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.

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.

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.

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.

You pay them a lot of money, so….

“OK” Gemma said.  ”So let my people know what I expect, set them up to deliver it, then expect it.  That’s all I have to do is it?”  Gemma and I were working through the true work of her Executive role.  And her tone of voice made it clear this wasn’t exactly a question.

“No, that’s not all you have to do” I replied.  ”There’s other stuff.  But let’s be clear – if any of the above three are missed, or you don’t give these three the priority they need, then you owe money.”

“Owe money?  To who?”

“Who do you think?  The organisation!  You are paid to make sure that the work of each of your managers is valuable, so the extent to which you are not doing this is the amount of salary you owe back”

“Alright, I see what you mean.  But I’m pretty sure I’ve done this.  At least the first one, I’ve let my people know what I expect”.

“When did that happen?” I asked

“The planning process” Gemma replied.  ”Three months ago.  I had each of my Senior Managers write out the plan for their area, real strategic stuff, looking into the future.  Was a challenge for them to be honest, they were used to just doing a budget for next year”.

“What did you do with these plans?”

“I reviewed them.  Made comments, some changes, then gave them back to them.”

“So how did they know what their plan was supposed to cover?” I asked.

“They had a template”

I hadn’t been clear.  ”Sorry, what I meant was, how did they know what they were planning to deliver? How did they know their key results, the things the organisation really needed?”

“Well, us Execs had developed the purpose of the organisation together and the key strategies, I communicated that, so then I expected them to work out how they were going to contribute.”

“And where you didn’t agree with them, you then corrected it.  Like a teacher marking an assignment”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know.  But it’s what you did.”

“But they are Senior Managers.  They are paid a lot of money, I shouldn’t have to tell them what to do”.

“Nope.  It’s the exact opposite.  They are paid a lot of money…so maybe you should tell them what 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.

Leadership – it can’t be that simple

I could tell Gemma was frustrated.  Normally she stood up and greeted visitors with a smile, but this time she sat sullenly in her chair.  I sat opposite her just as a thick report landed in my lap.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The latest leadership thing” she replied.

I flicked through.  Spiderweb diagrams, colours, bar charts.  Looked nice.  Even had some words.

“So what are you going to do with this?” was my next question.

“Well, perhaps I can run a gap analysis with…THIS” and this time landed a 5-page brochure in my lap.

I flicked through.  Spiderweb diagrams, colours, bar charts.  Looked nice.  Even had some words.

“I get the impression you’re not happy” I ventured.

“Not happy?  Well then I need to adjust my leadership style.  Perhaps I need….THIS” she said loudly, poking her monitor then spinning it to show me a website with the words ‘LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES’ blazoned across the top, and a colourful diagram with the words ‘competencies’ written in the middle.  I spied the words ‘strategic architect’ before she angrily spun the monitor back around.

I waited.  Gemma stared at me, then gradually a smile appeared.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“This leadership business.  Leadership, leadership, leadership.  All over the place.  My people have been subjected to all sorts of soul-searching, feedback and various versions of amateur therapy and it seems that the whole thing is just a bunch of teaching adults how to get along.”

“Do you think most adults get along?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you think most adults in the world have the ability to work with another adult without ending up in a fight?”

Gemma raised her eyebrows.  ”I suppose….” she said.

“So maybe the reason leadership in your organisation isn’t delivering any more results is that you’re teaching adults what they already know”

Gemma slumped back in her char.

“Any ideas then?”

“Yep.  We’re going to do this.  We’re going to ask every manager in the organisation to:

  1. Let their people know what’s expected of them
  2. Set them up so they can deliver it
  3. Then expect it”

Gemma looked at me like I had just turned into Beetlejuice.  ”It can’t be that simple”

“Why not?”

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.

Why managers exist (really!)

The group of Senior Managers had their heads down, writing.  I’d asked them to put down, in a sentence, the purpose of management, why it exists.

“One more minute” I called out, going over to the whiteboard and checking that the marker I had picked up wasn’t permanent, a holdover from a workshop some seven years earlier that will never leave me!

“OK, what have we got?  Let’s call out some of the key words.”

After a brief silence, the more talkative in the group spoke up, then gradually everyone.  I wrote furiously on the board:

  • Provide direction
  • Inspire
  • Set context
  • Ensure performance
  • Deliver results
  • Create teamwork
  • Reward performance
  • Hard conversations

A stepped back, and moved into the group so we could view the board together.

“Not a bad list” I offered.

I let the silence hang, then asked; “But what is this actually a list of?”

Again, silence.  Then Kuldip, who had gone first earlier called out; “it’s what you asked for – why management exists”.

“Thank you for speaking up” I said smiling.  ”To me, however, it’s this….” and I went over to the whiteboard and wrote the word ‘ACTIVITIES’ on the top of the list.  I continued…

“It’s a list of things managers do.  And they all make perfect sense!.  Who could disagree?”

I looked around the room.  Some nods, some slight frowns, and a little bit of intrigue.

“But let’s go back to the question.  What’s the point of it?  What is the purpose of management, why does it exist?  Why do this stuff?”

More silence.  I’ve never been natural at what these days they call ‘holding the space’, but have learned over years of workshops.  I stayed still, then slowly went to the board and wrote

THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT IS……TO MAKE YOUR PEOPLE MORE VALUABLE TO THE ORGANISATION….’.

I stood back and surveyed the room.  Nods, some smiles.

I wrote up ‘….WHICH MAKES THEM FEEL….

This time Kuldip nailed it:

“VALUED’.

 

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.