Management Quick-start Guide

Occasionally I write something at work that I feel like is worth sharing. Here is something I typed up for a friend that could be valuable to others (edited)….

You have a first-time manager of a department who isn’t pushing his/her team towards any goals yet. Here is a quick 4-step guide to help get that manager and their team oriented around goal setting and delivering value to the company. It is reasonable to expect a presentation on this from the new manager to you, and then to the team, and finally to stakeholders of the department.

1) Define the goals of the department, and the roles and responsibilities of each discipline.

Start at the highest level, by answering the following:

  • Why does this department exist in the company (purpose statement)?
  • How do disciplines that fall under this department come together to support this purpose?
  • What goals should be set for each area or discipline under this department to achieve the purpose?

Now, define the responsibilities that need to exist to achieve those area-level or discipline-level goals. i.e. List responsibilities as action statements that support the goal.

Then, define the roles that are needed to own those responsibilities. A single person can hold multiple roles, so don’t limit yourself around existing personnel or titles.

Finally, define the values and traits that need to exist in the people that fill these roles. Yes — actual humans fill roles, so understanding the dynamics of people, skills, and emotional intelligence is important. <insert future article about why I dislike Holacracy>

2) Define success metrics for each role based on their responsibilities.

Help the people filling roles understand how they will succeed at delivering on the purpose. Convert the goals to SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals that become each roles’ success metrics. Define a measurable target for each goal. Think through and discuss the following with your team:

  • How do you know today when you are succeeding (assuming there are existing roles and responsibilities)?
  • Looking at your defined SMART goals, how does each role know they are succeeding?
  • Look again. Are your goals going to drive results that meet you departments purpose? How do you measure against your purpose too?

Adjust the goals as needed to meet SMART goal requirements and to ensure you are delivering on the departmental purpose — which in turn supports the company objectives.

3) Define the processes that lead to success and the achievement of the goals.

Now that you have a clear understanding of your team’s goals and how to measure success, it is time to gain a clear understanding of processes.

Review the existing process of the department. Every process, at its core, is designed to either deliver a result (add value) or reduce a risk (reduce cost). Ask the following:

  • What is each current process designed for?
  • Who are the people involved in the process, and why?
  • Where do things slow down, or get blocked regularly?
  • Do these processes support your goals?

There is a lot to dig into in process improvement practices. Lots of techniques can be helpful, but the important aspect here is getting to a simple confirmation that the processes in place support your purpose. If they don’t, then you have work to do.

4) Assign the appropriate check points to each goal.

You have processes that hopefully support the goals, so its time to frame the check-in points where you can assess if they are working. These check-ins should retrospect on the progress, and address people and process issues that are preventing you from achieving the goals. To define check-in points, ask the following:

  1. How often do you need to check the metrics?
  2. How do the metrics need to be communicated to be consumed by key people?
  3. What will you do if you are off target? How off target do you have to be to do it?
  4. What will you do if you are on target, or exceeding it?

Defining up-front how you will measure, learn, and adjust can be critical. It is far too easy to get caught up in the daily grind. You need to define simple ways to address issues and successes. Yes, both — change direction when things are bad, and double down when things are good.

Anywho — that’s my short guide that’s specific to goal setting. I hope it’s helpful to someone starting out on the management path. See also: motivation, people development, and other important aspects of leading a team of people.

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