Monday, June 18, 2018

Time Management and Communication Challenges in Small Businesses Solved

Most small business owners have a common major constraint in managing their businesses effectively. They want to be free from day to day operations, decision making, coordination, tracking task completions etc. to devote time for developmental activities. However, they hardly get a chance to address anything but the 'Urgent' category tasks. But why?

We all understand and want to be accountable for the tasks that are assigned to us and want others also to be accountable for the tasks that we assign to them. In a typical work environment in any business, on a normal day, we plan several actions besides the regular operations related ones, e.g. customer asking for a special visit, purchase officer responding to an interesting vendor presentation that needs owner's intervention, a change in process suggested by an operator, an urgent analysis report request from the bank, sales report analysis that predicts change in consumption in certain products, and so on. How does one handle these works / actions? Most of the time one would keep note of the action and either assign it to someone or oneself. These actions require involvement of time and other resources, which in turn may require involvement of others. Which means more communication and coordination requirements. But who is responsible for the primary action? The one who assigned it. But does that person get adequate update or have the means to follow up systematically without dropping the link? And continue the chain of events to take the efforts to fruition? This is where, most owner-managers or even many corporate bosses get lost. With the continual inflow of new actions everyday, the pressure to complete the to do list, update it and communicate it becomes humanly unmanageable. So many actions do not ever get completed and many get unusually delayed due to the lack of necessary support or follow ups.

It need not be like this anymore! Karma Axis is here! Its a tool that can guide us adopt a management approach we had known for ages. It helps us assign the tasks, communicate with the assignee and receive updates from the assignee without the need for meeting the assignee in person or talking to the person on phone. It allows many other features that facilitate communication with seniors, peers or juniors as may be required. The platform helps us take action and keep note as we go, all at one place and ready to be retrieved in the manner we would desire. It not only saves all the time and energy in follow ups but also offers analytics that help us institute other corrective and preventive actions.

Its not before long that the Time Management woes of SME business owners are going to be a thing of the past!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Managing succession in family businesses

I prefer to work with family businesses than so called professional organisations. My reasons are simple. Family businesses have always appeared to be more sincere in their objectives. Hence, their chances of implementing changes / improvements successfully are always higher. And so, working with them I stand higher chances of tasting success and satisfaction. 

However, family businesses, particularly the more unorganized ones and smaller ones face one serious business challenge. They find it difficult to pass on the baton to the next generation smoothly. Sometimes (a) in smaller businesses, the next generation may not find the business appealing enough to get involved, or, (b) even if they join the family business, their ways of doing work isn't acceptable to their predecessors. 

In the case (a) above, the business owner loses motivation in scaling up or running a good business and performance gradually worsens. In the case (b), there is regular conflict in the two generations and if there's no amicable resolution, the policies and decision makings become inconsistent, and as a result employees become confused; performance wanes. 

So what's the remedy? Unfortunately, there's no quick fix solution. The responsibility of a smooth succession rests on the business owners (predecessors). The older generation must own its responsibility in ensuring a healthy transition of management responsibility to the next generation in the family, i.e. if they want it. Assuming that they want it, they should build the business and continue to build it in such a way that attracts the next generation. So consideration of expectations or managing the expectations of the next generation is an integral part of this process. Some families involve their children from an early age informally and both sides learn to understand each others needs and expectations and address the same. Some families upgrade their businesses aggressively with time and compete strongly. In short family members should try to attract the nextgen or involve them and should  try to understand and respect their needs too. Exact approaches may vary, but the basic objectives must remain the same.

A family business must consider succession at an early age of its life cycle and integrate it as a part of its culture and practices. It's a risky choice to be left undecided as it could make or break a good business.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Getting the best from Training Programs

Training is an activity that is coordinated by HR cell in organisations. Training programs across businesses in Kolkata and around have started growing in numbers gradually in the past few years. But most such training fail to add value to the organisation.

Outbound training is normally being used to reward the participants by providing them the opportunity of going out on a paid sightseeing in the name of developing skills / knowledge. I say this because I haven't seen a post-training process or effort that supports the application of skills and knowledge gathered in the training. The high motivation carried back to work by participants gradually fade off when they do not find any structure or encouragement for utilizing the lessons they had learnt.

In-house training outcomes have been more meaningful as they are normally used to deliver specific knowledge or inputs that participants need to do their jobs better. And they are able to relate to the training purpose better. However, the lack of structured support or encouragement for implementing learnt ideas do have an impact here too. In absence of this only the participants with inner desire or self-drive make some effort to implement their learning.

KPIs used for measuring training performance also has a negative influence on training. KPIs such as 'Hours of training' in a year by any person does not ensure any seriousness in the participants to apply learning. Everyone tries to comply with the stated procedures only and not get noticed as non-compliant. Ultimately, Training is considered a necessary evil to show to the world that WE ALSO CARE FOR OUR EMPLOYEES. Businesses are eventually losing out on the potential business gains from training in general.

I feel to get the best out of training, we should use it with caution and with a long-term perspective. Generally, it shouldn't be a one off exercise. Training objective and the changes that we expect post-training for the participants and / or the organisation and after how much time must be defined before we work on the design and content. The training faculty or trainer, participants and the requisitioning authorities need to work together to come up with the right training design. The training design should indicate the follow up approach post training delivery. Measure of training success or KPIs should consider the achievement of the change objectives instead of 'hours of training attended'.

I am sure these steps towards an improved training process can enhance the respect employers and employees have in Training or Training Managers.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Do business owners really want teamwork?

Most business owners talk in favour of teamwork. They all want the team members to do their best to help each other so that the organisation as a team wins. Always! Nothing wrong in this expectation. In fact its a great thought and approach.

However, the business owners normally fail to demonstrate their faith in teamwork in the systems and processes they follow. Strangely, we tend to find that the organisation processes are normally designed to THROTTLE teamwork instead of supporting it! Some common examples of this conflicting approach can be seen when individual performances are measured, compared and rewarded in various ways. Some companies also have this practice of weeding out non-top performers every year - which means a top performer retained any year may not get selected in the top performing bracket in the following year and runs the risk of being screened out too.

Should we expect the team members to support one another in the above conditions and enhance their risk of getting screened out or lose out on rewards? The answer is a resounding NO!

The solution is simple. If you want teamwork in your business, facilitate teamwork, measure teamwork outcomes and reward teams! One may argue that team rewards promote mediocrity. But what matters more to a business - Individual brilliance, sporadic performance for personal gains, and total dependence on a few individuals and increasing business risks, or, consistent performance by a team of people who enjoy working together and supporting each other for common good and minimize business risks?

Business owners must make their choice wisely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why this blog

There have been so many occasions in the past when I have had a profound learning experience while working with my clients or in training workshops. I always treasured these learning or knowledge more than that I gathered in classrooms or through books. Not that I don't read books or don't consider the wisdom compiled in those books. But when the same knowledge gathered from various books got tested live in front of my own eyes, a different level of understanding replaced the previous knowledge. It is a state of understanding where I could adapt the knowledge suiting the context, when I could develop a corollary or extend the knowledge to fulfil the desired objective or implement an idea. Awareness and application of these corollaries or extensions of the basic knowledge gives us our today's identity and brings out our signature style.

This blog would serve two objectives - to document all the empirical knowledge and to share the special knowledge with all those discerning seekers who could further the use and growth  of knowledge.