Failure to execute

I was fortunate enough to meet and consult with the owner of one of the largest shipping companies in the Philippines. The original scope of the consulting engagement was to review and improve their Account Receivables. They had so much outstanding collections that it was affecting their cash flow. This causes the company to take on loans to cover their payables. Millions of pesos loaned generates interest payments to banks.

To get an appreciation of their business, the conglomerate has over 40 companies under a holding company. These 40 company CEOs report to a group CEO. The group CEO is the child of the founder. Upon taking over the business, the group CEO had the business savvy to grow the business from one company to over 40.

Our second meeting revolved around how we will charge for our consulting service. We came in with a pricing based on estimated effort required to do the job. We charge, like most consulting firms in the world, on a per hour basis. The client proposed to pay us based on a percentage of the amount we will recover. My partners and I came back with a combination of both approaches.

In one of the meetings, the group CEO expressed frustration over their strategy and plans. Projects that were started ten years ago has not yet seen the light of day. Projects would inch forward when it had executive attention. Projects comes to a halt when the Group CEO needed to focus on more pressing matters.

The group CEO had requested that we change the focus of our consulting proposal. Their bigger challenge was the effective execution of their strategies and plans. The group CEO fully understood that success in resolving day to day challenges was largely dependent on how they execute projects designed to resolve them.

This became our scope of work for the next few months. Here is a summary of the lessons learned from the engagement:

  1. When we assign projects to employees, we need to train them on project management fundaments. We trained over 40 managers on a one day program we called ‘Project Management for none Project Managers’.

  2. For projects to succeed, the progress (or lack of) needs to be reviewed on a regular schedule. We requested the group CEO, COO and CFO to be part of the Steering Committee. These group of executives reviews project progress, gives guidance to the project and help resolve very difficult challenges.

  3. Projects are created because there is a business benefit to it. A project will either increase revenue or reduce loss/expense.

  4. Most projects fail because project managers do not spend effort identifying and preventing what can go wrong. They simply react.

There are a lot more learnings that our client picked up from the engagement. The four we listed above are just a few of them.

We always preach to our clients (or potential clients) that strategies are useless unless effectively executed. We would rather have a mediocre strategy properly implemented than a great strategy frozen in time.

If you believe that effective execution of your plans will help your company rise to the next level, feel free to reach out to us. We have a FREE 90 minute Power talk that will give you an insight on how we help companies execute their plans.

The Power of Visual Cues

When you drop by McDonalds you will notice how quickly they serve customers. They have an automated ordering process. As soon as an order is placed, the kitchen has the order appear on a TV set that displays them in sequence. First in first out.

Quality service or product quality is pegged on consistency. If we only provide a great service every now and then, it is not really quality service. Consistent service quality is the result of many things. The people we hire, the training we provide, the quality of our management team and the process they follow.

When I was younger, I found processes to be limiting. They were boring and constraining. As I went up the corporate ladder, I started appreciating their value. This is specially more for companies that design processes to shorten the time it takes to service customers and reduce mistakes.

Processes, on it’s own, cannot survive the rigors of new employees and day to day work without the corresponding templates or visual cues.

Visual cues are powerful ways of triggering an action. For instance, an inbox and outbox on top of an employees table are visual cues. They visually tell the employees how much work they have done and how much are still pending.

Back to visual cues, I noticed this in McDonalds yesterday. I ordered a few things and the cashier thought that I was dining in. Before the food came, she placed the ketchup packs on a tray with a paper lining.

She was not sure if she asked me if I was dining in. The cashier asked me, with a little embarrassment, if I was dining in. With a smile, I told her that I ordered for take away.

Almost automatically, she removed the paper lining on top of the serving tray. I thought that it was odd. As I observed the other cashiers. I noticed the pattern. Dine in orders had paper linings on the tray. Take out orders do not have paper linings on the tray.

This way, nobody can ever make a mistake of mixing the preparation of the two types of orders. They have consistency in the way they prepare both types of orders because of visual cues.

Visual cues. How often do you use it at work or in your personal life?

Keep your mind sharp

Keep your mind sharp and open to new ideas, make it a point to read a book every month. It doesn’t matter if it is a novel, a biography, or a self-help book. What is important is that you develop the habit of reading. If you are one of the lucky ones who developed the habit at a young age then kudos to you. Keep it up! If not, it is never to late to start getting into reading.

If you are really not into reading books, then choose other kinds of reading material. There are many quality magazines out there with interesting articles. If you prefer to read on your tablet, there are thousands of e-books waiting to be discovered online. Why not go for audiobooks? With audiobooks you can listen on your commute to work or even while you are driving.

I personally go for self-help and motivational books. These books actually inspired me to create my own self-help book (which I hope is helping!). To make sure I remember what I read, I jot down the books’ titles on my electronic journal called Evernote. it also helps to jot down lessons learned from books I read.

As you progress in your career, never neglect to make time for reading. It is one of the best ways to “exercise” your brain and continually learn new ideas.