Friday, May 29, 2009

When you must close an operation...

We often hear that the best way to reduce the workforce or to close an operation is to: "Go Fast!"
Get it over with, and move on. In the May Issue of Harvard Business Review, Kenneth W. Freeman, based on his experience, and writing in "First Person" suggests a different approach. Check it out!

He says "it pays to go the extra mile for employees, customers, and suppliers. He has the experience, what he calls: "soft hands."

These are his suggestions (read the article to get the full impact, of course!):

1. Treat employees with dignity, fairness, and respect - the way you want to be treated.
2. Treat you customers and suppliers like valued partners during the shutdown process, and they will stick with you.
3. Manage the closure or layoff like a project... (carefully and thoughtfully- my words!)
4. Use judgment and, if necessary, fight back.

What do you think? What has your experience been? I'd love to hear from you!

Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Do Teams Work for You?

I have always considered Dr. J. Richard Hackman the academic expert on Teams. He is now at Harvard and was recently interviewed by Diane Coutu. Key elements of the interview are published in the May 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. Some excerpts are available at the link.

While still extolling the possibilities of working in teams, he also expresses concerns, based on real-life experiences, that unless teams are used correctly with respect to any program or project, they are as likely to be ineffective as to be successful. This has been my experience, over the years, as well. To build a team that works, five elements are required:

1. Teams must be real.
2. Teams need a compelling direction.
3. Teams need enabling structures.
4. Teams need a supportive organization.
5. Teams need expert coaching.

I will deal with each of these issues in future notes, building on his research and adding my own research and comments based on observation.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have teams worked, in your experience?

Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cash Management in Hard Times

Although written with the larger company in mind, the May 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review has an article that can be useful to small businesses as well: "Need Cash? Look Inside Your Company," by Kevin Kaiser and S. David Young. It also is available on-line.

They list six "don'ts" of working-capital management, that, though counter-intuitive, may be very useful in times such as these:

1. Don't manage to the income statement.
2. Don't reward the sales force for growth alone.
3. Don't overemphasize production quality.
4. Don't tie receivables to payables.
5. Don't manage by current and quick ratios.
6. Don't benchmark competitors.

We have been teaching some of these as "standard practice" in business school! What do you think of this different approach. I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories.

Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)

Friday, May 8, 2009

SBANC Newsletter

If you are not already getting it, I heartily recommend the SBANC Newsletter, edited by Don Bradley at the University of Central Arkansas, the Small Business Advancement National Center. It is an electronic newsletter that comes to your email box each week or two, and is filled with dates of events, a feature research article, and useful tips. Check it out!

Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Recruiting in Good Times and Bad

One of my purposes in writing this blog is to put in one place the various topics on which I have written in the past and hope to write more about in the future. As you may have noted, sometimes I use an existing magazine or trade journal article to remind me of some of these things.

For this note, my inspiration is the May 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. For today's article, I am looking at: "The definitive guide to recruiting in good times and bad," by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Boris Groysberg, and Nitin Nohria. It is full of good ideas, of course, many common knowledge, but with new ideas based on new research. I'll note the seven steps, today, and come back to them later, with more detail and my own observations:

1. Anticipate the Need
2. Specify the Job
3. Develop the Pool
4. Assess the Candidates
5. Close the Deal
6. Integrate the Newcomer
7. Audit and Review

In the article, page 79 (p. 2, on-line) has a most useful chart, based on the seven steps, listing for each: Poor Practices, Best Practices, and Implementation Challenges. Check them out - the full article is available, on-line.

Dr. Bill - I love to share, I hope you do to! ;-)