Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Critical Success Factors During Times of Economic and Organizational Uncertainty

I received quite a few telephone calls from executives and managers after I sent out an email blast of my article entitled: Keeping Spirits Up When Bottom-Line is Down. It seems to have struck a nerve. Many of those who contacted me felt they or their company had not responded well to the current economic downturn.

During times of economic and organizational uncertainty companies need to focus on the things that really matter — the things that will ensure the viability of their business in the future.

The great Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu (pronounced son-eat-sue), identified “five constant factors” that determine success during a battle. Said he, “He who masters them wins; he who does not is defeated.”

The five constant factors in war that determine either survival or ruin are: 1) moral influence, 2) weather, 3) terrain, 4) commander, and 5) doctrine.

I believe these five factors have business parallels. He who masters the five constant factors of business will win; he who does not will be defeated — regardless of the economy or any other market conditions.

The first constant factor, or moral influence, of business is a spirit of mission. To survive economic turmoil a company needs the strength of belief and a sense of purpose that rallies a fighting spirit and generates a firestorm of commitment from its employees. Those businesses that constantly keep the company’s purpose in the forefront of the minds of the employees (and customers) will win.

Sun Tzu’s weather constant equates to outside forces that affect the enterprise. The surge of consolidation sweeping through every industry is an outside force. So too are the reality of global competition and the influence of environmentalism. Companies need to constantly monitor the shifting changes in the world around them and then adjust their strategies accordingly.

The “terrain” is the marketplace. Just as a general must know the terrain of the battlefield, so also the businessman must consider the scene of action – the place, people, products, promotions, price, and other factors that determine success.

The commander, of course, is the leader of the company, division, or department. The attitude, philosophy and skill level of the leader greatly influences the performance of the employees. Effective leadership principles are the same even during a crisis. Too many companies jettison healthy management practices and lose their sense of direction during a business crisis. Those managers who maintain their stability and stay the course during tough times will lead their company to success.

The final constant, “doctrine,” is comparable to the guiding principles, core competencies, or core values that are vital to the company’s current and future growth. A company’s core values should never be abandoned in tough times. Rather, they should be the rallying standards that drive everyone’s behavior and performance.

The key to success during business uncertainty is to refocus the “troops” on the things that will ensure a victorious outcome for the company while battling the bad economy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Knowing the Score Helps Employees Put Forth the Effort to Win

A significant aspect of performance measurement is providing feedback to employees so they can tell whether or not they are winning. When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.

The Measurement Must be Objective

Managers can learn a lot about performance feedback by looking closely at the sports world. In the sports world scorekeeping is objective. A goal is always a goal. The ball must go through the hoop to count. Close isn't good enough (except in horseshoes). A person either is competent or they're not. There's no such thing as almost being a national champion or almost making the winning touchdown. You must score more points than your opponent to win, and only winners can be champions.

Things are different in the work world. Some managers have been known to rate less competent employees as proficient and reward people for goals not achieved in the false hope of motivating them to produce more. Not surprising, employees become discouraged and perform less well when they see less committed workers receiving the same praise and rewards as those who are dedicated and diligent.

People want to be evaluated fairly for what they do. They want others to be rated by the same standards. They become demotivated when they, or anyone else, receives undeserved rewards. Unfortunately, few performance appraisals possess the objective integrity shown in the way athletes are evaluated.

In the first episode of the reality television show The Apprentice, one of the contestants, Sam, tried to convince Donald Trump to reward him for his effort rather than results. Trump rightfully chastised Sam saying, “But you didn’t sell any lemonade.”

The Measurement Must be Dynamic

Scorekeeping in sports is also more dynamic. In sports you can always tell when someone scores because lights flash, horns blow, cannons roar and fans cheer. Gigantic scoreboards display the results for everyone to see. Everyone knows who is winning and who is not.

Dynamic scorekeeping creates an exciting and productive mood for everyone involved. Both those playing the game and those watching are emotionally committed when the score is prominently displayed.

Organizations can create the same dynamic, energized work environment by providing daily performance information to their employees. With this information the employees can review their score and know immediately whether they need to alter their performance to accomplish the goal.

The Measurement Must be Self-Measured

Managers would be even wiser to let their employees keep track of their own performance. Golfers keep their own scorecard, joggers set their own stopwatch, and successful sports teams keep individual statistics so each player can evaluate and upgrade their own performance. Most athletes monitor their individual statistics so they have immediate information on where they can improve their game. Although the scoreboard displays the team totals, most athletes are more interested in knowing where they stand personally so they can do what is necessary to better themselves. Joggers know how many seconds they need to trim off their time. Golfers know the score they must shoot to beat their best game. And every baseball player can tell you what it will take to achieve a .300 batting average.

Additionally, in sports, players can easily compare their current performance to
their performance in the past. They can evaluate their effort based on a set standard and know exactly how much further they must go to break the conference record or move into first place.

Managers can turn their employees into “world champions” by providing their staff with the tools and methods to measure their accomplishments and adjust their performance based upon the feedback they receive. Constant assessment and constant feedback are the core elements of success in both the sports and work worlds. Employees must know exactly where they are performance-wise and be able to improve their individual score by their individual effort.

Innovative Management Group provides companies with the training, tools, and resources to pinpoint and measure individual and team performance to ensure the success of the company and every employee within the company. For more information, please contact us at 702-258-8334 or by email at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Measure Performance

Of the eight core competencies of effective management that we introduce and teach in our Accountability Management Workshop, the competency managers say they struggle with the most is measuring and monitoring performance.

Many managers either do not know how to measure employee performance or have the mistaken assumption that certain tasks cannot be measured. The fact is every job classification and every job duty can be measured – reliably and with considerable precision – even “white collar” job skills.

The accurate tracking and measurement of performance is critical to business success. Measurement is the first step leading to control, and eventually to performance improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. And if you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

Nothing is more critical to creating competence than establishing clear, valuable, and measurable goals. Measurement is the science of knowing where you are, where you want to be, and identifying the steps necessary to accomplish your goals.

The Nine Measurement Dimensions

There are nine measurement dimensions by which to assess individual performance. Some job classifications can be rated in each of the nine areas, while others may only be measured against a few of the dimensions outlined below.

The three broad categories of measurement are Quality, Quantity and Costs. Under each main category are three specific measurement dimensions.

The Quality measurement dimensions are Accuracy, Class and Novelty.

Accuracy is the degree to which an accomplishment matches a standard without errors of omission or commission. Omission is when something is left out. Commission is when something is inadvertently added. Examples of accuracy measurements are:
100% compliance with all OSHA regulations
Balance out within +/- $2
Within designated specifications
Hot food hot, cold food cold
Given correct change

Class is a comparative superiority of an accomplishment beyond mere accuracy. Market share, opinion polls, survey results, best of show, and other benchmarks are examples of class measurements. The following are class-type ratings:
Customer Satisfaction Survey scores
Five Star / Five Diamond hotel rating
The largest Chevrolet dealer on the West Coast
Voted #1 three years in a row
Two thumbs up

Novelty is a measurement of innovation and creativity without sacrificing any other qualities. Employees who develop leading edge technologies or patentable products add great value to an organization. An employee in the vault at a large bank in Las Vegas came up with a novel idea for breaking open wrapped coins by tossing them into a cement mixer. This saved countless man-hours of work. Other examples of novelty measurements are:
Number of employee suggestions placed in the company Suggestion Box
Number of Nobel Laureate professors at a college
Number of new patents
Improvements made to processes, procedures, practices, equipment, materials, etc.
Labor or cost saving ideas

The three Quantity measurements are Rate, Timeliness and Volume.

identifies the amount of items produced within a specified timeframe. These include such things as:
Being able to type 110 words per minute
Number of covers per shift in a restaurant
Average daily room rate for a hotel
Number of calls per PBX operator
Number of widgets produced per hour, per day, per week, per month, per year

Timeliness is a measurement of an accomplishment within a specified timeframe, where the emphasis is on the time rather than the amount. Examples of timeliness measurements are:
Get out of town by sundown
In by 8:00 out by 5:00
Shipped within 24 hours
One day turn around
Loans approved within 48 hours
Answer the phone within three rings

Volume merely is a measurement of the total amount produced. This is the simplest and most common measurement. It entails the simple act of counting something. For example:
Number of salt/pepper shakers refilled at the end of the shift
Total sales, total revenue, total costs, etc.
Number of managers who attended IMG’s Accountability Management Workshop
Number of rooms occupied
Number of butts in seats

Finally, the three Cost measurement dimensions are Labor, Material and Management.

Labor costs – the measurement most conscious to managers – are the costs associated with an accomplishment. These include:
Wages, benefits, overtime, etc.
Training and orientation
Travel and entertainment

Material is the measurement of the amount of resources and materials needed to produce an accomplishment. Employees who produce an outcome using less materials than their counterparts have greater value to an organization. Consequently, material measurements identify such things as:
Yield rates
Scrap rates
Amount of waste eliminated through automation
Paperless processes
Steps eliminated through process improvement initiatives

Management measurements are the costs associated with the managerial or supervisory support needed to accomplish a task. These include:
Management salaries and administrative costs
Supervisor to employee ratios
Number of days an employee works without direct supervision
Number of self-directed work teams
Number of layers of management

Someone once said, “That which gets measured, gets done.” Managers are paid for getting things done. Competent managers, therefore, are those who measure and monitor performance to ensure employees accomplish the things that need to get done the way they need to be done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crayon Pictures Reveal Company Culture

If you would like to know how your employees really feel about your company values and culture, let them draw you a picture.

One technique I use to get employees to honestly describe their work environment is to give them a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper. I then ask them to draw a picture showing what it is like to work in their company. I tell them to draw a vehicle, a tool, or some other representation that conveys a visual image of the organization. The results are always very telling.

At a railroad company in the Midwest one employee drew the 30-story corporate office building. Each window of the building had a window shade. The shades in the first floor windows were up completely. At each higher floor the shades were pulled down more and more until the window shades were completely down on the top floor, which housed the executive offices. This employee felt those who were leading the company were blind to the realities of the real work world. They didn't have a clue as to what was going on outside the comfort of their offices.

At another company an artistic manager drew a picture of a circle of pioneer wagons. Each wagon represented a different department in the company. Around the wagons rode the competitive Indians shooting at the company wagons. Those inside the wagons were also shooting, but their guns were pointed inward toward the other wagons in the circle. They were shooting at themselves while the company was under attack.

An employee at another company drew a picture of “the company bus.” Outside the front door of the bus smiling people were waiting in line hoping to get on. The people seated in the front row on the bus also were smiling. But the smiles of the passengers decreased as they moved toward the back of the bus. At the rear of the bus frowning people were jumping out of the emergency exit. Once they were free of the bus these former passengers started smiling again.

You cannot fool your employees. The real values and culture of your company can be seen and felt by your workforce. They experience it in their work environment every day. If you want to know how they really feel, give them a box of crayons.

Innovative Management Group provides expert assistance in creating the right culture for your company. You can contact us at 702-258-8334 or email

Friday, October 16, 2009

There Will Be Change in the Future: How Will You Respond to It?

There are three types of change. Each may bring about positive results, but the pathway to the change is much different. So also are the feelings one experiences during the change.

Change By Crisis

Change may be precipitated by a crisis. You have a heart attack. Your spouse leaves you. You lose your job. You go bankrupt. These events are “wake up calls” that bring about forced change -- often for the good.

An alert person would have seen the warning signs and taken action earlier. The less astute reacts after they are confronted with the change. The response of the latter usually is to cope with the change and try to adjust to the impact the change has thrust upon them.

The physical, mental, emotional and financial cost of changing by crisis usually is very high.

Change By Evolution

Another way to change is by evolution. This kind of change occurs when a person notices other people are changing. So they change too. They adapt their strategies and tactics to mirror those around them. The external environment provides the primary motivation to change. They evolve as the world evolves around them.

The problem with change by evolution is that those who change this way often don’t react fast enough to stay competitive. Me-too change is always a few steps behind. By only changing when the need to change is obvious, they are obviously late in doing so.

Change By Anticipation

In this type of change the person takes a mental journey into the optimal future and creates a vision of where he or she wants to go.

With a clear destination in mind, the person then compares where they are to the vision. They use the gap between the two to propel themselves into the future.

In anticipated change, people create their future. They see change as a challenge or adventure and take on the change willingly. They respond to conditions rather than reacting to them. They look forward and position themselves for success by anticipating future situations and conditions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Here is What Others Are Saying about Innovative Management Group

I have received some wonderful compliments from my clients and thought I might pass a few along to toot my: horn. Here is what others are saying about Innovative Management Group:

Melanie Walker, VP of Human Resources at the Excalibur Hotel Casino says:

“Mac somehow always knows our business better than we do. He can guide an executive team to see that having clear intent and a laser focus can deliver measurable results. The best class I've ever taken (yes, I said EVER and I've been in a million) is Accountability Management, that Mac facilitates. He gets rave reviews from participants, and I've seen it change a management and employee culture time and time again. I'd hire Mac anytime, anywhere. He creates results that will leave a legacy in your organization.” Top qualities: Great Results, High Integrity, Creative

From Kerrie Peraino, SVP of Corporate Diversity at American Express:

“We hired Mac to help us work with a group of high-potential directors. His approach was both innovative and practical and helped to catapult our progress in developing these leaders for next level roles. Mac comes to the table with solutions as well as an open mind to tailor those solutions to best meet the needs of his customers. I enjoyed working with Mac and would do so again.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative

Punam Mathur, SVP of Human Resources at NV Energy adds:

“Mac is simply a best in class business consultant. His work with our senior leadership on strategic planning made a huge difference. He knows his business!” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity

Paul Hobson, General Manager of Atlantis Casino says:

“I have worked with Mac on more than one occasion and he has never failed to deliver impressive results. Whether diagnosing operating problems, identifying business opportunities or providing management training, Mac will leave your team with the tools and the plan for high achievement. Top notch!” Top qualities: Great Results, Good Value, High Integrity

Mohamad A. Hakimian is the owner of the five-star Madison Hotel in Memphis. He adds:

“Mac is totally knowledgeable about what makes a fabulous service environment and takes a practical approach to creating training documentations that facilitate managers training functions. He immediately develops credibility with the managers and as a result gets the team excited and motivated to take charge of the process.” Top qualities: Expert, On Time, High Integrity

From Barbara Falvey, SVP of Human Resources at Hawaiian Airlines:

“Mac has proven time and again that he can provide focus and results to executive teams in the development of strategy and action plans. I would highly recommend Mac if you are looking for a skilled facilitator that is not afraid to challenge the status quo and who can drive the team to develop accountability and achieve results.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Good Value

Craig Ghelfi, Chief Executive Officer at Greektown Casino comments about one of Mac's books:

“Mac's program significantly changed the way our our organization communicated and managed. His book "Stepping Forward Together" opened my eyes to the best ways of relating to subordinates, peers and superiors. Outstanding book (and program) that I would recommend highly!” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, On Time

And one more from Gerad Hardy, Vice President of Operations at Seneca Gaming:

“Simply put Mac is the best of the best when it comes to consulting/training in teamwork, strategic alignment, and organizational effectiveness. His unique understanding of organizational behavior allows him to take complex issues and problems and translate them into easy to understand models that create lasting results. I highly recommend Mac to any business or Senior Executive looking to enhance the effectiveness of their organization.” Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity

There are more than 30 more recommendations on Mac McIntire's profile at if you are interested in what others are saying about Innovative Management Group.

Restoring Worker Confidence in Your Company’s Future

It’s a chicken or the egg question. Which comes first? The economy takes a downturn, so people stop spending; or people stop spending, and the economy takes a dive?

Either way, the results are the same. A decline in consumer confidence causes consumers to spend less, which results in massive hits on the economy, which causes people to spend even less, which then results in an even greater dip in the economy. It’s a vicious downward spiral — unless someone does something to stop it.

The same chicken or egg spiral happens in business. The company starts to struggle financially, the employees lose confidence in the future of the company, their morale and performance goes down, which results in the company’s financial picture becoming even bleaker, which then causes people to become even more disheartened. If something isn’t done, and done quickly, the organization is destined for decline, downsizing or even demise.

Clear, Logical Plan

During difficult business situations one of the most important things is to maintain the confidence of the employees during the crisis. When employees lose confidence in the business their performance goes down, which starts the spiral.

In an economic crisis what employees need most is confidence in the future viability of the business. They need assurance that the present crisis is only a temporary slump.

What workers don’t need are pep talks or motivational rallies to get them to work harder. No matter how strongly employees may have felt about their leaders before the crisis, charismatic leadership alone will not engage them during troubled times.

Employees gain confidence in the future viability of their organization not from what their leaders say, but by what they do. People are not motivated by words, they are motivated by plans. Employees will reconnect with the company when they see a clear, logical plan to restore the company to economic certainty. The plan must be based upon sound reasoning that makes strategic sense to the employees.

Whether you believe it or not, most employees, no matter what their job classification or educational background may be, have a reasonable business understanding and can sense whether or not their leaders’ decisions are sound. If the crisis response plan makes sense to them, they will work all the harder to make it succeed.

Get Employees Involved

The best solutions, of course, are those that the employees determined themselves.

Most employees are very astute in seeing what could be done differently to improve an operation. Employees are masters at making their jobs easier. Unfortunately, sometimes they minimize their work to the point where quality and service are negatively impacted. But given the right information, employees will generate improvement ideas that can help turn around a declining business.

Frequent Communication

To make good performance decisions employees need good business information. They need to understand the goals of the organization and where it is headed. They need a clear concept of the customers and what their needs are. They require a clear understanding of their role and how that role fits into meeting the customers’ needs.

Employees want to know what is going on. They wish to hear regular updates on how the business is progressing toward its goals. They need to know that their actions are helping to turn the company around.

What employees really want to know is — “Is there a future in this business and am I in it?”

They want their leaders to give them hope and confidence that life will be better once again and things will return to normal. Given that confidence, employees will work hard to make it happen.