Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
At some point, you start seeing very dis functional behaviors: Stress levels high, tempers short, people unhappy, people frustrated, fingers pointing, blame being passed and so forth.
I'm working with one large organization that has undergone a series of severe resource cutbacks over the past 2 years. They have cut the resources, but they haven't reworked the work. I encounter a lot of "thrashing." This is characterized by a lot of start and stop, immense levels of activity, but nothing is ever completed and results aren't being produced.
Too much of the time, I see people focused on improving the productivity and effectiveness---sometimes translated into, "How do I accomplish more in less time." People never consider stopping things, they look at how they can change to do more. This breaks at some point. Organizations literally break, they fail to perform, management and shareholders find new people to do the job. Personally, we break down. Illness is up, bills to analysts/shrinks/pharmacists/our local barkeeper are up, the quality of our relationships is down.
Professionally and personally, for those who aren't achieving the results they expected, for those that are frustrated or can't find the time to do what they "need to do." Perhaps it's time to stop---take the time to figure out what should be stopped and get back to basics and essentials.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
There was more to it, but the comment reminded my of something a manager/mentor in IBM gave me many years ago. It was a short document called, "The Doctrine Of Completed Staff Work." I've traced it to two sources, Brigadier General G.E.R. Smith, of the Canadeian Army (08/09/1943) and Brigadier General George A. Rehm, US Army, 1942-1943.
It is your duty as a staff member to work out the details. You should not consult your commander in the determination of those details, no matter how perplexing they may be. You may and should consult other staff members. The product, whether it involves the pronouncement of a new policy or affects an established one, when presented to the commander for approval or disapproval, must be worked out in a finished form.
The impulse, which often comes to the inexperienced staff member, to ask the commander what to do, recurs more often when the problem is difficult. It is accompanied by a feeling of mental frustration. It is easy to ask the commander what to do, and it appears too easy for the commander to answer. Resist the impulse. You will succumb to it only if you do not know your job.
It is your job to advise your commander what she or he ought to do, not to ask what you ought to do. The commander needs answers, not questions. Your job is to study, write, restudy, and rewrite until you have evolved a single proposed action--the best one of all you have considered. Your commander merely approves or disapproves.
Do not worry your commander with long explanations and memos. Writing a memo to your commander does not constitute completed staff work. But writing a memo for your commander to send to someone else does. Your views should be placed before the commander in finished form so that the commander can make them his or her views simply by signing the document. In most instances, completed staff work results in a single document prepared for the signature of the commander without accompanying comment. If the proper result is reached, the commander will usually recognize it at once. If the commander wants comment or explanation, she or he will ask for it.
The theory of completed staff work does not preclude a rough draft, but the rough draft must not be a half-baked idea. It must be complete in every respect except that it lacks the requisite number of copies and need not be neat. But a rough draft must not be an excuse for shifting to the commander the burden of formulating the action.
The completed staff work theory may result in more work for the staff member but it results in more freedom for the commander. This is as it should be. Further, it accomplishes two things:
- The commander is protected from half-baked ideas, voluminous memos, and immature oral presentations.
- The staff member who has a real idea to sell is enabled more readily to find a market.
When you have finished your completed staff work the final test is this:
If you were the commander would you be willing to sign the paper you have prepared, and stake your professional reputation on its being right?
If the answer is no, take it back and work it over, because it is not yet completed staff work.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
A close friend and colleague, Dr. George Lehner, developed these guidelines a number of years ago. They hold up, they are tough to execute consistently, but doing so makes each of us better. I'll share just a short summary of George's guidelines. If you want more detail, feel free to contact me.
- Focus feedback on behavior rather than the person.
- Focus feedback on observations rather than inferences.
- Focus feedback on description rather than judgment.
- Focus feedback on descriptions of behavior which are in terms of "more or less" rather than in terms of "either-or."
- Focus feedback on behavior related to a specific situation, preferably to the "here and now," rather than to behavior in the abstract, which places it in the "there and then."
- Focus feedback on the sharing of ideas and information, rather than on giving advice.
- Focus feedback on the exploration of alternatives, rather than answers or solutions.
- Focus feedback on the value it may provide for the recipient, rather than the value or "release" it provides the person giving the feedback.
- Focus feedback in the amount of information that the person receiving it can user, rather than on the amount that you have which you might like to give.
- Focus feedback in time and place, so that personal data can be shared at appropriate times.
- Focus feedback on what is said rather than why it is said.
Friday, March 07, 2008
- Everyday, you need to make your expectations clear.
- Everyday, you need to check for understanding.
- Everyday, you need to use every contact and an opportunity to improve team performance and morale.
- Coach team members.
- Encourage good behavior and honest effort.
- Correct what needs correcting.
- Counsel those who need it.
- Everyday, you need to do the hard work of weeding out the unfit and the unwilling.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
- Be legitimately interested.
- Avoid planning counterarguments.
- Be honest about your time.
- Accept the speaker's point of view.
- Use body language, eye contact and repetition.
- Go beyond words.
- Get rid of distractions.
- Be aware of your history with the speaker.
- Ask questions.
- Watch and learn from the "good listener."