Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline


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Layoffs are followed by a drop in morale among remaining employees, which is reflected in decreased productivity and poorer quality dealings with customers.

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Plus fewer employees may not be able to keep up with the workload and customer needs. Now the death spiral is in full swing. Preventive maintenance on equipment is reduced or eliminated due to budget cutbacks; there is a lack of worker interest because of low morale; machine and equipment breakdowns increase, further reducing quality, which leads to reduced sales and profits; and the cycle continues. Yes, but saving the company won't be easy.

With deep-rooted problems, "real improvement cannot occur without a fundamental change in the philosophy of the organization's leadership and a carefully planned strategy that shifts the organization from tight controls to an open, improvement-focused culture," says Stocker. In other words, the company's culture needs to change. This solution goes deep. In fact, it goes right to the heart of a manager's deeply held beliefs about people, business, and society.

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Without this level of change, the organization's systems and overall approach will not change, and sustained improvement will not take place. Improving the cultural health of an organization is similar to improving the physical health of a person. A person in declining health attempting an exercise program while continuing to smoke, eat the wrong foods, and maintain a stressful lifestyle will not significantly change his health.

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However, a person who understands the links between diet, exercise, and stress and fundamentally changes his lifestyle will improve his overall health, even though some benefits of these changes may not be immediately felt. How does one go about improving a company's culture? Stocker lists six elements of a supportive business culture:.

See a Problem?

How do you know how healthy-or sick-your company is- before major problems erupt? In their consulting practice, Benedetti and Perrone have seen some of the same warning signs that Stocker lists: lost focus, number obsession, supplier squeezing, undervalued employees, dirt, clutter, and damage, and operational fragmentation. Lost focus : "Often people don't have a focus for their business," Perrone observes. If your people can't answer the question, 'What makes our company stand out from others?

Number obsession : Number obsession is shown when company leadership focuses heavily on financial indicators and pays very little attention to non-measurable business aspects that contribute strongly to financial performance, such as morale, culture, leadership development, etc. Undervalued employees : An important warning sign is when company leaders do not place a high value on their people, says Stocker.

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Layoffs are common, there is very little leadership development of employees, and employee performance is measured without taking into account non-measurable contributions. However, as Perrone and Benedetti note, clutter and disorganization reflect deeper problems within the company. Employees are not taking pride in their workplace, which can translate into not taking pride in their company or their job performance. Operational fragmentation : A competitive, antagonistic spirit between individuals or departments, rather than everyone being centered on the company and its objectives-is another danger sign, says Perrone.

It shows that the company overall may have lost sight of its focus and goals. So again, how can you measure the health of your company and its culture? Perrone and Benedetti noted a landmark study by Sidney Yoshia, which indicated how management's failure to understand its processes and practices from its customers' perspectives suppressed the company's profits by as much as 40 percent.

When it comes to understanding a company's problems, the study revealed that percent of problems were known by frontline workers, 74 percent of the problems were known by supervisors, and middle managers knew only 9 percent of the problems. And the scary clincher: top managers knew only 4 percent of the problems. The obvious conclusion would be to ask the people who really know your company-your employees.

What hampers this action? She continues, "Management may think, 'Why ask? All they do is whine and complain. However, it will take courage and a willingness to "take the hits," she adds. You need that continuous feedback from your people. It's an organizational issue other than dollars and cents that can affect profitability and ultimately send the company into an economic death spiral. Perrone adds, "If you don't have enthusiasm for your company-you don't have that 'fire in the belly'-how can you expect your employees to have it?

If the owners often don't show up for work, don't do the job well, aren't excited by it, it's very difficult to get others excited about it. So what can you do if you just don't feel like a natural leader? Perrone offers the encouraging thought that not all leaders are born; some learn to be leaders through education and training.

Well, you may say you don't have time for that. But if you don't make time to acquire leadership and management skills, or you don't hire someone who has these skills and let them lead, you're going to pay the penalty. A leader listens. Perrone observes that as consultants, when they've given advice to a company owner, an employee may say, "I've been telling them that for years, and they don't listen.

According to Stringer, on average, the loss of one dissatisfied employee will result in about percent of his or her yearly salary between advertising for a replacement, training the new person, lost productivity, and overtime of others to compensate while waiting for the new employee to get up to speed. When the lost employee is in management, the number increases to nearly percent, says Stringer.

She adds, "This isn't even taking into consideration the loss of valuable knowledge and insight provided to the customer by the employee! No amount of training will replace the knowledge that comes from doing the job every day.


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From the customer perspective, lack of turnover means a more stable, responsive team to address customer needs and concerns, Stringer adds. Merry-Go-Rep doesn't encourage faith in a company, and the downtime during training means time taken away from providing quality service. Perrone describes her vision of an ideal workplace. You're giving up so much of your waking time to your job or your business that it should be a positive experience. So how can you get there? Or at least get closer to this ideal?

It helps to recognize that factors that are difficult to quantify can contribute substantially to the hard numbers of your bottom line. Working toward maximizing your company culture for optimal employee satisfaction and productivity, coupled with using technical and business tools that can aid in practical, sound business decisions, can get you there.

Says Perrone, "Look at what your vision is, then look at what your current condition is, and look at what you have to do to get closer to your vision. Take all these steps, one at a time, and you'll realize your vision. If you do consider expansion into another area of patient care or service, such as pedorthics, or if you're thinking about opening another office, analyze the projected move carefully and logically, the consultants point out.

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Ask yourself questions such as, 'Will I get additional referral sources if I move here? Do I have a good patient base here? A polar opposite to the error of overextending a company's resources is the problem of the owner being too timid about doing something differently. This is a simple problem, but it happens frequently, according to Benedetti. As consultants, we'll ask questions like, 'Why do you do this?

Why change? If cash flow gets choked, this can cause a company to go into a death spiral pretty quickly, even if there's a lot of revenue on the books. The first is called a cost-benefit analysis -also known as "running the numbers. Another helpful concept is balanced scorecard methodology , an analysis technique designed to translate an organization's mission statement and overall business strategy into specific quantifiable goals and to monitor the organization's performance in terms of achieving these goals.

Developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in , balanced scorecard methodology is a comprehensive approach which analyzes a company's performance in four areas:. If you want to be extraordinary, you need to stretch yourself above the average person. Exceed your job description. Do it for you and build a reputation. For him, his underprivileged background represented an opportunity.

It is our mindset that often makes it impossible to escape the box we find ourselves in.

Mentorship must arise naturally out of the situation rather than being forced.

Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline
Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline Avoiding the corporate death spiral : recognizing and eliminating the signs of decline

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