OK, you’re the Big Cheese Manager – or maybe a Small-Box one.

Do you want a road-map on how to “manage” your group?

Here are two start-up questions (with four hints).
Plus a recipe for Management How-To.

Question A.  What are you going to manage?

Are you going to manage the inside of one or more of those “Boxes”, which means managing the people and their behaviors, motivations and competencies – and maybe even their tasks and activities? If so, you’ll be managing people and work. Or, are you going to manage the “Arrows”, which means managing  the agreed-upon deliveries of products, services, and communications between the Boxes?

Hint 1: People don’t like being managed.

Hint 2: People can get behind managing their own agreements to deliver results.

                So… Stop managing people. Manage their agreements. Performance is delivery.

Question B.  What do we mean by “high performance”?

There are three kinds of performance in a network organization (which is framed like that Big Cheese diagram), and they 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 going on inside a Box. But to measure performance, you have to look at those incoming & outgoing Arrows. Your resources are inputs that arrive on the incoming Arrows and your results are outputs that depart on the outgoing Arrows. How many of those incoming resources does it take to produce those outgoing outputs? Those are performance measures of productivity and efficiency.
  • Quantity & Quality – You can measure the quantity and/or the quality of your results – your outgoing products, services, and communications – by studying the performance on your outgoing Arrows.
    • How many of each kind of output do you see, per day or week or month?
    • Are those numbers satisfactory?
    • Which of those outputs meet your quality standards?
  • Effectiveness & Impact – You can measure the performance effectiveness or impact of your products, services, and communications, by setting up a “feedback” Arrow. Ask the people in any of your “user-customer Boxes” – the Receivers of your group’s products, services and/or communications – to tell you what they think of the outputs you sent them:
    • Were they useful?
    • What value did they provide?
    • Did they serve the purposes expected from them?
    • Your feedback Arrow will deliver the Receiver’s answers regarding the effectiveness and impact of your products, services and communications.

Hint 3: There is no “right” answer. You get to choose whether to measure, track and improve one kind of performance – or two – or all three.

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

                So… Management for performance is all about the Arrows.

Leadership speaks the future.  Management makes it happen.


Communication is the basic unit of management. Whether you head up an organization, department, or project, establish a foundation of good communication with everyone on your team to identify and clarify the goal. Create the “game” with the people in your group, identifying several ways to know if and when you are winning: Five questions to discuss and answer:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • By When do you want to see those results?
  • Why does this goal matter?
  • Which kind(s) of performance do you want to measure? (see Question B, above)
  • What measures will you use?

To accomplish any goal, know the “key players” for success. They are your goal-relevant Senders and Receivers, also known as “key players”, who define a unique “Performance Circle” of connections to accomplish your particular goal. Work with your Team to identify:

  • Key Senders are resource suppliers that provide your group with the products, services and/or communications necessary for accomplishing the goal,
  • Key Receivers are the internal and external users/customers of any interim or ultimate outputs that will be produced in the course of working toward this goal.
  • And, be sure to include other kinds of key players who may also be Key Senders and/or Key Receivers:
    • Any collaborators or facilitators (such as IT, R&D, marketing or shipping, outside consultants or specialists, etc.) who will be assisting you and your team to reach the goal, and
    • Any “authorities” (organizational, governmental, or other) who will have a say about your progress toward the goal, your Performance Circle and the agreements you’ll be making with other goal-relevant players, including for the feedback you may need from them.

Once you have identified the key players in your Performance Circle, build a plan and activate that plan:

  • Identify what goes to and from each Sender and Receiver. What are the goal-relevant products, services, and/or communications that will need to move from each Sender to each Receiver to accomplish the goal?
  • Identify when – and how often – those deliveries will occur to help you meet your goal timeline.
  • Clarify what Agreements are needed with each of those Key Players to obtain, produce, and/or deliver those goal-relevant products, services and communications. Who sends what to whom, and when? Who receives what from whom, and when?
  • Confirm or revise these Agreements with the appropriate participants in your Performance Circle. In conversation with each of your goal-relevant Senders and Receivers, clarify the mutual understanding of what goes where, and when it should happen. If feedback is needed, include that in the Agreement as well.
    • NOTE: Many of the necessary Agreements may already be in place, but are “assumed” or “expected”, without having been clearly spelled out. Still, it is very useful to have the conversation with the other party to be sure each Agreement is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Identify which Team member(s) will create and manage each agreement.

Agreements are the engine for performance. An Agreement = A Request + A Promise

You Request that I send X to you by close of business Friday. I Promise to do that. Or, I counter-offer and we discuss, perhaps bargain to create and finalize our Agreement.

Getting specific about what type(s) of performance is wanted in each relationship will increase the likelihood of success. Agreements within the Team – assignments for what each member will provide, to whom and when – are equally helpful for individual success.

  • Most Senders are interested in productivity-efficiency performance of operations.
  • Many Receivers are interested in the quantity-quality performance of what they receive.
  • Some user-customers are interested in the impact-effectiveness of what they receive.

Tracking results is the engine for management. A Team that intends to accomplish a goal will create a performance structure to support coordination, progress and velocity.

  • Tracking: Draft one or more scoreboards and put them where Team members will see them. Examples of useful scoreboards are:
    • A statement of the goal with milestones and timelines for results to be able to see accomplishment and progress over time.
    • Performance Circle players: Resource Suppliers, User-Customers, Collaborators-Facilitators, and Authorities, with notes regarding (1) Whether the send-receive Agreements have been established or updated, (2) Who the Sender and Receiver are for each Agreement, (3) Which type of performance indicators are most relevant to the Agreement (Productivity-Efficiency, Quantity-Quality, and/or Impact-Effectiveness), and (4) which Team member(s) will be managing that agreement.
    • Team assignments, including (1) Who will be watching what is happening on each of the Arrows that connect the Team to a Key Player, and (2) How those watchers will track and report on the specific goal-relevant products, services and communications that will move between the Team and each member of the Performance Circle for goal accomplishment.
  • Reporting: Make agreements with Team members to report the status of their agreements with Key Players on one or more of the scoreboards at specified times (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly). Team members will observe whether:
    • Progress is being made toward the goal milestones and timelines,
    • The Team’s primary performance indicator(s) are being measured and met successfully,
    • The agreements between all goal-relevant Senders and Receivers have been established and they are working, and
    • The performance measures for those delivery agreements are being measured and met successfully.
  • Updating: Establish a regular schedule for Team meetings to review and update, as a group, the status of all performance tracked on the scoreboards – for Goal progress, Performance Circle agreements and Team member agreements.
    • Update the scoreboards to reflect the status of all agreements. Discuss and update the following information as needed:
      • What agreements with Suppliers, User-Customers, or Collaborators need to be developed or improved?
      • What products, services, and/or communications need to be redefined?
      • What agreements for Team members need to be created or changed?
      • Which areas require performance improvements, and what actions can we take to accomplish that?
    • Then debrief problem areas, make course-corrections, and celebrate accomplishments.

Leadership speaks the future.  Management makes it happen.

Communication is the basic unit of management.

Agreements are the engine for performance.

Tracking results is the engine for management.


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