The great thing about being a manager is that if you change your direction by one degree, the positive impact on many people over time is dramatic. Your challenge is to find those practices and behaviors that improve your results and the results of the organization.
A colleague (Alan Willett) and I conduct executive leadership workshops to help managers break through their current barriers to better performance.
Here are five examples of the topics we explore in the session. If you are doing them already, great; now look at the other 25 in the workshop description (link below). If not, pause and sharpen your saw!
1. Commitment by involvement for developing achievable goals
Do any of these statements resonate?
- We don’t really have any clear goals – we are just very busy.
- We do have clear delivery and improvement goals but they are a secret held by the management team. (Shhh!) It’s frustrating that our people don’t help us achieve our (secret) goals.
- We have clear delivery and improvement goals and people are told about them every month. We have traction, but our people roll their eyes (a lot) and are grumpy. Not a fun place.
- We have clear delivery and improvement goals; we sought their feedback, had them refine the goals and estimate the work to ensure they were achievable before promising the world. People are committed by involvement. We are on track.
2. People are looking at you — what example are you setting?
Some leaders are surprised that their people don’t perform as expected. There may be many underlying causes that need sorting out. However, start with the example you are setting. For example:
- If you want people to plan, show them how you plan your own work or the work of the management team.
- If you want them to coordinate project work among themselves, show them how you coordinate among your peers.
- If you want them (and you) to avoid surprises and manage risk, show them the risk list that you use at the senior management level.
These practices are simple, effective, and can be adopted in a few hours. There are hundreds more.
3. Communicate daily “best practice” expectations
People rise to the standard around them. So one way to improve performance is to change the standard and communicate regularly what that standard is. To do this, establish some basic practices, explain them, and provide some leeway for implementation and creativity. Then monitor their use. Practices could include:
- Requirements elicitation: Do teams actively do this?
- Customer interaction: Do teams know their customers?
- Change management: What evaluation of a change is done before committing?
- Estimation: Are estimates sound and reliable?
- Project planning: Who does this – is it done well?
- Risk management: Do teams look ahead for potential problems?
- Design: Is there one to avoid errors and communicate concepts?
- Project status: Do teams know for sure where they are?
- Team communication: Do teams know their dependencies and communicate with all of their stakeholders?
- …many other practices
At every opportunity, point out the great things your teams are doing and expected practices that they should be doing.
4. Communicate how the dots are related to each other
The goals of the organization and each project, as well as the practices you want teams to do, are dots in a “connect the dots” puzzle. As leader, you are in an ideal position to explain the connection if they don’t see it.
For example, if a system was delivered to a customer with promised features missing or broken, and the team skipped requirements analysis, simple traceability and regression testing, explain how all of the pieces fit together.
If deadlines are frequently missed, estimates are superficial, coordination meetings are skipped and project progress data are not acted upon, explain how the dots (problems and practices) fit together.
5. Take responsibility for the big issues — get street cred!
It’s your organization, so in the end, the results you get (positive and negative) are the result of numerous factors, many of which you have some day-to-day control or influence over. When you admit to people your mistakes and implement improvement actions, you come across as one of the team. You obtain street cred!
That was five things to think about. Want more? We have lots more. Take a look at the executive workshop.
I have no time to sharpen my saw!
Lets do some ROI math. If you saved 0.1 of a week for the next 5 years from learning something in the session, you would gain approximately 5 years x 48 weeks x 0.1 = 24 weeks back.
What would you do with that time or even half of that? And if you implemented a practice that saved 100 people 5-10% of their week what would you have them do with their time? This is a minimum number. You could reduce test cycles, rework and support costs by 30-70% just by finding defects and risks earlier.
If you have questions or comments about this article, or would like a complimentary session to discuss your challenges, please contact us.
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