Nip the Bud

There are many ways to manicure a tree. Unwanted branches can be hacked off or buds can be nipped.

On a team, when performance does not meet expectations, it creates a gap. It’s the performance/expectation gap. In the near term, the gap is short and our options-to-fix are many.

As a manager, the longer you procrastinate the fix, the wider the gap becomes. In the long term, with a wider gap, the dissatisfaction is greater and our options-to-fix are fewer.

Nip the bud or hack the branch.

Impact of Time on a Decision

If I make this decision, what will happen?

  • If I make this decision, what will happen immediately, what will be the initial response or change in circumstance?
  • If I make this decision today, what will be different in a day’s time, when the dust has settled?
  • If I make this decision today, what will change in a week’s time, a month’s time?
  • If I make this decision today, what will we have learned in the next year, how will our path be different?

If I make this decision, what if?

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Before I make a decision, I ask this question – What else do I need to know?

  • What else do I need to know, before I make this decision?
  • What else do I need to know, that if I don’t know, may come back to destroy the decision?
  • What else do I need to know, that would cause me to make a different decision?
  • What else do I need to know, that would cause someone else to make a different decision?
  • What else do I need to know, that I don’t know I need to know?

I am not looking for analysis paralysis, but I am looking for a gut-check on my intuition.

Shift the Coaching

Arguments pit two people at loggerheads against each other. The interchange consists of declaratory statements that contradict.

Arguments shift to exploration when the declarations turn to questions. You will likely never persuade with declaratory statements. You will likely only influence with exploratory questions.

Declaratory statements can be ignored, interpreted, misinterpreted or rejected.

Questions require consideration, reflection and critical thinking.

Mother of Invention

The point is to determine the best alternative. Not the best alternative that you can imagine, but the best alternative that is possible. Step one requires temporarily suspending judgement, to consider alternatives outside of your own experience or imagination. Without suspending judgement, outside ideas get filtered.

But, why waste time on outside ideas that are likely nonsense?

See, you already filtered those outside ideas as nonsense.

Suspending judgement is difficult, because it requires you might have to admit you were wrong in your assumptions.

Suspending judgement, temporarily requires that you consider ridiculous alternatives. And if you consider ridiculous alternatives, it frees your mind to generate more ridiculous alternatives in a chain of ideas containing many elements, one of which may actually save the day. Idea fluency.

You may never get to the idea that saves the day without the meanderings of ridiculous alternatives. When we temporarily suspend judgement, it gives us permission to consider things run backward, the front end of one idea connected to the back end of another idea, the ridiculous context of one idea as the crucible for the right idea.

Attract the Right Candidates

“Our problem is, we don’t have enough candidates respond to our job posting,” lamented Joanna. “Or the people who show up aren’t even close to the type of person we need to fill the position.”

“Let’s see,” I asked.

Looking for a construction Job Superintendent with 3-5 years experience. Must have positive attitude and ability to relate to building owners. Knowledge of permitting process in South Florida helpful. Health insurance and 401k. Must be a team player.

“And how would you describe the current pool of applicants? Do they have the required experience?”

Joanna nodded, “They have 3-5 years experience, but they aren’t very energetic. They wouldn’t last around here for more than a week.”

“Tell me Joanna, what kind of energy do you have in the posting? Does the writing portray the sense of urgency that goes on around here? Let’s put a little zip in the step.”

Commercial contractor in South Florida looking for a top-flight Job Superintendent. Our clients demand a quick-response person in this critical position. We work under tough building codes with stringent enforcement, so ability to get along with inspectors is important. Aggressive compensation and benefits package are part of the deal. Send us your resume or apply online through the employment section of our website. We need you now, let us hear from you today.

Whose Problem Is It?

[Our online program – Hiring Talent 2018 kicks off April 16. More information here. Only two spots left.]
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“I cannot believe my technicians are running into the same problem, again,” Roger complained.

“Again?” I asked.

“Yes, and they keep coming back to me, thinking I will solve it for them.”

“Whose problem is it?” I pressed.

“It’s their problem,” Roger insisted.

“Their problem?” I repeated. “Sounds like it is your problem. Tell me, if it was your problem, would your problem be the same as their problem?”

Roger stopped. “I am not sure where you are going with this.”

“Look, if your technicians have a problem, it is likely to be a technical problem, and yes, they can handle the technical problems. What impact does that have on you? What are you accountable for?”

Roger took a deep breath. “You are right. I am accountable for the overall output for the day, the week, so if there is a technical problem, it is going to impact the overall output. I guess it is my problem.”

“Not so fast,” I smiled. “You are not the only one affected. What about your manager?”

“What about him? I just hope I can get this solved before he finds out,” Roger replied.

“Oh, really. What if the problem is really your manager’s problem?”

Roger did not respond, so I continued.

“The problem your technicians have, if it is a technical problem, they can fix it. If it takes a while to fix it, you have an output problem. You are going to fall short by the end of the week. You might have to call a customer about a late order. But, you said this is the same problem over and over. This might be a system problem. Something in the system might need some attention. If we fix the problem now, for this one customer, and we don’t fix the system, do you think the problem might happen again?”

Now Roger was engaged. “So, my technicians have a problem today. I have a problem for the end of the week. But my manager might have a problem forever, until he fixes the system?”

“Yes, this is not one problem, this is three problems, each at its own level of work. Requires a cooperative effort to identify the problem, gather the data and execute the solution at each level of work.”

The Glory of Chaos

[Our online program – Hiring Talent 2018 kicks off April 16. More information here. Only two spots left.]

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
You said a growing company has to slow down and describe the work. You nailed our company – we miss deadlines, too much rework, a warranty claim, turnover, morale is tense, managers are nervous. Yet, we have more incoming work than we can handle. And all you can say is – we need to slow down and describe the work?

Response:
Or you can stay in the chaos. Somehow, you will manage to get through the day. You will settle your warranty claim, but the tension will remain.

You cannot work faster, harder or longer to solve this problem. You have to re-trench. This is fundamental blocking and tackling. It starts with describing the work in the role, documented in a role description (fundamental blocking and tackling).

A project manager with three projects is level (II) work. The work is coordinating and scheduling all the elements of the project. There is level (II) decision making and problem solving.

A project manager with 50 projects is level (III) work. It requires a system and a team. The decision making is not about project management. There are too many projects. The decision making is about the system of project management. The problem-solving is not about project management. The problem-solving is about the system of project management.

Or, you can stay in the chaos.

Not a Mis-hire

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
Thanks for your blog – I read it regularly and share a few posts with others.

There are definite hiring/management issues at my new job. Been working here, now, 5 months and have seen 10 people let go, or people finding other places to work. Would make your head spin! I feel bad for the people because I feel most were mis-hired. Some are management-employee issues, some personal issues as well. There is always the feeling here that you can be easily replaced.

Response:
It is not unusual for a company, especially a growing company, to experience high levels of turnover. New roles are created. More headcount into existing roles. A growing company is not used to robust levels of on-boarding, orientation and training. It is enough to make your head spin.

The organization has to slow down. In its effort to go fast, it will over-spin its capacity, encounter quality issues, rework and missed deadlines. It has to slow down to go fast.

It is not just more work to be done. As volume increases, so does the level of work. Project management working three simultaneous projects requires different decision making and different problem solving than project management working 50 simultaneous projects. A growing company expects a project manager to make the leap without acknowledging that it is a different level of work, requiring a higher level of capability.

A growing company, in the midst of this dilemma, begins to look for magic potions, command and control unconsciously emerges. Hours get longer, fatigue sets in. In an effort to go faster, turnover becomes an increasing statistic.

The problem appears to be mis-hiring defective people, when the truth is, the hiring manager failed to understand the increased level of work in the role. It’s not just more work, it is different work. Not defective people, defective roles.

Slow down, describe the work.

[Our online program – Hiring Talent 2018 kicks off April 16. More information here]

Can’t Always Get What You Want

[Our online program – Hiring Talent 2018 kicks off April 16. More information here]

You will never ever get what you want!!! You will only get what you focus on.

At first I am disappointed, because I really want what I want. And, it makes me feel bad to understand that I will never get what I want.

If I really want it, I have to focus on it.

“It is really hard to find good people these days. We just never seem to hire the kind of people we really want.”

YOU WILL NEVER EVER GET WHAT YOU WANT! You will only get what you focus on.

It’s not that you can’t find good people out there. You have not focused your concentration and energy to find good people. What does focus look like? Think about finding good people, talk about finding good people, have meetings about finding good people, plan a campaign to find good people. Roll out an action plan to find good people.

You will never get what you want. You will only get what you focus on.