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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets

We are seeing our customers admonished to “do more with less,” “find a way or your replacement will!” and other, similar encouragement. We have gone from downward advice to “form a careful plan” to “I don’t care how…just get it done now!”

Heat isn’t generating much light. After a while, firing capable people for failing to do the impossible just weakens morale and the organization.

Yet in all the craziness, we are seeing some wins from our customers. Here is what we expect walking into a new situation.

  1. Everyone is working a full capacity. We are past the point of increasing output. Something has to give. 
  2. When someone is doing something that appears crazy, there is a good reason for it. Recreational worrying has paid off in the past.  
  3. Saying something doesn’t make you credible. I haven’t seen a winning organization where the leadership hasn’t earned and kept credibility.
So how do you create a successful organization in a badly constrained circumstance, where the customers aren’t paying, forecasts are collapsing, and you are getting (dispensing?) a lethal dose of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt?

Moving Forward
If everyone is working at full capacity, obviously we are going to have to stop doing some things if we are going to do different things.

We usually make a first analysis of what should we stop doing? Take a breath. Regroup. Put the inexplicable on hold until we’re sure we need it.

Think of balance, before you can start something new, you have to get rid of something that doesn’t support it.

Next, we communicate what we want to accomplish. That is usually just a sentence, something that can be measured as either done or not done.

We are not believed at first, but we aren’t looking to be believed. We just keep repeating our goal and celebrating the results.

It’s too hard to start firing people. Fire somebody and it’s hard to get budget to refill the position. Better to upgrade internal existing knowledge.

When we get help, we acknowledge it. We ignore the people who are not on board.

If we don’t define who’s “agin” us, it’s easier for them to join up when we start winning.

Work on the small things, like civility, learning from the troops, investing in improved skills  and food to build loyalty.

The “New” Program
Even as we are earning loyalty, we are doing a careful customer and industry analysis.

Research and Development is often asking your ten most important stakeholders what they think.

Write down whatever they say.

Figure out what is happening in your world outside your customer environment. Use that internet, and copy the best things you find.

Share what you are learning with your stakeholders. Teach them that adding key facts earns praise, even if you aren’t sure of the specific value when you first hear it.

Develop short projects that can be completed and evaluated in a week or two, projects that could lead to a solution of new offerings, new features, better installation, new customers.

If cost for a prototype is an issue, find a way to do something for free, as long as you get market knowledge that can help you.

Make frequent heroes of your team members, and explain again and again the specifics of what they did right.

Demonstrate how you want people to behave under disabling pressure.

Review forward progress and set new goals, daily or at least weekly. Find a better meeting model that is more fun.

Out The Ditch and Staggering Ahead
Following this process, you are operating two simultaneous strategies.

First, you are making incremental changes to keep your team and customers’ interest.

Second, you are creating an organization to identify and use breakthrough opportunities.

On a monthly basis look for low value practices. If someone has others collecting static information to complete their job, have them offer value for other people’s work. If the collector can’t find the value find out why.

Publicly reward people for producing expected results, for initiating new attempts. Let everyone see the value of their coworkers results.

Encourage teaming that gets better results.

Communicate that better top line results gives the organization more room to experiment and succeed.

Lead by example.

What can you add to the discussion?

 On Thursday, September 16th, 7:15 am,we are offering a free presentation of Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets at Intelligent Office, Rockville MD. Details at

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