Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Management Candy

There are right ways and wrong ways to pursue one’s objectives.

 M&M’s, or Management Candy, represents the right way—doing the Main things necessary to achieve the objective with the Minimum resources required.  It is about doing the right things the right way.  Doing the right things is Effectiveness.  Do things the right way is Efficiency.  The concept of Management Candy applies to commercial enterprises and also to non-profit and governmental entities although it is likely to be less effective in the latter.

Management Candy, M&M’s, is an extraordinarily powerful concept that, once assimilated into the culture of an enterprise, alters how team members think and make decisions.  It forces individuals, working groups, departments, divisions, and the company leaders to ask and answer the following questions:

  • What is (are) the main thing(s) my group’s success depends on?  
  • What is (are) the main strategy (strategies) we will rely on to achieve the main thing(s) our success depends on?  
  • What is (are) the main tactic(s) we will use to implement our main strategy (strategies) for achieving the main thing(s) our success depends on?  
  • What are the minimum resources required for those tactics?  

When these questions are asked and answered at the individual level, working group level, department level, etc., you have an opportunity-focused team thinking and acting strategically.  That is a performance level few companies achieve.

Initially some people have a difficult time understanding the implications and importance of the notion of “the minimum resources required.”  When people hear the word “minimum,” they tend to think you mean going on the “cheap”—trying to get by with less than the optimum effort or resources—cutting corners, poor quality, etc.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It means doing what is absolutely necessary to achieve the objective and not an ounce more.

What the “minimum resources required” is intended to convey is that once we have achieved our objective, we will have a new objective and need resources to pursue that new opportunity.  There is always an encore to be performed.  There is always another mountain to climb.  Resources have to be conserved for future investment in the pursuit of new opportunities.  Generals hold troops in reserve.  Soldiers keep dry powder for the next scrimmage.

M&M’s, Management Candy, produces a culture of strategic thinking and decision making.  The “minimum” side of Management Candy does not encourage half measures.  One of my favorite sayings is that it only cost a little more to go second class—because of the do-overs, delays, wasted and frustrated resources—make the investment that will get the job done.  Then move on!

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Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to http://store.markrollinsadventures.com. Ebook editions are available on Amazon.com for the Kindle, on Barnes & Noble for the Nook, and in Apple iTunes' iBookstore for the iPad.  Paperback editions are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Change by Decree

One of the wrong ways to implement change is by decree—“Do it because I said to!” or “Do it because I’m the boss.”  The problem with Change by Decree is that it is unmanaged.  It could be successful or it could fail.  The arrows in the icon illustrate that the reaction to the change can be all over the board.  It is uncontrolled.  People don’t react well to forced change so one thing is sure, whatever success is achieved, if any, it will be at a greater cost than for properly managed change.  Remember the icon for the condition required before the downward spike of the Change Curve is halted and turned upward—KASH.  Change by Decree does nothing to create a positive attitude, sabotaging the likely outcome from the onset.  Unmanaged change endangers any organization.

If change is so risky and dangerous, one might conclude that it is something to avoid.  The answer, of course, is that you can’t.  Change is the very essence of business.  Yes, change left unattended can destroy the business.  Likewise, change occurring around you that is left un-responded to reduces your competiveness and can even eliminate the market for your goods or services.  Too often entrenched market leaders ignore the changes occurring from disruptive technology or innovation.  They focus on the quality, “wrong Q”.  The Underwood company thought of itself as a typewriter company not as company to help people produce documents.  If they had viewed themselves as the latter, they might still be around.

Survival requires businesses to respond to a constantly changing environment.  Consider the chances of surviving in the music industry as vinyl was displaced by CDs only to lose out to the downloading of digital songs.  Consider what it was like to survive in the technology business as main frames and service bureaus were replaced by mini-computers which were quickly replaced by desktop computers now under assault from the “cloud” and a host of handheld devices and pads.  How does one survive in the telecommunications communications field now that the Internet is here?  How would you like to have been the leading manufacturer of FAX machines?  Consider the publishing industry now transitioning from the print age to the digital age.  Long-term survival requires companies to embrace change, not avoid it!

Change by Decree, forcing change on people, is unmanaged.  It may work or it may not.  The response to forced change, “Do it because I said to,” is random and unpredictable.

In 2010 Music City suffered a great flood.  Nashville streets were turned into streams and the streams into raging killing zones.  That is the setting for my newest novel, The Claret Murders, available on Amazon.com for $15.99 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook and through iTunes for the iPad.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Limited Resources

Relative Perception influences the downward spike of the Change Curve but an even more profound influence is the natural limitation on resources.  Large changes have put many companies out of business.  The depth and width of the downward spike becomes too big to overcome.

A not infrequent example is that of a small company in a relatively fast growing market that wants to significantly increase sales results.  A new sales manager is hired (or worse, their top salesperson is promoted) and given the objective of doubling new account acquisition.  The plan seems simple enough.  To double sales, double the sales staff.

Only the objective is never realized.  In fact, if you double your sales force quickly, sales typically fall through the basement.  Why?  It takes time for new additions to become productive.  So while new salespeople aren’t yet productive, the original salespeople are spending much of their time mentoring, training, and answering the questions of the new people.  Never forget Parkinson’s Law: work creates work.  Deploying new resources is work.  Like it or not, the introduction of new capacity actually decreases productivity until those new resources are deployed and fully productive.  Do it too fast and you can put an organization out of business.
For an enterprise purposefully pursuing long term success, there is no such thing as unlimited resources.  It makes no difference if you could actually double the sales force, triple it or quadruple it because you have the funds.  It makes no difference if un-deployed labor, capital, or material is available.  Deployment, not availability, is the issue.  Resources have to be deployed to become productive and deploying them consumes existing resources and energy.  The concept of limited resources due to deployment is like an hourglass.  You may have access to labor in the case of the sales staff example, but the only way you can successfully deploy those additional resources is incrementally.  You have to get them through the neck of the hourglass, if you are to deploy them without a large negative impact on performance. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Relative Perception

The negative consequences of change, the downward spike, are relative to size or even the perception of the size of the change.  There are indications that the reaction to change is practically nil below a level of 10%.  For example a change in color, audio volume, or brightness of lights less than 10% will go virtually unnoticed, and thus there would be no reaction to it.

To illustrate Relative Perception consider a frequent example related to the purchase of a new car.  Let’s say you’re looking at a $40,000 car.  The salesperson suggests you upgrade the standard radio to their deluxe model.  The new price is $40,350 and the increase in the monthly payment is only pocket change.  It is an easy decision—a no-brainer.  You opt for the upgrade.

However what if you were just purchasing the radio with no car involved.  The price difference would look entirely different to you.  The standard radio model is $225.  The upgraded model is $575.  The relative change or difference in price appears large, and your reaction to that change would be quite different—the decision to upgrade would not be so inviting.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


As an enterprise grows and begins to compartmentalize into specialized segments or departments, sub-optimization, another natural negative change, will occur in the absence of clear leadership and frequent communication.  Sub-optimization is the condition where a specialty area gives their own objectives a higher priority than that given to the common objectives of the organization.

The tendency is a natural phenomenon and must be managed and controlled.  Where conflict exists between the unit goals and those of the organization as a whole, sub-optimization is damaging and distracting.  For long-term purposeful success the organization must be consistent and proactive in maintaining harmony between the unit’s goals and those of the organization.  Communication is essential in that process.  A sales department’s goal to achieve quota can lead to over promising and under delivering.  The legal department’s objective of protecting the firm from liability can result in one-sided unrealistic terms.  A shipping department’s goal to avoid overtime can result in late deliveries to customers.  The marketing department’s goal for maintaining a uniform message can strangle the organization’s efforts to reach diverse segments of the market.
PS: The popular wine blog pullthatcork.com posted a review of The Claret Murders.  If you love good wine,  you will want to read The Claret Murders.  It is available in print for $15.99 or as an e-book, Kindle, Nook or iPad, for $2.99.