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Maset News

Volume 46  January 19, 2005

Introduction
Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
Tips from Our School for Managers
One Liners
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
Third Feature Of This Issue
Coming in the Next Few Issues
Housekeeping

INTRODUCTION:

Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers

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MESSAGE FROM CHARLES LOEW:

We wish all our readers a Happy New Year. For those that use a different calendar we also wish you the same, as your New Year approaches.

We are pleased to announce that we have scheduled our Seminar titled "Customer Focused Six Sigma for small and Midsized Organization" for April 6, 2005. We are partnering with the Robert Morris University and other organizations in the Pittsburgh area on this effort. Please see the write up and the registration link at http://www.masetllc.com/upcoming_events.shtml. If anyone is interested in becoming a Marketing Partner for this seminar in your location please contact me at Charles.Loew@masetllc.com

As we begin 2005 it is a very good time to review what initiatives you are taking to improve your organization and to increase the effectiveness of your associates. Many organizations have been reducing their workforces and have not done anything to remove non value added work. If you really want to satisfy your customers and increase your profitably, it is time to contact us for assistance. Call me at 480-775-1269 or send me an e-mail at Charles.Loew@masetllc.com.

Our first feature article, titled "Partnering - You Can't Succeed Alone" by Joan Koerber - Walker, is an excellent article that explains the need to create a win - win partnership. She brings out the point that if you really expect to succeed in the 21st. Century you will have to operate differently. This article describes how you should proceed to create successful partnering relationships between your organization and your Customers and your suppliers.

A, Blanton Godfey highlights the cause of increasing costs and decreasing quality in his article, "Press No. 2 For Poor Service". Our second feature article discusses the frustration of loss of the human voice when telephoning a service provider. Read the article to understand what many of us go through on a daily basis. After reading the article you might have an idea on how to see if you have the same problem.

Our final article titled "Leadership Development in China: Challenges & Solutions", by Meridian Resources, may reflect the same challenges and solutions worldwide. . Let me hear your comments about the applicability of the suggestions to your organization. Part two of the article will be in the next issue of the Maset News.

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COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:

  • "I just received the MASET NEWS Vol. 45 December 21, 2004. Great timing. My Grandson Ben has a Nativity Play at Nursery & I wasn't going to be attending - too busy at work - until I read James Harrington's article. I can no longer spend time with my mother and father - but I can attend my Grandson's play. Thanks. Hope you have a Great Christmas & 2005." - Scotland
  • "All along 2004 I appreciated going through MASET NEWS where I always find something to pick but mainly strong good common sense approach on many subjects. So all the best to you, your family and your team for an excellent year 2005, and a lot of inspiration to continue your great communication work and contributions to my peers." - France

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NEW ON THE MASET WEB SITE:

Many new items are in development and should start to appear on the web next month.

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HELPFUL HINTS FROM FELLOW PRACTITIONERS:

When facilitating a team meeting I found the basic flip chart to be vital and highly effective in capturing the participants' thoughts - you must put it in their words, not your own, so there is recognition and acceptance

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Tips from Our School for Managers
- by Andrew E. Schwartz

COACHING -- A TEAM EFFORT:

It is easy to spot the difference between a work team that is "motivated" and one that just goes through the motions. The motivated team produces at or above the level expected by top management, has only occasional absences or tardiness, and low employee turnover. The second group has trouble meeting its goals, greater absenteeism, and higher turnover. In addition, members of the latter work team may be more apt to argue with one another or to band together against their supervisor. Can a supervisor who is also a good coach really make a difference? The answer is a definite "yes" with a few qualifiers.

Copyright A.E. Schwartz & Associates, all rights reserved
For more information: Charles.Loew@masetllc.com

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ONE LINERS - "To make you think and/or smile"

  • Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
  • Home is where the television is.

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FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:


Partnering - You Can't Succeed Alone

By Joan Koerber-Walker

"If the company with the best partners wins, how do you create great partnerships that last?"

Having a great product or service is not enough. In today's world of competing technologies and services - the company with the best partners wins. But how do you create great partnerships that last? Partnerships that take your product or service and build it into solutions that make customers want to buy and investors want to invest?

Our partners are all around us.

They are the people and organizations that help us get from where we are - to where we want to be. Partners include our employees, our customers, our investors and the outside suppliers of goods and services we work with to make things happen.

Having spent two decades in the electronic distribution industry, I saw a lot of great products come and go. Some were wildly successful while others faded away. The companies that succeeded long-term understood that making their product accessible took partnerships with a broader network like distribution. At the same time, distributors with staying power understood that to build a lasting partnership, they had to add value to what the manufacturer had to offer. Pure transactional relationships don't work in this world. The levels of investment and time horizons for payback are too long. For both parties to receive the maximum benefit - they have to commit for the long haul.

As I look around, I am amazed at how transactional we have become in our partnering relationships. A great example is the change in how we look at our employees. In my father's generation - the partnership between employer and employee was often a lifetime commitment. Through good times and bad, you worked towards a common goal. You grew together. You helped each other. You were partners. You did not talk about it. You just did it. That's the way it was. Today, we talk about employee satisfaction. We talk about growth and empowerment. We talk about strategy, teams, and commitment to a common goal. But when things get tough, do we stick together or part company. I don't need to answer the question. The answer is all around us. And the scariest part of this partnering shift is what it is teaching our next generation. There is no partnership. There is no commitment. Look out for yourself.

If this is what we are teaching our future workforce through our example - we'd all better watch out!

Successful partnerships are a lot like successful marriages.

My father worked for General Motors for over 40 years. He and my Mom just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. It started me thinking. There is a connection here.

Whether we're looking for a date or scanning the field for a business partner, we look around for the most attractive person we can find. The one that sparks our interest - answers a need - has what we want. In the beginning, it's not hearts and flowers - just the basic laws of attraction. There is no commitment at this phase, just a lot of checking each other out. It's superficial like an advertisement, a website, or a resume. We see what they want us to see. And, if we like what we see, we reach out to learn more.

The next step is the courting phase. Here we check each other out to determine the right fit. Courting is like dating. We're getting to know each other as individuals. What we really want and what we really do. In the beginning everyone is on their best behavior. But as you start to spend time together away from the day to day distractions, you start to get more comfortable and relax. That's when you start to see the real person you are looking to partner with. In business we call this due diligence. We test the water comparing long term goals and how we like to do things. We match our values. We explore how we can help each other. We listen to what the other person says and we pay attention to what they aren't saying. Just like when you're dating, each side wants to look their best for the other person. Sometimes you need to look a little deeper to see the real partner underneath. When you like what you see - when your values match - then you are ready to commit.

Next you get engaged. It's more than just setting a date. You are setting expectations, making promises, setting goals. As you get ready to take the plunge, you are mapping out the future of the partnership. What you will do. How you will do it. You learn to handle details and who does what best. You start to come together as a team. By the time you get to making it legal, the deal is done. The contract - whether a marriage license, a contract or a purchase order is simply confirmation of what you will set out to do together. Over the life of your relationship, you learn to work with each other, to compromise, and to adjust so that each person is getting what they need. Like a marriage, lasting business partnerships are personal. They take thought, effort and personal attention to make them work.

We negotiate with people, not companies.

Partnerships that last are built through a continuing series of negotiations. The relationships in the partnership are not based on the life of a contract - they last generations. This key is so simple we often miss it. Each new objective starts with a negotiation. As the partnership grows, we learn more about each other. We take that knowledge and use it to set new plans and higher goals based on each other's strengths.

Companies don't negotiate - people do. Traditional styles of win-lose or win-win negotiations focus on the tally sheet between the contracting parties. Keeping score of 'who got what' does not make for a lasting marriage and it doesn't work in lasting business partnerships either. To keep things working, we must develop a new form of relationship based negotiations. Each party looks at a longer horizon, acknowledging that there will always be conflict and compromise but always placing the health of the overall relationship as the highest priority. When we do this, we anticipate our partner's needs and care enough to help them fill them. Each time we do so, the bond grows stronger, the partnership better, and we benefit. Not just today, but long into the future.

About the author
    Joan Koerber-Walker, is a speaker, author, CEO and advisor to companies on business strategy and execution. Author's Note: In my life, and in my career, I was lucky to be surrounded by great examples of people who knew the secrets of how to build partnerships that last. But many have not been as lucky. Working: A Management Tale of Changing Relationships in Changing Times (2004, CorePurpose Publishing, ISBN: 0-9747056-0-8), is the story of a fictional family that has developed a recipe that works. Together, the Workings, their family, friends, partners, and co-workers come together to explore change, relationships, and what it takes to build business partnerships that last generations. Companionable dialogue and repartee between the characters reveals the secrets of lasting partnership and long term success. A little book, it has a big message. Spend a day with the Workings, you'll see what I mean.



SECOND FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:


PRESS NO. 2 FOR POOR SERVICE
Companies lose more than just money when they automate customer service
By A. Blanton Godfrey

Remember the good old days? You'd call a service provider, a human would answer on the first or second ring and ask, "May I help you?" Recently I made a number of service calls in connection with my moving out of state. This meant, of course, canceling services at one place and starting them at another. The experience was incredible, to phrase it kindly.

For most of my regional and national services, the calls I placed were answered by automated call centers that instructed, "Listen carefully to the following menu because the dialing options have recently changed." I was then led through a Hades of voice mail with layer after layer of choices. My local phone company, SNET demanded five different times that I enter my 10-digit phone number followed by my three-digit "private code" located on the top right corner of my bill. This repeated exercise proved meaningless, as I later learned that all requests to disconnect service require the caller to talk to a human. When one finally came on the line, guess what she asked me first? "What's your 10-digit telephone number and three-digit private code?"

Inevitably, when I waited to talk with a real person, I was first put on hold. While that was happening, I was privileged to listen to someone else's idea of music or - even worse - connected to a local radio station and blasted with a five- or ten-minute commercial for some special savings only available that day.

Attempting to get telephone service at my new location was even worse. After calling my new service provider and negotiating the usual button-pressing maze, I reached the option, "To establish new service, please press 1 and wait for a service representative." I was put on hold for almost 15 minutes.

When the service rep finally did come on, she laughed when I gave her my new address. She informed me I'd called Bell South Georgia and needed to call Bell South North Carolina. She gave me that number and I called it. I then repeated the procedure, only to be told that my new home was not in a Bell South area after all. I would need to call Sprint!

Calls to my two wireless phone companies, my long-distance carrier, my two electric companies, my gas company and my two cable television providers went much the same way. My local bank, noted for its good service, wouldn't even take my change of address over the phone; it had to be in writing. However, there were a few pleasant surprises. My new garbage collector not only answered the phone on the first ring and started service right away, but the service rep looked up the correct numbers for three other service providers.

The best surprise was the exceptional service at the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Not only did it accept e-mail, but it responded quickly with a personal note telling me exactly what to do about my car. The process was so easy, so personal and so much the way to do business, I was stunned.

It's fair to say that there's still much room for improvement in most service areas. With large service organizations, the drive for increased efficiency and reduced costs means the customer is often forgotten. I suspect that if these organizations did a thorough study of the costs involved with automated telephone systems - the costs of developing and maintaining software, lost business, handling complaints, staffing, repeat calls and delays in acquiring new business - they would find that they are actually increasing costs while decreasing quality.

For companies providing services of the phone or Internet, I have the following suggestion: Reserve one hour of the next executive management or board of directors meeting to experience firsthand the customer service that your company provides. Using a speakerphone so all can hear, make several simulated calls for new service, change of service, billing inquiry, service repair and complaints. Now decide if this is really how you want your company to serve its customers. It would also be informative to call your two biggest competitors and make the same requests. For some industries, this would at least provide much amusement. For others, you may start to understand why your company is losing so much business.

For those who don't control the service but only endure it, I suggest you make a copy of this article and send it to your least favorite service provider with this note: "I think the author was writing about you."

About the author
    A. Blanton Godfrey is Dean of the College of Textiles and Joseph D. Moore Professor at North Carolina State University. He just recently moved from Connecticut to North Carolina.


Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally appeared in Quality Digest, March 2002, p. 14.

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THIRD FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:


Leadership Development in China: (part 1 of 2) Challenges & Solutions
By Meridian Resources

Developing local leadership is critical to success in China. Only by transferring responsibility to local employees can a company lower the cost of expatriate packages and fully leverage the insights of Chinese personnel into markets, competitors and the best operating strategies.

But developing future leaders tends to be very difficult in China today for several reasons. These include:

  1. Lack of experience
  2. Rapid turnover
  3. Impatience
  4. "SOE" mentality (state-owned enterprise)
  5. Overestimation of abilities
  6. Lack of teamwork
  7. "Silo" mentality

In this issue we will look at the first three of these factors and describe some strategies for minimizing their impact. In our next issue, we will take a look at the remaining four.

1. Lack of experience

Many of the managers currently working for Western multinational companies in China are young: most are in their 30s. Although they are typically very bright and hard working, many have not had a lot of experience. As a result, before companies can even think about cultivating future leaders, they probably need to start by instituting a basic management development process that includes accurate reporting, time management, and employee evaluation. This is true even if managers have worked for foreign multinationals before. Prior work experience is no guarantee that managers in China have had any systematic management training.

Suggestions: Don't overlook the importance of training basic management skills, and don't accept a young manager's confidence in his or her skills at face value. Some managers may object if they are asked to take part in a basic management skills program: they may feel that doing so will be a loss of face. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to "sell" the merits of the program, it is better simply to ask a manager to participate in the program on a trial basis and review what he learned afterwards. Eager learners will readily agree; overconfident managers will typically be surprised at how much they didn't know and will be much more willing to participate in future programs. The trick is not to engage in an abstract debate about the program, but instead have the person experience it directly in order to appreciate its real value.

2. Rapid turnover

In most parts of China where western multinationals have a substantial presence, companies are struggling with very high turnover. A good example is the Suzhou Industrial Park, in the city of Suzhou to the west of Shanghai. Many western firms operating there are struggling with annual turnover rates of their local managers of 20% or more. And this high turnover is unlikely to abate soon. Since demand for people who have strong leadership potential far exceeds supply, they are tempted with daily offers to leave their current position for higher pay and a bigger title. High turnover makes planned, consistent leadership development extremely difficult.

Suggestions: The following strategies can minimize high turnover:

  1. Ensure that senior executives set a clear, attainable goal for the organization against which ambitious managers can gauge their progress - lack of direction will lead to lack of confidence in leadership and higher turnover.
  2. Keep high potential individuals busy with fresh challenges. Some managers working for foreign firms do not feel that their tasks provide enough opportunities to stretch and learn new skills, which leads to an "itch" to change jobs.
  3. Make sure every high potential manager has a clear career development plan and commit resources to support its implementation. They will want to know if they can continue to grow on the job.
  4. "Absentee" bosses are a big risk factor in the turnover of key personnel. Senior expatriate leaders should schedule regular meetings with their local management reports, allowing sufficient time to review career development possibilities and employee concerns; a good rule of thumb is a 90-minute meeting every two weeks.

3. Impatience

China's economy has been growing at an annual rate of 8% or more per year for the past decade; such rapid growth creates opportunities for extremely fast promotions into leadership roles with major responsibilities. This in turn gives rise to a professional culture in which young managers are constantly comparing themselves to others. Thus, instead of being happy with career growth far faster than the norm in Europe, the U.S., or Japan, local managers worry that they are not moving fast enough. They may thus perceive the time required for systematic management skills or leadership development training as a drag on their careers; many would rather job hop to keep pace with their peers than steadily invest in the tools they will need for long-term success.

Suggestions: The following strategies can help to retain talented but impatient local managers in China:

  1. Institute a system of internal management grades by which local employees can track their rise in the organization; for example, all managers in a functional division might have a grade ranging from 12 (lowest grade) to 1 (top grade).
  2. Widen the range of external titles, allowing individuals to show their rising status in the organization publicly. For example, in a manufacturing organization a person might start as head of a production group with the title zuzhang, or "team lead." This might be followed with responsibility for multiple teams with the title banzhang, or "group chief." At the top of a function might be jingli, or "manager"; below him might be fujingli, or "assistant manager." The wider the range, the more opportunities for frequent promotion, and the more likely you will keep good people.
  3. Use modifiers in front of titles to further differentiate status in the organization. For example, gaoji, or "senior," can be added to any management title to signify accomplishment or seniority. Likewise, teyou, or "distinguished," can signify a special contribution or standing.
  4. Link compensation to increased rank: use increased salary raises, annual bonuses, and stock grants or options as incentives. Remember that impatient managers are comparing not only status, but financial compensation as well. Status without financial reward will not be effective as a retention strategy.
  5. For local personnel with experience and the ambition to take on greater leadership responsibilities, consider offering them the opportunity to start their own subsidiary, with financing from the head company. This is a powerful retention tool for top entrepreneurial talent.

Continued in the February, 2005 issue.



    Meridian offers a complete set of consulting and training services for companies doing business in the PRC. Contact us to find out more about how we can assist you with your China operations.

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COMING IN THE NEXT FEW ISSUES:

  • Future tips from Our School for Managers will include topics in Coaching, Goal Setting, Time Management, Communication, Delegation and many others.
  • Sales and marketing workshops
  • A new workshop - Mentoring for Employee Success
  • GoalCentrix - Driving Effective Plan Execution
  • Online method of conducting an employee satisfaction survey:
  • A new links page to connect you to other sites of interest and value to you

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HOUSEKEEPING:

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Comments about MASET NEWS:

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Articles, comments and other valuable information from you, our readers will appear in the Readers Comments section.

We reserve the right to determine what will be published, but will endeavor to publish everything that is sent to us.

 

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