The future can’t be predicted simply prepared for…

Recently a load of people have been talking to me about restructuring their teams for the future.
I’ve noticed that to do this they collect vast amounts of data in an effort to predict the future trends, business conditions, customer needs and so on.

The problem with the future
The problem is that the future is unpredictable. and the only people to generate a “five year plan was thr old Soviet Union…and look where they are today!

Take technology for instance…by the time it’s clear what will be affected in the future it’s too late! It move so fast that catching up is difficult far less being able to stay ahead. THerefore traditional planning where the object is to predict the future, develop detailed plans and restructure teams to take account of those predictions no longer make sense.

It must be assumed that the future can’t be predicted…but it can be prepared for. The answer is to shift how business prepares for the future.The task for business is to structure the organisation to be immediately flexible. That’s not new idea…but it’s rarely implemented successfully.

I’m excited about the future
Over the past months I’ve talked to so many business leaders about this topic. I’m excited that the result will be that I’m organising a series of events for selected business leaders to talk to them on how they can plan for the future they don’t yet know about.

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We’re Doomed…Doomed I tell you!

I had a long breakfast with a friend and Company Director this morning. Over the bacon and eggs we talked about some senior and unexpected departures from one of his competitors. He was identifying the opportunities these senior departures presented for his own company.

In short he categorised these as:

  • Available talent might be available and useful to his own comany (possibly on a consultancy basis)
  • The competitor’s clients might speculate that they might need to shop around for alternative suppliers (Just in case!)
  • Loss in staff morale and as a result loss of productivity
  • Gap in leadership until new leader can be appointed and begin to succeed
  • Possible further departures which could increase problems
  • Cost to competitor of rehiring and lead-in time for newe job holder

Too often, when senior management departs staff look to the future wondering if the business is doomed. (Even if the leader had been unpopular) and wonder if they should consider finding another job before it’s too late. My friend and I speculated that the benefits for my friend’s company could last between six and nine months and be worth many clients and an increase in sales income.

Bernard Matthews as an example
One only has to look at Bernard Matthews, the turkey company, to see how the loss of top people can benefit competitors. Last week the Chairman, Davis McCall, stepped down. Then the Chief Executive, Noel Bartram left and follows Rob Mears the Managing Director’s ealier departure.
The company employs 2200 people with a further 1000 staff in Germany and Hungary. In recent years Trading conditions have been poor for the company with bird flu and increase in costs. In addition staff morale has been hit and sales have slumped. Profits on a turnover of £341m amounted to just £2m.
With the departure of senior people it could be expected that morale and productivity will further be affected unless the latest appointment of David Joll (former CE) can secure a rumoured investment of between £20 and £30million. In which case he could end up as a hero.

A Strategy

My friend and I worked on plans until lunchtime on ways to manage possible, though unlikely, senior departures in his own company.

Stephen Harvard Davis

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Strategies for Restructuring Your Sales Team

Over the past weeks I’ve been talking to various businesses about the strategies that they are developing for 2012 and beyond and in the light of continued hard times.

The one common factor in my discussions is that there seems to be a great emphasis on sales and sales team restructure to maintain growth. Identifying the successful sales team members isn’t difficult and identifying those that need replacing isn’t difficult either. The problem is that those at the top probably won’t be able to deliver more and those at the bottom are difficult to motivate.

Greatest potential growth
Possibly the greatest potential growth from a sales team will come from the average performers. That is those that are producing between 90% and 125% of their target on a regular basis. This is partly because this group tends to have more people in it than the top or the bottom and motivating them to produce more has the greatest potential for success.

Sales team restructure strategy
When developing strategies for a sales team restructure they should include changing territory, clients, working times, information and support given to the sales team and a good study of the recruitment process and criteria for those joining the team.

This video on sales and marketing interview questions might help


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Stages to Sales Team Failure

I had an interesting Skype conversation with a friend of mine in California last night who has just taken over a new sales team after the departure of the previous Sales Manager.

First stage
I asked him about the indicators that told people that things were “going wrong” before the departure of his predecessor. The process began, he said, with the Sales Team saying things like “It’s just not working” but being unable to agree on exactly what “It” was.

The second stage
was people outside the team saying things such as, “The sales team’s sucking in loads of our time”, “the restructure’s not working” and “We’re not going to meet target”

Third stage
Was when senior management started to get involved. This was about four months after stage one. It then took another six months for the sales manager to be dismissed. Total time when opportunities were lost amounted to ten months and further delay is likely to occur before the new manager gets a grip on the situation.

Result and main reason
Estimated lost income is hundreds of thousands of dollars!
One of the main reasons for the failure, and one that is so common, was that The Sales Director felt unsupported by the senior management and the sales Director was not willing to say that he “was struggling”. 

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Success energises, failure is tiring

There’s nothing more energising than success and nothing more tiring when things aren’t going well.

Last week I was speaking to one of my favourite friends… John Donnelly.
Now for those that don’t know John he’s one of the sharpest tools in any business toolbox. He lives in Spain where high level business people fly in to ask his advice and fly out again after a few glasses of sangria. We speak on SKYPE, as do many of his clients, and his wicked sense of humour has me regularly injuring myself when falling helplessly off my office chair.

John was reviewing one of my latest video-blog films and made some great suggestions on improving the final result. Everything he said was correct but it meant doing the film again! No problem, the result will be better and I’m energised to re-film it and send him the final (Director’s) cut.

In six months time
On the other hand I feel sorry for another friend that’s going through a difficult time. Her new team is having great success and is delivering a first class product. As a result, however, is continually being pressured by others to produce more and more. They do this by focussing on the small areas that could be done better and just offer criticism whilst ignoring the excellent work of the project as a whole.

The result is that my friend has decided to leave and within six months will probably be giving in her notice. Having come to this decision she is finding that her tiredness has disappeared, she has a more relaxed attitude to problems at work and is becoming increasingly disengaged. In the meantime her boss keeps telling her “I don’t know what we’d do without you!”

He’s about to find out and at a most inconvenient time, I should guess. 

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Hiring salespeople, avoiding ordertakers

I’m often asked how to restructure a sales team to make them more profitable faster and how to identify and avoid recruiting order takers that eat up valuable management time.
So here’s a video I’ve uploaded on the topic and hope you find it useful

Hiring salespeople, avoiding ordertakers

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Arrogance ends up being expensive!

Some months ago I was contacted by someone saying that a friend had given them my name and contact details and, after hearing all the positive things said about me, would love to meet me. Well what would you have done… Delighted, I said “of course”.

“Something’s come up…”

Meeting was a bit difficult as we lived over a three hour journey from each other and so a one hour SKYPE call was arranged. On the day scheduled for the call I received an email saying that “something had come up” and could we rearrange. Something coming up happens to the best people and naturally I agreed.

Second appointment
After I had juggled my diary a little bit we diarised a time for the second SKYPE appointment and another hour was set aside . Now, let’s agree that video conference meetings are appointments. Just that they are over the computer screen. Then a few hours before the time I received another email, “Sorry, I’m up to my eyes, can we reappoint. I’ll call you”

Would I be desperate to try to meet for a third time?
I was staggered by the arrogance that not once, but twice my time was seen as being unimportant, that her obvious inability to manage her time should inconvenience me and that I would be desperate to try a third time to meet with her! Since then I’ve received newsletters and various other updates about her business with offers to purchase products but no aplogy.

It ended very expensively
Yesterday I had a meeting in The City of London and her name came up in conversation. I related the story of the failed SKYPE Calls and within a flash, that even surprised me, her involvement in any future projects was rejected. It just shows that arrogant rudeness can end up being very expensive!

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Change that costs too much!

It never ceases to amaze me how often business change fails and how many change initiatives end up costing huge amounts on money in lost opportunities.

BETFAIR parts with Chief Executive
For intance yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph business section reported that BETFAIR has parted company with their Chief Executive just three months after the online trading platform had been launched. “In recent months analysts have questioned how successful the roll-out has been” of the LMAX platform and the shares have fallen 25% in less than six months.

Another example I observed last weeek was a sales team that had restructured to allow the team to concentrate on “High net worth clients”. Those clients not lucky enough to be categorised in the high net worth category would, in future, be dealt with from a call centre. Sales have subsequently fallen dramatically as the majority of sales came from small purchases. Now categorised as “insignificant” these customers reacted badly to being advised by people who did not have the experience to advise them properly. Result reduced sales and lost clients.

Executive Paralysis
Too often a contributory mistake is “Executive Paralysis” in identifying and accepting that initial thinking and planning could be flawed and to have a back-up plan. This rejection of potential failure creates a position that when fallback options are needed they are introduced with a sense of panic, adding more to the “costs of lost opportunity”

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Time Is The Enemy Of Change

In the past few weeks I’ve been reminding people how time is often the enemy of change. Reading the business papers I’ve been struck by how many businesses and even Government accepts the “need to change” to reduce costs, increase productivity and remain competitive but seem to ignore the time trap.

The alcohol “responsibility deal” brokered by the UK Government and supported by Asda, Heineken but only signed up to by Tesco, Marks & Spenceer and others is just one example. 

Managing change creates frustration
Managing change creates frustration for those implementing it and those that have to work with the consequences. This frustration often creates delays, huge additional costs, lower productivity and result in poor staff morale as organizations take account of the economic cycle, merge and seek to become more competitive.

The time trap factor
One of the crucial factors for those designing change within organizations is the time factor. Yet time is the one part of the equation that is ignored, often with disastrous consequences

To understand the time trap factor let’s remind ourselves how change is planned and implemented. For some months plans will be made to improve systems or organizations. The people that work on these plans consider future benefits, implementation plans, risk analysis flow charts etc. Once all the plans have been finalized and an implementation process agreed, the time frame for these people has moved to the present and their outlook is to the future.

Different time frames
On the day that the wider world, generally those people that are affected by the changes, are informed, the managing group or government minister are full of confidence and optimism for the improvements that the future will bring. The group being affected, however, are in a different time frame. Their experience is based upon the past and, even if that experience was understood to be inefficient, there is comfort in what people know and understand.

All change produces winners and losers. The winners will move their time frame to the future and the losers will move further into the past. In addition each group will be seeing the change from the perception of not “Is this change good for the organization” but from the personal standpoint of “Is this good for me”

The trick is to move as many people to the future time frame as possible, right from the start. The more people that talk about the future change in positive terms the greater the chance of success. Errors, however, revolve around poor communication, hurried change, poor planning and implementation.

The result is the creation of two camps.
Those viewed as being supportive of the change and those that are seen as being unsupportive. When this happens it’s interesting to observe that once people are viewed as being in the unsupportive group by the change leaders it’s very difficult for the individuals to move themselves out of this group in the minds of others. In a company situation such staff will often feel forced to leave.

Ignoring the time factor may not reduce the need for change, it may, however, increase the frustration and management effort needed to implement it.

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Change Failure. Could It Be How You Explain it?

Yesterday I had a very interesting telephone call from a friend who outlined some changes he was making to his work team. After an hour of listening to his proposals and the reasons why he was changing people’s work objectives and targets I couldn’t fault his logic.

The research for the “need to change” had taken six months and loads of statistics analysed and, as a result, the proposed alterations in people’s jobs and deliverables were both logical and led by market expectations.

I then asked “So what’s the next step?”
I’ve called a meeting of the team at the start of January and I’m going to tell them”.
“And what do you think their reaction will be?” I asked
“Some will agree and some will hate it…but they’ll just have to do it!

It took me some time to explain to my friend that whilst he had spent six months of research into generating his ideas he was proposing to give those affected just a few hours to understand the logic and accept it. In fact he was hoping for universal acclamation and presumably “thanks” for his hard work and his proposals.

Too often those that plan team restructure have lived with their thoughts for many months. Their thought have gone through the process of  rejecting some ideas and accepting others to create a logical outcome. When introducing change there needs to be an understanding that those affected will move through similar thought processes and need time to do so.

This is because resistance to change is built into the very structure of most companies.

So any change or new initiative that threatens the existing organization (in whole or in part) will likely encounter opposition. Don’t be surprised if nobody is aware of this dynamic. It’s  an entirely unconscious reaction, like an auto-immune system response.

Some help could come from a technique called the Kirton Adaption – Innovation Theory (KAI). Dr Kirton’s concept is that all humans are problem solvers, so therefore all humans are creative. But change skills range from Adapative to Innovative. Innovators relish breakthroughs and welcome radical change, whereas Adaptive people tend to prefer structure and moderate incremental change.

Many of the petty conflicts that arise during a change process can be attributed to the different thinking styles of Adaptive and Innovative personalities, so it’s useful to be aware of them and learn the techniques for embracing both inputs.

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