Organizing

Published by Scott Neilson on 02 Jul 2013

Let it go!

It drives me crazy to see leaders who are unable to delegate.  I continue to see opportunities for organizations to improve in this area…and that is an understatement…particularly in heavily technical organizations.  Failure to effectively delegate results in a slow-moving organization, a demotivated organization, and an organization with higher than normal operating costs.

  • Slow-moving because a few people are trying to do everything and are not effectively utilizing the skills of the people around them.
  • Demotivated because the other people on the team are not getting the chance to contribute and be recognized for their worth.
  • Higher operating costs because delegating means assigning tasks to people working for you.  Those people are likely earning less than you.  As such, if they are performing a task it costs your company less than if you are performing those same tasks.

You have to look at delegation as assigning authority…not responsibility.  You must learn to maintain control and responsibility from a distance.

A short time back I was talking with a friend who was having trouble with several aspects of his pharmaceutical regulatory consulting business.  He was not getting the performance he wanted from his employees and they were demotivated.    He was not making the profits that he should and he was overworked.  He felt that if he just worked harder, things would get better.  Unfortunately, he had been saying that for quite a few years, and had not made any progress.  I could not imagine him working any harder, but he kept thinking that was the answer.

This is not an unusual perspective, especially for technically trained people, and even more so for people who hold the professional credentials required for their business.

In a moment of desperation, he asked me what I thought he should do.  First, I explained to him the effects I described above.  Then we discussed how he can find a middle ground in which he can let go of some of the tasks that need to be done while still assuring the quality levels he requires.

The reason delegating is motivating is because it tacitly recognizes someone’s worth.  You trust them to do the job well, and they want to live up to that expectation.  They want to contribute.  They want to be of value.  Controlling everything yourself has the opposite effect.

Then I explained to him that there is an even more important aspect of effectively structuring your operation and delegating tasks.  To start we agreed that a fundamental principle in profitable business operations is delivering the right product or service, at the right price, at the least possible cost.  The “right service” is closely regulated in the drug development world, and pricing is very competitive.  That leaves cost reduction as the key to managing profitability.

The problem here was that he was doing everything.  By doing so he was minimizing his profitability because HE was handling most of the tasks, and HE is the most expensive employee in the company.  That made sense to him.

If you are not delegating, then you are not leading; you are doing.

Further, I pointed out that if he were the only one performing all these tasks, or overseeing every aspect of every job, then the total volume of work he could expect to do in his organization was limited to the workload that he alone could handle.  That put a great limitation on his business prospects for the future.

So, he agreed to consider this idea of delegating.  Question was, “how”?

  • Simple first step: I told him to list ALL the tasks he ever finds himself doing…every one of them.  Take a few days, take notes about what you are doing, and make a list.
  • Second: Put that list in order from the most to the least by what REQUIRES your technical training and abilities.
  • Finally: Start to delegate by taking the bottom 10% of those items and assigning them to someone else.  Get them OFF your list.  Clearly define exactly what you want done, and establish the methods and mechanisms for keeping an eye on the quality from a distance by developing and reviewing checkpoints or metrics. Over time you can go to the next 10% of the items on the bottom of your list, and so on until you find the right balance.

*****

It is very difficult for people to let go of control in their businesses.  However, it is fundamental to effective and profitable operations to have a clear and appropriate delineation of duties.  You have to look at delegation as assigning authority while learning to maintain control and responsibility from a distance.  If you are not delegating, then you are not leading; you are doing.

Published by Scott Neilson on 21 May 2013

Hire smart…

I have been kind of surprised by some hiring decisions I have seen lately.  It makes me wonder how these decisions are being made and what processes are being used.

All too often we are so anxious to fill an opening that we start changing our perspective of what skills we are looking for.  We tend to view the pool of applicants in terms of who is the best among the candidates we are seeing .  As a result, we start to limit our perspective to what we see in front of us and we lose sight of what we are really looking for.  I have even seen cases in which hiring supervisors start to reconsider changing their organization structure based on a particular candidate and what that candidate can and cannot do.

The problem starts with a lack of clarity about what is needed, what tasks must be performed, and what skills it takes to perform those tasks. 

First, as a leader you must recognize that every vacancy is an opportunity to improve your business.  Do you really need to replace this position?  Can you change your work processes and the description of that position to be something different than it was before?  Can you absorb the responsibilities of this position into those of other existing positions?  Can you make this change an opportunity to provide development or advancement for another employee?

The quickest way to get these answers is to flow chart the activity of your operation and clarify what is needed in each position in that part of your organization.  By doing so you reassess the steps to deliver the product or service you provide, and you clarify the processes and activities to deliver them.  Chances are you will also identify opportunities for improvement in those processes.  It takes a little time but the result is a better idea about what is needed from each individual involved in the process, confidence about your need to fill the position, and clarity about what you need to fill it with.  By the way, that clarity will also be helpful for the other people in your organization as you go about hiring a new team member.  For them it will clarify and reiterate their own role, responsibilities, and value to the team.  During a time of change, that clarity is essential for maintaining stability in your organization.  Though you may not think that filling one position is a “time of change” in your organization…it is.

Once you have established clarity about what is needed in the position to support your processes, the challenge becomes finding the person who has the skills to deliver on those needs.  This means identifying the skills needed to do the job.  Check this with others who interact with that position.  Discuss the position with others in similar positions.  Clarify the skills needed.

Finally, create a set of interview questions which enable you to determine if your candidates have those skills.  Use probing open-ended questions in which the candidates must describe specific responsibilities they have had, situations in which they have had to handle those responsibilities, what they did and what were the results.  This is referred to as behavioral interviewing…interviewing in which you are probing for information about observable behaviors in the candidate. *

Take the time to select the right person who can do the whole job.  Do not simply settle for whomever is available at the time.    It will be a source of endless frustration for you…and them.

*****

* For your reference, in the event you feel you need help in this area, I have worked with several organizations who specialize in this technology.  The best I can recommend is DDI…Development Dimensions International, Inc. located in Pittsburgh, PA USA.

 

Published by Scott Neilson on 23 Apr 2013

Too many chefs in the kitchen? – The upside

 

Rotterdam School of Management

Rotterdam School of Management

Last programme of the spring schedule…Rotterdam School of Management.

 

Looking forward to returning in the fall. The results of all the programmes are on the Participant Feedback tab.

 

*****

I worked in an organization once which was heavily matrixed…meaning, for example, that GM’s of businesses reported up through the business unit reporting structure as well as through a corporate staff structure…site CFO’s reported to the GM as well as to a corporate head of operational finance and to the business unit head of finance.  Similar structures existed all around the organization.  Many of us had numerous people to whom we were reporting.  It was a bit confusing.

My first reaction to this was “Ugh! This is suffocating.”  However, I decided to spend some time trying to come up with every possible reason why this was the BEST structure and how I could best work with it.  Here are some of the answers I came up with.

First, this was an organization that had recently come together as a result of a spin-off of a major corporation and was comprised of many small operations located all over the world.  A highly matrixed structure can be very effective in getting them all to operate in a consistent manner, and to keep them all in control.

Second, a highly matrixed organization can be an effective structure for identifying and implementing cost savings activities across the entire organization.  The matrix provides multiple perspectives through which to look at each operation for these opportunities.  This organization was hugely effective in doing just that and realizing the “proposed synergies” of the new company.

Finally, having a matrix structure makes it difficult for any one person to mask or hide key information and have their own agenda.  While that may sound a bit cycnical, it is a dynamic that I have certainly observed on more than one occasion.  Like it or not, one of the difficult aspects of bringing a new company together is getting all leaders to buy-in to the new management, structure and direction. A matrix is an effective tool for working through that process and keeping a complex organization under control.  I also wrote about this in the post “Are you getting the information you need…”  link http://www.scottneilson.com/?p=1249

There were a couple of interesting outcomes of this for me…I found these were really very good reasons for being structured and operating the way we were, despite the fact that I did not like the structure; and, being objective about it enabled me to diffuse my anxiety about the structure and actually work effectively within it.

Published by Scott Neilson on 26 Feb 2013

Structure vs process…

It seems that the standard protocol. and first step, for improving business performance is to change the organization structure.  It is visible, it is easily quantifiable, and it yields immediate results.  Consultants come in, analyze job responsibilities for redundancies, propose structural changes. reduce the size of the workforce and the associated cost-base, and justify their huge fees.  People often think that bringing in a big name consulting firm to make these changes will distance them from the results should there be any “bumps in the road.”  Not the case folks!  You are still on the line.

Any structure can work!  It is the processes used within that structure that determine the effectiveness of your operation. 

Structural change!  It seems like the panacea for all organizational problems…until the business tries to operate.  While it is true that heavy and costly organizational structure and inefficiency is inevitably one element of the problem, it is generally a symptom, not the cause.

Where many of these consultants fall short is in clearly defining the processes under which the new organization will work.  They give you a new structure, and you have to determine how to make it work.  You have to design new processes, revamp systems to support the new processes, and train the employees how to use them.

It is safe approach for them to take because any structure can work.  It is the processes used within that structure that determine the degree of improvement in the operation…and they have left that for you to figure out.  Any failure to do so is yours.

In my opinion, they put the cart before the horse.  The correct approach is to evaluate your key processes, systematically improve those processes to eliminate waste and improve quality, and then build the structure to support those processes.

The more important lesson is that you should be doing this routinely as a course of business so that you do not find yourself in the position of having to bring in those consultants.  A good Six Sigma or Lean Sigma approach shows you just how to do this.  The book by Peter Pande, Six Sigma Leadership, gives you a good overview of your role as a leader in making this happen.  It is a short, to the point, and clear step-by-step approach to systematic improvement.

To get you started on which processes to evaluate first, be sure you are getting the right information about the health of your organization.  Build a good set of metrics for each of your key processes and monitor them closely.  It is like looking at a patients chart in the hospital…you can easily keep track of all vital systems and how they are operating.

Published by Scott Neilson on 23 Oct 2012

Accountants Rule!

I am often asked “what is the most common problem you have found in failing businesses?”  The number one issue is always Leadership.  However, a close second is that many leaders do not understand their costs.  They have defined structures to accumulate and report costs within cost centers; they have developed consolidations to summarize costs across businesses; and, of course, they abide by the regulations in developing systems to report those costs for public consumption.  However, that does not mean that they KNOW their costs.

I think that in many cases businesses are not willing to ADMIT their costs.

I was once hired to turnaround a business that had grown nicely but had never turned a profit.  The first week I was there I asked the CFO “How do you we price our services.”  I was told, “We take our variable costs and add 30%…and that should be enough to cover our overheads and profits.”  As my cost accounting teacher is fond of saying, “You would think so, but I would suggest to you…” that six straight years of losses would suggest otherwise.

As a leader you MUST understand the importance of costs and require that the appropriate costing system be developed and managed correctly in your business.  It is fundamental to generating information that you need for decision-making.  It is as important as understanding the market you are in, determining the differentiators that set your business apart from others, or defining the features and benefits of your products or services.  Without that level of understanding of your costs:

  • setting prices and managing profitability becomes a gamble.
  • you cannot understand the key drivers of your business processes or the opportunities for improving those processes and reducing costs.
  • you cannot effectively plan for growth and investment.

Interestingly, I think that in many cases businesses are not willing to ADMIT their costs.  They are aware, either intuitively or consciously, that they are not operating efficiently.  They do not want to include costs from an inefficient operation into their overall cost structure, so they calculate costs based on the way IT SHOULD BE if everything were working well.  That’s like saying I can drive from Princeton to the theatre district in Manhattan in one hour.  Conceptually true, but it rarely happens.  There will almost always be traffic to throw me off plan.

Do you really know what it costs to deliver your products or services?

Published by Scott Neilson on 24 May 2012

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY…

I know that many of us have been frustrated by the political stuff that goes on in the office.  I wrote a post about this some time ago which spoke to how you can defend yourself against it…link http://www.scottneilson.com/?p=37

This post comes at the issue from a different angle.  This post looks more at the damage that kind of behavior can do to the productivity and morale in your office, and what can you do as a leader to limit the damage or manage the behavior.  I don’t think it is possible to eliminate it in total, but you can certainly manage it, and it is an important issue to address.

First, just some quick thoughts on the effects it can have in your office…IF YOU ALLOW IT!

  • At best it is a distraction, which means that people will be spending time worrying about and dealing with the politics instead of focusing on their jobs.  They will be thinking things like “what is their agenda, what are they going to do, what are they going to say, how will it make me look, how can I cover myself on this?”
  • It is demotivating because most people do not want to spend their time dealing with those issues.  They want to focus on their work and on doing the best they can.
  • The end result is low morale and increased turnover.  Unfortunately, the turnover is not good turnover.  You tend to lose the hard workers who have no stomach for politics, and you get stuck with those who make a living playing those games.

Next question is how do you know it is there?  How do you know if you have a political environment in your office?

Pretty simple.  Ask them!

This is an area in which employee surveys can be a gold mine.  What’s more, you do not have spend $100k to get that answer.  Your HR department can easily run a few focus groups to get basic data.

Also, keep your eyes open.  The symptoms are pretty easy to spot…disorganization; poor results; high turnover.

What is the cause? 

To know what you should do, you need to understand the root cause of political behavior in the workplace.  Politics can generally be categorized as one of two types…defensive or offensive.    Defensive politics is rooted in people trying to deflect or avoid responsibility for their actions.  Offensive politics is rooted in people trying to take advantage of others and/or situations for their own personal gain.

There are many things you can do to deal with politics in the workplace, and covering them all would require a book.  So, let me start with the basics since these are often missing and can be quick wins with great results.

One fundamental element of dealing with politics is establishing clarity…clarity around responsibilities and accountabilities.  When people are not clear on their roles, they cannot be clear on accountabilities.  This is an unnerving position for people to handle, so they fill that void with maneuvering and positioning to protect themselves and their turf, or to take advantage of the situation for personal gain.

Finally, what can you do?

Quite simply, it all starts with job descriptions.  It has been my experience that people do not do a good job of writing job descriptions.  Too often, when writing job descriptions, we think only in terms of the specific tasks we want an individual to accomplish.  You need to look beyond that.  As you write a job description you need to do so within the context of the other positions in the organization.

You need to establish CLARITY in the processes in which these individuals will operate.  What are the processes used and where does each position fit in those processes.  How does one function connect with, or interact with, another in the conduct of those processes?

You need to establish CLARITY in the distinction between the roles and responsibilities of the individuals working with those processes.  How is one position distinguished from another?  Do they understand how the department/organization works?  Who does what?  Do they understand their role exactly…what is expected of them?

You need to establish CLARITY in the accountability for the end results.  What key tasks must they perform and who owns the outcomes/results?  Are you sure they know that they are responsible for the results?

Finally, you need to communicate that…NOT only to the new person moving into that role, but to the other people in the organization so they understand how it all fits together and that there is no threat to them.  With that in place it is much easier to make sure that people do not wander beyond their paygrade and set-off a chain reaction of political behaviors.

  • Start with your processes.  You must have well thought through processes to achieve your end results.  You need to understand information flows and controls.  For each department look at the key processes.  Be sure that these are clear.
    • From there develop your organization structure.  You need to look at who is involved in those processes and how the roles interact…what are the key inputs and outputs.  You need to understand how filling a position will affect the existing ones.
      • From that design the job responsibilities and accountabilities.  Ensure that these are clear and distinct from other roles.  Be sure that people understand them and know exactly what is expected of them.

Unfortunately, these are basics and details that we, as leaders, often do NOT want to deal with.   Perhaps we are thinking that leadership is a more lofty pursuit and these are trivial matters for someone else to handle.  While that may be the case at times, generally it is not.

Most often organization failure results from a failure to do the basics well.  If you are a first line leader you are going to be on the ground making sure that this is done in your department.  As a senior level leader you must make sure that this clarity exists in your organization.  You need to be knowledgeable enough of the details to know that they are being handled correctly.

Published by Scott Neilson on 25 Jan 2012

Sorry Bobby…

…ya got it all wrong!

I was watching a sports show the other day and the topic of discussion was “What is the matter with [the local team]?”…7 straight losses; a long time key member of the team wanting to be traded; the Captain not happy with something.

The person being interviewed about how to handle the situation was the former Manager of another professional team in the same city.  His solution for this team was to “get a different attitude in the Front Office and drive that attitude throughout the organization”.  Tell everyone how they want them to behave, and make it happen.”

 YIKES!  No wonder he is a FORMER Manager!

In our own organizations, how much time do we spend listening to the “players on the field”…the people on the shop floor?  How often do we even talk to them?

Sorry Bobby.  That is NOT the way to get a better attitude in the rest of the organization.  You just don’t tell them to straighten up.  If you lay down an edict the frustration, resentment and anger will remain and the dysfunctional behavior of the team will just go underground and become that much harder to fix.

So, what should you do?

First, the Front Office should spend a little time LISTENING to the organization to get at the root of the issue.  Apparently, they are not doing that. Second, they should consider a little FLEXIBILITY in how they manage the team, and recognize that the players are stakeholders in the organization too.  Finally, they should INCORPORATE what they are hearing from the team in making some changes, and they should be prepared to accept responsibility for their own contributions to the problems and be willing to make changes to their own attitude.  After all, the TEAM goes far beyond the players on the field! 

In our own organizations, how much time do we spend listening to the “players on the field”…the people on the shop floor?  How often do we even talk to them?

Published by Scott Neilson on 28 Jun 2010

Protecting the Core of Your Business

A critical aspect of leading a business is clarity; clarity of direction, clarity of roles and responsibilities, and clarity of processes.  People need that.  They need to know exactly what is expected of them in their jobs, and what they must do and how.  Their training is derived from it.  Their performance and pay is linked to it.  The organizations ability to operate profitably is directly affected by it.  A lot of fundamental elements of organizational effectiveness are wrapped up in clarity.

I am sure you have all heard it said that specialization of tasks enables people to perform with high quality and efficiency.  Adam Smith characterized this as division of labor and wrote of the advantages of specialization for enhancing human productivity as early as 1776 in his classic book The Wealth of Nations.  Clarity and consistency are fundamental elements of that concept. 

…[leaders] often do not realize that they have the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to draw the line as to what options they are willing to offer in their products and services, and in their processes to deliver them.

The less clarity and consistency an organization has, the more the variability that creeps in.  With that variability comes different ways of doing things from one situation to the next.  Those different ways of doing things cause quality problems and inefficiencies, errors and increased costs.  Much of what you learn in process improvement technologies, such as Lean Sigma and Kaizen, is all about reducing variability for that exact reason.

However, customers often want things their own way, and it is important to be flexible in providing your products or services in order to meet those special needs.  The McDonalds/Burger King war hinged on that exact concept.  Burger King waged the “Have It Your Way” campaign for years to distinguish themselves from McDonalds and earn market share.  It worked, but it was expensive for Burger King.   

However, Burger King used the Core Concept quite effectively for that time.  They identified a range of options within which customers could “have it their way”, but they limited those options.  For example, you could have your burgers with or without lettuce, cheese, pickles, etc., but you could not specify what type of lettuce, cheese, pickles or bun you wanted.  Most importantly, you could not have your burger made any other way than grilled.  You could not have it fried or sautéed with onions and mushrooms. You could not order your burger rare, medium or well-done.  Why not?  That degree of variability would have been too much for their operations to handle efficiently (to say nothing of the fact that it would have taken away their major differentiator).  That degree of variability brings with it increased operating costs.  With increased costs comes increased prices, and they would no longer have been able to compete with other fast food restaurants.  So, while Burger King was adding a degree of flexibility to their operations and their service offerings, they were protecting the core operations of their business by limiting the options that they were offering. 

Every operation has the same issue, and many leaders do not realize it.  Customers often feel that they have a special need that cannot be met any other way than the way they have in mind.  In an effort to meet the disparate needs of all their customers, leaders often lose sight of the core strengths of their business and their business model.  They try to be everything to everyone.  They do not realize that they have the opportunity, in fact the responsibility, to draw the line as to what options they are willing to offer in their products and services.

Remember, your customers are not the experts in YOUR BUSINESS and usually do not know all the options available to them for meeting their needs.  They do not understand the benefits of doing things the way you do them from a cost and quality standpoint.  That is the discussion that you must have with them.  That is the education they need.  

It is right to try to find every possible way of meeting your customer’s needs.  The key is determining where and how to draw that line.  As a leader you need to decide in which areas will you choose to be flexible, and in which areas will you not?  In which areas will flexibility enhance your product or service offerings, and in which areas will it not?  How much flexibility can you profitably manage within the context of the business model you have chosen and the market segment in which you are competing?  Those processes constitute your CORE. 

  • Those core processes are where you establish and maintain your position as an expert supplier or service provider.  
  • Those core processes are where you add the most value to the end results your customers are after. 
  • Those core processes are where you maintain the opportunity to ensure the profitability of your business.

To protect your CORE, you MUST demonstrate the technical and economic equivalence or superiority of your methods to what your customer is proposing.  

The obvious question becomes what if you cannot prove the technical superiority or economic advantage of your methods?  Then you may need to consider implementing their recommended changes on a broader scale.  Don’t be afraid of this outcome.  Don’t let your ego get in the way of listening to ideas that may help you improve your operations.  Remember, your customers are a great source of competitive information.  They are shopping your competition every day.  Take advantage of that. 

Just for the record, customers are not the only group that can affect your core processes and operations.  In addition, processes are not the only aspect of your business that can be affected by external influences.  Employee attitudes can be affected as well.  Regulations, media communications, competitive changes are examples of external influences that can affect processes and/or employee attitudes and your organization’s ability to perform correctly.  Therefore, a task that you have as a leader is to minimize the impact that all “external influences” have on the CORE of your business. 

Think about this.  What business are you in?  What is your expertise!  What are your core processes?  Identify the core elements of your business and build structures and processes to enable that core to operate as efficiently as possible.  Then, protect that core from external influences.  It will enable you to improve the quality of your services and the profitability of your operations.

Published by Scott Neilson on 25 May 2010

Quote on the “How” in Business Leadership.

I like this quote because it speaks to “how” you get things done as a leader, more so than “what” you get done.  To me, the “how” has a greater affect on your ability to sustain organizational performance than it does on achieving a short term result because it defines an approach which, if reflective of your style and attitude, is representative of how you will do things in the future.  It is therefore also reflective of the results you will continue to achieve.

The quote goes:

“Being successful as a leader does not mean having all the answers, it means getting them.”

This quote speaks to knowing the strengths of your team and being able to access their knowledge and expertise for the use and benefit of the entire organization.  By doing so you leverage your own strengths and abilities, and you exponentially increase the results your organization can achieve. 

This aspect of leadership requires having the right processes and mechanisms in place…something we discussed in the post on leadership as being a process rather than a set of skills http://www.scottneilson.com/?p=63

It also implies a strong degree of empowerment in your workforce which enables people to draw on their own creativity and motivations to excell in their work and bring all their skills and abilities to performing their daily taks.  This is a big subject and one which I really want to get into.  It has many sub-parts which must work together to be successful.  It combines aspects of several posts I have done recently, and will be a nice assimilation of the thoughts in each…showing how it all ties together.  That has to be a subject for another post.

Published by Scott Neilson on 27 Jan 2010

The Common Cause of Organization Failure

As a turnaround specialist I am frequently asked, “What do you find is the common cause of failure in organizations?”  Unfortunately, that is not an easy answer.  Every case is different.  As lawyers are often criticized for saying, “It depends.”

I once had a group ask me to send them a case study of one of my turnarounds so that they could get a good feel for what I do and evaluate my candidacy for their CEO position.  I did.  A few weeks later they came back to me and said that they were not going to fill the position, but were going to handle it themselves.  Apparently, they chose to use that case as a guide for improving their business and save themselves some money.  I am guessing that they were inexperienced enough that they did not realize that each situation is different and requires careful diagnosis – data gathering and analysis – in order to chart the correct path to success.  It is now two years later; the business is still in the red; and, they are desperately looking for new sources of financing.

My observation is that the most common area in which leaders fail is in accurately diagnosing organizational issues.

Having said all that, there is one common area from which organization failure emanates…Leadership.   At times, people get a bit frustrated with that answer because they do not understand what Leadership is.  Leadership is a somewhat nebulous term…it has many aspects…it is not black and white.  Being a leader requires having many skills; it requires recognizing what skill is required for any given situation; it requires moving rapidly from one skill to another as the situation demands.

Further, I can say this.  My observation is that the most common leadership failure is in accurately diagnosing the organizational issues.  People feel the need to act quickly and often do not take the time to accurately determine the problem.  They fail to collect the right information, if they collect any information at all.  They fail to ensure that the data they are collecting is accurate and complete.  As a result, they solve the wrong problem.

As an example, I once observed an organization that was growing nicely but was not making any profits.  Year by year they grew in sales, but they never put any profits on the bottom line.  They assumed that the problem was that they were not managing their costs correctly, so they started cutting back staff.  Unfortunately, this put a heavy workload on the remaining staff and quality issues soon followed.  With the quality problems came customer dissatisfaction, declining sales and further losses at the bottom line.  The actual problem was that they did not understand their cost of doing business, and as a result were under-pricing their services.  They did not take the time to correctly diagnose the problem.  As a result, they solved the wrong problem, and actually created a bigger one by doing so.

Data is fundamental.  Analysis is critical.  As a leader, you need to take the time to accurately diagnose the causes of the symptoms you are seeing in your organization.  As one well-known CEO once said, “You can’t skimp your way to success.”

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