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Passive-Aggressive Organizations

July 23rd, 2008 Comments off

     With as much reading as we do on a daily basis, it’s refreshing to find the occassional article that really deserves to be archived and referred back to for it’s ongoing validity.  One of those articles for me was one I found a few years ago on the Harvard Business Review site; The Passive-Aggressive Organization.  The article is writtern by Gary Neilson, Bruce Pasternak, and Karen Van Nuys.  The article does a fantastic job of identifying where energy within the corporate structure is diverted from the main objected and is rechanneled into efforts that hinder the process.

     Almost every company I have been involved with has exhibited some of the characteristics highlighted in the article. Some more than others.  I constantly refer back to the article to help put things in perspective and help me through major projects that seem to see the progress stalling.  In the article there’s a great breakdown of the different corporate profiles that might characterize an organization.  The most ideal is that of a Resilient company where the entity is highly adaptable to external market shifts and is focused and aligned on a coherent business strategy.  The least desirable being the Passive-Aggressive entity in which all seems congenial and conflict free, seems to achieve concensus, but struggles to implement any plans due to conflict avoidance.

     There’s so much more to read in the article and it’s worth the 15-minute investment to read the article. You can find the article at Passive-Aggressive Organization .  I hope you find as much value in this article as I have.

Thanks for reading . . . .

The Cat that came back….

June 18th, 2008 Comments off

     We’ve all had the experience of working within an organization that was highly silo’d and breaking through to other departments was a virtual impossibility.  More frustrating is when you’re tasked with developing, and delivering on a project that requires the participation and cooperation of those departments that won’t even respond back to you.  And when they finally do respond back it’s to tell you that your data is garbage and “not consistent with what they already know”.

     In an article titled “The Cat That Came Back”, authors Gary Neilson and Bruce Pasternack profile the amazing turnaround of Caterpillar and their transition from a heavy siloed operation to one of improved decision rights, information flow, renewed motivators, and an improved structure.  While the article was written in August of 2005, the information contained in the article is just as valid today as it was then.

     This is a huge topic to capture in a single blog entry so I would encourage you to download the article from the Strategy+Business site (Booz /Allen / Hamilton) and read about the transition that $30 billion company went through and ask yourself…”what’s stopping my own company from effecting similar change?”  More than likely you’re at a much smaller company that can effect that change quicker.  I know, as one of the companies I worked with broke down some of those same barriers and increased EBIT levels at a growth rate of almost 4x that of our revenues, without decreasing headcounts.

Thanks for reading…..

 Jeffrey Ishmael

Categories: CorpFin Cafe, Management, Projects Tags:

When autonomy is implemented without standards.

March 25th, 2008 Comments off

How international distributor issues were addressed in the G.T. apparel program.
     As a newly appointed Business Analyst for the apparel program at G.T. Bicycles, I was tasked with developing a structure and increasing the strength of a previously unmanaged program.  For a company that was so heavily influenced by hardgoods and manufacturing, the creation of a “Soft Goods Subculture” would not be an easy one and would take an extended period.  Especially so since this was to extend to the company’s international distributor network.
Read more of my commentary in
Autonomy without standards .

When strategies involve more than just a financial decision –

March 25th, 2008 Comments off

            I can’t tell you how many discussions I have been involved in that involved extensive financial considerations as to whether or not we moved forward on a particular capital expenditure, re-signed a lease, increased headcount in certain areas, or outsourced certain activities to a 3rd party provider to save costs.  The decision to outsource has not been a very common occurrence since the majority of the organizations I have worked with have typically run in a very lean capacity.  However, one of the companies had made the choice, prior to my arrival, to outsource all Call Center operations that fell outside of a standard 8a-5p timeframe.  We were fortunate enough to have a very talented individual, who was very passionate about her management of the Call Center, challenging us to bring all operations back to our corporate headquarters and expand to a 24-hour capacity. 
Ready my full commentary….Not all $$$$

55% EBIT Growth & no reduction in headcount?

March 25th, 2008 Comments off

     As I wrote in my last commentary, Altered Perceptions, that’s exactly what we were tasked to do. Although we were planning for a 13% increase in sales, we were confident with the work that we had done over the prior year that we could commit to increasing our EBIT levels by a full 230 basis points.  However, this was not the situation of a turnaround or a company that had a poor prior year.  This was a Southern California based manufacturer that had prior year EBIT levels of just under 11% and was about to seriously challenge itself to achieve such an increase.  Read more on 55% EBIT…..

Altered Perceptions – An exercise in Benchmarking…

March 25th, 2008 Comments off

     For a number of years, I was working within the North American operations for a manufacturer based out of France.  For the majority of those years there was no shortage of comments about our entity’s EBIT performance and how we continued to “lag” the results of our European counterparts.  Our global Chairman had one number in mind and that was the consolidated EBIT results and how our North American results “dragged down the overall global results”.  For a manufacturing entity, we had EBIT results in high single-digits versus our counterparts were just approaching the teens. At the request (mandate…?) of our global Chairman we scheduled a comprehensive benchmarking study between the North American and European operations.  I was to headline this effort and present the final results to the Executive Team. 

Read more in my full commentary….”Altered Perceptions”