Category Archives: Organization Structure

Twelve Months From Now

I repeated my question. “What things do you need to pay attention to, that will have an impact one year from now?”

“This company is pretty stable in what it does,” she replied. “We may replace a machine or our volume might go up or down. But what really changes, is the people. You never know what is going to happen with the people.” Melanie’s mind began to race like she had just discovered uranium.

“You’re right,” she continued. “The biggest thing that always changes, is the people.”

“And even if the people don’t change, the people change. Even if it’s still the same people, they are not the same people.”

Melanie’s discovery of uranium was shifting to panic. This new world that opened up just a few seconds ago, suddenly got very scary.

“So, I am responsible for knowing that, a year into the future?” she asked.

I nodded.
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

Being Busy

“You were promoted because your manager was promoted. I didn’t think you were ready to make the move from supervisor to manager, but the position was open and the COO was impatient. He is now having second thoughts when he looks at your turnover statistics.”

Melanie was quiet. Her voice, calm. “I didn’t know that. But you said two of my supervisors quit because they graduated night school and got better jobs. I can’t help that?”

“We found out in the exit interview. They had jobs lined up three months before they gave you notice. And you didn’t know.”

“But how was I supposed to know. We stay pretty busy around here,” she protested.

“Melanie, the job of being a manager is not about being busy. It’s not about scrambling to save the day. As a supervisor, you were effective at that. Now, it is killing your effectiveness as a manager. As a manager, your role is completely different.

“You said you could anticipate things, as a supervisor,” I continued. “You said you could see the future. I need you to see even further into the future. As a manager, I need you to think out 12 months.”

Melanie shifted, sat up, “But, who knows what is going to happen a year from now?”

“Indeed,” I said. “What things do you need to pay attention to that will have an impact one year from now?”
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Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016. Here are some responses to the program.

“Drilling down to get to the core of what candidates actually did and were responsible for was a big take away for me. Before this course, I would have moved to the next question without getting the answer I needed to make an informed decision as people do try to answer what you want to hear not with what they have demonstrated they are capable of.”

“There were two ideas that were the most helpful to me. One was taking the time to develop a set of interview questions for each role that focused on how the candidates meet the job requirements. The other idea that was helpful was the decision matrix, especially when considering a number of qualified candidates.”

“The biggest concept that is sticking with me is the importance of the interviewer controlling the interview so that they obtain the important, detailed information from each candidate regarding the candidate’s skills, capabilities and attitudes. It is so easy for the candidate to control the interview and “dazzle” the interviewer with made-up answers that are pleasing to the ear but not necessarily true. This program taught us not only that it is important to create specific questions that elicit the truth from candidates, but it taught us HOW to create those questions. It was extremely helpful that we created questions for an actual job that exists in our company because it made it easy to apply the concepts of the course to our own real situations at work.”

Transition From Supervisor to Manager

“Do you know why you were promoted from supervisor to manager last year?” I asked.

“Because, I was the best darn supervisor the company had,” Melanie replied.

“And, being the best supervisor, what did you do that none of the other supervisors were able to do?”

“Oh, that was easy. I could see the future. I could tell when something was going to get screwed up, weeks ahead of time, and I could adjust the schedule to make sure we stayed productive. You know, if you reject some raw material because it’s out of spec, that means you have to shift some stuff around.”

“Yes, you were one of the best schedulers around.”

“What do you mean, were?” quizzed Melanie. “I still am.”

“Not exactly. Do you know why you were promoted from supervisor to manager last year?”

The Clarity of Accountability

“it’s funny,” Byron thought out loud. “You always ask me, as the manager, about my contribution to the problem. Immediately, I always think – Who? Me? I didn’t contribute to the problem.”

“And, what have you discovered when you deny accountability?” I asked.

“I just have to stop. I have always confronted my team with blame-colored glasses. When I realize that I am the one accountable for the output of my team, everything changes. When I realize that I am accountable for the output of the team, I take ownership. Ownership is a powerful stimulant for caring about my team. Constructive coaching automatically follows, not because I have to, but, because I am accountable.”

“And your team?”

“They change too. They are no longer on the receiving end of blame, but are now, part of a team, supporting me, as their manager,” Byron nodded.

“And did that change happen because you circled the team to sing a song?”

“No, it happened because we got clear about accountability.”

The Electrifying Subtle Shift

“So, it turns out that the ten percent reject rate was caused by a burr on a threaded plastic part. Your inspection system failed to sample a new vendor at a higher rate and their sub-standard parts were co-mingled with good parts from your current vendor?” I nodded.

“That’s about it,” Byron agreed.

“And, yet, you yelled at your team for not working hard enough, until you discovered the defective parts?”

“I did,” Byron fessed up.

“Yet, your team was doing their very best already.”

“I know, but we were still getting the ten percent reject rate. I had to do something,” Byron protested, again denying responsibility.

“Don’t get defensive, this is important. You had a ten percent reject rate and you responded in two ways, one effective and one not.

  • You yelled at your team (not effective).
  • You inspected your system, ultimately focusing on receiving inspection, and sample rates of inspection (effective).

And where did you find the problem?”

Byron understood half the problem. “It was only when we looked at the system,” he said.

“And the other half of the problem is this. Your team is only accountable for full commitment and doing their best. When you yelled at them, you were holding them accountable for the ten percent reject rate. As the manager, you can ONLY hold them accountable for doing their best. It is you, as the manager, who is accountable for the output of the team.

“You solved the problem only when you examined your own contribution to the problem. As the manager, you are accountable for the system. It was a system problem.

“What did you accomplish by yelling at your team, holding them accountable for output?” I challenged.

“The only thing it did,” Byron admitted, “was to crush the team. I think I described it as down in the dumps.”

“And, what did you accomplish when you examined your system? You solved the problem. This subtle shift in accountability is electrifying. The team is accountable for full commitment and doing their best. It is the manager accountable for the output.”

Decoding the Level of Work in the Role

—We do most of our web testing in the background where you can’t see it, and, some of you received an errant message on Sat called Test Post Number Three. It was a mistake, a dangling participle in a test queue. We apologize for additional traffic in your INBOX, though we got some very creative responses.—

I am working with a company struggling with role descriptions related to defining the Level of Work in the role. The group is working with one of my templates (ask, and I will send it to you). Level of Work is calibrated by defining the Time Span of the work. Defining the Time Span of a project is pretty easy, just follow the timeline WHAT, by WHEN and you will have the Time Span.

Operational work is a bit more difficult, where the work continues and repeats. What is the Level of Work in operational work? The central question is – What is the time span of discretion on the part of the team member. In my book Hiring Talent, I compiled a list of ten questions to help answer that question. Each question reveals a clue. The source for these questions is Elliott Jaques’ Time Span Handbook, which Elliott wrote to answer this question.

Before you get to the questions, remember the answers are only clues to Time Span of discretion. The actual Time Span of discretion is left to the judgment of the manager. This means, the manager decides the Time Span in the role. The manager decides the Level of Work in the role.

  1. What is the role title?
  2. What are the general responsibilities in the role?
  3. How is work assigned to the team member?
  4. How often is work assigned to the team member?
  5. When a work assignment is completed, how does the manager know?
  6. When a work assignment is completed, how does the team member know what to work on next? (Time Span of discretion)
  7. Who reviews or inspects the work completed?
  8. How often is the work reviewed or inspected?
  9. Does the team member have the authority to do additional work, before the current completed work is inspected?
  10. Does the team member work on multiple work assignments at the same time?

In Hiring Talent, I prepared four interviews (S-I, S-II, S-III, S-IV) to illustrate responses which you might hear from each Level of Work.

Your thoughts?

But, We Have an Org Chart

“But, everyone understands the structure. Everyone knows who they report to. I mean, we have an org chart,” Andre protested.

“And, I said – clear recognition of individual team members, each with individual accountability in clearly defined working relationships. That’s different and rarely exists. Tell me how things work around here,” I asked.

“The managers tell everybody what to do and then correct their mistakes,” Andre looked puzzled at his own response.

“Exactly, in what you just described, which is typical for most organizations, I have no clue who is accountable for the work output. I have no idea of the work of the manager. And, I have no idea how people work together when neither is each other’s manager. In the absence of clarity, people make things up, on their own and that is why you see petty bickering, overt passive-aggressive behavior, borrowed staplers not returned, people eating other people’s lunch (metaphorically). That is why you see bright ideas, ignored or made fun of. Project assignments are hoarded and protected. Promotions are based on favoritism.” I stopped. Andre’s eye were wide open.

“How long have you been watching us?” he asked.

“I think I have been here the better part of ten minutes,” I replied.

Is Your Infrastructure Ready to Grow?

“You want to grow bigger? What do you need to focus on? Because I don’t think you are ready.” I asked.

The group looked at each other, not sure, maybe some ideas rattling around in their heads, but no one wanted to speak first.

“Before you think about getting bigger,” I continued, “what is your biggest challenge, right now? Look, you called me in here. You all look tired, worn out. You have been working way past 5p every day. And now, you have an opportunity to take a risk, which will grow your company 30 percent over the next 12 months. What is your biggest challenge, right now? What has to get fixed before you even think about taking this next risk?”

“We feel like we are fighting too many fires, right now,” Marcus explained. “And this new project will fail, if we don’t get some of these fires under control.”

“Why are these fires happening?”

“Our team members run into problems they are not capable of solving. We tried to empower them, but that still doesn’t mean they have the capability to make the right decisions. So we are down in the trenches with them, helping to put out the fire.”

“Is it possible, that you don’t have a clear understanding of the level of work in those roles? And that you have placed people in those roles who do NOT have the capability to solve the problems and make the decisions that go with the role?”

“Isn’t that what I just said?” Marcus replied.

“You described the people you placed in the role, but the root cause of the underperformance is that you, as the manager, don’t clearly understand the level of work in those roles. The biggest mistake most organizations make is underestimating the level of work in the role. Without identifying the level of work in the role, most organizations hire someone without the necessary capability. And then wonder why the fires begin to flare.”

Why We Have Supervisors

“Yes,” Samuel appeared a bit agitated. “But, you are dealing with the rank and file. You are sitting in a pretty nice boardroom, Catherine. You have a nice salary. I know you and I may have bouts of frustration with our work, but at the end of the day, we have it pretty good. But, the rank and file, that is another question. In their jobs, they must all be frustrated. I mean, it is pretty lackluster work. That’s why we have to have supervisors, to keep them in line, to make sure they don’t sit around and play on their smartphones all day.”

Catherine’s blood pressure began to rise. Her face flushed. “Mr. Pierce, it is coming clear to me why Outbound Air, as a small upstart airline, got into so much trouble after your company bought it. It appears, I have as much work to do with the board of directors as I do with the team.”

“Catherine, I am all ears,” Samuel responded. “But I must tell you, we have a large investment in this airline, we have poured in a lot of capital to introduce jet service to the fleet. Your intentions with the company must be grounded in a solid return on that investment.”

“I appreciate your reminder of the value of the shareholders who bear the risk. And that risk is shared by our workforce. Each team member comes to work every day with the full intention of doing their best. They want work that gives them the opportunity to use their full potential. They want to spread their wings and receive fair compensation for that work. They want to use their brain, to exercise judgement in making decisions to reach a goal. They have goals, just like you have goals. They have a need, not only to bring value to their own lives, but to bring value to the lives of the people who work around them. As the chairman of the board, if you do not recognize that, my work as CEO is already doomed. All crumbs lead to the top.”
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This is the beginning of the sequel to Outbound Air. Find out how Catherine got here.

But, We Have a Company to Run

“But, we have an airline to run,” Samuel continued to object. “As chairman of the board, it is my primary responsibility to make sure we have the right person at the helm. It is not my responsibility to micro-manage you, meddle in the way you run things. But, the way you run things makes me wonder if we have the right person at the helm.”

“Look, Sam,” Catherine replied, “we can squeeze the legroom, rearrange the seating on the planes. We can start charging for checked baggage. We can add a service fee if someone wants a soda. But that is not our problem.”

Catherine looked intently at Sam, sitting at the head of the boardroom. In the periphery, she could see the logos of the other companies in the portfolio. Outbound Air was the company in trouble and she had been selected to turn it profitable. She continued.

“Sam, we have close to a thousand employees now. They work 40 hours per week. Economically, they depend on us. Our compensation system and job opportunities directly impact how they live, now, next week and next year. Their self-esteem, what they achieve in life, in large part, depends on the role they play for us. How we set expectations, how we define their working relationships, how we evaluate their effectiveness, all, have direct impact on their contribution. They come home at night, frustrated or satisfied based on how things went that day. The way we design the environment of their work has way more impact on our bottom line than any fees we may charge for luggage.”
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The saga of Outbound Air continues. Find out how Catherine got here.