Archive for January 30th, 2015

header_02The Marlinspike* CEO
An in-depth management guide for C-Suite executives, investors and advisors.
by Jim McHugh – McHugh Co. jim@mchughco.com and a member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual Captial

January 2015

In this issue:
The Blizzard and The Superbowl
CEOs: Does Your Team Have Control of the Ball?
Technology Telltales: Evernote Revisited


The Blizzard and The Superbowl

Happy New Year! Thank you again for reading The Marlinspike CEO. My purpose in writing these is not to give you all the answers (not possible…) but it’s to make you think more about a particular aspect of running a company in a different way. Or, to cause you to think about a subject you may be ignoring?

Today’s topic is related to something you probably have heard about recently (unless you live under a rock). Footballs, processes, roles and playbooks…

For those of you in the Northeast, I thought this newsletter would help pass the time on your snow day. For those of you in places that are sunny and warm, we understand your predicament!

Please keep sending along your comments…I always enjoy reading them.

Go Pats,


Also check out a new, helpful way to scan documents in Technology Telltails
“The only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities.” — Tom Brady, Quarterback of the New England Patriots

Football, rugby, or any other sport organized around a finely-tuned playbook, requires coaches and staff to understand their roles and and for players to execute plays in both familiar or unplanned situations. Each player is fully aware of his role and responsibilities, the roles of others and has studied the plays. A solid playbook enables a cohesive team to maintain control of the ball (even off the field…) and win.

Does your company’s playbook have:

1.  unclear roles and responsibilities?
2.  players with missing skills?
3.  undefined or unfollowed business processes?
This all too common, weak people/process combination creates lots of broken plays, corporate fumbles, pig piles, tangled situations and outright conflict over ‘who does what and how’.

Thinking Horizontally

Many organizations are driven (dominated?) by a particular function such as engineering, sales, production, or in the case of professional service firms, project delivery. I’ve worked with strong CEOs who are able to push the business forward by being grounded in one of these personal skill sets. This functional strength can be a real asset, and in many cases, it was the driving force that launched the company and enabled it to grow.

As a company’s overall operations increase in complexity, great execution only happens if all the business functions work together seamlessly. However, some of the same CEOs that are grounded in one strong functional skill set don’t make needed changes to their process/operational playbook as the company evolves. The CEO may ignore or trivialize the importance of looking at the overall business ‘horizontally’.

The Line of Scrimmage

Most of the confusion I’ve experienced related to process playbooks has been in organizations that have a complex sales process that involves:

contracts/proposals that have unique conditions
custom or semi-custom products
customer orders with product/service specifications that could change from order to order
high customer expectations related to quality, testing, product acceptance
Examples of businesses that fit these order profiles are: precision machining, various professional service firms, specialty custom industrial manufacturers, chemical formulations, and lots of others you could name.

Piling On –> Breakdowns in Key Processes = Trouble

What happens when the process playbook doesn’t exist, is getting dusty on the shelf, or needs a complete overhaul?

Piling on happens when: a) sales doesn’t get the order specs correct…there are flaws in design, scope, terms; b) estimating creates an inaccurately costed order with incorrect pricing; c) engineering designs what sales specified but not what the customer ordered; d) manufacturing builds what engineering designed; e) the product fails customer tests; f) rework is needed; g) and now you have a real mess

What are some of the negative impacts on the business performance when a company doesn’t have a clear playbook or deviates from the process playbook? Here’s a sample:

the NFL gets involved 🙂
dissatisfied customers (Stuck in the Rut)
lost customers
poor financial performance – losses, cash flow hurt
quality deficiencies
production mistakes
internal conflict over cross functional issues and personalities
demoralized employees
Solutions: How to prevent pig piles, fumbled balls and losing the game

1) Establish process flows for unique as well as routine projects and stick to them.

2) Based on the particular process, define clear roles and responsibilities. I do this. You do that. Hold people accountable.

3) Establish a clear communication system horizontally across the process chain and vertically through management so that glitches are caught early.

4) Management, through training, repetition, and even incentives, needs to reinforce the use of the process playbook. In organizations that tend to operate in a seat-of-the-pants mode, this may be the most difficult problem to solve.

5) Revisit processes on a regular basis. What’s working? What needs tweaking? Changes in personnel, especially when the products involve technical expertise, might invite revisions to the playbook.

Does your company have control of the ball? If not, are you ready to ‘think horizontally’ and get your playbook in order?

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