With the start of a new year, it’s time to rethink your organization’s culture and not just its goals. Here are best practices for leveraging your culture to create business success.
Winnow your list of values
Across the street from my house sits a welcoming red-tile-roofed Catholic grade school campus with bright white adobe walls. The children wear navy blue uniforms, and the well-kept Catholic Church at its center has the charm only decades can bestow. School leaders recently placed banners naming the school’s values on the wire-fenced wall enclosing the playground: Sharing, Stewardship, Respect, Service, Gratitude, Empathy, Cooperation, Celebration, Building peace
P&G leader Arthur Jones once said, “All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they get!”
This truism should be tattooed on every leader’s chest so that one glimpse in the morning mirror reminds them of the CEO’s responsibility. If they don’t like their organizational results, they must change the underlying design that created them.
After closing 40 stores last year, Macy’s recently announced it plans to shut down another 100 this year. Its CEO blamed a change in the retail environment, taking no responsibility himself for Macy’s poor showing. Hmm. A CEO that increased Macy’s borrowings to buy back its stock, as the corporation did last year, has a lot of explaining to do.
Economists argue that trade is good, essential in fact to growing an economy. If you excel at growing tomatoes, and I carrots, we will each have a healthier and more plentiful diet by bartering carrots for tomatoes. Once you add in far more people (across the globe no less), more goods (beef, cars, iPhones), services, and a monetary system that converts the value of any item to a price, gains in our simple local barter example grow exponentially. The world benefits when people trade, exporting what they are uniquely good at and importing what others are more efficient at making. We end up with more goods and services at a lower price when trade crosses city, state, regions and national boundaries.
It’s not possible to resolve political debates such as “Should we raise taxes to revitalize our aging transportation infrastructure?” without first achieving consensus on the role of government. The role debate, at least in my mind, is far less divisive than “how.” So, as we enter elections to determine the next US President and Congress, I thought it would be a good time to share an economist’s perspective on the role of government.
There would be no role for government in our economy if – in our roles as citizens, business owners, shareholders, employees, and consumers – we acted in the best interests of society as a whole. Rather, we act out of real or perceived self-interest.
Kohl’s Corporation, headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, started with a unique business model: just the soft goods. It offered consumers a comfortable buying experience at lower-than-department store prices. Some people, especially Midwesterners, swore by the brand. My sister-in-law— born, raised, still living in Milwaukee, and likely never to leave — visits Kohl’s regularly for good deals and an easy shopping experience.
I opened the birthday card to find a silver metal cutout of the word FABULOUS glued to a background of shiny fuchsia ribbons. The message was wonderful to receive, for sure. Looking at the card days after my birthday, I realize the word FABULOUS is an important word for all of us as we begin a New Year in our organizations.
Competing on more than price is getting increasingly difficult. There is excess supply in many markets. Many customers face financial pressures and want a bargain. They find them as they have more buying power than ever, be they a consumer with access to the Internet, or a business offering large contracts that you do not want to lose. The only way past competing on price is to offer your target market benefits that are relevant, unique, and hard for competitors to copy.
Hail Mary passes in American football are named after a prayer for a reason. The chances of the quarterback connecting to a receiver over a long distance make this kind of pass look like an act of desperation when the clock is close to Game Over.
Did prayers miraculously come true for Aaron Rodgers’ last-chance effort to win their Green Bay Packer’s second game against the Detroit Lions? No. The final pass was not entirely an act of desperation requiring heavenly intervention. Rather, practice made the play part of the Green Bay arsenal; and practice made perfect.
Was the US Central Bank right to delay a planned rise in interest rates? The increase was anticipated to beat down inflation before it got out of hand. Instead, Chairwoman Yellen and her team “wimped out.”
Let’s provide some context first. Following the banking crisis that resulted in the 2008 recession, The US Federal Reserve engaged in unprecedented monetary stimulus through buying bonds, driving real and nominal interest rates to historic lows. Most GOP commentators forecasted high inflation because all else equal that much monetary stimulus should have driven inflation into the double digits. Many business leaders accepted these projections as fact. The fear still hangs over us.
“Apple is finally getting serious about pushing into our living rooms,” according to New York Times reporters Kate Benner and Brian X. Chen. Apple’s already in our bedroom, bathroom, subway ride, vacations and, if we’re not diligent, meals with family. Why not the living room? What else is left?
My husband and I had two choices of hotels for our stay last weekend at a destination wedding—Hilton Garden Inn or Best Western. The choice was a no brainer. More on that decision shortly, but first, let’s take a diversion into the history of brands.
One of the hardest challenges facing leaders is making decisions in the face of uncertainties. To deal with the discomfort of uncertainty, some leaders turn their assumptions and beliefs into “facts” in their mind. That’s unfortunate. Stick blindly to ill-informed thinking, as some prominent leaders have done, and you’ve doomed your company to decline. Let’s look at some examples.
The following post is authored by Bill Kraus, a senior executive in the insurance business who served as Chief of Staff for GOP Governor Lee Dreyfus in Wisconsin. The message is so important I am posting it in place of my blog this week.
Former Governor Lee Dreyfus’s golden rule for politics: Those who have the gold make the rules.
You’ve started your business and survived. Now, what? How do you move from struggling to established to growing consistently and profitably? The answer is scaling, a concept very different from lean thinking. The latter pulls out costs that do not add value. Scaling allows you to reduce the costs of processes that do add value thereby sustaining competitiveness and enhancing profitability.
This word is important for both an individual and an organization. On an individual level, a calling is the driving force – moving through many roles – that brings meaning or deeper purpose to the totality of your work. I like to think of my calling as my True North. It captures how I put my unique background and skills to work to make a positive difference for others and realize more of my potential.
McDonald’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, accepted a huge problem as his to solve. The former darling of the fast food industry is losing customers. First quarter revenues fell 11 percent. And unlike IBM, which uses share buybacks to maintain earnings per share (EPS) growth in the face of declining revenue, McDonald’s EPS plunged over 25%. Meanwhile, McDonald’s ingredient costs, wages, and healthcare expenses are rising, thus making a quick turn-around challenging. As worrisome, franchise owners are rightfully upset.
Excuse me for wanting to stretch Wisconsin’s glorious victory over Kentucky in the NCAA Basketball Final Four into another day. But I can’t resist. There are business leadership lessons for us to learn.
In 1989, the CEO of my global employer allowed me to work from home rather than demand I move halfway across the US to be near corporate headquarters. Two technologies made his decision possible: Overnight delivery and an early fax machine. I was the first distributed worker other than our sales and product service representatives.
Might Martin O’Malley beat Hillary Clinton in the primary?
Not according to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who dismissed the declared candidate’s primary chances. Calling the former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor a “wonk,” Milbank’s March 11 column applauded O’Malley’s many real accomplishments but declared him unable to excite the Democratic base.
Are your customer touch points creating frustration or delight?
How often have you ended up raising your voice with a customer service representative or an automated voice system? It happens to me whenever the specifics of my situation fall outside a company’s “rules” for its software or front-line people.
Welcome to Costco where you feel you are walking through a yellow page directory. A walk down one warehouse building aisle took me past a Lennox furnace for sale, hanging laundry baskets, snacks and piles of men’s blue jeans, eventually arriving at my destination, top brand wines at great prices. Far to my right, I saw refrigerated grocery store items and to my far left, gardening supplies.