Managing Like the State of Connecticut

connecticut-flagI cannot remember a time when government had such a deep credibility problem. The juxtaposition of reality TV actors with long-time incumbents reciting the same tired lines has energized the electorate. But, energized to do what? As one who follows Connecticut politics closely, I am exasperated with the leadership being modeled by our legislators. Ironically, I observe many businesses that mirror this style; albeit on a smaller scale. What follows, are two leadership patterns that make me cringe the most:

Murky Intentions and No Measures: Last week I studied SB 1, a huge bill titled to suggest it paves the way for Connecticut becoming an Innovation Center.  The bill talks about creating a new quasi-agency that performs functions already are performed by existing agencies, renovating communities to provide a lifestyle attractive to younger professionals, and expanding access to technical education programs. Nowhere does the bill state the results these costly changes are intended to create and the measures the State can use to evaluate success. The logic is that if we copy the activities and environment of successful innovation centers, we will become innovators. The question is whether these investments address the critical barriers to innovation.   For example, does beautifying our communities change young professionals’ behavior if they still cannot afford the cost of living in Connecticut? The lack of measures eliminates accountability and explains why government programs never die.

Businesses can also launch projects without clear intentions.  It is common for managers who are feeling strapped for cash to direct their sales force to get more sales. A sale is the result of a customer identifying a need that your product can satisfy. There are many obstacles that can prevent sales and most of them are outside the control of a salesperson.  Weak products, noncompetitive pricing, ineffective marketing, and lack of sales productivity can all be a problem. Without measures that clarify where issues lie, sales initiatives can fall flat and frustrate an organization.

Allocating Inadequate Resources to Be Successful: Connecticut has many unfunded mandates that direct agencies to take an action without identifying where the resources will come from to carry out the act. This can be an environmental regulation where the agency lacks equipment or expertise to consistently enforce a new regulation or a call center that has been tasked to deliver a new customer service without clarifying the existing services to be discontinued.

Resource allocation is the most common reason I observe for strategic plans failing in small businesses. The underlying cause is often that executives lack clarity on how their human resources are being spent. Executives will assume a staff can juggle a key initiative without delegating at least some activities tied to customer product and service delivery.  The result is that businesses miss opportunities to grow due to an inability to adequately identify the tactics that will obtain the goal.

As always, feel free to comment. Please take a deep breath and stay engaged in the electoral process.

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