It isn’t by accident that we borrowed the headline from Spencer Johnson’s very successful book, The One-Minute Manager. When the book was first published in the early ‘90’s, it became an instant guide for managers at all levels on how they could hone and improve their management skills.
Even as book sales soared the business and management landscape was changing. The researchers’ and engineers’ Internet became an everyperson’s everywhere communications channel. We changed from hierarchical organizations to flat sometimes intertwined organizations seemingly overnight. The flat organization reached out a new set of influences – employees, customers, suppliers, investors and communities.
Suddenly one-minute management shrunk to 10-second management.
Business in the always on, always visible era demands quick thinking and even quicker action. Especially when a company’s reputation and possible future hang in the balance. In this new environment, employees at every level suddenly have a new set of proactive responsibilities.
They must protect and enhance the company’s reputation.
At the same time, they must help management create new business models. Rather than simply propping up existing business models they have to contribute to the organization’s growth. They have to take an active role in helping the organization achieve radical innovation that often changes the parameters of competitive performance.
Not Your Job?
Many managers will say that their job is design products, promote the company, deliver the service, purchase the components…anything but change the company.
Part of your job is – or should be – to be aware of the changes around (inside and out) the organization and to interpret that change to management. To help effect change you have to become an activist that builds coalitions and leverages the strengths of people within the organization.
If you feel you’ll be walking on shaky ground you are most likely wrong.
If not, you’re in the wrong company.
Most of the CEOs we consult with complain about how difficult it is to change their organization. They find that change from the top down is extremely difficult.
Mike Armstrong former CEO of AT&T saw that changes needed to be made, pushed for the transitioning but it didn’t happen for him. The internal struggle for change was slow, painful, awkward.
Every U.S. President vows to overhaul, streamline and make government more efficient, more effective and more responsive to the citizenry…have you seen any improvements?
Maybe this time around !
The Comfort of Status Quo
People are comfortable with the status quo to the point they don’t even question it. Despite pronouncements, elaborate plans and dictates from the top, people continue down the same path.
Jack Welch formerly head of GE (and a hero of his time) didn’t use the chain of command approach in effecting change. He spent a lot of time with first and second tier employees helping them understand why a change in direction was in their best interest and ultimately the company’s best interest.
Many managers will continue to say this isn’t what they signed on for. Most don’t really believe Gary Hamel, author of Leading the Revolution. “Somewhere out there is a bullet with your company’s name on it,” he states. “You’re going to have to shoot first.”
And in the Internet world that shot can come from anywhere. Usually it is aimed directly at your organization’s reputation. Suddenly the pieces fit together. Suddenly you’re on the front line. Suddenly it becomes “your job.” With a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse your firm’s reputation can go from good to bad, strong to weak.
Your Reputation Assets
That’s because your company’s reputation is based on “assets:”
· quality of your products, services
· ability to innovate
· value as a long-term investment
· financial stability
· ability to attract, develop, retain talent
· use of corporate assets
· quality of management
None of these assets are firm or concrete.
They are soft and arbitrary.
Security analysts and accountants will often say that such an asset assessment is too irrational to be labeled as true assets. But these are the measures people use and rely on every day when making a decision on what products/services to buy, which company to join, firms to invest in or corporations they want in their communities.
The reputation you help promote and protect has a true dollar and cents value.
The Speed of Lost Value
A few years ago Emulex’s value sank by millions of dollars in a day when upstart InternetWire published a bogus news release.
Apple’s value tanked when a bogus “announcement” circulated that Jobs was dead.
Many good dotcoms were caught in the whirlpool of bad news/bad press on the failure of the on-line business community.
The cell phone/brain cancer scare cost Motorola billions in valuation.
Less spectacular but no less damaging are customer complaints regarding a firm’s customer service and support activities in on-line discussion groups and web communities.
Fortunately most companies have a reservoir of goodwill in the marketplace they can draw upon when necessary. Often when you least expect it, you’re going to need that reservoir in your 1-Minute Corporate Reputation Management tool bag.
Regardless of your title, one of your key functions is to understand the firm’s strategic positioning, develop brand and product promotion, interrelate with suppliers or channel partners, deal with employees and potential employees on a daily basis.
Many promotional activities fall short in this area because a lot of firms continue to departmentalize, compartmentalize the message development, distribution, monitor activity.
Corporate Reputation Reserve
As a result, if there is a core theme or set of themes to the messages it is often an accident. But without that core nothing can be put into the corporate reputation reserve.
“Intel Inside” defined the company and its products. Coca-Cola singularly devotes itself to its dedication to delivering a quality product to the consumer. Against a backdrop of environmental mishaps in the 1990s, Shell reshaped a gentler, more kind and more progressive image as a firm that is concerned about making the future better.
IBM has successfully reinvented itself and refocused its big blue army at least five different times in the past 20 years. From mainframe iron to PC friendly to software and finally to service and support. The company has tuned itself and its messages to the rapidly changing business marketplace.
Top-Down vs Bottom-Up
While AT&T still defines its multiple messages with layers of managers and semi-independent product groups; Sprint struggles in wireless communications. IBM became the small and large business services/support provider of choice. Welch’s dynamics of change and responsiveness message bubbled from the bottom up at GE. While Immelt has struggled to maintain that momentum, focus. John Chambers spreads the same level of consistency and urgency throughout Cisco (and its partners).
Global enterprises like Philips, Matsushita/Panasonic, Ericcson, Seimens, Pioneer and others are facing similar reputation management crises.
In the early part of the last century the railroads said they were in the railroad business. Airlines said they were in the transportation industry. Virgin said we are in the customer business so they fly planes, sell records and books, provide financial services and offer you soft drinks and cell phones.
Which corporate reputation is easier to build and protect? Which is harder to attack and surpass?
Wall of Protectionism
To a greater or lesser degree the same measurements hold true for your organization’s reputation.
The Internet tore down the walls of protectionism that companies often hid behind during most of the 20th century. It flattened the organization bringing customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders and regulators into the firm.
Managers today have to deal equally and effectively with all of these audiences. The better you communicate, the more and more openly you communicate, the better the reputation.
Broaden Vision, Drive Change
The constant challenge for management is to fight against narrowly defining the company because it limits the company’s reputation and the visions/goals of the stakeholders – employees, partners, customers and shareholders.
As a result, managers have to inspire people inside the company to take ownership of change inside the organization and become the advocates for radical innovation. This unbridled commitment to building a reputation as a responsive, revolutionary and responsible corporate entity; ensures that when the company encounters its 10-second reputation crisis the management team will have a strong and deep reservoir of organizational reputation to draw from.
The best 1-Minute Corporate Reputation Managers do more than write positioning and policy statements.
They help define and direct change.
Remember…it’s tough to hit a fast moving, pro-active target.