Are your people fit to deliver?

Maybe there’s another factor; the “fit-
ness” of the senior management team to deliver — as measured by the following:
* technological competence
* valuing others’ time
* using KPIs and balanced scorecard
* finishing capabilities
* using human resources management techniques
* making work fun.

It’s not uncommon to see technological dinosaurs roaming around in the senior management team.
Yet the required skills and the level of technological literacy needed are well within the reach of anyone on the senior management team. Witness the number of senior people who on retirement discover the web. How does an organisation allow these minor barriers to remain unhurdled by the senior management team?
Being technological dinosaur has other costs.
A lack of technological literacy results in projects not being led or understood by the senior team, often leading to expensive U-turns or involvement in inappropriate projects.
The answer is quite simple: Invest in personal trainers for the senior team until they are completely au fait with using email, accessing the executive management system (which was built for them, after all), working with electronic draft board papers, and editing their own powerpoint presentations. They will be forever grateful. Remember how pleased you felt when you first rode bike.

Valuing others’ time
One of the growing diseases I see all the time and one I unfortunately contribute to, is not valuing others’ time.
The other day I bumped into one senior team having their weekly management meeting. I found out to my horror that these lasted over five hours. This could be an interesting debating chamber, but l0 percent of the working week had just evaporated for these people.
I wonder if they would have carried on so long if there had been message on the white board — “This meeting is costing us $1000 per hour.”
Furthermore, the process of producing board papers for senior management and board meetings can consume disproportionate slice of organisational resources. Large and intellectually elegant board papers can cost over $250,000 each month in management time.

A top athlete needs top gear. top senior team needs accurate, timely and concise information.
A key benefit of KPIs is clarity. senior team that’s functioning well, naturally progresses to KPI focus and often has at its disposal an executive information system that tracks these measures on daily/weekly basis, covering the key aspects with “balanced scorecard” approach.
If the senior team is focused on the key factors, most other things look after themselves.
If you’re not interested in the measure on daily or weekly basis, then it probably isn’t KPI.
My favour KPI story is about Lord King who set about turning British Airways (BA) around in the 1980s by reportedly concentrating on one KPI. He was notified, wherever he was in the world, if BA plane was delayed. The senior BA official at the relevant airport knew that they would receive personal call from the chairman. It wasn’t long before BA planes had reputation for leaving on time.

Methods for tracking KPIs
How do you keep focus if your key measures aren’t displayed each day? Some suggestions:
* one pager called “the 9 o’clock news”, highlighting critical factors was emailed at 9 o’clock to management around the country, in one core government department
* visual board in high traffic area, and
* daily update of KPIs on the intranet.

Finishing capacity
It’s no good running the first 1200 metres in three minutes if you don’t finish the remaining 300 metres. One of the greatest wastes in management is unfinished projects or discontinued initiatives.
If senior management haven’t got the grit to see initiatives through, then they shouldn’t expect high finishing rate from their teams. Moving on to more interesting pastures is very contagious virus and doesn’t respond well to short term treatments.
If your organisation has history of unfinished or discontinued initiatives, here are some suggestions:
• log all initiatives
• develop culture that celebrates completion
• support new initiatives with regular training programmes aimed at getting buy-in from new middle and senior managers, and
• recognise that companies need oracles; those long serving people who remember everything. Turn them into mentors and watch the performance of younger staff take off.

Commit to HR
If senior management aren’t aware of modern HR techniques, they’ll have tendency to undervalue them.
Disenfranchise HR at your peril, the consequences will include:
• trend towards purchasing rather than growing trained staff
• remuneration out of kilter, especially at senior levels
• the organisation’s culture being talked about, but nothing really done about it
• new recruits not performing as anticipated
• staff turnover and absenteeism rising
• young talented staff never learning good management skills, and
• poor targeted training.

Fun at work
Good senior managers have the knack of making work fun. It’s quality that’s seen in how teams perform and enjoy their work.
But for many, the fun is restricted to erasing of the week with number of stiff gins or half dozen Steinies on Friday night.
Some suggestions:
• celebrate success — say newsletter called the “success express”
• set up CEO bouquets, which are given out weekly for outstanding achievements
• put guidelines on the percentage of time that should be invested in management meetings, board papers and so on, and monitor these
• give every manager copy of the audio tape “The One Minute Manager”. It will change their style.
David Parmenter is the managing director of waymark solutions limited. Email: parmenter
Editorial for the corporate governance series is independently supplied by Management magazine and sponsored by QBE Insurance.

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