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Thursday, February 21, 2013

20 to 22 Helping the Workers Manage Their Time

At first reading your reaction may be that helping workers manage their time is not the manager’s responsibility but bear with me. One principle of leadership is that it is the leader’s job to make subordinates’ jobs easier. Ken Blanchard (Co-author of The One Minute Manger) and Phil Hodges wrote an excellent book, The Servant Leader, that provides an in-depth treatment of this principle. Their book shows that Jesus Christ is not only a model for spiritual leadership but also a model for organizational leadership. They define this model as the “Servant Leader”.
Helping workers manage their time is important to having an effective organization and the aspects of worker time management discussed here are those that the manager can influence. This topic is a bit long so I treat it as three lectures.
It’s quite likely that you as manager are the biggest source of wasted time for your workers. At least that’s probably what they think. Therefore the topics we cover in the first lecture are:
        Eliminate time wasters that are the manager’s fault
       Crises that occur more than once
       Too many meetings (examine  job and organization structure to  see why meeting are needed)
       Poor  information systems (holding meetings to gather information that should be automatically reported and processed)
       Overstaffing to correct schedule delays (leads to time wasted in interacting)
Many would argue that meetings are the biggest time wasters so meetings are the topic of the second lecture:
        Managing meetings
       Meeting to communicate
       Types of effective meetings
       Guidelines for effective meetings
Finally, an insidious time waster is workers doing work that can be done faster and cheaper by others. This is the topic of the third lecture:
        Identify work that can be done better by others
If by studying and practicing the ideas discussed in these three lectures you are able to save two hours per week for each of your staff members you will have improved your organization’s productivity by five percent. Actually it will be more than five percent because many time wasters interrupt workers from their core tasks. Some researchers claim it takes twenty minutes for workers to regain focus and effectiveness on a task after being interrupted. This productivity gain will be achieved with no investment other than your time learning and practicing better methods.
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:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

19 Managing the Manager’s Time

The final topics under Building a World Class Organization are Managing the Manager’s Time and Helping the Workers Manage Their Time. I’ll discuss managing your time in this lecture and how to help your workers manage their time in the next three lectures. Points discussed in this lecture include:
        Schedule time by the week
       Keeps precious  time from “melting”
        Have an open door policy and accept time wasters gracefully to maintain good personal relations
        Accept the reality of daily crises
        Be effective with people; efficient  with things
        Use lunch hours for formal and informal communications with staff
There are many systems for managing time and you must select one that works for you. I like one recommended by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In simple form it involves allocating time to your job and to your personal life. Your job should have six to eight objectives for both the long and short term at any given time. Having more limits the time available for each objective so that it takes a long time to accomplish the objectives. Therefore it is better to limit the number of objectives to six to eight so that they can be accomplished effectively before adding new objectives. There are three parts to your life; physical, mental and spiritual. This means allocating time to keep yourself physically, mentally and spiritually healthy so that you are able to be effective in your work; and with your family and friends. In the mental part you must allocate time for learning in order to keep up with technology and your career ambitions and time for hobbies or other mental recreation. It is important to take the time to write down your objectives for your job and your life and develop plans. These plans don’t have to be detailed written plans but you should think about what is necessary to achieve your objectives.

Personal Observations about Work and Work Hours

This is a good point to insert some observations about work from my decades of management experience. The number of hours spent each week on work depends on three factors. These are the culture of the enterprise, the business environment at any specific time and the choice of the worker. Some organizations have a culture of working 60 or more hour weeks and workers that don’t put in those hours are looked down upon. The culture in other organizations admires those who work just the scheduled 40 hours and of course there are cultures that expect between 40 and 60 hours. Similarly there are times in any organization when critical deadlines impose the need for long hours for a few days or even weeks and other times when work can be easily accomplished in normal work hours. Even without such cultural or business environment constraints there is a distribution of typical work hours among workers. Some want to work excessive hours and others want to work just the minimum required. For this discussion I want to ignore the first two factors and consider the factor that is the clear choice of the worker most of the time.
There is an optimum amount of work time per week for each worker. For some it may be just 40 hours and for others it may be 60 or more hours. Working more or less than your personal optimum isn’t effective in the long term because you can’t be as effective in either your work or your non-work life. Those who become “workaholics” voluntarily usually don’t accomplish any more in their long hours on the job than other workers accomplish in their optimum times, even if their optimum is only 40 hours. This is because workaholics often don’t work effectively. They get involved in unimportant tasks, they often spend too much time in social activities and they lose creativity due to lack of involvement in activities outside of work. Workaholics thinks they are helping the enterprise or their career or both when in fact they are not; except in those deviant cultures that prize excessive work hours.
Now to explain what I mean by an optimum number of work hours for a person. Each of us has different obligations in our life outside the job. Each of us has different needs for recreation and relaxation. Individuals with few outside obligations and low need for recreation and relaxation can work more hours effectively than an individual with many outside obligations and high need for recreation and relaxation. To be effective in our work we must have a balance between our work and other activities. Working more than our personal optimum for protracted times isn’t effective because our mind is on our failing to meet obligations and personal needs rather than on our work.
It is important to remember that work isn’t the most important thing in our lives. I have observed several people that made work more important than necessary. Then comes the time when they are faced with a family crisis or get a health scare, e.g. chest pains while on a business trip. When faced with their mortality they change their priorities. Suddenly their families are the most important thing in their life and work is relegated to second place or lower. Don’t let that happen to you. That is what I mean by having a balanced life. The relative unimportance of work, compared to our families, is easy to understand near the end of or after our working life. It’s much harder to understand when we are young. However, young people do see older people that have led an unbalanced life and suffered the consequences. Use these examples to remind yourself to maintain a balanced life.

Scheduling Time by the Week

After completing the definition of your objectives and thinking through plans to achieve them you are ready to schedule your time. It is very important to schedule a whole week at a time. The reason is that you cannot work on six to eight objectives in one or even two days, but you can over a whole week. There are too many uncertainties in life and jobs to schedule longer than a week without rescheduling every week so just do one week. Pick a time each week when you can be alone for 20-30 minutes and make this your scheduling time. Early Sunday evening after dinner is a good time for me. If I try to develop a schedule on Friday evening after work my mind is filled with minutia resulting from the weeks crises that seem important at that time. Scheduling such minutia pushes off work on more important but seeming less time critical objectives. By Sunday evening most of this minutia has receded in apparent importance and I can better focus on things that contribute to achieving my objectives.
Select a format for your schedule that suits your taste. I prefer a single sheet of paper for each week’s schedule. The format isn’t important but I find it easier when I can see all the hours of a week at one time along with my lists of objectives and tasks for the week. I make up a form using a spreadsheet and prepare copies of the blank form. You may prefer a printed calendar or a software schedule on a personal computer or personal digital assistant. The key is to allocate some time to each important task you have for the week. Allocate the tasks for the week by one or two hour chunks and leave several unscheduled hours each day during work time. This unscheduled time is necessary to fight daily fires and to go back and complete tasks that were interrupted by firefighting or other unanticipated events.
A planned and recorded schedule works if you discipline yourself to stick to your schedule and work the task assigned for each period. You will find that this discipline results in getting significant amounts of work done on major objectives in the one or two hour chunks of scheduled time. The biggest benefit is that it helps prevent you from filling in your time with displacement activities. Without the discipline of following your weekly schedule you tend to fill your time with what Stephen Covey calls urgent but not important tasks. With the weekly schedule you are more likely to work the important but not necessarily urgent tasks. As a result, at the end of the week you have accomplished a number of important tasks that contribute to your objectives whereas without the schedule the week is filled with the urgent but not important tasks and very little that is important is accomplished. Think of your weekly schedule as a refrigerator that keeps your precious time from “melting away”, i.e. being wasted in doing urgent but not important tasks.

Open Door Policy

Having an open door policy is important at all levels of management. For first and second level mangers it means being open to interruptions by any of the people working under you as well as your peer managers and superiors. If you are more senior then you need a gatekeeper that will filter those allowed to interrupt you but you should allow interruptions by all of your direct reports, your peer level managers and of course by your superiors. The reason it’s necessary is that if you don’t maintain an open door you are not likely to hear all of the information you need. You are at the mercy of the “chosen ones” who are allowed to interrupt, thereby filtering what you hear. (I’ll address how to use vertical staff meetings to obtain unfiltered information from levels below your direct reports in the lecture on meetings.) Having an open door means that you will be interrupted with trivial matters from time to time. Accept these time wasters gracefully as the price for maintaining good communications and good relations with others in the enterprise. If someone abuses your open door, i.e. takes your time to discuss non work related items; then say you have a deadline and suggest continuing the discussion over lunch or after work.

Make Sure You Are Effective With People

Don’t become a slave to a rigid schedule. You must accept the reality that there are daily crises that require your attention. That is why you leave unscheduled blocks of time in your schedule. Attend to the crises when they arise and then go back to your schedule and use the unscheduled periods to catch up. When you are dealing with a person make sure the time you spend is effective and spend the time necessary to be effective. Don’t rush through a conversation so that you can get back to what you have on your schedule; otherwise you won’t achieve effective communication and will waste the time spent.
Learn to Be Efficient With Other Tasks
Learning how to work with a good secretary or administrative assistant is essential to being an efficient and effective manager. When I started working there were no personal computers; secretaries were numerous, available to all and used by all knowledge workers because the secretaries had the typewriters. By the time workers became managers they had usually learned how to work effectively with secretaries. This is no longer true due to the introduction of personal computers, which has led to fewer and fewer secretaries and less opportunity for workers to learn how to work with them effectively. I now see vice presidents that haven’t a clue to how to work effectively with their secretaries and are either too arrogant or ashamed to ask the secretary or other managers for advice.
I have had the pleasure of working with some outstanding secretaries and I know that they at least doubled my effectiveness. Not all secretaries are good at everything and manager’s needs vary. For example, in my case I could cope with secretaries that were not expert at filing, although it was great when they had that skill. The skills I sought most, and needed most, were the ability to take care of administrative work independently and to keep in tune with the organization’s grapevine.  As a technical person I focused on business issues and would have missed important personnel issues without having a secretary that alerted me to people issues that needed my attention. Let me relate two examples of how a good secretary can improve a manager’s effectiveness.
For several years I was general manager of a company in a small town and it was necessary for me to spend at least 5% of my time involved in civic activities on top of the demands of running a difficult business. I was fortunate to have a secretary that was outstanding at administrative work as well as having good secretarial skills and being in tune with everything that went on in the company. This was before email was widespread so there was a lot of paperwork traffic. My secretary prescreened all paperwork; eliminated junk stuff, handled the easy stuff herself and came to me for 15 minutes each morning with the small amount that she couldn’t handle. She came in with everything sorted; some for my signature, some for questions and some she wasn’t sure what to do with. She summarized each item, often giving her recommendation or telling me what questions she had about the item. I only needed to give her quick verbal instructions on most remaining items. Typically there were only one or two items daily that I had to handle in detail myself. She saved me more than enough time every day to cover the civic activities I was involved with.
At another company managers were required to send a weekly report up the management chain that was distilled by senior managers and eventually went to the corporate offices. Every manager at the division level and below knew these reports were useless but our pleas to drop the requirement for them were rejected. My solution was to select a secretary that could write them without my help. In eight years I didn’t write a single one. I read, edited and signed the reports my secretary wrote and there was never a problem. This skilled secretary saved me roughly an hour a week; precious time for a manager.
I had learned in my first management job that, although widely used, written weekly reports are a useless communication tool and therefore I quit spending precious time on them. If I needed to communicate something to my superiors I did it face to face or during meetings so that I was sure my concerns were heard and understood. Don’t require weekly reports from your workers if you have a choice. Walk around and talk to them to find out what is going on. This takes no more of your time, a lot less of their time and is more effective for understanding what is really happening compared to reading sugar coated reports.
If you are fortunate enough to have a secretary or access to a secretary please learn how to dictate to them, if they know shorthand, and to electronic dictation equipment. I have timed my work and found that it is three times faster to outline and dictate something than it is for me to write it out or type it. Just as important I can dictate things while driving to and from work or at home if I think of something I forgot that is critical for the next day. Today I see many managers doing their own typing and spending hours at a keyboard. This isn’t fun and it isn’t effective. Learn how to offload such work to a secretary and it will make you much more effective. There is a more in depth discussion of the benefits and trade-offs of dictation in the next lecture. Here I want to make the point that managers must learn how to effectively use secretaries to become more effective and if they expect their staff to follow their lead.
Many of us need the time allocated for lunch not only to eat but to wind down from the morning and regenerate our energy for the afternoon. However, we don’t have to spend every lunch period unwinding or socializing. Spending a couple of lunch periods a week on some formal or informal communications tasks is well worth while. Examples include “all hands” meetings for your organization. Lunch hour is about the only time you can expect to have your entire organization available to listen to you or to each other on topics of interest to all. The cost of providing lunch for the group of workers is a good investment for having their attention for important communications.
You can also use lunches to catch up with what individuals are doing in their jobs. It’s much more effective to discuss job performance during an informal lunch than it is across your desk. In informal lunch sessions with subordinates it is easy to focus the discussion on their tasks, processes associated with their tasks and the system encompassing the work. Such discussions are more effective in evaluating the subordinates’ work than a formal review in your office and they certainly are more pleasant for you and the subordinates. In a formal review both individuals are tense and guarded so truly open and honest communication rarely takes place. An exception is formal discipline of an individual, which should always be discussed in your office or other private setting.


1.     Write down your objectives for your job and your life outside of the job remembering to include both long and short term job objectives, the physical, mental and spiritual parts of your life and your relationship with family and friends. You may want to spend a day or two doing this and if possible do it while on a long weekend or even on vacation. You can think more objectively about your life when away from your normal surroundings and work environment.
2.     Think through plans to achieve the objectives listed under number 1.
3.     Identify tasks that you should work on over the next week that will begin to implement your plans and contribute to achieving your objectives
4.     Decide on a format for a weekly schedule and prepare a schedule for the next seven days
5.     Begin to follow your weekly schedule starting the next morning when you report to work.
Maintain the discipline of scheduling your time by the week for at least a month and then evaluate whether it is helping you achieve your objectives. You may find that your planning works well or you may need to adjust the planning depending on how well your schedules have worked for you.

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:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

18 Matching People to Jobs

Matching people to jobs is the third topic under Developing a World Class Organization. There are four basic principles to follow in matching people to jobs:
       Decisions about people are the most important decisions a manager makes
       Workers have a right to competent leaders
       If a worker does not perform then the manager has made a mistake; don’t blame the worker
       Don’t give new people major assignments
The reason that decisions about people are the most important is that the right decisions lead to happy and productive workers; not just the one that the decision was about but also the ones that that person interacts with. Putting a person in the wrong position soon becomes obvious to other workers. Everyone is unhappy and the boss is blamed. If you put the wrong person in a subordinate management position then that manager’s entire group will suffer and blame both you and the subordinate manager.
Sometimes the right person just isn’t available for a management position and you will be forced to install an acting manager that isn’t wholly prepared for the job by experience and training. It then becomes your responsibility to make it clear to the group that the acting manager has agreed to help you by filling in until you can recruit a permanent manager. Ask the group to help both you and the acting manager during this period. People will tolerate less than ideal situations if the reasons are made clear to them and if they are asked to help.
You must be prepared to help the acting manager with difficult problems and you must make it clear to the acting manager what his or her position will be when the permanent person is in place. If possible there should be some reward for the acting manager stepping up. Often an acting manager blossoms with the opportunity and demonstrates that they do have what it takes to manage the group. Basically, the rule here is being as fair as possible to the group and the acting manager but not accepting a less than fully qualified person for the permanent position.
An important consideration in matching a person to a job is thinking about what success in that job means to the person. Let me give a specific example that I have seen done well and poorly. There are times in competitive enterprises when it becomes necessary to assign a person or persons to gathering information about competitors. The obvious candidates are personnel in the sales or marketing department. Giving the job to senior personnel almost ensures that a poor job will be done. Giving the job to junior personnel has a much higher probability of success. How can that be you ask?  The reason is that the primary job of the senior people is maintaining and, if possible, growing sales. This is what they do and what they get rewarded for. If sales fall then it is the senior people that are likely to be blamed and they will get little recognition for doing a good job of researching the competition. They understand this and therefore don’t put much effort into researching the completion.
On the other hand junior personal aren’t expected to make major sales and are more likely to be recognized if they do a good job of researching the completion. I witnessed a situation where a naïve vice president assigned the researching competition task to his senior people and they completely ignored the task. This is clearly a case illustrating the third principle listed above. I also witnessed a situation in which a company president gave the same task to two young and inexperienced marketing personnel. They took the assignment seriously and gathered an amazing amount of critical information on a key competitor for a major contract; contributing significantly to our company’s winning the contract.
Defining assignments for new personnel is especially challenging. You feel obligated to give them an assignment that fits their background, your needs and is going to be viewed positively by the new employee. This can lead to giving new people with experience major assignments to start with. This is a mistake. The new person isn’t familiar with your organization. They don’t know who to go to in order to get things done or even find information. They become frustrated and take far too long to complete the assignment. New people with experience need a transition job that enables them to learn the new organization and new culture.
Organization charts alone never define completely how work gets done in an enterprise. There is always a system within the system.  In well managed enterprises the difference between the written down system and the actual system is small. In poorly managed or large and highly bureaucratic enterprises there can be a big difference so that it can take some time to learn how to get things done. This is the reason many large enterprises place experienced new hires in staff positions for a year or two. This practice is wise for people intended for leadership positions. Transition assignments typically aren’t as critical for individual contributors even if they are highly experienced.
With the above as guidelines let’s walk through the task of filling a vacant job. First, think through the assignment to identify the skills, personality and experience needed. Positions change with time and require different skills at different times. There are many things to consider including the characteristics of co-workers, what skills are required, what constitutes success and failure for the job and how critical success is to the organization.  Also consider the degree of innovativeness the job requires. Fixing problems with products/services that are in development has different requirements from fixing problems with mature products/services. Out of the box innovativeness is desirable for problems with products/services in development and highly constrained innovativeness is required for problems with mature products/services. Most people are innovative but they are innovative in different ways. Some personality types are divergent innovators and fit the needs for an out of the box innovator. Others are convergent innovators and function well solving problems without disrupting a mature system.
Second, consider a number of candidates potentially having the skills, personality and experience you have identified as necessary for the job; at least three candidates if possible. Focus on the strengths of candidates. Match strengths to requirements and forget weaknesses; we all have them (except where a weakness rules a candidate out). This is critically important. It is essential to focus on all of your staff member’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. Tom Rath says on page 12 of his book Strengths Finder 2.0, that the Gallup organization’s research shows that:
“If your manager primarily:               The chances of your being actively disengaged are:
Ignores you                                         40%
Focuses on your weaknesses               22%
Focuses on your strengths                      1%”
He also says that workers that are not using their strengths in their job are six times less likely to be engaged in their job.
If you are not sure of your own or your worker’s strengths and weakness I strongly recommend that you use an assessment tool like Myers-Briggs or Strengths Finder. Googling Myers-Briggs provides a number of sources for personality assessment and provides an alternative to Myers-Briggs.
Discuss the candidates with people who have worked with them to validate your perception of the candidates fit to the requirements and to identify considerations you have missed. Discuss the job with the candidates to ensure they are interested and their reactions fit your expectations. It’s usually a good idea to ask the candidates how they will approach the new job if selected.
Third, make your decision and make sure the selected person understands the new assignment. (E.g. check that the selected person isn’t redoing the job held prior to the new assignment.)
Finally, be prepared for your choice to fail. Remember, if this happens it’s your fault not the candidate’s fault. If two people fail in a row, change the job.
(See p128 of The Essential  Drucker by Peter Drucker, for further discussion of matching people to jobs.)


1.     Recall the last job assignment you made. Think through the steps you took. Did you take the time to think through the needs of the assignment? Did you consider at least three candidates? Did you discuss these candidates with others to check your perceptions? Did you fully explain the new assignment to the selected candidate? Did you monitor the work to ensure the selectee stayed on track?  If you are following these steps you are being effective at matching people to jobs. If not then consider if you need to modify your action plan or just your approach to matching people to jobs.
2.     Think about the candidates you have in mind for succeeding you. Did anything you learned in this lecture apply to preparing the candidates for your job? Do you need to adjust your mentoring plan for the candidates?

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: