a truly comprehensive strategy that can serve as a future action plan - or a great starting point during crisis.  Imagine having the wealth of brainstorming when you most need it, codified into your business plan.

Having your teams brainstorm What If? scenario planning can be a terrifically valuable and enjoyable aspect of a corporate retreat.  Employees become distant when they’re disengaged and out of the loop. By having them participate in future planning, you invite your people to see the longterm objectives of the company and encourage them to help plan its future. They’ll feel they belong to the company and their work will take on renewed meaning.  What is your most prized management technique to develop subordinates?  Comment and let me know.

In the next article, the fourth and last in this series, I’ll share a way to offer upward mobility to anyone within your organization, even your line workers who might be stagnating. This Ingenious TechniqueTM will increase your productivity while saving money.  It will also develop management skills in these workers giving them leadership responsibility. Do you have a guess what it is? Stay tuned next week to find out. Until then,

profitable business All!

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