Category Archives: Time Span

Four Power Questions Before the Interview

It’s all about the work. Most managers make hiring mistakes because they didn’t know what they were looking for in the first place.

  • How to know what you are looking for?
  • How to transform that vague picture into specific deliverables?
  • How to communicate that picture and deliverables to the hiring team, to make sure you are right?

I will know it when I see it, sets up the hiring manager for failure. Success is based on luck.

Work is a funny notion. Many managers focus on getting in touch with candidates, all warm and fuzzy. Not my purpose. Instead, get in touch with reality. The purpose of hiring is to get some work done.

Work is making decisions and solving problems. Few hiring managers think about the problems that have to be solved and the decisions that have to be made in a team member’s role. That is where it starts. The hiring manager is looking for someone to make specific decisions and solve specific problems. Until we figure that out, we will never hire the right person.

Here are the power questions to answer before you get into the interview room –

  • In this key area, what decisions have to be made?
  • What is the time frame for those decisions?
  • In this key area, what problems have to be solved?
  • What is the time frame for those solutions?

Trust is a Choice

Based on truth, trust is a choice. Trust does not happen. Trust is not a feeling, it is a decision.

Trust cannot exist in a circumstance of deception or ambiguity. The choice of trust is always tested by the consequences of reality.

Trust can be broken. Attempts can be made to repair a broken trust, but its repair can only be chosen.

I can engage to earn your trust, but only you can choose to trust me.
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Taking a break for the US Thanksgiving holiday. See you back here Monday, Dec 2, 2019. -Tom

Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In your last post, Easy Now, Hard Later, you talked about the addiction curve, the procrastination curve and the busy curve. More, in depth, please.

Response:
The addiction curve, easy now, hard later works in several scenarios. It’s a simple principle to understand addiction recovery, but applicable to any situation where you need to kick the habit, replace a habit, or kick-start a new habit. The first step is hard, but what is hard now, is easy (easier) later.

The procrastination curve is identical. It’s easy now, to put off something difficult. Wimpy used to say he would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Easy now is the first step to procrastination.

But the busy curve is harder to get our arms around. Easy to spend our time responding to email (looking busy), checking off random items on the to-do list (thinking we are busy), when we are stalling on the most important projects that are hard now. Projects that require thinking, sharpening a skill, acquiring rare materials, enlisting the aid of others. A project is any task with more than one step. Get started. Next Tuesday, the hamburger will be gone, but the bill comes due.

Habits Determine Success

In a previous post, A Level of Competence, I ended with an unspoken question. What habits do you have that support your success? Here are the responses, manicured and edited. If you want to see the original responses with attribution (who posted it), follow this link.

  • Read a book a month, a few minutes first thing in the morning, or over lunch.
  • Learn from experts that share their wisdom. Seek them out, pay attention.
  • Look down the road and ask, “Where do we see ourselves as a company in 10 years? 3 years? 1 year?”
  • Break the year down into quarters (quarterly leadership meetings). Break the quarter into weeks (weekly leadership meetings).
  • Given a task, don’t think what or how, think “who?” Delegation.
  • This year I picked a Word of the Year – PROACTIVE. Then I made a word cloud of all the words that came to mind in association with this word (e.g. take charge, adaptive, considerate, effective, willing, doing) and I posted this word cloud by my desk at work and mirror at home. I also had a bracelet made with the word on it, plus dog tags to pin on my purse or keys. I incorporated it into password phrases that I have to type daily. It has been a huge help to remind me to stop procrastinating and just do it – everything from Gantt charts to putting away laundry! I’m actually amazed at how motivating it turned out to be.
  • I use my calendar. As soon as I wake up, I take a quick peek as I prepare for the day/week ahead. My thoughts follow me through my morning routine and my drive to work. This helps me to prioritize my daily plan right down to how I dress. This is also a great opportunity to inspire others as I try to lead by example. I’m a firm believer in the old adage.. “An ounce of planning is worth a pound of cure”!
  • My day starts with a cup of coffee (or more). While drinking (my coffee), I write in my journal by asking this question – “What will I do today to use my gifts to make a positive difference in someone’s life?” At the end of the day I journal by answering this question. “What is the actual positive difference I made today in someone else’s life?” On occasion, I shake things up by asking and answering a couple of additional questions: “What is the one question if asked and answered that would make it impossible for me to remain as I am?” or “What would a person who truly loved themselves and others be doing right now?” or “What would I be doing today if I truly believed that my life mattered and that I could have anything that I want?”
  • I remain curious and I don’t quit.
  • I awake at 4:45am every morning. 4 out of 5 week days I go to the Orange Theory fitness at 6am where the thought train stops and I purely focus on what I’m doing and the energy of the people I work out with. It’s the 1 hour a day that my brain can take a break! I walk out spent, and focus on how I feel post workout in the car, stop and get my coffee on the way to work. While I’m still cooling down I check my calendar for the day, and then hit the shower; where my brain shifts gears. Yep, its convenient to have a shower at work. This is when I feel the uptick in energy and it feeds the energy throughout the rest of the day. Shower and a breakfast; I spend that time focusing on what I want to accomplish through the day. Most of the time that’s in coaching the team and development. I create that mental list that I can check off as I go through the day. For me, starting every morning I can with a clear mind and an intense workout feeds that energy and helps set up the day.

The Goal is Not the Next Project

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:

How do you determine the time frame that a manager should be thinking into the future? Given your garden-variety project, do you figure “lead time” for the group? Example: team has to prepare documents for an audit in two weeks, we have an existing pool of docs to update. You’ve discussed this in the past, however your thoughts would be appreciated.

Response:

This question sets the perfect trap for the manager with short term thinking. Of course, this short term project has to be completed prior to the two week deadline. But here is what a manager needs to be thinking about.

What audit projects do I anticipate receiving during the next twelve months? What is the scope of those projects, how long will they take and what technical work is necessary? If I chart out a timeline of the number of projects over the next twelve months, how many overlap, or are there quiet periods in between?

Who will I need on my team to do the technical work, the research, the preparation and the review? Who will I need to perform the administrative work of tracking all of the elements and packaging the audit when the work is completed?

Who do I have on my staff now and who do I need to recruit? What impact will that have on my budget, in terms of expense to the anticipated revenue? When do I place the ads, when do I interview and when do I make the hires?

How long will training take to get these people up to speed to perform this audit work? Who will do the training?

All of these questions require way more than two weeks. These are the issues for the successful manager. The typical timespan (working into the future) for any working manager is 12-24 months.

The Future in Today

“But, what about today?” asked Kristen. “It’s great to think about the future, but I have to get stuff done today.”

“The anchor for the manager has to be some specific time point in the future. Every action we take only has meaning related to that future point in time. Call it planning, call it a milestone, call it a goal.

“You are right. You have to get stuff done today. Action occurs today. The role of the manager is to inspect that future time point and create today’s effective action. Here is the question. What is the destination, and what is the most effective action we can take, today, to get there?

The Difference From Team Leader to Supervisor

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was just promoted from team leader to supervisor. My boss told me not to worry, things wouldn’t be that different. With all due respect, I think things will be different, I just don’t know in what way?

Response:
The biggest difference is the time span of your goals and objectives. As a supervisor, your focus will shift to the future.

As the team leader of your crew, you thought about what needed to be produced this week. As a new supervisor, you have to think about the schedule for two weeks, three weeks or more, depending on the variables in your system. It’s not just people, also, materials (with lead times), equipment, preventive maintenance, consumables, logistics, raw material specs, system constraints, first piece inspections. Your job will require more prep and staging time.

All of this requires you to think further into the future, using your own discretionary judgment to make decisions and solve problems.

Critical, But Never Taught

Phillip didn’t have to be briefed on the difference between meetings that were important and meetings that were a waste of time.

At the same time, he was uncomfortable. “You know, we do a pretty good job of training people on the technical stuff we do, how we make things, how we deliver our services, but we don’t train on how to run a meeting.”

“I know. Interesting, isn’t it? One of the most important things a supervisor does and your company doesn’t spend any time teaching it.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What do we need to do first?” asked Phillip.

Most Teams are Functional, Few are Accountable

This is a series on Teal and Levels of Work. Here is the backstory for the series in case you are interested in the context. The purpose for the series is to explore the tenets of Teal through the lens of Levels of Work.
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What’s the difference between a group of people, a team (functional team) and an accountable team? Give any group of people a problem to solve, a decision to make, a goal or objective and a dramatic transformation begins from a group to a team.

Think about any high performing team you were ever a member of, and think about these defining characteristics.

Characteristics of a Team (Functional)

  • Clear and agreed upon purpose.
  • Key measures that indicate if team is on track.
  • Competent system.
  • Competent people.
  • Shared fate (what happens to one happens to all).

Functional teams are found everywhere. What is the difference between a functional team and that rare accountable team?

An accountable team is a functional team that manages its own accountability.

Could this be the team dynamic that Laloux describes at Buurtzorg? My intuition tells me that Buurtzorg’s self-managed teams are one and the same as Jaques‘ accountable team. The dynamics in the design of Buurtzorg’s self-managed teams become clear in the light of Jaques’ accountability schema.

If we can temporarily set aside “who?” is accountable and focus only on how accountability is managed, we find alignment between Buurtzorg’s self-managed team and Jaques’ accountable team. And if there is alignment at the team level, could there also be alignment at the manager level, though Buurtzorg would declare there is no manager. I think I can put those two pieces together in my next post.
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Back to Hierarchy, For a Reason

This is a series on Teal and Levels of Work. Here is the backstory for the series in case you are interested in the context. The purpose for the series is to explore the tenets of Teal through the lens of Levels of Work.
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If the purpose of hierarchy is not a power-grab, then why does hierarchy naturally exist as organizations form?

I recently ran into this issue in an organization with nine levels of managers. Without a guidepost to levels of work, people got promoted by reason of longevity, title instead of pay-raise, geography, too many people under a current manager, favoritism, nepotism. Totally out of control. The solution to organizational complexity was to add more people, more titles, more layers.

When hierarchy is grounded in levels of work (not power and not in nonsense), those layers naturally appear in the context of problem solving and decision making. AND, when we can see the distinction in the level of problem solving and the level of decision making, who-becomes-whose-manager is now a matter of organization sustenance.

We have explored the structure at Buurtzorg over the past couple of weeks. As an example of Teal, captured in Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, the who-becomes-whose-manager is left to circumstance, not clearly defined and when it happens, designed to be temporary.

In Requisite Organization, based Elliott Jaques‘ levels of work, the who-becomes-whose-manager is based on accountability. Indeed, Elliott describes Requisite Organization as a Managerial Accountability Hierarchy, “a system of roles in which an individual in a higher role (manager) is held accountable of the outputs of persons in immediately lower roles (team members) and can be called ‘to account’ for their actions.”

Elliott would describe the accountability for each manager, to bring value to the problem solving and decision making in the team. This is not a suggestion, this is a mandate, an accountability. Managers are required to bring value to the work of the team. This is not a power structure, but a value-stream.

I was reminded that Teal is not structure-less. While the nursing teams are well described by Laloux, the rest of the structure is not, so let me make some guesses.
S-II – nursing teams, accountable to deliver direct nursing services. (Longest goals and objectives 3-12 months.)
S-III – regional coaches and institutional facilitators, accountable to ensure nursing teams are working effectively in that delivery. (See prior post on Teal and Theory of Constraints. Longest goals and objectives 12-24 months.)
S-IV – integration executives accountable to ensure the output of nursing services works within the medical community and government ordinances for financial accommodation and payment. (Longest goals and objectives 2-5 years.)
S-V – would be Jos De Blok, the founder of Buurtzorg, accountable for enterprise design and value in the marketplace. (Longest goals and objectives 5-10 years.)

Each level of work is defined by context in its decision making and problem solving. When this hierarchy occurs (naturally), it creates organizational sustenance, intentionally, with purpose.
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