President Donald Trump recently announced his long-awaited infrastructure plan, which calls for $200 billion in federal funds to kick start $1.5 trillion in trickle-down infrastructure spending from state, local and private partners. What hasn’t been announced yet it is how exactly the $200 billion converts to $1.5 trillion.
Might this be another initiative that is bound to go nowhere?
The myth of infinite resources and the assumption of execution is painfully evidenced at many conglomerate producers by the proliferation of big initiatives and special projects. Symptoms of this modus operandi include failed initiatives, missed opportunities, and leaders who don’t have time to engage the people whose cooperation and commitment they need. Ultimately, the organization reaches a ceiling on what they can achieve and sport malaise for even the most basic initiatives.
As we may see with the infrastructure plan, wanting results usually isn’t enough- management needs to allow for it. This is usually accomplished by providing the a) mindset, b) methodology and c) setting the standard. In other words, results come by providing the organizational know-how in getting things done, through the willingness of managers to question their own processes (and those of their peers) and the organizational ability to “lock-in” results through performance monitoring and metric establishment.
Diagnose and Design
Rather than reflexively leaping into cost cutting or sales stimulus measures, it is essential that a core team of senior managers (and carefully selected functional leaders) first engage in a diagnostic process to examine the key leverage points in the business for opportunities. The value of these opportunities should not be more exact than +/- 20% at this point and should be prioritized by quantitative factors, such as annual year-on- year potential. Additionally, this is the time to set scope (which divisions or departments are off limits), base period data, capital allowances and payback rules. Coming out of the diagnostic phase, the team will have a clear idea on who should be involved to further clarify the potential opportunities and who should comprise the steering committee.
Data and Decision Making
At this point teams should be devised to work out the exact values of the high-level opportunities from the diagnostic. The leader of each team should be one who has the authority to implement the approved ideas. In supporting roles, the other team members would perform the analysis, test the ideas with other stakeholders and obtain these stakeholder comments with approve/disapprove recommendations. Ultimately, the chairman of the steering committee (usually divisional president or CEO) has the last say in whether the proposed idea lives or dies.
This is arguably the hardest part of any great idea, and especially so for a step change process that may boast upwards of 300 money making/saving ideas. The successful formula proves that 2 weeks of dedicated project planning along with full-time Implementation Managers for 12 to 24 months are key ingredients to seeing the impact in the profit and loss statement. Additionally, the functional heads who are charged with implementation must have these responsibilities added to their upcoming performance appraisals.
There is no argument that higher infrastructure investment in the U.S. is a dire need. Similarly, business performance improvement programs are vital to an organization’s ability to stay competitive on a day-to-day basis. But they are often limited in their effectiveness when launched without specifically answering the questions of: who will we be writing less checks to and how, or conversely, who will be writing us more and why? In these situations, a more effective response is an influx of effort on high value business areas with developed ideas that are embraced by the business community as a whole.
It’s time to turn words into actions and Make America Great Again.