When you are a manager, one of the things that you are responsible is the ongoing improvement of your team and how it operates.
Now, with that expectation set, are you tracking the “change events” that account for and assess this?
Change happens on a team and in a group all the time. In fact, it happens so often that it is easy to lose track of all of the change that is happening.
Here are sample “change events” that could constitute change on your team:
- A new person or joins the team or someone leaves the team (or many people join or leave the team)
- A new budget is implemented
- Your organization or your team launches a strategy
- There is a process improvement or process change
- There is a change in scope of work
- A new project starts or an old project ends
- There is a new environment or element to the work environment (change in office space or new equipment)
Some of this change is instigated by the manager, and some of it is implemented by external events, either from above or by the passage of time. It’s all change, and it needs to be understood as such.
So the first task of understanding change is to track these events. If you don’t do it as a manager, perhaps someone on your team can track these events. Having these change events documented and tracked creates a better understanding of what your team is handling.
So here are some suggesting things to track for your team change:
- Item number
- Source of change
- Change description
- Initial date of learning of change
- Expected positive impact
- Expected negative impact
- Who is responsible for delivering the change
- Who is involved
- Change plan location
- Change implementation / assessment date
Here’s what it may look like on a spreadsheet
|Item Number||Change description||Source of change||Initial Date of learning of change||Expected positive impact||Expected negative impact||Who is responsible for delivering change||Who is involved||Change plan location||Change implementation / assessment date|
|1||Marci leaves||Marci||6/1/2011||Opportunity to identify emerging team needs and hire to it||Lose Marci’s skill set||Manager hiring||Manager, HR, Team Members||Hiring process site||7/1/2011 (replacement hired) 12/1/2011 (up to speed)|
|2||New quality assurance program||Manager initiated||3/1/2010 (kick off of implementation)||Improved quality||Resistance/inertia of prior system, less efficiency||Alex||All team and partner teams||Team site : projects||12/1/2011 (program implemented) 3/1/2011 (assess quality)|
In my previous article, I describe the importance of not attacking a change agent, but instead taking steps to manage the change, not the change agent. Many managers receive “feedback” that is resistance to change, and then turn around and give that feedback to the change agents, implying that the manager doesn’t actually want the change agent to instigate the change.
The first five steps to this were: 1. Listen 2. Document the issue 3. Track the issues. 4. Delay in responding to them 5. Look at the issues as a team.
Today, I provide tips on what to do next:
6. Communicate your findings – the more targeted the better
You typically know the source of the resistance/complaint. You tracked it, right? Now you can respond directly to that person. Explain what you did (discussed it as a team) and what you plan to do (keep going with the change, most likely). I am not a fan of communicating broadly the list of concerns and the responses, because it is somewhat akin to public feedback. By communicating broadly, you are trying to adjust the thinking for a specific person via communicating with a broad group. This creates unintended consequence of changing the broad group’s thinking when it isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s better to circle back to the person who expressed the concern in the first place. If there is a network of people who believe the same thing, that person then gets to address the results.
Many managers are in the position of instigating and overseeing change on the team, with the intent that this change improves how things are done and obtains better results.
But managers can quickly fall into the trap of resisting the change they instigated by reacting negatively to the ramifications of change, and seeking to eliminate all resistances (a.k.a., complaints) to the change.
They do this by treating incoming complaints of the change agent as a performance feedback opportunity to the change agent. This implies that the change can occur and without resistance and essentially undermines the change effort. This is a wrong assumption – it’s like assuming that there is no resistance when you start a car and move forward.
So here’s what to do when someone on your team resists change:
Allow the person to hear out the person’s issues with the change. The only action is to listen to the issues or complaints that the person has. Instead of responding to the issue, listen to the issue. Say, “Thank you for expressing your concerns.” Add some empathy, “I understand that this can be difficult.”
2. Track the concerns
To prove that you are listening, actually write down the concerns. Write them down in front of the person expressing them. Tell them that you are writing them down. Say, “I appreciate your taking the time to express these concerns. I’m going to make sure I have your concerns tracked, is that O.K.?”
3. Put the concerns in a central location
You probably aren’t the only one receiving complaints. Upon the first complaint, this is your clue that there may be more. Find a place for others on your team to document them. Put them in the same place.
Tenets of management design: If you can’t break down a job into its tasks and workflows, find someone who can
Today I discuss a key element to managing well: Knowing what your team members are supposed to do.
This is part of a continuing series that explores the tenets of Management Design, the field this blog pioneers. Management Design is a response to the poorly performing existing designs that are currently used in creating managers. These current designs describe how managers tend to be created by accident or anointment, rather than by design.
Today’s tenet: If you can’t break down a job into its tasks and workflows, find someone who can.
Many managers are expected to manage a team of people, but really don’t have the clarity as to what the team members are expected to do. Managers often have a sense of what their customers want, and what some examples of things the team produces, or metrics that indicate success (such as sales).
But these are, for the most part, results or indicators of what the team does, not what the team does. The manager should have an understanding of what the component tasks are for the team members’ roles, and when added up, equals the thing that is produced, which then generate the metrics or impressions of success of the team.
My recent articles discuss how all-team meetings (or “group meetings” or “all-hands meetings”) are essentially risky endeavors for group leaders (here and here). So here are some tips on how to mitigate the risks:
1. Don’t make the meetings mandatory
If you have to make a meeting mandatory, it is a sign that something is not compelling about your meeting. Call meetings that people want to attend. As a corollary to this, try not to have your lower level management team spend time in their team meetings talking about why it is mandatory and why people need to attend. Instead, they should talk about what team members are expected to get out of the (preferably) non-mandatory meeting. Read on for what that might be. . .
2. Stick to the strategy
People want to hear what the strategy is. The strategy should be stated, and discussed. When getting everyone together, the main objective should be getting the full team on board to understand the group or company strategy. Anything other than the strategy is, to a certain degree, specific execution, and probably isn’t appropriate at the “all-group” or “all-hands” meeting level.
3. Review the key performance indicators, and performance against these
As part of the strategy, look at your key performance indicators, and show that this is what the management team is looking at. Avoid showing stress at the metrics that are lower than target. Instead, discuss how you are going to support improving not only the underperforming metrics, but further accelerate the metrics that are above target.
4. Stop there.
This makes the all-team meeting short and sweet. It shows level that the layer of management running the meeting the strategic level at which they are working. If there isn’t much content beyond looking at the strategy and the key performance indicators, then the meeting can be short and sweet. Your greater team will thank you that you haven’t taken more time out of their work.
5. Don’t mistake “Q&A” with “interactive”
Many managers leading all-hands meetings say that they want the session to be “interactive.” This often means that there is a question an answer session after the presentation. This isn’t interactive, since the vast majority of the attendees aren’t interacting during the Q&A session. It’s a Q&A session, not interactivity. Meeting leaders can budget time in for Q&A, but know that it doesn’t create the impression of openness and interactivity to leadership. Instead, it shows that leadership is implying that their interactions with the larger group is limited to all-team meeting Q&A sessions.
6. Have the team work together to solve a problem or generate ideas
Many managers want their all-team meetings to be “interactive.” They also want the members of the larger team to “get to know each other.” Many times they’ll have post-meeting receptions, or require that people introduce each other during the all-team meeting. These actions rarely create lasting connections.
Instead, here is a way to create interactivity that is more meaningful:
Break up the larger session into groups of 4-6 people. Now issue a challenge with a time limit – what can we do to better execute this strategy? Improve this key performance indicator? Improve the work environment? What areas are we not investing in, but you think we should?
In short, find a problem that the leadership team wants solved, and then put the larger team to work to solve it. Have the teams document the results, and have them delivered to the meeting leaders. The leaders (or the groups) can then share them back to the larger group or a few other groups.
The meeting leaders now have tons of ideas related to their strategic concerns, and with tons of problem-solving brainpower. And it was interactive, work related and a more meaningful use of time. I would consider this a little bit better than introducing each other or having a post-meeting party.
OK, follow these tips for all-hands meetings, and you’ve increased the chances that the all-team meeting is useful, relevant and meaningful to the attendees, and the meetings will probably be a lot shorter and cost less. Not bad!
In my previous article, I provided four uses for how a manager can use a team strategy document (example here). Today, I provide four more! Today, I focus on the internal uses – within your team — of the team strategy document.
1. Use it as a basis for improving processes, workflows and operational innovation
When you have a team strategy document, it allows you to better understand what the team is trying to achieve. With this, now you can start looking at your team processes and workflows. It also affords the opportunity for you and the team to discuss areas of innovation and opportunity that your team can perform to better achieve the goals. With a strategy in place, you and your team are less likely to meander in the status quo and more likely to strive toward a higher level of performance.
2. Use it as a guideline for strategically placing work assignments and identifying gaps in team capability
The team strategy document identifies who is on your team. You can also add some biographical and work interest info about each member. For example: Walter – management consultant, performance improvement, innovative instructional design. With this info, you can look at the strategy, and think about the job roles of the people on your team, and identify the strategic placement of where the people on your team perform their job. If you have someone who is outgoing, and makes excellent connections with people on their first meeting, and if you have as strategic need to make new connections outside your team, perhaps you should put that person on the task of developing new relationships. Read more
–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
Now that you have the document, here’s what you do with it. In today’s post, I’ll focus on the external uses:
1. Use it as a basis to share with your partner teams and customers
No team works in a vacuum, so if you are armed with a strategy, you can share your strategy with the teams you need to work with to be successful, either the partner teams you receive work from and hand off to, or customers that you provide deliverables to. Of course you need to customize it for the team you’re meeting with. Sharing your team strategy will help your partner teams understand what your priorities are, what you can do to help them, and what your team capabilities are.
2. Use it as a basis for prioritizing work
Now that you have the team strategy in place, any work that comes or opportunities that present themselves should somehow fit within that strategy. Evaluate the opportunities against the strategy, as well as the reactive or legacy work that comes in. Many times a meeting invitation comes in where team members with legacy relationships naturally seem to require that they be involved. So the team member feels compelled to attend the meeting, even if it has nothing to do with the team strategy. As a manager, you have the ability to say, “No, you don’t have to attend that meeting and take on action items from it because I need you to work on the areas that are our team priorities.” It gives you a basis to keep your team focused on the priorities that you and your team agreed to.
The operative word in the term “Team Strategy Document” is the word “Team.” Use your team to create the team strategy document. The manager who doesn’t use the team will create a manager strategy document, which will reflect the manager’s view of the world, and not the team. The team will ignore it, and therefore it is not a team strategy document.
So here’s how you do it:
1. Have a team meeting with the objective of creating a team strategy document
Don’t do the usual agenda items like updates. Those are likely boring anyway. This meeting should be focused on the team strategy document, and the objective is to have enough information to create a document.
2. Set up the meeting to be collaborative and brainstorming
Many team meetings end up being one person (perhaps the manager?) giving various status updates, news from above. This meeting needs to be different. It needs to require input from everyone on the team, even the quiet ones and the ones who possibly think team meetings are useless. Say, “In today’s meeting, I’m going to ask all of you to provide your input. This is an opportunity to think creatively and to get our ideas out. I welcome all ideas, and later we will hone it down and consolidate.”
In addition, find some tools to allow everyone on the team to provide input. If you’re serious about getting input from the entire team, do not just stand in front of the white board and ask people to shout suggestions during brainstorming. Instead, I suggest getting a pen and paper or Post-It notes in each person’s hand. Bring these tools to the meeting.
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