Posts Tagged ‘management tools’

Work hard and you wil get far? But where?

“Work hard to accomplish things in life” it has been a phrase that since little you always hear people say, our parents, friends, mentors, coaches, especially when trying to achieve success or completing tasks that requires some sort of skill or patience.

“There is no substitute for hard work.” Thomas Alva Edison

“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” David Bly

All implies that hard work is most on the time needed or required to accomplish things in life. But a person (mostly me) can argue that it is the actual “doing” or “work” that is require and accomplishes goals not the “hard” or “soft”. What about the way we do work? Does that matters? Will only working hard will get me somewhere? How far can you go just working hard? How many hours working hard do I do every day? And sometimes feeling that I need to work even harder? And then what does the passion for what we are doing got to do with this?

“Working hard and working smart sometimes can be two different things.” Byron Dorgan

Even as that statement makes some sense to some I am going to propose that a better statement can be something like this,

“Working hard and working smart are two different things. Get used to it”

I know that is semantics, but really, it does makes a difference when you dig a little bit more into it. For example when an athlete wants to improve in his sport of choice it does it not by working hard, but by finding ways to improve and working smarter, improving the movement, style, accuracy, increasing stamina, improving the form, managing the shape and rhythm, thinking and doing. Do not get me wrong it is going to take work (actual doing) and sometimes a lot of it. My argument is that is more than just doing work. It is finding ways to improve by analyzing current state and trying things to get somewhere faster, to accurately get things in the right place and/or achieve the ultimate goal. Accomplishing this, is not done by just throwing the ball hundreds of times. It is by throwing the ball one time, thinking, adjusting, improving and test throwing the ball again. This will mean that perhaps doing this again and again and again a hundreds time to achieve desirable results. Adjustments. Improvements.

Working smart also includes working as a team/group. It is not necessary working hard the way to go, but finding ways to work together smarter. Communication, interactions, cross-checks, etc.

Same goes for your job, office, coworkers and life. Think about this; have you ever notice few co-workers working, working and working taking on work and extra “work” long hours, many days and at the end of the day delivering on few things either correctly, half-baked or right on the spot? Sometimes not or towards the bottom line? And have you notice others perhaps fewer of them, that seems to keep delivering on an on, sometimes making it look easy without necessary expending the long hours and “extra work” that the previous group spends but delivers and accomplished more?

The reality is that there are no secrets to work effectively when doing tasks or work. There are plenty information in the web and also there are many, many more ways still uncover or publish. The thing here is the mindset. The mindset that differentiates the hard workers vs. the smart workers is a mindset of efficiencies. The smart workers will constantly look for ways to achieve goals in an effective and efficient ways. For example, working with multiple screens (Whether single monitor or not) and programs that allows them to quickly navigate, produce, weed and gather information. They know the advantages and deficiencies of the tools they use and use that information to their advantage. They are tool inquirers, knowledge gatherer. These people are willing to invest and invest heavily for the sake of effectiveness. Improving?

For example, you might have an employee that is being ask to deliver a report every month that requires managing a large set of data and converting it into a readable report. This person spends a considerable amount of time, effort and work hard to deliver the task at hand and it does meeting initial expectations. It does so by moving information and data manually between cells and spreadsheets to accomplish the request over and over again. Next month it will start from the same spot as it started the month before. Taking exactly the same if not more, cause it might of forgotten how things were done the previous month/week.

In the other hand you might have another employee with the same request, but address it differently. 1st the employee will gather information about the request from the position of what is the data needed for. Also knowing that this requires time and every month report, it might actually spend some time thinking about how to organize the work. It will create staging areas, templates, macros, formulas, shortcuts, SW features and other tricks and helpful documentation that will allow him/her to shave time next month.

Also it will learn from doing the task from last month and it will start thinking on ways to improve the process to become more efficient and better resource. Also the person will test to whether there is a better format to convey the information, adding more value to the task and making the organization more efficient in the long term. Continuous improvement process, lean process, six sigma, and other tools or terms might be coming to your mind, but the reality is that those tools, methodologies or fads will do nothing if you do not have the right mindset. This is a mindset to work smart not hard.

Work hard to get somewhere or work smart to get where you want to go.



New Management Model?

The other day I was spending some time visiting family and friends. We, like always, end up taking about the past; interesting stories and revisiting the good old advice that once or twice we might have received during our life. In this case it was very interesting to hear the following advice that was provided to my friend when he was promoted to a people manager role.

His story goes something like this; When the news about the promotion arrived at the building where he works, he of course started to receive the usual congrats, good job, you deserve it and very happy for you.  But one experience manager asked him to go to his office and said that he was going to do something different. He was going to provide him with a gift. The gift of the untold underground management learning skill, the kind of advice is not in any book and only comes from experience in managing group in large organizations. It was the unwritten rule on how to strategize your group composition to minimize headaches and maximize return and

He then started to explain that in groups, individuals can be identified by two general criteria, one being Smart or Dumb and the other Lazy or Hard Worker. He then started to explain that this was very important to understand since the cohesion of the group and the overall performance depended on being able to classify the individuals and being able to plot them in the following chart.

Simplistic managemnt model

Then he explained that you most likely will have people in all quadrants and understanding this is the very 1st part of the advice. This will become “key” during evaluating performance and generating the “List”. The second part will be how does affect your work and team performance. Lastly and more important is what to do with the individuals in each quadrant.

With team member on quadrant A (Upper, Left) you need to understand that you will most likely will not get much out of them. These are lazy, non-responsive and have most likely lack of knowledge about the work they
need to do. The experience manager then explained that you need people like this in your group, at least one, preferably two.

Here is what his strategic thinking comes into play. In very large organizations there is what is known as forced curve when it comes to ratings/rankings. This will force management to select the lowest performance to put in corrective action and sometimes to move out of the organization. That is the purpose of having and keeping these individuals in your group. The argument here is that if all of your team are high performer and deserved to be on the top, but you are force to determine the lowest performer of your team and assigned a low performing rating, it will mean that the person most likely will be out of any type of compensation (monetary, salary increase, bonus, stockS, options) Even though the person performed as a top performer in comparison with others in other organizations. So, having one or two of this type will allow you without penalizing the actual hard workers conform to the rating/ranking distribution.

Now interesting enough, the next quadrant is one fill with controversy. The Dumb but Hard Worker quadrant will be filled with the names of people in your team that are going to do more damage than good to the group. Here to my understanding from what I was able to capture, people in this quadrant are individuals that are very busy, busy doing things, busy creating work. Do not get me wrong, busy might not be in most cases a bad thing but in this case it is.

The people residing on this quadrant are going to create headaches and inefficiencies that will drag you group performance and quality of work. Because they are busy doing the wrong things they will create unnecessary fires, situations in which will require damage control. Also and unfortunately, they will put a strain to the rest of the group because they are going ending up doing the job for them. By having to clear up their messes, undoing the wrong and fixing it the good worker would not be able to spend time working on what matters and what was assigned to them. Work will take longer and deliverables might be put at risk because of this. As different of the top left quadrant this are the people that you want to depart from. Either moving them out of your group (To a better role suited for them) and/or out of your organization or business. This is due to negative impact that keeping these individuals will cause in the long term to your group. You do not want a team that has anyone like this. The allowance number for this type of individuals is Zero.

Now this next quadrant is your main quadrant. Here is where you find your working bees. Here is the high performance of the high performance of the team. The people in this quadrant make things happens, they are smart and hard workers.

You assigned work to this group and it gets done. They are achievers and always looking forward to find ways to contribute. You want to take care of this group. Give them a lot of TLC, they deserve it. Provide ways to keep them motivated. Find ways to enable training and professional growth. Listen to their needs and find ways to remove barriers that prevents them for doing the work (Like having people on the lower left quadrant near them.) You should strive to have 80% to 85% of your group composition with team members in this lower right quadrant.

Here is the other controversial group, the smart but lazy team members. The funny part is that I know you know someone that fits these criteria. These individuals are very creative and strategic in figuring out ways to get the job done as long as they can minimize the actual work or doing to get the job done.

They will find ways to delegate the work to others in your team and outside the group/organization. They will look for ways to find efficiencies, cut out waste and strategically put themselves in a position of just tracking that the work gets done. They will look around to delegate, transfer and without hesitation will feel confident that the work will get done and take credit for it. Indeed, this is your management potential. They are charismatic and great influencers that will convince others that the work is important and needs to get done. They will most likely have a vast network; will understand ins and outs of the organization. They aren’t afraid to drop a few names here and there to let you know they the who’s who in the organization.

The best way to handle these individuals is to get them ready to promote to managements role. Since they look for ways to improve and take advantage of the existing system you will learn a few thing that you can put in place or leverage. Their network is also part of your network. Since you are already in management it is most likely you will share a few similar traits too.

What it is interesting to me about this management model is that it does take in consideration two aspects that rarely gets mention on management books; 1) The reality that medium and large organization are going to have a force a performance rating distribution that is going to force behavior. If that is the case, you need to strategize one way or another, from the beginning and keep that in mind while managing the group. 2) Your succession pipeline and management material that can be develop, nurture and promote not necessary come from the usual suspects.

My take on this is that even though many managers pursue a similar approach I want to be a believer that if you as a manager have a top performer group, compose with top of the crème individuals, there is no reason to have anyone in the lower rating/ranking, even if the organization forces a distribution. One key element is that the distribution is held true (or force) with a certain minimal amount of team members, this being 50 or more in most cases.  And like mentioned before if you strategize for a force distribution to conform to it, you can also strategize to not to conform the force distribution. This will required to take on challenging project, high visibility programs and a complex but highly effective communication strategy.

Of course it is a risky move and the safe thing if to conform and follow the untold model/strategy. I will argue that you will be a better manager if you are able year after year manage to reward your team by not having any low performer selected (because there is none) and providing them with the right projects, challenges and contribution to the bottom line.  This will include proactively promoting their work, value and contribution throughout the management chain. Since other managers will follow to manage conforming to the rating/ranking process you need to understand their weak links and without any doubt add higher value to the business than other groups in the organization.

Burden your adversary with victory

As with picking the right battles or problems to tackle, there are situations in which you must select the option to let the opposition to (intentionally) win or take on larger responsibility.
This play is strategically for the long run, not necessary the short term.
Since when in business, you need to have a really good understanding of the final goal and/or mission. Since you are probably will be “giving” something up this can be perceived as a risky move.

You might concede a market area or segment in which the opposition business might need to spend lots of resources setting up, maintaining and supporting. Things to consider are suppliers, channels, sales, marketing, market adoption and incentives needed to capture the market.
Selecting not to get into a price war with a competitor may cause the brand of the competitor to erode or diminish in the eyes of the customers.
Since resources are not limitless the opposition might spread to thin, leaving other areas vulnerable that you can take advantage of. Or allowing you to
better concentrate to address specific needs. At the end of the day you want to be successful in your business.

Project Team and Groups Communication


      Earlier this month a friend of mine send me an e-mail asking about RACI. This turns out to be a very interesting topic to me and to discuss, not just the tool, but talk about some of the reasons when and why we want to use a RACI in a project, team or group. This actually will go back into team dynamics and synchronization between groups and team members. Here are my 2 cents, which my look like 5, but here it goes anyways.

      When dealing with projects well defined communication, roles and responsibilities are key to increased the success of any program. This does not guarantee success but it does increase the efficiency and chances for success. It is very simple when dealing with projects with only a few individuals, let say 4-6 individuals, that work together specially if they a located in the same building or area and have work together with similar successful projects in the past. This means that everyone knows and understand the final vision/goals to be accomplished.

They will also know and understand how they will contribute to achieve the goals. They know how to get things done, who they count with and who they can’t. They understand their skills and the skills of others interacting with them. The small group in a small project will have a pretty good grasp on how, when and what to use in a form of communication. Like a good family they normally work well together and understand their roles as they growth and execute on the program.

     It will be nice to have all projects like that and sometimes project manages will breakdown projects to mimic small project chunks to facilitate execution. But as project size grow, the complexity of dealing with the project grows and realistically getting the program/project divided in small unrelated chunks/tasks is not possible.

 When dealing with mid size projects can use a hybrid approach and combination of tools to manage or establish those. Ideally you can calculate the number of communication channels/nodes/point given the amount of people involved,
 Communication nodes = [N*(N-1)]/2 where N is number of individuals working in a project.
 A three person team will required 3 nodes, while a 6 person team in theory will have 15 nodes. Once you know the nodes you manage the communication flow. The problem with this is that it takes a simplistic look to a large problem when dealing with,

1. A larger group/team (Imagine a group of 20 — that will mean 190 nodes)

2. Organizational structure in which interaction with different department in a business (Finance, Marketing, Engineering, Operator, Technicians,…)

3. Cross businesses in which companies work together (Partners, Joint Ventures, Joint Development, Manufacturing,…)

4. Geographical location (Time zones, infrastructure limitations) 5. Cultural differences (How decisions are made, Who makes the decisions, philosophy of addressing problems,…)

 By the way, each node may need to be treated differently given the conditions and the individuals that are working together. One tool that is available to organization is the RACI, in which tries to tackle some of the issues mentioned above by categorizing the roles of team members and participants. Different people/groups/teams might play different roles depending on the stage of the program, task at hand and type of project. For example Manufacturing might have a say to the engineering team about design the product in a way that can be manufacture.  
This is my take on how I use it with my definition of the RACI roles,
R – Responsible – This person will actually do the work and completion of tasks. This person energy is considerably focus on getting thing done and complete with the item and requirements assigned or that the person is responsible for.

A – Accountable – This person is where the show stop for an specific task. Normally is a PM or a lead. Will make decision to move the program/project forward. Communication dynamics between the accountable and the responsible should be very clear and active. Clear expectations and updates to keep the program moving at the right pace.

C - Consultant – This role is for the gurus or experts in specific technical, business or knowledge area. They have a vote and provide guidance to the project based on their specific role/element of key information they posses. These individuals are most of the time on a need to know and on a request type of communication. Overuse of this individuals could cause confusion and will drag the work. Unwanted or reactive feedback/comment/suggestions from these individuals can cause havoc in the team, change directions, actually slow things down and/or stop progress. The accountable person needs to keep tabs on these individuals.

I – Informative – This role is for individual that are required to have information of the program either because they are key stakeholders but do not work on the project or are accountable for it and/or need the information to make decisions in other projects programs that they are working on. Or might be affected by the outcome of the project/program at hand.

      By establishing a RACI table when dealing with large group of individual/organization/project/program it can easily help minimize the challenges of communications and simplify decision making progress. It can reduce the complexity of managing different organizations, groups, cultural differences and help cluster large groups to allow a more effective communication channel.
There one element that I would probably add to the RACI tool and is the addition of the letter S
S - Sponsors – Which although is similar to the I but also a C. A key distinction is that this person also will have vetoed and influence power to the program. They might posses information that can drastically affect the outcome of the program and can actually cause a big impact to the working group (Positive or Negative) The lead should have open and honest communication clarifying goals and objectives along the way of the program.
Without the sponsor might not be a reason for a project. More information about RACI as a tool

Please let me know your thoughts.