"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
Westhaven Worldwide Logistics

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Archive for the 'Case Studies' Category

Overconfident

Research from the UK’s Exeter and Newcastle universities has supported what I have always suspected… that the overconfident among us are rewarded disproportionately to their actual ability.

Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Those who underestimate how able they are can be seen as having less ability than is actually the case.

The research studied 72 individuals on a course. Only 11 were accurate in their assessment of their own ability (in other words, their final marks confirmed their predictions). 29 students were over-confident and 32 were under-confident.

The trouble was there was a distinct correlation between the grades students predicted for themselves and the grades others predicted for them. So… students predicted success for their over-confident colleagues even though this proved not to be the eventual outcome.

Even worse, these erroneous impressions of the likely success rate of the over-confident were the same six weeks into the course as they were at the beginning—so even getting to know each other made no difference.

Worryingly… the overconfident types were shown as more likely to take risks. So, when businesses reward the most self-deceiving rather than the most accomplished individuals, not only are they progressing the less able but also the most reckless.

Think of the implications of this.

Over-confident, less able and more reckless people at the top of major companies, the armed forces and other key institutions.

I see it all the time… and you’ve only got to look at the news to see the problems it causes.


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Cycle!

Cycle
If, as a member of your staff, I was able to cycle to work:
  • would I find somewhere to securely park my bike?
  • is there somewhere I could shower and get changed?
  • would this be a perfectly acceptable thing to do or would I be considered eccentric?

I ask this because research conducted by British organisation ‘Cyclescheme’ (which supports people getting a bike tax-free provided their employer is part of the scheme) has found that the cyclists in a workforce are more productive… and more likely to get promoted than their non-cycling counterparts.

Apparently some 82% of the 2,500 cyclists surveyed said that they felt less stressed and more productive after cycling to work. And 63% of the 100 employers surveyed said there were knock-on improvements to their business as more staff used bikes to commute.

Cycling to work enjoys some big-hitting support in the UK. Charles Elvin, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, has said that anything that makes staff fitter and feel more motivated is a real win for managers.

And it’s a real win for the environment with some 760,000 in the UK using their bikes to get to work rather than their cars.

I think US leaders need to wake up to this phenomenon…

… although I accept that the very entrenched US car culture will make this a challenge!


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The Wrong VP?

A West Coast company with East Coast operations needed a new VP for the East Coast. Nothing really new, but the three top performers they had either had ambitions for the position or thought that the new VP should be one of them.

Headquarters weren’t really aware of the situation and—as it seemed—didn’t really care. A few days later the big day: The CEO sent an e-mail announcing the new VP. In my humble opinion the CEO should have taken the time to introduce the VP in person. Oddly enough the VP didn’t feel the need of a stuff meeting or even introducing himself to the top performers either. But headquarters never talked with a single one of them.

Anyway, the VP came and followed the old German saying: New brooms brush well. Everything got changed.

We all know that top performers can be quite different from others. The new VP didn’t understand that or he just didn’t care. Within one week he not only fired the number one top performer; had the company miss a clients deadline—he also lost the contract that one person worked on.
Causing the company to lose a six figure revenue over one year—more than 40%! of the companies whole revenue.

Headquarters never considered to investigate or letting go of that VP.

Wouldn’t you agree that employees and managers that get their position only because of their relations and not their performance aren’t the right employees?

How long would it have taken you to replace the new VP?

Or - at the very least - to find out what is really going on?


For what it’s worth—the two other top performers left the company within two months after the new VP arrived. Not even a year later the East Coast operations unit got closed.
And until today the CEO claims that the old VP caused all the troubles…

Would you name the CEO or the new VP leaders?


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Are you going to a job interview to be interviewed or to interview?

A few weeks ago a young lady—let’s name her Ann—bought my book Stop Telling… Start Leading!
The Art of Managing People by Asking Questions.

Ann’s reasoning was that she had to go to an interview with the board of directors and she wanted to be prepared. She wanted to be able to ask questions—to find out more about the position and how the board would act towards her. I pointed her to the “Checklist” chapter in “Step 1 — Define!” and to “Step 3 — Take responsibility”—especially the chapter “What to Do When the Boss Is a Failure”.

Ann thought the position would be a great fit for her: Closer to home (cutting down a two hour commute to a few minutes), her first real management position, the ability to grow further—and the chance to poove that she learned how to run a business.

The next day Ann and I had the chance to talk again. Ann told me how after only two questions from the book she came to realize that the board would neither accept a woman in a leadership position nor would she be able to grow in the position as it was promised.

How many potential employees are actually taking the time to interview the employer? How many employers are willing to be interviewed? Not even 5% of all the people I have interviewed for a position have actually interviewed me about the company.

Are you prepared?

Can you afford not to be?


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Case Study 3

Location: Nationwide
Industry: Software

Scenario:

A piece of software with more than 500 installations and 25 users on average was due for a new version release in June. But, by October, nothing was ready to roll out. The software, when tried with different code bases worked with limited functionality. As a result, the majority of the software’s programmers were busy fixing bugs.

Problem:

The software had next to no documentation and the team had spent more than the amount they had previously estimated. Clients were getting impatient, sales were on the decline, and investors were considering pulling out of the project altogether.

Solution:

The existing version was locked down. Then, all of the code bases were merged into one and documentation was created. We involved the clients in the testing, which got them interested and using the system again. We had every programmer report on their progress daily.

Result:

Within two weeks, a deadline was set for the first beta release of the software. The company delivered on time and got the approval of upper management to continue development.

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Case Study 2

Location: Nationwide
Industry: Software

Scenario:

This case study involved 100 users working with a system that had been in development over a 10 year period. The task of the development team was to rewrite the old system with a new compiler and new user interface. Existing specifications were impressive, but were for some reason changed on a weekly basis, which ultimately downgraded the value of the software.

Problem:

The project managers refused to throw away inadequate and outdated source code because the expense of creating new code was too high. Office politics combined with other conflicts within the team had caused the project to be 6 months late, over budget and at a standstill. The contractor was on the verge of losing their customers.

Solution:

Within one year, I helped to push out two releases, got multiple budget increases and had every unrealistic deadline removed.

Result:

Two years later, the contractor is still earning a profit on the software and has a staff of five working on implementation of the software’s new features.

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Case Study 1

Location: Western Europe
Industry: Major manufacturer

Scenario:

This particular manufacturer had a few hundred customers, but had thousands of articles with a few million more in stock. They were using an outdated system, but everyone was happy with it.

The company had recently been purchased by a trust company, whose upper management required that an AS/400 system be purchased. As a result, new article ids had to be created in order to be compatible with this new system.

Problem:

The mid-manager, due to a personality conflict with the IT manager had told those working under him to ignore the new system entirely.

While the new and very expensive AS/400 was left to gather dust in the broom closet, the IT manager was blamed. Upper management soon learned that the new system was not being used and demanded that the IT manager make it a top priority to install the system and have all the article ids replaced in a very short time. The IT manager was then faced with an all-too-common dilemma: fix it now, or lose the job.

Solution:

Within two months, I had him install a production planning system that was programmed in-house to connect the outdated system with the new one. This made upper management happy, and the mid-manager could continue use of the old system.

Result:

The IT manager redeemed himself in the eyes of upper management, and his credibility was restored.

If you’ve been seeking assistance from a seasoned IT professional, my services will certainly meet or exceed your requirements. I’ve worked with a wide range of companies, software and human resources personnel to effectively meet the deadlines of urgent projects.

My process involves specific and unique approaches for identifying and solving communication breakdowns, discovering your source of change and ultimately saving the reputations of your entire team.

Here is a breakdown of my proven process for your success:

  1. I first identify communication breakdowns and fix them, so that what to do and when to do it is made clear to every member of your team.

  2. I continue by reviewing existing standards, which is an absolute must to get to the root of your project’s issues.

  3. I then create a “Destination Analysis” for you, which will ask you where you and your team would like to be with your project.

  4. The next stage is my “Source of Change” analysis, which will identify where you and your team stand at the present time.

  5. My “Solution Matrix” will reveal what options are available to you, and outline the cost of implementing these solutions.

  6. The “Plan of Change” will help to illustrate what you and your team can do to reach your goals.

  7. My “Success Analysis” will clearly show how successful you and your team are.



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