Behaviours are bulldust

How would you react to this decree from the government:

These are the five ways we expect every citizen to behave.  All people observed not behaving in this way will be sanctioned, at first via discussions, then via bad ratings on the official record, and ultimately removal from the community.  The five behaviours can be found on government issue posters, coffee cups and lanyards which are freely available at your local post office.  You will be rated once per year on your adherence to these behaviours.

Does this sound like a community you want to be a part of?  Does it sound like a community where people are trusted to be adults and serve the best interests of each other?

You get the point.  And it’s full on.   It’s essentially an act of HR and Management sedition to suggest that all of this behaviour stuff might be bulldust.

But it is.

In the words of a better person than me: “Far out”



Well, actually, there’s a situation where behaviours are not bulldust.  If a group of people get together to discuss and agree behaviours for themselves, then fine.  What’s bulldust is the decreeing part.  The mandating.  The ‘we know what behaviours are best for you‘ part.  This is the bit that treats grown adults like they are in child care….which is eventually going to create child care behaviour, which is dependence and rebellion all at once. Read more…

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…

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…

The simple way to good service area relationships


“I can’t win” sighed John.

“Tough day?” I asked.  John was the Senior Manager of Work Health & Safety in a large organisation.

“It’s my senior colleagues from other areas” he began.  “We need a better approach to work health and safety around here, but that’s not going to happen if they don’t listen.”

“Why don’t they?”

“Because if I was them, I’d be doing exactly the same!  They’ve got serious businesses to run, they’re all on the hook for more profit next year and delivering services better.  Then along comes one of my team and somehow they’re supposed to prioritise my stuff’?” Read more…

Not enough to just start them driving


Start driving.  I’ll let you know if you’re going in the wrong way at the wrong speed“.

I see this a lot.  It might not look like this at first, but it’s exactly the same.  I see it in position descriptions:

  • “This role exists to produce frameworks and strategies…”
  • “The role includes analysis of reports and producing of recommendations….”
  • “The incumbent will demonstrate their skill in influencing and negotiation…”

And I see it when people are given work:

  • “Could you have a look at that article….”
  • “Draft up a paper which looks at the options….”
  • “Put together a policy on how recruitment will work…”

What’s missing from all of the above is what we are actually trying to achieve here, and why. Read more…

Behaviours, competencies and all that

I’m often asked about competencies, usually in the context of putting together clear role descriptions to create a work system that will deliver what is needed.

Competencies are to role descriptions what the mission statement is to organisational purpose – a well-intentioned beginning that has become a bland wishlist of generic points that will neither offend nor inspire anyone.

We need to be serve our people better than this.  Here’s a way to do it that makes life easier for everyone, using categories that are direct, actionable and treat people like adults

Put together roles that cover the below:

1) Unique Value-Add or Purpose – 1-3 sentences on what the role exists to do, including what level of work. Read more…