Friday, 3 October 2014

The Seven Cs of Exemplary Management

Many of the components designed to provide an effective and results-oriented management framework are actually based on relatively simple concepts. The problems that we encounter most often are not related to the understanding of or endorsement of these concepts, but to their execution. This execution is often compromised by an unhealthy mix of inappropriate or inadequate use of tools, pressure or volume of work, and sheer human fallibility.
Inappropriate or inadequate tools?
  • The addiction to e-mail
  • The pathological dependence on spreadsheets
  • The abdication of results based on such inadequate, inappropriate or poorly used software…
  • ...or blaming failure on missing software!
…And the absence of good quality, simple processes that work for us as managers – because we each work in subtly different ways, and one of the tricks is to unlock those things that allow us as individuals to contribute the most.
Pressure of work?
  • —Because we all have too much, don’t we?
  • —Because often we can’t see the wood for the trees?
  • —Because, no matter what we say, we actually aren’t very good at time management / prioritisation / communication / delegation (delete as appropriate!)
…And our failure to give ourselves an effective and simple management framework only makes matters worse, deepens the spiral, forces us to cut corners, make mistakes, take inappropriate risks, make shaky assumptions or decisions.
Human fallibility?
  • The desire for the path of least resistance perhaps…
  • Or that we just pay lip service to core principles…
  • Or the assumption that ‘people know what we mean / think / want’…
  • Or the belief that it will all come right in the end…
  • Or the conscious decision to ignore that really bad feeling we have somewhere in the pit of our stomach…
  • Or the aversion to conflict and challenge…
  • Or the difficult decision…
  • Or the inappropriate trust / mistrust in others…
  • Or the profound challenge of honesty…
So how can we capture the core components of a good management framework? How can we elucidate them simply, and in such a way that we can fashion a mode of working that fits us, suits our style, and gives us the best chance of success?
What are the ‘Seven Cs of Exemplary Management’?
  1. Commitment
  2. Clear Expectations
  3. Clear Actions
  4. Control
  5. Commerciality
  6. Communication
  7. Change
…in the sense of belief; of believing in what you are doing.
The premise is simple: if you believe in what you are trying to do, achieve, deliver, then the commitment will follow. But the converse is true, of course: if don’t believe in it…
…maybe you should ask yourself if you should be doing something different, taking a different approach, aiming at a different goal.
Or maybe someone else should be doing it for you!?
If it’s right but not working and you can change it, then change it.
You will be more committed – and successful – if you strive to do three things you believe in, as opposed to eight things you do not.
Clear Expectations
…in the sense of knowing what the overall objectives are.
Do you believe that your people understand what you need from them, and what their scope of responsibility is?
…because if they don’t, they can never deliver what you need.
Ask yourself, if you were in their shoes, would you be clear?
And a suggestion: brief your team members on what you need them to do for you – then two days later, have them come back and present their interpretation of those expectations to you! This has the advantage of establishing firm mutual understanding, and in their presentations you have a better record of expectations than in any out-dated job description.
Clear Actions
…in the sense that actions – when they are written down at all! – are rarely that clear. And why? Because we are lazy, we make assumptions that everyone knows what XYZ means – and because most of us hate producing (or reading!) minutes.
So an action needs to have: one owner, a deliverable, potentially a description of the format or content, and a date. If it does not, how can you possibly have any confidence it will be delivered – and in some cases, how will you know when it has been? How can the action owner know what he or she has to do?
Oh yes, and if you aren’t going to bother to check and chase actions and make them mean something, then don’t even bother in the first place…
…in the very narrow sense of knowing what your people are working on, what the pipeline of demand is, what the unused – or over-committed – capacity is…
It’s all about Demand and Resource planning.
Your job, as a manager, is to get things done with the resources you are given. If you have no control over that one critical, elemental, finite component, then what chance have you got to be successful?!
You will under-commit and waste money; over-commit and miss deadlines; make poor judgement calls, erroneous decisions – and perhaps worse than any of these things, your team will see that you are not in control, and you will lose their respect and commitment.
…because one way or another, everything has a cost – and hopefully a benefit.
Which means that everything you and your team does must have an impact, somewhere…
Cost is easy when it’s money out of the door, but it could be time, an impact on risk, diversion from strategy, the opportunity cost of doing (or not) something else – and then the more intangible things like impact on staff morale…
…and for each cost, there must be benefits that could be articulated in the same language.
For the big things, think cost & benefit. Try and articulate them. Often, when you are in two minds about something, this might just sway you in the right direction
…that old chestnut! But let’s face it, communication is almost a ‘no win’ topic, because different people want different things: monthly, weekly, paper, email, Town Hall, detailed, personal, high-level, data-based, informal… So:
  • Rule #1 – do it!
  • Rule #2 – choose what works for you in terms of format & timing
  • Rule #3 – make it relevant
  • Rule #4 – ensure the quality is good (poor quality communication is unforgivable in a manager!)
  • Rule #5 – don’t let it slip!
Adhere to these rules and, after a while, most people will come to accept what you are trying to do – and then they will start to expect it, and if the quality and relevance is there, maybe even come to look forward to it!
…in the sense that most of what we do is predicated on making change happen – and for the manager, in initiating and driving change.
Even in the most stable of environments things are constantly changing – and so they should be, as this is the only way we can make things ‘better’. The good manager can identify those things that need changing, and can the implement the change in a controlled and positive fashion.
‘Change’ is one of the things we need to believe in, and should always be on the agenda.
And don’t be seduced by notions of innovation. Innovation is just a marketing word for Change…
What are the ‘Seven Cs of Exemplary Management’?
Commitment – believe in what you do
Clear Expectations – know what the objectives are
Clear Actions – who, what, when – and chase!
Control – demand and resource management
Commerciality – everything has a cost and benefit
Communication – do it how it works for you
Change – now, tomorrow, always..!

About the author / copyright

Ian Gouge is widely experienced in business-driven Information Technology, culminating in significant achievements majoring on organisational and process change, and with a proven track record in turning around / re-engineering IT functions. He possesses in-depth experience of change, transformation, IT delivery, customer and supplier engagement, and broad International exposure. Also the author of management books on the topics of IT Strategy and Project Management, the impact on IT of e-Business, and the IT Organisation.

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