All posts by Vikram Kohli

6 to-dos a day, keeps unproductivity away

I never believed in creating my daily plan, or simply put a to-do list of the day. Its hard to remain disciplined on planning your day. Doesn’t matter how many people/managers or articles or blog post suggested to be a better planner of your day, following it on daily basis is difficult.

Unless you are not working in a system like an army where the organization itself make sure you become disciplined, who cares. But recently after a suggestion from one of the top COO of a company who is our client, I started planning my day by putting down 6 or fewer to-dos that I have to achieve on a day. These are the most important work items I have to finish on that day. And these todos are arranged in the order of priority. That’s it, only 6 or less.

And once these 6 most important things/to-dos of the day at work are finished, post that I allow myself to get distracted by all other things in the world. And the trick is not to jump to 2nd or 3rd to-dos until 1st is not completed. And believe me, at the end of the day I feel much more productive & satisfied at work on that day. Once reach the office, I first thing do is put down these 6 or less most important todos to achieve that day.

Just try to follow this habit for 1 week, every day and see the difference. The most successful leaders/CEO’s I have interacted with till date plan their day. They are way more disciplined on that on daily basis.

 

 

What CEO’s want you to do

CEO’s are always busy in making their companies grow to the next level. And an experienced CEO understand that it is his people who will take the company to next level of growth.

But most of the time they are so busy with their schedule in meeting people and thinking what should be done to get required growth that they don’t get time to communicate to their employees, what he wants them to do. And even if he communicates, he is not able to articulate it in a way that an employee can understand and get it. Here are a few points which I picked up while interacting with many CEOs of companies where we have implement qilo.

Understand how your work impacts “Cash Generation” and/or “Revenue Margin”  and/or “Customer Satisfaction”: As a professional, you might be a Subject Matter Expert in your area of work, but unless you understand how your job is impacting the “Cash Generation” and/or “Revenue Margin”  and/or “Customer Satisfaction” in your company, you will not be able to grow in your role and company. And believe me, many people  beyond the senior leadership team don’t understand this.

Example: If you are an HR professional, delayed hiring means delayed execution which means your product/service will reach your customer at a slow pace, which impacts the cash generation for the company. One more example: If you are in operations or delivery teams and responsible for moving the product/service to customer and you deliver a substandard output, it will impact the customer satisfaction which might lead customer moving to your competitor and which impact the cash generation of the company.

Read “What CEO’s want you to know” by Ram Charan

Challenge the Status quo and Come up with Solutions: While the CEO and senior leadership team must put in the effort to make you understand about the business, most of the CEO’s also want their employees to question more about the status quo and ask questions about how business can perform better. The number 1 thing I keep hearing from CEO is that most of the time employees keep complaining about the system(the company). Only few come up with problems which are in place and the solution related to those problems.

Become 1000% accountable:  CEO’s want every employee to understand the importance of being more accountable. Being more accountable means only one person owns the one unit of work(not 2 or 3 together) and that person gets that work done to its last mile. Where most people fail in remaining accountable is when the work to be done needs co-ordination or communication with other people in the same or other teams. And when the status on the work progress or completion is not updated and communicated on the timely and proactively basis.

Be more disciplined at work:  70% to 80% of people in the company are suffering from the “busy syndrome”.  “Busy syndrome” means you are too busy in showing yourself busy.This problem is especially an epidemic in the large companies. CEO want their employees to be on top of their work by understanding what you should be focusing on and executing on daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. And you are planning the things accordingly to execute it. And if you don’t understand it, ask your manager to provide the clarity on what you should be executing. And if your manager is not providing that clarity or he is not capable enough for planning on your behalf, raise this issue to higher-ups or leave that boss.

The number 1 trait of a truly disciplined professional at work is that she constantly focused on “WHAT” needs to be executed that will impact the “cash generation”, “margin”, “company growth” and “customer satisfaction” and “HOW” it can be achieved.

Own your growth: If you want to grow at work or want to learn a new skill or want to get promoted, it’s your responsibility. The company should create the right ecosystem for that, but at the end, if you want to get more money in your next increment you have to own it. Most people stop learning/enhancing their capability that will impact the business & company growth. Your CEO will be far happy to reward you with all those things you want if you impact the “cash generation” and “margin” in a positive way.

7 Steps to achieve success in OKR Implementation

OKR is a management tool to drive execution on your annual operating plan and strategic priorities.  This goal-setting framework is different from the tradition KRA/KPI goals in a way that the starting point of OKR is your CEO/Company goals, not Job Descriptions and Roles.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

While in theory, the OKR framework looks good, but many companies fail to implement the OKR successfully. Here I am sharing the 7 steps we believe and have seen are critical for successful implementation:

  1. Be brutally honest about why you want to implement OKR?   Is it only because Google or Intel has implemented it? Or is it because your existing business KPI’s are sitting in silos and/or your annual goal-setting exercise is a checklist activity and doesn’t add any value to company growth and setting accountability at work?
  2. Create a core leadership team for implementation. This team should consist of 3 members  (1) CEO (2) Strategy Head/Corporate Planning Head/COO/Marketing Head (3) HR Head. This team should be the one who has the horizontal understanding of your business and company.  And this is the team who will drive and manage the change of implementing OKR across the company.
  3. Get your CXO’s and managers OKR ready: Getting ready for OKR means imparting the training to managers and business heads about what is OKR, how it’s different from traditional KRA/KPI’s, and how it will help the company achieve required focus, alignment and accelerated execution. The primary focus of this training should be to enable the manager to come up with their own OKR’s . Don’t try to push the OKR’s from the top. You should just be supplying the guiding force and contours under which OKR should be created.
  4.  Set the OKR cycle:  The guiding literature around the internet suggest and promote quarterly OKR’s. Which should be the case if your company is disciplined and ready to put the effort at the start of every quarter to create OKR’s. But to start with, we at qilo recommend the 6-month cycle approach. For the first time, set OKR’s for the next 6 months, observer the adoption, quality of OKR and then reduce the cycle frequency to quaterly.
  5.  Set OKR format and timeliness to share the OKR’s : Even if you involve your company in the entire process, people still will forget to share their OKR’s internally. A good format is simple yet powerful in a way that to forces people to make a write inspirational Objectives and quantifiable Key Results. Pro tip: Setting a quantifiable Key result is the key to successful implementation. Your training should help your managers and employee to put in more quantifiable key results that push people to go beyond what they can achieve at ease.
  6.  Communicate the review frequency up-front: This again depends and directly linked with the  OKR cycle.  If your OKR cycle is quarterly, close the cycle with OKR review and probably in the same review, ask the manager and employee to come up with their next quarter OKR’s.
  7. Answer what’s in for me from an employee perspective:  At employee end, what works is (a) greed- the greed of going to the next level and earning more money (b) to bring meaning to their work. As a company when you implement OKR, it can help you to achieve both.

Implementing OKR by taking it as the guiding principle. And the beautiful thing about OKR is it much more meaningful for company, managers, and employees, help you to bring accountability at work and accelerate execution. But remember, what works for other companies might not work for you. You can and should always customize it based on your requirement.

Read this post to check why OKR implementation fails

Goal Setting gone wrong

In most of the companies, goal-setting is done to either achieve one or all three perspectives mentioned below.

  1. To achieve the annual sales targets.
  2. To achieve the annual operational plan and strategic priorities.
  3. To fulfil the annual checklist activity of performance management.

Ever wondered why all 3 works in silos and doesn’t connect with the big picture? Almost all the companies do the exercise of annual sales target setting but do the half cooked job for setting goals to achieve the annual operational plan and strategic priorities. If done right, goal-setting helps you to accelerate growth, bring alignment and accountability across the organization.

If your goal are not the guiding force of your day to day work, they are not the goals, but just a formality.

There are various goal-setting frameworks that a company can opt to drive their sales, operations and strategic plan. 3 of the major goal setting frameworks that are widely used are:

  1. Hoshin Kanri
  2. Balanced Score Card
  3. OKR

Hoshin Kanri

Hoshin Kanri (also called Policy Deployment) is a method for ensuring that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and action at every level within that company. This eliminates the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication. Hoshin Kanri strives to get every employee pulling in the same direction at the same time.

It achieves this by aligning the goals of the company (Strategy) with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed by all employees (Operations). The 4 steps for Hoshin Kanri are:

Hoshin Kanri Step 1: Clarify your current state and identify Mission, Vision, and Behaviours

Your company’s Vision and Mission statements are a good place to start if they have been well written and are still relevant. Answer these questions to help you identify your vision, mission, and behaviors

Mission: Why do we exist as a company? or How is the world a better place because of us?

Vision: Where do we want to be in the future (5-15-30 years)

Behaviors: What are the behaviors that you and your employees should be living by on daily basis to achieve your mission. These behaviors are different from the values which live on your website.

Hoshin Kanri Step 2: Define Breakthrough Objectives (Hoshins)

The breakthrough objectives are mission-critical objectives. These objectives may take 3-5 years to fully accomplish.A few good questions to ask your team to get to these Breakthrough Objectives are:

Q1. In 3 years from now, if we look back on what we have accomplished from now till then, what is the biggest, most significant accomplishment we could achieve?

Q2. What is the single most important objective we need to accomplish to remain competitive 3-5 years from now.

Hoshin Kanri Step 3:  Define Annual Objectives (Goals & Metrics)

Breakthrough Objectives should then be broken down into Annual Objectives. These annual objectives are the basis for your departmental and even individual annual strategic plans.

Hoshin Kanri Step 4: Deploy Annual Objectives through the organization (Catch-ball)

Cascading your goals is a powerful and important part of Hoshin Planning. Each Annual Goal or Objective must be broken down into specific goals and projects for each functional group or team. It is only when each team member has a challenging yet achievable goal that they can see how they contribute to the overall Hoshin Plan.

Balanced Score Card

KPIs traditionally have had a bias by measuring past costs, revenues, and profits but offering little insight into how an organization was likely to perform in the future. Robert Kaplan and David Norton’s balanced scorecard framework, introduced in 1992, revolutionized how businesses connected KPIs to the company’s broader mission. The balanced scorecard, incorporating financial and nonfinancial measures to guide operational and strategic goals achievement.

If you’ve ever seen the Balanced Scorecard in action, you’ll know it’s essentially a strategic framework, divided into four areas (called “perspectives”) that are critical to business success.

OKR(Objective & Key Result)

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a management tool that brings in the discipline to achieve excellence in execution aligned with organization and CEO’s priorities. OKR is a goal setting framework originally created by Intel and later adopted by Google in the way back in 1999 when it had had not even celebrated its first birthday. OKR has supported Google’s growth from 40 employees (when it first started using OKR) to more than 60,000 today, proving that it can be used by small organizations as well as large corporations. Today, both technology and non-technology companies are moving fast to leverage OKRs to enable a high-performance work culture.

Here are a few examples of what objectives could be:

1)  Reduce the variable cost in production by 2.5 %.
2)  Increase revenue from product X by 10%.
3)  Become a more effective sales machine.
4)  Move to the new office by December end to provide a happy environment to employees.
5)  Solidify brand and position as market leader.

And following are some example of ‘Key Results’ with respect to above-stated objectives. There can be more than one key result(s) that can define how one will achieve one’s objectives.

1)  Hire a consultant to review and improve the six-sigma process.
2)  Ensure at least 75% of the sales team members achieve their quota.
3)  Hire three sales managers by end of June.
4)  Identify an office that facilitates company and employee growth for 250+ employees.
5)  Hire a new branding agency by end of Q1.

Whatever goal-setting framework you are selecting, expecting it to work out magically and contribute towards your company growth without the involvement of your leadership is naïve. At qilo, we have seen many implementations succeeding when leadership from the CEO to every business gets involved, and many fail when you implement these frameworks just for the sake of implementing it because someone else is also doing it.

 

CEO’s Number One Problem- Accountability in the workplace

When it comes to people specific challenges, what we constantly hear from CEO’s of growing companies is – “People in my company lacks accountability”.  Lack of accountability within individuals and managers is one of the primary reason of inability to scale the company.

Image Credit: Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

The term accountability is used interchangeability with responsibility. The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Accountability means how well or effectively you carried out what is expected of you.

While there could be many reasons for low accountability, the top 4 reasons why individuals & managers lack accountability are:

  1. Spending far less time in communicating why accountability is important.
  2. Setting accountability before alignment.
  3. Lack of discipline in following rituals to set the accountability.
  4. Not able to link behavior of accountability with rewards.

Spending far less time in communicating why accountability is important

Accountability is what differentiates a good company from a  great company. People are much more career-centric today than before and they want to be the part of success. CEO, functional heads, and managers spend far less time in repeatedly communicating why accountability is important, and how it’s going to impact the company growth and success.

Setting accountability before alignment

If accountability means how well or effectively you carried out what is expected of you, alignment means defining what we should achieve and what we should not achieve as a company. The first step to achieve the highest level of accountability is to start with achieving alignment from top to bottom. The experienced entrepreneurs & CEO’s know why this is important. And spend far more time to get teams aligned on operating plans and strategic priorities.

Lack of discipline in following rituals to set the accountability.

Every company who is serious about growing or maintaining the competitive edge sets some rituals to set and enhance the accountability in teams. The weekly Monday meetings are one of those rituals. Those Monday meetings fail to perform because

a) Agenda of those meeting is too broad (b) those meetings are not data-driven (c) the size of the team is too much such that not all get the opportunity to put in their point or share status or share the challenges they are facing  (d) feedback post these meetings are not captured to measure how well these meetings are performing.

Not able to link behavior of accountability with rewards

The behavior of accountability should be directly linked with monthly, quarterly and yearly rewards and bonus from top to bottom. This should not be the KPI per say to be measured but should be the parameter on which you should enable continuous feedback on. The data point generated from this should help in decision making for rewards.

Summary

  1. Communicate often the importance of accountability
  2. Align before you make people accountable
  3. Set rituals to drive accountability
  4. Reward/Punish people for not being accountable

Building Sports Culture in your Company

India has finally started performing well in sports other than cricket. Indian sportswomen/men performance in CWG , 2018 games was commendable and was one of the best in a decade.  Per my understanding, there are 3 main reasons for this much-awaited success:

  1. Better Coaching.
  2. The discipline of practice with better equipment.
  3. Improved reward & incentives.

Many companies can succeed & executer better on their growth plans if CEO & leadership team can make each individual in the company(or at least 50%) behave and execute like a sportsperson.  Though linking sports directly with business is not fair; as in sports you practice 90% to 95% of the time, and the actual performance is only 5% of the time. In business, you have to perform every day. You don’t have that much time & budgets to practice.

To build sportsmen culture in your people, you have to follow the same 3 principles stated above: “Better Coaching Culture”,” The discipline of execution with better equipment” and “Better Reward & Incentive System”.

Build Better Coaching Culture

Managers are the coaches in a company. A coach is someone who helps in “Understanding the strength and weakness of the coachee”, helps in “Making sure the coachee remains disciplined every day” and “Motivates the coachee whenever she feels down”. In sports, coaches are a former player(might not be the rockstar player of their time), but now has the ability and hunger to make the coachee perform best at the highest level.

To get the managers who are better coaches in your company, 2 critical touchpoints are when you are “hiring a new person as managers” and “promoting individuals to become managers”. When you are hiring the new person as a manager, she should possess all the required coaching competencies. And when you are promoting the individual contributors to the manager role, make sure that you have enough data points on following core competencies a manager should posses

  • Ability to understand the strength and weakness of each report
  • Should have required functional and technical know-how
  • Should have the ability to get execution done with discipline every day
  • Should have the ability to give feedback & coaching on a regular basis
  • And above all, can communicate well in written/verbally

 The Discipline of Execution

I played badminton at my school level and have represented the school at the district level. But failed to perform better because I was not disciplined enough.   When a company performs better than its competitors, its because at every level every person brings disciplined of execution towards the direction set by the CEO/Management.  And the managers play a very important role in bringing this discipline. The managers will be able to bring a better discipline to the team ONLY when there is a high level of alignment within the company forwards business priorities that need to be achieved.

The process starts with CEO’s ability to cut down the complexity and put in company’s strategy and 3 to 4 business priorities/goals very clearly. And communicates this to the entire company. And than HOD’s take those priorities up and work within the functional unit on what, how and who will work on which goals which will impact CEO’s priorities.  Once the managers exactly know what they and their teams need to work on, only then they will be able to bring the discipline of execution in their teams. Currently, the way I see we implement qilo, managers to get hell lot of work done from their team, but lacks the focus on what should be executed.

As a company, you & your managers can get many things executed from your teams. But if they are executed on wrong priorities all this time, it will result in you working for your competitor.

Adopting an efficient goal-setting framework like OKR or Hoshin-Kanri or One-Page Strategy framework can help here.

Better Reward, Recognition and Incentives

Money is a universal motivator. Most companies fail to put in an effective and transparent reward and incentive system in place. And because if this you fail to deliver the message clearly to employees about “What’s in it for me to execute with discipline every day?”.   And more than anyone else, it should be the managers who know your reward and incentive system in and out.

A better reward system should always link the people performance with business performance. It should be data-driven and above all should be able to generate enough data points for better decision making on individual performance. And this data should be communicated to employees/managers on the monthly/quarterly basis. Your reward policy and the process should always reward the end tail of the company on their individual performance, managers should be rewarded for their individual + team performance. And HOD’s should always be rewarded for the company performance.

Building the sportsmen culture in your company is not an easy task. But if you are able to bring this change in your company, you will have a far better competitive advantage.

Summary

  1.  As a coach, your managers should be able to (a) Understanding the strength and weakness of their team members (b) Put discipline of execution within the team every day and (c) should be able to motivate/give feedback to the team members on the continuous basis.
  2. To get the discipline on execution, you manager should clearly be knowing what they are trying to achieve. And how their achievement is linked with bigger picture/CEO priorities
  3. Your reward system should link people performance with business performance.