Sometimes we can fixate on the frustrating details in life and forget about the majority of things that go smoothly. Well, this is another one of those times. Seth Godin is on the same page (at least he was a few years ago…still funny).

In my brief career so far I have had the opportunity to work across industries spanning from health care to mining, across North America and Europe, in Fortune 100 corporations and start-ups with zero revenue. All of these organizations are somewhere on the scale of maturity from seeking integrity to applying innovation. Yes, there is a big world out there I haven’t seen yet; at the same time I’m ready to make some sweeping generalizations based on what I have experienced so far. Before you start hanging reprints of the latest HBR cover article on crowdsourced innovation at the water cooler or ordering a box of your new CEO’s favorite book for the team to read, take an honest inventory of your business’ capability in the following areas. Fix these, and you’ll be a hero.

6 basic capabilities that are broken in your business

  1. Project Management – One big reason that ISO 9000, CMMI, and other standards of organizational maturity/rigor fell out of fashion is that adding administrative oversight doesn’t guarantee getting anything done. No matter how many PMP, PhD, MBA, or MD you have in the organization, if the team can’t agree the scope in advance, hold each other accountable to a budget and timeline, or be willing to scrap projects and swap out people who aren’t performing, project management will stay broken in your business.
  2. IT that works and helps people work together – most internal IT/Helpdesk groups would never survive if their “customers” paid for the services directly. This is one area where large and small companies should always act like a start-up: use “best of breed” apps (find lists at listlyheadstartup or weusethat) rather than enterprise platforms that do many things poorly.
  3. Presentation Skills – we have all fallen asleep or taken refuge in our smartphones during terrible presentations so I don’t need a detailed description here. My advice is first to brush up on your own presentation skills, no matter how good you think you are, and then to proactively help other people who struggle and might not ask for coaching. Two basic rules: first compose your message from the audience’s point of view, and then watch great TED talks to learn how to use visuals and engage your audience,
  4. Meeting Etiquette – Read more about the 6 rules of meeting etiquette in my recent rant.
  5. Leadership Development Programs – There are so many ways to get this wrong internally, I won’t even start to make a list. My advice here is to treat leadership development like any other specialized professional skill: outsource the strategic, high-leverage work to groups that do leadership development as their core business, like business schools and executive coaches.
  6. Onboarding New Hires – fans of Dale Carnegie know how important first impressions are. Yet we somehow keep new employees in the dark and force them to use their own initiative to ask questions about their responsibilities, org structure, company priorities, even where they sit and the names of the other people in the office. Take the time to set up an easily navigated folder/webpage with essential information and schedule a phone call the week before a new hire starts for Q&A to help establish a relationship and close gaps in information.
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