Kiss Theory Good Bye

Title : Kiss Theory Good Bye
Author : Bob Prosen
Publisher : Gold Pen Publishing, Dallas, TX
ISBN : 0-9776848-0-6
Pages : 232

The Big Idea

The business literature over the years has been bombarded with a good number of paradigms—some rudimentary and others self-aggrandizing—that more often than not stringently tell management what to do in order to make progress. Though theories have by far aided leaders and corporate executives on their way to operational success, most books have not conscientiously explored and disentangled the complex process of execution.

It is at this point that Bob Prosen slots in his brilliant opus, Kiss Theory Good Bye, where he provides a clear-cut how-to and step-by-step instructions for obtaining unprecedented results in the organization. By utilizing proven tools and actions that, when appropriately employed, facilitate growth and profitability, the author propels companies to hit their targets and get ahead in the most practicable, trouble-free kind of way. This book is a ground-breaking book in that it allows the reader easy comprehension and application of the managerial mantra, Kiss Theory Good By. The book demonstrates that there is purpose in going back to the basics, and that which appeared all too trivial, will in fact work no matter at what stage the company finds itself in.

The Clutter that Conjecture Creates

Accepted wisdom is indeed a manager-traveller’s guide to the islands of competitive advantage and the mountains of profitability. But when there is too much of rigorous thinking, when there is a hefty framework of watertight philosophies, often managers/leaders shroud their natural instincts and miss the part where answers were emphatically under their noses. As a result, there is a glaring gap between vision and reality, or between mapping the journey and arriving at the destination.

The book deftly illustrates that what managers’ need are not byzantine schemas smothered with grand business plans that often take too long to achieve results. But rather, they need a pragmatic toolkit or a roadmap to guide them in carrying out their tactics and successfully achieving their financial and operating objectives. In a world that is constantly in a state of flux, what they need are straightforward answers that can be deployed without delay to augment their organization’s performance.

Consider the following queries as related in the book:

  • Does your company spend too much time planning and too little time executing those plans?
  • Are you frustrated because too many decisions end up on your desk?
  • Are you concerned about finding and retaining top talent?
  • Do you spend too much time following up to ensure things get done?
  • Do you want to increase accountability so you get the results you need?
  • Are you concerned about consistently meetings your operational and financial commitments?
  • Do you wonder whether your entire workforce is fully focused on meeting your organization’s top objectives?
  • Does your company use a defined process to reduce inefficiency and eliminate work?
  • Do you receive too much date instead of the information you need to make accurate, timely decisions?

If the answer to these questions is a resounding, “Yes!” then the book is the valuable way out, as it provides a way to pro-actively free an organization from the grips of stasis and the shackles of inefficiency.

One of the more compelling parts of the book is Prosen's identification of the "Five Crippling Habits" in any company that can delay or offset long-term sustainability and profits.

Five Crippling Habits that Attack from Within

1. Absence of Clear Directives

Sometimes, managers and leaders spend so much time giving so many directives, that none are clear and by the time they know it, their desks are inundated with a myriad responsibilities they can no longer commit to and that their staff, cannot either due to pressure and confusion from impulsively delegated tasks without prioritization. Prosen stressed that it doesn’t work this way: there cannot be too many goals with one shot no matter how powerful that shot is. In this scenario, employees are either misled or snowed under the bulk of work and as such, they can neither stay focused on the company’s most important objectives nor determine what must be accomplished first.

2. Lack of Accountability

Being able to differentiate between excuses and real problems is an essential part of management, according to Prosen. Managers must measure results against goals. Interestingly, Prosen states in the book that not only must employees be measured, but managers along with everyone else in the company, must be held accountable. Prosen stressed that being responsible to people, not for them is key in accountability. It is also just as important to be able to differentiate between excuses and real problems, to help remove any roadblocks to results.

3. Rationalizing Inferior Performance

Analyzing mistakes or flaws in any business process enables managers to continue to identify areas for improvement. In short, it affords them a sharper understanding of the operational trajectory, taking into account what must be retained, what must be improved, and what must undergo urgent metamorphosis.
The author held that fashioning defensives, which substantiate inferior performance only plunge the organization into deeper malaise. It takes away time for quiet introspection of solutions and derails the organization’s momentum for picking itself up and going back on the race.

4. Planning in Lieu of Action

A lot of top business officials consume their precious resources on planning, hiring consultants whom they hope will anchor their organizations to soaring heights and skyrocketing productivity rates. Yet little do these managers/leaders know that delivery and execution matter more than the detailed reports and business sketches of how the organization ought to proceed. The plan is a systematic way of putting things in perspective, but business leaders cannot attain results where actions are lacking.

Prosen stressed that the most effective plans are those with specific measurable goals that can be easily evaluated on an ongoing monthly basis. He also advocates long-range plans covering three to five years as useful for setting and directing communication to senior management.

5. Aversion to Risk and Change

Very few managers are adept at affecting change as they themselves hardly ever embrace it with conviction. Often managers consume an enormous amount of time remaining in their comfort zones .A lot of organizations experience the low ebb of their business objectives primarily because their leaders do not possess the temerity to dare the different. They would more willingly navigate customary or familiar territory that had always assured them of the same (yet rather marginal) outcomes than try a newer or fresher approach that could have spelled a difference in profitability had they calculated the risks and overcome their trepidation.

Many leaders perceive the pain of change to be more damaging than the pain of maintaining the status quo. As an offshoot, companies are slow in trying to revolutionize themselves and when they do, it is often too late.

The Opposite Side of the Coin:
Five Attributes of Highly Profitable Companies

Bob Prosen related that years of hands-on experience with and mentoring of companies and a number of non-profit organizations have enabled him to devise a practical and highly actionable set of behaviors for organizational success, which he dubbed as the Five Attributes of Highly Profitable Companies. These include:

1. Superior Leadership

This entails a relentless pursuit of vision and results. Superior leaders have exceptionally learned by heart, the intricacies of management. These leaders have resolute determination and an unassailable passion for outcomes. They strive to be unfailingly objective and know how to unravel truths. They recognize what their subordinates do and reward them accordingly. They think ahead, talk less, and act almost instantaneously on every malfunction.

Also, superior leaders are:

  • Instigators of Loyalty and Trust—they meet commitments with uncompromising integrity, delegate with confidence, and empower people to claim ownership of their outputs;
  • Employers of Smarter People—because their egos are firmly intact, superior leaders hire people smarter than them and recognize the power in building an outstanding team of diverse and talented individuals. They place the right people in the right positions so they never have to worry about recurrent tutoring that obviously disrupts progress;
  • Initiators of a Dynamic Corporate Culture—they emphasize professional ethics and morals and champion exemplary employee performance. They root out office politics that often trounces the spirit of teamwork and foster an atmosphere not of competition but of collaboration. They align the entire workforce to meet the organization’s top objectives and maintain a holistic view of the business. They “open their doors” and provide an avenue for open and compelling dialogue with their employees.
  • Master Communicators—they communicate and integrate objectives with clarity, honesty and candor. They have the ability to listen and engage in reflective thinking before making comments or criticisms. They articulate goals explicitly and do not confound their people with over-reaching concepts.

Reality Check # 1: Does Your Leadership Team Measure Up?
For managers and top executives, here are essential questions, which, Prosen maintained, you need to ask yourselves in assessing the effectiveness of your leadership team:

  • Does the company have the right top objectives supported by the entire senior management team?
  • Are you keeping people focused on achieving the company’s top objectives?
  • Are you managing people too closely?
  • Have you hired the right people?
  • Have you eliminated ineffective meetings and implemented conversation for action?
  • Have you made results visible, made people own their output, and utilized a system that rewards results not effort?
  • Are you helping people prioritize actions in alignment with the company’s most important objectives?

2. Sales Effectiveness

Sales effectiveness is the company’s lifeline. A vigorous revenue stream is one of the bare essentials a company must have power over for its survival. Since sales is one of the most objective aspects of business measurable by numbers, deteriorating sales performance may predictably signal the demise of functional operations. As such, managers/leaders must have the knack for constructing realistic forecasts that aid in consistently meeting the sales plan and its targets.

Creating a strong sales team is both a science and an art, combining systemic analysis with creative strategy. A winning line-up of sales people practices diligence in identifying the right profitable customers and in calculating their sense of urgency to buy.

By closely adhering to crucial sales metrics such as number of sales calls with decision makers, number of proposals delivered, number of signed contracts, and year-to-date revenue and margin comparisons with the sales plan, sales managers are able to establish accountabilities and robust quotas while maintaining ethical standards for their people. They prioritize the value of marketing, adroitly assess probabilities of success at different stages of the selling process and don’t clutter the pipeline with opportunities that have low prospects of a sure hit.

Reality Check # 2: Does Your Sales Team Measure Up?
Managers/leaders should bear these key questions in mind:

  • Does my sales team consistently meet or exceed revenue and margin goals?
  • Does my sales team focus on selling the company’s existing products and services and minimize one-offs?
  • Does my sales team enter accurate and timely sales data into the company’s reporting systems?
  • Does my sales team know the competition in-depth and how to attack it?
  • Do I involve senior management to help close important new business and pursue the business we can win?
  • Do I track products sold to ensure that the correct product mix and associated margins are being achieved?
  • Do I regularly check the accuracy of our pipeline forecast by comparing what was projected against what was closed?

3. Operational Excellence

One of the secret recipes for organizational success is the company’s exceptional capability to always be cost-efficient, which is done through continuous process improvement, forecasting performance, and isolating areas that negatively impact on cash flows. Managing costs is a balancing act and as such, it must be done with utmost rationality to ensure that all costs are unambiguously tied to the business plan. The major task is to know the company’s cost structure by periodically carrying out cost accounting. Cost accounting allows companies to grow its cost structure in the right proportion and focus its energies on winning.

In relation to this, Bob Prosen stressed that companies ought to invest in their financial accounting systems because markets and regulatory requirements change often even without their knowing. With an accounting system tailored to the business, managers can immediately adjust costs with confidence and remain competitive. An effective accounting system would enable a company to scale its growth, thereby increasing margins with revenue.

Reality Check #3: Does Your Operational Excellence Measure Up?

  • Does the company receive accurate and timely cost reports that promote effective decision-making?
  • Do we have a deep understanding of our competitors’ cost structure and can we respond quickly to changes?
  • Do we effectively manage employee productivity?
  • Do we have a defined process for eliminating rework and inefficiencies?
  • Are deviations from the costing plan analyzed and thereafter avoided?
  • Are we able to effectively manage projects within the time and budget allotted?

4. Financial Management

Financial management drives the company’s economic engine. It is according to Prosen, "about perspective—providing context for decisions, holistic solutions, alternatives, and ideas for positive change." Financial management also hubs on control and provides companies with the required checks and balances to understand and monitor fiscal performance.

The author enumerated some of the most decisive functions lodged under financial management. These include:

  • Acquisition authority—who can commit the company to purchase
  • Contract authority—who can sign for the company
  • Capital allocation—who decides where and when to make capital investments
  • Financial justification—how investments are approved
  • Audit process—when and how to verify that investments yield committed returns
  • Checks and balances—ensures that internal financial functions are separated adequately to avoid loss and embezzlement

Reality Check #4: Does Your Finance Team Measure Up?

In evaluating the competence of your fiscal experts, Prosen indicated that managers/leaders must ask if the finance team:

  • Proactively provides specific business recommendations to improve company profitability?
  • Accurately captures results, converts data into information, and provides reports that enable effective decision-making?
  • Always operates with utmost integrity?
  • Provides real-time data analysis?
  • Have a deep understanding of the business that enables them to make qualified, actionable budgetary recommendations?
  • Provides early-warning information by tracking key internal and external fiscal indicators?
  • Continually negotiate better terms on all contracts, leases, and vendor agreements?

5. Customer Loyalty

No company treads the failure curve when it devotedly champions customer service. Managers/leaders must not disregard the adage, “The customer is always right.” By applying this focus in an organization, a company pro-actively responds to the customer and therefore builds and maintains an atmosphere of customer loyalty. No matter what the issue with the customer, Prosen details the company's responsibility to meet the customer on his/her field and be responsive to their needs. The book advocates going above and beyond in all your efforts with meeting customer challenges or issues that might arise.

In this regard, Prosen argued that customer satisfaction surveys must be institutionalized to encourage constructive feedback and other customer responses. This greatly helps companies weigh up their product options and strategies. Prosen advocates to always exceed customer expectations. If there are product slip-ups, effective managers do not respond to customers with false promises but rather pro-actively tackle any issue with the bottom-line goal of customer loyalty and long-term satisfaction.

Customer Service Questions #5: Does Your Customer Service and Support Measure Up?

  • Do we consistently underpromise and overdeliver?
  • Do we resolve customer problems quickly?
  • Do we take all customer feedback seriously?
  • Do we have a mechanism to reduce problem recurrence?
  • Do we consistently measure customer loyalty and improve results?
  • Do we continually explain ongoing value to existing customers?
  • Do we have a clear and concise value proposition based on consumer demand?
  • Will all our customers continue buying from us and do they give us testimonials and references?
  • Do we hire sales and service people with the unyielding commitment to service?

The Ten Commandments of Superb Execution

  1. Choose your direction—where exactly is the company headed? Start developing/refining concise mission statements
  2. Determine your competitive advantage—tap your intellectual capital and engage in valuation processes. Know what you know and how much you know of it.
  3. Assess if you’ve hired the right people for the right position—do away with impetuous recruitment. The candidates track record and what she/he knows matter more than whom she/he knows
  4. Anticipate and Analyze Risks—scan the competitive playing field. Has it been levelled? Are you in the zone or lagging behind? What could possibly result from one of your competitors’ moves? Do you have a contingency plan?
  5. Do not linger on plans—once a plan is concocted, do not hang around. Execute right off the bat and secure it with the appropriate budget and individual objectives.
  6. Establish an accountability-based culture—make people feel important by recognizing their own niche in the corporate world and giving them full reign of their outputs. Slot in due dates and progress meetings and be hard on outcomes, not on people.
  7. Discard damaging political behaviour—practice open debate followed by agreement, not compromise. Curtail the building of turfs and internal boundaries.
  8. Communicate effectively—clarify information, talk in person, and open your doors. Free your ideas and encourage criticisms from subordinates. People know what is important because you tell them directly and unambiguously. Think before speaking. Know the little people. Coach patiently.
  9. Measure what matters most—complacency must be ruled out. Focus on the critical few, not the important many. Measures are only the means to results. Craft objective metrics designed to monitor your own progress/performance.
  10. Hold your ground and never let it go—never pull away from your mission. Sustain your sovereignty with transparency and unparalleled responsibility. Be fair. Never provoke incitement and never give in to its challenge. Protect your stance by finding and seeing yourself in others and setting good examples.

Bob Prosen accentuated that companies would do well by doing good—following these commandments and finding purpose and meaning in their work. Profitability can be directly linked to overcoming the crippling habits and applying the attributes of superior leadership. The book is a manual for all business leaders or entrepreneurs who want to succeed long-term in growing their business and exceeding their initial expectations.