This guest blog is from Brad Stimmel. Brad Stimmel is the retired CEO of Ascendum Machinery. He was also the President of the Volvo Dealer Advisory Council for 10 years. In addition, he was a 15 year member of the Executive Forum group that provided updates twice per year for studies in Executive Management led by the International Negotiation & Management Co. (INM). His rich experience and expertise brought about this writing on information stagnation.
Prior to this, Brad worked with 4 other dealers that represented major OEM’s such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, and Ingersoll Rand. During his career he has served in various roles – Sales Representative, Service and Parts Manager, Remanufacturing Center Manager, Branch Manager, Regional Manager, and VP & General Manager. He has been in the construction and industrial equipment business for over 43 years serving always at the dealership level.
Brad Stimmel holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering from North Carolina State University and an International Negotiation and Marketing degree from the Executive Management Institute.
Today’s “Digital Information Transition” is well underway for all equipment dealers willing to take the big step. Once dealer leadership has embraced it, all operations have more current information than ever before. Many forward planning dealers have made great use of current technology to make better decisions that can leapfrog the past costly mistakes caused by delays in data collection and reports. Most of the time, in the past the mistakes were identified long after the time to correct them had passed by. If you have been around the business for a long length of time, then you know in the past that some reports or even financials were created monthly, quarterly, annually, or not available at all. The ERP systems of today have evolved rapidly. More information is available on a real time basis. Drilling down into data is instantaneous. Dashboards are available by individual responsibility level. Let us name this “Digital Awareness”.
Congratulations if your top management has embraced Digital Awareness. Sadly, many have yet to make the move. In some cases, this procrastination is appropriate. This paper is written for those that are already making the digital transition and may be working to make the best use of this new powerhouse of current information.
Many of us remember the past times when the cliche “Analysis Paralysis” was used to describe spreadsheets of data that were historical in nature and caused a pause in action but no real current impactful corrective change at the operational level.
So, what are the pitfalls of Digital Awareness. Sometimes the free and easy access to real-time reports create an avalanche of graphs, comparisons, complex information communication, unrelatable information, misunderstandings, and false reports due to wrongly organized analysis. This will now occur at all levels of the organization. Sometimes the reports are created by the finance department and delivered to operational managers with not clear expectation of the decision needed to avoid mistakes or worse, no training as to what the graph even represents.
Now enters “Information Stagnation”. The typical manager is faced with daily tasks that occupy most of his time and thoughts. They have years of experience with real-time solutions that create customer and employee satisfaction, and these events happen every hour. After all this has always been their primary objective. There is little time left to work on improving company efficiency by acting on the new current information. This will require strategic planning and complete understanding of what is indicated by the data presented. The data is available with high accuracy and floods the computer daily. Top managers of the company are likewise flooded with reports covering possibly all stores, or all departments, all inventories, all employee performance measure, or all financial metrics. This overload is eventually eliminated by the employees who ignore the redundant or misunderstood report and send it to the digital basement. Not because of complacency but just a self-defense mechanism. The skilled employee goes back to what is familiar and comfortable based on the many years of experience they have collected over their career.
Is there a solution? Yes, but they are not easy steps to take.
First, do not let the CEO, CFO, or CIO embrace the temptation creating reports and force feeding the departments with an avalanche of data analysis. I recently learned of a CFO that was exuberant about the capabilities of the new digital transition and created hundreds of graphical reports that were sent out to the managers. That CFO quickly realized that she had created information stagnation and set about ways to start correcting her mistake.
So, follow some simple steps. The first step is to create a brief and simple set of measurable objectives for each main area of the company at the executive level. Then communicate these to each employee that has the responsibility to impact or improve these objectives. Of course, they should be broken down by department. Next, create an orientation presentation that fosters trust in the new digital awareness data. TRUST is the key word here. The data must be clear, easy to read and pertinent to each person’s role. Since communication at this point is critical, ask for follow up written confirmation of understanding of the objectives and the reports, dashboards, or graphs. Most of the time this can be best completed with a task force of current experienced employees. A team discussion is best and can be a good use of virtual meeting technology. But if the company is large, a senior Digital Implementation Manager might be appropriate. The new position will need to be a person that possesses good people skills and strong technical knowledge of the operations and the software. This should come from within the company. The primary objective will be how to best facilitate the transition and engagement.
The next step is leadership. To prevent future “information stagnation” ongoing, executive leadership should create robust follow up communication measures with all levels to identify and celebrate successful objective completion. This is the most difficult step because it requires the executive dedication of time and resources to accomplish. Also, the intestinal fortitude to be continuously adapting and communicating the objectives and its measurable results as they are continuously evolving. This is the step that will cause meaningful results improvement short and long term. But each company will have to create its own methods to do this based on the organization circumstances. Each executive manager should analyze the company’s true culture and then act. Not doing this will cause the company to fall back to information stagnation in the future.
I spoke recently to a CEO of a large dealer that has been doing this for over three years with success but exclaimed to me that it is an ongoing evolution of subtle change and reinforcement.
Best of luck as you venture on this journey.
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