Category Archives: Accountability

How to Explain Levels of Work to Your Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I finished your Time Span 101 program and now I understand levels of work. But, I hesitate to talk to my team about it. How do you explain Time Span to a team whose roles are at S-I level of work. I am afraid they won’t understand or will react negatively to their role at S-I.

Response:
You don’t have to introduce the concept of level of work to your S-I team. They already know it. Ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand they have a supervisor that gives them task assignments?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand that their supervisor likely receives more in compensation?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I believe the work they do is different from the work their supervisor does?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand they have some decisions they can make and that their supervisor has the authority to make other decisions?

Your team members intuitively already understand levels of work. When I talk to teams in roles at S-I or S-II, we talk about goals and objectives, decisions to make and problems to solve. We talk about accountability. We talk about who makes the decision at what level of work. We talk about who solves the problem at what level of work. We talk about contribution and how roles fit together.

Your teams already understand levels of work. These are normal managerial conversations to have with your team. These are required conversations.

Is it a Full Time Managerial Relationship or Part Time Cross Functional?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from last Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. So far, we’ve looked at three questions.

Today, the last question.

  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

If the work is only part time or the work is in defined projects that start and stop, then the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role is a classic cross-functional (service getting) relationship.

If the work assigned by the Product Manager to the Marketing Services role is full time, then it might be more appropriate for the relationship to be a managerial relationship. The Marketing Manager would then likely be in a cross-functional (advisor) relationship to the Product Manager.

So, the question posed last Tuesday sounded simple, but there are a number of questions to consider when designing the managerial and cross-functional relationships in your company.

Which Manager is Accountable for the Output?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. So far, we’ve looked at two questions.

Today, the next question.

  • Which manager is accountable for the output (quantity, quality, within timeframe, using allocated resources) of the Marketing Services role?

Make no mistake, in the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role, the Product Manager will, appropriately, be making task assignments to the Marketing Services role. But the question is, which manager is accountable for the output?
When the Product Manager appropriately makes task assignments to the Marketing Services role, we have to examine the four pieces of the task assignment – QQTR

  • What is the quantity of the output?
  • What is the quality standard of the output?
  • What is the time span (deadline, evaluation period) of the output?
  • What are the allocated resources related to the output?

The specific answers to these questions will help us determine whether the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role will be a managerial relationship or a cross-functional relationship.

Here is the critical question? If there is underperformance on the part of the Marketing Services role, does the Product Manager correct and coach, or does the Product Manager ask the Marketing Manager for a different Marketing Services person?

If the Product Manager is expected to coach, then the relationship is more like a managerial relationship. If the Product Manager asks the Marketing Manager to send someone different, then the relationship is more like a cross-functional (service getting) relationship.

Monday, we will look at the last question.

  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

Can the Manager Bring Value?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. Yesterday, we looked at the first question.

Today, the next question.

  • Which manager is in the best position to bring value to the decisions made and problems solved by the Marketing Services role?

The Marketing Services role can likely handle routine problems and decisions, it’s the tough decisions that have to be made and the tough problems that have to be solved, where the right manager makes a difference. To make that decision, we have to anticipate those decisions and problems and determine which manager will bring the most value. The answer to that question is not the only factor in our selection, but it will help us understand whether the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing services role will be

Tomorrow, we will look at the third question in this decision. Which manager is accountable for the output (quantity, quality, within timeframe, using allocated resources) of the Marketing Services role?

One Stratum Separation

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from yesterday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. Today, the first question –

  • What is the level of work in each role described?

To be an effective manager, there must be one stratum separation between the manager and the team member. So, a role at S-III can be an effective manager to a role at S-II. A role at S-IV may have difficulty being an effective manager for a role at S-II, because their goals and objectives look at dramatically different time frames. An S-II role cannot be an effective manager for another S-II role because, given a difficult problem to solve, they both solve problems the same way. Given a difficult decision to make, they both make decisions the same way.

And, role titles can often be misleading. While the word “manager” often points me to an S-III role, there are many S-II roles that also use the word “manager.” To design the appropriate managerial relationship or the appropriate cross-functional relationship, we first have to determine the level of work in each role.

Tomorrow, we will look at the second question. Which manager is in the best position to bring value to the decisions made and problems solved by the Marketing Services role?

Which Manager is Accountable?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
What is your feeling about a manager only managing one person?

Here is the scenario. We have a Product Manager accountable for new product development research and portfolio creation. Suggestion was to have a Marketing Services person, accountable for the creation of marketing collateral and advertising campaigns, report to the Product Manager. This Marketing Services person would be the only report that the Product Manager would be supervising.

My fear is that the Product Manager, also accountable for major business development activities centering on future business and product development, will be engaged in production type work involving market assessments and research for new product development. The Marketing Services role will be of little help in this work.

The Marketing Services person is accountable for today’s activities rather than future. In some ways it would seem distracting for the Product Manager to supervise the Marketing Services role.

Personally I think the Marketing Services role should report to the Marketing Manager, who is better suited. The Marketing Manager would then have seven direct reports. Better use of resources.

Response:
This is a classic example of organizational design, that contemplates whether the structure between the roles should be a managerial relationship or a cross-functional relationship.

There are some fundamental questions that must be answered first?

  • What is the level of work in each role described?
  • Which manager is accountable for the output (quantity, quality, within timeframe, using allocated resources) of the Marketing Services role? You describe who reports to who. Wrong question. We all report to lots of people. The central question is which manager is accountable?
  • Which manager is in the best position to bring value to the difficult problems and difficult decisions made by the Marketing Services role?
  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

The answers to these questions will help determine the appropriate structure. We will take them one at a time over the next few days.

Who Gets on the Team?

“You will never be able to work on larger problems until your team becomes competent at the smaller problems,” I repeated. “You can never be promoted to a higher level role until you find someone to take responsibilities in your current role.”

“Yes, but who?” Drew replied.

“That’s for you to decide. In addition to making sure that production gets done, as a manager, one of your primary roles is to build the team.”

“You mean like team building?”

“More like a talent scout, except you get to observe all the time. Here are your levers.

  • Selection
  • Task assignment (what, by when, resources)
  • Assessment
  • Coaching
  • De-selection (if you made a mistake in the first step)

“Okay,” Drew hesitated.

“Start with selection. You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. You can’t pick your friend’s nose, but you can pick who is on your team. That’s where it starts. If you do this job well, the rest is easy. You do this job poorly, the rest is miserable.”

“But, sometimes, I feel like I don’t get to pick who is on my team. They just sort of show up from HR,” Drew protested.

“Candidates may come in sideways. I know your hiring protocol. HR does a great job at trying to source candidates for your production team. I know your manager screens those candidates and several other people conduct interviews and give you their feedback. But, at the end of the day, you pick. As the hiring manager, you have, at a minimum, veto authority as to who is on the team.”

The Problem Isn’t Your Boss

“You seem a bit frustrated,” I said.

“I am, I am,” Drew replied. “I think I do a pretty good job in my role as a supervisor. We have a complicated process with long lead items and seasonal demand. During season, we build to order. Off season, we build to stock. We have certain constraints in our process that slow us down and sometimes things stack up when we overproduce some of our sub-assemblies. All in all, I keep things together pretty well.”

“Then, why the frustration?”

“If I could spend the time analyzing the way the work flows through, look at some things that could be done at the same time, understand where the bottlenecks are, I think we could get more through the system.”

“So, why don’t you do that?”

Drew thought for a minute. “Every time I start flow-charting things out, I have to stop and take care of something gone wrong, something we are out of, a team member who didn’t show up for work. It’s always something.”

“What happens when something goes wrong?”

“I get yelled at. My boss tells me to stop thinking so hard and get back to work. The time I spend working on the system just increases my workload beyond what I can get done in a day,” Drew complained. “I am constantly reminded that my primary function is to make sure that orders ship. I just can’t convince my boss that if the company is to move forward, we need to spend time looking at the sequence of steps to make things run smoother.”

“If you keep getting dragged back into day to day problem solving, fighting the fires of the moment, what is the solution? Who else on your team could buffer some of those problems?”

“Nobody. I am the go-to guy. There isn’t anyone else, and there is only one of me.”

“So, the problem isn’t your boss, it’s you,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“You will never be able to work on larger problems until your team becomes competent at the smaller problems. You can never be promoted to a higher level role until you find someone to take responsibilities in your current role.”

Relationship for the MOR at S-V

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
For a system architect at S-III, you described the role of their manager at S-IV. What would be the role of the manager-once-removed at S-V?

S-V – Manager-once-removed (5-10 year objectives)
—————————-
S-IV – Manager (2-5 year objectives)
—————————-
S-III – System architect (1-2 year objectives)

Response:
The relationship between the manager at S-IV and the system architect at S-III is an accountability relationship. When they get together, they talk about the work, solving problems and making decisions. The manager at S-IV is accountable for the output of the S-III system architect.

The relationship between the manager-once-removed at S-V and the system architect at S-III is a mentoring relationship. When they get together, they talk about –

  • Challenge in the role
  • Work environment
  • Training interests
  • Long term career opportunities

The focus for the S-V manager-once-removed is on strategic objectives 5-10 years out, so the question is, how will this S-III system architect contribute to my strategic objectives over the next 5-10 years? Will this system architect become more capable over time and be able to assume an S-IV role over the next 5-10 years?

What’s the Work of a System Architect at S-III

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
So, yes, we have an individual technical contributor, a system architect role, at S-III, with no reports. Does this then mean the system architect fulfills “production” and that a Stratum IV role would be the supervisor and a Stratum V role would create the system? Or, would you say that the system architect fulfills all three roles? Or something different altogether?

Response:
Again, this question reveals a couple of important issues.

  • What is production work at S-III?
  • What is the role of the manager at S-IV and the manager-once-removed at S-V?

In some business models, especially B2B, the product or service delivered to the customer might easily be a system which requires S-III capability to create.

For example, a customer might require a software system to automate a large work process. This customer might contract with a company to accomplish the following work.

  • Needs analysis
  • Workflow documentation
  • Automation system design
  • Software selection and procurement
  • Software installation and configuration
  • Workflow integration with the software
  • Role re-design to include software operation around the work process
  • Training of personnel
  • Testing of workflow for throughput
  • Evaluation of automated workflow related to the initial needs analysis

This is all clearly S-III system work and might easily take 12-24 months to accomplish. Remember, the goal is NOT to install an automated system, but to install an automated system that exceeds throughput of the original work process. The goal is to get the automated system up to a full working capacity.

Indeed, the production work is S-III system work, for the role of a system architect, with no direct reports.

Assuming the system architect has the capability to be effective at this level of work, it is likely that she will create her own progress metrics (making sure production gets done). In addition, she may also document the system for creating the system. So, much of the supervisory and managerial work related to the project might be accomplished by this same system architect.

But, every person performs at a higher level with a manager, so what is the role of the system architect’s manager (at S-IV). The function of a manager is to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of the team member. The system architect can handle the routine decisions and problems, but might require help with the tough problems and decisions.

For example. The system architect might be able to automate this work process, but struggle with how this automated system might integrate with other systems in the customer’s company. It is one thing to automate manufacturing planning and procurement, stock and inventory of raw materials used in a manufacturing process, but how might that integrate with research and development? This is where the system architect’s manager might bring value.

Tomorrow, we will talk about the role of the system architect’s manager-once-removed.