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.

Weekly team meetings taking away your lifeforce? Just try this.

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Just because team meetings can be a soulless drain of vital lifeforce doesn’t mean they are not important.

For many people, the conditions for work being a satisfying experience is that we are ‘alone together’.  Oxymoron fans are digging it the most, but what I’m getting at is that most of us like some sort of autonomy/authority/control over what we do and how we do it, and at the same time, most of us need some sort of connection to other people to feel OK.

Work lets us do both.

And in most organisations, meetings are the primary forum in which we have the chance to form a connection as a group, meaning the chance to satisfy one of the fundamental conditions for work being OK.  Or better.

Which is why they are important.   And why it’s worth trying something new if your meetings are driving you into the gutter of existential despair.

So try lean coffee!

Lean coffee (which is a trademarked thing) is a ‘structured, but agenda-less meeting‘ in the words you’ll find on the website itself:  http://leancoffee.org/ .  Better yet, check out co-originator Jim Benson (he of personal kanban fame) talking about it for 3:37 on YouTube right here. 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.

How to be known as someone who delivers

Want to be known as someone who delivers?  Then start saying this: “I can’t promise that“.

Or here’s an alternate “I can promise that, this is what I need from you“.

When do you say this?  Whenever you are asked to do something that you are not sure you will be able to get done.

Most of us would prefer to be known as someone who keeps promises.   So this requires us to only make promises that we can keep.

Yet we (me included) agree to stuff we can’t get done all the time!

Why?

Because we would rather wear long-term damaging workload stress in order to avoid the short-term anxiety of disappointing someone in authority.

If, however, you want to work in an organisation where people are trusted, people speak the truth, where promises are kept, and where respect is the norm…..someone has to go first.

And this requires bravery….because it might not work out well for you!

But one thing’s for sure…..if you’re waiting for senior or executive management to sort this out…that is not happening.  Because they are just as trapped in this as you.

No change without anxiety.

 

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 to stop your culture of busy busy and start delivering

“Everyone around here is just too busy being busy” sighed Merryn.  Her business employed 250 people, it was growing and she was feeling the strain.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“Because everyone time I ask someone ‘how’s things’, I get the same response…a roll of the eyes and  ’just busy….flat out…..you know how it is’.  And things are stalling.  Lots of action, no results.”

“What would you like to be hearing?”

“It would be great” Merryn continued, “if someone would say  ’I’m focussed, in the flow and we’re all delivering.  Feeling great‘”

“So what are your people working on then?”

Merryn looked puzzled for a second, then replied “Lots of stuff – business-as-usual, we’ve got improvements to the warehouse operation underway, legislative change coming, our IT systems need an upgrade, the usual product development, and on top of that, we’re trying to find ways to innovate so we can play in some new fields”.

“Sounds pretty busy busy” I replied.  ”So if I’m sitting there with a choice as to what to work on next, which one do you want me to do?” 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.

No therapy required: How to get your people working together

Have you, or are you about to, invest money in getting your people to work better as a team?  To get them to get along, to understand each other, to form closer bonds so work will truly flow across your organisation like the ball moving from defence to attack?

Your motives are pure.  You want your people to work better together.

But there’s something you need to do first.  Here it is, the biggest piece of obvious you will have read for quite some time:

To get your people to work better together, tell them how their roles work together.

That’s it!

Are you laughing?  Does this seem too simple to you?  Well it is simple.  A better word for it is foundational.

Would you agree that it’s a foundational condition for effectiveness that people in roles have an understanding of how their roles fit together?  That things are easy when people ‘know where they stand’, when they know who can ask who to do what in terms of their core jobs,  the reason they are there?

We need this sorted.  Your people need this sorted.

So you have a choice.  You can invest in friendship training, and then hope that your people can figure out for themselves how their roles fit together.  They might even do so.  And if you can afford the coffees and the lunches and your competitors and/or customers are happy to wait….sounds great.

Here’s the other way.  Decide, then tell them how their roles work together.  Here’s some examples:* 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.

From the Inbox: Advice on performance reviews

From the Inbox, a question from a small business owner:

Hi Adam,

I  think it is time to do a performance review for my staff. 

I know I have asked this once before but wanted to get your thoughts on options for methods on doing it. 

I am pretty keen to get the individual employees ideas on how they have gone against some KPI’s set up last year also. 

Anything you are able to help with appreciated as always.

————————

Performance reviews – the mindset to have is you are the coach sitting down with the player to go over the year with them – what they did well, what was not so good, what they were asked to get better at, how they did (this means you a keep a notebook during the year where you note each piece of feedback…start that now for next year)

The individual employee’s ideas on their performance, while important,  is not the most important thing.  Regardless of how well a player thinks they are performing, what they need to know to get better is the coach’s judgement on how they are doing, and examples as to why the coach came to that conclusion.

This does not mean, however, that it’s a one-way street.  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.

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.

How to lift accountability without losing connection

Driveway Commodore

Implementing a Requisite approach has the benefits of clarity of expectations and authority to get work done which in turn liberates people’s natural desire to be useful.  This is generated from the concept that it’s the managerial role that is accountable for the results and behaviour of their directs (regardless of who they may do a particular bit of work ‘for’).  This accountability naturally requires the managerial role to ensure clarity and authority are in place.

So far so good.

But…there is an unwanted side effect we need to avoid – the relationship disconnect.  It’s easy to accidentally adopt an approach of ‘that’s their job to do it, and if they can’t, that’s their problem’.  You might think that you would never take an approach like this, but I’ve seen it happen in well-meaning circumstances in a genuine attempt to provide freedom and autonomy.

The missing (and balancing) element is another Requisite fundamental – the managerial role exists to add value to the work of their directs. 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.

Stop happying and start helping

Incense

“HAPPIER EMPLOYEES ARE MORE PRODUCTIVE” screamed recent headlines as a study from the University of Warwick hit the streets.  Music to the ears of some HR practitioners who see their role as Entertainment Officers with the responsibility of making work fun for employees, rather than their actual role of assisting managers to provide the conditions to lift productivity.

I don’t think the study is necessarily wrong.  An employee that does not feel that their organisation respects them, that can’t trust the organisation to not cause them harm, and who gets treated in a way that does not feel fair is never going to put their best effort forward.  And they’re not going to be happy.

But to conclude from the study that organisations should provide chocolates and bean-bags or offer free meditation sessions for every employee is simply not valid. 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.