The Boss Is Back

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Innovation was the push for a few years.

October 01, 2002

 

Dean Horowitz, Publisher

Innovation was the push for a few years. Ideas were king, and many times ideas alone determined a company's market value. Today we want reliable results; growth in revenue and profitability is the requirement. With this shift, we hire different types of managers for our businesses. We want owners, we want bosses who get things done.

You do not have to be a publicly traded home builder to experience this shift. While the housing market remains one of the few bright spots in our national economy, many worry about the sustainability of this segment. We don't. We are confident, the economists are confident, and the demographers are confident as the next two decades' worth of demand for housing looks to be greater than current production. But as a country, with many uncertainties facing us, we have become cautious. Cautious means doing things with clear objectives and predictable measures. Risk, no longer a term associated with stretch goals, instead is something you want as little of as possible. Seize profits today is the new battle cry.

As you read this, Professional Builder is hosting its 10th annual Benchmark conference. When the Internet stock boom was exploding and innovation and risk were economic drivers, Benchmark focused on the same quality management practices as it does today. Back then, terms such as speed and out of the box were the buzzwords, but our goals were exactly the same: more profitable revenue as the result of a better-run organization.

The winners of this year's National Housing Quality Awards haven't changed their mission, vision and values as a result of a changing economy. The framework they put in place a few years ago is paying off today. They are recognized in these pages because they have achieved something extraordinary and are role models as a result. Their stories are relevant today and will be relevant tomorrow.

Today's best-selling business books focus on benchmarks, standards, accountability and a love of Jack Welch's ideas and practices. In contrast, the daily newspapers recount stories of CEO scams that covered up poor corporate performance. If these CEOs had run quality organizations, then arguably they would not be facing the reprimands for their actions that they are today. These leaders took advantage of stockholders, of employees, of suppliers. They left behind damaged trust without clear accountability.

The implications of this lost trust for businesses today is chilling. In every industry there is a return of the boss - a manager focused on results and totally averse to risk. While there is everything right and nothing wrong with the former, the latter stifles innovation and ensures the status quo.

So where is the compromise, the balance between results and reasonable risk? It's in the boss who can create collaborative work environments where shared accountability for results starts with supercharged buy-in on the overall mission. The balance is in the boss who can ensure that the right people are in the right positions with the responsibility for results and the authority to execute a project.

A few years ago, a strong job market meant that many bosses hired quickly to fill open spots and only hoped that they got the right people in place. Conventional wisdom was that it's hard to be choosy when there's a shortage of candidates. Today, the best people continue to be in great demand even in a job market full of qualified people looking for work. Those with the best skills, the best track records for delivering results and the healthiest respect for risk as a tool to deliver results are still in demand.

These people are, to borrow a phrase, "the new, new thing." They are the ones to lead your company, your projects and, ultimately, this economy.

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