In my prior post, I discussed the need for team managers to produce deliverables that contribute to adding up to managing. Individual contributors are used to delivering specific items, but when they become mangers, a new manager can believe that there is no longer a need to produce deliverables. However, this is not true! A manager for any team should have at least one deliverable: That is a team strategy document.
It doesn’t matter what team you lead, if the team does not have a team strategy document, then it is the manager’s responsibility to create one. At the minimum, having a team strategy document is better than not having a team strategy document. Once a team manager has created a team strategy document, the manager has “delivered” something that is designed to increase the performance of the team. It is a step in the right direction, and a leading indicator of success. Not having a strategy document is a leading indicator of failure.
What is on a team strategy document? It can vary because there are so many teams out there, and so many ways to define strategy. But there should be some sort of the following elements on it:
The team name
Who is on the team
What the team is trying to accomplish/what it produces
Guiding principles and expectations
Metrics that rate the productivity and quality of the team
Business metrics that the team could affect
The plan for how to meet the metrics that rate the productivity of the team
In my prior article, I describe the dynamic of promoting a top individual contributor to management as a form of reward, only for it to turn into punishment. Yet this is not inevitable. You can find top individual contributors who become top managers. After all, if your top performer was able to learn one series of complex skills as an individual contributor, it stands to reason that the top performer is able to learn a second series of complex skills as a manager.
However, what are those skills? In individual contributor roles, people are expected to deliver something, and this is what they get used to as good work: “If I produce X, at quality Y, and in time frame Z, then I’ve done a good job.”
It’s a set of deliverables that tend to be pretty well defined.
Now the individual contributor becomes a manager with a team of three. The dynamic is suddenly, “Now there is four of me, and now my team needs to produce 4x at quality Y and in time-frame Z.
What the manager needs to produce is now ambiguous: Do you help produce all that stuff? If one person on the team is a lower performer, do I have to double my efforts and produce myself the gap in productivity? Do I stop producing individual stuff and monitor the work of the lower performers, risking lowering the productivity of the team?
The natural instinct for a new manager is to keep doing the individual contributor work, and hope that others will do as well. The problem is that the management tasks become a distraction from that individual work, and you get both an unmanaged team and a distracted, formerly high performing individual contributor. It becomes a mess where formerly rational employees become yelling managers and, in general, manage from a deficit.
So here’s a way to present to the manager what they have to do in a way that makes sense to an Individual Contributor: Management is a series of deliverables. They are different deliverables from the work done as individual contributor, but deliverables specific to being a manager.
Here is a sampling of what these deliverables are:
–A team “what/how grid”
–A performance log on employees
–Team expectations for performance
–Employee performance feedback delivered and documented
–Documented efforts to improve how the team works as a team
–Documented efforts to improve how the team works with partner teams
–Efforts to improve processes and tools