Business as Usual is No Longer an Option

June 17, 2009
How foundries fight inertia to boost profits and achieve "big picture" goals Develop a stronger leadership system Instill in managers a desire to reach goals Overcome organizational inertia

The inertia of business-as-usual is no longer an option as a tsunami of bad economic news washes over all industries.

Oftentimes, creating a sense of urgency means an owner/executive needs to develop a stronger leadership system so he can focus on key company goals, instill in his managers a desire to do their utmost to reach those goals, and overcome organizational inertia before the status quo turns into status woe.

A performance coach can often help executives institute these changes quickly. These seasoned executives understand the business, the dynamics of the organization, and know the difficulties executives face: focusing on the company’s key goals while delegating less important matters, and who can advise him how to re-energize his workforce - from direct reports on down to the newest member in the company. In short, a performance coach can help rid a company of inertia.

Inertia is “business as usual” -  an acceptance of the status quo that tolerates mid-management excuses rather than reasons for not achieving goals. Inertia can be overcome with a formal compensation system that rewards managers based on their results and with an informal communications effort that motivates them to work together to achieve overall company goals.

Most importantly, it can be overcome when an executive/owner is taught to focus on the “big picture” - the goals his company must meet if it to be successful - and help his subordinates achieve their parts in making the big picture a reality rather than a dream.

If that is inertia, what is leadership? Leadership is the ability to discern what needs to be done, what goals must be met, and how to motivate associates and subordinates to make those needs and goals their own priorities. Leadership is not to be confused with affability, or perhaps with setting goals through consensus. While the need for mutual support and teamwork is clear, so are the ambitious goals.

Every business - even foundries - need a leader who sets the goals and priorities for the company. Although every company is a team, every team needs a leader, and everybody on a team must cooperate to reach the ambitious goal he or she sets.

A leader has a strong internal drive to improve both personally, and organizationally, and a dissatisfaction with any performance short of that. His leadership inspires subordinates to do the same. Leadership is not the result of consensus, and does not necessarily produce popularity. But it does generate a sense of achievement. Exerting such leadership isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Despite their honest belief that they strive to improve results, many executives accept substandard results because they are reluctant to upset anybody by insisting on better performance. In today’s economy, many ask how they can do a better job managing their organization to create the urgency they want. They ask how they can motivate subordinates to exert the extra effort needed to fulfill their individual objectives, so they themselves can focus on the “big picture” - the overall goal the company needs to reach to survive, and perhaps prosper, in the current recession.

There are several reasons why executives find a performance coach helpful in answering these questions. First, most executives and managers in smaller companies wear many hats, and are busy doing a multitude of tasks. It takes a management system to back away from details and prevent subordinate managers from “delegating upwards” responsibilities they are reluctant to undertake. Second, many owner/executives have grown their foundries because they have excelled in a particular activity. They cling to the matters with which they are most familiar.

Creating a sense of urgency in meeting company goals is often accomplished both formally and informally. Formally it requires a system to ensure managers understand what their goals are, and confirms managers understand what is expected of them. Second, it requires a system of aligning individual rewards to individual results. This means gathering and reviewing operating statistics. Finally, it requires a feedback mechanism so that managers are constantly aware of the progress they are making towards their goals.

Informally, creating a sense of urgency requires constant discussion with and listening to subordinates on both an individual and group basis. This interplay puts everybody on the same page and aware of any problems from core making to shipping. It involves give-and-take discussions and sending informal signals to subordinates in order to create an environment that makes managers want to work together to achieve overall company goals.

Dr. Woodruff Imberman is president of Imberman & DeForest Inc., a management consultants based in Evanston, IL, specializing in improving managerial effectiveness, supervisory training, productivity improvement, and performance-based pay systems. Contact him at [email protected], or at 847-773-0071.