Visioning: The Last Thing an Enterprise Needs When Starting Up

A husband-and-wife couple approaches and asks a consultant for help in their business.

The husband-and-wife couple just started a business selling electrical devices such as relays and circuit breakers.  Demand was strong at the onset and the couple has found themselves working around the clock serving customer orders.  Maybe the consultant can contribute some ideas?

The consultant immediately advises the couple to set aside a few days to do a Vision, Mission, Objectives, and Strategy (VMOS) exercise with their staff.  The aim of the exercise is for the couple to set goals by establishing a common vision for their business.  The consultant would facilitate the VMOS exercise, of course. 

The couple agreed and after a few days, the couple’s enterprise had written a VMOS.  When the consultant collected his fee and left, the couple realised they still didn’t have any ideas on how to serve their customers better. 

A VMOS is the last thing an enterprise needs when it’s starting up.  This is because when an enterprise is just starting, it already has a VMOS.  It can be summarised in one word:  survival.  

The couple started their electrical device business precisely because they saw there was demand.  They just didn’t realise that there was a lot of demand.  They and their staff became overwhelmed.  They had trouble catching up with orders.  Customers were complaining and the husband-and-wife couple feared they were going to lose customers. 

The couple were concerned about their enterprise’s survival.  They needed solutions to address the higher-than-expected demand.  The last thing they needed was an elaborate VMOS. 

Many consultants (and bloggers) promote VMOS for businesses.  A VMOS can be good but by experience, it’s only useful long after an enterprise has started up and stabilised.  It might be a good idea for an enterprise to do a VMOS when it is at a crossroads, such as when its owners and management are debating strategies for new ideas or products. 

For a new business that is just getting off the ground, however, a VMOS is the last thing an enterprise needs. 

When the husband-and-wife couple went to another consultant.  They found a more down-to-earth consultant who advised them to review their product lines and focus producing those items that are selling briskly.  The consultant also advised the couple to prioritise selling to customers who were willing to pay cash; this would help in turning over capital which the couple could use to invest in increasing capacity to serve growing demand. 

A VMOS exercise is nice for enterprises that are stable but are doing some soul-searching for their future. 

A VMOS exercise, however, is not what an enterprise needs when it’s starting up and its immediate preoccupation is survival. 

Enterprise executives should also be careful in engaging consultants, especially ones whose agenda prioritise themselves and their profits over the benefits for clients. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Three (3) Questions Supply Chain Managers Always Need to Answer

When it comes right down to it, supply chain managers have three (3) questions to answer:

  1. How do we get what we need when we need it?
  2. How do we make available what whoever needs them at when they need them?
  3. How do we deliver to whomever wants them when they need them?

When supply chain managers answer these three (3) questions, their responses must be relevant to their mission, which is:  Fulfil Demand. 

And when we say Fulfil Demand, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. It must be productive, i.e., at lowest cost to maximise profit margins and at minimal capital investment;
  2. It must result in competitive advantage, that is, the enterprise should come out better than that of its rivals;
  3. It must meet expectations not only of customers (i.e. quality, complete & on-time deliveries) but also stakeholders (e.g. shipment volume targets) and the communities they work in (e.g. compliance to laws, environmental sustainability)
  4. It must result in stronger relationships with customers, vendors, stakeholders. 

When supply chain managers answer the aforementioned three (3) questions to the satisfaction of the criteria mentioned, they would be deemed on their way to success. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Two Tactics That are Better than “No”

Most managers (and white-collar workers) face barrages of requests, if not directives, just about every day. 

Executives and peers ask managers to do many things such as write reports, attend meetings, do feasibility studies, pay suppliers, or test new products. 

Many managers would find themselves busy responding to these requests.  So much so that they’d not have any time left in a day to do what they should be doing, which is, managing. 

So-called time management experts would tell managers to just say no to requests that aren’t relevant to their jobs.  Saying no would demonstrate proactivity, the power to choose from one’s own perspective of priorities.

Unfortunately, saying no doesn’t work outright in the real world.

When I was a manager of a shipping department, I and my team were asked to work through a holiday weekend.  I and several of my subordinates had plans to for that weekend, but executives “asked” us to shelve those plans and work because the they wanted us to deliver pending orders to meet the company’s monthly sales target.  Executives wouldn’t accept a “no” and didn’t want to listen to our reasons (which generally was to take a break from work).  We ended up working through the weekend, met the monthly sales target, but didn’t get any praise or reward (except for some free pizza which the executives sent while we worked over the weekend). 

Executives don’t like no’s especially from subordinates.  This is because executives perceive any “no” as an affront to their agenda.  Executives see “no” as defiance and therefore will not take “no” for an answer. 

When a boss makes a request to a manager, it’s really a command done politely.  A request from a boss can be translated as “I’m asking you nicely to respond but if you don’t, I’ll tell you to do it.”   Executives don’t allow much room for compromise when it comes to their directions, everyone in the supply chain must march to the same beat. 

The impracticality to say “No”, however, isn’t the end to a manager’s hopes.    Managers still have two (2) ways to push back.  They can procrastinate and negotiate

Procrastinate

In the various management positions I held, I always had plenty of work to do.  Memo requests I received were often marked urgent or rush and whoever wrote them asked for immediate responses.

When I received such requests, I would categorise either as Will do or Will Not DoWill Do requests were those I’d be willing to do because I judged them as consistent with the needs of the workplace I was managing.  Will Not Do requests were judged the opposite, as in not helpful or relevant to my job description.  I’d place the memos on their respective piles but I didn’t throw them away.  (This was in the 1980’s so there weren’t any e-mails or chat groups yet.  But I do the same categorisation today via my computer and devices). 

I wouldn’t tell the sources of the Will Not Do tasks that I won’t be doing what they asked me to do.  I’d wait to see if they would follow up.  If they didn’t, I’d just leave the request sitting in that pile of Will Not Do.  If they did follow up, I’d still not do the task.  I would procrastinate. If the source comes back and follows up repeatedly and frequently, only then would I consider moving the task to the Will Do group, otherwise it stays in the Will Not Do pile.  I figure a request would be important only when the source spends significant time asking (or telling) me to respond.   

Negotiate

But even if I consider converting a Will Not Do to a Will Do, I would still push back.  I would ask the source why the request is important and why I should do it.  Maybe the source can delegate the request to someone else?  Or the source can review whether the request is worth the work?  I’d negotiate.  I would finally agree to responding to a request after I’d be satisfied with the argument of the sources and their justification. 

Or I’d finally agree to respond if the source is a superior who stops asking and starts commanding me to do it.   And even if it comes down to a command, I’d still ask the superior source politely to put it in writing. 

I learned not to commit immediately to requests.  I’d acknowledge them but I wouldn’t make promises.  I would if the sources press me to but only after I’d do some procrastinating and negotiating. 

By experience, I have found both tactics to be simple but effective means to filter the urgent and important from those that aren’t.  Many requests have turned out to be trash or withdrawn after procrastination and negotiation.  And it has saved me time. 

For managers, doing these two tactics can make a difference in how their time are spent and getting to meet goals that they fully feel are more important. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Solving Problems, Cultivating Ideas Together

I worked for Procter & Gamble Philippines in the late 1980’s.  I was a production manager who oversaw the food packing lines of the company.  As production manager, I was invited at times to join the food brand team meetings led by marketing managers, who were responsible for their respective products’ success. 

P&G is famous for its brand management approach.  Introduced in 1920’s by Neil McElroy, who later became P&G’s president, brand management focused on individual products rather than the overall business.   Every product would have a brand manager who would be accountable for its market share and profitability. 

The brand managers of P&G formed teams represented by different functional members from all over the company.  These included people from product design & development (PDD), finance, sales, market research, and manufacturing. 

For the two (2) food product brands, my senior manager boss of food manufacturing was the member of both brand teams but the brand team at times would invite me to join meetings in cases where they needed some technical input. 

Brand managers delegated problems with their ideas to respective team members to solve.  PDD, for example, was charged with solving product design issues.  Finance was accountable in forecasting profits and presenting costs.  Sales made sure they got customer orders and that the product was distributed in all trade segments and geographic markets. Manufacturing was expected to provide time and resources for PDD’s test runs of product prototypes and to ensure volume targets were met when the product was launched. 

Brand managers would press brand team members to solve problems especially when there were tight deadlines to meet.  The careers of P&G brand managers depended on the successes of their ideas; failure was not an option.

This caused some friction between departments in which brand managers had to work harder to get supportive commitments from team members.  Some did and became successful.  Some didn’t and they left the corporation.   

One factor to why brand managers were unsuccessful was that they overly delegated problems to team members, to the point of blaming them for failures.  These brand managers misplaced delegation with teamwork. 

As much as there may be individual inventors who bring their ideas into realities single-handedly, successful idea-creators see the need to work with problem-solvers. 

Ideas and problems are not mutually exclusive.  Neither idea nor problem is worked on separately.  Problems are not obstacles to ideas and ideas should not be seen as unpleasant disruptions that lead to problems.

We should welcome both ideas and problems.  Ideas are the “a-ha’s”, the insights that are foundations of creative concepts.  Problems are the challenges that can provide us opportunities. 

When we encounter problems while inventing from an idea, we should try to seek opportunities from them, as much as we may try to overcome them as obstacles.  Problems can lead us to better ideas, as much as ideas can lead to problems. 

Team leaders therefore should not delegate as in pass problems with accountabilities to other team members.  Telling a team member to do a job and to do it correctly or else is not delegating; it definitely isn’t teamwork. 

Delegating is about entrusting and empowering a team member to do a job rightly and excellently.  It doesn’t exclude the compelling need to work with people. 

When an idea for a new product is created, a brand team should cultivate it together.  Team leaders and product design experts should tinker with new product ideas together.  Leaders should study profitability with finance experts together.  They should plan roll-outs to the trade together with the field sales people.  And they should test products and observe production runs together with manufacturing. 

The key word is together.  Teams are there together for a common purpose and when it comes to ideas and problems, they should tinker with them together to attain success. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

How Sales & Supply Chain People Can Work Together

Customer inquiries and quotations have long been seen as traditional jobs of sales professionals.  Field sales representatives visit customers and strive to get orders from them.  When customers inquire, sales professionals are expected to answer with accurate information. 

Trouble starts when sales professionals have no adequate answers to give.  Sales professionals may know prices, terms, and promotions.  But they may not know how much inventory is available to promise and when deliveries can be scheduled.  They also may not know how to cater to special requests and instructions regarding product specifications and deliveries. 

Sure, their superiors would have given field sales reps guidelines and information.  Sales reps may also have fixed allocations of how much they can promise to deliver.  But once they are in conversation with a customer, these guidelines and allocations may not be enough for a sales rep in discussion with a customer.

Sales reps have a lot of responsibilities.  They have territories to cover and targets to meet.  They promote products and negotiate contracts with customers.  They seek and open new accounts and they are expected to submit sales reports.  They also have to deal with complaints or worse, customers wanting to cancel orders or return products for refunds.

Sales representatives therefore expect their enterprise supply chains to deliver orders as promised.  The last thing they need is late, incomplete deliveries or pending orders that never get fulfilled. 

There’s a lot that’s been said about forecasting and managing demand, and a lot more about delivering orders.  But not a whole lot about what happens in-between: when customers inquire about products, what are available, and request for quotations (RFQ). 

In the many business meetings I’ve sat in, executives often ask what demand will be or how many orders are pending.  They don’t ask much about what customers are saying or asking.  Either they wait for their marketing people to mention anything or they just make conclusions on their own

In the retail business, store owners usually inquire from their suppliers about the availability of specific items, ask how much the prices would be, if the item can be delivered by what date, etc.  In short, the store owners inquire and expect the suppliers’ sales people to answer.

Whereas demand forecasts offer projected sales of items in cumulative numbers for an upcoming time period, inquiries from customers tell enterprises what they are looking for.  These inquiries can be and are valuable nuggets of information that can generate additional sales for an enterprise. 

But from what I’ve seen and heard, this information never really reaches the enterprise’s executives.  Either the information is forgotten or ignored.  What reaches executives are reports that have filtered the feedback from customers.

I’ve observed there are five (3) stages to demand creation and fulfilment:

  1. Inquiry
  2. Quotation
  3. Order
  4. Delivery
  5. After-Sales Service

Sales usually works exclusively on the first three.  The supply chain typically works on the last two. 

But the divisions of labour and accountability are more of formalities than realities in many cases. 

When customers inquire (1st stage), they ask not only about price, promotions, and product features, they also ask:

  1. How many items do you have available?
  2. How fast can you deliver?

And when the sales person gives a quotation (2nd stage), the customer will ask again:

  1. How long will it take you to deliver?
  2. When will the items be delivered after I place my order?

And when the customer decides to order (3rd stage), he or she will ask the sales person once again:

  1. When will the ordered items arrive?
  2. How many will arrive? 

It’s the same questions repeated at least three (3) times in those three (3) selling stages. 

Sales people naturally wouldn’t be able to answer those two (2) questions without foreknowledge of what the supply chain will do when the orders are received.  I’ve therefore observed that it’s common practice for sales people to call someone at the supply chain to get answers to those two (2) questions. 

That someone can be anyone.  It could be the one receiving the orders, the one who allocates items for delivery, the production planner, and any supply chain manager, or even all of these people all at once. 

In many cases, the supply chain people the sales people call don’t have the answers either.  And even if they did, they can’t or won’t guarantee the time and quantities of what would be delivered. 

Sales people would press whomever they’re talking to for some answers which they then can provide to their customers.  And in many times, the answers aren’t reliable or in the first place, aren’t authoritative. 

The easy way out of this quandary is to formalise the participation of supply chain operations in the first stages of selling:  inquiry, quotation, and order.  This can be done via:

  1. Assigning people from the supply chain who’d know the answers to liaison with the sales people;
  2. Establishing a system to already reserve items that customers want quoted and allocate them when the order arrives. 

It sounds hard and it will take quite some work to do #2 above.  But given that there probably is an informal system of allocation working already between sales and supply chain, the enterprise would do well to just get it set up and running. 

Note that in stages four and five, delivery and after-sales service, both supply chain and sales should still work together.  Even as the supply chain would have a higher accountability in serving orders and providing some after-sales services (e.g., warranty services), sales should be in communication with customers about the status of deliveries, getting feedback, and collecting payments. 

When sales and supply chain people work together in the five (5) stages of selling, they gain more confidence in responding to customer inquiries and requests.  They learn what customers need as much as they find ways to improve serving orders and fulfilling demand. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Six Reasons Why We Don’t Need A Purpose in Life

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?  –Charles M. Schulz

Do we need a purpose in life?

Many so-called gurus would say yes.  We need to have one in order to have a direction.  A purpose gives rationale to our life.  A purpose gives each of us a unique reason for existence.  

Some of us, however, don’t have a clear purpose. If we were asked and if we answer in the negative, sometimes we would be chastised for not having one and the one asking would insist we have one and we should spend a considerable amount of time formulating one. 

Rather than wracking our brains finding a purpose, some of us plainly don’t need one for six (6) reasons:

First:  We’re not beholden to any person, group, or cause.

Some people say we should have a purpose and the people who usually say this are those who are looking for followers for their own causes.  Religious groups, for instance, have been notorious throughout history for preaching that we all have the purpose of being a follower of their god or gods.  If we follow them, we would be rewarded with eternal life and a place in heaven. Not following would doom us to hell or eternal punishment. 

Political activists also attempt to enroll individuals to their cause.  And similar to religious organizations, they would work hard to convince us to submission. 

Endless streaming of information in the internet age bombard us constantly about causes we should support, if not join.  We should fight climate change.  We should combat hunger.  We should help refugees.  We should change our lifestyle.  We should join a network to get rich.  The messages that pressure us go on and on. 

We aren’t beholden to anyone’s causes or dogma.  We don’t owe anyone anything in the first place.  We as individuals have the freedom to choose what we want or how we want to lead our lives (within the bounds of whatever rules at wherever we live in of course).  We also have the choice of whether we want to have a purpose or not.    

Second:  On the other hand, some of us are really meant to be followers.

Not all individuals are meant to be leaders.  Not all of us want to be leaders.  Some of us would just rather follow someone else. 

This doesn’t mean that we are enrolled mind and heart to the mission of someone else.  We follow because of the benefits. 

Many employees of businesses go to work because they simply need the money and the benefits that go with it.  We do what our bosses tell us to do and we nod when our employers preach about the business’s visions and ideals.  But when it’s time to go home, we leave all of that behind. 

Some of us join religious or political groups because we just want to meet friends.  Some of us like to join groups because there’s free food in meetings.  (I’m not kidding, I’ve met people who go to Sunday church services just because of the free food). 

Some of us join as followers because it makes for a better alternative than to have a purpose of one’s own.  Some people would say these people have nothing better to do.  I would say these people have chosen something they believe gives them the benefits they want.  They may not have their own direction but they did make their own choices.  And maybe that’s all that matters.

Third:  Not everything is certain.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  -John Lennon

There is nothing certain in life.  Tomorrow is another day.  We don’t know what will happen next year, the next day, or the next minute.

We believe in these principles but yet pro-purpose-in-life people still think we should have a rock-solid purpose to determine our direction. 

We can make a purpose that visualizes our values, principles, and goals, and we can write them down in one beautiful statement.  But all it would take is one swoop of reality to tear them all apart. 

Okay, a well-made purpose, according to the pro-purpose people, is supposed to act as an anchor against what life hurls at us.  It should form a foundation of where we stand in making decisions or when we are facing tests and temptations. 

But if we adopt a purpose just for the sake that we think we need one, chances are we would be tying ourselves down to stuff that we are not really interested in the first place. For example, if a person adopts a purpose to do social work for his local community, he might make himself too busy with obligations in his neighborhood that he’d have no more time to travel out of town which might be something he originally wanted to do.    

Fourth:  Life can be just as much fun acting on a whim than having to pursue a purpose

Many of us like to travel.  Some of us change careers every few years.  Some of us like to taste new food or appreciate art.  And some of us just want to escape and be left alone somewhere.   But we don’t do it because we say we are too busy or we don’t have the money.  Sometimes we say it’s because our parents won’t allow us even if we’re already 50 years old. 

We then adopt a purpose to try to define our own direction or escape route.  By experience, it doesn’t work.  No matter how desirable we make our dream via an adopted purpose, a purpose for the sake of finding a way out of our current life offers no respite from the realities we dread. 

We’re much better off acting sometimes on a whim.  I’ve known happy people, young and old, who travel without much planning.  I’ve known happy people who decide to learn a new craft, like pottery.  They sometimes do it with their children and it becomes a happier experience.  And I’ve known families who decide to drop everything out of the blue so they can go to the beach. 

Some people frown when we do things on a whim or for no rational reason.  Travelling for example several times out of the year can be criticized as spending too much time or money from what we should really be doing.  Critics would say we should be doing something more useful for society rather than just gallivant aimlessly around the world.

But being aimless is sometimes good for us. Going to other places, doing different things help us gain new experiences.  And if it makes us happier, then who cares?

Fifth:  Being aimless can lead us to success

A good friend of mine had no clear direction in her career.  She started out as a temporary worker.  Next thing I knew she was in Japan doing on-the-job training.  Someone liked her personality and hired her to come back home to sell software to banks.  After a couple of years, she moved to the United States to work as a web developer.  After another few years, she set up her own audio-visual production business.  Today she helps her local parish church and earns a living as a real estate broker. 

My friend is happy.  She met very good friends from Japan and the US.  She developed new skills and is presently gaining new ones as a real estate broker.  She finds fulfillment helping people at church.  And she is financially secure. 

She didn’t set any limits or boundaries to what she can do.  Her life’s path seemed aimless but that didn’t stop her from pursuing fulfillment by trying new things. 

Sixth: There is no need to be ambitious or that passionate.

Some of us just want peace of mind or are happy with what we have. Some of us just want a simple life without any complications or too many obligations. 

Being too passionate about a purpose can cause us to lose focus on the simpler things in life.  We’d be spending much time chasing something we think we believe in and less time smelling the flowers or just living well with what we have. 

We hear about executives who retire early so they can spend more time with their families.  Many people from Europe allocate weeks or months to travel to Asia and South America to see or experience new places. 

We also hear about ambitious managers who work very long hours to try to get that promotion at work.  Or that environmental activist who risks life and limb to defend a forest in the middle of nowhere. 

Being driven with ambition can actually be good especially if it will end up helping society but sometimes we just have to pause, take a break, and ask if it’s really worth it.  In some cases, it’s not. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying having a purpose is bad.  What I’m saying is we shouldn’t be pressured to have one because maybe we don’t really need one.  No matter what other people say, sometimes we can live without a purpose and still enjoy life and even help society at the same time. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Delegating is a Subset of Teamwork

The following are some lines I’ve heard bosses tell their subordinates when the latter are feeding back about difficulties in their jobs: 

  • “Be creative.”
  • “Just do it.”
  • “Don’t give me problems.”
  • “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”
  • “I can count on you.”
  • “That’s what I pay you for.”
  • “That’s what I hired you to do.”
  • “You have to be a team player.”

When bosses give responses like these, chances are they themselves have no clue on what to do.  Chances are too that these bosses don’t want to bother spending time helping their subordinates. 

Some bosses have the mindset that subordinates are nothing more than minions, followers on a payroll who are meant to do dirty work the bosses would rather not be doing. 

Bosses who think this way risk unfavourable repercussions. 

A middle-aged businessman thought he had a good life.  His packaging business was doing well.  He had long-term contracts with clients that assured steady revenue for succeeding years.  He had no problems procuring materials and his work force was productive as they met delivery targets to customers without fail.   

The businessman one day delegated most of the day-to-day administrative work to his accountant.  For many years after, he would hardly report to the office.  The accountant took care of everything. 

The accountant would occasionally ask the businessman to sign documents and checks, and report that all is well with the enterprise. 

The businessman would spend most days at a nearby cafe, sipping his favourite coffee, reading the newspaper, and chatting with friends.  The businessman had a steady source of income as the accountant would regularly deposit his salary to his bank account.  Life was good. 

One day, one of the businessman’s office staff reported that the bank called saying there was not enough money to fund one of the checks he signed.  The accountant was absent, so the businessman called the bank.  He found out that his cash balance at the bank was low.  He went to the office and found out most of the enterprise’s money was gone.  The accountant had fled, she apparently had been embezzling cash from the enterprise for years. 

The businessman had no cash to pay his workers and vendors.  The businessman had to lay off his workers, renegotiate debts, and cancel contracts with clients.  The businessman spent years afterward to rebuild his reputation and re-start his business from scratch.  To this day, the businessman goes to work every day to manage the day-to-day operations of his company, no longer entrusting money matters to anyone. 

It’s one thing to assign work to employees and trust them to be stewards of important tasks.  It’s another thing to assign work to employees and leave them on their own. 

Delegation is not about giving work to other people so the boss can relax and forget.  Delegation is about working together with employees to spread workloads to capable people for the sake of productivity and innovation.    

Delegation is a subset of teamwork.  Team leaders assign jobs but don’t leave the team.  When team leaders delegate, they work with team members.  Not so much in looking over their shoulders but more in communicating, responding to feedback, and helping secure needed resources.  It’s about entrusting employees to do important jobs and treating them as partners. 

When we treat employees not as minions but as partners, we not only boost productivity but we open doors for opportunities via new ideas that employees with their expertise and feedback would bring. 

We delegate not to evade work but to improve it. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Being Proactive Requires Reviewing Our Values

My boss asked me to finish a report by Monday morning.  I was planning to submit it by Wednesday next week but my boss wanted it earlier.  Because he asked me on Friday, I had to cancel my weekend plans. 

Some bosses pile on work on their employees.  The bosses would believe there is good reason but they also would believe they aren’t beholden to explain deadlines to their subordinates.  Bosses dictate, employees follow, after all. 

Employees, however, are people too and it can be demoralising when the boss deems work more important than the quality time of employees after work hours. 

So, what can employees do? 

Either the employees just do what the bosses say or they don’t.  If they do, they can count on some praising like a pat-on-the-back assuming they did a good job.  If they don’t, they’ll risk getting on the bad side of the boss who would put a bad mark on an employee’s performance record which may lead to career stagnation. 

Not really much of a choice.  But that’s reality. 

Never mind what some consultants or so-called gurus may say, people who work for other people don’t own their time.   When we have bosses, the bosses own us and sometimes if not often, they own even our time after work hours.

This is because work for many people, like middle managers and office workers, as we know it no longer is limited to a fixed schedule.  With email, SMS texting, and Internet-enabled voice & chat technologies, the boss can communicate with her employees wherever they may be and at anytime.  (I had a boss who’d call me when I was halfway around the world on vacation and that was even before the Internet). 

But thanks also to the Internet, we have more access to more information.  We can find out if there are other jobs waiting for us in other companies.  We can submit our curricula vitae (CV) with a few clicks of a mouse.  And we can get interviewed long distances from the comforts of our own home (or office desk when the boss isn’t around). 

The hard part, of course, is writing the CV and preparing for the interview.  The harder part is deciding whether we’d want to change careers in the first place. 

The hardest part, however, is making the choice itself.  We’d wrack our brains thinking if we should stay in our jobs or move on to greener pastures. 

It isn’t just about the risks of what we choose but it’s also what we believe in. 

This is what being proactive is really about.  Proactive is choosing based on what we value.  Note it isn’t what we want, it is what we value.  Stephen Covey of Seven (7) Habits fame identifies being proactive as the freedom to choose one’s response.  But to choose what we believe is right, we should choose based on what’s important for us, which is in a nutshell are our values

Employees would opt to stick with a job with a slave-driver boss that deprives weekends off because the employees would value the job security and income needed for their families. 

An employee, however, may choose to quit because she values her time with her children more than anything else. 

But as much as it may be clear to some, it can be a lengthy exercise for many who haven’t really defined what they value or are in self-conflict with changes in what are important to them. 

As the PlanPlus Online website puts it, values “may change as demands or needs change.” 

“If a given belief or opinion is something that might be altered if the conditions are right, then it’s a value.”

-PlanPlus Online, The Difference Between Principles and Values, https://www.planplusonline.com/difference-principles-values/

When values become moving targets, we can become confused and that can make it difficult to decide things.  We therefore sometimes become dependent on others to make our minds up, like just doing what the boss tells us to do. 

Values are based on beliefs, opinions, causes, and/or the very stuff we put the highest importance on, such as our families, relationships, careers, and religions.  We often try to rank them and doing so can be a difficult process, not to mention frustrating.  The bottom line is we always are evaluating what our priorities are. 

Is there a best way to define our values?  No.  But the question maybe should be:  how often should we define our values?  Not everybody knows what he or she wants.  Lucky for those who do but there are many who constantly need to review what’s important.  Actually, it may be those who do it often are the luckier ones because they would always be updated to their versions of their value systems. 

When we know surely what we think or feel what’s important, we’d know how to choose confidently.  We end up knowing how to answer when a boss asks us to work on weekends. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

We Need Librarians More Than Ever

How relevant are librarians in the 21st century?

In the 1970’s, when I was much younger, a library was that room of stand-alone shelves filled with books, spaced by a few tables and chairs.  The librarian was the one minding that room, making sure we who visited kept quiet while we browsed through the titles for one that maybe we’d borrow using our then library card. 

We don’t hear much about libraries and librarians in the 21st century.  If we do, a library would perhaps be that data collection on our desktop computer.  Or someone may describe a “library” as that dark section of the old family house where old books and documents of great-grandparents are kept. 

Libraries and librarians have changed in the mindsets of many people.  But contrary to what many may think, we actually need them more than ever. 

In a USA Today article written in November 2017, Careers: 8 jobs that won’t exist in 2030, Michael Hoon of the Job Network wrote that “you’ll have a tough time finding a job if you decide to become a librarian.”  Mr. Hoon cites “many schools and universities are already moving their libraries off the shelves and onto the Internet,” arguing that “as books fall out of favour, libraries are not as popular as they once were.”

Steve Barker in his opinion piece on the Wall Street Journal dated January 10, 2016, was blunt in that he called librarians “a dying breed.” 

Library and Information Science students Samantha Mairson (LIS) and Allison Keough of the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, immediately responded to Michael Hoon with their article of rebuttal, Are Librarians Truly a Dying Breed?

In their response, Mmes. Mairson & Keough write:

“Librarianship is far from a ‘dead-end field’ or a ‘dying profession.’ The field is transforming rapidly. Librarians and library students are leading this transformation. Library professionals are careful to consider the needs of their communities. The ‘Information Age’ needs more professionals responsibly curating information, and hiring managers agree that there’s demand.”

Sari Feldman, then President of the American Library Association (ALA), responded meanwhile to Steve Barker’s article by arguing that “nothing could be further from the truth.”  She writes:

“At a time of information overload and growing gaps between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the roles for dynamic and engaged librarians are growing. Though their skills and the technologies they use may be changing, they have never been more valuable to people of all ages, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.”

In the Philippines where I live and work, people identify libraries as that repository of books at a school or university.  Many don’t associate a library as an emerging essential function for enterprises, which we should. 

Many enterprises the world over have adopted standards from ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, an independent non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Switzerland.  

A popular one is ISO 9000, a family of standards for quality management systems that helps enterprises assure their products and services meet customer requirements. 

Whereas ISO 9000 sets principles in how quality management systems are established, the organisation’s trained consultants and auditors place much emphasis on documentation and records management.  Many enterprises around the world have gone to the extent of hiring librarians to oversee documents and records, not only in how they are filed, but also how they are created, edited, approved, and shared.  

In short, libraries are important for managing enterprise records thoroughly. 

As a treasurer for three (3) buildings, I have always advised respective administrative managers to organise records and documents.  These consist not only of accounting transaction records but also files of board resolutions, certificates, other important legal documents, and engineering & maintenance records. 

Building managers, however, don’t put too much priority on records management.  Whenever I inquire about a past record, for instance, I always get answers that they can’t find the documents because they’re buried in an archive in a basement closet.  It would take the administrative staff a week to dig and find something from the past, if they ever find it at all. 

Whenever I do insist that records be scanned and filed properly, building staff would go on overtime to catch up.  The building always needs to spend extra just to file and scan records and, in most cases, the records still wouldn’t be organised. 

Records management is a very much neglected function.  A good many enterprises just don’t manage records very well.  Memos, invoices, reports, and purchase requisitions that are often scattered, dirty, and torn have become common sights in many firms. 

We underestimate the value of library science when it comes to records management.  Thanks to technology, librarians have the means to scan and classify records quickly such that we can search and retrieve them much faster than ever before.

Librarians are the experts of organisation.  With reasonable support such as investing in desktop computers, scanners, and software, a librarian can turn that mess of papers and files into a systematic virtual storehouse of archives in which we can easily seek that particular document no matter how long ago it originated. 

In this age of information and the perpetual need to simplify complex transactions, we need librarians more than ever. 

About Overtimers Anonymous

Finding the Right Management Style

Different Strokes for Different Folks” are what we apply when we as managers deal with subordinates.  “Different strokes” imply that we should behave differently toward different people.  But behaviour just by itself might not be enough. 

A household of two (2) married relatives of mine has two (2) female domestic helpers and a male family driver.  The domestic helpers get along very well with my relatives and do their jobs very well.

The family driver is newly hired.  The driver does his job satisfactorily.  He is careful while at the wheel and is quick when summoned.  He follows instructions and has even helped with the gardening at the home. 

The domestic helpers, however, don’t get along well with the new driver.  He has no sense of humour and doesn’t have a rapport with the helpers.  The new driver also is often grouchy and sometimes rude. 

My senior relatives sought my advice on what to do with the driver.  I say there is nothing to point to that the driver is doing wrong.  The driver is doing his job as asked and even goes the extra mile by helping with the garden.  He may not get along well with other people but he is doing his job.

Different strokes for different folks” seems to be good advice on how my relatives should manage the driver and the helpers.  Treat each person with a different behaviour.  My relatives can have light conversation with the helpers but be more serious with the driver. 

Different strokes for different folks” implies we take on a different personality mask whenever we talk to a subordinate.  Do we try to be funny with some but serious with others?  Do we put on a smile or do we look emotionless? 

But it goes beyond that.  This is because how we manage people should not only entail how we behave but how we influence them to do their jobs well.  

Paul Hershey and Ken Blanchard introduced a situational leadership model in 1969 that argued that there are different “leadership styles” when it comes to managing people.  Hershey and Blanchard essentially said there were four styles: 

Through the years since the 1970’s, managers have built on these “styles” and as in my case, I’ve adopted the following depending on whom I’m overseeing: 

  1. Dictator: I dictate in detail to the subordinates what I want, what they must do and I supervise them to make sure they does what I tell them to do;
  2. Coach: I provide instructions, tell subordinates to demonstrate, and then I correct them for any mistakes.  I monitor their performance from a distance but continue to make corrections as needed;
  3. Facilitator: I set standards and goals and leave the subordinates alone to perform.  I check their performance and ask them what they can do better.  I provide continuous advice to improve their performance;
  4. Delegator:  I allow the subordinates to set performance standards and targets and leave them to perform although I occasionally provide feedback.  Essentially, I trust them to do their job and just check that their results are aligned to what I want. 

To get to know which style is best, I assess first the subordinate.  And that requires listening, and not just analysing performance based on my own point of view.  It seems logical that to know someone, I’d have to seek what his or her thoughts and feelings are. 

When I tried these approaches with different people, managers felt I was being too nice sometimes.  That I should apply a firm hand, that is, punish poor performance right away even before asking the person how or why he or she didn’t do the job as expected. 

This “shoot first, ask questions later” policy did work for veteran managers who already knew their people well, especially the ones they knew were hard-headed and who would short-cut work at any given opportunity.  It didn’t seem to work for me when I was just new to a managerial position as I wouldn’t be outright familiar with the people reporting to me. 

In other words, as a manager I needed to learn fast and apply the styles unique to every individual subordinate as soon as possible.  I could be listening too long and people would abuse that courtesy.  Getting to know people does not give me a luxury of time; I needed to assess every subordinate quickly. 

A lesson I learned when it comes to managing people is it would be ideal if I were the one who hired them or got to know them before I became their manager.  It was an advantage that I was there when my relatives interviewed and hired the family driver so I sort of had a head-start in knowing his personality.  It also helped that I’ve known the domestic helpers for a long time especially whenever I visited my relatives. 

I advised my relatives to talk to the driver professionally, that is, just tell him what the next day’s schedule is so he can prepare the car and be immediately ready.  It would also allow the driver to plan his work schedule for the garden.  The driver had that personality in which he’d speak up when he was in the mood, so I told my relatives to not prod the driver with too many questions or small talk.  Instead, just tune in when he does start talking.

And over time, the driver did start talking.  He’d once in a while give small talk and some opinions about his work.  He would answer quickly when I and relatives asked about the garden.  He suggested improvements which I and the relatives approved.  It isn’t the perfect employer-employee relationship the relatives envisioned as the domestic helpers still find the driver’s stoic behaviour annoying, but the driver does his job well so there are no complaints. 

We count on continuing improvements with the management styles we use which hopefully will be effective in the long run. 

About Overtimers Anonymous