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Increasing Productivity

The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.

Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.

1Internal competition

When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.

Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?

For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.

Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.

2Incentive systems

With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.

Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?

For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.

As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?

One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.

Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and senior associate at Dynamic Results LLC, a boutique firm offering strategy implementation, accountability and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for Small Business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?

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Increasing Productivity

How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency

Using the right business systems can allow your staff to become more efficient through best-practices and better process flows.

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As your business grows, the demands of running and managing all its parts increase. Fortunately, technology can help you standardise, streamline and adapt your operations in order to meet these increased demands. Let’s have a look at some of the ways in which you can increase efficiency to build your organisational wealth.

Integrated business units

It can be difficult to get a holistic view of what is going on in your business if information is floating between different departments and/or locations. Manually pulling data together can be very time consuming, causing delays and leaving greater room for human error.

Related: How To Improve Your Business Productivity And Efficiency With Help From Tech

By implementing an integrated business management solution, you can significantly increase efficiency among all your business units, allowing departments to easily share and access information. This real-time, inter-departmental integration allows you to get a birds-eye view of the performance of your business at the click of a button.

Business process automation

You can significantly save time by automating key business processes with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Accounting, for example, is much easier when details of all transactions are quickly and automatically shared between departments (no need to manually upload or download information).

Automation will enable your teams to respond to customer enquiries with alacrity and maintain optimal stock levels. Through automatic alerts and responses, relevant managers will be notified when stock reaches predetermined minimum levels. When these levels are reached, purchase orders for replenishment stock are automatically generated.

Automation also enforces consistency in your business’s day to day operations by following local and industry best-practices built into the system.

Synchronised customer data

The success of any small to medium sized business depends on getting new customers and providing excellent products and services to existing customers. Collating and sharing customer data across all departments is essential for effective customer service. SAP Business One, for example, provides the tools to track and manage the entire sales process, from initial contact and invoicing through to project management and after sales support – playing a pivotal role in customer retention management.

This complete view of past, present and prospective customers, along with historic purchases will help you to better understand your customers’ needs, behaviours and preferences. This will enable you to respond to clients effectively in order to boost satisfaction levels, increase sales, maximise profits and ultimately promote client retention. In addition, your marketing team can better plan campaigns based on insights from accurate data about prospective and current customers.

Related: 101 Efficiency Hacks For Busy Entrepreneurs

Instant access to information

You have to be able to plan properly to stay ahead of your competitors. Having access to up to date, relevant and accurate business data removes the guesswork and empowers employees to make informed business decisions. With an integrated business management system, you will be able to better manage your cash flow and stock holding with a real-time overview of current stock levels, orders in process and outstanding payments. This, in turn, will save time and allow you to better manage your procurement process and help build organisational wealth.

Who doesn’t like it when a plan comes together and things are working well? Working smarter and better – not harder – is what increased efficiency is about. Your teams will share the benefits of increased efficiency as you grow your organisational wealth together.

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Increasing Productivity

Mi Casa Es Su Casa: Achieving Positive Corporate Culture

How to achieve positive corporate culture in a group company.

Greg Morris

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According to management consultant Peter Drucker: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. And there’s a good chance of this being true, especially since studies have shown a direct correlation between a strong, positive organisational culture and a business’s financial success.

The importance of culture

Prof JL Heskett writes in his 2011 book, The Culture Cycle, that a positive culture can make as much as a 20-30% difference in company performance, when compared with “culturally unremarkable” opponents.

Culture is also a form of protection – strong competitors may be able to copy a strategy, but can’t duplicate a culture. Indeed, when things go wrong in the economy, public opinion, or even the strategy itself, a company’s culture can serve as a safeguard against these, because employees are faithful to it.

But… while culture is a remarkable thing, it’s difficult to define and attain.

Related: A Culture Of Discipline Critical For SMMEs To Thrive

The definition of culture

Company culture is traditionally interpreted from a corporate perspective, to include the principles, opinions, basic assumptions, and mindsets that are shared by a group. But these don’t hold any value if they aren’t entrenched in a company’s processes. This is why culture is also about action.

A company can’t create an intelligible culture without people who a) agree with its core values or b) are prepared to commit the time needed to.

Further, those employees who succeed in a company are generally those who most closely associate with the culture. If the principles and ideals of an organisation are shared, a strong culture can even support recruitment through self-selection.

As a result, leaders should spend as much time determining, collaborating on, and communicating culture as they do on strategy.

Culture in a group company

With different and broad-ranging companies working together, the goal of building and sustaining culture in a holding company can be trickier than in other organisations.

In cases like this, it’s critical for every company in the group to hold onto its own distinct culture, in ways that fit the greater business.

Simultaneously, the parent company should create a culture for all of the holding companies to attach to. Because, without a uniting mechanism, real integration can be difficult to accomplish.

The problem is: which culture is the priority? The composition of a group company evolves as it acquires and sells different companies, so a root culture is necessary; one that current and new subsidiary cultures can buy into.

Related: The 7 Culture Pillars That Will Skyrocket Your Start-up To Success

Where to start

  1. Develop a set of principles, behaviours, and motivators for culture, and define what these mean practically.
  2. Write a positioning statement to share what the organisation stands for, both externally and internally. For example, Google’s is “organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful”.
  3. Generate a motto that summarises your culture. Google’s is: “Don’t be evil.” In other words: do positive things for the world, even if it means letting go of some short-term wins.
  4. Communicate these messages widely and repeat them continuously. (As obvious as this sounds, many group companies make the mistake of not communicating values to subsidiaries.)
  5. Invest time and resources into smoothing out the cultural differences every time a new company is acquired. This is important because an implosion of combined cultures can cost valuable talent, customers, or worse.
  6. Teach the culture. Not just through induction programmes for new employees, but through ongoing events, reminders, collaborations, and other ways that remind people what the culture looks and feels like.
  7. Share and ingrain the group’s root culture, as an element of unity.

The heart of the matter?

Peter Drucker highlights a potent triad in organisational transformation: Strategy, capabilities, and culture. He says that all three must be created together, aligned, and designed to be supportive of one another. This is more complex in group companies but, with strong communication and high levels of collaboration, a clear and productive culture is possible.

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Increasing Productivity

Why Deadlines Aren’t As Great As You’d Think For Creative Work

Be careful about how much time pressure you put on yourself.

Nina Zipkin

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Do you ever find yourself staring down at a deadline and just freeze? There is something to be said for setting a schedule for yourself and following through, especially when you are first starting a business, but recent research from Harvard finds that when you are dealing with creative pursuits, you need to give yourself enough time to breathe, otherwise you’ll just be doing busy work instead of actually building something that is truly innovative.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Working Knowledge podcast, Professor Teresa Amabile said that during a hectic day, it’s possible to get a mistaken sense of creative energy powered by adrenaline simply because things were being crossed off a checklist.

“People who are under a lot of time pressure on a given day, actually feel very productive, they tend to feel very creative,” she said.

“But, here’s the interesting thing; they were actually significantly less likely to come up with creative ideas, or solve problems creatively on those days. They got a lot of stuff done, but they weren’t necessarily creative.”

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

She noted that in her research, people came up with the most creative solutions when they were working under low to moderate time pressure. So the next time you think about imposing an arbitrary deadline on developing new ideas, you might want to go easier on yourself.

Because feeling like you’re on a treadmill doesn’t only make your thinking more fractured, Amabile says that it also makes it tougher to find meaning in your work. So what can managers do to make sure that their employees always have time to innovate? Start with providing spaces where they can be quiet, focused and away from distractions.

“Let them understand the importance of what they’re doing, their own individual actions, and how that translates into something that will contribute to a customer need, to a societal need, to something that the company really needs to move forward,” Amabile said.

“Try to give people enough time for projects so that they can explore, so they can do that background research to get the information they need, and then so they can play with it somewhat. That doesn’t mean indefinite time frames, but it probably means longer time frames than people are usually given in most companies for most projects.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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