Charting The Course Of The Future – Part 2

Through the USSSI, our Del Monte supervisors have demonstrated that they possess the attitude which was discussed in the recent management conference and was identified as essential to the continued vitality and growth of DMPI in these rapidly changing times: Stakeholdership. For we at USSSI have shown that we are not merely stockholders but stakeholders of the organization.

I hope that we will never lose or relinquish whatever talents, attitudes and dedication we have. Let us continue to utilize our God-given potentials in all our endeavors. Let us continue to be innovative and aggressive. For we and the Del Monte managers and supervisors ….. For we are the USSSI ….. For We just don't want to survive ….. We want to succeed.

The farthest objective is reached by a series of small steps

Why do so many work groups falter when they're under pressure to improve performance? The answer, says a productivity expert, generally lies in what their supervisors emphasize and overlook.

In most cases, failure comes from focusing on the wrong things right from the start:

1) What needs to be done is too often put in global terms. Even if the target is specific - “We have to cut costs by 12% and raise profits by 4%” nothing is said, when the program is announced, about the specific steps required. Result: The goals are merely desirable, not clearly achievable. The odds for success are lowered right there.

2) The time span is usually so long that there's no sense of urgency: “Our goal for this year is … ” rather than “Here's where we've got to be one month from now.”

3) Worrying about resistance and how to overcome it causes managers to overlook the fact that some people are ready and willing to tackle what needs to be done.

4) Work plans are too informal. Detailed responsibilities, a timetable and ways to check progress are not announced when the program is launched.

Many executives also ignore the psychological barriers that militate against improvement. When goals are broad and the time span long, subordinate managers easily get the feeling that any really good excuse will get them off the hook. They begin to think in terms of the resources they'll need - obviously more and better ones than they have now - not in terms of what they can do with what they have, or how specific improvements must be put into effect on a regular basis.”

One Success at a Time

The prescription for overcoming these negatives is to build on one small success after another. It is advisable for executives to talk less the big, long-term goals. Instead, they should search for mechanisms they can use to achieve concrete results in the briefest possible period of time - then go on there. “That way the work group keeps gathering momentum. Or, to put it another way, it’s like piling up compound interest.

Starting small. How can you be sure you're avoiding the pitfalls of most performance improvement programs? Here's an incremental approach that has built-in safeguards:

1) Don't announce a performance improvement campaign. Instead, ask key subordinates to think about one or two projects which could be accomplished in two months, at most.

2) Call a meeting to discuss the suggestions or to announce your own decision about which project gets top priority. The only criteria: It's something which needs to be done, which can be done with the resources at hand and which will improve performance, even if only a little.

3) Stress the seriousness of meeting the goal within the time set. Subordinates must understand that they have to concentrate on how to meet the goal, not on why it may not be feasible or what they could do to improve performance in some other area.

4) Sidestep resistance by playing up the positive, ignoring the negative. For example, suppose that of four work groups that will be affected, one is definitely sour about the project. Put your time and energy on helping the three who are willing to go almost certainly get the message that cooperation counts.

5) Set up detailed work plans at the first meeting if possible - or at least within a couple of days. Then determine who is responsible for what, what changes will be necessary how and when they'll be made, how progress will be checked.

Plan on frequent meetings so that people constantly keep the goal on their minds. This also gives you a chance to make adjustments to the wok plans as soon as they're needed.

Observation: Obviously, you don't abandon your long-term objectives. They point is to work at getting there in small, concrete steps. By the time the first goal is reached, people will have had the experience of success. They'll have learned how to work together towards a visible goal, how to rearrange their work patterns to become more efficient, how to solve problems with the resources they have right now. And they'll be ready to start working towards the next small success that will take you that much nearer your large objectives.

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