Tag Archives: planning

Yes, Managerial Execution Like a Dictator

From the Ask Tom mailbag -

Question:
Can you talk about the difference between a dictatorial management approach and a collaborative management approach?

Response:
Execute like a dictator!

No kidding.  Execution often requires precision sequences of skilled behavior.  Execute like a dictator.

But to be effective at execution (like a dictator) requires two things.

  • Collaborative planning
  • Practice (perfect practice)

So, there is a time for collaboration and a time for explicit direction.  And effective explicit direction does not (cannot) occur without collaboration in planning.

In football, collaborative planning is called skull practice.  Off the field, in a room, no pads and no football.  The group assembles around a chalkboard (whiteboard) and there are fierce discussions about problems and solutions, roles and assignments.  At the end, even if there is disagreement among the players, they still pull together.  People will support a world they help to create.

Skull practice is followed by perfect practice on the field, hours of it.

But, during the game, work instructions are short, often shouted,  There is no time in the moment of execution to discuss who is going to carry the ball.  But, effective execution only works when it is preceded by collaborative planning and perfect practice.

 

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.

Working Leadership Course – Fort Lauderdale

Aug 6, 2013 kicks off our next Working Leadership Series in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This program contains twelve modules in six classroom sessions. The program instructor will be Tom Foster (that’s me).

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Schedule (All sessions – 8:30a-noon)
Session 1 – Tue, Aug 6, 2013 – Orientation, Role of the Manager, Time Management
Session 2 – Mon, Aug 12, 2013 – Working Styles, Communication
Session 3 – Mon, Aug 19, 2013 – Positive Reinforcement, Team Problem Solving
Session 4 – Tue, Aug 27, 2013 – Planning, Delegation
Session 5 – Wed, Sep 4, 2013 – Decision Making, Accountability
Session 6 – Mon, Sep 9, 2013 – Effective Meetings, Coaching

Location – All classes will be held at Banyan Air Services in Fort Lauderdale FL in the Sabal Palm Conference Room.
Banyan Air Services
5360 NW 20th Terrace
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

Tuition – $1600 per participant. Vistage member companies receive a $100 discount per participant. This includes all books and participant materials.

Curriculum

Session One
Orientation. During the initial Session, participants will create both a company and a personal framework, setting expectations and direction for this program. Participants, through directed discussion, create the connection between the program course material and their day-to-day management challenges.

Role of the Manager. Introduces the distinction between supervisor and managerial roles. Clarifies the specific goals necessary for effectiveness. This module creates the foundation on which rest of the course material builds. Incorporates source material from Requisite Organization – Elliott Jaques.

Time Management. Introduces the textbook Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Text included as part of the program).

Session Two
Working Styles.
Participants will complete a DISC survey (DISC is an online instrument published by TTI) and report on their own identified strengths and working style.

Communication. The largest challenge, for most managers, centers on issues of communication. This Session will introduce participants to a new level of conversational “reality.” Introduces the text, Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, as reference material. (Text included as part of this program.)

Session Three
Positive Reinforcement

This segment reviews the management research of Elliott Jaques and Abraham Maslow regarding “why people work.” Explores the role of positive reinforcement outlined in by Aubrey Daniels – Getting the Best Out of People.

Team Problem Solving.
Expands Fierce Conversations to the group setting. Designed to move a group into “real work,” using a team problem solving model. Demonstrates how to build a team through problem solving.

Session Four
Planning.
This segment introduces a results-oriented planning model, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which participants can quickly use in any situation where planning would be of benefit.

Delegation. Participants are introduced to a specific model of effective delegation. Most managers hold certain mental blocks to delegation that prevents them from using this powerful developmental tool. This delegation model challenges these mental blocks so the entire team, manager included, can benefit from delegation.

Session Five
Decision Making
. This segment introduces three decision models that participants can use to make decisions in specific circumstances. All models can be used in a team setting or for an individual decision.

Accountability Conversation. Introduces a results-oriented method to hold individuals and teams accountable for desired results. This combines concepts of Time Span, QQT Goals and Management Relationships.

Session Six
Effective Meetings.
Moves from theory to the practical application of team dynamics. How to run a more effective meeting.

Coaching. This segment takes the communication models we have previously used and integrates them into a conversation specifically designed for coaching subordinates.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

All This Work, Wasn’t For Them

“What was the major benefit of this exercise?” I asked. For the past week, we had been planning intensive. Every meeting with every company was about their plan for the year. It was over. The confetti was on the floor and all the marching bands had gone home.

Last week, I met with three different groups, each group member presenting their plan they had worked so hard to create. The groups had ripped them apart and put them back together.

I was packing my flipchart. Emily was hanging around. I stopped packing and asked her again, “What was the major benefit of this exercise?”

“You know, at first, I thought I was preparing this plan to show my group how smart I was, how I had everything together. Everything was geared toward this meeting, but now that it’s over, I realize, all this work wasn’t for them.”

“No, it wasn’t,” I confirmed.

“It was for me. It was for me to get my head straight for the year.” Emily smiled and tucked her plan under her arm. “Gotta, go. Gotta go, get’er done.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off January 25. Pre-registration is now open.

Make Me a Promise, and Keep It

“Where’s the beef?” Marilyn shouted.

Paul was standing at the front. For the past ten minutes, he had been explaining his plan for the year. At the end of his presentation, I broke the group into four teams of three. Each team had two minutes to prepare three questions. His presentation had been nice.

“Where’s the beef?” repeated Marilyn. “You say, this year, you are going to try to become the premier service provider in the tri-county area, by exceeding the expectations of your customers. But I don’t know what that means. It sounds like the same thing your competitor is saying. It’s all fluff, meaningless. If I was your customer, (and, by the way, I am), and you told me that, I would think you are full of crap.

“If you are going to exceed my expectations, I want you to define your service level. How long will it take for you to respond on-site? To what specifications will the work be done? What kind of written guarantee will you sign? Will I pay exactly what you quoted on the phone for the work?

“Get specific. If you want to become the premier provider, you can’t just say it; you have to get specific about your level of service. You don’t have to exceed my expectations. Just make me a promise and keep it.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off on January 25. Pre-registration is now open.

Calling an Audible on Every Play?

“So, it’s January 10, and you are all assembled here to present your plans for the year. First, I want you to know how unique this is. Most organizations, in spite of the push for planning, are still in the writing process and will likely never finish their plan. This means they will continue to run their companies without any strategic direction.”

This is my speech today to an executive group assembled for the sole purpose of grilling each other about their 2013 Business Plans.

“These companies will be subject to the whims of the marketplace. They will react as best they can without a plan. It’s like calling an audible on the football field for every play of the game. Without a plan, you can’t exploit a market, wear down a competitor, take market share, open a new line, create a new department, establish a new branch. You can’t do any of those things calling audibles.

“It’s ten days into the new year and you know what you want. Today, you will likely get beat up by this executive group. Tomorrow, you will be ready to present this plan to your teams back at the office. You are ready to be a more effective leader.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off January 25. Pre-registration is now open.

Not Sophisticated, but Effective

“It seems we just get so busy that we forget to have follow-up meetings about our annual plan,” said Joyce. “We get busy, and before you know it, summer’s almost gone.”

“Do you have a 2013 calendar?” I asked.

“Well, yes, I think I have three.”

“Well, pick the one you are going to use this year and call a meeting,” I said. “And tell everyone to bring their calendars. This is not a very sophisticated management skill, but it works every time. Right, now, while your annual plan is fresh on everyone’s mind, schedule your follow-up meetings.

  • April – half day to review first quarter.
  • July – half day to review second quarter.
  • October – half day to review third quarter.

“Get them on the calendar, now, so as time marches on, those dates are already protected.

“Schedule one to two full days in December to review the fourth quarter and to finalize plans for 2014. That’s it. Now, you have a follow-up plan in place. You will get busy, that’s why you have to schedule this stuff, now.”

Our online program, Hiring Talent 2013, kicks off on January 25. Pre-registration is open now.

Grooved Habits

“Where we drop the ball is follow-up.” Nathan shook his head from side to side. “We are pretty good at setting goals, but as soon as we’re done with that, life goes on and we forget all the hard work and time we spent planning.”

“What habits do you need to create,” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Nathan looked puzzled.

“Follow-up is not just a ball that gets dropped. As a management skill, it is a way of life. I always look for habits. What are you not doing as a routine that stops you from following up?”

It was like a smack in the forehead with a beer can. “I see where you are going with this,” Nathan said, still shaking his head. “We usually have a short huddle meeting every Friday to follow-up on the promises we made to ourselves. Ever since the holidays crept up, we just stopped having the meetings.”

“What’s on your schedule this Friday?” I quizzed.

Nathan was quick to respond, “I think we should have our regular Friday huddle meeting.”

Sometimes effectiveness has nothing to do with being brilliant, but only in continuing to do the things that work.
___

Hiring Talent 2013 kicks off on January 25. Pre-registration is open now.

Clarity

“What do you think is stopping you from creating a plan for this year?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” replied Dawson. “Sometimes, it seems like just an exercise that we go through every year. You know, it’s January, we have to have a plan.”

“I don’t think you know what you want,” I challenged.

“That’s not true!!! I know what I want. We have a new product we are trying to get out of the ground and a new branch we want to open in the north part of the state. There is a new market we want to go after by repackaging one of our existing services. There is a lot of stuff we want to do.”

“Good,” I said. “Now, draw 3 pictures for me, one for the new product, one for the new branch and one for the new market.”

Have you written down your action plan for 2013? What is the benefit of writing it down?