Archive for the 'Performance' Category

The underlying killer of accountability


momoko-Cup-of-Coffee-with-Sack-of-Coffee-Beans-4

“We need more accountability around here” Chloe said.

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“You know, people caring, people hitting their marks, doing what they said they would.  You know, being accountable” she replied with a slight tone of ‘what is wrong with you’.

“Like you do?” I asked

“Do you think I don’t” was the quick reply.

“No, not that at all, sorry” I immediately answered.  “I meant that question literally, you mean you’d like people to care about the place like you do as the CEO?”

“Well…..yeah.  That would be great!”

“So why don’t they?” I asked.

Chloe laughed – “I thought that’s what you were here to fix”.

I didn’t laugh at all.  I looked straight into her eyes.

“No.  This is what you have caused.  So it’s what you are here to fix”.

The pause was somewhat awkward.

“OK….I get it.” she said.  “So what can I do?”

“The word I use for what you’re looking for is ‘ownership’”.  I said.  “You want people around here to act like it’s their place.  Like it’s their money.  Like owners”.

“Yep, that pretty much it”. 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.

Self-Management: A New Study?

coal-mine

A recent study compared a couple of different ways of organising a production environment.

Both groups had 40 employees.  The first group had seven types of roles and was divided into 14 subgroups, with coordination, integration and continuity of the work being the responsibility of management.

The second group coordinated itself.  They had the same roles as the first group, but they decided themselves who would rotate to what tasks and which shifts they would work.

Here’s the findings:

  • Second group demonstrated a much higher standard of workingship – tidier workspace, hardware well maintained, whereas the first group was more….sloppy
  • The second group spent 0.5% of their time on ‘non-productive ancillary work’, the first group 33% (yep!)
  • The second group had 60% less absence from the workplace, be it sickness, accident or no reason at all.
  • And in terms of production….the second group produced 50% more than the first50%!  Or to put it another way, the first group was at 78% of potential, the second at 95%.

What’s the study?

Well…I have to come clean.  By ‘recent’, I was more on a geological timescale.  The study was conducted in the 1950s.

Two hundred kilometres southwest, teenager John Lennon hadn’t even formed the Quarrymen, let alone the Beatles.

The production wasn’t software development.  It was coal mining.  In Durham, UK.  The work was getting the coal from long walls.  Fun stuff.

You can read about it in Gerrit Broekstra’s book Building High-Performance, High Trust Organizations.

You see, the results on this stuff are in – when people have some sort of control/autonomy/authority over their own work….things are better.  We don’t need further studies on this, and if you just ponder anything in your own work life where you’ve felt totally into it…I’m sure these conditions were there.

So, here’s some thoughts on what we’re seeing here, and in similar studies and examples of self-managing enterprises: 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.

Getting Real About Freedom

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There’s a huge confusion that’s causing a lot of pain in organisations.  It’s the idea that ‘freedom‘ means ‘freedom from consequences‘.  It doesn’t.  It means ‘you get to choose, and the consequences are yours‘.

Freedom is not liberty or licence.  It’s not escape.  A person becomes free when they are willing to stand up and say ‘this is my situation, I am taking ownership of it, and of whatever happens next.’  The moment this occurs, choice comes back into play.  The boat gets a motor.  The hot-air balloon’s fire-thing starts up again.  We have agency, and it feels good.  Energy.

This is the principle we use when we help our clients with how their organisations are designed and lead….that people want freedom.  They want choice.  They want a level of challenge that pushes them without blowing their minds.  And they would like to know how things work so they can make more informed choices.

Leaders at all levels have the opportunity to give people freedom.  But it’s not always taken.  It’s hard to trust, and decades of high control leading to unaccountable behaviour simply reinforces this, and it’s not just the managers.

So how do we create freedom?

Through conversations and other communication that creates clarity for all on who is delivering what, and how roles fit together.  And decisions when decisions are required so people can get on with it.

People cannot make choices about their own way to get things done if they don’t know what ‘done’ is or how things work.

But above all, this requires a willingness to trust again.  This is the hardest part, and it applies to everyone.  For managers, it’s trust that people will take ownership.  And for employees, that their managers will let them take ownership.  This is the foundation of any successful enterprise.

Clarity and trust.

Pre-requisites for freedom.

 

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.

Eliminate change management

Positive change

We all know the usual routine – management identifies the need for more productivity and/or quality or a new strategy, the necessary actions are identified (internally, externally or a combination of both), this necessitates change, so now we ‘change manage’.

And it works……at best…..sometimes.

What we’re really doing here is coercing people to like the change we’ve decided on.  We’re doing change to them.

What if instead we did change with them?

As Peter Block says,

when someone states ‘we need to get everyone on board‘, the answer is ‘what makes you think you’re in the boat?

Imagine if, instead of management calling in the external experts, it went the other way around and the frontline team approached management and said

We’re out of ideas.  But if you can find $50k for those improvement consultants we were speaking to last week, we reckon we can work with them and find about $200k per year savings back to the business‘.

Would this require ‘change management’? 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.

Behaviours are bulldust

How would you react to this decree from the government:

These are the five ways we expect every citizen to behave.  All people observed not behaving in this way will be sanctioned, at first via discussions, then via bad ratings on the official record, and ultimately removal from the community.  The five behaviours can be found on government issue posters, coffee cups and lanyards which are freely available at your local post office.  You will be rated once per year on your adherence to these behaviours.

Does this sound like a community you want to be a part of?  Does it sound like a community where people are trusted to be adults and serve the best interests of each other?

You get the point.  And it’s full on.   It’s essentially an act of HR and Management sedition to suggest that all of this behaviour stuff might be bulldust.

But it is.

In the words of a better person than me: “Far out”

Dude

 

Well, actually, there’s a situation where behaviours are not bulldust.  If a group of people get together to discuss and agree behaviours for themselves, then fine.  What’s bulldust is the decreeing part.  The mandating.  The ‘we know what behaviours are best for you‘ part.  This is the bit that treats grown adults like they are in child care….which is eventually going to create child care behaviour, which is dependence and rebellion all at once. 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.

51% – the brilliantly simple concept to start creating real commitment

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There’s an element that gets overlooked when you set up your organisation with the right number of levels (yes, there is a right number, but that’s a different post), and when you make sure that the people in the roles will be able to add value at the level that the role requires.  You get a natural feeling of release or ‘that feels better’ as some of the key conditions that create micromanagement or disconnection are now dealt with.

Couple in some training about what the unique value-add of each level is, and we’re well on the way toward an enterprise that can seriously get things done, both today’s work, and tomorrow’s.  If you’d like some research on this, and no less than 50 years’ worth is good enough for you, check out the work of Elliott Jaques.  We use it because it works.

But there’s a darker side.

In the process of defining ‘levels’, the human need for dominance rears it’s head.  I’m talking about the idea that “I’m at a higher ‘level’, therefore I know better than you”.  Don’t get me wrong, most times this isn’t evil, and comes through as genuine caring for ‘your’ people.  But the very act of assuming you know what’s best for someone else….how comfortable are you with being on the receiving end of that?

Yet, we need people who can think in longer timespans so we’re OK in the future.  And we need people who can make things work right now so we’re OK right now.  We need all of these things for a successful business.  Hierarchy is actually natural.

So what do we do?

What we do is move to the mindset described by Peter Block as Partnering not Parenting. 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.

The real reason your roles are not clear

Provide clarity to employees

We can almost include as a template ‘clarify roles’ as the next step at the end of any planning day.  Seems to be the perpetual org development activity, along with ‘sort out cross-functional relationships’.

Here’s what’s not addressed: the reason roles aren’t clear is because we like it that way!

How do I know this?  Because you would take a stone out of your shoe if it was hurting.  Because when your friend recommends a certain dish from the menu, you give it a try.  Because, in the end, the world around you is the world you have created, which means you must like it that way.  Otherwise you would change it.

Getting roles clear is no harder than saying either “here’s what I want you to deliver”, or “here’s what I intend to deliver”.  This is the starting point, then discuss.  If you can’t reach agreement, boss makes the call.  Then list them up, and you’ve got yourself a role.  Make sure jobs higher in the hierarchy have longer timespans for what they are delivering so you don’t get compression in the levels, and you’ve got the general idea.

So why isn’t clarifying roles as common as ‘here’s your email address’?  Here are some of the usual reasons:

  • It will stifle creativity” – nope, creativity is stifled by a) unclear outcomes and boundaries b) specifying ‘how’ it needs to be done c) not having a good enough relationship so people can come back with ‘here’s a better outcome we should be doing’ d) people having work that is either under or overwhelming (too short or long in timespan) 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.

What you need to know about setting accountabilities

Setting accountabilities is no more complicated than writing down, then having a conversation with your people about what the organisation needs them to produce in the next period of time (usually a year).

An easier way to think of this is in terms of outcomes, results or even requirements, by asking the question ‘if whatever I describe on this piece of paper is 100% guaranteed to either appear or have been delivered at the end of the year, what would it be?’.

Most roles will have between 3-7 key results that they are asked to deliver each year, use this as a rule of thumb when determining how many.

The challenge in this process is that it requires imagination.  That is, the future needs to be imagined, then described to your people so they can then use their capability to go about delivering it. 

Describing Accountabilities or Results

As a way of describing it, you can use the following categories:

  • Quantity or Deliverable – what do you actually want to see delivered, and if there’s any related volume amounts (sales dollars, square kilometres maintained, number of shows successfully run), put these down
  • Quality – what is the sufficient quality standard that tells the person ‘you’ve done enough’
  • Time – when or how often does the above need to be delivered, and note any milestones along the way
  • Resources – what will the person be provided so they can deliver.  Not just equipment and funding, but which other people have you set up to work with them?  This can also include any limits and boundaries which aren’t to be crossed, remember, the more clear the boundaries, the more freedom people have to bounce around within them.

 The conversation is more important than the document 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.

Letting them know what you want is NOT micromanaging

There’s a reason I don’t get into paintball much.  Part of it is, of course, that I’m not that good at it.  But that’s not the main reason.  The main reason is that I’ve never had the chance to be part of a team where someone in it really knows what they are doing.

I want someone to say something like this:

“OK everyone, this is about taking that flag over there.  So here’s what we’re going to do.  Adam and Tim, when the whistle goes, you head straight to those logs, get in behind and wait.  Sarah and Terry, once Adam and Tim are there, you go over behind the trees on the right.  Adam, when they get there, pop up and lay down some covering fire, Tim that’s when you head toward the barricade.  Now, it’s all going to go wrong at some point, so when that happens, stay low, and make your way to the left.  Just keep left until we can regroup.  Keep listening for me, I’ll keep us on track, and if I go down, Sarah…you take over”.

Or something like that.

And, of course, if I’ve got some ideas, it would be great if they’d have listen.  But I want a plan, and I want to know what I need to do.

You see, I feel fairly useless playing paintball because I lack the knowledge of what to do and the skill in how to do it.  But I’m not actually useless.  I might be well past young, but I can run, I’m coordinated, and I know how to aim and fire.  And I like to have a go.

I just need a leader who can put me to good use.

Then I’ll be more valuable.

And funnily enough…we’ll get more done, and we’ll have a better time.

Letting your people know what you want them to do is not micromanaging.  

It’s just managing.  And it’s why you’re paid.

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.

From plans to reality

There’s something that’s been lost over the last few decades.  It probably started back when ‘strategy’ was coined in the 1960s, and quickly after that consultants in strategy popped up like weeds in a field after the rain. (Businesses were doing strategy way before it was a ‘thing’, it was just called ‘doing stuff that makes sense given who we are and where we are’.  But that’s another post.)

The thing that’s been lost is the converting of ideas, or intentions, or plans into actual work.

By actual work, I mean the assigning or agreeing of what will actually be produced.  To use terminology of Elliott Jaques, tasks are  a quantity of things of a given quality, delivered by a certain time, done for a purpose, with resources and within limits, and all within a context.

A bit of a mouthful.  We can also just say ‘what-by-when‘.

But this is the often missing element between the lofty ‘strategies’ and the people who actually produce things that in the end make customers happy.

It’s not much use saying ‘by 2018 we will better understand our customers‘ and leave it there.  At best, this fits the purpose part of the Jaques definition.  For work to happen, people need to know the actual task, the actual deliverable, the thing that needs to be produced that will lead to the result we need. 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.