Hot Management Info for 2001

December – Employee Complaints

November – While Customers Wait, Add Value

October – Managing With Chaos

September – Investing In Relationships

August – Training Programs

July – How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results With Ordinary People

June – How Good Is Your Workplace?

January – Ways That Managers Can Help Workers – Or Hinder Them


December 2001 – Employee Complaints

Abstracted from San Diego Union Tribune. November 26, 2001. By Michael Kinsman.

Bruce Katcher, President of the Discovery Group Consulting in Sharon, MA says there are seven complaints of employees that are universal as follows.

1. There’s no job security here.

2. I don’t trust management.

3. There’s too much work to do.

4. The pay is too low.

5. Communication is poor.

6. I don’t have enough balance in my life.

7. I feel underappreciated.

Katcher goes on to say that most managers don’t seem to either understand or care about these employee concerns. In our work with planning, building and engineering departments, we find numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are almost universal. Department managers and supervisors are in a position to impact 2, 3, 5 and 7 as well as use their influence on 4. We suggest you try an employee survey and see how your organization fares on these seven points.

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November 2001 – While Customers Wait, Add Value

Abstracted from Harvard Business Review. July – August 2001. By Christopher Meyer.

What would happen if your customers charged you for their time – for every minute you left them hanging on hold, standing in line, or cooling their heels waiting for people to show up? Imagine if the meter started running every time you asked a customer to repeat information that should have been in your records already. What if every minute that passed after your promised processing time shaved a percentage off your fee?

Here’s the most important thing that would happen: Your department’s behavior would change drastically – and for the better. You’d start by looking for the times when customers become impatient and would seek to minimize that time. When you couldn’t reduce the wait anymore, you’d try to add value to the experience. In short, your department simply wouldn’t dare waste its customers’ time. Although customers aren’t in a position to levy direct charges for their time spent waiting, the performance of companies like Amazon, which immediately confirms orders and informs customers of shipping and delays, have raised customers’ expectations that their time will be valued. Consequently, reducing customer “NVA time” – that is, non-value-added time – is a new source of competitive advantage, ripe for innovation.

As important as it is to reduce customers’ NVA time, it may be even more useful to think about how to add value to the time customers spend with you. Disney has long understood this principal. It employs people and invests capital to entertain theme park visitors while they wait in line for their turn on a ride. Wells Fargo, meanwhile, takes advantage of technology to add value to waiting times. Its ATM machines provide Internet access to updated headlines, weather, and sports scores.

So how can you stop wasting your customers’ time? A simple process can help you get started. First, map the time your customers spend engaged with you or your product. Focus on finding those “points of impatience” when a little bit of a customer’s time wasted causes disproportionate irritation. Consider what a customer’s highest expectations are at any given moment during an engagement with you. If you do nothing else, find ways to get your people to think more about customer time and its value.

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October 2001 – Managing With Chaos

Abstracted from “The Best of Both Worlds.” November – December 1992. Harvard Business Review. Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

To managers today, chaos is not just a scientific theory. It is a daily experience. Maintaining the same structure for long – let alone getting organized at all – can seem miraculous.

Constant surprises are now more the norm than the exception. The need to scramble makes a mockery of traditional planning tools such as forecasts by the numbers. Actions to solve one problem produce new problems elsewhere.

Flawless plans, unvarying rules, strategies launched without mid-course correction – “absolutes” such as these have little to do with the task of managing. Now, more than ever, management is a balancing act
– the juggling of contradictions to try to get the best of attractive but opposing alternatives. Order is a temporary illusion, strategy a moving target. Leaders cannot impose authority on a world of constant
motion; they can only hope to steer some of that action toward productive ends.

Irish poet William Butler Yeats said it best: “The center cannot hold.” In every sphere, “centers” are being discredited.

But chaos need not mean action without guidance or limits. New organizational models offer the best of both worlds – enough structure for continuity, but not so much that creative responses to chaos are stifled.

Instead of command centers, there are communication and coordination vehicles. Instead of single centers of authority, there are multiple centers of expertise. Instead of all-powerful CEOs (or Planning Directors),
there are executive teams that represent independent power bases. “Integration” replaces the old either-or thinking of “centralization versus decentralization.”

The new federalist thinking supports cooperation across boundaries, a kind of voluntary control through relationships among equals. It also puts the emphasis on multiple small initiatives rather than large
uniform programs directed from the center. As chaos theory proposes, small actions can lead to big changes.

Making such changes requires constant learning, since it is detailed knowledge of changes in a business and its context that provokes strategic thinking – and rethinking.

Paul Zucker’s thoughts: I’m amazed in my management consulting how many planning or building directors still feel they can only manage through authority. By the way, the chaos theory not only relates to
management but city planning as well. Our profession is still preparing plans that approximate the working drawings for a house rather than the dynamics of change. In 1970 in Bucks County, we suggested: “Any
plan or program must not only sense the needs of the present and the predictable future, but must, within the limitations of cost and feasibility, be capable of adapting easily and effectively to unforeseen or uncertain changes in technology, the economy or social customs.” Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see any city or county plans that carry out this concept.

Reader ResponsesThanks for the review. Please, if there is any place that practices the best alternative management option, I would like to know. My experience is that managers who feel unsure, still prefer the authoritative way
of managing. One thing is certain; in any authoritative management, production is usually at 40% level because the managers spend most of their time managing rather than leading.

Alex Ikefuna, Community Planning Administrator, City of Savannah

Amazing. The “Smart Growth” model being shoved down our throats in New Jersey, is attempting to revert current “sprawl” development back to compact mixed used centers. It is Centers or nothing. However, the market is moving toward entropy. Centers required large investments by the public to sustain. Rural development is privately maintained and may be more efficient from a public finance perspective.Christine Marion, Assistant Planning Director, Morris County Planning Board

How do you know if a City or County plan adapts easily to the unforeseen?George Gehlert

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September 2001 – Investing In Relationships

Southwest Airlines is known for being profitable and having a strong customer base. But how do they do it when no other airline has been able to repeat their formula? The Harvard Business Review recently
interviewed Southwest’s top managers. Their stories have value for planners.

Try these ideas from Southwest in your organization.

  • There is a difference between controlling costs and being cheap. There is a need to invest-particularly in people.
  • We spend more money to recruit and train than any other airline.
  • We really believe in the notion of “one bad apple.”
  • We want people who are not looking for a job, but rather who are looking for a course.
  • The most influential leaders in our company are the frontline supervisors. We bring them in centrally for three months of training.
  • It helps that all of our supervisors are working supervisors-they can do the work of frontline employees, side by side with them.

Reader ResponseI would posit that the other reason Southwest Airlines has been successful is that they encourage the creativity of their employees. I have flown with them on a number of occasions and, while their staff is  professional, they are also very human and express their own personalities – quirks and all! They make flying fun – everyone from the ticketing staff to the pilots, do their best to interact on a very personal level!

Kim Murry

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August 2001 – Training Programs

In a changing world, training is more important than ever. Yet few public organizations have good training programs. We’ve now worked with over 150 cities and counties in 22 states and have yet to find
one with a truly good program. What problems seem to be created by lack of training? Inconsistency and wrong information seem to be the big one. In our own firm, we’ve adopted the saying “never believe
what you’re told at the front counter.” Other problems include poor computer, writing and inter-personal relation skills.

Out of frustration, we now recommend specific time and dollar targets. Five percent of employees’ time is the goal, or two hours per week out of every 40 hours. For budget, we suggest 1.5 to 2% of payroll. A recent survey by Training Magazine (March 2001) found the top 50 companies averaged 3.9% of the payroll. The top five ranged between 6.9% to 13%.

Give us some of your good training ideas to share with others.

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July 2001 – How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results With Ordinary People

From Soundview Executive Book Summaries, April 2001
Review of a book by Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer

In its famous study, The War for Talent, consulting giant McKinsey & Company asked 200 executives from a number of companies why they joined, stayed with or left an organization, McKinsey found that 58 percent of its respondents cited values and culture as being absolutely essential.

While McKinsey used its study to build a case for finding superior talent as a prime source of competitive advantage, Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer see things a bit differently. Certainly, companies
that want to succeed need great people – making recruitment and retention important. But even more important, and often more difficult to obtain, is the establishment of cultures and systems in which these great
people can actually use their talents, as well as management practices that make it possible for ordinary people to perform as if they were in the top 10 percent of their field.

According to the authors, companies must find new ways to engage the knowledge, experience, talents and energy of employees – to find the hidden value in organizations and leverage that value to achieve strategic goals. As they studied a number of companies that successfully leveraged their hidden value, the authors found six essential practices that all have in common:

  1. They place values and culture first, creating a set of principles and their importance to employees.
  2. They make those values real, through consistent expression of those values and alignment with the practices that put those values into action.
  3. They hire for fit, bringing on board people who will appreciate and espouse their values, and weeding out those who won’t fit in.
  4. They invest in people, providing the training and tools necessary for continuous learning and improvement.
  5. They share information widely, giving employees all the data they need to successfully achieve company goals.
  6. They reward and recognize adherence to values, from the everyday environmental perks to benefits and compensation that reinforce their organizational commitment to its culture.
Are you doing the things that unlock the hidden value in your organization?
P.S. “Culture is what people do when no one’s watching. It’s what happens when no one is around to keep score,” says Peg Neuhauser, a management consultant from Austin, Texas, and co-author of the book

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June 2001 – How Good Is Your Workplace?

The best-selling book First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman) found that twelve questions measure the core elements needed
to attract, focus, and keep your most talented employees. Give these twelve a try:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?

3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?

5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

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January 2001 – Ways That Managers Can Help Workers – Or Hinder Them

by Dave Murphy, from The San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2000

1. Emphasize results, not methods. If you don’t, you’ll probably enter a micromanaging death spiral. You don’t believe employees are capable of thinking for themselves, so you tell them how to do everything,
so they become less capable of thinking for themselves. Sometimes terrific workers have unorthodox methods. Remember: Terrific workers rarely work for micromanagers. Not for long, anyway.

2. Communicate. Subordinates shouldn’t have to wonder why the company is moving in a particular direction or why you made a particular decision. Water cooler discussions thrive when people are
left in the dark.

3. Offer sincere praise. Even talented workers can be painfully insecure. A kind word every few days helps people know they are appreciated.

4. Make criticism constructive. As long as praise dramatically outweighs negative comments, even star workers will appreciate criticism – if they understand how it will help them improve. And do it immediately; don’t sandbag them during performance reviews.

5. Share credit. If you honestly believe you’re the only person responsible for your department’s success, you either need a new attitude or new staff.

6. When something is truly important, say so. Workers need to know your priorities. If you classify more than a handful of things each year as “truly important,” though, you need to know your priorities, too.

7. Encourage debate. If workers don’t feel that their concerns are heard, they’ll look for a more receptive audience. Maybe they’ll find it around the water cooler; maybe they’ll find it in your boss’ office.

8. Help employees grow. People will be loyal to you if you express a sincere interest in helping their careers, even if that makes them more attractive to other employers. You will lose some of them, but at least you’ll get their best efforts while they’re with you.

9. Understand why people are leaving. If you lose people because they land better jobs or want to change lifestyles, there’s not much you can do. But if the reasons for leaving aren’t obvious, try to discover the truth.

10. Fire incompetents. Yes, firing people is traumatic for the office, but retaining an incompetent worker is like having a wound that will never heal.