This is Challenge #24 and it shows up in Stage 1 and again in Stage 7.

For completely different reasons. However, the way to solve this one is pretty consistent no matter when it shows up.

There is a rhythm to running a business. The better a CEO is at managing cash flow and chaos, the better he or she will be at getting their products or services to market. This particular challenge is a survival issue for a Stage 1 company, and a profitability issue for a Stage 7 company. Regardless of the size of company, this challenge relates to three important issues.

  1. Employees don’t understand the urgency of getting products or services to market.
  2. There are broken processes or the processes are not being followed correctly.
  3. There is a lack of training on the processes.

You might say the company needs to move faster to get its products or services to market. However, speed isn’t always better. When employees buy into the company’s performance standards and understand the financial and customer satisfaction goals behind the delivery of that product or service, it’s easier to stay on top of this challenge.

Critical questions a CEO should be asking include:

  • Are assumptions being made about work processes?
  • Do managers encourage employees to look for areas of improvement?
  • Do all employees understand the bigger picture as to delivering on time?
  • How do you share successes? • Is there a reward mechanism in place to encourage systems improvements?

Taking a page from Jack Welch’s book, Jack: Straight from the Gut, questions not only need to be asked, questions need to infl uence change. Th e issues that arise from those questions need to be turned into usable ideas, which is not an easy bridge to make. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the implementation of ideas that creates traction, improves morale and increases the bottom line.

To identify issues, you have to create a culture in which fear doesn’t exist. CEOs and managers often ask, “Why don’t they just tell me what’s wrong? I never knew they were struggling with that process!” People aren’t so quick to tell their manager or the CEO what’s wrong if his/her reaction is to sigh, roll their eyes, cross their arms, release a long breath through clenched teeth, seem agitated and ask, “Why didn’t you just fix it?” You know exactly what I’m talking about!

Coach your CEOs and managers to be approachable and open. We all know body language telegraphs more feelings than words. When employees see negative body language, they shut down. It’s a manager’s job to encourage employees to look under the surface of issues to identify what the real problems are. Encourage them to talk to others about what they see, gather input, challenge the status quo and then collaborate to come up with solutions. Most businesses run on an impatient time clock. Remember the old adage, “If you had time to do it over again, you had time to do it right the first time.” In the chaos of getting that project done on time, solving the customer’s problem, revamping a process, training a new employee, hiring the right employee; it’s easy to overlook the immediate slowdowns in favor of chaos and it’s so easy for employees to tell themselves we’ll fix it or do it later.

Here are a few questions CEOs and managers should ask in order to help employees understand that they want their input, they value it, and without their input, things won’t change and chaos will rule.

  • What are the major frustrations you deal with on a daily basis that should be discussed?
  • What are the three best things about the company?
  • What don’t you like about how things are running?
  • What changes would you like to see?

By creating a culture that encourages sound thinking, that takes those good ideas and uses the creative energy of each employee to see those ideas implemented, a CEO can create an environment that embraces change. Reward employees for innovative thinking and collaborative meetings where issues are discussed and solutions uncovered. Create an easy-to-use online reporting system that employees can use to identify problems with processes or call attention to where duplication of effort exists.

The challenge of being too slow getting products or services to market has many fingers. If a business owner takes time in the early stage of his/her company’s development to focus on critical processes, the foundation is in place to ramp up quicker. The reality is those processes will and should change as the company grows.

Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!