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.

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.

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.

Don’t (automatically) blame the performance appraisal

“We’re thinking about ditching performance appraisals” said Bill.  He was the CEO, I was sitting down with him and Theo his GM of HR.  ”Or at least revamping the whole thing.”

“Run me through it” I prompted.  ”What are you seeing that makes you think they aren’t working?”

Theo answered; “Formal feedback and anecdotal evidence.  We put out some simple questions, namely, to each employee; ‘I find the performance appraisal process to be useful to me in my work’, and to each manager ‘I find the performance appraisal process helps me to make my people more valuable’.  Both with the usual 5-point system between ‘not at all’ and ‘absolutely’.”

“What did you get?”

Bill jumped in; “We struggled to get to 3….which meant ‘somewhat’.  Mostly got 1s and 2s which means ‘not at all’ or ‘barely’ some value.”

“So as you can see…” Theo continued…”the system that my area leads isn’t too flash!”

“Maybe not” I answered. “But there’s a fair chance you’re looking at a symptom here, not a cause.”

“How can perform appraisals not working be a symptom?” asked Theo.  ”A symptom of what?”

“Ineffective organisational design.” 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 lift accountability without losing connection

Professional Talking

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.

Improve your life – sort the work system

Cog_thoughts_instructions_to_employees_high

If you’re a manager, you’re in charge of a work system.  I’m not talking about technology systems, I mean a system as in there’s an external world that puts things in, your area does things with them, and then something comes out to the external world.

A system.

You might even have done that thing where you draw the boxes and arrows, some ‘swimming lanes’ if you’re fancy and so can now declare “there’s my work system.”

Nice one.  So how come you still don’t have enough hours in the day?  Why is there still a line of people outside of your office?  And why does that diagram just fester on your G: drive and you didn’t know that your Visio licence expired two years ago?

The reason is because your work system isn’t so great.  You haven’t yet put in focussed effort to see your area as a work system, and then, every time something requires your intervention, see this as a work system failure.

That’s right – every time one of your people needs to come to you to ask a question that is not of the nature of ‘why do we do this?’, it is actually a failure of your work system. 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 highest returning recognition program I know

Post-its

Recognition programs.  We make them hard.  And we make excuses.  Meanwhile our people, who are actual human beings, would simply like to be recognised for what they are doing.

So while you’re waiting for the ‘reward and recognition program’ which you know is never going to emerge,  lets get on with it.  Here’s a simple recognition program that simply works; it has the highest rate of return I know:

  1. Hand out a block of 50 post-it notes to each manager
  2. The  use of them is for their people to unexpectedly find, whenever they have done something that was particularly effective, a post-it  on their screen saying  ’great work on [INSERT CURRENT INITIATIVE], thank you’.
  3. Inform each manager that the block needs to be used over the coming 12 months, and it has to be for actual effective performance.

That’s 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.