New to management? Not sure what to actually do? Do this.

Communication Managers

Lots of people become managers for the first time.  Then for training they’re sent to a course on ‘leadership’ which is actually about how to be a decent human in the world.  Which is useful.   But just like there’s more to being an aircraft captain than getting along with your crew, there’s more to being a boss than knowing how to get along with your people.

So here’s an email I sent to an experienced specialist who is a good operator who has recently become a manager.  They mentioned they would appreciate some advice on what to actually do. It’s the stuff we teach in our workshops and our online learning.

Hey there,

OK, this is the stuff that will get your team moving to where it needs to be:

1) Context & Planning – your job here is to make sure the team is clear on their mission 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

Read it on stairs (2)

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.

Do you want adult behaviour in your organisation?

Ready to go deep?  OK, here we go.

What’s the first authority relationship you remember in your life?  It’s your parents right?  That’s the model we start with.  Parent-Child.

What’s the next one?  Most likely teachers. So we’ve got Teacher-Student.

Along the way you might have junior sports, music, dance.   This one is Coach-Player.

You might have had jobs as you grew up, so you had Manager-Junior Employee.

All of these models are burned in young, they are familiar, and it’s what we’re used to.  They share the general structure of Authority Figure – Dependent.  And they are not bad, it’s what’s needed to allow us to navigate the confusing paths of the world as we head toward adulthood.

The thing is…we do eventually become adults.  But….and here’s where we get deep….we can inadvertently keep these models going as we progress into our adult organisational lives.  And we do this because it’s safe.  We can accidentally project the Parent-Child relationship onto Manager-Employee, with both parties being complicit! 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.

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.

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.

Leave managers alone!!

It’s de rigueur at the moment to bag managers.  Scroll through your LinkedIn feed and see how far you can get before you find a post that someone has shared that essentially says…

Managers Suck.  Leaders Are Awesome.

People posting these things are not doing so because they are mean.  They genuinely want things to be better….they want their organisation to be better.

And when they look at perhaps their own organisation, they see 1) thing suck.  2) there are managers.  Then you see the latest tweet from Richard Branson, who is considered to be a ‘leader’, and that all seems to be AWESOME!

(Il)logical conclusion….Managers Suck.  Leaders Are Aweseome.

This is rubbish, and so insulting to hundreds of thousands of good people all around the world just trying to do a difficult role called ‘manager’.

How many people posting ‘Managers Suck’ posts would send them to their own manager?  To their CEO?  

None of the managers I work with (and I’m talking the spectrum of CEOs of multi-divisional businesses to people running teams of people on lawn mowers)  come to work to do evil.  They don’t want their people to suffer.  They want their people to do well and to celebrate achievements with their people.

‘Manager’ is an honourable and important role. 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 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.