Category Archives: Performance Feedback

Yes, And How is the Team Member Doing?

Last week, we talked about Team Morale as a Key Result Area (KRA). Remember, the work of a manager is different than the work of a team member. Another KRA that often escapes the role description is Team Member Development.

Key Result Area – Team Member Development

Context – An important accountability for every manager in our company is to pay attention to the team. The most critical work product in our company requires high levels of competence, cooperation and support between team members in collateral working relationships. It is incumbent on the manager to use their discretionary judgment in the selection and retention of team members.

Tasks and Activities – The manager will clearly assign tasks within the capability and competence of the team member. Routinely, the manager will test the team member’s capability and competence with project work to determine if the team member is capable of more complex work and if the team member has achieved a higher skill level. The manager will routinely assess the effectiveness of the team member to determine additional skills training, assignment of more complex work and consideration for promotion.

Accountability – The manager is accountable for evaluating the effectiveness of each team member, identifying effectiveness at level of work and skill competence. The manager will review this team member assessment each month in a 1-1 discussion with their manager, to identify potential for higher level of work, adjustment to lower level of work, additional skills training, cross-training, reassignment or de-selection.

How to Bring Value to Decision Making

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was just promoted to a new role in my company, as an S-III manager. Every working relationship is now different. All these years, I avoided my manager because the only feedback I got was criticism, my task assignments seemed like barked orders. The less we talked, the better we got along, at least from my perspective.

As time went by, my manager moved on and I was tapped to take his place. So, now, I have a new manager. In your workshop, you said it is the role of every manager to bring value to the decision making and problem solving of each team member. While this is certainly advice for me as I work with my new team, I am more curious how I might kickstart things with my new manager. I refuse to stand by the same dysfunction I had with my old manager. How can I get the most out of the working relationship with my new manager?

Response:
First, congratulations on your promotion. I can see from your question why your company selected you. I assume your new manager is in a role at S-IV.

  • Clarify expectations
  • Organize expectations
  • Define the output
  • Schedule a recurring meeting
  • Set the agenda
  • Don’t skip the meeting

Clarify expectations
The central document to clarify expectations is a role description. The tendency is to assume understanding without a written agreement. Write it down.

Organize expectations
In your new role, you will be accountable for a range of outputs. An S-III role is a big role. You will have a long list of tasks and activities. Some of the things you do will go together, but some things will be separate and distinct from the other tasks and activities. All are important, none can be overlooked. Find the things that go together and collect them (in the role description) into a Key Area, a Key Result Area (KRA). Go back to your list and find the next things that go together, separate and distinct from the other tasks and activities. Collect them (in the role description) into another KRA. By the time you finish this exercise, you should have defined approximately 6-8 KRAs.

Define the output
In each KRA, based on the tasks and activities, define the output. What is the accountability in each KRA? Each Key Area must have at least one, no more than three defined outputs.

Schedule a recurring meeting
Schedule a recurring meeting with your manager, two hours, once per month. This meeting is just the two of you, 1-1. This is not a casual meeting, but a formal meeting with a start time and an end time. You set the agenda.

Set the agenda
Your agenda will follow the Key Result Areas (KRAs) you defined. Your role description will give you a general idea of the tasks and activities, as well as the defined output in each KRA. Your agenda will identify the specific actions and short term goals for the next thirty days. In the meeting, as you describe your intentions to your manager, you will make notes and commitments.

Don’t skip the meeting

There will always be something that seems more important at the appointed time of your meeting, but it’s not. The event that gets in the way of your meeting will be more urgent, but never more important.

This is the meeting where your manager will bring value to your decision making and problem solving. -Tom

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
First of all thank you for your help with understanding Elliott Jaques methodology. I am interested in applying it in one of the banks where I’m working currently.

Could you please advise a practical tool of installing a simple and reliable system of performance appraisal based upon the principle that it is the direct manager who is accountable for the results of his/her subordinates?

There is a good example in Social Power & the CEO of how to arrange personal effectiveness evaluation system of rank and file staff. However it does not say anything about how to evaluate managers.

Response:
The distinguishing factor between most performance appraisals and Jaques personal effectiveness appraisal is that it requires the manager to use judgement in considering all the factors surrounding a team member’s effectiveness. This requires the manager to look at ALL the variables surrounding output, only one of which is the team member’s performance.

Jaques uses the example of concrete pouring. In some companies, a performance appraisal considers only the output, how many yards of concrete were poured during an 8-hour shift. Irrespective of how direct labor shows up to work on time, uses their best effort to locate the truck properly and guide the concrete into the forms, the actual output may have more to do with the moisture content of the mix in the truck. Sometimes, travel time between the mixing plant and the pour site delivers a HOT batch, where the chemical setting up is already occurring before the truck even arrives at the site. Or the moisture content of the sand/rock mix may be too high and creates a slurry mix. All of these variables will have an impact on output in spite of the best efforts of the pouring crew.

A personal effectiveness appraisal requires the manager to take all those factors into account when asking the simple questions – Is the team member as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

Now, how to translate that to managerial roles? It’s the same.

The problem with managerial roles, is that we seldom define the work. What is the WORK of a manager?

Most managers receive no guidance related to the WORK of a manager. That is why the role description is so critical. But, most role descriptions are poorly organized, a list of non-sequitur tasks that provide no guidance to priority or objective.

An effective role description takes that list and groups the tasks that go together and separates the tasks that don’t go together. The tasks are now grouped into key areas (Key Result Areas – KRAs). The effective role description now clearly defines the output (goal, objective, accountability) in each KRA. The process is no different for a managerial role, but the KRAs are different and include a different level of work. Here are some typical managerial KRAs found in most managerial roles.

  • Team selection
  • Production system
  • Team training
  • Output planning
  • Quality control
  • Resource coordination (equipment, materials, tools)
  • Capital equipment budgets
  • Workforce planning

An effective role description will describe the required tasks/activities and state the accountability (output, goal, objective).

With this role description, in each KRA –
Is the manager as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

If you would like to receive by email, a template that organizes this review, just Ask Tom. A detailed discussion of KRAs in the role description can be found in Hiring Talent.

Caught Off-Guard, by Simplicity

Marcus was already in the conference room when I arrived. He had some papers spread on the table. I could tell by the look on his face he already had the answer. We were drilling down on an installation project that was under water.

“I knew when you asked for the production reports,” he started, “that we would find the problem within 30 seconds.”

“And?” I queried.

“You don’t even have to read the reports. The first three weeks, things are very repetitive. So repetitive that, starting in the fourth week, you can tell someone just photocopied the reports from the week before. The only change is the date at the top of the page. Then starting in week six, the reports stop.”

“And what does that tell you?”

“Well,” Marcus grimaced, “the quality of these reports follows exactly the real production curve in the field. We were meeting targets for the first three weeks. Things began to slide in week four and by week six, things went to hell in a hand basket.

“This is a very repetitive job, and it is very apparent that the weekly planning process just stopped. Everyone figured they would just keep working instead of stepping back to check progress and adjust. It seemed so simple, they lost the discipline of planning.

“The managers probably saved three hours per week in planning and checking, but lost more than 180 man hours in productivity. And they didn’t even know it until it was too late.”

“What’s the lesson?” I asked.

“Don’t relax by the appearance of simplicity. You still have to plan and check. In this case, the payoff would have been three hours to save 180 hours.”

How to Troubleshoot Productivity

I don’t know what happened.” Marcus grimaced. “Sure we were working under some tight restraints,” he explained. “During the first part of the contract, things were going well, but by the end, the wheels were coming off.”

“What do you think happened?” I asked.

“The contract called for several thousand feet of installation. We hit it with enthusiasm, high energy, everything clicked. I don’t know, but midway, we began to fall behind. Because of the working conditions, we could only work eight hours each day. Maybe we got sloppy, in the end, trying to finish, our quality got so poor that we had to go back and re-work several sections. First our margins disappeared, then our budget went completely underwater.”

“What do you think caused the erosion?”

“I don’t know. It was like we ran out of gas. I mean, everyone knew what to do. Technically, everyone was trained. The daily punch out was identical from start to finish. In the beginning, it was easy. In the end it was impossible. We just couldn’t keep up the momentum.”

“So, it wasn’t a matter or know-how or training. It wasn’t a matter of external conditions. Was it a matter of incentive or motivation?”

“No, you could see it in the eyes of the crew. They were in it, they were with it. They just could not produce.”

“Tell you what,” I interrupted. “Let’s pull the production records of the crew for the past six months and see what we find.”

Marcus went silent. I could tell he had mentally stumbled upon the reason. Before he left the room, he said he would have the records by the next morning.

Important First Behavior

“I understand positive reinforcement in video games, how you level up to expert, but, how does that work around here?” Travis asked. “I run a loading dock.”

“Travis, the guys loading the trucks, have you noticed the different colored t-shirts they wear, the ones with the company logo on the front?” I asked.

“Yeah, I noticed. We started that about three weeks ago. The new guys get a white t-shirt to start. We had a meeting about it.”

“And when does the new guy get his first white t-shirt?”

“The first day,” Travis smiled.

“No, the first day he punches the time-clock reporting for work on-time,” I clarified. “What is the most important first behavior?”

“Showing up for work on time,” Travis said.

“And when does he get his second white t-shirt?”

Travis was catching on. “The second day he punches in for work on time.”

“And when does he get a yellow shirt?” I continued.

“Five days on time, consecutive days on time.”

“And when does he get a green shirt?”

“When he passes forklift training.” Travis stopped. “I think I get it.”
_____

Orientation for our next program Hiring Talent starts Monday, March 4, 2013. For more information and registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent – 2013.

Your Customer is Not Your QC Department

“You cut your lead time from six weeks to four weeks. Higher throughput with the same number of people, with the same equipment, in the same facility, you lowered your cost. You shifted from just getting the orders out the door, to a consistent, predictable system. And that’s when your troubles began?” I was curious.

“Yes, we were certainly focused on our systems,” Arianne continued, “but we had to match a competitors warranty. We figured, no problem, but we were wrong. We had our cost-to-produce down, but our warranty returns went through the roof. Everything we made up in cost savings went right back out the door in warranty repairs and replacement. We had a quality problem.”

“Pace and quality,” I said softly.

“Yes, our throughput was quicker, but it just meant we were making mistakes faster.”

“What did you do?”

“We were relying on our customer to be our Quality Control department. Bad move. We had to retrench, put inspections after each major step, so if we had a problem, we could identify it before we made another thousand parts. We tracked everything on white-boards. We didn’t make it to six-sigma, but enough quality improvement to make a big difference.”

“So, finally you got organized, accelerated your throughput, beat your internal quality standards. It must have been a proud moment,” I encouraged.

“Not really,” Arianne replied. “That’s when the rug got pulled out from under.”

That’s the Problem with Results

“That’s the problem with our results based system,” Audrey explained. “As his manager, I have to sit around and wait for the results to come in. If they don’t, I am supposed to be quick and decisive. Chop him off at the knees.”

“You sound like it doesn’t work out sometimes.”

“More than sometimes. There are almost always outside circumstances that impact results. I can have someone doing a great job, but some circumstance spoils the party. Even though they were doing a great job, they get a (2) on their performance appraisal.

“Or even worse,” Audrey continued. “I have a supervisor, who is really doing a lousy job, but they get lucky, the goal gets achieved, so they score a (5).”

“And?” I prodded.

“And, now my boss says we have to cut overhead, somebody has to go. I have to pick the lousy supervisor with the (5) and let go the good supervisor with a (2).”

Judging Effectiveness

“Is this person working as effectively as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half of the role?” I asked.

“Sometimes they struggle, so I will have to place them in the bottom half,” Anna replied.

“And in that top half, are they working as effectively as someone in the top, middle or bottom third?” I pressed.

“Yes, top third, no question,” Anna was sure.

How could Anna make this assessment so quickly?

Every manager always maintains a running intuitive assessment of the effectiveness of each team member. Anna had been making this assessment ever since she became a manager. But until we broke it down, she had no way to express it.

Today kicks off our next Subject Area in Working Leadership Online – Time Span and the Personal Effectiveness Appraisal. Let me know if you would like a Free Introductory Membership.

Hooked on a Feeling

“How do I know?” Jonas asked. “I have a team member who wants a promotion, but I am not sure if they are ready.”

“How long have you been this person’s manager?” I asked.

“Eighteen months. In direct supervision, I’ve seen the good times and the bad times.”

“And who is your manager?” I continued.

“Brian,” Jonas replied. “And I have talked to Brian about this. As the Manager Once Removed (MOR), he has an interest in this person. He is always scouting the organization for talent.”

“And?”

“And he is not sure either,” Jonas explained. “That’s my dilemma.”

“So, your team member feels that he would like a promotion, you feel like you aren’t sure and the MOR is interested, but feels the same way. Are you going to make this decision based on feeling, or on facts?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have any facts to go on. This person does well enough in their current role, but this promotion would be a different role. I would hate to make the promotion and have things go wrong.”

“I will cut you some slack,” I nodded. “Most managers make promotion decisions based on feelings. That is why they often don’t work out. Get your feelings out of this decision. A promotion decision is a matter of managerial judgment. Managerial judgment is not a feeling. What facts do you know that you can base your judgment on?”

Jonas shook his head. “This person has never performed any of the functions in this new role.”

“Without giving this person the promotion, can you test their performance in some of the functions? This is important. Take your time. Build the case with real evidence of performance. Then make your judgment.”