Thursday, August 30, 2012

Team: Management

In previous posts I have stated that managers must form a management team.  Let me explain today, why and how.

The easy and almost obvious answer to 'why' is that a good team achieves more than the achievement of the sum of its parts.  By that logic, a management team should achieve more than the single managers will achieve, trying to manage their organizations.  I believe this is true!  Why is that, you ask?  Communication is one of the main factors yet again.  Consider some of the tasks of managers: setting goals and constraints for their teams, structuring the organization they are responsible for, budgetary issues.  It is very obvious that close coordination amongst the managers for these issues is not only helpful but mandatory.  All managers will have a common goal for these tasks and should exchange status information as well as actually work together at common approaches.  This, to me, is the basic definition of a team: have a common goal and help each other to reach it.  A management team clearly makes sense. 

In fact, I think a management team is even mandatory if the organization has a matrix structure, i.e. if the various cross-functional teams each have members that report to different managers.  (Actually, I prefer to say: are assigned to different managers.  Reporting is mostly a relic from the command and control management style that shows how little other communication between manager and employee exists and that the manager does not trust his employees.  But this is not the topic of this post).  Teams with multiple managers is not an ideal situation but is still often used and sometimes not avoidable.  In such a case it is crucial that the managers speak with one voice to the teams. Even small differences in describing goals can cause unnecessary confusion and can keep a team from going into one direction.  And the level of delegation used by the managers towards a self-organized team must also be aligned.  If the managers have a different opinion on what a team gets to decide and what is still in the authority of the manager, then the team will never be able to organize their own work.  How could they?  They do not know what they are allowed to decide for themselves.

I truly believe that people are good and honest as default and do not try to abuse a system.  But given the option between two positions presented them, they still will often take the most convenient for them.  So, two managers whose postions are not aligned, will allow a team to go from one to the other, hoping to get a more convenient opinion or decision.  All you parents out there know this: If Mom doesn't let me do something I'll go to Dad, maybe I get lucky there.  Just like parents, managers need to send messages that are at least compatible if they are not the same.

Working as a team is often hard for managers.  One reason is that they sometimes see each other as competition rather than fellow team member.  Instead of helping, the manager will try to look good in comparison to his (her) peers and only follows his personal goals rather than the management team's goals.  Upper management must make sure to not give competing goals to managers.  Actually, I think it is best if the managers have the same goals or even better a common management team goal.

So, how can management achieve the team work that is necessary to speak with one voice to the employees?  Pretty much the same way that we expect all teams to work:

1. The goal must be clear.  Upper management must give the management team a common goal.  Or, alternatively, the management team decides on their own goal. What do we as a management team want to achieve? Delivery of a project / product can be a goal, but growing a team of employees so they can take on different work or increase their quality may even be better goals for management.

2. Hold regular meetings to determine if the goal is still right for the management team and plan how the management team will work to get closer to achieving the goal.

3. Use cadences to be able to track your success in achieving milestones to your goal.  Plan the cadences.

4.Visualize the tasks you as a team plan to do and let the whole organization see the visualization.  Such transparency will increase the trust the employees have in management.

5. Communication is key - meet daily to exchange information and coordinate your communication to the teams/employees.

If you have other methods to work as a management team, tell me - I would love to learn more about it. How do you make sure that management speaks with one voice to the employees?

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