Management 101

OK, you’ve got this organization to “manage”to a goal:

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Two start-up questions + Four hints + One management recipe:

Question A.

What are you going to manage? Are you going to manage the “Boxes” – the people and their motivations and behaviors busily performing their tasks and activities – or are you going to manage the “Arrows” – the products, services, and communications that will be delivered between the Boxes?

           Hint 1: People do not like being managed.

           Hint 2: People can get behind the idea of managing the deliverables.

                So… Manage the arrows. Deliverables Rule!

Question B.

Everybody wants high performance, but what kind of “performance” are you looking for? There are three kinds of performance – and they are observed and measured in different ways:

  • Productivity & Efficiency – We can measure the Productivity of the people and the Efficiency of the processes and activities as they produce and deliver the products, services, and communications. People, processes, and activities are inside the Box. The products, services, and communications are being produced to go to someone else who is in another Box. Productivity and Efficiency measures are about what happens inside the Box.
  • Quantity & Quality – We can measure the Quantity or the Quality of the products, services, and communications as they leave the Box and move to the other Box. That is a measure of the deliverables themselves, on the Arrows in between two Boxes.
  • Effectiveness & Impact – We can measure the Effectiveness or the Impact of the products, services, and communications that were produced in the first Box and sent over the Arrow into the second Box. But we can only measure this by asking people in the second Box if the products, services, and communications they received were effective, or if they had any impact on them.

Hint 3: There is no “right” answer. You have to really think about what kind of “performance” you care about.

Hint 4: Effectiveness & Impact are more expensive than the first two because you have to communicate with people in another box, do some research, and get useful feedback.

Management Recipe:

  1. Clarify your goal.

    What do you want to accomplish, and by when? How will you measure the “performance” of your goal?

  1. Identify who else will be involved.

    There will be “other Boxes” playing a role in this accomplishment, and you will need to establish “Arrows” connecting your Box to theirs. Who are your resource-suppliers, your customers (internal and external), any collaborators who can help you, and any “authorities” who have a say about your work in producing, delivering, and getting feedback on your products, services, and communications?

  1. Identify the key “deliverables” between you and those “other Boxes”.

    What, exactly, will be going back and forth across those Arrows between your Box and your resource-suppliers, customers, collaborators, and authorities? What products, services, and communications do you need to send to them, and what do they need to send to you?

  2.  Manage by communication.

                   Communication is the basic unit of management.
a) Create the game with everyone on your “team”. Whether you are heading up a division, department, or project, you want to establish a foundation of good communication with everyone who will be working toward the fulfillment of this goal.

Agree on the ground rules for the goal-team: When and how will the team stay in communication? What other standards and protocols are needed?

Talk with your goal-team members about the goal, the performance measures, the other players involved, and the products, services, and communications necessary to accomplish the goal. Get the benefit of their perspectives and ideas to make the game of goal accomplishment – performance measures, players, scoreboard, and deliverables – clearly stated and understood by all. In order to reach the goal…

  • What, exactly, will be delivered? To whom? When?
  • Who will be responsible for producing these products, services, and communications? Who will be responsible for delivering them?
  • Who will be responsible for the productive relationship between the goal-team and every other player important for goal performance?
                 The goal-game is the playing field for the team.
b) Communicate to establish agreements with each of the other “players” for the specifics of all deliverables that need to go back and forth between you.
  • Build a productive relationship with each goal-relevant player by establishing an agreement about what you – and they – will send and receive to reach your goal. Get clear on the attributes of each product, service, and communication that is important to either of you.
  • Even if your performance goal is about Efficiency, Productivity, Quantity, or Quality, you need to get the specifics on your products, services, and communications clear with the other players involved.
  • This may sound like “too much work” or “not necessary”, but it actually helps you build more productive relationships, avoid redundancies (like sending or receiving things nobody needs), and prevents problems of misunderstandings (Oh, you wanted in in an Excel spreadsheet?).
  • You are creating productive relationships here by establishing agreements with your suppliers, customers, collaborators, and authorities. This pays off in better performance all around.
                        Agreements are the engine for performance.
c) Establish a visible scoreboard that will communicate the status of goal milestones, deliverables, and agreements among all team members, even if they are in separate locations.
  • Clarify what each team member is responsible for producing, delivering, and managing, including who is responsible for productive relationships with each goal-relevant player.
  • Team members track the status of every agreement for each deliverable: what it is, when it is due, and who is responsible for it.
  • Agree within the team on how often the scoreboard will be updated, and how to do it.
  • Have regular – daily, weekly, or bi-weekly Status-Debrief meetings as appropriate to the goal timing – to review the status of goal performance, update the scoreboards as a group if needed, and debrief any problems or concerns.
  • Reassign people to different responsibilities as appropriate to accelerate progress on goal performance.
                      Tracking results is the engine for management.
d) Continue management of the game for goal accomplishment.
  • Revisit the game and update as needed: ground rules, goal performance measures, players, and deliverables.
  • Revisit and update agreements with goal-relevant players whenever there is a problem, a missed timeline, or any concern about whether the agreement(s) will be met. Productive relationships require maintenance, so communication and support are necessary to keep them fresh and current.
  • Revisit and update the scoreboard to stay current with any changes in the team, the goal performance, and the playing field including all agreements with key players.
  • Update the team meetings to accommodate changes in the team and the status of agreements.
              Leadership speaks the future. Management makes it happen.



Jeffrey and Laurie Ford’s book, The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results was named Best Management Book of 2009.  It is a practical easy-to-use method for improving workplace communications (although it works at home too).

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