With increased technology driving organisations it is easy to overlook your most critical asset!
I was privileged to be asked to write a ‘Guest Blog’ for Philip King (CEO of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management) and wrote about how organisations and ‘best practice’ had changed since the first CICMQ Credit Management Best Practice Accreditation was awarded in 2009. Of course ‘Best Practice’ is always changing, like Dodge City in the Wild West, there is always going to be someone out there who is faster than you. So best in class just keeps getting better and if you stand still you are actually going backwards compared to your competitors.
To ensure that drive for continuous improvement… well continues… it isn’t about the money that is invested, although that helps, change always starts and finishes with the people. Technology in credit management keeps getting better, faster, more efficient, but let’s not forget the idea that technology, to it’s programming, design, implementation and use rests with people, without them none of this would happen. So why is it so easy for large companies to forget that behind the efficiency improvements, offshoring, new technology and the resultant benefits are people, either making the change or being impacted by it.
I watched a short video on LinkedIn recently by Jack Welsh. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his tenure at GE, the company’s value rose 4,000% and whilst with all business leaders there are critics, he said one fundamentally important thing ‘People hate change’ and if you think about it, he is right. It makes me smile when people say ‘I love change!’ that should be qualified with a further statement ‘…when it is positive’. There is nothing we can do about negative change, and there is quite a bit out there, but as leaders and managers we should be managing it better.
In Jack Welsh’s video he says that it is a huge responsibility to have an impact on people’s lives and again I think this understanding is missing from many large companies. As leaders, credit managers should make sure that we provide direction, development and recognition for their teams, making sure that they bring them along with the plans of the department.
One of the CICMQ Accreditation’s Best Practice Criteria is ‘Roadmap’, in other words a plan for the next 3, 6, 9, 12 and 24 months. This should be available and displayed for the team to see, we also recommend that the team play a part in the development of the Roadmap. Engaging people in this way provides ownership within the team and the change becomes a part of what they do… so they are driving it not a victim of it.
There are many examples of this sort of engagement in in the Chartered Institute of Credit Management’s Best Practice Network where managers delegate the responsibility. A great example of this is the Workshop Approach where the managers of the department have minimal involvement and their role is to make sure that the team have access to senior management, unblock and resolve issues and help the teams with sign-offs and direction. For many managers this is a difficult thing to do, for the enlightened it is a fundamental part of their way of managing their teams.
There are some interesting initiatives in the Best Practice Network driven by the teams which make the organisations a more inclusive place to work. The names of the companies have been withheld but they will recognise who they are!
The Washing Line – This is a modern-day version of the suggestion box. Team members make a suggestion on improvements and they progress from idea through evaluation, cost benefit and implementation. The ideas are pegged on a ‘washing line’ displayed in the department and they progress along the line as the idea is developed and implemented through the various stages. A clear and visual representation of the progression of improvements that the team have come up with.
Huddle Boards – We first saw these initially in early 2010 and since then these have been shared and are now common place. In fact it is unusual now not to see them in credit management functions. These are now used for ideas, recognition, issues, targets and even the mood of the team. Lean programmes now use these as a matter of course and play a fundamental part in the communication of targets and process measures, and a barometer of how the department is feeling.
Induction Programmes – Traditionally managed by HR these are now very different from the tea, toilets and corporate code of conduct conversations. These now involve online questionnaires and tests, tours of the teams sitting with key members and regular interviews and 1.2.1’s with the managers. Recently we have seen ‘Welcome to the Team’ desk banners, after work sessions and lunches with Directors. One organisation invited the parents of a young apprentice to a presentation he was giving. This sort of behaviour engenders loyalty and ensures engagement and pride in what the team do.
Projects – In old style organisations being moved onto a ‘project’ was seen as a way to move someone out, or the time to look for a job with another company. Not anymore, many organisations make sure that the best people in the team are seconded projects, especially those that impact the department. New systems, process developments and re-organisations are a few of the projects we have seen significant team members be a part of. One organisation managed to change it’s organisation structure just to accommodate the ambitions of one of its staff members so that they could become qualified in accountancy, giving them more experience in reporting and measurement.
The Cash Challenge – The cash challenge is all about creating a spectacular failure whilst achieving a significant increase in cash collection. Again, this is run by the teams with the managers making sure that there are no blockers, smoothing the way with stakeholders and arranging meetings for the teams with Senior Management. Everything else is down to the team, after all they do the job so who better to understand the best way to collect more cash. This is again about ideas. Recently we ran a workshop with 2 companies interested in challenging each other to see who would collect the highest percentage cash above an average figure. Both teams had record cash collection – a great result for both companies at a time of significant change, but most importantly they had great fun doing it. We are now running this with 6 companies competing against each other.
These ideas and programmes are all designed to do one thing – engage the teams. By doing this, managers help their teams take greater ownership of improvements in their departments, generate pride in what they do and most of all have fun. As Jack Welsh said, managing people is a huge responsibility, be generous with praise, give direction and smooth the way for them to make a difference but mostly have fun and find any excuse to bring in a cake to celebrate.
My thanks to the client organisations whose examples I used, to the other members of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management’s Best Practice Network who drive for continuous improvement through getting their teams engaged.
Sources & Acknowledgements:
The Chartered Institute of Credit Management’s Best Practice Network, Clients of CICM and Kinetic Consulting.