LOUD AND CLEAR by Denzil Doyle

Doyle%2C%20Denzil-120X185.jpgThere are two essential management practices
Of about 1,500 high-tech companies in the National Capital Region, less than 100 are following both.

From SCAN's Print Edition

I was recently asked by a friend in Toronto who runs a marketing communications firm with about a dozen employees what I consider to be the most important management practices to be followed by a small company. He was interested only in management practices and I was to assume that his product (mostly a service actually) was OK as was his organizational structure. He was interested only in management practices.I told him not to feel inadequate if he was not following the two practices that I was about to identify, because I would guess that of about 1,500 high-tech companies in the National Capital Region, less than 100 are following both.

The practices I identified are the annual updating of a strategic plan that looks ahead for five years and a weekly face-to-face meeting between the four or five people in the company who are responsible for getting orders in the door and delivering on those orders. Such people are usually referred to as the management team and in a very small company, that team can include everyone. I refer to the two practices as the long- range plan and the Monday morning management meeting. It doesn’t matter if the meeting is held on a Monday, so long as it is held weekly and so long as it is face-to-face.

This led to a lively discussion about the purposes served by the two tools. I pointed out that the long- range plan is intended to focus attention on the products that are going to make the company successful, the technology on which those products are based, and the markets they will address. It need not be more than a dozen pages in length; its two most important components are a comprehensive product migration strategy and a set of financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow) for each of the next five years- quarterly for the first two and yearly thereafter. It is the annual contract between the managers of the company and its shareholders – even if there is significant overlap between the two groups.

As for the Monday morning management meeting, it should be focused on near-term issues – like what purchase orders came in the door last week and what invoices went out. It should also be the forum for dealing with administrative issues like the physical security of the facility and the company’s policy on political and charitable donations. Such issues tend to eat up an inordinate amount of a CEO’s time ─ time better spent getting purchase orders and keeping customers happy. Contrary to what is stated in management texts, there is no such thing as management by walking around, at least not at the CEO level. You gather information by walking around and you act on that information in the weekly meetings. Otherwise, the CEO gets quoted as having made all kinds of commitments on the walkaround.

It is probably not surprising that one of the tools is strategic in nature while the other is tactical. They are both essential to the success of any company. The long- range plan will be more palatable if it is recognized that the only reason why any new company gets created is because some existing company was not paying any attention to its product migration strategy.

Guru in one guise, angel in another, Denzil Doyle is a member of the Order of Canada, a professional engineer, former CEO of Digital Equipment Corp. in Canada, company director, mentor, consultant, investor and author of the best-selling ‘Making Technology Happen’. He can be reached at ddoyle@doyletechcorp.com.

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