I was meeting with Ming, CEO of a firm with 120 engineers and architects. Ming shared his dismay about staff’s perceptions about recent changes in the business. “We’ve had to make some cutbacks, due to a slowdown in the market. Some of those changes included cutting back on our training costs and requiring staff to strategically plan their trips to minimize travel costs and time away from the office.”
As always, my staff engineers are questioning the changes. Their target is the business development folks. ‘You’re asking us to make cutbacks, but Don and Janet still play golf, go to ballgames, and more. They’re never in the office. Why are they so special?’
“I don’t know what to do to help the engineers understand why the business development (BD) staff do what they do.”
Ming’s dilemma is common to all businesses, regardless of size. The troops have tunnel vision. Each employee only knows his or her small piece of the business. They don’t understand that doing business is a long process, and they are each one little point in the process.
Let’s use the alphabet as a simple example. As you know, there are 26 letters that go from A to Z. Say your name begins with S. Then for you, S is the focus of your alphabet. As S, you don’t focus on the other 25 letters. If your name begins with C, C is your focus. As C, you don’t pay much attention to the other 25 letters.
Translating the Alphabet into Business Processes
Staff in any business, not just engineering, only understand their individual role in the business cycle. BD folks don’t focus on the fact that project managers need to deliver on the promises the BD people make. The project managers don’t focus on the BD folks’ need to get repeat business with their clients. I hear it all the time.
We used to experience this in the newspaper business every day. If a reporter didn’t turn his story in on time to the city desk, it caused problems and delays all the way through the production and delivery process. A delay on the front end could easily lead to making the newspaper delivery guy late on his end.
What’s a Boss To Do?
You have to educate all employees on the entire business process, from the cold calls to get business, to getting the work done on time, to getting paid on time, to doing repeat work for each client. It doesn’t have to be in great detail, just give them an overview. One client has put together a timeline of the entire process and added names to key points in the process to give staff a better understanding of who the players are and where they function in the process.
Get your graphics person to create such a timeline and educate staff in a Lunch and Learn. Include the information in your company newsletter. Post it on a bulletin board that staff will see.
Key Data on This
Studies show that when employees have line of sight—an understanding of how their job fits in with the company’s strategic direction—financial returns are four times higher than otherwise. Sounds to me like it’s worth the cost of a few pizzas.
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