Tag Archives: morale

Failure of Front End Influence

“So, what do you think was missing?” I asked.

Jamie retraced the steps of her company’s Quality Circles program. Like many good ideas, there was nothing wrong with the program. It was clearly designed to bring out the best in her people. It had short term results, but, in spite of a great deal of up-front planning and expense, the program experienced an early death.

“You are suggesting,” Jamie began, “that we did our front end work well, but we were missing something on the back end?”

I nodded. “One primary function of a manager is to influence behavior. Indeed, to influence behavior, we spend a lot of time in meetings, developing programs, teaching, training, writing manuals. We spend a lot of time up front, trying to influence behavior.”

It was Jamie’s turn to nod. I continued. “While those things we do up front do have an influence, most behavior is not prompted by what comes before but by the consequences that happen after. As Managers, we spend a lot of time training. We see high performance in the training room, but a week later, nothing has changed in the field. The fire is out, the behavior gone.”

How Is The Morale?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am the direct manager of a team of four supervisors. I am working on the agenda for 1-1 discussions with each individual. Based on your suggestion, I structured the agenda using the Key Result Areas in the role description. While it seems to make sense, I feel there is a missing piece to the agenda. I know we are talking about the work in the role of the supervisor, but where many of them struggle is in the soft skills, the interpersonal working relationships between each supervisor and their team members. We often talk about those issues, but I am not sure how to organize my notes from those discussions. What we talk about doesn’t fit any of the Key Result Areas, but I feel like they are dramatically important. Is it possible that there are things we should talk about outside the Key Result Areas defined for the role?

Response:
Welcome to management. You have just discovered that the work of the supervisor is different than the work of the team member. It is not that there are issues outside of defined Key Result Areas, but, there are Key Result Areas that escaped the role description.

A military commander was once asked in all of his experience, what was his biggest mistake, his biggest regret. His reply was “not taking vacation before going into battle.” It was a curious response, but he explained that the most important element to consider before going into battle was morale. What is the morale of the troops?

Is it possible that a Key Result Area missed in the definition of the role description was team morale?

Key Result Area – Team Morale

Context – the most critical work product in our company requires high levels of cooperation and support between team members in collateral working relationships. It is incumbent on the supervisor to create positive working relationships that promote teamwork and high levels of trust among team members.

Tasks and Activities – the supervisor will clearly assign tasks in such a way that each team member understands not only their own task assignment, but the task assignments of those people they work around. Where work product is handed off from one team member to another, or one work cell to another, the team members will discuss the quality standards that each team member needs from other team members. The supervisor will create circumstances where team members provide feedback to each other, in a respectful way related to quality standards, pace of work and safety practices. Specifically, the supervisor will require positive feedback practice during times of low stress using project debriefs, brainstorming best practices, team teaching and cross training, so that during periods of high stress, the team can operate at high levels of cooperation, support and trust.

Accountability – The supervisor is accountable for evaluating the morale of the team, identifying team behavior that promotes teamwork and identifying team behavior that is destructive to teamwork. The supervisor will review this team assessment each month in a 1-1 discussion with the supervisor’s manager, to identify steps the supervisor may take to promote teamwork and discourage behavior that is destructive to teamwork.

How to Prevent Improvement on a Team

Ernesto was on a roll. Emily was now seated in a chair at the front of the class.

“Emily, you think there is a morale problem on the production line, but that’s not the problem. You know your team is not meeting the daily target, but you haven’t shared the numbers with them.  ‘A little short today, try to do better tomorrow.’  Bottom line, you are not telling the truth because you are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. By not telling the whole truth, the accurate truth, you have made them incapable of improvement.”

Emily’s body language was retreating. Ernesto continued.

“And you have created co-dependents out of them. They are just fine not knowing what the target is. As long as they don’t know, they don’t have to perform to it.

“When you tell them they are short, they think it’s your problem not theirs. They are perfectly willing to continue this non-accountable relationship. No skin off their nose.”

The color in Emily’s face began to pale. I called a time out. The room was very still and quiet.

I jumped in.  “The problem we name is the problem we solve. That is why it is so important to name the problem correctly,” I said. “How will we name this problem?”

It’s Not My Fault

“The subject for this meeting is our progress on the Phoenix Project. Looking at our project time lines, we are behind schedule and the client’s QC person is complaining that some of our work is sub-standard,” I explained.

“Yes, I know. I looked at the reports before I gave them to you. I have to tell you, I think I know where the problem is,” Roger backpedaled.

“We have a morale problem with one of our production teams. Some don’t show up on time. The pace of the work is taking longer than it should. I had hoped the problem was only temporary, isolated. We may have to do some housecleaning.”

“So, should I start with you?” I asked.

“What? Me?” Roger turned white, then red in the face. “But, I have been busting my backside on this project. You see me here, early, every day. My car is the last to leave after 5:00. I’ve been giving 100 percent? It’s not my fault. You want some names, I will give you names. I know who has been coming in late. I can point out the slow walkers. And besides that, the customer has made four significant design changes since we started. How could you possibly hold me accountable for things out of my control?”