Leadership: Management Team Network

This article is designed to provide guidance for managers who are involved in leading the strategic direction of their organisations. Here we look at the actions that successful leaders must take in order to create and establish a management teams network to successfully support the organisation’s strategies.

Establishing An Appropriate Organisational Structure, by: considering the strategic direction and objectives of the organisation; considering the desired organisational culture; identifying the critical activity areas of the organisation; deciding on an appropriate organisational structure. This is an essential first step. Before any changes or new directions can be taken the leaders must decide on an organisational structure that will support the strategic direction being taken, and an organisational culture that they will be aiming to create. The management teams network that is then put in place will be compatible with the structure and contribute to developing the desired culture.

Deciding On A Management Teams Structure, by; planning a network of management teams to match the requirements identified in the previous activity; agreeing individual team structure; agreeing individual team objectives, roles, responsibilities, size, location, resource needs; identifying team member and team leader profiles for each management team. The planning undertaken here will provide the template for the new structure, when implemented. This planning is best carried out as a factual, needs based, exercise. The role of the team, and its objectives, should be allowed to dictate size, location, team leader and team member profiles. Resource implications should be dealt with after the structure has been agreed. Existing and potential personnel should be assessed against these only at the next stage, when the teams are populated. Option 1: Assessing Existing Teams, by: identifying existing management teams; analysing the objectives of existing teams; evaluating the performance of existing teams; evaluating the performance of individual team leaders; comparing each management team profile with the newly defined requirements. In many, if not most, organisations this will be necessary due to legislative constraints and-or ethical considerations. However, the existing teams are unlikely to be appropriate, other than in part, and the outcomes of this action will simply identify what are likely to be major gaps and changes that will need to be made, in order to match the new requirements. Option 2: Removing Existing Teams, by: removing the old structure completely. This option is the most effective – a total reengineering - but the most radical. If possible, this is the better option, as the organisation can make the changes required to most appropriately match the new strategic direction, and move forward unhindered by partially or wholly unsuitable management teams.

Implementing The New Management Teams Network, by: providing information about the changes to all affected - in most organisations this will mean at all levels and both internally and externally; selecting team leaders and team members; establishing the teams in their locations; training each team in its new role, responsibilities, objectives, and operational activities; providing appropriate resources for each team; launching the new network into active service. A critical stage, this needs to be managed as a major change activity, and as a major project. An executive level manager should be appointed to oversee the changes. Communication with all stakeholders - who will be many, at many levels, and both internal and external to the organisation – will need to be managed carefully.

Implementing A Management Team Performance System, by: designing a rigorous teams performance appraisal system; monitoring the performance of individual teams; taking appropriate corrective action where when necessary. Many organisations operate an effective employee appraisal system, but this usually only applies to operational employees and junior managers. Middle and Senior managers must also be appraised on a regular basis, ideally more frequently than operational employees, as the managers’ actions usually have greater negative or positive impact. This line of thinking must also be applied to management teams, because of the degree of influence and impact of the team collective decisions and actions. The leaders of the organisation must be continuously aware of the performance levels of their management teams, and take action to maintain or raise that performance level as necessary. Implementing a performance appraisal and continuous improvement approach to the network of management teams is vital. In the early stages of the life of the teams the focus will be on awareness and understanding of the objectives of the team, and identifying training and development needs to support new or adjusted roles. As the team grows and matures, the monitoring will focus firstly on consistency of performance, and then on supporting a continuous improvement in that performance. At all stages in the life cycle of each team, performance appraisal must be a regular and visible process.

Network Review And Refresh, by: arranging regular reviews of the appropriateness of the management teams network; assessing the suitability of each part of the network against newer versions of the strategic objectives; assessing the structure of the network against the current organisational structure and culture; making appropriate changes to individual components and-or the overall structure of the network. A major review should be held every year, as a key part of the review and adjustment of strategies and objectives in the annual strategic planning process. At this review point minor or major changes should be agreed, to adjust the network so that it continues to match the requirements dictated by the refreshed strategic and operational objectives. In addition, the condition of the management teams network should be an agenda item on at least quarterly executive level meetings, where corrective action can be decided on where necessary.

In Summary: establishing a compatible management teams structure is an essential first step in ensuring that the organisation’s strategies are implemented successfully. Without a robust network of management teams, appropriate to the size and complexity of the organisation and its strategic objectives, the strategic and operational objectives will not be achieved. Effective management teams are the driving force behind the achievement of objectives. This network cannot be successful if it is weak or flawed. It is the role of the leaders of the organisation to ensure that the management teams network is strong, dynamic, and focused on achieving its objectives, in its individual parts and collectively.

About the author
CJ Williams is a tutor and management consultant currently working with Brighton School of Business and Management in the UK, specialising in Business and Management courses taught via distance learning. The writer, CJ Williams, can be contacted via http://www.brightonsbm.com

Smart Management - The Next Best Thing To Cloning Yourself

Business management can be both exciting and frustrating: sometimes both at the same time. Hopefully, you’ve got more of the exciting and less of the frustrating, but in any case, there are things that you can do to make life in the office more pleasurable for you and your staff.

Let’s look at the roots of excitement and frustration. Excitement comes when you capitalize on opportunity, things go right, and you claim the reward for a job well done. Frustration comes from the opposite.

If you’ve read our articles in the past, you know that we’re firm believers in setting up the right environment first. (We’re including systems, procedures, tools, knowledge, etc. as part of the environment.) And plugging people into that environment comes second. So often, when a decision maker is frustrated, it’s the result of working with people first (morale-building activities, teamwork sessions, incentive programs, etc.), then working on the environment as almost an afterthought. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wrong, because when basic needs go unmet, people can’t perform the most basic of tasks…even with help, even with teamwork, even with incentives. Take a talented graphic artist and sit him in front of a TV instead of a computer for 8 hours. Will he produce print-ready artwork? Will he if you cheerlead, ask him to express his feelings, or give him a better health insurance program? He may want to do the job, but he needs the right tools to do his job. Would you expect an emaciated, starving dog to eagerly fetch a paper? Maybe with a steak rolled in it, but his mind is on eating, not on playing games.

Sure, there are times when you want your staff to work interdependently, meaning together to get the job done. Then there are times when you want them to be able to use their heads, make the right decisions, fix minor problems (ideally prevent most problems before they occur), and leave you to do the planning and strategizing so you can move your firm forward. Again, that all boils down to the environment that you build, foster, and refine.

Furthermore, the steps you learn here, if applied, will build productivity and self-sufficiency from upper-level management straight through to your front line. Be patient with yourself and others. Every person has his own body of knowledge and experiences to draw from, and every person will have a different learning curve. The important thing to acknowledge is that the shift to thinking and functioning independently is an ongoing process.

For example, an executive from Carrier Air Conditioning (United Technologies Corp.) once said that when he first started with the firm, he only saw what was happening around him, yet he thought he understood the bigger picture. When he was promoted to a more senior position, he noticed that he learned so much more as his skills were expanded by the corporation. When he moved higher yet, his picture expanded once again, and he was surprised at what he used to think of as being informed. It's like mountain climbing; the higher you climb the more you see. Good education of management places individuals at higher ground, and it shows them what to do with the larger picture that they're seeing.

Here are some ways that you can elevate your perspective and bring subordinates to higher ground:

1. Build a structure that facilitates success. There's a point in any growing business where our ideas must be passed on to managers to follow out the requests and needs of the corporation. Building a structure in terms of operational and organizational design will allow for the most powerful management control. Think of it in terms of an office building. Some facilitate people working well together, and others add to confusion. The key is to enable the manager to navigate his or her course and complete the mission without disruption. The right structure is the environment that fosters employee success.

2. Supply your managers with management tools. It's just like a computer. In order for it to function, one needs hardware, software and “humanware.” For management, hardware might mean computers, intranet and extranets, scanners, cars, voicemail, budgets, etc. On the software side, it may mean spreadsheets and operational software. For humanware, the tools may be strategic and tactical, new product and service development, alliance development, leadership, competitive intelligence, globalism, economics, understanding trends, or reading financials.

3. Learn to coach and educate people properly. Do you ever sit down with management or employees after you've made a decision and explain to them in detail HOW you came to that decision? How can we expect employees to think and act like management, if we don't teach them the background data? It's not enough to say you made the decision. The listener most likely does not have your scope of knowledge. Tell your managers that you purchased a piece of equipment, because of 14 elements—from good sales and cash flow to a large order you think may be secured. Explain to them why you fired Linda. She was often late, her numbers were well under what you expect, there were issues of harassment, and poor use of company time. The more your employees know HOW you're thinking, the more you can assist them when they make decisions. And when you aren’t there to hold their hands, they can draw upon the experiences you’ve ../shared with them in order to make the sound choices.

4. Educate your managers about the tools you use to be successful. Then, ask them to share the tools they use. The exchange can be a real eye opener. Ooops, you do it off the top of your head! Then expect your employees to do the same. Empowerment is more than letting people go. To avoid let downs and costly mistakes, empower your people by giving them the knowledge and though processes to be successful. Imagine if you got a call from Steven Spielberg today and he said, “(Insert your name here) you've been given you the authority to produce my next Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Most of us would be clueless without guidance and some structure. Make sure you’re giving both to your people.

The final and most important element to getting management to think on their own is to do all of the above and then GET OUT OF THE WAY! Give people some space to learn alone, to experiment and experience, and to learn their own lessons. When you step back and let others do their jobs, you tell them that you trust them. Your trust, combined with a success-breeding environment and tempered guidance, builds their confidence, their minds, and their abilities as leaders and managers. That's how people learn to think on their own.

About the author
David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of a firm that offers consulting and speaking services internationally. David was named by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the “26 Hottest Speakers in the Industry.” A best selling author characterized David in this manner; "David Goldsmith is unique in that he can see a 30,000 feet view of business and then delivers the hand-to-hand tools for combat. Few people can do what he does." More information at http://www.keynoteresource.com/

How Do I Manage Projects Better

Efficient project management is an ace in the executive card deck. That’s because everything you do is a project. Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way before. Let’s say you operate a shipping terminal for Con-Way Central Express and you need the place cleaned up. It's a project. Your reasons: a dirty dock is a potential OSHA nightmare and proper order brings better profits. If you turn to your staff and say clean it, they will do it their way. Good or bad, the results are unpredictable. If you attack the cleanup as a project, you may find operational efficiencies that will get everyone home for dinner or keep the place clean enough that you don’t have to do the overhaul again in the future. The same could be said for putting on a conference, implementing new hardware, running a new product development group (NPDG), or developing a new marketing video.
Many of today’s successful leaders recognize how project-management methods and software keep them ahead of the competition by shortening work time, eliminating errors, coordinating staff, and achieving predictable reliable results. That’s why the project-management industry has exploded in recent years. What automation was to the manufacturing floor is what project management is to the managerial office. Yet most companies are still behind the times in this area, handling projects as linear events. Whether you want to keep pace, work in a group environment, or rocket past your competition, project management tools help it happen.
Massachusetts research firm, The Standish Group, found that in 1994 the overall project success rate was 16.7% and by 1998 that rose to 26%. (Fortune 500 companies only came in at 24%.) Not so good, but illustrates how project-management has improved success rates. How does your company measure up?
Project management is now addressed and taught as a specialized business tool. Project-management software is also gaining popularity, just as PowerPoint did to presentation development. When projects are successfully completed, the company can move forward into other profitable areas. On the other hand, when projects must be scrapped, the time, money, and human resources that were invested to date are also scrapped. The costs of unsuccessful projects can’t be measured properly, because no one can accurately calculate the costs of lost opportunities.
One advantage is that computer technology and software prevent elements from falling through the cracks. They enhance the tracking of plans and improve the communication among people working on projects. In the past, one change in a project meant that all other areas had to be manually changed and everyone notified. Not anymore. Quite often manual systems also missed elements due to human error, causing snags in the project. Current technology will automatically send a change in one area to other areas for automatic adjustments. For example, when engineers make a change to a product feature that affects how the packaging must be designed, the industrial designers know immediately and can begin making adjustments to packaging design. If one arm of the project needs an additional week to complete a task, other arms of the project are automatically adjusted and due dates are changed accordingly.
Want to bring your company up to speed? For starters:
§ Spread it around. Recognize that project management is used in every area of your business, from how the exterior grounds are maintained to how the phones are answered. Don’t limit project management to specific departments or programs.
§ Morph. Instead of being a task “doer,” become a project manager. Change how you look at activities like purchasing new equipment, building new offices, expanding product lines, creating media campaigns, putting on trade shows, or developing new manuals.
§ Take charge. Ask yourself whether you manage projects or if projects manage you? Do projects end on time, on budget, and with the results you expect? If not, it’s time to execute the right way, and that comes with educating yourself.
§ Map out a plan. Successful projects require good planning. Planning allows you to think the process through and to cover all bases before you move money and people.
The Project Management Institute ( www.pmi.org) is one of the fastest growing associations in the country. PMI is ideal for project managers, but executives can find useful learning material here, as well. Decision makers, get your education from taking the time to read two types of books. Awareness books, such as The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt (very good read), teach project-management concepts and ideas minus the how-to lesson. To learn the gritty facts, try how-to books such as The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management or Operations Management for Competitive Advantage Richard B. Chase, Nicholas J. Aquilano and F. Robert Jacobs. (It's an 800-page textbook, so be ready.)
The key here is to avoid getting bogged down with too much of the "process." You want to use the tools and the concepts that the tools exploit. Project-management courses are also available at local colleges. Do your homework before buying to make sure you’re getting more information than you would have gleaned from reading a couple of books on your own. Some institutions offer certification as well, like Villanova University ’s four PM-certified courses. Work at your own pace and never leave your desk.
Also, here are three tools you might consider for managing projects better:
1. Limited budget solution. CPM (Critical Path Method) Charts that can be built on any spreadsheet program such as Excel. By using your drawing tools, you can create a plan that allows others to know the direction in which you're building the project.
2. Packaged inexpensive software solutions. Microsoft Project: The number-one, most-used project-management tool in the world with several million copies sold. It is primarily a Gantt Chart builder, but one that can be used in teams. (A Gantt Chart is a mechanism that organizes and tracks a project’s progress, including dates, resources, and accountabilities.) One change in a project will alter everything and unfortunately the "best laid plans" change. The program, like so many software programs, automatically makes adjustments of single changes by carrying them throughout the plan so that you don't have to go back and make all the adjustments manually. This is a great low-end-collaboration software program. To supplement its use, pick up Ron Black’s book, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management with Microsoft Project 2000.
3. More extensive alternatives. Primavera: Another widely used software program that enables you to easily manage multiple projects in much the same way you would manage individual projects. HP and Compaq use this software to manage many of the IT projects they coordinate and develop. Big teams, big projects, big results.
When you recognize that every function in your business is a project to be managed, you see how important it is to be a strong project manager. Give yourself a new homework assignment, and learn a new project-management tool. It should save you time and money, because good planning helps avoid crises early. Your employees will like knowing what’s expected of them now and in the future. Any you’ll all be happy to have a good road map to find your destination. Although it sounds too good to be true, it can become a reality. Just stack the deck in your favor by improving your project management skills.

About the author
David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of a firm that offers consulting and speaking services internationally. David was named by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the “26 Hottest Speakers in the Industry.” A best selling author characterized David in this manner; "David Goldsmith is unique in that he can see a 30,000 feet view of business and then delivers the hand-to-hand tools for combat. Few people can do what he does." More information at http://www.keynoteresource.com/

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