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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: