Tag Archives: accountability

That’s Me

“I don’t care,” Roberto insisted.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t care if that is what the boss wants. It’s a stupid idea. And my role is not to do stupid shit.”

“Pushback?”

“Call it what you want. CEOs run fast, sometimes making a mess. That’s why I have a job, to clean up the mess they call strategy. Somebody has to execute. That’s me.”

And We Have a Winner!

“We have an idea for a new product line,” Alicia sounded off. “It’s a logical extension of our core product. We all think it will be a winner.”

“How are you going to fund the startup and who are you going to assign to this new project?” I asked.

“Well, that’s a problem. We are currently under a hiring freeze and while we have a budget for development, actually ramping into production is going to pinch,” she grimaced.

“What are you going to let go of?”

Alicia was a bit surprised. “We hadn’t really discussed shutting anything down.”

“Alicia, the biggest mistake that young companies make is that everything looks like an opportunity. Before long, all their resources are spread thin and their product portfolio is a hodgepodge. They can’t figure out if they are in the shoe business or the construction business.

“To be truly successful, the company has to decide on its focus, and create a discipline around that focus. Especially in times where resources are tight, we have to make sure we have enough staying power. This requires an approach of systematic abandonment. As you adapt to the market, it is important to cut off those projects that are no longer returning value.” -Tom

Short of a Temper Tantrum

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was recently promoted to a manager role. Our company is really big on accountability. My first big challenge is holding other people accountable. I seem to stand by in a dream land watching a team member underperform or make a mistake. I point out the mistake, but that doesn’t seem to solve the problem. The mistake is made again. And, now my manager is telling me that I don’t hold my team accountable. Short of throwing a temper tantrum, what am I supposed to do?

Response:
Most companies get accountability backwards. A technician on your team makes a mistake, and your manager expects you to hold that technician accountable. It is YOU, the manager, that I hold accountable, for the output of your technician. You picked the technician for that assignment. You provided the training. You inspected the quality of the training. You provided the tools. You created the work environment. You provided the coaching. You provided the materials. As the manager to your team, you control all the variables around that technician. It is you I hold accountable for the output of the technician.

So, if the technician makes a mistake, what are the variables that you control? What changes will you make? How will you manage the risk in this task assignment? The source of all accountability is self-accountability. What are YOU going to do? -Tom

How Long Has This Been Going On?

Miriam looked wide eyed as she explained what happened. “I know I should have confronted the behavior straight away, but I didn’t. And now, she thinks it’s okay to be snotty and nasty to people when she doesn’t get her way.”

“How long has this been going on?” I asked. Miriam stopped. She didn’t want to tell me.

“Well, it pretty much started the first month she was here.” Silence. “Okay, about a year and a half.”

“And you haven’t spoken to her about her behavior?”

“At first I thought she was just having a bad day, then it turned into a bad week, then a bad month. By then, nobody wanted to go near her for fear she would rip their head off.”

“That bad?”

Miriam pursed her lips, looking sideways. “Well, not that bad, but she is just plain mean to people around her.”

“And what does your team think about the way you have handled it?”

“Oh, they must think I am very frustrated with her,” Miriam explained. “They know I am just afraid to say anything, even though I am the manager.”

“I don’t think so.” I lowered my eyes to look directly at Miriam. “After a while, you begin to stand for what you tolerate.”

How to Sustain Accountability

Phillip assembled his sales team. They promised to meet to look over their schedules for the following week. Two had substantial clutter on a spreadsheet looking paper. Others had something tucked away inside a folder, a corner peeking out, but nothing available for casual inspection.

“Phillip tells me, you all decided to make some changes with the way the sales team goes to market,” I started. “I am very interested to hear about your plans.”

There was shuffling of bodies around in chairs, everyone trying to get comfortable with this new accountability.

“I see some schedules for next week,” I continued. “Let’s get the cards out on the table.” Everyone looked to their left and then to their right, some schedules appeared, then more, then all. Some were full of chicken scratch, some were sparse.

I asked Phillip to explain, again, the purpose of the meeting, the purpose of the schedules, the purpose of this change of habit. We went around the circle, each explaining their schedule.

“Here is the secret to accountability,” I said. “And, if you don’t do this, the likelihood for success is slim.

“Many people think that accountability is noble and that nobility will sustain it. Others think that if they don’t take accountability seriously, they will feel guilty and the guilt will sustain accountability. Neither of those thoughts work.

“The only thing that sustains accountability is to gather those people around you who will not let you off the hook, who will hold you accountable for what you promise to each other. It is the team that will sustain you through those times when you want to quit, or when you feel lazy.

“So, look around the table, my friends. This is the team that will help you to the next level. You just have to give them permission to hold you accountable.” -Tom

This Business of Judgement

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
From Monday’s post A More Accurate Judgement of Capability, the question came – So how does one get into the judgement business?

Response:
Become a manager. Don’t give me politically correct rhetoric that we shouldn’t judge. Management is all about judgement. Work is making decisions and solving problems. Making decisions is all about judgement. Elliott called it discretionary judgement.

The Time Span of Discretion is the length of time (target completion time of a task) that a person has, in which to make judgements that move the task to completion (the goal). We make judgements about –

  • What is the goal?
  • What has to be done now?
  • What has to be done next?
  • Who, on the team, would be the most effective at completing this task or that task?
  • How effective was the team member, completing this task or that task?

Management is about making decisions. For better or worse, good judgement, poor judgement. -Tom Foster

The Myth of Results Based Performance

From the Ask Tom mailbag –
In reference to Judging Effectiveness

Question:
Lets assume in a given role, the Key Result Areas (KRAs) have been defined. The person is producing the target results in these areas, then, I would say they are capable … what am i missing?

Response:
If I ask a hundred managers if they believe in results-based-performance, they would all raise their hands. They would be wrong. Results are only part of the story.

Effectiveness is NOT a “matter of counting outputs, super credits for super outputs, or penalties for lateness or sub-standard quality.” (Elliott Jaques)

If a salesperson has a target sales quota of 100 units, and brings home an order for 110 units, do we say that salesperson was 110 percent effective? Could it have been that the company has a stellar reputation in the market, on-time delivery through logistics, impeccable customer service (resolved a service problem for that same customer two weeks ago)? Could it be the design of a rebate that put the account into a new discount tier?

Effectiveness is not a matter of counting outputs. Effectiveness is a managerial judgement that takes into account all of the circumstances around the team member’s behavior. Blinders looking only at measured output may lead the manager astray. Output is a clue, but only a clue. The only measure of performance is performance. (Lee Thayer)

A Short List of Gratitude

This week, the US celebrates the holiday of Thanksgiving. The holiday commemorates a meal of the harvest. Its origin may have been a meal in 1565 in St. Augustine Florida, or another in 1621, Plymouth Plantation. It is a time when families and friends come together to celebrate and give thanks for the world we live in.

I want to thank my readers. This blog started twelve years ago, 2,256 posts. Just a reminder of the awesome responsibility we have, as CEOs, as managers, to move people, to challenge people, to provide a place of work for each team member to realize their fullest potential. This responsibility is a gift. I am grateful.

Management Blog will return next Monday, November 28, 2016. Have a great Thanksgiving. -Tom Foster

Culture as an Accountability

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
Is culture a Key Result Area (KRA) in a role description?

Response:
Over the past several years, I have come to the conclusion – Yes.

Here are the four absolutes identified by Elliott Jaques required for success (effectiveness) in any role.

  • Capability (time span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits, culture)

Culture is that unwritten set of rules (based on our beliefs and assumptions) that governs the required behaviors in the work that we do together.

While culture impacts everyone in the organization, I find it is a managerial accountability related to setting context. Context is culture, culture is context.

I look for several things from a manager.

  • Awareness of the company’s culture.
  • Ability to communicate the company’s culture in stories and examples.
  • Model behaviors that support the company’s culture.
  • Observe behaviors in others and where appropriate, provide coaching, when necessary, corrective action.
  • Participate in the on-going definition of the company’s culture.

Here is what it looks like in a role description –
Key Result Area (KRA) – Culture
As a member of the management team, the manager will understand and be conversant in the company’s mission, vision and values related to culture.

Accountability – the manager will be accountable for effectively communicating the company’s mission, vision and values. This will include the telling of stories and examples of connected behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be an effective model of those behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be attentive to the behavior of other managers and staff in accordance with the company’s mission, vision and values. The manager will be accountable for coaching, and, where appropriate, taking corrective action. The manager will actively participate in meetings regarding the definition and maintenance of the company’s mission, vision and values, providing constructive input to the definition of the company’s culture.

Without This, a Void Filled With Shenanigans

I am told that we need more leadership around here. I am told that we manage things, but we lead people.

My experience tells me otherwise.

I believe, especially as companies grow larger, that we need more management. I would concur that it is very difficult to manage people. People resist being managed. But, it’s not the people who need to be managed, it’s the relationships between those people. In a company, it is the working relationships that need to be managed.

I hear about personality conflicts in an organization. But, I don’t see a personality conflict, I see an accountability and authority issue. In an organization, we rarely define the accountability and authority in the working relationship. We never defined where people stand with each other, who can make the decision, who can make a task assignment and who is accountable for the output.

We take relationships for granted. We take for granted that people know how to behave with parents, with siblings, with teachers. We take for granted that people know how to behave as managers, but, in most cases, managers behave the same way they were treated by their managers.

There is a science to all this. It has to do with context. Effective managers are those who create the most effective context for people to work in. It is that unwritten set of rules that governs our behavior in the work that we do together. There is a science to context.

Organizational structure is context. It is the defined accountability and authority in our working relationships. Without it, people fill the void with all kinds of shenanigans. Not their fault. It is the responsibility of the manager (including the CEO) to set the context.