The Manager's View provides solutions and advice based on management and marketing principles that are used by GWR Research (www.gwrresearch.com). Many of the posts are related to or are taken from the author's books "The Manager's Guide to Building a Successful Business" and "Developing Successful Marketing Strategies". More information on the books is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Businessexpertpress.com
As markets and
customer preferences change companies adapt to insure success. Adaptations
usually are made to capitalize on markets and expertise a firm has developed
over its life.
are limited to updating packaging or marketing approaches or finding new uses
for established products.
occasions where new products are needed in order to meet new customer needs or
address a disruptive market innovation.
changing market needs and market disruptions it is necessary to find good ideas
and then have a process to evaluate and narrow the field to the ideas most
likely to succeed.
Generating new product ideas
The first step in
generating good ideas that will further develop the markets and expertise that
defines the firm is to clearly articulate the job customers are hiring the firm
Here it is
important not to be too restrictive in the focus of the definition. It is
probably better for an owner of a baseball team to define his firm’s job as sports
entertainment as opposed to the more focused definition of professional
Once the job the
customer has hired the company to perform is defined then it will be easier to
identify new product ideas that are based on the firm’s strengths.
There are several
methods to develop new product ideas that are very useful such as brainstorming,
market research and product attribute modeling.
widely used and involves getting key employees (and sometimes customers)
together to find solutions to challenges facing the firm. The key to successful
brainstorming is good note taking, allowing all ideas to be presented without
negative feedback and encouraging all participants to contribute without
letting a few dominate the exercise.
can be the result of research surveys designed to uncover market opportunities.
This research involves current customers, individuals with characteristics
similar to current customers or a random selection of individuals. Examining a
firms records and reviewing sales staff information on the market and the
competition can also provide solid market research.
modeling is a unique way of generating new product ideas by choosing a job the
company is hired to perform and describe the absolute worst outcomes. After identifying
the bad outcomes participants go back through the exercise and determine what
actions could be taken to eliminate the negative outcomes. For example if a
company made suitcases an exercise might be to list all of the negative
attributes for suitcases (such as not fitting in overhead bins in aircraft,
wheels that wobbled, instability etc.). The follow up exercise would be to
create a suitcase that addressed all of the negative attributes.
The best idea
generation will likely come from a program that involves all of the idea
generation techniques, First, market research, then brainstorming based on the
research and finally product attribute modeling.
Identifying the best ideas
After the idea
generation process there are likely to be a number of ideas that are
attractive. The challenge is to find a way of objectively identifying those
ideas that have the most promise.
For this process
it is important to assemble a committee of key employees from each part of the
business. The committee should have members from sales, IT, finance,
accounting, production, R&D, and engineering. This structure allows any
idea to have the insights of the various parts of the organization. The
committee should be led by an individual that can keep the group generating
customer focused ideas and prevent efforts to kill product ideas because they
don’t fit with current thinking.
new product ideas there should be specific criteria identified that the new
product must meet before moving to the next level of consideration. A list of
evaluation criteria might look like the following:
1.Profitability/market acceptability- will the product generate a profit and a market?
2.Accreditation requirements – Does the product meet industry and legal
3.Length of project – Can the product be introduced in an acceptable time
4.Accommodate systems – Does the new product make use of current systems
or will new ones need to be developed?
5.Fit Image – Does the product fit the image the firm wishes to project?
6.Resources – is the new product resource and capital intensive?
7.Gateway capacity – Does this product lead to the possibility of new
products or businesses being developed?
8.Negative Gateway capacity – Does this product have the potential of
damaging other aspects of the operation?
9.Customer acceptance – will the customer accept this product over others
offered in the market?
If product ideas
successfully meet all of the criteria then product ideas can be chosen to move
forward to a product planning process. Those chosen as having the highest
priority should best meet all of the criteria with the least organizational
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times Newspaper
was having difficulty with its financial reporting and its payroll costs for
the financial area seemed high.
After spending a few weeks with the personnel in the
departments and reviewing operations, we felt like there was poor coordination
between the various accounting functions and that there was duplication of
effort. I was pondering an approach to address these challenges when I ran
across an American Management Association workbook on Standards of Performance.
It suggested that a job should be broken down into responsibilities that
related directly to organizational goals. Further it said that these
responsibilities should have standards set that related directly to an
employee’s job performance1. The article also suggested job appraisals should
be objective and directly related to the standards set.
One of the most basic employee needs is the need for security and this need is a key motivational
factor in the work environment. It seemed that the standards of performance
would be a good way to provide the company with a clear path to achieving its
goals while at the same time providing the employees with the ability to be
secure in their position if they met their standards of performance.
Clearly, implementing the standards of performance program
would be difficult. First, the employees were suspicious of any new program
that focused on job performance. Second, to implement the program meant that we
would have to sit down with each employee and understand how each task they
performed related to the department’s success and then set a mutually agreed
upon standard for each task.
The employees were set more at ease when they were told the standards
would be the basis for performance reviews and that standards would be mutually
agreed upon. During meetings with each of the employees, we found that these
individuals had a good feel of work that was being performed needlessly and of
how the departmental objectives could be met. The result of the exercise was a
group of employees that clearly understood their jobs and how to be successful
in the job by meeting the standards set for each task.
The implementation of the standards of performance program
resulted in a significant improvement in financial reporting and management of
the company’s financial assets. We also identified and eliminated information
gathering and reporting that was either duplicated or not needed at all.
Additionally, as folks left or retired, we found that we were doing about twice
the work more effectively with half the staff. We also found that the employees
had a real sense of security and wellbeing because they understood the specific
requirements to be successful in their jobs and received recognition as they
This program also allowed us to understand the value of each
job function and to establish benchmarks for pay rates that were meaningful to
the employees and to the company.
From that point forward, I used this standards of
performance program every opportunity I could. I felt like it worked for the
employees and the company.
I think the greatest standards of performance success
occurred at the Houston Chronicle. It was also the most difficult
implementation. In my areas of responsibility there were about 1,000 employees
and about 2500 independent contractors.
The Houston Chronicle was very successful and had (during
the same week I was named VP) just purchased the assets of the Houston Post,
leaving the Chronicle the only major newspaper in the nation’s fourth largest
city. The managers rightly felt like they had performed well enough to win a
difficult market battle. As a result these seasoned managers felt like a
standards of performance program would not bring benefits worth the efforts of
I felt like we had a lot of tough competition and that to
garner a greater market share we would have to introduce new products and be
very focused on organizational and financial goals. I really felt a standards
of performance program would help with the focus.
The managers didn’t share my optimism. Indeed the inertia
was so great that I had to tell the division heads that I would not approve any
performance reviews or salary adjustments if they were not accompanied by
standards of performance for the position being reviewed. I said that this rule
would go into effect in six months. Within six months the Houston Chronicle had
a standards of performance program for every position in the advertising,
circulation and marketing divisions.
To their credit, once the program was implemented, the
managers took it to the next level by including training classes that would
have to be completed for the individuals to hold their position and progress to
new, more challenging positions. Bonus programs were tied directly to the same
objectives as the standards of performance.
From the time of implementation to my departure seven years
later, revenues increased by 60% and company profits more than doubled. That
does not happen without folks who understand what must be done and are focused
on successful execution.
research has been done on determining what makes individuals reach higher levels
of productivity. The most renowned studies were done by Abraham Maslow and
resulted in Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. This hierarchy explains that
individuals first need to satisfy physiological needs (food, water, etc.)
before moving to higher levels of the hierarchy. The next levels; Safety,
Belonging, Esteem and, finally, Self Actualization were achieved in order and
only if the lower levels of the hierarchy were satisfied to some extent.
Herzberg used a similar approach to explain how individuals could be motivated
at work.His work can be related
to Maslow’s research by matching motivating factors in the work place with
Maslow’s hierarchy. Basic compensation can be related to the most basic
physiological needs. Benefits and job stability can be related to safety needs.
Company and employee sense of belonging can be related to belonging needs.
Recognition can fulfill esteem needs and employee self-direction can fulfill
has shown that employers that successfully employ Herzberg’s “Hygiene and
Motivation Factors” in the work place can have higher levels of productivity,
lower levels of turnover and employees with higher levels of self esteem at
work and home.
the basic survival needs have been addressed by compensation (the employee
accepted the job at the offered pay rate), safety and security needs are the
next to be addressed. Usually safety needs relate to job security and an
individual is more likely to feel secure if they feel they are performing as
expected. Here the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the manager to
clearly articulate how success on the job is achieved. An employee that has a
clear understanding of what is expected will likely perform up to those
expectations, which will, in turn, provide the manager with the results wanted
and an employee feeling secure in the knowledge that the performance
requirements are being met.
Directing a Sales Force
direction of a sales force requires clearly establishing the parameters of
success and insuring the sales staff is properly trained. The most difficult
part of a sales manager’s job is identifying the tasks that will lead to
success and measuring the level at which each sales person is performing those
tasks. Identifying sales responsibilities is critical. Those responsibilities
knowledge – can be determined through questionnaires administered after an
knowledge – can be determined through questionnaires administered after an
3)Sales volume –
For any business to be successful, a minimum sales volume must be attained and
can be broken down to minimum sales volume per sales person per sales period.
4)Sales Calls – To
reach needed sales volumes, sales calls have to be made. Most organizations
have statistics on number of calls made per successful sale that can be used as
a target for the sales staff.
development – To grow new customers added must exceed current customers that
satisfaction – This can be measured through customer surveys and customer
list can be longer and more complex, but it must be clear and objectively
measured. The sales manager and sales person must be able to look at the
metrics and arrive at the same conclusions regarding goal attainment. The list
of responsibilities should lend themselves to easily being incorporated into a
Standards of Performance program.
Motivating a Sales Force
motivating a sales force requires the recognition that sales people will
perform best when they can achieve the needs outlined by Maslow and Herzberg
through the sales process.
compensation is important and assures that individuals will be able to meet
their basic financial (and physiological) needs. This can be accomplished by
providing a base salary or a list of regular customers on which a commission is
paid.Commission programs can
provide basic income and incentivize sales people to find new customers as well.
Components of the incentive program can focus sales people to increase the number
of active customers per period or the revenue per customer per period.The basic salary and/or commission
should provide a living wage with the ability to provide an income equal to
successful sales people in other industries in the same market.
needs can be met through providing a reasonable amount of time for a sales
person to achieve assigned sales goals. Sales people like a challenge but, as
with all jobs, a new sales person will require an amount of time to become
productive. Most companies have statistics on the length of time required to
acquire sufficient product, company and customer knowledge to be successful.
Safety needs can also be met through certain benefit programs such as health
insurance and 401 (k) programs.
needs can be met through sales meetings and company wide meetings that create a
camaraderie that is supported throughout the company. Good sales managers will
recognize the importance of a sense of belonging and will work hard to insure
favoritism and unfair management practices do not impair team building.
and recognition can be accomplished through setting meaningful goals that are
achievable. This can be a part of the commission program that focuses on new
accounts, active customers per period, revenue per period per customer,
multiple products per customer per period and so on.Additional recognition programs for certain achievements can
be held monthly, quarterly or annually to further build esteem and recognition.
job promotions as a form of recognition should be used carefully. A good sales
person does not necessarily make a good sales manager. It may be desirable to
create several levels of sales positions if promotion is to be used as a form
can be accomplished by allowing sales people to help establish sales goals and
“stretch goals”, develop new sales approaches and participate in new product
design and pricing.
a manager, it is important to approach staff motivation with a process that
keeps a focus on the company and the sales staff.Programs should be designed within the company’s financial
wherewithal and in a staged approach. In other words, identifying
responsibilities and standards should be implemented before motivational
programs. Salaries and benefits should be within the company’s financial
capabilities and should be the first motivational/hygiene factors addressed.
a company already has a stable sales force but needs to improve productivity,
focus might be directed more to upgrading the standards of performance and
motivational/hygiene factors can be implemented at any time but should not
disrupt progress being made by the basic programs.These additional programs should be added when there is a
tangible benefit that accrues to the organization and there is minimal
disruption due to the implementation.
a successful sales force is critical to the success of most companies.Screening and choosing qualified
individuals and subsequent training is paramount.
screening and training, creating a successful sales team requires management to
spend the time to clearly understand what is needed for the company to be
successful and translate that to individual performance requirements.
Additionally, management must pay attention to the motivation and hygiene
factors that will make sales people want to come to work in the morning and
leave at the end of the day feeling good about their accomplishments and their
company will have a different set of challenges, and the approach to improving
sales productivity will be different.
a company chooses the right people, trains them and manages through a focus on
performance standards and hygiene factors, the chances for success are improved
dramatically. Additionally, the chances are increased that productivity will
continue to be high over the long term and that employee morale will be high
and turn over will be low.