There is no virtue in splendid policies which are not translated into effective details of business steps. There is no merit in the best of detail systems if the policies behind them are ineffective. Every good idea requires a good execution. It is vital to the continued prosperity of an enterprise that both policies and procedures are kept from growing old and weak.
Most executives find their real satisfaction not in authority or in recognition or in greater privilege but in accomplishment. And accomplishment does not come by chance or inspiration but by a sequence of idea, policy and detail. The bulk of business affairs consist of applying policies by means of organization and methods.
As to details of procedure in business, a competent office worker of 1900 would be taken aback today of offices of even modest equipment. Procedures, indeed, wear out in much less time than this span of years. Therefore, responsible executives should be alert to those procedures which have passed the prime of usefulness in their establishments. Friend, as the saying goes- the only policy that never grows old is honesty: that is forever and ever the best policy.
Business is thought of as continuous movement beginning with some form of solicitation and ending with a profit-and-loss statement. More correctly, it is a series of distinct group measures or steps. Each of these groups needs close scrutiny to determine what each is intended to accomplish. And then each single step should be cross-examined to be sure it can prove its usefulness.
Getting true perspective on the operations of a business is difficult from as close to the picture as its own executives must be. But a fixed program of examinations, such as is here suggested, will bring things into better focus. Self diagnosis of a business is possible, though not easy. If complacent executives could browse through the operations of other concerns, and see some familiar tasks performed much better than they had thought possible, the experience would stir them into action at their own desks.
Let’s consider these random items among many which special examination has brought to light:
Paul felt sure his organization thought highly of their jobs and were very pleased with their opportunities. He even thought, “no one leaves us unless he dies or gets let out.” He was persuaded to tabulate the resignations over a single year and was amazed to find a high percentage of loss among the personnel. He set himself to the task of improving that situation immediately.
James had very large sales; just to mention the figure would gain instant respect. He had very few salesmen, in but a handful of branch offices. Selling effort, therefore, did not explain the sales volume. What portion of the total possible customers did the business sell? He did not know. How many customers did they have? Again, he did not know. Was there any way of gathering a list of such prospects? Well, maybe. Would it help to send a list of some of them to each branch office and ask for report on them? Possibly. He did and the result was very pleasing.
George had chains of businesses on which they showed combined profit or loss at regular intervals. Which outlets were making a profit and which a loss, no one knew; at least until analyses were made long afterwards. A weekly operating statement in one case, and a monthly in the other, was developed for each unit and weak members were soon revealed.
Margret made a staple line of goods and enjoyed high customer acceptance, but made little effort to offer accessory goods which the customers bought elsewhere. Throughout the organization the few accessories handled were considered a nuisance. A change of policy made these accessories, and a widely expanded group of them, a gratifying profit.
Joseph and Jimmy were preparing freight and express on shipments because the trade was uniformly done f.o.b. destination. They were persuaded to let customers pay the charges on receipt and deduct them from their remittances, which increased their liquid funds.
Ralph suffered constant losses in small unit, highly valuable products which could not easily be controlled in bulk handling. Standard quantity trays were introduced to be kept filled for all transfers and the disappearances stopped.
Other examples might be cited at much length and in wide variety but these few illustrate the possibilities which await the attention of alert management. The discovery of features which need skilled treatment should not be left for the big boss.
Always are there items of policy and detail which will benefit from critical attention apart from that required by the normal affairs of each passing month or year. And any attention given them pays well both in added satisfactions of smoother operating conditions and in the dollar returns toward which all business effort is directed.
Complacency is an insidious disease of business; an invisible barrier to it full realization. A large majority of businessmen are enthusiastic, brilliant and capable: they stand out notably in any gathering of talent. But they know they are good and they are prone too often to float along on that self assurance. Their dormant ability as shown in important tests or emergencies is so great that they rarely feel the urge to call upon it to the full.
The need for continuous attention to policy and detail becomes buried in the press of problems which seem, and often are, larger; but the general who neglects vital detail, handicaps his men and risk the loss of battle. The executive who refers all detail to subordinates as something with which he should not be bothered is often annoyed at failures of routine which he suppose was almost automatic.
Friend, time can be found for attention to methods when their full importance is recognized.
(Chealy Brown Dennis is a marketing and business development consultant. He is also a much sought after motivational speaker and offers training in leadership and organizational development, creative sales and marketing, strategic planning and team building. He also offers on-location and train-the-trainer formats for leaders, managers, businesses and organizations. He can be contacted through email at: email@example.com or on phone at: 0886-264-611 or 0776-545-394)