I have been dealing with several Mid-Sized / Small Sized Companies (Not Micro) as part of my work earlier as a fulltime employee and now as a Business Coach for the past 7 years. I have been dealing with the Head of the Company in all the cases. I have seen the Head of the Company dealing with his Company / his top team in different ways. Some had been very effective some not so effective and some more have very confused way of dealing.
These are the Companies who would have crossed about Rs 50-75 Crores when the Owner is feeling the need for Professionals to come into his Company and help him grow the Company. The type of companies that I am talking about have a Topline from Rs 50 Crores right up to about Rs 2,000 Crores. The Companies that I have seen have similar issues in all these sizes. This had been my experience.
Let us look at the role that the Managing Director can play in these companies. How can he/she lead the company firmly while not becoming the one and only Power in the Company.
I see that the Managing Directors are playing some of the following roles in these companies:
01. The Do All: In many Companies the MD is firmly in charge and is controlling / trying to control just about everything in the Company. He would know how many visitors reported at Security yesterday! The Top team look to the MD for Direction in everything. You would hear the MD say that his Top team is absolutely ineffective! Some of these companies would have put together the Organization structure that is needed for a nice Delegation. But Delegation just does not happen due to various reasons.
02. Semi-organized chaos: There are some companies where the control is given to the layer next to the Managing Director. But the Company is not directed firmly by anyone. The responsibilities seem to be slipping into the cracks between various people in the senior team. Critical slip ups are avoided as the Senior team is attentive but not taking full control. These companies do grow. But they do not achieve their potential and if Business conditions get tougher, we don’t know whether they can face up the situation.
03. Family team in control: In some of these companies the Family is omni present. They occupy all the critical roles. A Family works in very different way compared to the Professional team. There can be lot of shooting from hip as they all have a lot of authority without the capability(sometimes). The Managing Director is loosely controlling the Family members. There is no structure for this control. This Type of Company would typically take sudden turns and changes in direction in the way Business is run!
04. Delegated but not able to scale: There are some companies where the MD recruited a good senior team, is able to delegate well to them. The Professionals are more or less running the Company. The MD is busy in several other things and the Company is not achieving its’ potential for top line and Bottom line.
As you can see in the above description, the Companies have different Organization structures.
Managing Director and CEO
In some companies the MD recruited a CEO who is supposed to take care of the Business. The CEO would have a team of Functional Leaders reporting to him/her. But several of the Functional Leaders may also be in touch with the MD directly. I can see the MD struggling to give up his control and strengthen the CEO. This is not very easy. In this structure, the MD showing his intention to give up control. It depends on the CEO and the MD whether this can become a success.
Managing Director and Top Team
Some Companies who have an active Managing Director who is controlling on a daily basis and he has a top team of Functional Leaders. The MD may want his team to take control. It is more difficult for this to happen in a structure like this. The Managing Director is wired to control everything in this type of structure. He is too close to action to give up control. Someone is needed to coordinate with all the Functions. If there is no administrative head, the MD becomes the default head.
Managing Director and Family members as Functional Heads
There are some companies where one Family member is the Head of each function. These companies would be having more structural problems. A Family member as a Functional head may not be very ideal as he/she would have lot of power and they would keep taking decisions that would have far reaching consequences. When this happens without much control at the center, an organization can suffer.
What is an ideal role for a Managing Director in these Companies?
An MD should put a good Organization structure in place where there is a team of Professionals for each Function. It would be best for the MD to appoint a CEO who would control the Business. This gives the MD an Investor’s perspective. If he manages the Business himself, there is no one who can look at the Investor’s perspective.
From my experience I identify 5 things that a Managing Director should do and One thing that he/she should not do.
Let us talk about what he/she should not do.
Don’t get involved in the Routine
It is ideal for the MD to leave the Routine to the Professional Team. The regular Sales / Operational Targets should be left to the Professional Team. Achieving the Annual Business Plan should be the domain of the Professional Team. MD should learn to be away from this Routine. Sometimes the Team may fail. But that is part of the game. The Performance Management System in the Company should ensure that the success / failure is squarely placed with the Professional team. I have seen some very structured way of doing this and some unstructured ways that still achieve this result as the MD simply keeps away from this temptation.
If an MD is hands on and controlling the Routine, then he/she can become the Obstacle for the Company’s growth. He would be acting couple of levels below his level and no one would play his role in the Company.
What the MD should Do?
01. Strategic Business Plan focus: The MD should definitely be in control of where the Company heading to. He should coordinate the work for getting the Vision, Mission and the Medium-term goals done. He should play a big role in working out the Strategy of the Company and the Strategic Initiatives to put the Strategy in place. This does not mean he should not take the role of top team into this activity. He should encourage the forming of the Strategic Business Plan by the top team. But he is responsible to get this done. He should ensure that the Top team is not lost on the routine and they keep focus on the Strategic initiatives.
02. Set up Business Systems: The MD should play a good role in setting up the Business Systems in the Company. Business Systems is the process with which a Company would achieve its’ Medium term / Annual Goals. The MD should not get swayed with everything that he/she comes across in the Industry. I have seen MDs who get interested in all the latest buzz words and want to implement in their Companies without an overall understanding. They have to take up the role of setting Business Systems more seriously. They need to learn the systems that are running well in other Companies across the world. They need to develop a larger vision for the Business systems in their companies.
They should not look at this responsibility as a one time one. They need to set up the Business Systems and keep improving them forever. It is not a one-time responsibility.
An MD should get into the small details in the Company to set up a good System in the Company. This is an opportunity for him/her to know how routine is happening in the Company.
03. Product and Process Technology: MD has to be in control of the Product of the Company and how it would keep developing ahead of Customer requirements and Competition. He should ensure that the Company’s Products are at the top end. He also has to pay attention to the Process with which the Products are being manufactured. If you are doing it in the same way as every other Competitor is doing, then your Competitive edge may soon disappear. He may look for Technology and Technical associations towards this end as required.
04. Using Industry 4.0: In Manufacturing some phenomenal changes are happening world over with the usage of Industry 4.0 elements. It is quite possible to redefine your Business using this technology. A Managing Director should help his Company to rediscover itself with the help of this technology over a period of time. A Company should do it before its’ competitors do it. An MD has to learn towards this.
05. People Development: An MD should focus on developing a good Team and ensuring this team is continuously learning towards the Business Goals. Most of the Indian Companies are not focused on the Skills of the employees. For continuous progress of a Company it is very essential for a Company to have a good Team and a system for developing the Skills of the team. It is possible to develop a good Learning System in the Company using Micro Learning Concepts and E-Learning. An MD should enable this system in the company. The day to day execution may be taken up by the HR function.
It is very important for an MD to play his/her role well. Operating either at a very high level where he/she can’t see anything on the ground or operating in the small daily detail will make this crucial role in the Company ineffective!
How are you operating in your Company?
In the last few Quarters the Economy has become tougher and every Company is struggling to find Growth of Top line and Bottom lines are disappearing or thinning out for many companies. In this situation, the Companies need to operate with good efficiency. Without this they would waste the resources and perform sub-optimally. No Company can tolerate Sub-optimal performance. The Current condition of the Economy adds to this need. Going forward the Competitive situation will become tougher and tougher for companies. World over the Manufacturing Companies are going to go forward aggressively in terms of improving their productivities with the use of Industry 4.0 elements. Indian Companies will have to rise their performance levels. For this there is a need to install a good Performance Management System in a Company.
I am always surprised to see the absence of this in many Companies. The focus on Performance is missing and therefore the Employees keep getting rewarded for Sub-optimal performance. If a Company does not attend to this, this can become the biggest drain on the energy of the Company.
From my experience, I would suggest certain elements in a good Performance Management System.
01. Performance Planning: The Performance of a Company and its’ employees has to be Planned well. Normally this is done with a System of KPIs for all the Employees. A concept of Deploying Goals from Senior level to Junior level has to be used. This will ensure the alignment of Goals from top to Bottom in the Organization. The Company has to ensure:
a. Diagnosing the Performance of the Last year to learn from mistakes.
b. Appropriate KPIs to all employees.
c. Targets for all KPIs in line with the Company Goals.
d. Deploying the Targets and means to achieve the Goals to the team members.
e. Detailed Action Plans to achieve the Targets in the year. This will ensure that the Employees pays attention to the Resources needed and also the ways and means to achieve the Targets.
02. On Going feedback: There should be a System of Regular Formal Business Reviews at all levels in a Company. I have seen that in many Companies the Senior Level reviews regularly and they are involved in all types of Reviews. There is no ownership of middle level for their teams. This is not acceptable. The Review meetings at all levels are one way to push the responsibility to appropriate levels. When they review the performance of their Teams and take responsibility to their performance, the feedback will happen regularly and at all levels.
03. Employee input: The Formal Business Reviews should give a chance for the Employees to put in their point of view in a formal manner. A good process has to be put for this. The Employees should work out their performance with respect to their KPIs. They should bring in their Point of view in the form of structured ‘Corrective Action and Preventive Action’ (CAPA). When an Employee writes the CAPA and presents to the Boss, he/she is putting in their point of view. The Boss can encourage this and help them to improve it from time to time. Many companies take the input from more junior employees with the help of a Town Hall type of meeting once every few months. Having good avenues to take the input from Employees is critical to the effectiveness of a Performance Management System.
04. Performance Appraisal. While throughout the year the Employees voice will be heard and they will be given feedback, formal Performance appraisal is needed. Employees have to be appraised on the basis of the various criteria that are agreed with them. A Good Performance appraisal system will have following elements:
a) What has to be achieved: The Employees will have KPIs and Targets to each of the KPIs. They will have to show the results for these KPIs.
b) How it has to be achieved: Usually a Company would define the process using which the employees have to achieve these targets. This will comprise of:
i) Preparing Detailed action plans,
ii) Monitoring the Performance in a visual manner.
iii) Regular Formal Business Reviews.
iv) Writing effective Corrective action and Preventive Action.
v) Using a Proper Problem-Solving methodology for Problem solving.
And so on.
c) What is required to achieve it: What Skills and Competencies are required for Employees to achieve these Targets. Functional and Behavioral Competencies are identified that the Employees need to learn. There should be a good system of developing these Competencies in the Company.
Usually the Performance appraisal system would give weightage to all the above. Normally the weightage for the section (a) may be 50% and other two sections together will have balance 50% weightage.
Some Companies may introduce more elements in the PAS as follows:
- Cross functional Team working to solve some big problems for the Company.
- Developing their team.
Rating: The Employees are classified into different categories like a) Excellent b) Good c) Satisfactory d) Below Satisfactory. The number of ratings may be 3-5 depending on preference of the Company.
05. Performance Appraisal Interview: Companies should promote a formal Performance appraisal interview that will have some of the following Best practices:
a. A formal Meeting is needed between the Boss and Subordinate.
b. HR representative must join.
c. Prepare elaborately for the meeting.
d. How to handle a defensive subordinate
e. Recognize that defensive behavior is normal.
f. Never attack a person’s defenses.
g. Postpone action.
h. Recognize your own limitations.
i. Maintain notes throughout the year.
j. How to give tough feedback to a subordinate
i. Do it in a manner that lets the person maintain his or her dignity and sense of worth.
ii. Criticize in private and do it constructively.
iii. Avoid once-a-year “Yearend lectures” by giving feedback on a daily basis, so that the formal review contains no surprises.
iv. Give Plus first and then give Development areas.
v. Criticism should be objective and free of any personal biases on your part.
06. Training and Development: The T&D agenda is worked out right at the beginning of the year. This may happen after the review of the last year’s performance of the employee. Using Technology, you can now totally re-engineer the Training & Development. You can work out the Training agenda for employees on the basis of their agenda in terms of KPIs and Targets. This Training agenda is worked out in terms of Micro Skills that the employees need to achieve the KPI Targets for that year. These Micro Skills are addressed with Micro Training modules using E-Learning technology. The training happens thru out the year and it is done at a Micro level that the employee can use to straight away perform better. Typically, every Employee would spend 2 hours per week for Learning. This makes it 12 Working days per employee which is even better than the World class standard.
07. Rewards: The reward system can address the following:
a. Recognition of employees’ performance. Employees would get increments / incentives based on the rating that they receive.
b. Employees would be recognized as ‘Best Employees’ based on certain transparent criteria.
c. Recognizing every drop. Some companies recognize the small contributions of the employees
d. Kaizen / Suggestion schemes: Many companies encourage the employee participation.
It is important to have different ways of recognizing the performance of an employee. If there is only one way and that is given at the end of the year in terms of increment, then the Employees would build too much expectations from the Appraisal and all of them will never be happy with whatever rewards that you may give.
This way the Performance Management System should be a well-Engineered system in a Company. This System has to be continuously improved to suit the changing Business scenario!
How do you manage Performance of your Team?
In many Companies, there is a Corporate structure at the Head Office and then there are different Manufacturing Plants and/or Regional Sales Offices. Sometimes there may not be physical offices in the regions. But there may be Sales Team members all around the Country/World. Sometimes the Company may be spread around several Countries and then there may be more complications involved such as Cultural differences.
The relationship between Corporate and Regional structures is very often tense, ambiguous to say the least. Many a times Companies may be wasting lot of energy trying to manage the relationship between the Corporate and Regional Teams. If there are no issues between the Corporate and Regional teams, that does not mean the relationship is working the way it should. One of the teams would have given up and surrendered to the other. Most of the times it is the Regional teams who give up trying to get their views recognized and start ‘Managing those H.O Guys’!
I can almost hear these Regional Plant / Sales Teams telling their Teams to just grit their teeth and bear the ‘nonsense’ for two days when ‘those H.O guys’ would visit their Region/Plant!
A Company should be cognizant to this issue and ensure they nurture the relationship in such a way that the Company would get maximum benefit from the Synergy of these two structures. Having worked in both areas in my career, I can understand if a Plant Head talks about the ‘Spies from H.O’ who encourage the employees to ‘tell something’ about their Bosses so that the ‘masala’ can be carried to the Corporate Gods at the H.O!! I can also understand the viewpoint of Corporate HR Head who complain about the wide differences in the way Employee relationships are managed in different Plants or the way different Sales Teams adhere to / not adhere to the Work Timings / Expense statement rules.
A small percentage of the readers of this article may be saying to yourselves ‘Nothing of this sort happens in our Company!’. It may be either of two cases. One – You may be dominating the other part of the Structure in such a way that everyone has given up on you OR Your company may be part of the very small percentage of the Companies who are really managing the Corporate / Regional structure to the benefit of the Company. I know you would like to believe that you are the latter one. Just confirm with your other partner to know the reality!
Unless a Company deliberately puts in practices to manage the relationship between Corporate and Regional, it will go the wrong way and wrong way only.
Corporate clubbed with one Region/Plant: This is the Worst type of combination! Some of the Corporate structures are clubbed with the Mother Plant or Regional Sales office of the one nearest to the H.O. If your Senior Management is in Delhi, your Regional Sales of Office of Delhi may be clubbed with the H.O / Corporate.
Here, the roles of Regional and Corporate are mushed up. The Corporate guys start behaving like the Plant guys. The whole Corporate team would be straddling the poor Plant / Plant Head / Regional Head. They will not let this Plant / Region work independently. The Company Head would become the Plant head for that plant. The Corporate Heads for various functions would be stifling the Plant / Regional Teams.
This does not happen because the Corporate guys really want to do it. It happens over a period of time. The Company Head and the Senior Team are available in the location. So, the Plant / Regional Office start ‘leaning’ on them. Trying to take quick approvals and so on. As they are available on the location the Senior Team will start getting ‘involved’ a bit more. Very soon you will find the Conveyance statement of the Commercial Clerk being approved by the Finance Head of the Company! After some time, the Finance Head will be very unhappy if that does not come to him for approval!! The Plant Accounts Head would only be happy to send it up!
There are several serious disadvantages of this type of Structure. You would find that the Plants that are clubbed with the Corporate structure / Regional offices clubbed with Corporate Structures are the worst performing ones. In the odd case of a Regional Sales Office clubbed with the Corporate structure performing well, the Regional guys would have nicely delegated everything upwards and enjoying the quick decisions coming their way! It is doubtful if the real output is coming from both structures!
I dealt with Plants that are near the Corporate office in another article.
Let us look at a few Best Practices in ensuring that the Company gets the full benefit of both the Corporate and Regional structures.
01. Company View Vs Regional View: The Corporate team always has this advantage of having a Company View. Usually the Regional Leaders do not enjoy this unless they adapt it specifically. Regional Leaders should be encouraged and given opportunity to participate in some Corporate Projects to give them this view. They should be involved in some Company level Projects to adapt this view. Similarly, the Corporate Leaders should be involved in some ‘Hands on’ Projects in a Plant / Regional Office. This will help them retain the ‘Local view’.
02. Functional Expertise: Usually Corporate Functional Heads are senior to the Regional HODs. These Corporate Functional Heads should aim at contributing to the Functional practices in the Company. They should be really having the expertise and should be able to command respect due to their superior knowledge. If they are just relying on their ‘Corporate Designation’, then they will lose their respect very fast. A Corporate Quality Head should show a value to the Regional Quality Heads with the Common practices that he may introducing. He should be able to get the respect of the Regional Quality Heads from his wide experience in handling Customers and the Best practices he is bringing in. They should not be just ‘Bossing around’. Head of the Company should keep a watch on this.
03. Companywide Initiatives: Companywide initiatives like a ‘Business Excellence’ Initiative is best initiated by the Corporate Teams. But it would be best to create a ‘Steering Committee’ having participation from Plants / Regional Offices even to create the Companywide Initiative.
04. Enablers and not Doers: The Corporate Teams should act as ‘enablers’ not initiators alone. They should be trained to exhibit the ‘enabling’ Quality as against ‘doing’. Their KPIs should be to ‘Enable the Regional Teams’ and not to do it themselves. This is more mature point of view. All the Corporate Team members may not get it from beginning. I have seen a few Corporate Functional Heads behaving like Regional Heads of Department and thereby holding on to ‘their way of doing’ too strongly. They should elevate themselves to a higher point of view in a Corporate role.
05. Leave Results related work to Regions: One simple way of bifurcating the work between the Corporate and Regional teams is to leave everything Directly about getting Results to the Regions / Plants. Here, the Corporate teams can at best advice. If a Regional Leader is consistently not delivering on Results, you may deal with the non-performance. But while sitting in Corporate Structure, you cannot be doing a Regional Role! Not good for the Company! The structure will be weakened.
06. Train them to be better Leaders: The Corporate Leaders should be trained to ‘Work on the system’ as compared to working in the System. They should also be encouraged to manage the Regional Structures loosely and not tie them to a rope and take them for a walk! I have seen many Corporate Leaders who are not comfortable unless they get a call from their Regional / Plant Colleague at Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner – Three times a day!! Leaders like this have to be trained to become better Leaders. At the same time, we do not need Regional Leaders who delegate everything upwards!
07. Motivating the Regional Teams: Every Functional Leader should be a good cheer leader for the Regional Teams. He/She should set the Functional expertise benchmarks to the Regional teams and encourage them to elevate the Functional practices in the Regions. They should encourage the Regions that are creating Best Practices in the Company. This would get some respect for them from the Regions.
08. Role rotations: After the practices in Regions and Corporate comes to some maturity, the Rotation of people between Regions / Corporate can be encouraged. This will prevent the people becoming ‘Corporate’ / ‘Regional’ for life! Don’t attempt this if you do not have good amount of Standardization of practices in both Corporate and Regions. That would make the work worse. Everyone will do it in their own way.
Leadership of Company: The health of Corporate and Regional structures is normally defined by the Type of Leadership the Company has. There are many Leaders of the Company who are weak in their knees and encourage lot of ‘reporting’ by the Corporate teams on the Plants / Regional offices regularly. Usually the Regions / Plants do not work well in these cases.
You get what your actions deserve! If you can encourage the Regions to become strong and you want your Corporate Teams to help them become Strong, that can happen!
I know many Corporate Leaders who take the excuse of their Boss expecting them to report in a particular way!
If you are a Leader who is worth your salt, you would know how to stand on your feet at Corporate level and define the Culture of the Company!