General managers in the business world are an impressive bunch of people. Masters of multiple disciplines and personal productivity, they typically rise through the ranks of their organizations due to a demonstrated ability for driving change within an operation.
These are the people who get things done, and motivate organizations to get things done on a large scale. But there can be differences in how these high-achievers perform in the long term.
What I’d like to share with you is my experience working with two very similar general managers, who differed in one key aspect, an aspect which made all the difference in how their two facilities performed and developed over time.
One facility scraped by dealing with a series of ongoing crises and challenges, while the other made vast improvements in almost every KPI (Key Performance Indicator), and grew in stature by taking on more responsibility as a result of its success.
Both of these were led by GM’s who were hard-driving, motivated figures. They could pursue discussions of great detail with managers and staff within various departments. Whether parsing the details of configuring ERP systems to implement a particular picking strategy in the warehouse, or balancing the competing interests of customer service versus materials management in terms of how much inventory should be sitting on the shelf, these GM’s were both well-versed in the theory and practice of shaping everyday experience towards using best industry practices.
As I mentioned before, however, in one facility we bravely battled our way through one calamity after another, with extraordinary efforts required to produce what were ultimately very ordinary results. In the other, we made steady, incremental improvements on a regular basis, and over time made tremendous strides as an organization.
You know what made all the difference?
The successful GM had the vision to tell his managers what NOT to do, while the other expected every possible flaw to be addressed within every status meeting.
In one facility, the general manager would keep detailed notes from each weekly status meeting to the next, expecting an update on every root cause which had been identified as a possible source of operational shortcomings. If any problem had been spotted, no matter how small, he expected steady progress towards eliminating it, so people spent countless hours running down even the most minor of issues.
In the other facility, our GM held an annual two-day offsite meeting with the managerial team, which began with each member presenting a list of 10-15 projects (about 100 total for the group) they would like to tackle in the upcoming year. Those would all be set aside together, while the team launched into a discussion of what the overall objectives for the global corporation were, and how our facility could best help to meet those goals.
Once consensus had been reached about how our facility could best help support overall corporate goals, we came back to the topic of proposed projects, and assessed to what extent each of those projects would truly impact the global picture.
The projects that didn’t make the cut were tossed in the trash. Out of roughly 100 ideas we started with, we ended up with a dozen or so key initiatives that we all agreed were the top priority.
And that’s what we spent our time working on that year, the stuff we knew would really move the needle. Everything else was set aside.
The result? Tremendous improvements in those KPI’s, which led to an award for the greatest improvement in operational metrics across the entire global business.
In any decent team there are bound to be a host of good ideas floated to address problems and offer potential improvements in a business. What truly separates the good from the great, however, is the vision to identify what is truly important, and put the focus on that.
By definition, that means NOT pursuing the other good ideas that just don’t meet the standard of making the greatest impact on the business.
Set your people free to do their best work by telling them what NOT to do. They’ll thank you for it, and the results will speak for themselves."Set your people free to do their best work by telling them what NOT to do." Click To Tweet