8. Measure everything and hold people accountable Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Mohan Maheswaran set out to rework the culture at Semtech Corp. by articulating a clear vision and road map to his team about how the company would get from point A to point B.

Unfortunately, at the time, Semtech, a $294.8 million supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductor products, had no system in place that pushed for higher efficiency or risk taking, and there was no mechanism that measured results beyond end-of-the-year financials.

Maheswaran, the company’s president and CEO, didn’t let that stop him.

“The first thing you do is you start to measure things and you start to set milestones and you put metrics in place and you start to measure people and hold them accountable,” he says. “So I asked people, ‘What are you going to deliver next quarter?’ You tell me I’m going to deliver A. Well, if next quarter you deliver B, I want to know why, what’s the difference?”

Many employees are enthusiastic to set their own targets and take on new challenges, but measuring their progress isn’t easy. When people don’t perform immediately, Maheswaran suggests giving them a little time to adjust.

“The trick is to watch out for the people that are actually very good and can execute well but they’ve been demotivated for so long that they don’t actually get there,” he says.

Maheswaran recommends asking the people who aren’t performing what is keeping them from reaching the established goals and then working with them to develop ways to hit the targets. Then, if they come up short again, repeat the conversation but not ad nauseam.

“One quarter, two quarters, three quarters, you give people opportunity to take charge and you try to help them,” he says. “But in the end, ... you end up saying to yourself, ‘Well, maybe the issue is not the company anymore; maybe the issue is you.’ If you’re not delivering on a consistent basis, then something has to be done.”