Your Problem is on This List

“I don’t understand why my team consistently underperforms. We have a target to produce five units, they produce four. We are supposed to finish a project this afternoon, it doesn’t get completed until tomorrow,” Frances complained.

“You are the manager,” I observed. “What do you think is the problem?”

“I really don’t know. Before every project, we have a meeting to go over the project, all its elements. I try to keep those meetings upbeat, optimistic.”

“What if it’s not a problem with your team?” I asked.

“Then, what could it be?” Frances pushed back.

“Yes, what could it be?” I repeated.

I could see Frances racing through possibilities. Could it be equipment failure, substandard materials, faulty tools. “What if it’s me?”

“You are the manager?” I replied. “What are the productivity levers every manager has to work with?”

“Well, I pick the team, or I pick the people who end up on the team.”

“What else?” I was taking notes.

“I am the one who assigns the task. I set the context, describe the vision of the project, set the quality standards, quantity. I estimate a reasonable amount of time to finish the project, the deadline. I tell them what resources are available.”

“And?”

“And, I watch, to see how well the team does.”

“And if they screw things up?” I asked.

“We have a conversation,” Frances nodded.

“And if the team member continues to screw up?”

“They are off the team.”

I finished writing down what Frances described and slid the paper across the table.

  • Selection, who is on the team?
  • Task assignment, quantity, quality, time and resources?
  • Evaluate effectiveness?
  • Coaching?
  • De-selection?

“As the manager, this is what you control,” I said. “Your problem is on this list.” -Tom

It’s Time

“The possibilities for the improvement of the social and political quality of life in our free enterprise democracy are awesome. It is therefore a matter of the greatest good fortune that the people systems that will most benefit the feelings, outlook and morale of its citizens will, at the same time, contribute optimally to the successful operation of the people systems in which people work on the one hand, and to the well being of the nation, on the other.

“Good managerial systems bring out mutual trust and commitment in people. Bad systems breed extreme self-interest.” -Elliott Jaques, Social Power and the CEO, 2002.

It’s time to get back to work. -Tom Foster

It’s Over, TRUMP WINS!

Earlier this year, two sharks entered the water, complete with the most sophisticated tracking ever witnessed by the human race. And sharks do what sharks do. We watched, and we wondered, and we watched some more. But it’s over and TRUMP WINS.

#makoprediction

On Monday, Sept. 26, as the human candidates took the stage for their first debate, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) researchers starting tracking the Clinton Shark (motto – “Swimming Stronger Together”) and the Trump Shark (motto – “Mako America Great Again”) as they did what mako sharks do, they swam, like sharks.

After logging mile after mile from September 26 through noon, Fri. Nov. 4, 2016, the Trump Shark beat the Clinton Shark 652.44 miles to 510.07 miles. TRUMP WINS!

The project is the brain child of NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. They have a web-based tracking map so you can track each candidates surrogate shark throughout the race.

Florida has the largest reef system in the continental United States and the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. Last Friday, five universities met in Fort Lauderdale to create a new Marine Research Hub based in South Florida. #makoprediction is a project to draw attention to this conservation effort. And, to lighten things up a bit before everyone votes tomorrow. -Tom

How to Pick Up the Energy in a Meeting

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:

I am a new manager. I hold a weekly meeting that goes pretty well. We say the things that need to be said and make our plans, but the meetings seem to bomb at the end. They just stop. The energy in the room is flat. I tried to give a motivational rah-rah speech at last week’s meeting but it fell flat on its face. I wish I had kept my mouth shut. The meeting is missing something at the end. How can we finish on a high note?

Response:

Follow your own advice and keep your mouth shut. Unless you are one of the rare charismatic managers, your attempts to raise the energy level will feel contrived and pointless.

Why?

Because the energy is all coming from you. You need some help. Try the following exercise.

At the end of the meeting, distribute 3×5 index cards. Have everyone write down one action item they plan to do based on the meeting. Then make your way around the table, asking each team member, in turn, to publicly state (in one sentence) their commitment to action. You will be amazed at the rise in energy as you adjourn the meeting.

This is no hollow rah-rah. The reason this works is because it is real and every person participates. -Tom

Listen for What?

Listen.

If you are in sales, listen. Your customer will tell you how they want to buy.

If you are a manager, listen. Your team will tell you how they need to be coached. Listen for what is said and what is not said. Listen for what is confronted and what is avoided. Listen for context. Listen for what people believe to be true. Listen for what people believe is not true. Listen for assumptions.

The most effective managers are those that ask the most effective questions. Then, listen. -Tom
_____________________
Today, Wed, Nov 2, 2016 is the last day to register for our public presentation tomorrow –

Management Myths and Time Span
November 3, 2016
8:00a – 12:00 noon

Program starts at 8:30a sharp
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
4725 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale FL 33308
Register here.

Don’t Get Rid of Your Silos

This Thursday, Nov 3, 2016, in Fort Lauderdale, public presentation of Management Myths and Time Span. Register here.
__________________

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In your workshop, for the bottom three layers, S-I-II-III, you said there was an internal focus. What happens at S-IV and S-V?

Response:
The Basic Building Block (S-I-II-III) populates every organization, no matter how big or how small. These layers have an overriding internal focus. Why? Because, we told them they had to be internally focused. We (S-IV and S-V) created very specific work instructions, to be efficient, profitable, no waste, no scrap, high utilization of available resources. Those work instructions are internally focused.

S-V – Business Unit President – Internal AND market focus
S-IV – Internal AND external system focus (multi-system integration)
S-III – Internal system focus
S-II – Internal implementation focus (make sure production gets done complete, accurate, on-time)
S-I – Internal production focus

To be effective at S-IV requires a combined internal and external system focus. As the organization grows, it creates more than one system. It ends up with multiple systems and sub-systems. Individual roles grow up into teams. Teams are created inside a single function, or department. With multiple departments (multiple systems and sub-systems) we observe the silo effect. Silos don’t get along with other because they are internally focused.

This internal focus is normal. We told each S-III system to be internally focused, but now we have a silo problem. You likely heard you need to get rid of your silos. Wrong. You need those silos AND you need those silos to be internally focused (efficient, profitable and predictable). The resolution to the silo issue is not to get rid of them, but to integrate them together.

Multi-system integration at S-IV requires an internal AND an external focus. Roles at S-IV have to be able to see outside a single serial system and understand the impact of one system on another system. Roles at S-IV are integration roles, optimizing multi-system output and transitions or work handoffs from one system to another system.

Some companies stay stuck with silos. Some resolve this organizational friction. But to resolve it, requires capability at S-IV, integration, a holistic look at the organization. -Tom

Habits, Success and Choice

There are some behaviors you simply contract for. But, just because we have an agreement, does not necessarily mean we will see the behavior. I always look for habits.

Required behavior is one of the Four Absolutes necessary for success in any role.

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion, value for the work/li>
  • Required behavior (contracted behavior, habits, culture)

I look for those routine, grooved behaviors that support the required behaviors in the role. If a behavior requires a Herculean effort to comply, it is likely that sooner or later, the agreement will be broken. If the behavior is supported by a habit, it is likely I will gain commitment to that behavior.

We think we choose our success.
We do not.
We choose our habits.
It is our habits that determine our success.

Here is how to interview for habits. -Tom

Contracted Behaviors

There are some behaviors you simply contract for.

Each of you has an appointed time that most people show up for work. It is part of the contract you have with each team member. Even flex-time is a contract. A contract is an agreement by two parties related to future behavior.

Can you contract for other things besides the time we show up for work together? Can you contract for respect? More specifically, can you contract for behaviors related to respect?

“Around here, we treat each other with respect. You don’t have to be friends with your teammates. You don’t even have to like your teammates, but when you interact, you will treat each other with respect. It is a matter of contract.”

Required behavior is one of the four absolutes necessary for success in any role.

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion, value for the work/li>
  • Required behavior (contracted behavior, habits, culture)

Yes, there are some behaviors you simply contract for. -Tom

Open Ended Questions in the Interview

“But the biggest mistake in the interview, was the gift you served up to the candidate,” I said.

“What gift was that?” Marianna asked.

“Open-ended questions,” I replied.

“But, I was taught to ask open-ended questions. I even read a book that said to ask open-ended questions,” she pushed back.

“Marianna, as the interviewer, you have a job to do. Your job is to gather specific data about the candidate related to the critical role requirements. When you ask an open-ended question, that question loses its purpose. When you ask an open-ended question, you are on a fishing expedition without a goal. The candidate is searching your face and fabricating a response that you want to hear. Open-ended questions give the candidate latitude to follow their own agenda, to create a narrative that may have little to do with the critical role requirements.”

Marianna sat quietly.

I continued. “Have you ever read a resume that was a bit enhanced? Have you ever read a resume that contained a little fluff? Have you ever read a resume that contained outright lies?” I stopped. “Open-ended questions give the candidate latitude to enhance their response, add a bit of fluff or create an outright lie. And you invited them to do it.” -Tom

Fictional Behavior in the Interview

“What do you mean, my questions were more real during the exit interview than the initial interview?” Marianna wanted to know.

“In your initial interview, it sounds like you depended on a personality profile, whether people liked the candidate and a response to a hypothetical question,” I challenged.

“What do you mean, hypothetical question?”

“You asked him how he would plan a project. You didn’t ask for an example of a project he actually planned. Even more important, you didn’t ask how he executed the project according to the plan.”

“But, I figured, if he could explain his planning process, he should be able to use that on a real project,” Marianna defended.

“You figured wrong. Lots of people can talk. Fewer can execute in the real world. That is why you have to ask questions about real experience. Hypothetical questions reveal only fictional behavior.” -Tom