Managing Results – Getting the Most From Your Team

A friend of mine asked me to review his business and look for process improvement opportunities.  I went to his office and he gave me the grand tour, explained his business model, and highlighted the potential for growth.  As we toured the office area, we noticed an employee surfing the net (nothing outlandish, just plain surfing).  I could tell this waste of time frustrated my friend.  I took the opportunity to infuse some perspective into the situation.  From that point, here is how our conversation went:

ME:  “What is he (the internet surfer) supposed to be doing?”

FRIEND:  “He’s in sales.  He is supposed to be selling our services.”

ME:  “Does he do a good job?”

FRIEND:  “Yes.”

ME:  “Does he have an aggressive sales target?”

FRIEND:  “Yes.”

ME:  “Is he hitting the target?”

FRIEND: “Yes.”

ME:  “Would you rather be the kind of boss that gets results or baby sits people?”

FRIEND:  “Good point.”

I’m not trying to imply that web-surfing at work is OK.  Nor am I saying wasting time is OK.  As your business grows, it will become impossible to manage your entire team’s time.  So you will need to find a better approach.  My suggestion is to manage their output instead of trying to manage their time.  Here is how I would propose doing that.

1)     For each employee, determine their individual value stream.  Value stream is the part of the job that creates value for the company.  Every person in the organization should have a job or series of tasks that are vitally important to the success of your company.  What are those tasks?  How do they flow into the overall revenue or quality aspects of your business model? Defining the valuable contribution sets the stage for being able to measure performance.

2)     Determine a few key measures for each employee’s value stream.  If your team knows what is important, work with them to figure out how to measure their success.  You should be able to get a pretty good gage on the status of a value stream using three balanced measures.  As the manager, you will have to decide precisely what and how to measure, but in general a measure of output, quality, and efficiency will tell a compelling story.

3)     Display metrics publicly and transparently.  Public and transparent data tends to challenge the go-getters and motivate stragglers.  This is sometimes explained as the Hawthorne Effect – our behavior changes when we know that we are being watched. This is not a bad thing.  We all like to know what our goals are, whether or not we are hitting them, and if our boss notices our effort.  Transparent and public display of this information accomplishes these things.

4)     Set aggressive, yet achievable targets.  Once the value stream is defined and a measurement system is in place, target-setting is a natural and complementary progression.   I personally like the idea of a threshold (expected target) and a stretch target (exceeds expectations).  By setting targets, a manager is in the early stages of developing an autonomous work team – a team committed to and managing its own success.

5)     Manage only the gaps.  Using steps 1-4, we have defined the job relative to the value it creates, measured and displayed performance, and set targets.  Now, you as the manager can manage the gaps in performance. Gap is not a technical term.  It’s merely the difference between the threshold (expected performance) and the actual performance.  The performance measurement dashboard developed in step 3 highlights very quickly any gaps in employee performance.  It is toward those gaps that the manager should direct his or her efforts.

Generally speaking, only about 20% of the team will struggle to meet the expectation.  Therefore, you, the manager, can concentrate your time on the performance of the few rather than the time utilization of all employees.  At the end of the day, do you really care how your top performers spend every minute of every day?  Are you more interested how they work instead of their contribution to the success of your company?  Instituting a real-time, outcomes-based performance measurement system will free up your time, reduce your frustration, and empower your team to produce greater and more effective results.

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