Volume 2, Number 6 - June 8, 2004

For many companies, innovation is the only way to continuously retain competitive advantage. Many manufacturers have engineering resources dedicated to improving products. Whether driven internally or by the market, most of us try to better align our products with emerging market demands. But what resources do we dedicate to making our company better aligned?

Wal-Mart and Dell are successful, not because of product innovation, but because of process innovation. The advent of TIVO and 100s of cable/satellite channels is necessitating innovation in advertising. Design is a critical factor in the success of many products, often more so than functionality. How does your company plan for the changing demographics of baby boomers in the United States and the growing economic power of the Asian markets? Will RFID change your market? Will you lead, follow, or get lost in the dust?

While product innovation is important, it is equally important that you invest time and effort in keeping your company vibrant. Who is responsible for leading the innovation of your company? Make it a priority, while you can. Others are working on it.

Congrats also to Art Koch, who recently accepted a key management position with his former employer, A. O. Smith. Why is that important to you? Because it serves as a reminder that sometimes the best resources are the good employees who left, gained education and experience elsewhere, and are willing to bring that expertise back to help you move your company forward.

Some of you are missing experienced key people because of the active duty status of a military reserve unit. Some of you may be missing integral employees while they are out under the Family and Medical Leave Act. You had little notice, little time to prepare, as did they. Did you have a back-up plan in place? Look around at your key people. Any of them could leave on short notice. It is important to have a succession plan for each of them. Taking it on yourself and just working even more hours is not the best answer for your company, or for you.

First, identify your key employees by name, and don’t forget your own. Then for each, list the primary roles they fulfill. Discuss with each of them how those roles can best be satisfied in their absence. Expect them to have valuable input about how their contribution could best be accomplished during their absence. Do not overlook the value of their input, and do not overlook the importance of contingency manpower planning.

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.
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