For Radical Results, Shake Things Up

Carl Tompkins
November 2, 2017
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : MANAGEMENT

Photo origami boatsI recall a glass association banquet back in the late ‘90s when, at the end of the event, door prizes were awarded to winners whose tickets were drawn from a large box. During the drawing, a few gentlemen I was sitting with became agitated that no one at our table was winning anything and that the winners all seemed bunched together on the other side of the restaurant. Finally, one disgruntled person had enough and hollered out to the emcee, “shake ‘em up!” The emcee shook the ticket box and, as luck would have it, the next ticket out of the box belonged to the complaining participant. As he returned to the table with prizes, he commented, “radical results sometimes require radical measures.”

This true story demonstrates what is often needed in business: a shake-up. All too often, managers fall into dangerous ruts that cause business stagnation. Management might say, “the way things are done around here,” or “once you’ve been here long enough, you’ll learn.” These phrases are symptoms of business callousness that prevents business growth and evolution. 

Business stagnation is costly to a company. It prevents exploration of new business opportunities; it prevents management from looking into new ways of conducting business; and it prevents the maintenance of a workplace environment that stimulates innovation and creativity by its employees. 

A shake-up addresses business stagnation and helps companies achieve new and radical results. In this article, I offer three recommendations for management to start to shake things up at their business. 

1. Reverse performance appraisals

My first recommendation for management is to turn the organization upside down in terms of performance appraisals. This is often referred to by consultants as the upside down corporate triangle. The focus of this first step is to change the order and direction of job performance evaluations, so employees evaluate the performance of their bosses. 

The most ineffective method of assessing personnel performance is having employees in higher ranking positions review and measure the performance of lower ranking employees. During these reviews, bosses might do all the talking, or worse, talk down to the employee. Additionally, bosses seldom have all the facts or an accurate understanding. 

The people who really have the clearest and most accurate understanding of performance of any level of management are those employees who directly report to those managers. By having employees assess their boss’ performance, exact information is provided that would allow for the type of corrective action that would better support employees’ improved performance. 

2. Track product and service development

The second step in shaking things up is measuring how many new products and/or services a business takes to market on an annual basis. (Note that new introductions can be represented by modifications of existing products or services.) This measurement indicates an organization’s ability to pay attention to ever-changing markets and take the required new actions to remain on the leading edge of innovation. For radical results there must be, at minimum, one new innovation in the form of new products or services from each division on an annual basis to help protect market leadership.

When a company finishes a year with no new products or services, it is in trouble. This means the competition is closing in and about to pass by. There is a real danger in doing nothing. 

To address product and service development, managers should look at the operations side of the business. All too often, employees in operations get comfortable in doing the same thing over and over again, and changing anything within the given process leads to resistance. Company leaders should be sure to build compensation and recognition programs that reward operations departments for innovation and change just as much as they do for sales and marketing departments. 

3. Initiate radical activities

My final recommendation for shaking things up is to initiate new and radical activities for all employees. Adding something new and different within the day-in day-out repetition of regular work activities adds spice to a job. It can help rid employees of the attitude of “here we go again, another eight-to-five grind.” 

The two categories of radical activities are work and social. Within the work category, provide employees assignments that fall outside their regular job-related responsibilities. For example, ask a glazier if they would like to participate in the project of determining what make and model of truck should be bought within the fleet, or have an inside customer representative join a committee that is assessing the healthcare coverage program for the company. Remember that such added activities should be conducted within their eight-hour day. Management benefits by being able to identify employees’ interest and ability to advance within the company, and by gaining some valuable perspective on decisions to be made. 

Within the social category, management should introduce social opportunities for employees. Such activities most commonly fall outside the normal workday and include such things as company picnics, a company softball team, attending tradeshows and seminars, participating in a charitable activity, hosting a department potluck dinner or birthday celebrations, etc. Such social activities stimulate the family spirit within any organization and help people come closer together in relationships that result in a stronger sense of worth, loyalty and belonging to the company.  

The author is national flat glass sales manager for Sika Corp., and the author of the book “Winning at Business.” He can be reached at tompkins.carl@sika-corp.com.