Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mantra for Business Start-Up

Should I start my own venture? This is one question we often ask ourselves at some or other points in our career. Some say that entrepreneurship has got nothing to do with one educational background but it’s more about instinct and acumen. Dave Pollard talks about this in his post on Ten Reasons Young People Are Afraid to Start Their Own Business .For those of who plan to have any venture in the near future it’s a must read guide…

1. Don't Have the Skills: "I wouldn't know where to start. I took entrepreneurship in college, but it was all about understanding financial statements and types of loans. I've never even spoken to a successful entrepreneur."

2. Don't Have the Self-Confidence: It needn't be intimidating. This is mostly fear of the unknown, and the lingering mythology of entrepreneurship that is perpetuated, alas, because so many entrepreneurs keep making the same avoidable mistakes over and over.

3. Don't Have the Ideas: Perception, not conception, is the key to entrepreneurial success: Paying attention is far more important than creativity. It's all about finding a need and filling it, not coming up with an idea and then trying to find someone who might buy it.

4. Don't Have the Money: If you can fill an unmet need, there are several ways to finance the business organically; drawing on the interest and investment capital of suppliers, potential customers and business partners, and people you know who are always looking for a way of getting a better return than they can get in the bank.

5. The Deck's Stacked Against Entrepreneurs: the key to successful entrepreneurship is to find a need that is not immediately or obviously big enough or profitable enough to attract the attention of the dominant players in your industry. This is what Clay Christensen calls Disruptive Innovation, and entrepreneurs have the advantage of agility (and not having shareholders demanding seven digit revenues from any new offering) that makes them more adept that doing this than large corporations. This is a great equalizer.

6. Couldn't Handle the Failure: A survey a few years ago by Inc. Magazine found that only one factor correlated strongly with entrepreneurial success: A previous entrepreneurial failure. This is how you learn. If you avoid over-committing and learn how to "fail fast and early", you can have the resilience to be a 'serial entrepreneur', and be comfortable with the fact that no entrepreneur succeeds in every undertaking.

7. Don't Know the Process: "I took some MBA courses, and they didn't teach me anything about how to start or run your own business. Where do you learn this?" This is the principal function that The Natural Enterprise will serve.

8. Don't Have the Time: "I'm working two jobs now just to make ends meet. If there were more hours in the week I'd take a third one. How could I ever find the time to start my own business?" The biggest time-consumer in starting a successful Natural Enterprise is the up-front research. But that research can be done while you're doing other things you're already committed to.

9. Couldn't Handle the Stress: Entrepreneurs who live with that much daily stress (and there are a lot of them) are, in my experience, mostly running ill-conceived business. I know many entrepreneurs who absolutely love their work, are beholden to no one, and are doing so well they can afford to turn away lots of business (especially from aggravating customers) because they'd rather pursue leisure activities than work long hours. If your business truly taps an unmet need, you'll have good customers, and very little business stress.

10. Couldn't Handle the Loneliness: "The entrepreneurs I know are the loneliest people in the world. They work incredible hours and have no time for anything else. They have to learn how to do everything themselves, because they can't afford experts and consultants." The biggest mistake a lot of people make in starting their own business is trying to do it all themselves. One of the most critical decisions in creating a Natural Enterprise is finding business partners who have skills and knowledge that complement (without overlapping) your own, who have the same commitment to the idea that you do, and who you love working with. Get that right, and how could you possibly be lonely?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Redefining Leadership

Leadership studies have always generated lot of interest in organizations. In a new Harvard Business School working paper, three experts on organizational behavior revisit the meaning of leadership. Most scholars (not to mention boards of directors) gauge the effectiveness of leadership almost exclusively through a lens of economic performance, specifically return on investment, say professors Joel M. Podolny and Rakesh Khurana, and doctoral student Marya Hill-Popper. Yet the focus on economic results usually gives a one-sided picture of what leaders can accomplish.

In a fascinating interview they talk about the various factors which have influenced the leadership research in the recent years.

The link between leadership and meaning-making has been lost. Most contemporary organizational researchers—both those who advocate the study of leadership and those who argue that it is of little value—talk about leadership almost exclusively in terms of its impact on economic performance.

There are a number of reasons why the leadership literature has been recast so that it is solely focused on economic performance, but we believe probably the most important thing is that the obsession with shareholder value beginning in the 1980s led organizational scholars to assume that the relevance of all aspects of organizations is circumscribed by their impact on financial results. The social impact of organizations essentially took a back seat.

On the aspect of role of leadership :
First, leaders make architectural choices—how to structure the organization, design jobs, and allocate roles and responsibilities—that shape how people who work in the organization experience their jobs.
Second, leaders engage in symbolic actions—through the stories they tell, the symbols and rituals they create, and other highly visible actions. The leader is both architect and visionary, and both roles impact on the meaning individuals experience through work.

They expect that the meaningfulness of leadership work will be strongly impacted by:

The leader's willingness to uphold organizational values especially when there is some perceived economic cost to doing so. (If values are violated when there is a perceived benefit in doing so, they are little more than guidelines and thus likely to be the object of suspicion and derision.)
The leader's willingness to make sure (through design and training) that each individual's positional assignments fit their conception of self and their aspirations.

The leader's willingness to commit her own time and organizational resources to ensuring that each individual understand how his or her own actions link up to the larger organization's purpose.

The time and attention that goes into hiring and retaining those individuals who derive personal meaning from the organization's values and purpose.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Success Mantra

In it’s 10 anniversary special issue strategy+business looks at the conceptual breakthroughs that appeared in the magazine — and invited its readers to vote on which were most likely to last. The magazine’s back issues (all available free on it’s Web site, www.strategy-business.com)
Here, then, are the winners — the ideas voted most likely to affect the way businesses, including your business, are conducted in the long run.

Top 10 Concepts
(1,911 votes; 49.3 percent of the voters chose this concept). It’s not your strategic choices that drive success, but how well you implement them.
Related Articles:

2.The Learning Organization (1,807; 46.6 percent). A learning organization is one that is deliberately designed to encourage everyone in it to keep thinking, innovating, collaborating, talking candidly, improving their capabilities, making personal commitments to their collective future, and thereby increasing the firm’s long-term competitive advantage.
Related Articles:

3. Corporate Values (1,555; 40.1 percent). Companies that care about ethics, trust, citizenship, and even meaning and spirituality in the workplace (or that simply articulate their values carefully) perform better in the marketplace than companies that care just about “making money.”
Related Articles:
The Value of Corporate ValuesWhy Bad Things Happen To Good Companies

4. Customer Relationship Management (1,554; 40.1 percent). The cultivation of long-term relationships with customers, including awareness of their needs, leads to highly focused, capable companies that try to make consumers “part of the family.”
Related Articles:
5. Disruptive Technology (1,513; 39.0 percent). As Clayton Christensen noted in The Innovator’s Dilemma, technological innovation radically alters markets by undermining incumbent companies — which are vulnerable because their offerings are all tailored to the needs of their existing customers. Change feels like a betrayal of those customer relationships.
Related Articles:

6. Leadership Development (1,432; 37.0 percent): You don’t have to rely on “putting the right people in place.” You can train all employees to be better choosers, better strategists, better managers, and in the end, better leaders. More than a third of the respondents were drawn to this because they saw leverage here: Companies can be both more effective and more responsible with smart leadership development practices in place (several people referred to emotional intelligence in this vein). Leadership is important, not because of the leaders’ actions in themselves, but because of the actions that everyone else takes on their behalf. (For an extended view of this argument, see “The Realist’s Guide to Moral Purpose,” by Nikos
Related Articles:

7. Organizational DNA (1,315; 33.9 percent): Leaders can design an organization’s structures — incentives, decision rights, reporting relationships, and information flows — to induce high performance by aligning them with one another and the strategic goals of the enterprise. Elucidated in the book Results, by Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack, this idea attracted people who wanted to design organizational change without “sermonizing about behavior,” .
Related Articles:

8. Strategy-Based Transformation (1,277; 33.0 percent): Beyond the “blank page” of reengineering, this is the redesign of processes and organizational structures, and the consequent cultural change, to fulfill the strategic goals of the enterprise. In an ideal universe, this would not even be a management concept, because, as one correspondent put it, “All company activities should be aligned to the enterprise strategy.”
Related Articles:

9. Complexity Theory (1,187; 30.6 percent): Markets and businesses are complex systems that can’t be controlled mechanistically, but their emergent order can sometimes be anticipated. An understanding of the ways that complex systems evolve can help managers intervene and act more effectively.
Related Articles:

10. Lean Thinking (1,183; 30.5 percent): This type of process and management innovation is exemplified by the Toyota production system. Employees use a heightened awareness of work flow and demand to cut waste, eliminate cost, boost quality, and customize mass production.
Related Articles:

In the end, a really good business idea has five key qualities.

(1) It is timely: It addresses, in a new, compelling way, an issue that is important to people right now. (It’s no coincidence, for example, that supply chain management became an important concept just as manufacturing became much more global.)
(2) It has explanatory power: It reveals the hidden patterns and interrelationships that shape the phenomena we see, and that other theories or disciplines have not fully explained.
(3) It has pragmatic value: It can be put into practice to produce replicable results. (Even relatively “soft” concepts like organizational learning have a nuts-and-bolts edge, helping to build human capabilities.)
(4) It has a robust empirical foundation: It can be tested with real-world experience, and ideally with measurable data, and can survive theoretical challenge.
(5) It has a natural constituency: A group of key people are ready to hear it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Next ? Employer -Employees Relation

Employer and employees relation has been undergoing a process of continuous change. From a worker to partner, the relationship has been through numerous phases and stages. In an article by Charlie Grantham and Jim Wareon Transforming the Business of Work they suggest that there will be a major transformation in the way white collar knowledge workers conduct their business activities.

The current relationship between these kinds of “workers” and their employers is as outdated as the apprenticeship model of office workers was in England during the early industrial revolution. They believe that a transformation of the same magnitude is going to happen again as our society passes through the “conceptual revolution”.

They feel that the workplace is likely to see the some major changes in the days to come.Here are some of the points;

Sometime before 2010 we’re going to see an utter collapse of the pension system for public sector employees; that will open the floodgates and erase any doubt that this sacred perk of white collar work is gone for good.

Today the form of the relationship between people and organizations is largely shaped by legal and bureaucratic constraints: employees, employers, independent contractors, wage laws, etc.
We believe that the “employment” relationship will shift from a legalistic one to one that is more in a negotiated and continuously re-negotiated form. It will be something like a compact, or a covenant.

There are a number of factors driving this shift, but the bottom line is that time differences and cultural divides will become harder to manage. Current experiences with forming and managing global teams and even intercontinental supply lines represent a valiant effort to overcome natural barriers that we applaud but do not believe is sustainable over the long term.

To read the complete article click here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Company of Leaders

Leadership development has always been critical for organizations effort in developing its people ability to talk to next levels. We have lot of management development programs being undertaken by corporate to develop the leadership for the next level.

Hay Group and Chief Executive magazine undertook a joint research to find out what today’s companies are doing to develop their leaders and to identify the critical factors that have the most impact. Here’s a brief of the research on insights into the various approaches to developing leaders and outline the practices that distinguish the Best Companies for Leaders from the pack.

According to “The Best Companies for Leaders,” published in the November 2005 issue of Chief Executive, companies may be wasting significant amounts of money on leadership development efforts that have little or no effect on developing the right kind or the right number of leaders.

Hay Group, which conducted the “Best Companies for Leaders” research, found that programs such as rope courses, for example, have little if any impact on a company’s ability to develop leaders. Please don’t misunderstand: Rope courses may improve morale, develop teams, and build bigger biceps. But they don’t seem to spawn high-caliber leaders.

The finding talks about the S e v e n G u i d e l i n e s f o r L e a d e r s h i p D e v e l o p m e n t

Encourage leaders at all levels to create work climates that motivate everyone to perform at their best. Motivational or high-performance climates have a number of common elements: People have a clear idea of where the organization is going and what is expected of them. The individual’s and the organization’s goals are well matched to the capabilities in the company. People get specific, credible feedback on what they need to do to improve and are recognized for excellence. No one feels constrained in doing their best, and they feel accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take.

Make leadership development a priority for everyone involved. Don’t assume it’s simply an HR issue. Of course HR should support the effort. But high-potential employees must be willing to take on the extra work. And, perhaps most important, leadership development works best when the CEO and other senior executives buy in and get personally involved.

Help leadership teams work more effectively together in addition to helping individual leaders improve. The data suggest that companies can improve their leadership ranking when leaders take an active role coaching people on their own teams. In our paper, “Top Teams: Why Some Work and Some Don’t,” we illustrate five conditions for a successful top team: clear, compelling direction; an appropriate structure with well defined boundaries and solid norms; selecting the right people who can work well together; a supportive organizational context such as how people are paid; and providing development in the form of ongoing feedback and team coaching.

Provide job shadowing opportunities for mid-career managers. Continuing on the previous point of broadening perspective, this is a low- to no-cost practice that exposes a company’s high-potential employees to its seasoned leaders.

Ensure that high-potential employees receive 360-degree feedback for leadership development—early on. In the study, organizations that employ 360-degree feedback to develop leaders—beginning early in their careers—rank higher in leadership. To improve performance or change behavior, people need objective feedback from a credible source.

This is consistent with an earlier Hay Group study called “Executive Blind Spots”: As executives rise in an organization, the less likely they are to see themselves as others see them and they often lose touch with those they lead. They often stop receiving the candid feedback they need to self-correct.

Assure that mid-level managers have the time to participate in leadership development early in their careers. At companies such as P&G, senior executives believe their best hope for future leaders is in the ranks of today’s mid-level managers. They need time to grow and learn, while being kept engaged in their jobs. The best companies for leaders devote twice the amount of time (6-10 days vs. 3-5 days a year on average) for developmental activities.

Provide external coaches for senior managers. Research suggests internal coaches are not as effective as external coaches for senior managers. That may be because most internal coaches come from a lower level of management than those whom they coach. Considering that dynamic, it is easy to understand why some internal coaches may be intimidated and some senior managers uninterested in getting coaching from someone lower in the organization than they are. For senior managers, being coached by people they view as peers add the most value.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Big Question ???

In a recent Global survey conducted for Business Executive by McKinsey on Business and Society got some insightful response on the role of corporation in societal issues. Here a brief look at the survey findings.

Executives around the world overwhelmingly embrace the idea that the role of corporations in society goes far beyond simply meeting obligations to shareholders, according to the latest McKinsey Quarterly global survey.

But executives also say that, for most companies, sociopolitical issues—such as environmental concerns and the effects of offshoring—present real risks. Indeed, finding ways to control them is so important, the executives say, that the effective management of sociopolitical concerns must start with the CEO.

Executives are far less certain, however, that corporations adequately anticipate which sociopolitical concerns will affect them. These executives also believe that the tactics—lobbying and public relations, for example—companies now use to meet such concerns are not the most effective ones. In addition, they think that the public will expect corporations to take on a significant role in handling the new pressures.

The McKinsey Quarterly conducted the survey in December 2005 and received responses from 4,238 executives—more than a quarter of them CEOs or other C-level executives—in 116 countries.

Business executives across the world overwhelmingly believe that corporations should balance their obligation to shareholders with explicit contributions "to the broader public good." Yet most executives view their engagement with the corporate social contract as a risk, not an opportunity, and frankly admit that they are ineffective at managing this wider social and political issue.

Findings highlight some of the key issues that businesspeople expect stakeholders, social and consumer activists, and the media to raise during the next five years. The responses provide striking evidence of the way environmental concerns, doubts about data privacy, the controversy around offshoring, and other sociopolitical matters have firmly inserted themselves into the day-to-day agenda of the executive suite.

Respondents are mostly upbeat about the broad impact of business on society: some 68 percent say they are either "generally" or "somewhat" positive about the contribution that large corporations make to the public good. The proportion jumps to 76 percent when executives are asked if their own companies make a positive contribution.

Executives believe that the solution lies in their own hands. Asked how adequately the respondents' companies anticipate social pressure—including criticism of their activities—46 percent say that they have "substantial room for improvement," and a further 24 percent admit to seeing "some room." Only 3 percent report that their companies are doing a "good job."

Judging by the survey, executives are hard-nosed about why companies are engaging in this new agenda. Only 8 percent think that large corporations champion social or environmental causes out of "genuine concern."

Almost nine in ten agree that they are motivated by public relations or profitability, or by both concern and and business benefits in equal measure.

These responses, from a group of largely private-sector executives, show strong global support for a wider social role. The most enthusiastic proponents are executives in India: 90 percent of them endorse the "public good" dimension. Executives based in China are the most lukewarm, with 25 percent saying that investor returns should be the sole focus of corporate activity.

With executives generally positive about the wider social role business plays, which specific industries make the greatest overall contribution to the public good? Health care, mentioned by 49 percent of the respondents, tops all other sectors by a notable margin . Despite the high-profile attacks of some interest groups, the pharmaceutical sector (buoyed particularly by North American support) also does well. More than a quarter of the respondents cite either agriculture, especially valued in China and India, though less so in Europe, or telecommunications, notably popular in developing countries, including China.

Such optimism is encouraging, since there is no sign that the new pressures on business will go away. According to the survey, 20 percent of the respondents believe that the public will expect companies to take on most of the added responsibility for handling social and political issues, while an additional 59 percent think the burden will fall equally on governments and companies.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Managing the Art of Delegation

Delegation is often misconstrued as transfer of power from manager to subordinate for making critical decisions. Often subordinates grumble about the extremes of both type i.e. if a manager delegates complete responsibility of any assignment then there is a feeling of manager being incompetent and gives an impression that the onus is simply passed on to next level .Subordinates feel that their good work is often projected as the managers achievement. On the other hand if the manger controls and allows little freedom and responsibility then the question of lack of opportunity is raised.

Now the issue is how to balance this fine art of delegation which not only gives the manager the opportunity to develop his people and share the laurels of achievements but also ensure that growth opportunities are given to all subordinates.

Brendon Connelly of Slacker manager writes about Management hack: The sweet spot of delegation. He says “Delegation has a sweet spot and it lies somewhere between the tightfisted grip of the control freak who can’t give anything away, and the lackadaisical absentee manager who won’t accept responsibility. Somewhere in there is a place where a manager can offer a chance for expanded responsibilities, with a safety net. It’s the place where an employee can broaden their experience and know that failure is an option.

Delgation defined

Delegation happens when a manager offers an employee an opportunity take on a task or project. Delegation is an offer, not a demand. Delegated tasks are tasks that are part of the manager’s job description, though, so employees ought to know that they really can consider turning down delegated tasks.

The manager’s risks of delegation

Be clear about the fact that you’re sharing responsibility. You (the manager) will maintain as much communication as needed throughout the life of the delegated task. All success will be theirs. You’d like to say all failure will be yours, but that isn’t always true. If they make some really boneheaded decisions, you’ll both suffer. Otherwise, you can take the heat for their learning curve.

Another risk is that you’ll end up with yet another project to manage. Antidote: don’t fall into this trap. Hold on loosely. Keep an eye on things, have regular check-ins, but don’t hover like a den mother. You don’t need another project to manage, and they don’t need a micromanager breathing down their neck.

A related risk is that you’ll lose control of [insert your fear here]. Antidote: Get over it. You’ve got a job title that ensures your responsibilities. There should never be a question of who owns what. If there ever is a question, then it’s time for a hard conversation with either the person who reports to you, or between you and your boss. If it’s between you and your boss, bring a copy of your job description to the conversation. Go in with the best intentions, but get your resume polished up.

Failure is a reasonable risk. Antidote: Failure happens and by now all enlightened managers ought to understand that evidence of failure indicates a willingness to innovate. Doesn’t make it any easier to accept failures, but at least you know you and your folks are planting seeds for future success. Don’t fear failure; face it, measure it, fix the problems that caused it and keep on keeping on.

General delegation tips for managers

Set context. When delegating, setting context is a great idea. Let folks know why this is important, how it’s good for them and how it’s good for others.

Individualize. Don’t delegate willy nilly. Assess the skills of the folks available and match tasks to skills.

Remember responsibility. Don’t forget that the responsibility for the task or project ultimately belongs to you. Accept the risks. ‘Nuff said.

General tips for delegatees

Negotiate the delgation. Make sure you have sufficient information, authority and resources; negotiate when needed.

Consider saying no. There can be legitimate times when it’s not appropriate for you to accept delegated tasks. It’s rare, though, so tread lightly here.

Meet regularly. This is easy to let slide, so be aware. Regular meetings not only ensure you and your boss are on the same page, it also alerts you to changes on the landscape of your project. This is notice you might not get anywhere else.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Ever Changing Role of HR

The line it is drawn ,The curse it is cast ,The slow one now, Will later be fast ,As the present now Will later be past, The order is Rapidly fadin'.And the first one now will later be last, For the times they are a-changin'.

These lines of my favourite Bob Dylan Song are also being sung by HR professionals all over by in a different tune. Business world latest edition has an article on “the changing role of HR canvas”. It talks about the transition of HR from talent retainer to talent nurturer and an instrument in building a culture of sensitive and responsive organisation.From business partner to strategic partner HR in Indian organisation have come a long way and here’s a brief summary of the article.

On what makes companies great place to work

Little wonder many of the HR heads from companies in the Top 25 are devoting their time on understanding how swiftly the workplace is evolving and, indeed, what tomorrow’s workplace could look like. Today, the difference between a great workplace and a not-so-great one may lie in the mere fact that the former has a relatively better understanding of the problems. And is attempting to tackle them in an equitable manner, even though the solutions aren’t perfect.

On employee’s new expectations from Corporates

Employees want to feel good about the organisations they work for. In other words, working on community development projects is not seen as wasting company time or being in conflict with everyday corporate objectives, but more as a joint effort between the company and the employee. In fact, many of the activities mentioned are done on company time.

On CSR and future drivers for HR initiatives

Sridhar, general manager (HR), ITC, says that CSR can work only if the more standard HR practices in a company are in place. “If there are too many issues internally, this (CSR) cannot be a substitute,” he says.

There is no gainsaying the fact that concerns such as this will drive HR thinking in the near future. “There was a time when recruiting issues were about educational backgrounds or the value that someone brought to the organisation. But in 2010, the ‘softer’ issues of HR will be the hard drivers,” says Anuradha Purbey, director (HR), Aviva (No. 13 on the list).

The most significant notion to emerge was what tomorrow’s HR manager should be like. GSK’s Dwarakanath argued that keeping in mind how Indian businesses were evolving, the HR manager needed to think very differently. “HR should play the role of a strategic business partner. HR managers need to have knowledge of the market and not just the internal processes. Otherwise, there will be a disconnect between the rest of the business and HR.”