Breaking Glass Ceilings and Walls

As owners and members of senior leadership we can often become too complacent with the level of review and scrutiny that we apply to our businesses.  I call this the “glass ceiling “ syndrome where we ease into an attitude of believing we have done all we can do and there is nothing else that can be done.

Definition
A glass ceiling or wall is something that we have allowed to be a barrier to growth, cost effectiveness, performance and/or efficiency.  These barriers get established because we get too busy, distracted by reacting to crisis, or worse, we run out of steam and energy that we should be injecting into our organization.

Examples
Even in organizations that considered themselves in good shape it is surprising what I “discover” just walking around and talking to staff and listening to their responses.  What do I find?

  • Out of date employee handbooks that conflict with current practices resulting in legal exposure.
  • Hiring employees who do not bring sufficient value to the organization and end up unreasonably consuming management and staff energy.
  • Regularly examining expenses to see that each category is consuming money efficiently.
    • Is your telecommunication bill appropriate for your current business level?
    • Are the cell phones and their associated service plans authorized during good time appropriate under lower revenue?
    • Are your travel expenses in compliance with current economic circumstances and company guidelines?
    • How are you using your sales entertainment expenses and who is involved?
    • If employees take home company vehicles how closely are you managing their associated expenses and company versus personal use?
    • Are you having regular meetings with employees to make sure you are listening to what they see in the company and how everyone can collectively work together to save time and expenses?
    • Are management reporting metrics visible to those who are associated with the areas that are being measured so that they get feedback and understand the significance of their job on company results.

This is a short list of opportunities to cut cost and improve performance by:

  1. Taking the time to look closer at what is going on.
  2. Looking for what inefficiencies have slipped into your business process because of:
    1. Misunderstandings.
    2. Unmonitored changes to your business due to employee transfers or turnover.
    3. Employees doing things their way and not the company way.

It is always more fun to look ahead and convince we are doing the right thing by working on the crisis of the moment.  However, that gives us a false feeling of self worth and managing the company effectively.

As a result the company moves forward inefficiently and over time glass ceilings and walls evolve (ala the frog in the kettle) that consume expenses unnecessarily, create communication barriers between operations that slow down responses to customers and create inefficiencies that result in higher operating costs than necessary.

Solution
Subject your organization to regular assessment and review.  These assessments can be done using internal resources – management and/or staff – who are tasked to take a constructive (not critical) look at other operations in the company.  This will sharpen everyone’s attitude to how they are operating, using valuable financial resources, personnel, productivity, and efficiency and serving the customer.  This process done in a positive atmosphere will create significant dividends to develop the healthy cost and quality management culture in the company.

Internal reviews are very healthy and productive but do not overlook using an outside consultant or third party organization to come in to review your business and challenge how you are operating.  This approach is particularly effective when you are going through a significant transition – either up or down – where there will be a substantial change in what you will be asking your employees to do.

Bottom line; look for the glass ceilings and walls that by human nature we are prone to introduce to what we are doing.  Removing them and unleashing constraints will produce significant dividends to how your company operates and the attitude of those who are working in it.

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