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

Bag of time (2)

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.

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.

Eliminate change management

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.

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.

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.

An easier way to do ‘accountabilities’

It’s that time of year when many HR/OD areas are sprucing up their performance appraisal systems, our long-term clients included.  It’s all part of an ongoing cycle, so the setting of accountabilities is naturally also on the agenda.

It’s that middle part of the last sentence that I’ve been pondering (because that’s the sort of thing cool people do)…the notion of ‘setting accountabilities’.

I’ve always advised this, I’m often brought in to help with this, and it’s important – any decent research into both performance and innovation shows that clarity of goals is a condition for both performance and innovation (after all, both ‘performance’ and ‘innovation’ are just work, and ‘work’ is the use of judgement to make decisions to achieve a…..goal.  But that’s another post)

Back to ‘setting accountabilities’.  One word at a time.

The word ‘setting‘ carries a certain implication…’set and forget’, ‘set in stone’, ‘we’re set to go’….it all implies that we’re now done, final, complete.  Which makes it seem like a huge deal, and something we can’t get wrong.  Like building a skyscraper. 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.