- Table View
- List View
Many managers have grasped the power of individual lean techniques--such as just-in-time deliveries and kaizen, or continuous improvement--pioneered by Toyota and other Japanese companies. However, they have stumbled in trying to put them all together into a coherent business system. In an effort to show managers how they can create a powerful whole, the authors studied 50 lean companies in a variety of industries around the world. The companies included Toyota, Porsche, and Pratt & Whitney. On the basis of their study, the authors identified five critical steps that they believe will be useful to all managers interested in applying lean thinking. Lantech, a small manufacturer of stretch-wrapping machines in Louisville, Kentucky, provides an example of how a company can make the leap.
Diversity efforts in the workplace have been undertaken with great goodwill, but, ironically, they often end up fueling tensions. They rarely spur the leaps in organizational effectiveness that are possible. Two paradigms for diversity are responsible, but a new third paradigm is showing it can address the problem. Leaders in third-paradigm companies are proactive about learning from diversity; they encourage people to make explicit use of cultural experience at work; they fight all forms of dominance and subordination, including those generated by one functional group acting superior to another; and they ensure that the inevitable tensions that come from a genuine effort to make way for diversity are acknowledged and resolved with sensitivity.
What should managers working abroad do when they encounter business practices that seem unethical? Should they, in the spirit of cultural relativism, tell themselves to do in Rome as the Romans do? Or should they take an absolutist approach, using the ethical standards they use at home no matter where they are? Many business practices are neither black nor white but exist in a gray zone, a moral free space through which managers must navigate. Levi Strauss and Motorola have helped managers by treating company values as absolutes and insisting that suppliers and customers do the same. And, perhaps even more important, both companies have developed detailed codes of conduct that provide clear direction on ethical behavior but also leave room for managers to use the moral imagination that will allow them to resolve ethical tensions responsibly and creatively.
Companies that enjoy enduring success have a core purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change--requiring a consciously practiced discipline--is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision. Vision provides guidance about what to preserve and what to change. A new prescriptive framework adds clarity and rigor to the vague and fuzzy vision concepts at large today. Managers who master a discovery process to identify core ideology can link their vision statements to the fundamental dynamic that motivates truly visionary companies--that is, the dynamic of preserving the core and stimulating progress.
Cyrus Maher, CEO of Waterway Industries, thinks he may be facing a human resources problem. Lee Carter is a relatively new employee whose high-powered sales ability has rocketed Maher's sleepy canoe company into unprecedented growth. But Maher has overheard Carter discussing a new job that would offer equity, and he fears her defection is imminent. Maher has begun to reconsider his employees' compensation arrangements, particularly Carter's. As he consults with his banker and with advisers in the industry, he begins to realize that the easygoing culture he created at Waterway may have changed for good. In 96408 and 96408Z, James McCann, Kay Henry, Myra Hart, Ronald Rudolph, Bruce Schlegel, and Alan Johnson offer advice on this fictional case study.
In many companies, strategy making is an elitist procedure and "strategy" consists of nothing more than following the industry's rules. But more and more companies, intent on overturning the industrial order, are reviewing those rules. What can industry incumbents do? Either surrender the future to revolutionary challengers or revolutionize the way their companies create strategy. What is needed is not a tweak to the traditional strategic-planning process, but a new philosophical foundation: strategy is revolution. The author offers ten principles to help a company think about the challenge of creating truly revolutionary strategies.
Managers have recently begun to think of good marketing as good conversation, as a process of drawing customers into progressively more satisfying relationships with a company. And just as the art of conversation follows two steps--first striking up a conversation with a likely partner and then maintaining the flow--so the new marketing naturally divides itself into the work of customer acquisition and the work of customer retention. But how can managers determine the optimal balance between spending on acquisition and spending on retention? The authors use decision calculus to approach the large, complex problem through several smaller, more manageable questions on the same topic.
Our understanding of how markets and businesses operate is based on the assumption of diminishing returns: products or companies that get ahead in a market eventually run into limitations so that a predictable equilibrium of prices and market shares is reached. The theory was valid for the bulk-processing, smokestack economy of Alfred Marshall's day. But in this century, Western economies have gone from processing resources to processing information, from the application of raw energy to the application of ideas. The mechanisms that determine economic behavior have also shifted--from diminishing returns to increasing returns. Increasing returns are the tendency for that which is ahead to get further ahead and for that which is losing advantage to lose further advantage. If a product gets ahead, increasing returns can magnify the advantage, and the product can go on to lock in the market.
Increasingly, work in today's corporations unfolds in small, temporary groups where the stakes are high, turnover is chronic, foul-ups can spread, and the unexpected is common. Karl E. Weick finds lessons for senior managers watching over such groups in an unusual source: Norman Maclean's 1992 book, Young Men and Fire, which reconstructs the circumstances of a deadly fire in Montana's Mann Gulch that claimed the lives of 13 young men. The author believes that corporate leaders can learn from this example by developing groups capable of improvisation, wise behavior, respectful interaction, and communication.
Despite the best efforts of senior executives, major change initiatives often fail. Those failures have at least one common root: Executives and employees see change differently. For senior managers, change means opportunity--both for the business and for themselves. But for many employees, change is seen as disruptive and intrusive. To close this gap, says Paul Strebel, managers must reconsider their employees' "personal compacts"--the mutual obligations and commitments that exist between employees and the company. Personal compacts in all companies have three dimensions: formal, psychological, and social. Employees determine their responsibilities, their level of commitment to their work, and the company's values by asking questions along these dimensions. How a company answers them is the key to successful change.
Planning a major change in your organization? If so, chances are you have arranged a huge rally, rousing speeches, videos, and special editions of the company paper. Stop. This sort of communication is not working. If you want people to change the way they do their jobs, you must change the way you communicate with them. Drawing on their own research and the research of other communication experts from the past two decades, the authors argue that senior managers--and most communication consultants--have refused to hear what frontline workers have been trying to tell them: When you need to communicate a major change, stop communicating values, communicate face-to-face, and spend most of your time, money, and effort on frontline supervisors.
David Martin, chief operating officer of Lexington Labs, was apprehensive about the upcoming meeting with his senior sales executives. Just a few years earlier, when the pharmaceutical company enjoyed extraordinary success, gatherings with the sales force had seemed like celebrations. But in the past 18 months, sales had begun to fall, as had earnings. And most of the top sales personnel had begun to focus on their own businesses as major changes swept through the health care industry. Martin sensed that the solution was a system to facilitate the flow of knowledge across borders. Sales executives needed to share vital information about products, customers, competitors, and selling techniques. But what kind of system would work best? Unfortunately, Martin's apprehensions were justified. The meeting only emphasized how fragmented the company had become. How can Martin get Lexington to function as one global company? In 96302 and 96302Z, Louise Goeser, Thomas H. Davenport, Barry Harrington, George Goldsmith, and G. Kelly O'Dea offer advice on this fictional case study.
U.S. corporations lose half their customers every five years. But most managers fail to address that fact head-on by striving to learn why those defectors left. They are making a mistake, because a climbing defection rate is a sign that a business is in trouble. By analyzing the causes of defection, managers can learn how to stem the decline and build a successful enterprise. The longer customers stay with a company, the more they are worth. The key to customer loyalty is value creation. The key to value creation is organizational learning. And the key to organizational learning, says the author, is grasping the value of failure.
A decade ago, many observers predicted Caterpillar's demise. Yet today the company's overall share of the world market for construction and mining equipment is the highest in its history. And the biggest reason for the turnaround, writes Caterpillar's chairman and CEO Donald Fites, has been the company's system of distribution and product support and the close customer relationships it fosters. The backbone of that system is Caterpillar's 186 independent dealers around the world. They have played a central role in helping the company build close relationships with customers and gain insights into how it can improve products and services.
Rafferty Goldstone, the protagonist of this HBR case study, was one of Bulwark Securities' hottest sales reps, but he dreamed of management. So he was elated when he was chosen to fill a manager's slot that had opened up on the East Coast. Now, six months later, he's in deep trouble and doesn't know where to turn for help. But who's responsible for Goldstone's floundering? And can anything be done to direct him down the right path? In 96201 and 96201Z, Thomas J. DeLong, Ellen Hart, Kathleen Collman, John Doumani, Joseph L. Galarneau, and Julie Johnson offer advice on this fictional case study.
Is investing in new technology always the right choice for a company and its customers? Allan Moulter, the CEO of Quality Care, isn't sure he wants to invest in the computerized reception system that consultant Jack Zadow has outlined for him. But in this HBR case study, the argument Zadow makes is impossible to ignore. Quality Care's rivals have invested in similar systems or are planning to do so. The new system promises to take care of routine busywork, freeing staff up for other interactions with patients. It seems as if the competition hasn't even cut staff and is counting on increased customer retention to pay for the investment. And yet, Quality Care's surveys of its own customers show that they prefer the human touch when checking in. How would customers feel if the first "person" they met when they came in the door turned out to be a machine? Six experts weigh the costs and benefits of technology in a service industry. In 96106 and 96106Z, commentators Thomas O. Jones, Mary Jo Bitner, Eric Hanselman, Christopher A. Swan, Teresa A. Swartz, and Terri Capatosto offer advice on this fictional case study.
In the past, companies took a cost-plus approach to pricing, charging high prices when a product was first released, then lowering prices when production was scaled up. Lean competitors make that approach impossible, however, as they are quick to introduce competitive "me too" products to market. To gain and hold market leadership today, a company must design the cost out of its products from the outset. Target costing is a cost-management technique that lets a company do just that: The company determines how much customers are willing to pay for a product and then designs the product within cost limits that will permit it to sell profitably at the predetermined price.
Most managers rejoice if the majority of customers that respond to customer-satisfaction surveys say they are satisfied. But some of those managers may have a big problem. When most customers are saying they are satisfied but not completely satisfied, they are saying that they are unhappy with some aspect of the product or service. If they have the opportunity, they will defect. Companies that excel in satisfying customers excel both in listening to customers and in interpreting what customers with different levels of satisfaction are telling them.
New reports announcing that yet another business has stumbled into a crisis--often without warning and through no direct fault of its management--seem as regular as the tide. And the spectrum of business crises is so wide that it is impossible to list each type. On a single day this year, the Washington Post reported a series of crashes suffered by American Eagle Airlines, the bankruptcy of Orange County, and Intel's travails with its Pentium microprocessor. Fortunately, almost every crisis contains within itself the seeds of success as well as the roots of failure. Finding, cultivating, and harvesting that potential success is the essence of crisis management.
Private investment in infrastructure is again the rage among foreign investors and governments in the developing countries of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Managers should not get carried away, however: A look at a few recent experiences shows that the pitfalls of the past are still present today. The authors review ill-fated foreign investment projects and conclude that foreign investment in infrastructure is dangerous because the hosting nations view it as an obsolescing bargain. In the face of this discouraging evaluation, the authors have some suggestions for minimizing risks. These range from the general, such as taking care to choose the right businesses to invest in, to more specific advice on setting rates and buying insurance. Nevertheless, investors should not expect security in infrastructure investment. Indeed, the paradox of infrastructure projects may be that higher returns cause higher risk, rather than the converse.
Most managerial work happens through talk--discussions, meetings, presentations, negotiations. And it is through talk that managers evaluate others and are themselves judged. Using research carried out in a variety of workplace settings, linguist Deborah Tannen demonstrates how conversational style often overrides what we say, affecting who gets heard, who gets credit, and what gets done. Tannen's linguistic perspective provides managers with insight into why there is so much poor communication. Gender plays an important role. Tannen traces the ways in which women's styles can undermine them in the workplace, making them seem less competent, confident, and self-assured than they are. She analyzes the underlying social dynamic created through talk in common workplace interactions. She argues that a better understanding of linguistic style will make managers better listeners and more effective communicators, allowing them to develop more flexible approaches to a full range of managerial activities.
Every morning, Paul Marsh, the chairman, president, and CEO of Kansas-based Coltrane Farm Equipment & Manufacturing, climbs the six flights of stairs to his office as part of his stress management plan. But recently the stress has intensified. In just five months, Marsh is retiring, and critics charge that there is no one suitably prepared to step into his job. Coltrane has prospered mightily under Marsh's leadership, and in recent years he has pushed the company to grow overseas. At the same time, Marsh also has a history of conflict with his closest subordinates. Coltrane's former president and COO left eight months ago and has not been replaced, and the head of international operations was fired in 1992 after just 21 months on the job. With the clock ticking, can Coltrane develop a plan to find a replacement for Marsh who can successfully lead the company into the next century? In 95509 and 95509Z, John Pound, Philip A. Lichtenfels, Alonzo McDonald, and Jeffrey Sonnenfeld offer advice on this fictional case study.
The lingering belief that environmental regulations erode competitiveness has resulted in a stalemate. One side pushes for tougher standards, the other tries to roll standards back. The authors' research shows that tougher environmental standards actually can enhance competitiveness by pushing companies to use resources more productively. Managers must start to recognize environmental improvement as an economic and competitive opportunity, not as an annoying cost or an inevitable threat. Environmental progress demands that companies innovate to raise resource productivity--precisely the new challenge of global competition. It is time to build on the underlying economic logic that links the environment, resource productivity, innovation, and competitiveness.
Leveraging Processes for Strategic Advantage: A Roundtable with Allaire, Herres, Leschly, and Weatherupby David A. Garvin
Reengineering efforts are sweeping the country as companies shift from purely functional organizations to those that better accommodate horizontal work flows. Broad, crosscutting processes such as product development and order fulfillment have become the new organizational building blocks, Managers, in turn, have begun to develop new ways of working. But much remains to be learned about how these new organizations are crafted and led. The critical questions involve strategy and management practice. In this roundtable, Xerox's Allaire, USAA's Herres, SmithKline Beecham's Leschly, and Pepsi's Weatherup, four senior executives who have helped pioneer the shift to process-based organizations, discuss their experiences. They represent diverse industries and a wide range of competitive challenges, but their observations about processes and process management are strikingly similar.
Too often when managers think about pricing, the first question they ask is, What should the price be? In fact, what they should be asking is, Have we addressed all the considerations that will determine the correct price? Robert J. Dolan describes two broad qualities of an effective pricing process and provides eight steps to enable managers to develop and use such a process. The pricing scorecard included at the end of the article will allow managers to evaluate how well their pricing practices meet these guidelines.