Management 1-2-3

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

Two start-up questions (with four hints)

+ One management recipe:

Question A.

What are you going to manage? Are you going to manage inside those “Boxes” – i.e., manage the people and their motivations, competencies, and behaviors – and oversee their tasks and activities? Or are you going to manage those “Arrows” – i.e.,  the agreed-upon delivery of products, services, and communications that move between the Boxes?

           Hint 1: People do not like being managed.

           Hint 2: People can get behind managing their own promises for on-time results.

                So… Manage the arrows.  Performance is delivery.

Question B.

Everybody wants “high performance”. But what kind of performance do you want? The three kinds of performance are observed and measured in different ways and places:

  • PRODUCTIVITY & EFFICIENCY – You can measure the productivity of people and the efficiency of processes and activities. Those measures are about what is happening inside the Box, but to measure, look at the incoming & outgoing Arrows. Your resources arrive on the Arrows coming into the Box, and your results (outputs) depart on the Arrows going out of the Box. How many resources does it take to produce those outputs?
  • QUANTITY & QUALITY – You can measure the quantity and/or the quality of your products, services, and communications by looking at the Arrows going out of the Box.  Is the number of your results/outputs, per day or week or month, satisfactory? Do all outputs meet your quality standards?
  • EFFECTIVENESS & IMPACT – You can measure the effectiveness or impact of your products, services, and communications, but you’ll have to create a new Arrow. You do that by asking the people in any of your “user-customer” Boxes – the one(s) that receive your results/outputs – whether whatever they received from was effective for them, or if it produced the impact they wanted. Your new Arrow will deliver that feedback to you.

Hint 3: There is no “right” answer. You have to choose whether you want one kind of performance, or two kinds, or all three.

Hint 4: Effectiveness & Impact are more expensive measures to take because you have to communicate with people in another Box, get their promise to provide feedback, and check to see that you are getting the feedback you need when you need it (i.e., you have to manage the Arrow).

So… Management for performance is all about the Arrows.

   Leadership speaks the future. Management makes it happen.

Management Recipe: 1-2-3

1. Clarify your goal.

What do you want to accomplish, and by when? What kind of performance do you want, and how will you measure it?

2. Set up the “performance agreements” between the Boxes.

To accomplish your goal(s), you will be establishing Performance Agreements with other people in other Boxes. You will be watching what is happening on the Arrows that connect you to them. Who are your resource-suppliers? Who are your internal and external customers or users of your results? Are there any collaborators who can help you? Are there any “authorities” who will have a say about your work, or how you set up your agreements for deliveries, or getting feedback on your products, services, and communications? These are the groups who are your Senders and Receivers, and they are vital for your performance.  You can think of them as your Performance Circle of connections that may be unique for each of your goals. You want to manage what, exactly, goes back and forth between you and them – and when – and what will make that relationship productive and successful.

3. Manage by communication.

Communication is the basic unit of management. Create the “game” with everyone in your group: what to accomplish, how to contribute, and who else is involved. Whether you head up an organization, department, or project, you’ll establish a foundation of good communication with everyone for fulfillment of the goal.

Foster engagement by aligning on results and responsibilities. Every goal creates a playing field for action that begins with discussion to create alignment. What products, services, and/or communications will go from one Box to another? What agreements are needed to get those “deliverables”? Who will create and manage those agreements? 

Agreements are the engine for performance. A Request + a Promise = an Agreement. Communicate to establish agreements with the other “players” about what they will send and receive, to and from your group – and when it will be delivered. Getting specific increases the probability of success.  Make agreements within your team – assignments for what each member will provide, and when. Draft a scoreboard for the team to see the status of agreements with internal and external players.

Tracking results is the engine for management. Establish a regular schedule for group meetings to review the status of Performance Agreements. Discuss updates to the action plan.  What agreements with suppliers, customers, or team members need to be updated?  What products, services, and communications need to be revised? Where do we stand on our performance measures?  Debrief problems, make course-corrections, and celebrate accomplishments.

         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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