Tag Archives: skill

Slow Down to Go Fast

“If habits are connected to competence, why is that so important?” I asked.

“Sometimes, when I am faced with a problem, especially a new problem, that is difficult to solve,” Muriel was thinking out loud. “Competence is the ability to bring my thinking and resources to the problem quickly. Not just quickly, but easily. Almost like an instinct. Only I know it’s not instinct, because it is something I learned and had to practice,” she replied.

“Give me an example,” I said, looking for clarity.

“Okay, planning. As a manager, I know it is very tempting, when faced with a problem, to just jump in and solve it, dictate a course of action and move on. What I found was, that whenever I did that, I would fail to notice some critical element, misdirect my people and end up with my team losing its confidence in me.

“It took me a while to learn that I needed to slow down, get to the root cause of the problem, then create a plan. It was painful, in the beginning, because planning was not me.

“I would have to stop everything, clear the decks, drag out my books on planning. It was excruciating, worse, it took too long. Sometimes we would miss a deadline because the process took too long. It was difficult not to go back, jump in, dictate a course and move on, even if it was in the wrong direction.

“It was only when I committed the planning model to memory, that things began to change. Once I had it in my head, I could access the steps without having to look them up in my book. I began to break down every problem this way. Planning became quicker and quicker. Better yet, I was able to involve my team in creating the solution by using the steps. We seldom overlooked critical items. The best part was that everyone was on-board when we finished planning.

“Now, planning is a habit. My team does it all the time. It is a competence.”

Skill Development is About Practice

“How different is this new department?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s different. The department I run now is full of technicians. This new role is all about merchandising and promotion. I will have to learn a lot,” Marsha replied.

“But, it sounds interesting to you?”

Marsha nodded. “Yes, it sounds interesting. More than that, I have always had an interest in marketing. I mean, I know I am in charge of a technical department, so this would be a challenge for me.”

“What will have to change?”

“There will be a learning curve, to get up to speed. There are lots of things I don’t know,” she admitted.

“Here’s the thing about any skill. There is always technical knowledge you need to know. But technical knowledge is learn-able. And, to get good at it, you have to practice. You may have an interest in marketing. You may have read a couple of books about it, but you have not practiced it. If you want to get good at it, you have to commit to practice.”

Evidence, Not Hope

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

How do you un-do some internal promotions that probably shouldn’t have happened? The person is just not effective in their new Stratum III role?

Troubleshooting effectiveness in a role can be traced to one of these four factors –

  • Capability
  • Skill
  • Interest (Value for the work)
  • Reasonable Behavior

I rely on the manager’s judgment to determine which of the factors may be in play. In my Time Span workshop, I describe a team member with the following characteristics –

  • Worked for the company – 8 years
  • Always shows up early, stays late
  • Wears a snappy company uniform (belt around waist, cap on straight)
  • Knows the company Fight Song
  • Makes the best potato salad at the company picnic

And yet, is under performing in his role. Put that list against the four factors and I arrive at capability mis-matched for the role. To do a thorough inspection, I would examine each of the Key Result Areas in the role to see where the underperformance occurs. It is likely there are parts of the role that are done well, and parts where we observe underperformance. The mis-match is likely to occur on those longest Time Span task assignments.

In your question, you describe a Stratum III role. I would examine each of the KRAs and task assignments to see which is the culprit and modify that specific task assignment. The modification might be to break the longer task into a series of shorter tasks with more oversight, or to shift an analytic step to another resource.

All of this can be avoided by assigning project work to team members BEFORE they receive promotions. Successful completion, evidence is what I look for, not hopes and promises.