Archive for the 'Level IV Work' Category

What Exactly Is The Strategy Role?

Santos and Josh know strategy

Santos and Josh know strategy

(This one’s a longer read, perhaps save it for later or have a read at home.  Cheers, Adam)

Hey Adam,

Wondering if you can help me – my organisation has created a Strategy role and put me in it. I’ve got some generic KRAs, but a lot of room to design my own ‘value-add’. Would appreciate your view on what you see the value of such a role is.

OK, let’s talk about what the role isn’t to start with.

The strategy role is not there to take sole accountability for delivering strategy!  

Do not take on this accountability alone, either explicitly, or implicitly. It’s going to be tempting as you’re going to want to show that you’re valuable, and the core areas will gladly hand you accountability for the future to get it off their plate! It will seem like a win/win, but this degenerates into a lose/lose every time as you’ll be crying “no one here thinks of the future”, they’ll be crying “Strategy doesn’t understand I’ve got real numbers to hit here”, and the CEO will be crying “why can’t we all just get along!”

Strategy is delivered by those that either currently make or do the things customers use, or by new areas that will make or do the things customer use in the future. In other words, strategy is ultimately delivered by Sales and Operations areas (whatever you call them),even in you are involved along the way.  Not you on your own.

What Strategy Is There To Do

So if Strategy doesn’t deliver strategy on it’s own, what does it do?

It ensures both the happening of, and the quality of, the conversations necessary to both develop and implement strategy that will see the organisation continue to be both valuable and viable in it’s community.

Don’t get fooled by the simple sentence – the more simple and straightforward the sentence, the more complex and involved the actual execution (‘land someone on the moon and bring them back safely by the end of the decade‘….simple right?). These conversations are why you exist, but getting them happening requires you to do the following:

Take The Mystery Out Of Strategy. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Cross-functional work – a method for getting it sorted

Sydney-Harbor-Bridge-SilhouetteQuestion:

I was wondering if I might be able to seek your guidance on sorting out cross-functional relationships.  Is there a process you suggest we follow so we can really sort ourselves out so we can be a better organisation for both customers and employees?

Answer

Very glad you asked – getting clear in this area is about not forcing people to rely on favours and politics to get their basic work done.  It’s a service to our fellow humans!

Cross-functional roles, or ‘Task-Initiating Role Relationships’ (TIRRs) as Elliott Jaques referred to them are how work gets done.  We tend to to see the org chart as reality, when it’s actually just a visual representation of who reports to who, and what each person is there to deliver.  In reality all work is passed on to someone, either internal or external – so all work is some sort of flow, which means…it mostly goes across.

This means that it’s one of the fundamental accountabilities of every manager to set up how work ‘works’ in their area.  And a crucial part of this is the TIRRs.

So how do we do this?  First we start with WHO.

We teach in our workshops and our online learning that Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Developing a Strategy? Read This First

Magpies

You’re in charge of ‘developing a strategy’.  Perhaps you’re a General Manager, where developing and delivering strategy (what work, why that, and why us) is the key part of the job.  Or maybe you’ve been assigned the task because you’ve put your hand up, or you’re an agitator, or someone wants to see what you can do.  Or perhaps you’ve been asked to bring together the ubiquitous ‘cross-functional team’.

So what do you do?

Convene! 

Strategies are developed by convening gatherings of people who want to be there, then having real conversations about possible futures.

They’re not developed by working through a process of identifying the current situation, by doing a SWOT, PESTL….whatever.  These things might be useful to identify things to talk about, but they come at a cost, which is the implication that the process will reveal the strategy.

It won’t, and here’s why.

Real strategy, as in strategy that actually happens, is created by people imagining what might be possible, then making the choice to create a new future.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

GM of Operations? You might like to try this…

Are you, in one form or another, a General Manager of Operations?  In the US you might be VP Operations.  Either way, if you are in an Executive role, and you have any accountability for delivering the products and services to your customers…then you might be interested in giving this a shot…

Wander over to your friends (or enemies) in the Marketing area and ask for a copy of every current advertisement and promotion that’s out there.  In particular, anything with a sentence, ideally, advertisements by video or radio.

Now call an all-hands meeting with everyone in the Operations area, and play the ads.  That’s right…play the videos, run the radio ads, big screen, loud speakers….and  have everyone in groups note down their understanding of what is being promised to people should they become a customer.

Then point this out – these promises are operational requirements.  They aren’t optional extras, they aren’t arguments to be used to show how unreasonable the Marketing department is….these are the dead-set requirements that Operations is being asked to deliver.  And even better, deliver within a certain budget.

To not do so is to break a promise that the organisation has made, either to customers if you don’t deliver or deliver and charge too much, or to owners if you deliver as expected at a loss.

Now ask the room to discuss what needs to be different in order to deliver that promise with the budget given.

Watch closely which people choose to take on this challenge, and which choose to use their capability to avoid it.  Avoiding won’t look obvious, it will take the form of very rational reasons why what is being asked just isn’t possible.  You’ll be tempted to agree.

But it’s still avoiding.

Don’t get angry or frustrated because do you know where it comes from?  From the messages that people have been sent for years by the very way the organisation is designed and run.

What you’ve now got is the need for genuine dialogue about what everyone is experiencing.  Which requires you to listen, then listen, then listen.

And this might be the hardest work you do all year.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

The simple principle that keeps large groups connected

“OK, so what have we found?” asked Kathy, CEO of a mid-size manufacturer, about 1600 people.

“We’ve found a possible cause of the issues coming out of your Eastern plant” I replied, putting on the table a diagram known as a Levels of Work Analysis.  The diagram is like an X-Ray for organisational design – it shows clearly the cracks and splinters in the org design itself that are causing frustration and lack of delivery.

Kathy leaned forward and pointed at the clearly marked red areas.  ”What’s going on there?”

“I need to give you a quick bit of lingo” I said.  ”We use some fundamental principles that, if in place, will see frustration down and delivery up.  One of these is about having what we call building blocks in place to make sure that our natural need for connection isn’t accidentally designed out.”

Kathy’s eyebrows went up.  I waited to check I was making sense.  ”Go on” she said.

“The first building block is the basic team structure.   But above that we have the wider structure, or the three-tier structure.  The fancy term for it Elliott Jaques coined was the ‘Mutual Recognition Unit’, or ‘MRU’.”

“Fancy indeed” Kathy commented.  ”So how does this help me?” Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Who’s fault is organisational pain?

“My Distribution area is driving me insane!”  So declared Lisa, and I could see genuine anger in her eyes.  Lisa owned the company.

“You mean Teresa’s area?  What’s going on” I asked.  Teresa was Senior Manager Distribution.

“I’ve tried everything we’ve been speaking about.  I’ve asked Teresa to put together her plan for the next 18 months.  I’ve asked her to get more clear in assigning work.  I’ve asked her to make sure she’s got the capability that she needs…”  Lisa paused.

“Go on” I said.

“And she’s been in your workshops.  The one we did last year, then I know you ran a 2-day session for her and her directs so they would all understand the management practices we’re putting in here.  Everyone else got one day, but I wanted her to have the extra training.   Despite all that…”

“Despite all that…What are you seeing?”

“Well despite all that, her area has missed on delivery targets to our retail network again, I don’t know how many times this year, cost per delivery continues to rise, and I just found out today that we had a bunch of customers at one of our stores who were ready for the new range in the catalogue….but do you think that range had been delivered?”

I nodded in understanding.

“WELL DO YOU?”

I jumped as I’d assumed the question was rhetorical.

“I’m guessing no” I said quietly.  ”And I also know this….you’ve got a problem”.

“You’re damn right I’ve got a problem.  It’s called Teresa.”

“Actually, you are 100% wrong.” Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Executive accountability

“Wow, that felt like some real work!”.  Gareth had just put the finishing touches on planning the work of his area with a true focus on results.  He was GM of an Operations Division.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because you made me not only take each 3-year result and write down where it needs to be in 18 month’s time to be on track, you then made me write down where it needs to be in 9 months, then where it needs to be in 3 months!”.  Gareth looked both exasperated and pleased.

“How did you find that?”

“Annoying!” he replied.  ”I kept thinking ‘surely a GM doesn’t have to go down to 3 months’.  Then I remembered your two points – that I’m the only one accountable for the whole Operations Division, and if we’re going to use the natural timespans that work organises into, we have to be serious about it and let our people know where the Division needs to be each quarter”.

“Exactly!” I said.  ”Same applies to CEOs – they might set results for the organisation out 7 years, but if they can work these results down through the timespans to the 3 month organisational results or milestones that would show we’re on track…..things really get moving”.

“That would be some serious alignment!”

“It is.  If you’re willing to do the work.”

“So….am I done?” Gareth asked.  ”I think I know your answer” he continued with a wry smile.

“You know me well.  The answer of course is no!”

“Of course it is.  So what’s next?”

“Now we write down the results you’re going to need each of your Senior Managers to deliver by 30 June 2017, that is, 18 months away”.

“But isn’t that their job to work out? Gareth asked.

“No.  It’s their job to advise, suggest, recommend.  But in the end, it’s your call.  And you know why?”

“Because I’m accountable”.

“Yes..but for what?”

“For their results”

“What else?”

Gareth looked at me quizzically.

“Every manager is accountable for ensuring that the efforts of their people are put toward delivering results that create true value for the organisation. That their efforts are not wasted.  Which ultimately means that they are valued.   You were picked by the CEO to run the Operations Division because she thinks you’ve got the capability to do that, to determine which results will create the most value.  It’s what you’re actually…..”

“It’s what I’m actually paid to do.”

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

How do I work out a reasonable efficiency target?

“OK” said Danni, GM of Operations with about 600 people under her.  ”So I’m accountable for the work of each of my Senior Managers, which means I’m accountable for how efficiently each of their areas runs”.

“In the end” I replied.

“And their work is about making and implementing decisions that will make their areas reach the level of efficiency that we need”.

“Yep.  Outputs per input.”

“I know you like to talk about results” Danni went on.  ”So how do I work out what’s a reasonable result in terms of efficiency for each of my Senior Managers?”

“How do you do it at the moment?”

“Well…….if I’m honest, I guess I pretty much agree with what the Senior Managers say is possible.”

“And they may well be spot on” I answered.  ”But tell me this” I answered.  ”When you were getting those renovations done on your house last year, how did you work out what was reasonable?”

“I guess I had a think about what I thought was possible, asked some builders, then asked some friends who had been through a similar thing.  Then I asked for what I wanted.”

“And what are the equivalents for deciding a reasonable result to expect for efficiency?”

“My Senior Managers of course.  But also I suppose conferences, consultants, colleagues, seminars, workshops, books.  All of those things.”  Danni was thinking hard now.

“So that meeting with the improvement consultants last month that three of your Senior Managers went to…..” I let it dangle in the air….

“I should have been there with them.” said Danni.  ”I needed to listen, learn, then make my own judgement on what to expect over the next 18 months from my Senior Managers”.

“Exactly.  That decision is the work of a General Manager.”

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Ultimately who is accountable for each of your areas being efficient?

Danni was General Manager Operations in a 1400-person organisation with about 600 people under her umbrella.   The new Board had made it clear they required a renewed focussed on ‘efficiency and effectiveness’.

“OK” Danni continued, “so I’m accountable that the work of my various areas is effective, meaning creates value for the organisation, and my Senior Managers are accountable that it’s done efficiently”.

“Nearly” I replied.

“Only nearly?” Danni laughed.  ”I thought I was getting somewhere!”

“We are” I continued.  ”But remember from the workshop last week, what is each manager accountable for?”

“The results of their people”.

“Which means ultimately who is accountable for each of your areas being efficient?”

“Well I guess that means me.  But now I’m confused”.

“Fair enough!” I agreed.  ”But hang with me.  The work of each of your Senior Managers is to make their areas run more efficiently.  As in achieve a better outputs to inputs ratio.  And work is about making decisions to reach an outcome.  So your Senior Managers are paid to identify then choose a pathway that will see the outcome of a more efficient operation achieved”.

“Go on…..” Danni said, nodding slowly.

“But…..how much of an improvement in efficiency is considered to be a good job…..the result they are expected to achieve…..that’s your call”.

“Why my call?”

“Because you are…..” I began.  Danni smiled and joined in….”accountable for the results of my people“.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Which ‘e’ word are General Managers accountable for?

Danni was General Manager Operations in a 1400-person organisation with about 600 people under her umbrella.   The new Board had made it clear they required a renewed focussed on ‘efficiency and effectiveness’.

“So which one do you hold your Senior Managers accountable for?” I asked.  ”Efficiency or effectiveness?”

“Well both!” she answered.  ”It’s not enough that they just do things right, they need to make sure they are doing the right things”.

“And who decides what the right things are?”

“What do you mean?” Danni asked, her brow furrowing.

“Well….let say one of your Senior Managers asks to invest $150k in improvement consultants for a six month project that will deliver a three-year payback of $1.5 million.”

“Sounds good to me.  Approved!” she smiled.

“Hang on a tick….what if the service that is being improved is one that we would call, using Drucker’s words, ‘yesterday’s breadwinner’.”

“Well, $1.35 million over three years sounds pretty good”.  Danni was fast with numbers.

“True” I agreed. “But what if those improvements required most of the people who are involved in that  series of projects you were telling me about to find tomorrow’s breadwinners?”

“Well….that would be a genuine strategic decision.  Classic resource allocation.  What’s  savings of $500k each year compared to the value of new products?”

“Would you let your Senior Managers make this decision?” I asked.

“Nope.   I’d get their inputs, hear their disagreements.  But the final call – that’s what I’m paid for.”

“And which ‘e’ word are we talking about now”.

“Effectiveness”  said Danni with a confident nod.  ”General Managers make decisions about what are the right things to do.”

“Which means….”

Danni had it:  ”Senior Managers make decisions that make sure we do it right”.

 

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.