The Sunday Times on the Web Business
12th July 1998

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Plus | Sports |
Mirror Magazine

Front Page
Mirror Magazine

Get Results, Not Excuses

Eliminating excuses from the workplace.

Managers often ask "How will we know whether a person is giving us a legitimate reason or if he is just making a lame excuse?". This question assumes that to get rid of excuses, you must be able to differentiate a reason from an excuse. What is the difference between a reason and an excuse?

Suppose you manage the following individuals given the situation listed below, would you conclude that the explanation each person gives is a reason, an excuse, or not clear (that is, thereís not enough information to decide)?

Mark is 45 minutes late for work. You ask him where he's been, and he responds that he was held up in traffic due to an auto accident.

David missed an important meeting today. His wife called to say that he has flu and won't be coming to work.

Cheryl informs you that her work team is behind schedule due to the sudden and unexpected resignation of two of its four members.

If you answered these three questions like most people, you probably chose "not clear" in each case. This blurring of the boundaries between reasons and excuses is precisely what happens in our companies , only on a much larger scale. In the context of the work place , the confusion between the two multiplies exponentially.

As the number of employees , mangers , departments , divisions , processes, systems and functions increases, so does the opportunity for excuse-making.

Subsequently, excuses run rampant in our companies , causing extensive damage to the bottom line. Not overnight, of course , because the damage is difficult to detect from day to day , just as it is difficult to see cancer grow from one day to the next. But measured in months and years, the damage progresses just as surely as cancer grows; and as with cancer , so with excuses- if the growth of the problem isn't checked, it will, over time, virtually destroy the body on which it feeds.

Eliminating excuses in our companies requires a total redefinition of the problem, an approach from an entirely different perspective, the consequence of which is that it allows us to work on the elimination of excuse-making in a powerfully new way.

Waging a battle. Recognising that excuses are indeed a problem is the first half of the battle. Once that is accomplished, the remedy is not all that far away. Essentially , this remedy consists of five steps.

The commitment step. To win in today's economy, you must be committed to making your values statement the guiding light for action in your company, even more so than your vision and mission statements. Especially, the values statement that you must commit to is to become excuse-free.

The diagnostic step .Your company is made up of three distinct components : the organisational structure, the process and the people. The organisational component of a corporation is literally the way the company is organised. It is the organisational flow chart, The processes are the various systems used by the company to accomplish necessary tasks. The people of course are individuals who fill the positions within the company.

Technically speaking , the organisational and process components of your company can't make excuses; only people can do that. But the organisational processes can have built-in weaknesses that encourage excuse-making, just as a weakened immune system allows viruses to spread through the body. As you examine your organisational structure and your processes, you aren't really looking for excuses, but rather for the weakened condition-the context- in which excuses happen.

To get rid of excuses, you must first get rid of the reasons why people make them. You must implement a systematic approach to change your company into anextraordinary organisation. So the rule is: Never start your diagnosis at the "people" level. You can't know which excuses are related to individuals until you know which one results from organisation and the processes.

The key to accurate diagnosis of anything that is intangible and subjective is to look at it from many different angles as possible. Upper management, for example will see something from one prospective, middle management from quite another and the line workers from still another.

The integration step. Ridding your company of excuses is your primary task. That process begins and ends in leadership. It cannot be accomplished without the right players. If that means intervention is necessary to train, position, or replace certain persons , then that's what must be done. Every company, large or small, works on various ways of improving its organisation, its processes, and its people. Most companies have vision statement.

But very few companies work to integrate all of these into a unified system. To do so is the point of the integration step. When hiring, for example, do you screen people against backdrop of excuse making? Do you ask questions that relate to their personal values to see if they are consistent or inconsistent with being excuse- free?

A company whose value statement to become excuse-free is not integrated into its organisation, processes, and people is like one team in a tug-of-war match in which each person on the team is tugging in different direction. The team isn't pulling together. Any competitor with a more co-ordinated effort will almost surely win.

In contrast, the company that integrates the goal to become excuse-free into its entire system will work as a unit and overpower any company that pays little attention to this issue.

World Executive Digest.

Motivation. Motivating people in the work place today means getting them to buy-in to change by helping them see what value the change has for them as individuals.

Establishment of accountabilities and key performance indicators . Generally, people are starting to understand the importance of defining three to five key indicators for the company. What hasn't yet been accomplished is applying the same concept to each employee. The goal is to have three to five key indicators for each employee that serve as his or her accountabilities.

Companies that begin to tie their employees' accountabilities and key indicators into employee behaviour will discover two distinct benefits. They will be changing employee behaviour, which is the goal of accountabilities in the work place. And, they will not limit employee performance by putting a ceiling on whatever the task accomplished. Instead , workers will have the flexibility to adopt as needed, as long as the emphasis is on their excuse-free behaviour.

Bench making. If you want to improve something, you must measure it. What bench making does is set a methodology for measuring the progress of any change effort you wish to undertake.

To know whether or not the factors for which a person is held accountable have been achieved, you must periodically measure those factors.

Otherwise you leave too much to subjective interpretation. And this become a breeding ground for conflict , passing of responsibilities , projection of blame, and all the other excuse-related behaviour.

Coaching. Finding the time to properly coach individuals is a very difficult challenge for managers today, given the flattening of management structures and increase in the ratio of employees to managers. Part of the reason for the difficulty, however, is that coaching sessions are too often based on "telling" rather than on facilitation.

Recognition. When a company succeeds in implementing excuse -free behaviour, a celebration is clearly in order. Keeping in mind that the celebration may have to be individually tailored, let's not forget that implementation without some type of reward is like winning an Olympic marathon and not getting a gold medal.

In the end , the power to implement excuse-free behaviour rests with the employees and not with management. The goal of everyone in any organisation should be to empower employees in that organisation. That goal can be reached through excuse-free behaviour.

(World Executive's Digest)

Industrial relations forum

Question: - In my company we employ about 15 unskilled workers on a casual basis. Their services are broken every six months. We re-employ them after two weeks break in service. We have practised this system for the last two years. Will they have a claim for permanent employment?

Answer: - Under the existing law they cannot have a claim for permanent employment. However, your casuals are entitled to Provident Fund Benefits if they have been employed for a long period. Although you have no legal obligation to make them permanent, you cannot terminate their services if they have completed one-year's service, and if employed for 180 days or more, during that year under the Termination of Employment (Special Provisions) Act of 1971. This provision will not apply to disciplinary termination and Employers who employ less than 15 workers.

Question: Are Tea Break and Lunch Break compulsory at mercantile Establishments?

Answer: - Your employees are coming under the Shop at Office Employees Act. It does not refer as tea break and lunch break but if an employee works between 11.00 A.M. to 2.00 P.M. or if they work between 7.00 P.M. to 10.00 P.M. they should be allowed an interval of one hour between these hours for rest or a meal. Further, if they are employed between 4.00 P.M. to 6.00 P.M, they should be allowed an interval of half an hour between those hours for rest or a meal.

Question: Is short leave compulsory at Mercantile establishments & if so its frequency per month?

Answer: - There is no legal requirements to grant short leave.

Question: One of our drivers has driven a company vehicle without checking the engine oil causing an engine repair. Can I recover the cost of this repair from his salary in instalments?

Answer: - You can recover the cost if he is willing to pay it. However, you cannot recover it from his salary without his written consent. The Shop and Office Employees Act and the Wages Board Ordinance specify authorised deductions from the salary and the employer has no authority to deduct any other payment without the consent of the employee.

Question: I am employing females in my factory on shift basis which includes a night shift From 10.00 P.M. to 6.00 A.M. What are the conditions applicable to employment of fmales during night shifts?

Answer: - Females in your factory should be employed in terms of the provisions of Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act No 47 of 1956. Accordingly the requirements are as follows.

(a) Written consent of the female worker and the written approval of the Commissioner of Labour.

(b) If the female worker has been employed during 6.00 A.M. and 6.00 P.M., she cannot be employed in the night on the same day.

(c) For night work she should be paid one and a half times of the normal payment.

(d) They should be provided with rest rooms and refreshments and a female warden should be appointed to look after the welfare of female workers.

(e) The maximum number of days of night work should not exceed 10 days during a month.

Question: An employee in our company assaulted his manager and on a complaint made by the manager, the police charged him in the magistrates court. What is the course of action I should take against this employee?

Answer: - The employee should be interdicted and disciplinary action should be taken against him as the charge is of a serious nature. You need not await the court decision and you have the right to take disciplinary action against him under your disciplinary procedure and impose any punishment including dismissal.

Harvard team here to help with policy advocacy

Two Harvard Business School experts are now in Sri Lanka in connection with a study titled Sri Lanka's Competitiveness which forms an integral part of the work plan to provide assistance to Sri Lanka in the Policy Advocacy Area until the year 2000.

The study will review Sri Lanka's competitive advantage based on better market learning, improved innovation, and cluster corporation. The Harvard Graduate School Of Business having recognized professor Michael Porter's recent book on 'Competitiveness of Nations' have decided to put together a Sri Lankan country team to conduct this study with the assistance from USAID Global Bureau in Washington.

Coopers and Lybrand along with J.E. Austin & Associates will provide the team members. The team who are already in Sri Lanka will unfold the project over 3 to 4 months period with the initial three weeks in the field to initiate the efforts. Public and the private sector will be engaged in the project.

Kevin Murphy, Austin Associates President says: "The clamour is always to reform the public sector but the need is equally or increasingly felt in the private sector particularly in the developing countries. Industrialists and businessmen will have to have clear thinking as to where they are going to compete.

"Poor understanding on competitive advantage will end up in wrong investment decisions leading to industries folding up with dire consequence to the economy. Therefore it is very important to understand your competitive position. While on this project we will be looking at export competitiveness, investment competitiveness, and improving business strategy in the private sector in Sri Lanka".


Battaramulla offers BMW global standards

The local agents for the BMW Group, Prestige Automobile (Pvt) Ltd recently opened its new state-of-the-art showroom cum maintenance factory in Battaramulla, aiming to popularise global automobile standards in Sri Lanka.

This new facility set up at a cost of US$ 2.2 mn, is believed to be in par with BMW centres of any country, a company release said.

The present fleet of BMW vehicles on local roads (which is around 700 in number) are expected to benefit largely through improved services on offer, managing director of Prestige Automobile, Heinz A. Reuter said.

Commenting on the potential of the BMW vehicle market, Dr. Segler (President BMW Asia) said that, the Sri Lankan centre is well placed in between Arab and Asian countries which are the growing automobile markets in future.

World-wide, the BMW Group recorded a turnover of US$ 40 bn last year (1997), where it delivered 2.4 per cent more vehicles to Asia. Despite the economic crisis in East Asia, the Taiwan market for BMWs has continued to grow, the release says.

To achieve its long-term goals, the BMW Group will press on with its strategy of forming a strong sales and service network, setting up own subsidiaries in difficult key markets and to integrate the brand strongly into the economies and societies of markets with partners and assembly plants, company sources said.

Thirty BMW showrooms and service centres were opened in the Asian region last year, bringing the total to 200 BMW facilities. Additional 33 such facilities are to be made available during this year, which includes the new plant in Battaramulla. (IS)

Dialog provides new facility

Web based services will be the latest addition to Dialog GSM's portfolio of pioneering added value offerings. In August 1997, Dialog became the only cellular service provider in Sri Lanka to provide Automatic International Roaming, now covering 37 countries.

Dialog is also the exclusive provider of mobile data and fax services at 9600 BPS through its 'mobile office' product range launched in May this year, a company release said.

Dialog GSM have their own website called Dialog Surf on http//

Dialog Surf will provide Dialog GSM customers the unique facility of viewing their current account statements and detail billing information via the Internet. Billing information will be updated on a daily basis for the convenience of subscribers.

In fact this is the first time that utility service provider has been able to provide current account information to its customers via the internet, the release added.

The service recognizes the global nature of a GSM subscriber, and allows the subscriber to be in touch with his network from anywhere in the world through the Internet. The website has been designed to be on par with those of the most advanced cellular operators worldwide.

Dialog Surf will provide convenient access to all standard customer service functions. Customers could use the internet to configure their cellular service by web based subscription to added value services such International Roaming, Call Forwarding etc., to request network or service information, and to deposit payment and/or other instructions to the operator.

Settlement of bills or increasing credit limits via the Internet using credit or debit card instructions will be a natural extension to the services offered in the near future. The Dialog Surf will also play host to standard documentation on Dialog products and services which customers could download at their convenience, the release says.

The Dialog website also features a unique hand phone selector, which selects hand phones matching the requirements of a potential GSM user. In addition to its function as a customer service interface, the website contains useful information on GSM technology and features a news desk featuring the latest developments in the Dialog GSM Network, both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

NDB fund for environment

The NDB with the assistance of Germany (through the KfW Agency), has set up a fund to be used by existing industries to deal with their pollution-related problems.

A special Environmental Unit set up by the NDB was entrusted with the administration of the fund, while applications for assistance under the programme could also be submitted to participating commercial banks.

The Pollution Control & Abatement Fund (PCAF), has proved to be a popular solution for polluting industries struggling to conform to environmental regulation.

It offers loans of up to Rs. 10 million, at concessionary rates of interest, for the implementation of treatment systems for solid, liquid and gaseous waste, as well as outright grants of up to Rs. 600,000/- to part finance the consultancy costs associated with such projects, a company release said.

Over the last few years, the NDB has been able to assist companies as diverse as Bairaha Farms, Coats Tootal Lanka (sewing thread), Loadstar (tyres) and Tangerine Beach Hotel, to set up waste treatment plants, through the PCAF.

Regnis Lanka (Singer), also obtained funding to implement a project to eliminate ozone depleting substances used in refrigerators and freezers.

Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd., a manufacturer of latex gloves, and two other factories in the same group (also involved in producing value added rubber products), made use of the PCAF facility to finance a plant to treat the combined waste water from all three factories.

The Rs. 11 million project was principally funded through a loan from the PCAF and a technical assistance grant covering the consultancy cost.

Another environmentally conscious enterprise, Tiny Woody, manufacturers of wooden toys and gift items, also took advantage of the concessionary funding to finance a plant to control dust and fumes, on the factory floor, the release said.

CB's debenture oversubscribed

The Commercial Bank's Rs. 250 million debenture issue was oversubscribed on July 6, the day it opened. However, the Bank decided in consultation and agreement with the Colombo Stock Exchange to keep the issue open till 4.30 pm on July 8.

The debentures can be redeemed five years from the date of allotment at par. The rate of interest is 13.5 per cent per annum payable quarterly, resulting in an effective annual yield of 14.2 per cent.

A company release quoting a bank spokesman said that the over subscription of the debenture on the very day it was opened to the public reflect the confidence in the bank among investors and the general public. The basis of allotment will be finalised shortly in consultation with the Colombo Stock Exchange.The issuance of this debenture enables the Bank to make a significant contribution to the development of the private-sector Debt Securities Market in Sri Lanka. The investment opportunities available to the investor community will be broad-based by this debenture issue.

Capital Adequacy was not the prime consideration of the Bank in launching these debentures, as its Capital Adequacy Ratios are the highest among all local listed banks in Sri Lanka. Therefore these debentures which are qualified for inclusion in Capital Adequacy will further improve the Bank's already high Capital Adequacy Ratios, the release said.

Bottom Line

P. M. N. Bandara

Aitken Spence & Co. Ltd., has reported satisfactory performance for the year ended March 31, 1998. According to the provisional financial statement the company's profit before tax increased by 99% from Rs. 122.6 m. to Rs. 244.6 m. Profit after tax increased by 110% from Rs. 93.9 m. to Rs. 197.6 m. Increase of net profit attributable to the shareholders of the company was 102%. Shareholders' funds as at March 31, 1998 was Rs. 2,537.4 m. and it shows 16.8% increase over the previous year.

Chairman and Managing Director, R. Sivaratnam says this is an excellent recovery. In his statement to the shareholders, he further stated that this performance was driven by impressive results from Maldivian hotels, and notable turnaround by Sri Lankan tourism sector. Manufacturing sector profits increased through a strong performance by the printing operation while the cargo handling sector performed up to expectations.

Lanka Walltile -profit up by over 100%

The provisional Profit and Loss Account released by Lanka Walltile Limited for the year ended March 31, 1998 shows an increase of profit over 100% compared to the previous year.

Company's turnover increased by 38.5% during the year under review from Rs. 1446.5m. to Rs. 2004.8m. Profit before tax was up by 119% from Rs. 109.3m. to 239.5m. Profit after tax was Rs. 194.0m. which shows an increase of 110%. Profit attributable to shareholders of the company also increased by 129%. Shareholders' funds stood at the end of the year at Rs. 959m. This is an increase of 8.8% over the previous year.

John Keells - profit up by over 90%

According to the provisional consolidated financial statements for the year ended March 31, 1998 John Keells Holdings Limited earned a pre tax profit of Rs. 1,438.9m. This shows an increase of 90% over the previous year. Post tax profit increased by 99.7% from Rs. 573.9m. to Rs. 1146.4m. Profit attributable to the group increased by 91% from 423.5m. to Rs. 808.5m. Shareholders' funds increased by 12% from Rs. 5,413m. to Rs. 6,062.3m.

During the year company paid a dividend of 10% and proposed a dividend of 30% to its shareholders.

CDL - post tax profit up by 940%

Colombo Dockyard Limited has produced Rs. 98.8m. Post tax profit for the year ended March 31, 1998. This shows an increase of 940% over the previous year profit of Rs. 9.5m. Company earned Rs. 121.6m. pre tax profit reflecting an increase of 615% from Rs. 17.0m. Gross revenue increased by 70.7% from Rs. 463m. to Rs. 790.8m. Shareholders' funds as at March 31, 1998 stood at Rs. 972.6m. which shows an increase of 31.6% over the previous year.

Pay Phone coin with not-so-rich in mind

The Pay Phone Co. [ PPC] a joint venture between the US Company World Quest Networks [Fax over Internet], the Thai Conglomerate Loxley and the local partner Fentons, which recently introduced the world's first ever internet Pay Phone System in Sri Lanka, created history once again by launching the world's first 'electronic coin'.

"PPC in yet another world first, demonstrated the possibility of making a telephone call by using the 'Electronic Coin' which comes in the form of a Rs.10/- card "the cheapest in the world" said Klaus Scholz , CEO of the Pay Phone Company.

This unique facility was launched in Wattala, with the first 'Electronic Coin' being sold by Mr. Scholz, to Mr. Asoka Peiris at Jayanthi Stores in Wattala, a company release said.

"We want to make communications possible for people coming from all walks of life", said Scholz. "Hence the 'Electronic Card' which will be a boon for people coming from the lowest income groups, who have a very limited need for telephone communication, yet who nonetheless are subject to emergency situations just like the rest of us - maybe even more so", he said.

Explaining the workings of this novel communications tool, Scholz said that a user could place up to two calls for a combined duration of 2 minutes, enabling him or her to convey a specific message.

"The advantage of our Supercard system is that due to the presence of a Pin Number, an entire family of even 10 persons could avail themselves of the use of 1 Electronic Coin if the Pin number is known to all of them", he said, "thus really making it a godsend for those within the lower income bracket".

Scholz added that his organisation was determined to bring modern day communications facilities to the rural areas, and the 'Electronic Coin' had been launched with this in view.

"In fact the next cheapest card which is for Rs. 40/- is also a product of the Pay Phone Company," said Scholz proudly.

As a special gesture to mark this event, PPC donated a total of 1000 'Electronic Coins' to the Military Hospital, Panagoda.

Initially the 'Electronic Coin' will be available in Wattala, Kadawatha, Kelaniya and Seeduwa, but will shortly be available in Colombo and the neighbouring suburbs as well.

Apparel export grows

Sri Lanka's Overall exports for January 1998 was Rs. 20 mn. as against Rs. 18.2 mn. during January 1997 and has shown an increase of 10%. However, in dollar terms the increase is only 2 percent, Textile News said.

The major contributor for total exports as usual was Industrial Exports with Rs. 14,101 mn. accounting for 70 percent with 9% growth. However, in dollar terms the increase was negligible i.e., only 0.6%.

Textile and apparel with Rs. 9989 mn. in January 1998 as against Rs. 8,352 mn. in January 1997 has shown an increase of 20% and accounted for 71% of Industrial Exports and almost 50% of National Exports. In dollar terms the increase in Textile and Apparel exports was 11 percent.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Return to the Bussiness Contents

Business Archive

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus | Sports | Mirror Magazine

Hosted by LAcNet

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.