Tag Archives: thinking

Breaking Dependence on the Manager

It was late in the afternoon when I stopped by to check on Nathan. We agreed that he would circulate with his team, asking a variation of one simple question –

“When things are going well, and your job is going well, how do you do what you do?”

“That’s a great question,” I said. Nathan was beaming. I could tell the response from his team had been positive.

“It’s funny,” he shook his head. “When they describe how they do what they do, sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it almost right. But since I gave them the chance to tell me first, when we talk about the almost right stuff, it comes a lot easier. They are much more willing to listen.”

“So, what is the lesson for you?” I asked.

“It’s not so important that I be right, or that I be in control, whatever that means. What is important is that my team members are thinking about what they are doing. They are thinking about what they are doing that is right and thinking about what they are doing that needs improvement.”

Nathan stopped cold. A new niche just opened in his thinking.

“It’s like before, they just depended on me to tell them what they were doing wrong so they never had to think about it. They knew that if they were doing something wrong, they would get a lecture from me and that would be that, so they didn’t have to think about it. When I stop giving the lecture and ask them, they suddenly begin to think.”

Impact of Thoughts

“You’re serious,” said Nathan.

“As serious as a heart attack,” I replied.

“You want me to actually try to think about Mr. Johnston watching me whenever I have a big decision to make?”

“It’s better than allowing your worst boss into your head.”

“It’s funny,” said Nathan. “It kind of makes sense. I just don’t know why. It’s weird.”

“Here’s the thing, Nathan. You are what you think about. Only you have control over what you think about. You can think positive thoughts or you can think negative thoughts. But whichever thoughts you think will be the thoughts that influence your decisions, your problem solving. Those thoughts will ultimately define who you are.”

Detail Thinking at Stratum IV

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

At what Strata levels do details disappear, if they do?

Strata levels, as elements of Elliott Jaques model, create a visual representation of the Level of Work. Your question appears to ask about the behavioral traits of person, completing a task assignment, specifically curious about attention-to-detail as the task is completed.

Strata levels are descriptive about specific behaviors only as they relate to effectiveness in the completion of task assignments. Details never disappear. Even in longer Time Span task assignments, the devil is always in the details.

This is still an interesting question and may lend insight in describing the Level of Work in each Stratum. My answers, in the form of questions?

Level of Work – Stratum I

What details exist that will impact decision making on the pace and quality of the work?

Level of Work – Stratum II
What details exist that will impact decision making on the coordination of multiple elements, materials, equipment, people in the completion of the work, on time, within spec?

Level of Work – Stratum III

What details exist that will impact decision making in the creation of a system, so that tasks assignments are completed with predictable, consistent results, every time?

Level of Work – Stratum IV
What details exist that will impact decision making in the integration of multiple systems and sub-systems?

You see, there was an exercise described by Peter Senge in the Fifth Discipline (Stratum IV-systems thinking) called the Beer Game. The set-up of the game creates a brewery (system), two-step distribution (system) and a retail store (system). Because these systems in the simulation were not integrated, the end result typically produces the construction of an entire second brewery system. The detail, the retail store put beer on sale for one week during the simulation. The construction of the second brewery occurs NOT from market demand, but from a series of backorders put through the system in a non-integrated attempt to cover the sell-out of beer during a one-week retail sale period.

Yes, the devil is in the details, even at Stratum IV.