Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 27, 2014
Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio
How to tell if you're working for (or with) a company that's running on borrowed time
- The company adopts the trappings of a "lean" operation without any of the "learning" elements that made Toyota successful. The "lean" system developed by Toyota was an organic response to the constraints faced by the company in its early days, adapted to the company's method of integrating learning and continuous improvement into the process. Companies that try to cost-cut their way to success with the window dressing of "lean" operations without integrating a system for learning just end up wearing out their people and chasing the best ones off to greener pastures.
- Management holds contests for the "best ideas" shared by employees, rewarded with a small handful of prizes. Really good companies instead actively and consistently implement all of the good (and proven) ideas derived from the ground up, recognizing that the people on the front lines generally know best how to do (and improve) their own jobs.
- Processes aren't documented. Without documentation, it's impossible to truly institutionalize improvement. Without improvement, there's no meaningful growth.
- Rewards are earned mainly through seniority rather than merit or performance, signalling that what really matters is slogging through an unpleasant job -- and the distasteful work shows no signs of getting better.
- Talent is acquired mainly from the outside, rather than being developed from within. Good companies promote (frequently) from within and pollinate (less often) from without.
- Managers are expected to do skilled work at the expense of managing and developing their employees. A company that binds its managers to lots of skilled work can't really get serious about charging those managers with the task of developing their employees.
- The company contains a preponderance of fiefdoms in which managers measure their success by the number of their direct-reports. The size of the kingdom isn't what matters, but the actual performance of the group, team, or department. An individual manager dividing attentions among too many immediate subordinates isn't really going to develop any of them to their full potential.
- There is no clear organizational structure. Ambiguity doesn't negate the fact that the buck must always stop somewhere.
- Management obsesses over some particular doctrine. If there is any science to management (and there most certainly must be), it has to resemble a salad bar -- sampling from lots of sources, testing what works, and using what succeeds. Orthodoxy is for Sunday mornings.
- Management chases wildly after the "flavor of the month" in management techniques. Just because something shows up in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review doesn't mean it's the actual state of the art.
- Occasional waves of "technology will save us" overcome the company. Technology (in whatever form it comes -- computers, websites, tools, robotics, and so on) is just a means to an end, and it's usually commercially available to your competition in equal measure as it is available to you. Tested and proven technology that's a little old often beats new and untested technology that disrupts operations internally without showing real usefulness.
- The company engages in self-congratulation based upon dubious accounting metrics. Companies that have to take exception to all kinds of expenses in order to show a profit...aren't really making a profit. And a company without a profit is not a going concern.