Friday, December 19, 2008

University of Dayton- Emerging Leader Program - Coaching for Performance

My December session was on Coaching for Performance and was kind of a mix between a self-review and a "how to" workshop. Interesting review of personal behavior using the DiSC DImensions of Behavior approach by Inscape Publishing, Inc. While the review of this personal behavior didn't reveal any surprises about myself, it certainly helped me to take a look at how that style / behavior may be viewed by others. It also helped me to recognize different behavior by others and how I might translate my message to get through to them.

I came out as a D or Developer Pattern = goal oriented, gets bored , strong willed individualist continually seeking new horizons. Opportunities for advancement and challenge are important to them. Sometimes seen as less than empathetic by others.

No surprise there...

The other half of the session was on providing performance feedback, understanding how different cohorts desire, receive and process this and things to avoid. As in "Hi Bill, you are doing a great job BUT..."

I used it right away to provide feedback to my team and am beginning year end reviews. Very helpful. I caught myself wanting to use the "but" during them and thankfully was able to avoid it!

A very timely session!

University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program - Business Simulation

Taking time to get caught up on my last couple sessions in the program....

I was able to attend only one of the two day sessions in the business simulation segment. Overall it was a helpful, game-style simulation around forming a company, setting a strategy, attracting employees and finding customers. The process revolves around matching people to your strategy, seeking customers in that category and generating your financial results.

For example, our team chose to go with a low debt structure, a small but highly trained team of people, specialized / niche type customers and to "stick to our guns". We led for the first 4 years of the simulation but found (as many niche type strategies do) that we literally ran out of room. We found that there were not enough niche customers willing to pay the higher service rate that our team was capable of providing. Our debt strategy held for the first four years as well until we had to reinvest in some money in higher training costs, etc. Our highly trained team could perform great work but we opted to retain 100% of the staff and ran out out of lower associates to take on more basic assignments.

We would have been better to take a loan earlier on (say in year 3) and bring on some lower associates in order to build capacity. This would have given us a larger range of people skills at various salary levels capable of generating an ever-wideing circle of revenue.

I was dropped into the team on day 2 and had to catch up quickly (just like the real world). Overall a great experience and I was able to take away some quick points to use at work.

Enjoying the program so far!

Friday, October 31, 2008

University of Dayton Emerging Leaders Program - Strategic Business Development

This week I experienced a very good session in my program - Strategic Business Development. The session was given by a well-seasoned teacher / facilitator / consultant and focused on how to overcome thinking patterns that block business growth, learn various strategies and use simple financial analysis to understand these strategies.

Overall a good session and I particularly liked the case studies. Often a failed case study can teach you more about something than a successful one. Several were reviewed in several industries with an emphasis about how people define their markets ( their available and playable markets). This emphasis could lead (in one example) from a soft drink company redefining their market from "soft drinks" to "liquid refreshment" and reclassified their market share as "share of stomach".

One overlooked concept in this session is that as a mid-level manager I'm forced to implement someone else's strategy (rather than setting it myself). Perhaps when I get to senior levels, I'll be able to use this more fully.

My favorite part of the session was the discussion around corporate strategy alternatives.

1. Stability strategies

2. Organizational renewal strategies

3. Growth strategies

Often I find someone who says "We want to grow, we are using a growth strategy" but upon review, it clearly is NOT a growth strategy but rather a restructuring or a profit-maximization or resource-stripping one. Resource-stripping is my term to describe setting up a business for a harvest or divestment strategy. I outline them below.

1. Reduce / eliminate new product work, product line extensions, etc.
2. Trim product offering to "just the basics", rationalization of old SKUs and so forth.
3. Reduce people / time commitment to the business - lowering the cost to serve.
4. Push up pricing on low volume specialty products - driving the demand to fewer package sizes or more standard products (one size fits all).
5. Closing production sites, branch offices or warehouses.
6. Reducing marketing expenses to low or non-existent levels.

I've lived through the above scenario myself...

Overall a good session with healthy debate.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program - Marketing Essentials

I'm catching up again as my company brick (the Dell) boots up on my most recent session of UD's Emerging Leader Program. This one was on Marketing Essentials and was a high level view of marketing and the various components of it.

Lots of discussion around the target customer (at the center) and then the 4 P's ( product, price, place, promotion) as well as environmental scanning and SWOT. These often seem like generally accepted practices but we discussed many companies that do not follow this properly.

Due to the volume of information given, we did not complete marketing plans during our session but this would be an area of improvement. We did review the plan structure but did not touch on one that I feel gets short shrift- FUNDING. The best marketing plan in the world is just a dream until it receives the proper amount of funding to make it happen. Research, ads, direct mail, trade shows, marcoms all take money. A lot of it!

Another common misconception about marketing plans is that they all must be measured in sales $. That is not allways true - often a plan is simply designed to build awareness or drive traffic to your trade show booth or website or storefront. Getting key organizational people to agree on this is quite difficult. Clarity should rule the day.

Overall a fun topic for me and I could go on 24/7/365 about it. More posts on my next sessions planned for later this month.

Friday, September 26, 2008

University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program - Operations Management

Just waiting for the company brick to boot again so I'm taking a few minutes to update here on my Operations Management session. While there is no danger of moving into supply chain any time soon, it was a healthy session on various "greatest hits" of Operations Management. Of particular interest were some discussions about processes important in the past that no longer hold value - and how many companies cling to them out of memory.

Can you say " We've always done it this way"?

I had found a similar response to asking my team to give up a monthly report format recently. Everyone was complaining about having to do them yet when I gave them the "out" and streamlined the format - lots of pushback. Seems it was that comfortable yardstick people felt they could measure their performance with. Unfortunately that is like driving through the rear view mirror - always looking in the past.

So the session was a refresh of concepts I learned in graduate school but had a healthy dose of "actual" versus "theoretical" concepts. Funny too were the comparisions to real life where senior managers scream "my people stand around half the time" and how time studies don't always show that is a bad thing.

Enthusiastic professor - did a good job of delivering what could have been very dry content.

Friday, September 12, 2008

University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program - Finance

While I'm waiting for my company brick ( the Dell) to reboot, I'll take a few minutes to catch up on my current program.

Well I had my first session as part of the University of Dayton's Emerging Leader Program. I jumped in on the Finance session. Overall the focus was on Finance for non-financial managers and leads students through the usual parade of balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows. Usually many managers (myself included) don't need to prepare such statements (finance department does that) but we need to interpret the data.

A key "take away" from the session was the use of financial ratios and a working exercise where we evaluated the effect of certain changes in these and the +/- effects. An example was on inventory turnover ratio and if it improved a slight amount it would clearly have a positive effect on inventory dollars. The fact we ran through many of these and worked it out in our teams allowed us to more completely understand the exercise.

I'm thinking I'll draw up a similar exercise for my work team and see if we can achieve a better understanding of our internal initiatives.

Overall a positive session that reinforced many concepts I've learned before (both in company finance training and my MBA) but a nice, clear, short - format session.

More to come - training session with my mentor next week.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program

This fall I will begin a 12 month executive education program to brush up on my skills. Since I completed my MBA just about 1 yr ago, I find I really missed that intellectual stimulation. I'm hoping this upcoming program will be be a chance to look at things in a fresh, new way.

The program is called the University of Dayton Emerging Leader Program and it covers lots of ground. Some of the topics are:

Leading Change
Strategic Business Development
Management communication

I'm really looking forward to it since I earned my marketing degree at Dayton some years ago. As the program kicks off, I'll be posting my experiences and comments about it. Wish me luck!