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19
Sep

More Words of Wisdom

Daily Adrenaline Meeting

by Verne Harnish “Growth Guy”

It used to take days for issues to work their way to the top to get authority reallocate resources,” says Tony Petrucciani, CEO of computer services firm Single Source Systems. “Now it’s like FedEx. It’s there by 10:30.

There is one indispensable routine; one absolute essential habit more important than any other I can teach an executive team; one discipline that is non-negotiable – and that is an effective daily meeting rhythm.

Before dismissing the idea (I’ve heard every excuse over the years), consider that from the top teams at Goldman Sachs to the assembly floors of Dell Computer to the Oval Office of the White House, an effective daily meeting rhythm is at the heart of their best management practices. And I’ve not encountered a single start-up to mid-size firm that didn’t benefit greatly from initiating a short daily huddle organized around a specific agenda which I’ll detail below.

“I lead a daily ‘Adrenaline’ meeting,” explains Tony Petrucciani, CEO of Single Source Systems, Inc., a computer services firm based in Indianapolis. Petrucciani gathers his management team (five including himself ) and meets each day at 10:07 am to discuss roadblocks. Their goal is to be out in 15 minutes. The name came from the substance which makes the heart beat faster. “In our case, we wanted the business to pulse faster,” adds Petrucciani.

“Our key customers really like that we do these meetings and it has become a sales tool, differentiating us from the speed that our competition pulses,”explains Pettruciani ” It used to take days for issues to work their way ‘to the top’ to get authority to allocate re-sources – it’s now like Fedex – it’s there by 10:30.” It wasn’t always like that at Single Source. The meetings were launched when they faced a large project in overrun status and their customer was getting angry. “We implemented a specifi c Project Adrenaline daily meeting. Within a week, we were making much better progress, and had gained back credibility from the customer we told them about adrenaline. This kept a “six-figure” project from imploding,” describes Petrucciani.

Since then, his team has implemented other types of daily Adrenaline meetings (Channel Adrenaline, Sales Adrenaline) that pulse just before his management meeting. If a major issue comes up in those earlier meetings, they pulse thru to the Management Adrenaline meeting, keeping the company operating at an effective pace.
With the daily huddle, we’re much better equipped to keep our daily tasks aligned with our plan says Chuck Hall, founder and CEO of Charles Hall Construction.
“The daily huddles are particularly key when you’re the busiest and spread the thinnest,” notes Chuck Hall, founder and CEO of Charles Hall Construction in Clarendon Hills, IL. With a focus on clients with multiple projects across multiple regions, Hall has teams working all over the country. And with the economy picking up, he’s facing an onslaught of business. “We have approximately $24 million in contracts signed or under negotiations for work this year waiting to start,” explains Hall. “With the daily, we’re much better equipped at keeping our daily tasks aligned with our plan. And it has helped us keep morale high during the difficult slow months, and step by step prepare us for the tidal wave of work that will hit us in June/July of 2004,” says Hall.

The immediate pushback I get when recommending a daily huddle is “We’re too busy!” Executives can’t imagine finding the time to get everybody in the same place or on a conference call every day for one minute, let alone five or 15. And if the company is quite small and travel isn’t that big an issue, they’ll tell me, “We don’t need a meeting when we’re seeing each other all day long.”

Yet, routine actually sets you free. Teams that huddle daily find they interrupt each other considerably less the rest of the day. There’s a fixed time when everyone knows they’ll have everyone else’s attention. Meeting daily also clears up issues that otherwise linger to clog up the weekly meeting. This frees up time to focus on more strategic issues during the weekly gathering (focus of a future column).

I recommend that companies set the time at an odd time, like Petrucciani’s 10:07am. People do a better job of being on time when the time’s not on the half- or quarter-hour. Worried that you’ll forget the meeting while traveling? For a nominal monthly fee use http://www.iping.com, a reminder service which pages or phones you just prior to the daily meeting. And http://www.freeconference.com offers a free conference bridge you can use to host a daily conference call.

Make attendance mandatory and on time, with no excuses. I’ve been in intense meetings with clients. I’ve been in the midst of seeking funds from venture capitalists. It doesn’t matter; I tell them I need to take a break for my daily meeting. And it only gains one respect – a disciplined firm exudes success.

“I tell them I need to take a break for my daily meeting. And it only gains one respect – a disciplined firm exudes success.

Overall, start and end on time and don’t problem solve. This meeting is simply for problem identification. If the meeting is “face to face”, stand up to avoid going too long. And back the meeting up against other regular meetings or appointments to force an ending. If it starts to go longer than 15 minutes, people will drop the habit.

The Agenda: It should be the same structure every day, and it’s an agenda just three items long: what’s up, daily measures, and where are you stuck? In the first few minutes, each attendee shares “what’s up” the next 24 hours. This lets people immediately sense conflicts, crossed agendas, and missed opportunities. The key is to highlight specifics without simply reading one’s ‘to do’ list.

Next, review whatever daily measurements your company uses to track its progress, highlighting any unusual trends.

And the only people who don’t get stuck are those who aren’t doing anything.
The third and most important agenda item is where people are stuck. You’re looking for bottlenecks. There’s something powerful in simply verbalizing, for the whole group to hear, your fear, your struggle, your concern. It’s the first step to solving the problem, because “until the mouth runs, the brain won’t engage.” And the only people who don’t get stuck are those who aren’t doing anything. So, scrutinize the person that reports “everything is fine!” or “no stucks today.”

Important as it is, the bottleneck conversation shouldn’t be allowed to drift on into problem-solving. It’s okay if somebody wants to reply to a bottleneck by saying “Call so-and-so,” but if two people start engaging over an issue, politely suggest they “take it off line.” Remember: The daily meeting needs to be kept short.

While reading Titan, in preparation for writing the chapter on meetings in my book, I was struck by the fact that John D. Rockefeller had lunch with his top team every day, starting with his co-founders in the early days and ending with Standard Oil’s nine directors at headquarters in New York. Rockefeller insisted that this routine was crucial in the success and global reach of his company – and it will for your firm as well.

13
Sep

Time for Autumn Clean Up!

When it comes to preparing my house for the influx of relatives and friends that are coming over to feast for the holidays, I am totally meticulous in my cleaning ritual. I clean things that during the rest of the year might not get the attention it deserves, like the top of cabinets and the cabinets under the sink.

It’s not that I think people will stand on a step stool to check how my dust bunnies are faring on top of the cabinets, and I don’t envision the kitchen sink cabinet being opened up long enough for anyone to notice the ring of dish-washing liquid that *may* be there from when the bottle tipped over, but you just never know.

I use a lot of Kimberly-Clark wipes during this time. LOTS. I would probably be shot by an activist group that monitors such things as amount of disposable paper-towel type things, but in my defense, it’s only twice a year that I do this. And I support all efforts to sustain the environment, just sayin’. But I love me some WypAll’s.

I also used Kimwipes on all my electronics and even everyone’s eyeglasses and sunglasses. They are especially made for delicate jobs like that, and I don’t want anything messing up my TV and computer screens! They are also great for smartphones and tablets. In my kitchen, I use the X80 foodservice towels. Nothing really beats the absorbency when it comes to drying dishes and utensils and getting them seriously dry.  Good luck with your own holiday cleaning!

10
Sep

Words of Wisdom

We’re going to try a new thing here at the ReStockIt blog, and that’s hosting a guest to impart their smarts to us! Today we’re going to showcase an article by Verne Harnish and Sebastian Ross, so I hope you enjoy! Drop a line and let us know what you think.

A Better Way to Measure Employee Happiness

by Verne Harnish “Growth Guy” and Sebastian Ross
August 1, 2013 09:50 AM ET

Successful leaders know they need to balance the needs of employees, customers, and shareholders to build a thriving company. Many firms excel at tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) like profits, as well as customer feedback on a weekly or daily basis, but they fall flat when it comes to monitoring employees’ morale – and it shows. New research by Gallup found that 52% of American workers are not engaged in their work, while another 18% are “actively disengaged.”

 Many CEOs think that they can keep an eye on morale with annual employee surveys, but that is like driving your car by only looking in the rearview mirror.  By the time you get the results, most of the “accidents” have already happened: Grumpy employees have alienated good customers, incompetent managers have killed productivity, and the best talent has left for the competition.  You need to measure your employees’ morale at least weekly. As a growing body of research has found, employees’ happiness has a direct impact on your company’s performance.

THE “ULTIMATE” HAPPINESS QUESTION

Tracking employees’ happiness doesn’t have to be arduous. There are some cutting edge tools to simplify your efforts. Apple and Rackspace use the employee Net Promoter System (eNPS), a metric that is picking up traction, as Fred Reichheld, the intellectual father of NPS, mentions in his book The Ultimate Question 2.0.

While the well-known NPS tracks customer loyalty, the eNPS measures employees’ engagement and happiness, asking them in a confidential survey: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend your workplace to a friend or family member?” Employees have room to comment, providing qualitative data, too.
What is the right frequency for posing the eNPS question? That depends on what is going on at your company and the pace of change within your culture. Apple asks the question every quarter. Buuteeq, a Seattle-based marketing automation software company, pops the question every month. It increased its headcount from 25 to more than 100 people in a little over a year. Quadrupling staff in such a short time is a huge challenge for a culture. The eNPS is a great way to monitor how well the integration of the new recruits is going.
Fred Reichheld has recently launched a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool that is built around the eNPS and allows team leaders to drive weekly conversations about progress toward goals, constraints and priorities for keeping customers happy. It is now in beta testing. Stay tuned.

Be prepared: The scores you get from your team are likely to be lower than you get from your customers on the traditional NPS. Employees tend to be tough critics – but if you’re willing to listen, they will tell you what you need to hear. At the same time, don’t obsess about your scores. The qualitative data is important, too and will help guide you and your senior leadership team on how to react to the data. If the majority of your team is very happy, and only 5% of your employees are grousing about random complaints, you may decide that it isn’t urgent to act on the negative feedback. However, if the comments you get suggest that the unhappy 5% are all concentrated in a particular job title or department, getting to the bottom of the situation may be an emergency.

TAKING A WEEKLY PULSE

Choosing a tool that will allow you to measure your team´s morale daily, weekly or at other frequent intervals will help you keep levels of engagement high. TINYPulse for example, a cloud-based service that sends out weekly survey emails, captures anonymous feedback from employees and offers tools to help management to visualize and analyze the data.  When answering the “question of the week,” employees have space to add comments and suggestions. “Rotating different questions allows us to capture input around the various drivers of employee happiness and gives management more specific information to work with,” explains David Niu, founder and CEO of TINYPulse.

Buuteeq, which has been using TINYPulse for more than a year now, supplements the monthly eNPS survey with other weekly questions like: “How likely do you see yourself working here in one year?” “How does your manager’s leadership style impact on your productivity?” and “What is the one thing we should stop doing to be more successful?”

MAKE IT A CONVERSATION

Buuteeq is transparent about the results, even projecting them onto a wall during its weekly all-hands meeting. “Sometimes the meeting is almost exclusively about things that came up in the week’s Pulse,” says co-founder and CEO Forest Key. “It is not always easy but we talk things through and often take very specific action – ranging from switching the lunch caterer to strategic changes in our customer service processes.”No doubt, the company’s discipline in closing the loop with employees every week has encouraged employees to submit the large number of useful suggestions Buuteeq receives through the tool.

Be forewarned: The feedback companies receive from tools like TINYPulse is sometimes uncomfortable. Moz, a 140-person software company based in Seattle, uses a recently added feature of TINYPulse that allows it to customize questions and has allowed employees to come up with some that they would like to be asked. Rand Fishkin, founder and “Wizard of Moz,” says that since they started with TINYPulse in October 2012, his company has received about 500 comments,of which 25 were clearly negative. “These few negative comments have made me become more nervous and worried about our culture and team happiness,” he says. “But I prefer to know and deal with the issues.”

TINYPulse also allows you to comment directly on suggestions and initiate a private, forum-like dialogue with the employee, a feature that Buuteeq finds very useful.  “It is definitely a great opportunity to learn and show that you care,” says Key.  “These dialogues would never happen without the tool.”

Just make sure that you use this part of the system in a way that allows employees to remain anonymous, or they may not want to use it. In very small firms, where there may be only one person in a particular role, it may be easy to guess who made a particular comment.

A DAILY MOOD CHECK

Atlassian, an Australian software company that employs almost 600 people worldwide, created an internal app called MoodApp (great name!) for iPads and scattered them throughout their headquarters, including one to the side of the elevator. On their way out, employees answer questions like “How are you feeling today?” and “Do you think Atlassian is a fun place to work?” A question about how much feedback employees get from their managers uncovered deficits and led the company to use leadership development training to improve the situation.

Does surveying employees this often bug them – and lead them to ignore new questions in the future? So far, that does not seem to be the case. ForTINYPulse, participation rates for the weekly questions are between 55% and 75%, sometimes even as high as 90%. MoodApp has averaged a 60% response rate in its 12 months of life at Atlassian. Larger companies may want to consider sampling smaller groups of respondents to reduce data volumes and avoid survey fatigue.

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

If your company isn’t ready to invest in software or iPads for your team, consider a lower-tech approach. Careesma, a Barcelona-based company that runs job boards across Europe and India, put up a simple bulletin board where employees can leave post-it notes with suggestions. Every week, Tania de la Paz, head of People & Values, takes the notes to the weekly staff meeting and makes sure that the management team acts on at least one issue.

In any case, no process or technology should become a substitute for meaningful conversations with your team. Senior leaders should formally visit with one employee each week, the closer to the front lines the better, and ask three simple questions: “What do we need to start doing, stop doing and keep doing?”
Then take a few minutes at the weekly management meeting to share what you’ve learned. There is no need for formal reports. Just sharing anecdotes will do. This qualitative data, collected weekly, will give the senior team a real sense of what’s working and not working among the employees as patterns emerge over weeks and months of conversations.

Add to this feedback by looking at some KPIs such as absenteeism, attrition or tenure with the company, knowledge-sharing activities, training hours, or the number of kudos people give each other.

RESPOND TO FEEDBACK QUICKLY

Make sure that you have the management bandwidth to quickly respond to feedback you get. Gathering data is useless if you don’t act on it. Nothing is more frustrating than being asked your opinion and then seeing it ignored.

People, your most valuable asset, are intangible in accounting terms. Measuring their happiness is a way of making them tangible. It will be some time until this type of metric will appear on a balance sheet, but that doesn’t mean you should not pay attention to these measures. They’re some of the best leading indicators of a company´s overall health and value.

 

 

 

6
Sep

It’s football season people! Are you a football fan? And I don’t mean a “football” fan, I mean a FOOTBALL fan. A rabid fan, the guy (or girl) who paints their face team colors, and flies the team flag from those little obnoxious car flag poles.Then you need a Team Brute garbage can from Rubbermaid.  They’re not only fun and a good way to show your team pride, but they’re also a great edition to the house.

RS_Strip_Complete

Garbage can, you say? I do! Yes, it’s weird, I agree, and maybe it shouldn’t be wrapped under the Christmas tree but they’re so awesome! You can even do a little twist on it, since they are garbage cans after all, and get the rival team and throw garbage into their can. Dolphins fan? Throw your refuse into a Patriots can.

And you can get them in either NFL or NCAA teams, so teams are well represented, whether you’re a college or professional fan. Minnesota Vikings? Check. Texas Longhorns? We got ‘em! And since they’re Rubbermaid, you know that they are sturdy, reliable, and won’t break or crack easily, even if left out in the elements! Wouldn’t you want your favorite sports team represented at the curb on trash day?

Terry

 

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