Stepping Up to Senior Management – Your New Kettle Of Fish

If you’d like to watch me go through this on video, just click here.  6 mins with captions.

Senior Management is not just more management.  It’s a new kettle of fish.  I’ll go through:

  • The change in the nature of the work
  • What the job actually is
  • Action To Take

Senior Management

First – what are we talking about here?  The key thing is manager of managers.  Or, managers of multiple teams, who each have their own leadership.  These roles can be called various things, some of the ones from my clients are:

Read more…

“You can’t talk to my people” is NOT Requisite!!!

Exit Sign


I’ve heard that principles of Requisite Organisation mean that people can’t talk to people in other teams without checking with the manager first.  This seems to be against all modern ways of working together as an organisation, so just wanted to check in with you as I know you are an expert in this model.


I’m very glad you checked.  First principles, ‘Requisite’ means ‘what is required’ and in our model, which we call Requisite Enterprise as it uses these principles among others, it’s about designing and leading work so it’s fulfilling for customers, employees, beneficiaries and the planet.

This means that a way of working that causes frustration and disintegration of relationships is never going to be requisite in our model.  Saying ‘you can’t talk to them without checking with me first‘ is therefore obviously not part of what we teach in our workshops and online.

The Managerial Relationship

But…we can acknowledge where this comes from.  We use the Elliott Jaques idea of making managers accountable for their teams serving their customers (internal or external), and so give managers the authority to ultimately decide the way ‘work works’ and who does what in their area if that’s required.  This is called authority to ‘assign’ work.  And we describe the relationship between Managers and the team members using the Jaques term ‘Task Assigning Role Relationships’ or ‘TARRs’.  (BTW…we insist that before decisions managers also get the input of all those effected as an absolute minimum)

It is, however, a mistake to therefore think that this authority to ‘assign work’ means ‘a person may only do work directly assigned by their manager’, or even further ‘only the manager may talk to this person about work’. Read more…

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… 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…

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.


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…

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”.


Which one do you hold your Senior Managers accountable for?

Danni was General Manager Operations in a 1400-person organisation with about 600 people under her umbrella.   The new Board had made it clear they required a renewed focussed on ‘efficiency and effectiveness’.

“What does that mean” I asked.

“You know, do more with less, headcount, that sort of thing” she answered.

“So what sort of stuff will you be doing”?

“Well everyone is talking the usual suspects.  LEAN, Six Sigma, process maps….I can see a lot of boxes and arrows in my future”.

“That sounds like efficiency to me” I continued.  Where’s the effectiveness?”.

“Well I like the traditional definitions.  Efficiency is doing things right, and effectiveness is doing the right things”.

“So which one do you hold your Senior Managers accountable for?”