Many managers focus on managing people – the way they work, their behaviors, even their attitudes. A new approach to management is being used more often now: managing the agreements that people – and groups of people – make to produce results, instead of managing the people themselves. Rumor has it that many people do not enjoy “being managed”, so an alternative is being practiced: Managing Agreements.

When people make an agreement for what results they will produce – and when and to whom those results will be delivered – they will have created a new relationship to their work. Managers who support their Team Members to produce and/or deliver specific products, services or communications are giving their people more power and ability to be effective. The “people issues” don’t come first anymore – performance agreements move to the foreground.

Here are some thoughts to help shift gears from people-management to managing agreements.

Management Structure #1:  The Hierarchy

We are all familiar with the organizational hierarchy – it is the most recognized organizational structure. The Boxes have people in them: people doing jobs and tasks. The Lines are the connections between certain Boxes, which represent “lines of reporting authority”.

The story this management structure tells is that higher-level Boxes are responsible for using their authority to manage the people and their doings in the Boxes below them. Also in those Boxes are people’s work habits, behaviors, and attitudes. Managers who dive deep into those Boxes to fiddle with tasks and activities, or motivations and behaviors, are often accused of “micro-managing”.

The other story this management structure tells is that there are different “silos of expertise” that distinguish important components of the organizational operations and activities. Notice, however, that this structure does not include any Lines that connect those silos to one another, except by the authority of the highest-level Box.

Still, this is a necessary structure to see who is officially the Captain of this organizational work-ship and and who are the Crew Members responsible for handling the different organizational functions that are intended to accomplish the work-ship’s objectives.

Management Structure #2.  The Performance Network
Big Cheese Hotwire

The way an organization actually functions looks like a network in which the Boxes send and receive products, services, and/or communications to and from one another, and often to and from others who are outside the organization. The connections between Boxes are no longer Lines – they are now Arrows representing what, exactly, is being sent and/or received from any other Box, as specified by an agreement between Sender and Receiver for the delivery specifications and schedules.

The Arrows clarify productive relationships between pairs of Boxes both inside and reaching outside of the organization. If, as in this sample diagram, the Customer receives services from two different organizational groups (Blue and Gouda), both of those groups may provide their “service data” to a third group (Swiss), which may also collect data on service performance from the Customer. Those “deliverables” – such as the services delivered and the data sent and received in this diagram – are the productive relationships between Sender-Receiver pairs of Boxes, and each Box performs its own unique “Sender-Receiver” functions.

A Performance Network shows us that performance is located on the Arrows between Senders and Receivers, rather than inside the Boxes. Managers in this network focus on supporting team members in developing and implementing Sender-Receiver agreements, defining the “What, When, and Why” of each product, service, and communication that will go between each Sender and Receiver pair.  They may also facilitate the dialogue to produce or revise agreements between Senders and Receivers The objective is to manage the effectiveness of Sender-Receiver agreements rather than managing people.

Management Structure #3.  The Performance Circle

Selecting one group from the Performance Network diagram, we can make it the central node in a Performance Circle. The Swiss Department, for example is responsible for the performance effectiveness of 3 organizational relationships and 1 external relationship. We can now see exactly what the Swiss Manager’s job entails.

The Swiss Manager must ensure that Team Members obtain “Service Performance Data” from the Customer, and that “Service Data” is obtained from the Blue Task Force. We must assume that the Swiss Manager is also responsible for ensuring that Team Members use the proper forms and formats for those data deliveries, as well as honoring the delivery timing and other “performance expectations” that are part of the agreement between the Sender and Receiver for each item.

The Swiss Manager will also ensure that Team Members satisfy the performance relationship with the Gouda Group, where “Service Data” is sent, received and/or exchanged between them, again including the use of proper forms and formats, timing and other performance variables for those  data deliveries. Finally, the Swiss Manager also ensures that Team Members produce the “Service Performance Reports” for the Big Cheese, validating their accuracy for delivery to the Big Cheese on schedule.

The value of using a Performance Circle is that the Swiss Manager and all Team Members in that Box know what their primary performance relationships are, and recognize that they are responsible for establishing and implementing the requirements for a successful relationship. The Hierarchy does not show this information, so many organizational players are unsure of their  department’s “Performance Circle” and the ingredients that make each relationship successful. A “Performance Network” can be drawn at different levels of altitude – showing the entire organization  as well as suppliers and customers. But the managers who have a well-defined and well-understood Performance Circle for their own department or unit will have an advantage over the Hierarchical Manager. They will be able to work with their Team Members to create and manage Sender-Receiver agreements for performance – on the Arrows – rather than managing the people themselves.

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