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Friday, December 14, 2012

13 Fear in the Workplace

Now we come to one of the most important topics in this course. You may think that the course spends too much time on this topic but in my experience fear in the workplace is pervasive and is probably the biggest impediment to high productivity in many organizations. The topics covered include:
        How Fear Affects Effectiveness
        Sources of Fear
        Results of Fear
        Fear of Knowledge and Change
        Managing Without Inducing Fear
To introduce fear in the workplace we’ll start off with an exercise.


Think about your own job and your relationships with superiors and fill in the blanks:

I am afraid of these consequences on my job:


So, I avoid these actions:

and substitute these actions:
Hopefully you are one of the fortunate few that experience no fear on their job. If so the exercise is meaningless for you. However, if you are in an environment of fear you likely were able to fill in the blanks with just a little reflection. Now compare the actions you substitute for the actions you avoid. Typically, we avoid things that would be more effective for the long term success of the business and substitute weak alternatives that are not nearly as effective. The result is there is a relationship between fear and job effectiveness. This relationship is shown graphically in figure 4.

Figure 4. High fear in the workplace results in low effectiveness for the organization
Do you agree with the claim implied in figure 4? What is your experience that leads to your belief?  What is the difference between respect and fear? What is necessary to have respect without fear? Jot down your answers and then review them after completing the discussions of fear in the workplace.
Let’s start by listing sources of fear, which include:
        Management Induced 
       Negativity (management style)
       Plans, policies & procedures for 5% of workers (Including performance appraisal & merit rating systems)
       Over emphasis on numerical goals and objectives
       “Shoot the messenger” behavior
       Retribution for mistakes and errors
        Environment Induced
       Business conditions, business cycle, market cycle
       Actions by competition, government, stockholders, mergers & acquisitions
        Inherent Fears
       Fear of knowledge & fear of change
Note that Management Induced includes management style and the annual performance appraisal, topics we discussed in the lecture on achieving high motivation of workers. Let’s examine how management style induces fear and affects motivation. Imagine the following scene. A manager is sitting behind his desk and a young woman is facing the desk. Think about what happens as described in the bullet list:
        The  manager has problems
        He sees the young woman as the cause
        He expresses negativity to her, e.g. he directly blames her for the problems using foul language
        Will she:
       Want to talk to him in the future?
       Avoid him in future?
       Want to be his partner in improving effectiveness?
       Offer suggestions in the future?
       Pass his negativity down the line?
       Encourage suggestions from her subordinates?
Have you ever witnessed a similar scene? Unfortunately many of us have and this is just one example of a manager expressing negativity. Let’s list some others.
Form 1
Coercive, negative power   (Intensely emotional, with voice effects and body movements)
“I want it NOW!!”
“WHO KNOWS anything about this!!?”
“I don’t CARE what else you have to do!!”
“WHO did THIS!!?”
Induces atmosphere of direct fear, uneasy silence
“Shoot any messenger” is inferred
Wipes out 20 “attaboys”
Travels rapidly down the line…all the way
Form  2
Backstabbing the boss when problems arise (to your subordinates or to your peers)
“It’s all HIS fault”
“What is he leading us into now?”
“Do you BELIEVE this?”
The backstabber has relinquished his leadership
Poor morale spreads
No or few suggestions
No loyalty
Form 3
Subtle backstabbing (to subordinates or peers)
A variant: Malicious obedience
“I’m only doing what (so and so) wants”
“When (so and so) says ‘do it,’ we’ll do it!”
“So and so wants it this way!” (Raises eyebrows) “So, we’ll DO it this way!”
Absence of risk taking
Poor morale
Manager has relinquished responsibility
A “yes-man”- afraid to take authority-a bureaucrat
The organization floats
Numerical goals
Another form of negativity is ineffective reliance on or ineffective implementation of numerical goals. Recalling that most organizations have some variant of management by objective numerical goals are inherent in today’s work environment. However emphasis on numerical goals can be positive or negative. It’s positive if the goals are achievable, if the workers have had some input into setting the goals or at least offered the opportunity to discuss them before the goals are adopted, if they understand the reason the goals are necessary and if they are provided feedback on progress toward the goals.
Numerical goals are bad when they distort the business environment, when workers have no opportunity to participate in the goal setting process, when the reason for the goals isn't understood and when they cannot easily see how well they are progressing toward the goals. Bad numerical goals are demotivating. W. Edwards Deming’s famous Red Bead Experiment clearly demonstrates the demotivating characteristic of bad numerical goals. The Red Bead Experiment is discussed in a later lecture.
There needs to be an upfront agreement on what will result from achieving goals. Sometimes this is simple survival of the organization, which is easily understood and highly motivating, but sometimes the reasons for goals are more abstract and therefore workers need to know why they are expected to put in extra effort to achieve the goals. Achieving goals needs to be rewarded when the goals are extraordinary and not just the organization’s normal work. Non-monetary rewards are usually the best because they are easier to be perceived as fair to everyone involved.
Sometimes it’s better to have global goals rather than numerical goals; where global goals make sense, e.g. perhaps to have the best record in the enterprise rather than a specific number where specific numbers are arbitrary. Workers can get behind being the best but have problems understanding why some arbitrary numerical goal is worth their best efforts.

Dealing with impossible goals

Sometimes goals are flowed down to low levels of an organization by high level managers without explanation or the opportunity to discuss the merits of the goals or the applicability of the goals to the low level organization. Examples of where this can be extremely negative include where sales, profit, growth or similar targets are set arbitrarily without regard to the realities of the market the subordinate organization addresses.
The effective leader doesn't fall into the trap of trying to meet unrealistic sales goals by blindly chasing new markets and thereby wasting valuable resources or trying to meet unrealistic profit goals by deferring critical investment, maintenance or other expenses necessary for the sustained health of the organization. Such responses are an extreme form of malicious obedience that can ultimately destroy both the organization and harm all the stakeholders, including harming the manager’s reputation.
What does the effective leader do in such situations?  To a great extent the response depends on the relationship a manager has with superiors. For the purpose of this training let’s assume the relationship is neutral. In this case there are a series of steps to be followed. Understanding this simple case should enable you to think through other cases. First, you must assume that the higher level managers don’t know the details of the organization’s environment so that the goals are reasonable to these managers. Second, you must communicate to the higher level mangers that you understand the goals and are working on plans to achieve them. This buys you a little time for the next step, which is to develop several alternatives based on the business environment your organization operates in. These must include trying to achieve the goals along with your assessment of the likely results. Stretch goals are healthy if they aren't completely unrealistic. Also, there is always the possibility that your superiors do understand your environment and still want you to pursue the stated goals. They may understand something you have missed or have other strategic reasons. Examine other alternatives such as continuing on previous years plans, scaling back the goals, closing out or selling the organization and other options that could be achieved.
When you have worked out these alternatives and have mastered your understanding of them and your business environment you should approach your boss and say that your analysis is showing that there are difficulties in achieving the goals and that you have identified some alternatives that may be better; assuming your alternatives are better. Ask for your bosses help in reviewing your draft analysis. Hopefully your boss agrees and you have the opportunity to present your carefully developed story as a “draft” analysis. This gives you the opportunity to present the facts of your business environment and how these facts impact achieving the expected goals as well as the alternatives. You must be loyal to the enterprise first and your organization second if you are to achieve what is best for the enterprise and for your organization in the long term.
At this point you may think the course I suggest is selling out your organization. This is not true. If you think about it carefully what is best for the enterprise is almost always what is best for the subordinate organization. Your workers are stakeholders but so are the owners, management, community and you. Every organization requires investment to remain viable. This investment may include capital equipment, cash for research and development of new products or services or just management attention. A healthy organization provides a return on investment to its stakeholders. If your organization’s return isn’t competitive with other parts of the enterprise then it isn’t healthy. Selling it to another enterprise or merging it with another organization may enable it to get well. If it isn’t healthy and there isn’t a home for it where the necessary investment is available then it isn’t providing a good career environment for the workers in the organization.  Keeping such an organization alive just lets the workers grow older as they spin their wheels in dead end jobs and robs all stakeholders of better opportunities. Better to close the operation.  In the long run this is a better solution for almost all of the stakeholders. Admittedly, there will be some workers, e.g. those nearing retirement, that will be harmed by such a decision and compassionate enterprises attempt to minimize this harm.
If you keep the interest of all stakeholders in mind you can be objective and work with your bosses to find the best solution. If you focus just on preserving your organization then you become part of the problem and damage your ability to manage your organization effectively.
I have included this long discussion because there are two important principles involved that you should take away and it points to a third important principle. First, you must keep the interests of all stakeholders in mind when faced with difficult management situations and second you must be loyal to the enterprise in order to maintain your effectiveness and ultimately the loyalty of the people you manage. Note, as shown in the example above, this doesn’t mean saluting dumb things that your bosses propose. It means trying to work with your bosses in a constructive way to find effective solutions to problems. I know and you know that there are times when you won’t be successful. We have all encountered senior managers whose attitude is “it’s my way or the highway” even when they pursue impossible strategies or unobtainable goals. We just have to accept that there are battles that we can’t win and not waste our energies dwelling on these situations. This brings up the third principle. Spending energy on issues that we can influence is positive energy and increases our circle of influence (the sum of those things we can influence). Spending energy on issues we can’t influence is negative energy and shrinks our circle of influence. That’s why you must not dwell on issues you can’t influence or battles you lost beyond reflecting on lessons learned; it’s negative energy and makes you less able to function effectively in the future.


If you are studying in a team then divide in half. One half give examples of reactions to negativity in terms of statements subordinates might make to themselves, e.g. I hate my boss.
The other half state reactions in “psychological terms”, e.g. hate decreases altruism.
You may try this if working alone but it’s easier and a more effective learning experience when done as a team.
This lecture has concentrated on fear resulting from managers expressing negativity and has attempted to show that negativity has many forms, all of which result in reducing the effectiveness of the organization. Now is the time to review the action plan you developed in lecture 10. Are there changes you need to make in your list of seven or eight top priority actions based on what you have learned in lectures 11 - 13? If so make them now and start to follow these changes in your daily work because if you have been expressing negativity it will decrease the potential for success from your other actions. To assist you the next topic discusses a way to manage problems without inducing fear.

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12 Effective Listening

Effective listening habits are essential to developing respect from your workers and to being able to sell your ideas to anyone. This lecture describes why and suggests how to practice effective listening.
Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Basic Habits of Highly Effective People” describes habits that characterize highly effective people and leaders that build trust in their organizations. I only address habit 5 from the book, which I have found especially valuable in my personal and management experience. I am going to touch lightly on two topics related to that habit. Please get a copy of Covey’s book and read more. At the very least study the two topics I address here in more detail.
The first topic is what Covey calls empathetic listening. The sad fact is that most of us aren't good listeners. We hear just enough to formulate a response then wait impatiently to get the opening to give our response. We do this with our co-workers, customers, spouses, children and friends. Only our children are honest enough to say “you don’t listen to me”. When they say this it’s because we haven’t been empathetic listeners. I’ll try to explain what Covey means. To be an empathetic listener you need to project yourself into the speaker’s situation and try to understand why they are saying what they are saying. It means feeding back your understanding of what they said. For example, by saying “do you mean to say that …….” This shows the speaker that you are listening and trying to understand. With our children we often respond without listening because “we have been there”. We need to stop and realize that our children don’t know that. When we respond too quickly they just know that we really didn't listen to them. Unfortunately we tend to do the same thing with customers and with our co-workers, bosses and subordinates. They are just too polite to tell us we aren't listening but they feel it just like our kids.
Human nature says that if someone isn't listening to me then there is no reason I should listen to them. This is what Covey is getting at. If you wish to communicate effectively to someone; your customer, your kid or your worker, you must first convince them that you understand their situation, their concerns and their desires. If they aren't convinced you understand then they are not going to listen to your logic any better than you listened to theirs.
That brings us to the second topic related to the habit. In our work we are often in a “marketing” mode. We are trying to convince someone of our point of view. Covey says to be an effective salesperson of our point of view we have to satisfy three criteria. First, we have to establish our credibility.  This means we have to give the person we are marketing to a reason why they should listen to us. It may be because of our position, e.g. as a parent or a boss. If it isn't obvious then we have to establish it. When we meet new people in our business world there is a ritual that we go through. We exchange business cards and discuss something about ourselves to connect with each other. When you are in this situation think about what you can say that will convince others they should listen to you. It may be your position, your background, your work on some topic of interest to them or your acquaintance with someone you know they admire. Covey’s message is that until you have established your credibility as someone that should be listened to others aren't likely to really listen to you or consider you logic.
The second criterion that Covey says we must satisfy is empathetic listening. The targets of our marketing must be convinced that we understand their situation and their problems before they will listen to our logical arguments. Once we have convinced them we understand their problems then they will listen to us.
Remember the sequence: credibility, empathetic listening, and then your logical arguments. To be an effective leader you must be an effective communicator and to be an effective communicator you must follow the three steps defined by Covey. It is fundamental human nature and you can’t get around it no matter how much of a hurry you are in or how good of a salesperson you think you are.
The hard part of practicing Covey’s habit 5 is the emphatic listening. It’s crucial that you learn this skill. If you have children five years old or older they give you the perfect opportunity to start practicing. I guarantee you the rewards are worth the effort with your children. If you don’t have children then commit to listening better to your spouse and/or your friends. You must make this a habit so that it becomes second nature and you do it as a matter of course in your work environment.
Start today. Truly listen to others and only respond with your arguments when you are convinced they know you have understood what they were saying. At the end of a conversation review how you listened and rehearse how you should have listened if you didn't meet your expectations. Now practice this habit every day in every situation. You will be amazed at the results. If you find that you are not practicing enough write reminders on 3 x 5 cards and place them where you will encounter them during your day, e.g. in your bathroom, in your briefcase, on your desk, etc. Leave the cards in place for at least a week, then remove them and see if you can remember without them. If not put them back for another week.

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at:

Friday, November 30, 2012

11 Teamwork

Working in teams is the most effective approach for complex work. However effective teamwork doesn't just happen. This lecture examines some of the issues a manager encounters in facilitating teamwork and describes tools that help launch teams.
If this course was being offered in a group training environment this lecture would be a group exercise that is a classic in management training. Since it is a self-study course you cannot have the benefit of experiencing the impact of this exercise. I am constrained to describe the exercise and what happens to participants. Unfortunately you are constrained to read and visualize it rather than experience it firsthand. You are getting visual learning (reading) rather than learning by doing (the exercise) and for most people learning by doing is much more effective. We encounter this deficiency several times in this course so you need to use your imagination to visualize the experience I have observed others get from these exercises.
The team work or consensus seeking exercise is called Lost on the Moon. It is almost always a powerful demonstration that teams perform better than individuals in problem solving. The participants are told that they are members of a space crew that is forced to land on the lighted surface of the moon about 200 miles from their mother ship. They are given a list of 15 items that have survived undamaged with them. The objective is to prioritize the list in importance to their survival until they reach the mother ship. The items on the list include things that are very useful for their survival and items that are less useful or even useless in the moon environment. After the individual students complete the exercise they are instructed to form teams of four to five individuals and repeat the exercise as a team. When the teams have completed the exercise the results are scored for the individuals and for the teams by comparing their prioritized lists to the correct list.
I suspect you don’t find it surprising that typically the team scores are higher than any individual scores of the team members. Usually there is a question period where the team members are asked to discuss why their team score was higher than the individual scores. They often describe how ideas from different team members were helpful in reaching the best prioritization. The instructor then nods knowingly to accent the benefits of teamwork and consensus seeking in problem solving, whether it’s for an exercise or a real job problem.
What you may not find obvious is that sometimes the benefits of teamwork are brought out in a more dramatic way. Let me describe the results of one such training session that I conducted. The trainees were engineers and scientists. Many of the engineers already worked together daily in a team environment. Most of the scientists tended to be more individual contributors although they were working on similar projects as the engineers. When it came time to form teams those that worked together daily quickly grouped into teams leaving the individual contributors left over so that they formed a team. Two teams stood out. One contained the smartest and most productive scientists in the organization, all excellent and productive employees that worked mostly as individual contributors. The other was a group of young engineers with many years less experience than the scientists. They had been assigned to the lowest priority project in the organization where they worked closely together every day. There were no prima donas in this group and they demonstrated true teamwork.
As you might expect the individual scores of the scientists were considerably higher than the individual scores of the young engineers. What was more interesting was that the team score of the young engineers was considerably higher than the team score of the scientists and the team score of the scientists was lower than many of their individual scores.
I was able to observe how each of the teams addressed the exercise. The young engineers wasted no time in getting to the heart of the exercise. They also used every minute available in intense discussion and debated every item on the list as they made their decisions. Every member contributed just as they were used to doing in their daily work. In contrast the team used to working as individual contributors was not as intense and didn't interact as smoothly. They worked very hard on getting the top five items correct and then gave only minimal attention to the remaining items on the list. If I remember correctly they didn't even use all the allotted time to finish the exercise.
The results of the two teams’ performance are very instructive. The higher individual scores of the experienced scientists showed that they had the potential for a much better team score than the team score of the young engineers. However, the scientists were not used to working together as a team and didn’t handle the team dynamics as well. As a result they did not capitalize on their advantage and didn’t score as well working as a team as some of them scored individually. The young engineers were experienced in working as a team. They demonstrated very effective team dynamics and thereby raised their team score well above any of their individual scores.
Several lessons can be derived from the results of the two teams in the exercise.
First, teamwork is more effective than individual efforts in solving complex problems. Second, effective teamwork doesn't just happen by assigning people to a team. It’s important that they are trained or mentored in how to work together in ways that utilizes the best knowledge and skills of each team member. Finally, note how the exercise demonstrated the value of having people in job assignments that match their styles. The scientists performed very well as individual contributors, which was their normal assignment. The young engineers were a dynamite team. If one of the young engineers had been given an individual contributor assignment he would have likely performed under expectations. Similarly if one of the scientists had been given a team assignment he would likely have been unhappy and not been as valuable a contributor to the team as he would have been as an individual contributor to the teams efforts.
Typically work doesn't automatically divide itself into stuff for teams and stuff for individual contributors. Therefore how should a manager assign people to projects when the people are a mix of individual performers and people that work best in teams? It depends on the availability of skills for assignment to the project. If there is an abundance of available skills and if the project manager knows which are individual contributors and which are team workers then the project tasks can be staffed by selecting from the available skill pool so that team workers aren't mixed with individual contributors on tasks that require close coordination.
If there are a minimum number of required skills then there isn't any choice at the beginning. The project manager should hold regular project team coordinating meetings where progress on tasks is reviewed, resources are assigned or reassigned and key information that the whole team needs to hear is exchanged. At the first sign of trouble on a task check the staffing on that task to see if the team dynamics is working. Poor team dynamics is the number one cause of poor performance on projects so it is the natural cause to be investigated first anyway. If the team dynamics does seem to be a contributing cause of problems on the task then see if it is possible to exchange people with other projects so that the dynamics are improved. This causes a temporary disruption to both projects but that is preferable to leaving in place a team structure that isn't working and won’t improve on its own.
If the team dynamics can’t be improved by changing assignments then it is up to the project leader to work with the team members to set up working relationships that are sufficiently acceptable to all members that the work gets done. One possibility to explore is setting up a mentoring relationship between an experienced individual contributor and an inexperienced person that works better in a team. The primary thing to remember is to never let a team dynamics problem go unaddressed.
Tools for launching new teams
Even if the manager has selected a team with high potential for working together well that alone isn't sufficient to avoid team problems. There are two tools that help launch teams so that many problems are avoided. The first tool is a roles and responsibilities meeting. This meeting should be held as soon as possible after forming the team. The manager facilitates the meeting and introduces each person along with his or her assigned role on the team. Then the team members in turn discuss how they understand the other team member’s roles and how they understand their role. By the time each member has had a turn there is usually consensus on roles and responsibilities of every team member. Even though a manager believes the role of each member is clear from the manager’s introduction the discussion often reveals that the team members have a different interpretation and the meeting resolves these differences.
The second tool helps a team that has been assigned to a new project gain common understanding of the work they have before them. This tool is called a Quality Table 1 (also called a House of Quality) and is from the methodology called Quality Function Deployment (QFD). I have found that if a team assigned to a new project develops a Quality Table 1 together the team members reach a common understanding of the requirements for the project and the approaches needed to satisfy these requirements. In addition they develop criteria for evaluating their work during the project.
If you are not familiar with QFD look it up in Wikipedia or at the QFD Institute web site, Although QFD is typically described in terms associated with engineering and manufacturing it is much more generally useful. I don’t discuss QFD in this course because a manager does not need to be an expert in QFD. It is advisable to be sufficiently familiar with the methodology to facilitate a team in developing a Quality Table 1. It is very beneficial to have access to an expert; either within the manager’s organization, within the enterprise or available as a consultant. Software is available that is useful for implementing a Quality Table 1. For example, free templates for implementing Quality Tables in Excel or OpenOffice calc are available at
1.   Even if it is not in your action plan, now is a good time to evaluate if any of your workers are in job assignments that do not fit their style. Consider those workers that are not as productive as you think they should be. Think about their personalities and how they have performed in different assignments. Are any of them perhaps in an assignment that isn’t suitable? If so, consider how you might change the assignment. If you think a change might be helpful but it isn’t required for any obvious business reason you should discuss the change with the worker before making any changes. You may find that your assessment is correct and the worker welcomes the change or you may find that the worker is happy in the current assignment in spite of your assessment. If you have subordinate managers you might discuss any workers that they have that are considered problem performers to see if a change in assignment might be in order. In this case be careful not to trample on your subordinate manager’s turf. You can make suggestions or observations but the subordinate manger should make the decision. Remember the first rule of a manager. Attend to your own processes. A critical failure of some managers is that they continue to work on the job they had before their current assignment with the result that they interfere with their subordinate’s jobs and their own job is neglected. This is usually because they are more comfortable doing the previous job and may not know how to execute the processes associated with the new job. Don’t fall into this trap.
2.   Review how your organization is organized for its work. Is the work done by teams, by individual contributors or a mix? Are there opportunities for more teamwork? How would changing to more teamwork affect the organization? Can beneficial changes be made without significant disruption? Do the styles of the workers fit having additional teams or closer teamwork? Depending on this assessment you should consider making the changes so that the organization can benefit from the advantages of team problem solving? Don’t forget that any new teams need training or mentoring in how to work effectively as a team.

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

10 Review and Effective Action Planning

Review of Lectures 2-9

If you have been a diligent student you have spent two or more weeks on the first nine lectures and associated exercises. By now you may have encountered many things that you need to change in your management practices. Therefore it’s a good time to stop, review the material covered so far and begin to develop a plan to put into practice those changes in your behavior that you now know are necessary. If you wait until the end of your study to start implementing changes either you will be overwhelmed or you will have forgotten many essential items. This review is brief, but you should spend several hours or even several days working on the planning called for in the exercise.
Two claims were central to the first nine lectures:
       Managers must increase worker motivation and apply process improvement to achieve high organizational effectiveness
       An effective leadership approach is to integrate Theory Z (participative management in a MBO environment) with a proven process improvement approach
The bulk of the material presented so far dealt with motivating your workers. Key points included:
       People are at different stages on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
       Managers must deal with people according to their needs
       People are happy when moving up the hierarchy and most productive at the self-actualization level
       Theory X,Y,L & Z managers address people’s needs differently and their styles influence an organization’s effectiveness
       Most of today’s workers are knowledge workers
       Understanding and managing knowledge workers requires that they be treated as individuals.
       Theory Z management style is best for knowledge workers but should be modified according to situations and individual worker’s needs.
       Theory Z managers should deal with workers with a directing, coaching, supporting or delegating approach depending on the situation and the type of worker.
If any of these points are foggy you need to review the lectures until these points are engrained in your consciousness.


Now is the time to retrieve the draft plan you made at the end of Lecture 6 for improving the motivation of workers in your organization, along with any additions or modifications you made after Lecture 7. Review this plan; add any steps you think are needed from what you learned in Lectures 8 and 9. The result is the first phase of your leadership action plan. It’s time to begin implementing your plan but first let’s review your plan to see if it’s an effective plan. I’ll outline a process that leads to an effective plan. Check your plan against this outline.
Developing an Effective Plan
Use what I call the Super Bowl Metaphor for developing an effective plan that has three levels: a goal, measures of effectiveness, and actions. If a coach’s goal is to win the Super Bowl then first he must define the seven or eight measures that if fulfilled will likely result in a win. These measures are such things as turnover ratio, pass completion percentage, yards gained per rush, yards yielded by the defense per rush, etc. Then he examines his team’s recent performance and his organization to identify which of the measures must be improved if the team is going to be a Super Bowl contender. Then he defines the actions that must be taken in order to improve the measures selected. For example, if pass completion percentage needs to be improved then there are many possible actions that might be called for; such as recruit a new quarterback, develop new passing plays, train the offensive line in pass protection, trade for new receivers, recruit a new receiver coach, etc. It is from this third level of actions that the right plan is developed for his team and his organization.
Step 1 Define your goal
Now, examine your plan. Your goal at this point in the course should be to improve the motivation of your organization’s workers. You can modify your goal as you progress in this course and progress in motivating your workers.
Step 2 Develop metrics
Next you should define metrics that you can track to determine if your plan is working. (The term metric is often used for the quantitative or qualitative measure of progress toward a goal.) The most relevant metric is the percent of your workers that have achieved self-actualization.  If you are very good at assessing people you might estimate where each employee is on the Maslow hierarchy and track improvements as your plan is implemented. If you are not naturally good at directly assessing where people are on Maslow’s hierarchy then develop other measures that are representative of the motivational health of your organization. Think about other measures that indicate whether people’s needs are being satisfied; e.g. the number of complaints you hear or hear about each week, the number of positive or negative remarks you hear each week, the amount of questionable sick time or personal time being taken, or the number of persons resigning or requesting transfers each month, or some similar measure. The metrics should be something you can easily record on a 3 x 5 card in your pocket or in a checklist on your computer or smartphone. Strive for two or three simple metrics that are meaningful for your organization and for you. These metrics are used to track your progress, just as a coach uses the measures defined in the Super Bowl metaphor to track a team’s progress.
Step 3 Identify Root Causes
Next assess the reasons for your organization’s motivation level not being as high as it could be. You must look for “causes” that can be fixed. Think of parallels to the actions described in the Super Bowl metaphor, except in your case recruiting new workers or trading workers shouldn’t be high on your list. Reread Lecture 6 if you have trouble identifying the causes of low motivation. When you have a list of causes analyze them by treating each to a series of “Whys”. This means taking each cause in turn and asking why this cause exists. Write down your best estimate of any underlying causes for the observed cause and continue this analysis until you satisfy two criteria. The final causes should be root causes, i.e. there are no more underlying causes that result from asking why and the root cause must be a cause you can address. Root causes that are due to organizational culture or the business environment that are outside your control should be deferred to a later time after you have addressed the root causes you can control.
Step 4 Develop Solutions
Now ask what you can do to fix each root cause. It may be to change your management style, e.g. to adapt your style to the needs of each of your knowledge workers, or it may be to make changes in business processes in your organization. For now concentrate on the ones that involve your management style, job assignments, career development and similar personnel or philosophy related actions. You can add business process changes later after we have discussed effective ways to improve processes.
Step 5 Define Actions
The final step in your planning before you begin implementing your action plan is to define the top seven or eight most important actions necessary for you to take. Trying to implement a dozen actions all at once is too hard to do in parallel with the other responsibilities you have. It’s alright to have less than seven or eight but don’t take on more. You have to think about how you will take action and you must make sure you are consistent. Finally, you must be patient. Don’t expect your organization’s motivation to jump the first month or even first quarter after you have begun your plan. People are cautious when they see different behavior in a manager. They wait and watch to see if the behavior is consistent.
Step 6 Execute the Actions
Now you have an effective plan and have thought through how you are going to implement it and measure progress. Put your plan in action.

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at:

Friday, November 16, 2012

9 Understanding Knowledge Workers

Knowledge workers require more attention to management style than manual workers. This lecture describes how Theory Z management style should be modified according to situations and to individual knowledge worker’s needs.
In the book cited in Lecture 8 Peter Drucker says knowledge workers are not subordinates, they are associates and they must know more about their specialties and specific jobs than their bosses. In the past manual workers were often constrained to be content to have their job, be paid a reasonable wage and treated fairly. In contrast knowledge workers are less constrained and seek those benefits plus:
•           Challenge
•           Opportunity for achievement
•           Responsibility for their work
•           Rewarding mission
Knowledge workers can set their own goals in support of the organization’s goals and participate in organizational planning and decision making. Knowledge workers make decisions affecting the organization’s results just like managers; they plan, execute and measure. They desire accountability for themselves and want poor performers removed from the organization. They desire clear career ladders in spite of today’s environment of limited opportunities for promotions. (This is true for managers, technical workers, & volunteers.)
Knowledge workers are individuals and must be managed as individuals to maximize organizational effectiveness. The effective leader of knowledge workers must recognize that knowledge workers have different strengths, weaknesses, training needs, learning styles, and values. They perform best in certain environments:
•           Big team, small team, no team
•           Highly structured environment, little structure
•           Decision maker, adviser
•           Leader, follower
They can be at different levels of Maslow’s hierarchy at different times due to both the job environment and environments outside their job. This again calls for treating them as individuals rather than as a homogeneous group of workers.
Here are some ways an effective leader can help knowledge workers manage themselves:
•     Help them know their strengths
        Don’t focus on their weaknesses until you know and recognize their strengths. As an objective observer you are be able to better assess their strengths and weaknesses than they are. If they know you understand and value their strengths then they can accept or try to improve their weaknesses without being in fear of their weaknesses.
        Ensure each is in the best environment for his or her strengths and personality
        Some are best when working by themselves, some in a team and some are best at guiding the work of others.
        Get to know them and then guide them into the proper role: Leader/follower, decision maker/advisor, etc.
        Help them keep up with their specialties and develop their career
        Fight for the budgets necessary to help specialists update their skills from time to time.
        Take time to have honest discussions of their career paths and, if you can, help them realize their goals. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It will undermine your credibility and authority.
        Help them understand how to best communicate with their bosses and coworkers learning     styles (oral, visual, or doing)
        For example, even though you might know that the big boss is an oral learner your workers may not. Make sure you give them guidance if they are going to be briefing people they are unfamiliar with.
        Help them manage their time
        Don’t involve them in unnecessary meetings. Take time to ensure that they understand your instructions and guidelines for any new assignments. Facilitate interactions with other skilled workers whose knowledge or experience they need to utilize. Don’t ask for unnecessary reports. (More on time management later in the course.)
        Help them improve their processes using modern methods (These are defined in later       lectures)
        This means ensuring that they have the proper training, then are empowered to change their processes,  have access to all data (such as financial data) necessary to assess changes to their processes and access to any specialists, such as those skilled in statistics or other special methods of process improvement.
You may be getting the impression that being an effective leader of knowledge workers takes more time than traditional management styles. Actually it’s the reverse. The recommendations described above do take time but they enable workers to manage themselves and thereby save the manager from the constant firefighting of crises that consume most traditional managers. If you’re not convinced reread the next to the last paragraph in Lecture 2.
You should not get the impression that having trained, motivated and empowered workers free the manager from the responsibility of providing leadership. The organization’s leader must have active and intimate involvement in the main activities of the organization. The studies of Gary Lynn and Richard Reilly reported in their book Blockbusters- The Five Keys to Developing Great New Products, reveal that highly successful new products, which they call “blockbusters”, were three and one-half times more likely to have senior managers intensely involved in their development than failed product developments. Empowered workers should handle routine work without management involvement but difficult and important work needs leadership by senior managers. Moreover knowledge workers require more than one type of leadership.
Some excellent advice on managing knowledge workers is found in the popular book The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. The authors recommend that managers match their management approach to the situation and to the needs of the worker. I’ll only summarize their comments on four management approaches to be used with four different types of workers as you can benefit from reading the book.
•           Directing- Specific Instruction & Close Supervision- For Crises and Workers that are Enthusiastic Beginners
•           Coaching- Directing + Explanations, Solicitation of Suggestions & Support- For Disillusioned Learners
•           Supporting-Facilitates Subordinate’s Efforts & Shares Responsibility for Decision Making- For Reluctant Contributors
•           Delegating-Decision Making and Problem Solving Turned Over to Subordinates-For Enthusiastic Contributors that are Highly Competent & Highly Committed
Note that these authors support Drucker’s view that effective leaders must treat knowledge workers as individuals to the point of changing their management style according to the individual worker’s needs. Also the four approaches defined by Blanchard and Johnson can be viewed as variations of the basic Theory Z management style.
1.         Think about the last crisis in your organization. Did you adopt a “directing” style by accepting the leadership role, giving specific instructions and providing close supervision until the crisis was resolved? Or did you seek to delegate this tough task to someone else?
2.         If this crisis were to reappear rehearse how you will handle it next time.
3.         Pick six of your workers or peers and see if you can classify them as:
a.         Enthusiastic beginners
b.         Disillusioned learners
c.         Reluctant contributors
d.         Highly competent and highly committed enthusiastic contributors
4.         Think about your recent involvements with workers in each of the four categories. Did you adopt your style to the worker’s needs?  Rehearse how you will interact with these workers in your next interactions.

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at:

Friday, November 9, 2012

8 Evolution of the Manager’s Job

In this lecture we address the following questions:
•           How has the complexity of products and services trended over the last 50 years in the following fields?
–          Consumer product design, production and marketing?
–          Health care?
–          Banking?
–          Government?
•           Will this trend continue?
•           How has the change in complexity changed jobs and workers?
•           How has this changed the role of managers?
Management developed to serve the assembly line for relatively simple products. It was adopted from the command structure of the military, the only existing model for management at the time, other than religious organizations, which typically have management structures similar to that of the military. This was a reasonable approach since workers of that time were primarily “manual” workers so that “good” workers needed to follow instructions and be efficient. A manager could measure worker performance by the quality and quantity of work performed. The work environment was not unlike the military so that the military based management approach was effective at that time; when it wasn’t used to oppress workers.
Products and services (public and private) have become more complex over the years and tend to change more frequently. Much of this new complexity is enabled by the rapid development of low cost electronics, computers and software. This increased complexity leads to creation of more and more job specialties and we can expect the trend to continue. These new specialty workers are knowledge workers rather than manual workers; they make decisions and they plan, organize, integrate, motivate and measure, just like executives.
Managers pre-WW II usually were experienced in several different jobs and often skilled in most of the jobs they managed because they had worked these jobs as they progressed up the organizational ladder. Modern managers cannot be experienced or skilled in most of the jobs they manage because the jobs change as fast as their careers evolve. As discussed in the introduction to this course, the flatter organizations popular today mean less opportunity for promotions and therefore less opportunity for new experience that prepares a manager for more senior positions. Therefore today’s managers must lead and motivate specialists without having the skills of the specialists they are leading. This is a key reason Theory Z management style is more effective than X or Y in today’s work environment.
To summarize this lecture: Modern workers are “Knowledge” workers. “Good” workers are effective; they must get the right things done as well as doing things right. Therefore the old performance measures don’t apply. Today managers must measure results that are typically not traceable to the quality and quantity of work completed by the knowledge workers. Today managers shouldn’t “manage” knowledge workers in the traditional sense. Peter Drucker says you must know the strengths and knowledge of knowledge workers and lead them so that their specific characteristics make each of them productive. (See p. 81, The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker)
1.         Compare the goods and/or services produced by your organization today with those produced five and ten years ago. Do today’s goods or services offer more features? Are they more complex as a result? Is the quality the same or changed?
2.         Compare the business processes used to produce your goods or services. How have they changed compared to the processes of five and ten years ago?
3.         Are workers with advanced degrees or special skills required in the production of your goods or services?
4.         Would you classify workers in your organization as “manual” workers or “knowledge” workers?
5.         Do you understand fully how to do every job that you manage or hope to manage?
6.         Given your answers to questions 1-5 would you say that a traditional manager is best for your organization or is a manager that knows the strengths and knowledge of each worked needed to make them productive, as described by Drucker?
7.         Which management style (Theory X, Y, or Z) best fits the task of managers of knowledge workers as described by Drucker?

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
or hard copy or for nook at:
or hard copy or E-book at: