“Basics for Managers”
Louis had been tapped as one of his company’s up and coming stars so they promoted him to vice president eight months ago. He knows the business inside out and his technical skills are out of this world. But things aren’t going well. Three of his division’s best people have left, deadlines aren’t being met and profits are way down.
His boss still has high hopes for Louis and isn’t about to give up. So she sent in a consultant to interview Louis’ staff and root out the problem. All eleven people shared a similar sentiment: We don’t know why we’re doing what we do and we don’t get feedback on how we’re doing. If Louis is unhappy or happy, we never know. We’re shooting in the dark. And it’s frustrating.
Louis is not unlike a lot of managers. He doesn’t understand one of the most fundamental needs of people: that they want to matter. They want to be an integral part of something. They attach meaning to their work. And they can only have this if they understand the impact of their work.
But so much focus is being put on getting the job done in Louis’ division–as well as most companies–that this human need gets overlooked and good work isn’t getting done.
If people are going to do good work, they need to know five things, says Tony Manning, author of Making Sense of Strategy They need to know:
What to do. What’s the task?
Why to do it. What’s the reason and the implications?
How to do the task. What’s the method for getting it done?
How well to do it. What are the standards to be working towards?
How well they are doing. What are the results?
If you are a manager, do you place most of your attention on the task and how to get it done? You might hold regular meetings, but is the focus to update everyone on who’s doing what and what’s not getting done?
Although more companies are reasonably clear about “how well,” to do the task, says Manning, most managers fall down in “helping people understand ‘why’ and in giving them feedback on ‘how well they’re doing.'” As a result, things aren’t getting done as well as they need to.
Getting things done is a massive problem, Manning says, “not because people are idiots, don’t want to work, or don’t know what to do, but rather because they don’t know why their work is important.”
Look at Louis and his staff. By not offering feedback and setting the context for their work, people felt lost and discouraged. Once Louis discovered how much this affected productivity he gave people the missing piece of the puzzle: the “why” and the “how they were doing.” He started having strategic conversations with people.
This kind of conversation is no accident, says Manning. It’s a matter of talking about the right issues in the right way to the right people. That’s when extraordinary things happen.