All posts by pdonehue

Taking the Growth Path

As noted in our previous post, when we don’t have enough sales a common tendency is to cut jobs, cut capacity and “whack” the costs.  Some years ago, Bill Conway  had a poster made.  It looked something like this:

No Growth Path
Growth Path
People make improvements
People make improvements
Need fewer people to do the work
Need the same or more people to do more work
Eliminate people’s jobs
Greater added value for everybody
A lot less interest in any more improvement
Further improvements

Clearly we cannot cut our way to success.  Growth is an option, but it doesn’t just happen.  There are concrete steps we need to take to improve revenue growth, just as we improve any other aspect of the business.

We all need better methods for increasing sales. What methods have worked well for you? 

Nothing Happens Until…

You may be familiar with Arthur “Red” Motley’s quote, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something!”

Leaving aside the extent to which Motley’s perspective might be true, effectively managing the sales process and maintaining a path of steady revenue growth are every-day objectives within organizations of all types and sizes.  And while many external factors, such as variation in the economy or competition, can significantly impact results, the selling process — like all processes — can and must be studied and continually improved.  

In fact, when we recently surveyed a diverse group of business leaders about the greatest challenge facing their organizations in the near term and long term, we heard that the biggest challenge was to grow revenue. As noted in a previous post, we will be focusing on this subject from time to time going forward. In the meantime, a few strategies you might consider adding to your approach involve:

  • Looking outward to test or confirm what customers deem most important
  • Looking inward for opportunities to improve the sales process
  • Looking forward to maintain an innovative edge, based on 3 key criteria

A more thorough explanation of these activities can be found in one of our recent newsletters.

How Do You Grow Revenue?

When we recently surveyed a diverse group of business leaders about the greatest challenge facing their organizations in the near term and long term, we heard from most that by far the biggest challenge was to grow revenue.

Many of them have accomplished great productivity improvements, but until demand increases, the additional capacity cannot be put to profitable use. In fact, throughout the world, economies are suffering from excess capacity which leads to high levels of unemployment.

When we don’t have enough sales, our tendency is to cut jobs, cut capacity and lower costs. But, as many of you may know, this approach does nothing to grow sales revenue and often results in some dire circumstances.

Clearly there are alternatives… and we plan to present additional information on this subject going forward. In the meantime, maybe you’d like to share some success stories about how your organization has grown sales revenue?

Motivation for Improvement

In order to make the kinds of improvements in business that we all aim for, we need to motivate people to engage their brains to the fullest, examine the current work processes critically, think deeply about root causes, and think expansively about possible solutions. We want them to consider alternatives, anticipate and minimize risks, implement planfully, and measure and evaluate results. And we usually want people to do all this while keeping up operational responsibilities as well.

So the challenge of motivating our team becomes very important.

In his recent book, Drive, the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink explores the impact on performance of different approaches to motivation. His research might surprise you!

For more details, we highly recommend his book. You might also read more on the subject in one of our recent newsletter articles.

Partners in Improvement

Conway Management Company has recently created a “Partners in Improvement” group, which is comprised of select experts and leaders in Improvement from around North America.

We conduct periodic meetings, during which participants share fresh ideas, best practices and solutions to common problems and challenges associated with Continuous Improvement. Over time, we plan to post some of our findings in this blog and on the Conway Management Website – so please stay tuned!

We hope you find this of interest and welcome your input as well.

Quantification… Are We Working on the Right Things?

When engaged in an improvement initiative, two key questions must be answered:
(1) Are we working on the right things?
(2) Are we going about it the right way?

The second question is usually the easier of the two. Are we … involving the right people, gathering all the facts and data about the current situation, looking deep for root causes, and thinking broadly about possible solutions, etc.?

But the first question is critical and potentially more challenging… Are we working on the right things? Certainly going about improvements the right way — methodically, data-driven, with the right people, etc. — is important to your success. But far more important — and often more difficult — is identifying the right things to work on.

Quantifying the waste is an essential tool for separating the vital few from the trivial many opportunities. To make the best possible use of this tool, you might ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I creating real gains or merely shifting the shape of the waste?
  • Am I missing the rest of the iceberg?
  • Where does the problem fit into the overall process?
  • Am I correctly valuing the cost of lost time?
  • Am I so focused on the snags in the day to day work that I miss the game-changing opportunities in front of me?

For additional examples and ideas on how to best quantify waste, click here

Productivity Gains – How they Really Impact the Bottom Line

Increasing productivity or reducing the amount of “people time” associated with various processes usually sounds like a good idea. In a few instances, the impact of increasing process productivity on the bottom line is clear and simple. It may reduce the expenditures on overtime or contract workers.

However, beyond those few cases, productivity improvements for employees do not directly reduce expenditures, but instead increase capacity; and the extent to which these improvements benefit the bottom line depends on how that capacity is put to use.

The impacts can be extremely profitable or can amount to nothing — or worse!

Click here to read more…

Are We Learning?

The history of commerce is littered with organizations that have erred in big and varied ways. There were Wang’s strategic errors, GM’s stifling bureaucracy and short-sightedness, Digital’s burdensome overhead, Enron’s dishonesty, AIG’s recklessness, and… more recently, there are Toyota’s troubles, which many believe are troubling in an entirely new way ( see related article).

But there has been more than enough said and written about all of these situations and miscues – so, the question is, what lessons have we learned? We look forward to your thoughts!