Company Culture-Part One.

The-Importance-of-Maintaining-a-Positive-Company-Culture

“Culture is what people do when no one is looking.”

-Herb Kelleher, Chairman, Southwest Airlines

“Nice work, guys. Excellent. Good team effort all around. Go us.”

-Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, Iron Man 3 (movie)

There’s a great deal of information available today on the topic of company culture.  Experts are popping up with a load of advice, do’s and don’ts, how to’s and what not to do, and lots of insights and examples to share.

You might already have this topic mastered.  If so – congratulations – and don’t feel obligated to read on.  If you’re like me, however, and you take an interest in what others have experienced and what they have to share, please continue.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of several companies here in Silicon Valley since beginning my career in Operations nearly 30 years ago (yeeowwch- that long?  Really?)….in the mid 1980’s I joined my first start-up company (kind of before “start-ups” was a thing), and received a first class education in business growth, basic economics and most importantly, the art of working with others.

Company or “corporate” culture has been defined as “the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.” (excerpt from Investopedia).

In my experience, I’ve found that a company’s culture can directly influence the company’s success, employee participation and retention, and external marketing and awareness of both their products and their organization.  The company’s reputation is often directly tied to the company’s culture as well.  And a thriving, positive and engaging culture can even attract a higher level of talented team members.

Having made such a bold and yet obvious statement about company culture, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what a company culture is not as well.  The goal is simply to share my view on the topic.  In no particular order:

  • Company culture isn’t something that can be bought.  I know there will be those who disagree, but come on people, you cannot expect that simply providing treats, great coffee or even full-time chefs (been there, done that) who provide meals to your employees will earn a great company culture.  It’s much more than that.
  • Company culture isn’t defined by one individual.  As much as I have come to appreciate working alongside some great human resource people and business leaders, corporate CEOs and small start-up company presidents, they cannot be expected to single-handedly shape and direct the corporate culture.  By its very nature, culture is formed by groups of people.  Remember the saying – “it takes a village”?  Very true when it comes to company culture.
  • Company culture isn’t developed in a vacuum (at least, not a good, positive and engaging culture).  Great company cultures are grown over time, they are cultivated, they are fed, and they are managed.  It requires active participation by those interested in such a topic.  There needs to be a conscientious effort applied.
  • Company culture isn’t a “cure all” for whatever ailment your business currently suffers from.  This might seem obvious but I’ve experienced this first hand in more than one environment- the erroneous view that “if we could improve our company culture, we would improve the bottom line to our business”.   It just doesn’t work that way in the real world.  While a great culture can enhance and strengthen the business through motivating its members towards greatness, it should never be viewed as a solution to systemic business issues.  There’s no guarantee with respect to this idea.  Business is still- well- “business” at the end of the day so to speak- the rules around revenue growth, marketing spend and profit margins still apply.

Well- it’s a good start. Part 2 of this discourse will include a closer look into what a company culture is, what it can do, and how to affect it and promote it in a positive fashion, so stay tuned.  For now, give some thought to your role, your influence,  in your company’s culture.  Thanks for reading this short prose- onward!

It’s All about Attitude

attitudesmileySo much of what we experience in life cannot be controlled.  We have so many things that happen to us, and often circumstances that are completely outside of our ability to predict or persuade.  Life comes down to one simple “game changer” – attitude.

I went to lunch the other day, just to get out of the office, out from underneath the fluorescent lights, and to take a break from my work routines.  I hopped on my Electra Glide, cranked up the CCR, and I ended up at one of my favorite eating spots, a nearby Chipotle restaurant.  Their food is generally fresh, always with a consistent flavor and inexpensive, and their service (it’s pretty casual) is quick and reliable.  Then there was this one employee.

This guy was great– I observed him, a Chipotle employee, as he hustled between tables, picking up after others, wiping down surfaces and throwing away trash.  He was careful to work around those at lunch, making sure none of us were impacted by his movements.  He was polite- asking each of us there how our day was going, how we liked the food, and whether or not there was anything else we needed.  I was impressed by his attitude and his sincerity.

Here was a guy, I’m guessing in his early 20’s, working hard, working smart and working with a positive attitude.  He wasn’t complaining about his job, or his pay, or his hours.  He wasn’t necessarily giddy, but he was upbeat, personable and friendly- all great qualities, and qualities that are often no where near an hourly employee at a fast food establishment-it’s a tough, thankless job (a couple of my kids have had similar jobs, as did I during my college days-making sandwiches at the local Hickory Farms in Lynchburg, VA.).  As I departed, the guy saw me leaving (he was wiping down tables outside) and told me to have a great day- and thanked me for stopping in.  What? A thank you for eating there at Chipotle?  I couldn’t believe it!

The whole lunch experience was valuable to me- yes, I was hungry too, and Chipotle took care of that for me, but more than just the food- the insight I received from watching this guy was tremendous and really, for me, a good swift kick in my backside…  So much of life is all about our attitude.

Listen, there’s no way for you to change what you cannot control- that’s a universal truism we can all relate to.  The only thing we can do is continually dial up our attitude-when times get tough, crank up the positivity and focus on solutions.  When customers complain, address their need, and dialog with them (and listen, really listen), and win them over.  Something needs to get fixed “now” at work- roll up your sleeves, build a solution and get it done.  Stay positive, be thankful, look forward and not behind-make a difference with all that you do, and by all means, help others around you to do the same, and you’ll experience amazing results.  Thanks Chipotle guy- for sharing your attitude!

Regarding the Anatomy of Operational Excellence

shutterstock_138565244The Anatomy Of Operational Excellence

LEADERSHIP

THE ANATOMY OF OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE ENABLES AN ENTERPRISE AND ITS LEADERSHIP TO CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE ALL AREAS OF PERFORMANCE. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM GM, CHEVRON, AND BAE SYSTEMS.

BY FAISAL HOQUE

Operational excellence enables an enterprise and its leadership to continuously improve all areas of performance, including decision-making, ongoing investment, profitability, customer and partner services and human resources capabilities. Operationally excellent enterprises possess the processes and structures—or the “intangible assets”—that give them the visibility, control, tools, and management practices necessary to drive greater operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Consider the following three examples:

Potential Failure: British multinational defense, security and aerospace behemoth BAE Systems could be jeopardizing its operational excellence with a proposed merger that would threaten a key market. BAE’s biggest shareholder, fund manager Invesco Perpetual, warns that plans to merge with EADS, Europe’s largest arms manufacturer and the maker of Airbus, makes no strategic sense for BAE. The deal with EADS, which is controlled by France and Germany, would hamper BAE’s manufacturer’s access to the very profitable market for U.S. military contracts, according to Invesco, which owns about 13.3% of BAE, which generates more than 40% of its revenue in the U.S.

Return to Excellence: American multinational automotive General Motors bounced back to profitability in 2011, two years after emerging from a government-backed Chapter 11 reorganization and a year after making one of the world’s biggest initial public offerings. Now GM is making a strategic decision to add 1,500 software and data management jobs at its tech center in Warren, Mich., as part of an sweeping effort to in-source 90% of its tech work. A month ago, GM opened a similar center in Austin, Texas, with plans to hire 500 workers. GM’s focus on building a new age of automotive innovation could further improve its operational excellence.

Ongoing Excellence: Oil supermajor Chevron is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, and relies on core strategies across the enterprise. The company works with suppliers across the globe as a part of its ‘Chevron Way’ philosophy, which has helped it grow annual net income to nearly $27 billion on revenue of $253.7 billion in 2011, making it one of the world’s largest corporations by revenue. More significantly, from an investor’s perspective, Chevron had $41 billion in cash from operating activities in the bank at the beginning of 2012. There’s speculation that Chevron may go on a buying spree with that cash, and it’s essential the giant makes the best choices to maintain the same commitment to excellence even if it scoops up an inferior smaller company.

Looking Back to a Single Pin

Operational excellence had its genesis in manufacturing dating back to the pre-Industrial Revolution. In his 1776 magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, economist and philosopher Adam Smith was among the first great thinkers to define this now widely used concept. Smith famously described a small pin factory where 10 workers, each specializing in a different aspect of the job, could produce over 48,000 pins a day. Left to make a pin on his own, each of these workers might not have manufactured a single one in a day, and certainly not more than 20. The division of labor immensely increased the productivity of each worker. It’s still true today that assigning different roles and responsibilities across an enterprise enables scale, lowers costs and leads to greater operational efficiencies.

Delivering continuous improvement in the marketplace among competitors and customers requires enterprises to identify, understand and create the capabilities, behaviors and focuses necessary for repeatable, continuous and measurable operational improvement.

Roadmap for Operational Excellence Journey

Being operationally excellent requires a focus on management capabilities to develop and promulgate standards, coordinate decision-making, optimize service delivery and to manage the workforce. Orchestrating these capabilities requires a unification of cross- functional management disciplines. These capabilities can be organized around the following core characteristics:

1. Visualize Key Operational Processes. Identify the key operational processes, including those that create value, growth or innovation as well as those that consume the most resources, time and assets. Develop visual operating models that show linkages both inside the enterprise as well as outside, to customers, suppliers and partners.

2. Design Workflow and Predefined Responses. Model the workflow for each key process, identifying the actions, resources and workers required for each step. Then define a standard response to handle large variations in workflow volume outputs or inputs.

3. Develop Metrics and Gauges. Establish measures for normal workflow and develop systems or methods that report workflow volume outside the normal ranges. Ensure that workflow reports are received by the stakeholders responsible for each operation.

4. Operate Functionally, Measure Systemically. The functional operating manager responsible for workflow, using the predefined responses, operates the workflow by making any changes necessary to adapt to changing volume, inputs or outputs. Functional managers interact with upstream and downstream operating mangers to ensure optimal end-to-end performance.

5. Drive Continuous Improvement. As operating experience grows, make adjustments to the workflow design, predefined responses and performance measures, to continuously improve overall system performance.

If business agility enables rapid adjustments to effect change, and sustained innovation allows an organization to stay ahead of the competition and market dynamics, then operational excellence is the epitome of fiscal discipline, maximizing the use of resources and the assurance of revenue sustainability and, ultimately, profitability.

Managing Operational Risks

To manage most business operations, enterprises must cultivate a culture of risk management that is vigilant in its pursuit and disciplined in its execution.

Today’s businesses are learning hard lessons about operational risk: BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, naked credit default swaps and more than $63 billion in failed U.S. technology projects, are but a few of the high- profile cases that demonstrate the perils of failed risk management and poor operational execution. Each of these disasters and debacles caused billions of dollars in value destruction, yet each of them happened on the watch of skilled risk managers who appeared to do their jobs properly. Each had compliance systems, regulators and oversight mechanisms expressly designed to mitigate risk. So what went wrong?

In two words: systemic failure. Systemic operational risk originates in the complex interactions among the components that constitute a system. An individual component can function flawlessly while the overall system experiences a massive failure, or the system functions as an impact multiplier, magnifying the effect of a single component failure.

Managing systemic risk requires a culture of operational risk management that extends beyond the individual components to the edges, seams and overall system behavior. Mature risk cultures are characterized by a set of essential management practices that ensure the framework of the enterprise functions at a consistently high level. These include the following:

Step 1: Identify the risks. Operational risk identification is the process of identifying of sources of risk from all directions, internal and external. Risk identification is an inherently creative process, and as such, it requires the collaboration of diverse minds and different perspectives that represent all constituencies.

Step 2: Establish a control system. Risk mitigation is an analytical process that devises a control system to mitigate each identified risk. Control systems range widely. They can be designed to respond to a risk event, to reengineer the process to eliminate or transfer the risk, or to detect the risk early, before it can cause significant damage.

Step 3: Test, test, and test again. Control systems require compliance to be effective, and testing simulates risk events and the control-system response. Test results are fed back into improved and more effective control systems; they also serve to identify new sources of risk, each of which requires a corresponding control system.

As our knowledge economy expands and global interconnections increase, complexity grows exponentially. Business leaders and operating managers must proactively manage complexity by constructing control systems that not only function in complex environments, but also adapt and evolve along with them.

(Original article by FAISAL HOQUE)

Founder of SHADOKA and other companies. Newest book “Survive to Thrive – 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015).

 

What’s in the Box?

Question-Mark-out-of-Box-1024x1000How’s your OOBA these days?  “Good question…what is it?”  OOBA is an acronym for “out of box audit”.  It involves a final pass that checks for quality, all components required in the product are present, correct firmware is loaded (if this is part of the product in question), the product has been packaged correctly and everything is in place, accounted for, and ready to provide your customer the best possible experience upon receipt.  Generally, this FQA (Final Quality Audit) is owned by your Quality group, or by Operations, or perhaps even some combination of both teams.  The purpose of this exercise is to help insure that the product works correctly, looks great (not good–great), and everything necessary for a successful customer experience has been done.

People who work in Operations are familiar with this terminology, and probably more so for those who have worked in companies that produce consumer goods (products that ship to end users directly).  What is your customer going to receive?  That’s certainly one question you should be able to answer confidently.  An even better question might be–What will your customer think of your product?  What will they perceive about your company when they open the product?

Earlier in the year I wrote a small piece about quality, and more specifically, about ownership of quality.  The OOBA is one tool to measure quality internally, but more than that, it is one method to constantly keep your customer’s experience in view.   It’s not only about product quality, it’s one way in which the Operations team can contribute to the customer retention level of any organization.

We’ve all been there–we’ve been pleasantly surprised when we’ve ordered a product and it showed up, pristine in quality, ready to be used, delivered as expected.  We’ve also had those less than stellar experiences when a product arrives that isn’t up to our expectations, or the hype, or what was promised by the company.  Keep the OOBA in mind.  When was the last time you really looked at your product from your customer’s perspective?  This is something important that should be a part of every organization!