You won’t believe this LinkedIn post – a guy asks: “How do you quantitatively measure organization’s change tolerance?”
Seriously? And you’d want to measure that… why? Because you want to know if people can tolerate the change you want to make? That’s as silly as those “change readiness” studies.
I told him he would be better off to measure:
1. Out of all the people who will be affected by the change, how many actually understand:
- WHAT the change is you want to make?
- WHEN do you want the change to unfold, i.e., what timeline do you have in mind?
- WHY the change matters – what difference will this change make?
2. Out of all the people who will be affected by the change, how many have an opportunity to give input on ways the change will affect their daily work?
- How many of them actually take the opportunity and give some input?
- How much of that input is useful, i.e., helps improve the plans and timelines for the change?
Measuring change understanding and participation will bypass those waste-of-time pre-change studies and actually engage people in designing a smarter change. That greases the wheels for implementation. And that has people working ON the change instead of reacting TO it. Change dialogue is a useful thing.
If we spent half as much time engaging people in implementing a change as we do assessing how they might react to it, the success rate for organization change would skyrocket.
If I offered you a choice between being an architect for $75,000 a year and working in a tollbooth every day for the rest of your life for $100,000 a year, which would you take? I’m guessing the former, because there is complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward in doing creative work, and that’s worth more to most of us than money.”
That’s from “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. He told a story about an immigrant who built a garment business:
“He was his own boss. He was responsible for his own decisions and direction. His work was complex: it engaged his mind and imagination. And in his work, there was a relationship between effort and reward: the longer he and his partner stayed up at night sewing aprons, the more money they made the next day on the streets.
“Those three things – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have it if is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that makes us happy between 9:00 and 5:00. It’s whether our work fulfills us.”
One ingredient is missing from a project I’m working on now. Does that mean management is missing? I’m saying yes. The boss isn’t providing it, and I’m not moving on to something else – either way, one of us isn’t watching the “Workplace Satisfaction Scoreboard” and using its feedback effectively.
There are Leaders (cue trumpets) and there are managers (no capital letter). Leaders point the way to a future, inspiring people to follow them. Managers get out the shovels to clear a path, determine equipment, supplies, and other resources needed, and orchestrate teams, tasks, and processes to make the desired future a reality.
How do Leaders and managers talk to each other? Leaders give direction and managers gratefully appreciate the generous guidance of the enlightened? No, managers hear “Leadership direction” bulletins as an opening for dialogue.
Managers understand the idea of “dialogue” very well. They use dialogue as a way to understand and resolve unforeseen challenges, and engage people in being productive and contributing to solutions. They know they won’t get far just by giving orders.
So why isn’t the Leader—manager dialogue always effective? The Leader isn’t always setting up a dialogue! Sometimes they’re just giving an instruction, a declaration, or an announcement and don’t want to talk much about it. Giving Leadership direction is not the same as opening a two-way conversation. Directing and explaining don’t necessarily involve listening.
Karen (Leader): “We are going to buy two new road-clearing vehicles for the City. All road crew supervisors will take classes for the new computer systems in these trucks.”
Chet (crew chief): “My crew will also need instruction on using the new kind of hydraulic lifts, and maintaining the electronic and mechanical sensory systems too.”
Karen: “The computer classes are all we’re talking about now”.
Mandy managed her staff using one-on-one meetings with each individual every week. She wanted to learn more about what each one does, and to give input on what else they could do.
The biggest downside was her staff members started communicating more with her and less with each other. Soon Mandy became the information hub, making sure staff members got what they needed to do their jobs properly.
We sketched out a network – each staff person was a circle, connected to others by lines labeled with whatever was sent or received between them. It really wasn’t very complicated – we drew it on a big white-board in the meeting room. Everyone could update it as they thought of something else they needed. Best of all, they saw things they could stop doing because they were no longer needed.
- Communications Manager – Needs weekly reports from every supervisor about their meetings, decisions made, and upcoming regional events. Also needs promotional text from Training manager about upcoming programs.
- Budget Officer – Needs monthly expense reports from every staff member plus ballpark projections for next month.
- Training Manager – Needs summary of training surveys from regional offices and updates in skills ams from all trainers.
- Etc. etc.
Managing individuals in one-on-one meetings is not a very high-leverage approach to getting things done. Mandy got herself out of the middle – now she has group staff meetings to check on the status of agreements for all those necessary exchanges between people. Smarter.
… Your boss doesn’t respond to your emails. Is her computer broken? Is she on vacation and didn’t tell me? Was the question I asked her so difficult that she has to think it over for another few days or weeks?
… A manager in another Division takes it upon himself to tell my team members not to start their project yet. And when I call him on it, he says “it was just a recommendation”. Hey, did I ask you to coach my team?
… A guy in the Training Department sends me a list of people who want to know more about the upcoming training calls. Then he calls me back 3 weeks later and asks if I have contacted those people yet. Really? What made you think I was the person to do that job?
… The special projects team refuses to give deadlines for items on their list of things they have promised to complete. They only say they will update us at the next meeting. They can’t say which tasks and decisions will be finished by then?
… The boss says she will handle the external CEO who wants a copy of the video we took of his speech at our annual meeting. The external CEO is asking me when he’s going to get his DVD. Of course, I don’t know, because the boss was going to handle that. And, remember, she’s not answering my emails.
When I lead a management program, I always learn from the managers about whatever Best Practices and the Perilous Pitfalls they use to control or improve performance in their workplace. The Priority Pitfall is very popular, but even though it sounds smart, priority-management damages productivity.
When I ask you to do a priority task, I’m saying my request is “more important” than whatever else you’re working on. Is that because:
- I am more important than you are (higher up the food-chain, maybe)?
- I think you like me better than the other person who wants something from you?
- You owe me a favor?
Or is it that we really operate on an emergency basis most of the time?
Why not do the work planning that will sort out what needs to be done to reach our goals? That way we could avoid the crazy “Priority Interruption Dance” that pulls people off one task and tries to relocate their attention to something else.
One executive I know says, “We’ve outlawed priorities here. Anybody who says they have a priority task is throwing a grenade into our work plans. We make that guy pay for the pizza at next week’s status report meeting.”
It’s so much easier to set clear goals and objectives, with timelines for task accomplishment and regular and frequent status reviews. That gets the “personal preference” out of what is really important, and lets everyone see a clear path to producing desired results and outcomes.
I’m just sayin’.
In a recent day-long video-meeting on “performance”, Mike, the speaker, insisted that performance is “intentional action or intentional inaction” with respect to something I have given my word to accomplish.
Did he mean to say that performance is a product of action or inaction? Maybe not: perhaps performance is simply about taking action (or deliberately not taking action) on whatever you promised.
Or, alternative approach, maybe there are 3 levels of performance:
1. Doing promise-relevant actions,
2. Delivering a promised result, the product of those actions, and
3. Achieving an outcome, the product of those results.
I suspect this escalation could go on for many more levels.
The original word “perform” includes the idea of providing something to someone else. It suggests at least two players – a Performer and a Recipient – that are connected by the Performance, which is delivered.
So I think I’ll go with this interpretation:
Kind of frustrating to be in a video-meeting and want to wave your hand wildly and say, “You are missing the key to performance: It’s all in the delivery! The guy on the video couldn’t see me waving. But I did send him an email about it – a performance of sorts.
It’s easy to see why “performance reviews” in the workplace are so messy – almost everyone avoids them, and nobody really knows how to do them properly.
We – team of 80 volunteer managers and assistants – just delivered a successful conference for 686 people. Here’s a nutshell summary of our management:
- INTENTION – Our relationship to the external environment of the Conference is (a) supporting the impacts Conference participants have in their environments, and (b) providing support to increase that impact in their areas of interest.
- STRUCTURE – A hierarchy of Managers, Team Leaders, and Team Members, each with performance agreements among Teams and with organizational Staff Leaders. Our “coordinating structure” was the Conference Program.
- FUNCTION – (a) What we are managing for is: Effective operations, happy customers, and bottom-line results and feedback; (b) What “performance” means is: (1) Executing and implementing decisions; (2) Making agreements on what we will deliver and when; and (3) Impact – getting good results for the attendees.
- CULTURE – (a) Team leaders and members are motivated by their own interest, enjoyment, and satisfaction in the work itself and the results for attendees; (b) Communication is both information-sharing and two-way discussion/dialogue; (c) Communication moves well vertically, but requires a lot of support to connect horizontally, between “silos”.
- PERSONAL – (a) My “altitude” on this Team is in top management. (b) We do not have a good set of “SMART” goals. (c) Our expectation of support for resources to reach goals is “Medium”. (d) The people I work with most are accountable for producing results and communicating when they need support or resources. Quite a few are also self-starters.
We also had a good time.
Is it wired into a human being to think everything is About Me? As managers, we operate like individuals. But notice three management words:
- Perform – The word comes from the Latin “per” (thoroughly) + “fournir” (provide or furnish). To perform means to provide something thoroughly, to someone or something outside ourselves. Performance is delivering a product, service, or communication to other people – not an individual phenomenon.
- Accomplish, from the Latin “ad” (to) + “com” (with) + “plere” (fulfill) reminds us that to accomplish is to complete, or fill, together. The root of accomplishment is with others, not a solo performance.
- Promise is from the Latin “pro” (forward) + “mittere” (send), with the same base as “missile”, or “mission”. It’s about sending something forth to someone else, making an agreement with someone to do something.
Performance, in fact all accomplishment, is not a product of individual, or even team, effort. It is a product of the relationships between individuals and between teams. That’s why it is so important to pay attention to the deliverables – the products, services, and communications – that are sent from one person or group to another.
In fact, the deliverable may be more important than the people. Heresy? No. The deliverables are what connect us to each other for performance. We can define and change a deliverable, and agree on it in a way that we may not be able to agree about our own thoughts, feelings, and values. Get the deliverable right, and you share an accomplishment.
I see where the missing 50% of my performance went: it never had a chance.
If the basic tools of management are:
1. Scoreboards for Objectives, Deliverables, and Players;
2. Calendars for Objectives, Deliverables, and Assessments;
3. Players Map(s); and
4. Conversations for Creating agreements, Agreement status, and Endings,
… then I am missing the first tool of management in several areas.
Those little tasks – usually tied to bigger ones – are not well anchored to a Specific Measurable Result. The SMR, as it’s called in some university MBA programs, can be associated with an objective, a deliverable, or a particular “player” such as a customer, partner, or vendor.
A task like “find the disconnects in this process and make it more efficient” might sound like there’s a clear objective: a more efficient process. But why? What’s the big picture purpose? How will we know we’ve won, or accomplished something worthwhile?
Too many of my tasks are not aligned with something – a Specific Measurable Result – that is valuable to me. I can fix that!