Follow this Recipe for Better Results
Summer in Kansas City is the time to smoke, grill and barbecue. The other day I was putting together my special rib sauce and it occurred to me that cooking is a lot like managing. Cooking when you have a great recipe is a lot easier – and the results are consistently better if you’re following a plan and executing it flawlessly. My sauce recipe helps me stay focused and ensures a better outcome. Every time I think I can whip up my sauce without the recipe, I find myself leaving out an ingredient, not measuring properly or forgetting to watch it closely as it simmers.
Likewise, managing without a plan is hard. We operate in a people business and people can be messy. As a department Manager, you deal with varying personalities, mood swings and all of the other parts of a business that can be challenging, to say the least.
With this in mind, have you ever seen the manager that just seems to get results? No matter what they try, it just seems to work. Do they have a better plan or do they just do a better job with the plans they have? Granted, some plans or ideas are better than others, but even the best plans don’t stand a chance without proper communication and follow up. That’s the secret sauce – the key to their success.
At NCM Associates, we believe in Six Primary Elements of Effective Accountability Management. These elements are the foundation of solid business planning and will help you achieve any goal with greater ease. If you’re struggling to implement or execute your next plan, review these elements and become a better manager.
Plan your work and work your plan.
Do you have a plan for your department? Many managers come to work each day only to have the day rule them. I understand that circumstances come up and we must handle them, but do you take time to work “on” your business, not just “in” your business? A well-thought-out game plan is the first step. Decide what your goal is. Then you must plan the steps to get you there.
Is your plan written out? Well-written plans that are quantified will help keep you on track. This will serve as the roadmap towards your objectives. Quantification is used to put a dollar figure to your plan. This will justify why your efforts are worthwhile.
Clearly define and communicate your expectations.
Once you’ve thought through and written down your plan and are ready to take action to work the plan, the next step is to get everyone “on board” with the plan. We can’t be a one-person show. We must multiply our efforts through our staff. Oftentimes this is a point of failure. We think everyone understood what we said, but really, they didn’t. We may have spent a few days or even weeks thinking up and planning the new initiative and paying close attention to every detail. Then, when we go to launch it, we hold a “mandatory” meeting and in an hour expect everyone to be on board. Take time to do a better job getting their buy-in and then define their roles in very clear ways, with measureable expectations and deadlines.
Measure what you intend to manage.
What are the key components of the plan? How do you know if it’s working? The bottom line is that all plans must be measurable. Many times, good plans fade away, largely because people just can’t tell if they’re working. If you do a good job measuring results, now you will know if the plan is gaining traction and getting the results that you desire. As you see these results improving, it will help keep your attention and focus on the plan.
But how do you keep the team focused on the plan? Why not scoreboard it? In a common departmental area, away from customers, place a large whiteboard and start displaying the measureable results. Then every day, post the results. If the results aren’t what you desire, this will serve as a forum to bring the team into alignment with the needed actions to make the improvements. If the results are progressing as planned, use this as a celebration and encouragement tool. People love to see the score, to know if they are winning or not. Use their inner competitive desire to your advantage.
Inspect what you expect.
Now that you have a measurement tool in place, you need to inspect what you expect. Results will not just happen. If you’ve done a good job developing the plan, communicating the plan and deciding how you will measure the results, now you must inspect the activities that need to happen on a daily basis to end up with the desired results.
Do your associates know that you will be inspecting results and that you are committed to the plan? Or do they think it is just another whim that will quickly lose steam and fade away? For plans to work long-term, you must continually inspect what you expect.
Reward positive results and respond appropriately to negative results.
We believe that positive behavior that’s rewarded will be repeated and negative behavior that’s not effectively addressed will, likewise, be repeated.
Life is a balance; work should be a balance also. All too often we don’t hear anything about our performance or give feedback about our staff’s performance. Good or bad, it just seems to go unnoticed. That’s until someone does one too many bad things; then the hammer falls. We unload all of the built-up issues we haven’t addressed along the way. This outpouring of negative information hits them like a ton of bricks, whether it’s deserved or not.
Why do we do this? Doesn’t it make more sense to give consistent feedback for both positive and negative performance? If someone isn‘t following procedure, don’t we have the responsibility to let them know when it happens so that they can take corrective action? Just as important, when we find someone doing things right, isn’t that the best time to praise them? Employees feed off of this praise and usually try to do things right. Unfortunately, we all too often don’t communicate — and reinforce the behavior, whether right or wrong. Timely feedback will help keep your plan on track.
Develop and implement a systemic structure.
Dissimilar people operating within the same systemic structure will produce similar results. Are you process-oriented? Everyone has their own viewpoints and biases. A systemic structure will help keep everyone on the right track – your track. Set up processes to help you reach your goal. Once your processes are in place, you will need to consistently train, monitor and enhance these processes. You have to remember that processes will not survive on their own. They just seem to disappear over time.
This is commonly known as process evaporation. We hear explanations like, “We used to do it that way, but now we don’t. There was no real reason for the change — it just happened.” The only way to combat this is to continuously work on the processes. The processes must become part of your culture!
The next time you’re getting ready to launch that new initiative, take a few minutes to review these six elements. Taking these into account early in the process will help you achieve every goal quicker, with more ease and better results. That sounds like a recipe for success for any manager.