+91-80-42023484 contact@sincera.in
Five Critical Components of Business to Ensure Operational Excellence – Business Operations Performance Management

Five Critical Components of Business to Ensure Operational Excellence – Business Operations Performance Management

In the day-to-day busyness of business, it is very easy to get mired in transactional stuff and lose sight of your mission and the reason you are in business and why you do what you do. How much more effective the organization would be and how superior the results if every person working on every task in the company can link it upwards stage by stage to the overall vision for the company ? If the person went home every day with a sense of fulfillment through finding Meaning in Work and knowing that his/her work contributed to a higher purpose? A shared vision is a very powerful motivator for people and operational excellence is possible only when there is a critical mass of people for whom business is personal.

Wishful thinking? Not really, when you consider that many studies have proved beyond a doubt that meaningful work leads to personal happiness, professional success AND profitable growth for the organization that provides this (clarity of vision, mission and inter-linkage to the efforts at ground-level).

So, how do you align your day-to-day business operations to ensure that you and your people are finding meaning in work? It all comes down to how well you have thought through, communicated and implemented these components of business:

Business Component #1: Vision Statement – A vision statement has the potential to become a rallying cry, a clarion call to unite every person in the company towards a higher purpose. Too often, vision statements are not clear enough or even inspiring enough to really become the powerful tool that it can be. Consider Nelson Mandela’s statement – “one team, one country” or Microsoft’s in the 90s – “A computer on every desk and in every home; all running Microsoft software.” A bold, definitive statement that shows people the destination and the purpose of their work is the starting point for everything. Coupled with a clear guidance on values and desired behaviours, a great vision statement can truly work to drive excellence in the organization. Read how Zappos.com CEO focused his team from “needing to motivate people to get things done” to “inspiring them to want to do things beyond expectations” (and so successfully) here.

Business Component #2: Strategic Planning – This is the next step, moving from the “where” to the how. A good strategic plan provides the map to achieve the vision. Working through the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, it should outline the actions that need to be taken to meet the goals. The plan should have clarity (admittedly difficult in the flux that exists in business today) and well-defined accountability and timelines so that it becomes clear and easy for everyone in the company to enable them in the decisions they need to make today to arrive at  to where the organization needs to be tomorrow. You will know if your strategic plan is clear if people around you understand what the story is – what leadership wants to do. Also, a strategic plan is not just about the future, referred to regularly, it can also be quite useful in assessing the current issues that are causing problems. Have a long-term strategy but refresh the plans operationally in shorter term periods so that the plan remains achievable and is not completely disconnected from reality.

Business Component #3: Budgeting – I call this “putting your money where your mouth is” or walking the talk. There is no point having a strategy if you are not willing to invest in it. This is where strategic planning gets transformed to operational realities. The budgets should be completely aligned to the strategic plan and not just the target numbers – in the short term and the long term – and thus serve as the guideline for communicating and executing on the business strategy. Break down the budget into tasks with timelines, identify the stakeholders best suited for each task, align existing processes and design new processes to ensure sustainability in advance. Assign accountability within the organization not just at the senior levels but right up to the front-line staff to ensure everyone knows and is signed up for the budget.  This helps in providing a clear line of sight for achieving the budget and hence the vision while building confidence in the budget within the organization itself.

Business Component #4: Measurements or Metrics – Numbers keep you honest provided they are not manipulated. Metrics help measure the effectiveness of the plan and the execution but is important to measure what is important :). Care must be taken to set metrics that actually drive the desired behaviors and do not risk people running after the wrong goals. The choices of key metrics need to be reviewed periodically – business is dynamic, why should metrics remain static? What makes sense to measure in today’s scenario may be irrelevant tomorrow. Also, it is not enough to measure, you also need to act. No metric is useful unless there is an action plan that arrives out of it and is communicated and implemented with urgency. Otherwise, a metric becomes just another number on a report that nobody pays attention to till it is too late. Metrics also serve the purpose of “milestones” or “scoreboards” for your vision to keep a track of the successes along the journey, create competitive spirit  and very importantly, serve as reasons to celebrate wins along the way.

Business Component #5: Execution – And finally, the most difficult part of the process – execution and execution at the speed that is needed. Larry Bossidy, the former CEO at Allied Signal, Inc. and Honeywell, and the co-author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, said it like this: “Corporate strategies are intellectually simple; their execution is not. The question is, can you execute? That’s what differentiates one company from another.”  I have written about getting things done in complex organizations earlier – the point in this context is injecting the right “dose” of urgency into the organization. Spread energy and enthusiasm into the organization through the execution phases to generate alignment, urgency, and engagement in a majority of employees in the organization – to answer the “what is in it for me” question and to make the work “personal” and hence drive operational excellence through meaning.

The common important thread through all the above is of course, the culture that is built, lived and sustained throughout the organization – without the right culture, you may set everything up perfectly but the desired outcome will be far from reality. If people do not feel they have a safe environment or that there is mutual trust and respect, the energy gets drained out battling office politics, pacifying egos management and conflict management. There is no energy left for people who wish for meaning in their work, look for it and work towards it in their everyday activities. Operational excellence becomes a mirage. As Louis Gerstner said – ‘I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.’

What have you seen worked in finding meaning in work in your organization? What vision statements do you think are great examples? How do you give meaning to your own work? I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/4395780325/

Five Toxic Employee Attitudes that should be Banned from the Work-Place – People Barriers to Operational Excellence

Five Toxic Employee Attitudes that should be Banned from the Work-Place – People Barriers to Operational Excellence

Do you sometimes look around you at work and think you are in the middle of a role play game with quite a few characters that play the same roles again and again? I do and not being a very patient person, it does take a lot of effort for me to keep my mouth shut and continue to stay in MY character and play the game. For that is what the corporate world is – a game. And even if you don’t want to play the game, you need to know the game and know the characters very well to achieve what you have set out to do. In my case, it is operational excellence. Your objective could be something else but you would agree with me that it would make our workplace much more pleasant and energetic and reaching business goals that much easier if some Toxic Employee Attitudes were left out at the door. So much of organizational success depends on the culture that is prevalent in the organization. I have written about the part that leaders should play or not play in the past and today’s post is for the rest of us. To be really effective at work, we have to know and understand the people we work with. Each one of us at work has a responsibility to ourselves and to others to not indulge in toxic attitudes and behaviors at the work place. Life would become so much simpler (albeit less dramatic) then.

Here are the five most common Toxic Employee Attitudes that I have seen block personal and professional growth at the work place – let me know if I have missed any:

Attitude #1: It’s not my job or Take No Initiative –

Such people specialize in advice. They can spend hours discussing how Mr. /Ms. So-and-So (especially those in management) are not doing their jobs and if they are, how they should actually be doing this much better. They are experts in their knowledge of who could or what could be better – and the more they know and discuss, the better they feel. And no, they don’t spend time debating on how they could contribute or help. Wouldn’t it be great if they actually used this knowledge to take initiative themselves to actually go and volunteer to DO some of these things, that they know so much about, themselves ?

Attitude #2: I know who is pulling the strings and why or the Conspiracy Theory –

The intelligence agents who think that there is a sinister agenda behind every move in the organization – they thrive on drama and love sharing their inside intelligence with people on their latest theories on how management is out to get them. This one is actually fallout of less than transparent communication from the leadership teams which provides fodder to some people to create stories and scare the living daylights out of people around them. Fear and confusion are not conducive to performance and productivity. Wouldn’t it be great if these people took this particular brand of creativity outside the workplace and wrote thriller novels that I am sure we would all love to read?

Attitude #3: What is the point or We can make No Difference –

Most commonly seen in people who are unhappy with their jobs for whatever reason, this attitude is a complete dampener for people around them who love their work and are passionate about what they do. They do not believe in positive outcomes and spend time curbing the enthusiasm of those that do. If you are unhappy and still choose to stay on, it is your choice. Now that you have made that choice, do you want to spend your time in doing mediocre work for work’s sake or try to inject a dose of excellence in whatever you do and become happier by the day? And let others do their best work in peace?

Attitude #4: I cannot/will not move forward and I will do my best to pull you back too or the Frog in the Well –

I don’t understand the reasons behind this attitude myself – on why someone would want the opposite of a win-win situation. But I see this very often, common symptoms are – share no credit, slander and back-stab at the first opportunity; sabotage any work that one does not directly own, etc. Why? Why? Why? Why would you want to pull down people when you can help push them up and maybe rise yourself too? Beats me but please stop doing this – you are sabotaging yourself in the long run.

Attitude #5:  Who me? I didn’t say/do anything or the Passive Aggressive behavior –

This is a very difficult attitude to identify or nail down as such people hide behind the smoke (And I am not being dramatic). Look for these people in meetings and conferences – no response to requests for question or feedback but the moment the meeting is over, you can find them with an audience around them near water coolers, coffee tables or whatever the organization version of that is. This is wrong, that is a bad plan, I know this will not work, we are doomed – you get the drift. Such people don’t speak up when they are given the opportunity to but are very vocal behind the scenes. And even more dangerous, sometimes very quietly block, hinder or just delay their part in the work flow. If you don’t like something or you don’t support a decision – can you please speak up? Chances are that your feedback could be very critical and help influence the decisions or change things the way you want.

We could do so much more if we learnt to respect ourselves and others at work.  Not see each other as adversaries but as fellow travelers – united to work for a common goal. As Howard Schultz, Founder & CEO of Starbucks says – Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievement of man.  The euphoria is lasting when all participants lead with their hearts, winning not just for themselves but for one another.

Do you think I am being very harsh or did you find yourself nodding your head along the post identifying the characters that you encounter in your organization? What do you think each of us can do make the corporate culture less toxic and stifling? What behavior’s do you think impede you in your journey to excellence at work? I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/3360561033/

Five Key Characteristics of Good Project Governance: Towards Better Decision Making

Five Key Characteristics of Good Project Governance: Towards Better Decision Making

Effective project governance is in demand now more than ever before. According to studies, more than 80% of investors now are willing to pay a share price premium for well-governed organizations. Why? Because Governance addresses the needs to establish structure, hierarchy, sponsorship, ownership, accountability and communication to support enhanced consistency in execution, ownership and delivery. When governance is working correctly, decision-making is no longer the stalling point and the organization performs at an optimal level.

Decisions are the coin of the realm in business. Every success, every mishap, every opportunity seized or missed stems from a decision someone made or failed to make. Yet, in many firms, decisions routinely stall inside the organization, hurting the entire company’s performance. The culprit? Ambiguity over who’s accountable for the decisions. (Harvard Business Review by Rogers and Blenko, 2006)

There are multiple definitions available for ‘Governance’:

  • UNESCAP defines ‘Good Governance’ as the ‘Process of decision-making‘ and ‘Process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)’.
  • As per Turner (2006), governance of a project involves a set of relationships between the project’s management, its sponsor (or executive board), its owner, and other stakeholders. Project Governance provides the structure through which the objectives of the project are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and monitoring performance are determined.

Very generic definitions? Let us then go through some more details of Governance concept to understand it well. There are 3 levels of ‘Governance’ in any organization:

a)     Executive layer: This layer is considered as the highest level of Governance addressing the ownership, accountability and strategic alignment of initiatives with the organizational goals and identifies the corporate governance.

b)     Context/Execution layer: This layer sets up the context in which project is being executed and addresses two main components: (i) Establishing right infrastructure of program and portfolio management to link projects to corporate strategy, which ensures the right projects are executed. (ii) To make sure that organization has the capability to deliver the projects successfully so that projects are done right.

This layer mainly identifies the project governance and includes the decision and analysis boards, which take adjustment and corrections from Executive layer and understand the needs for adjustment and correction from the Delivery layer. This layer also takes into consideration partners, vendors and third-party participants in your programs and projects.

c)     Delivery/Individual project layer: This is the lowest working layer where set project objectives are actually executed and attained. Resources at this level are the daily work efforts owners. At this level, program and project management office (PMO) are responsible for the collection and accumulation of the data that support performance reporting. It is critical to keep a daily understanding of decisions, risks, issues and activities that will ultimately impact the delivery of initiative’s outcome. The main stakeholders at this level are Project managers, Technical architects/Engineers and PMO resources.

This three-layered structure, enables linking Project Governance to Corporate Governance and delivery capability. In a way Project governance is the bridging mechanism between corporate governance and project management.

So, how do you ensure that you have an appropriate project governance model and it is good enough per above definitions? Here are the key governance characteristics, identified by United Nations ESCAP, for achieving good governance:

Project Governance Characteristic #1: Sponsorship and Accountability

Recent research has shown that project failure is often not directly attributable to the performance of project managers and project teams. Sometimes, project failure is caused by contextual factors, such as the breakdown of sponsor governance and support.  Project sponsor holds a critical position of power being the Governor who owns the business case and provides a link between project and organization’s management, leading ultimately to the Executive Board.

Weak sponsorship not only in terms of resources but also in providing clear and timely direction, investing required time to the projects they sponsor and appropriate project management experience to have good understanding of their own role, are the common problems seen in sponsor governance failures. Your project/initiative should have a solid buy-in from the sponsor (can be executive management) and should be aligned to the organizational goals to make it a success.

Clear definition of roles and responsibility brings accountability. Who is accountable to who varies, depending on whether the decisions or actions are taken internal or external to function/organization.  In general each defined role is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions.

Project Governance Characteristic #2: Transparent with well-defined communication channels

Transparency means the decisions taken and the enforcement done is in an open and easily understood way. It means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in clear and concise forms and  through the right medium of communication.

Accountability (Characteristic #1) cannot be enforced without transparency.

Communication is the vehicle that powers the entire governance model. Establishing structured communications will maintain linkages throughout the three levels of governance and assure that the organizational strategy, mission, vision, and desired outcomes are maintained and aligned with the execution. This alignment can provide assurance to the organization, knowing that the outcomes of the performing initiatives are meeting its goals, as the predefined process provides the proper oversight to the responsible people. Well defined PMO (Project management office) reporting process to communicate on the initiative performance across three layers of governance plays a key role here.

Project Governance Characteristic #3: Responsive, Effective and Efficient

Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe and produce results that meet the needs of stakeholders while making best use of resources at their disposal i.e. decision making processes, to be supported by timely, reliable and relevant information. The requirement for timely information indicates that the reporting effort should be minimized. And reliability of information should be ensured by exposing correct current project status. Efficient project management and PMO processes are very significant to maintain the integrity of the information used to keep Project dashboards up-to-date for keeping stakeholders informed about the progress, metrics, performance, change requests and results of the project/initiative.

Project Governance Characteristic #4: Participatory, Equitable and Inclusive

Participation is a key to good governance and as such needs to be communicated and organized. At project level governance, main participants can be the Sponsor, Middle management, PMO, Project manager, Third party vendors, Partners and Customer. Ensure that all the participants feel that they have a stake in the decisions and do not feel excluded from decisions taken. Since there are several actors and as many view points, good Governance requires mediation of the different interests to reach a broad consensus. Communication of the consensus reached, to all stake holders, should be done in transparent and timely way. In general for project governance, your PMO is a crucial body for defining and managing project processes to deliver the business case outcome, defining how the project will be monitored and controlled and in keeping stakeholders involved as well as informed.

Project Governance Characteristics #5: Follow a rule of law.

During the decision-making process, law of land should never be ignored and to ensure that, good Governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. This is where a good understanding of contracts and agreements with customers becomes important. Accessibility to these and project terms and conditions need to be in place along with well-defined guidelines for dos and don’ts.  All decisions also need to be made considering the mission, vision and values of the organization so that the spirit in those words is reflected in all the action on the ground.

With knowledge of these characteristics, it is clear that governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in totality; however, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality because as Napoleon Bonaparte said – Nothing is more difficult, and therefore precious, than being able to decide.

So, review your current project management governance model, see if these characteristics are well-built in and if there is room for improvement. I hope that these characteristics can serve as guidelines for you to make your project a model for Good Governance.

What are your experiences with project management governance and what challenges have you faced in good governance model establishment? Please share with us so that we can learn more from your experiences.

References:

http://www.unescap.org

Eamonn V. Kelly(2010) , “ The principles of effective project governance” retrieved from http://www.pmi.org

Picture Courtesy: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-09-06/

HR Essentials – 5 Things to Have in Place

HR Essentials – 5 Things to Have in Place

An HR department is indispensable to an organisation – regardless of how big or small the organisation is. While the overall nature of the role and responsibilities of an HR team remains the same across organisations, the finer details depend on the organisational principles. Aspects such as recruitment, training, professional development, employee relations, compensation and benefits, and labor law compliance form the core of an HR body. How efficient the HR team is has a direct influence on the efficiency and success of your overall organizational goals.The reason being, an HR department works closely with the employees who in turn are the lifeblood of any organization.

Regardless of what the details are of how your HR department functions, having these five things in place improves the efficiency of your HR department in a significant manner.

  1. Keeping Pace with New Technologies

    Constantly revising your HR strategies based on the latest technologies sounds tedious, however it is the very opposite of that. Keeping pace with the new technologies enables you to find more efficient ways which help you do what you do better, and faster. For example, using Artificial Intelligence for the initial process of screening potential candidates will save you a lot of time, as against screening all applications manually. Investing in new technology helps your HR staff become more productive and also gives them the time to focus on more important tasks.

  2. Integrating Online Systems

    Instead of having several independent applications to manage various tasks, it is much more efficient to integrate it all into one place. For example, a separate system for payroll management, another for employee review, or time management – managing these independently takes up much more time. By investing a little bit in a customized software, you will increase the efficiency of your tasks related to staff management and internal communication. This makes transacting every day business smooth.

  3. Having a Brand Profile for Recruitment

    The HR department plays a key role in the recruitment processes of any organization. While the individual departments will focus more on the skill set of the potential candidates, it is up to the HR department to source candidates whose ethos and principles match those of the organization. This is important in creating the kind of work culture you aspire to have in your organization. And towards this end, it is important to have a brand profile based on the guiding principles and goals of the organization.

  4. Having a thorough and fair performance review system

    In order to help your employees stay motivated, inspired and productive, you have to invest time in developing a thorough and fair performance review system. The only way to help your team do their best is to apprise them of their performance on a regular basis. Having a fair system of performance review is as important as having a system in the first place. Creating a space which encourages dialogue is an important aspect.

  5. Paying attention to the finer details

    It is always the finer details that make all the difference to the work environment of an organization. Taking a deep dive into the existing HR structure and changing things for the better is the best thing you can do for your organization. For example, do you still have outdated HR policies like a no reference policy, or the bell curve performance review policy, or an insensitive bereavement pay policy?  Have a look at the five outdated HR policies that need to go. Are your employees protected against sexual harassment? Do you have a POSH committee in place? How gender sensitive is your organization? These are all things that an HR department needs to address. And these are the details that set an organization apart from the rest.

Have more things to add to this list? Share with us! The best part of our day is definitely reading what you write to us!

Making Your Remote Employees Feel Valued

Making Your Remote Employees Feel Valued

Work from home is becoming an increasingly viable option – for both employees as well as employers. With this development, there is a need for employers to pay more attention to making the “virtual work space” more conducive, and employee friendly. One of the most important aspects which has a direct impact on the productivity levels of your employees is how valued they feel. This can be an especially difficult task to achieve, and to measure when your connection with your employees is through remote access. But is it really?

You would be surprised the small ways in which you can make your Remote Employees feel valued. In this blog post, we speak about some elementary ways which should define the norms of every work place which encourages Work from home/ remote spaces options.

  1. Clarity in Communication

    This aspect is a crucial unit for developing a healthy relationship with your employee, and for ensuring that they are at all times aware of their deliverables. One of the main concerns remote working raises is the fact that responsibilities, goals and outcomes are not streamlined meticulously – unlike in physical work environments. When this happens there is the danger of your employee under performing for no fault of his/her, which means you lose out on the valuable skill set of someone you have   invested time in to select and recruit. Being clear in communicating goals, outcomes and responsibilities helps employees feel more engaged, and in sync with their work, which in turn has a direct impact on the quality of work they churn out.

  2. Checking in

    Really one of the easiest and most basic way of showing your employees that you care. That you value your relationship with them beyond the contract of employment. Once again, since we are speaking about work in a remote environment, checking takes just a bit more effort than it would if it were a physical office. That, however cannot be an excuse for not keeping in touch with your employees. Establishing a system for this is a great way of making sure that you check in regularly. For example, every month schedule one day for a team call (if your team is spread out), and one day for individual calls. There are so many ways you can do this, and with just a little bit of thought, you can truly help your employees be enthusiastic about the work they do. And if you have a team of enthusiastic employees who feel valued, you’re a winner.

  3. Be there for them

    A good manager has an open door policy, and his team is aware of this. This applies even to teams which work remotely. In the context of the blog post, one could safely argue that this aspect is especially important to have your remote employees feel valued. Operate with a degree of decentralization, especially when it comes to your team having access to you when they need you. If your team comprises of employees who work remotely, because of an absence of a traditional physical work space they might need to reach out to you more often than other ‘regular’ employees. In which case, take care to stress on the fact that you are available when your team needs you. No better way to set precedence about this other than by leading through example.

If we summarize all the three things we’ve said above, there is one main takeaway – communication. The quality of communication between colleagues is something that determines the overall work environment – even when the work environment is virtual. And we’d say, especially when the work environment is virtual. While these small efforts wouldn’t cost you anything, bypassing them surely would. The quality of work you expect, is directly proportional to how motivated your team feels to deliver the expected quality. And feeling motivated is a direct by-product of feeling valued.

Do you have a remote team and are you proud of your team management techniques? Share your story with us and we will share it with the world!