Mindspeed Technologies Inc. may be a growing company, but Raouf Y. Halim does his best to maintain the culture of a start-up. And for the approximately 500 employees of Mindspeed, that means speed is of the essence. As with a start-up, director and CEO Halim says his company has less room to make mistakes, yet more room to benefit than bigger players do. Considering the fast-paced nature of the semiconductor development space, Halim has prepared his $140 million company to move quickly and aggressively in response to ever-changing market opportunities. Smart Business spoke with Halim about how he uses communication and collaboration to stay ahead of the curve.
Consider all perspectives. There are more growth opportunities in the communications chip business today than you can shake a stick at.
The primary challenge is to sift through all the exciting new technologies, arrive at the reality of the return on investment as viewed by our shareholders and balance that with our own capabilities and limitations. It’s extremely easy to bite off more than you can chew, and if you can achieve that delicate balancing act successfully, you can go after exciting new markets with great success.
The most important trait any business leader can have is the ability to synthesize the whole of the perspectives on the opportunity and the challenges with their own gut feeling. Very often, you see business leaders who are decision-paralyzed because of overanalyzing, or paralysis by analysis.
Conversely sometimes you see people who make very rapid decisions based on their gut feel with a total lack of data that end up sometimes regretting the decisions that they make. You must find the balance between those, the blend of perspectives imbedded in the data that is available to a business leader on a minute-by-minute basis with the executive’s gut feel about what the right thing is for your business.
Communicate at every opportunity. Communication in general is an extraordinarily powerful and very critical tool for organizational leaders. It is particularly so for a small- to medium-sized, fast-paced company like ours.
Communications is probably the single most important thing I do on a daily basis from an internal perspective. The way I communicate is extensive and broad-based. I have not only regularly scheduled communications meetings on a quarterly basis with all employees, I have mid-quarter management updates.
In addition to that, I have monthly operations reviews, quarterly business reviews and I have what I call coffee klatch get-togethers, typically very informal meetings that bring me in contact with groups of up to 20 people at a time across the organization and allow me to listen to them, understand and hear their thoughts and challenges, and be able to be extremely responsive in an informal setting.
You can never communicate too much. We live in a world of constant change. While we may believe at any given point in time that we know what our priorities are, what our strategies and key initiatives may be, the fact is that every day we wake up that perspective changes.
The saying is that perspective is worth a thousand points of IQ, and communicating on a constant, ongoing basis with the organization helps maintain perspective and priorities and align those precious resources in a small- to medium-sized business like ours behind what it ultimately takes to win in the marketplace.
Maintain integrity. It’s critical to a company that needs to be as responsive as we do that within the organization, when there are issues or flashing yellow lights of one kind or another, that those issues be articulated honestly and proactively.
What you find is in typically very large organizations, because of the multiple layers of management, some level of clarity and intellectual honesty is lost in the translation as you go through management layers. I would say that is the biggest issue that afflicts larger organizations.
We have worked very hard to ensure that within our company there is a spirit of openness, of intellectual honesty, and an understanding that the sooner you communicate an issue and the more completely and openly you communicate the issue, the more successful you will be in the organization and that there is no shame in identifying a problem. The shame is really in trying to hide it.
Maintaining that culture hasn’t been that easy. We’ve shifted to that style over the course of several years, and over time, there are people who have naturally adapted and become more comfortable with the culture that we described and others who felt increasingly uncomfortable and who ultimately chose to leave the company.
The first step is to clearly communicate from the top the culture and the management style that you wish to propagate in the organization and then set up the rewards mechanisms that support that, and then walk the talk. Demonstrate those behaviors yourself and take people out of the organization who resist the change.
Don’t just talk; listen. Successful communications is two-way.
While it’s certainly important for me and my executive team to continue to communicate to the organization on an ongoing basis the vision, the strategy and the near-term priorities, it is just as important that we listen to the employee base, whether it’s the sales guy out in the field who’s struggling to win a customer and understand what the competitive pictures are, all the way to a chip designer who’s having difficulty getting a product done on schedule for good reasons.
It’s critical for us to understand the gamut of challenges that we face on a daily basis and move very quickly to remove obstacles, both internal and external, to keep the company moving forward.
HOW TO REACH: Mindspeed Technologies Inc., (949) 579-3000 or www.mindspeed.com