Measuring Management

Managers spend much of their time measuring – market share, year on year sales, voids, arrears, return on investment, customer satisfaction, orders fulfilled, calls handled per hour, orders placed, orders fulfilled (again), total invoiced, hours billed, attendance, productivity per employee etc

Why the obsession with measuring stuff?

Because it gives us the data to recognise what has changed, what needs to change, and when we make the change – whether it has had the impact we planned.

But none of these metrics are about US – the manager.  They are all about the performance of the system and the people that we manage.  And this often lets us of the hook for making real change in the way we manage.

What if we measured some more personal aspects of our management efforts?

  • how much time we spend listening in 121 conversation with team members
  • how many times we give REAL feedback – affirmative and adjusting – each day/week
  • how often we make sarcastic or cynical comments
  • how many times we interrupt others mid-sentence
  • how often we check our blackberry in meetings
  • how often we talk about values and vision
  • the amount of time we spend in meetings that are inefficient or worse
  • how many coaching contracts we put in place with our team members
  • what percentage of coaching contracts achieved their goals
  • how many significant tasks we genuinely delegated (rather than then allocated) because they provide great development opportunities
  • percentage of working time allocated to pursuing key objectives
  • how often we acknowledge our own development opportunities and make planned conscious change in our behaviours

I am convinced that if we started to measure our own personal performance in relation to some of these more personal aspects of management, most of us would we would pretty quickly get some powerful data on what we needed to change.  Measurement would also pretty quickly confront us with the fact that our perceptions of our performance are markedly different from reality.

As we make planned changes based on measurements of our own personal behaviours we will soon see a very positive impact in some of the more traditional areas where measurement prevails.  The act of measurement itself would also increase the likelihood of planned changes being implemented and seen through.  That after all is perhaps the main reason why we measure.

To make sure that important things get done.

Conscripts, mercenaries, and volunteers

Willing volunteers outperform conscripts and mercenaries every time. They are more innovative and creative as well more diligent and disciplined.

Volunteers have bought into a mission and a purpose rather then been bought into it.

Much of the private sector is struggling with how to turn salaried staff from conscripts and mercenaries into volunteers. Finding ways to engage them in the work of the organisation. To provide them with fulfilling and rewarding work.

Much of the public and third sector seems to be taking almost exactly the opposite path. It finds ways to turn passionate and caring volunteers (people who have bought into the mission) into conscripts and mercenaries. This is achieved by:

  • making them servants of the system rather than servants of their customers
  • imposing performance management systems that often fail to recognise quality service delivery
  • entering into inflexible and output related contracts for service delivery that shrink opportunities for innovation and improvement
  • managing them as if they are units of production rather than as caring and compassionate people full of insights into how to improve performance.

It is a strange paradox that many private sector clients are making genuine efforts at developing employee engagement in pursuit of profits while so many third sector and public sector organisations are developing processes and systems that alienate employees and volunteers in pursuit of efficiency.

Building a High Performing Team – Part 2 – Anticipate Conflicts

Organisation divides people. It sets up conflict:

  • Who does what? – task conflicts
  • How do we get this done? – process conflicts
  • Who gets what? – resource conflicts

Failure to anticipate, recognise and resolve these conflicts leads to the most dangerous conflicts of all – personal conflicts.

Two people in conflict can usually both make a plausible case for their position. You can of course handle these conflicts just by issuing a decree. However the value of a high performing team, and the measure of your ability to manage it is in getting a decision that has allowed everyone to have their say, for pros and cons to be fully explored and for commitment to making the decision work to be built.

Handled like this, conflicts become powerful team building tools as people start to recognise that the group can make better decisions than any one individual and that no one person has all the information required to make the best decision.

Building the Social System for High Performance

Whenever you see an organisation doing something consistently well, you can be sure that there is an effective social system behind it. The social system is made up of both a hard and a soft landscape. The hard landscape is that of meetings, information flows and decision making processes. The soft landscape is to do with behaviours, attitudes, values, respect and commitment.

Effective managers recognise their role in developing both the hard and soft landscapes of the social system – but recognise that it is the soft landscape – the way people and teams work together that really drives culture and performance.

When trying to initiate change, less effective managers work on the hard landscape. They change the organisational structure, replace key people or alter what is measured and rewarded. While such changes maybe necessary, they are NEVER sufficient.

It is the interactions between people that need to be changed, the information flows and the decision making processes. If people are not having the right discussions or behaving in ways that drive values and performance then the managers’ job is to influence them to adopt different ‘value creating’ behaviours.

In most cases this can be done using feedback. In other cases it may require more concerted efforts at coaching for the desired behaviours.

Recognising and shaping the behaviours that drive values and performance is the hallmark of an outstanding manager.

The social system changes and enables the organisation to perform consistently well because managers use mechanisms that ensure that the right conversations happen consistently and frequently. These conversations improve the quality of decision making and encourage behaviours in people’s every day work to accomplish the elusive goal of culture change.

Sue Wiley on Why and How PMN Works for Her

Renew Banner

Sue Wylie is the office manager at re’new in Leeds.

She has attended four PMN workshops and has used much of what we have covered in her work.  In this podcast she talks about PMN and how it works for her.

Sue explains why;

  • she thought she would never have enough time for 121s – but now would not be without them, and
  • how 121s actually save her time and avoid interruptions in her working day
  • how the principles and practices have driven progress in her team
  • the impact that 121s with her manager have had in her

You can listen to the podcast here.


Many thanks Sue!

If you have attended PMN training and benefitted from it, and would like to make a podcast with me – just let me know!  You could become an iTunes star!

Set the Foundations

The Mavericks at Work blog reminds us that all the:



mass collaboration



MySpace-ing and



in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t already have some very persuasive answers to some very basic questions:


  • What ideas are we fighting for?

  • What do we see that the competition doesn’t?

  • How are we rethinking our business every day?

The Team Building Away Day – And Why They Never Work


“In order to strengthen the concept of team working and/or cross sector team working, part of the awarding authority’s training budget is allocated to teams/regions for development days out of the office. Corporate training days for all the awarding authority’s staff are also held three times per annum, with the aim of promoting communication and sharing …”

I see this sort of thing on an almost daily basis – and it drives me mad!

An ‘authority’ with silos and poor cross-sectoral working thinking things will be fixed with some time out of the office teambuilding.

When teams start solving problems involving planks, barrels, rafts, pretend minefields/alligators/swamps and so on, team work will come shining through, because it will be incentivised, praised and rewarded. Trainers will look for behaviours that lead to good teamwork and cross departmental collaboration (open, honest communication, good listening etc) and will reward these behaviours with affirming feedback, praise and a warm cup of Bovril. Behaviours that undermine good teamwork will attract adjusting feedback and suggestions for behaviours that might work better. Team performance will be compared and clear winners and losers will be established – and no-one will want to lose.

The trainers will do what good managers would be doing every day. Observing what people do, comparing it to what the organisations requires from them and providing feedback and coaching.

Instead of burning the training budget with expensive off-sites and corporate training days the ‘authority’ should invest in setting up a process for clarifying the kinds of behaviours and outcomes that it wants to see in the organisation.

It should then set up a rigorous system of supervision and support (121s) so that every employee gets weekly feedback and coaching designed to encourage the desired behaviours and discourage the rest.

For a fraction of the cost of these ‘offsites’ the desired behaviours would become prevalent throughout the organisation within 6 months.


So the next time you find yourself asking your training department to set up a Team Building away day – just ask yourself if there might not be a better, more systematic and cost effective way of getting the results that you want.

Or better still – give me a call!

5 Minute Management Breakthroughs

Exactly how much can you as a manager achieve in 5 minutes? The truth is that for many managers, 5 minutes is more than enough time to create a management breakthrough – to transform (at least temporarily) the nature of their relationship with the people that they manage.

So here are some ideas:

Find Out What Matters

Spend 5 minutes with each member of your team, and ask them about the things that matter most in their life. When you know what really matters to people and provide management that reflects these priorities the working relationship is transformed.

Try this: “I’d like to know a bit more about you. Can you take a few minutes to tell me about the things that are most important to you at the moment?”

The response might be initially work oriented or not. If it is work oriented try a follow up question such as “And what about outside of work? What things are important to you there?”

A small minority of people will not be happy talking to you about non work related stuff. Most will be thrilled that you want to spend a bit of time finding out about them as people rather than employees.  If you are using weekly 121s this is a great theme to explore on a regular basis.

Recognise the Good Stuff

The vast majority of things that happen in the vast majority of organisations are overwhelmingly good.  However as managers we learn to focus on what is not good, what is not expected, what is not under control.  This can make us seem hyper-critical.  Take a minute to think about all the GREAT things that your team has done this week.   Take opportunities to focus on the good stuff, acknowledge it and thank people for their contributions to it.  But mainly just be aware of it.  As you build your awareness of the achievements of your team you will build a more constructive relationship with team members.

Move Into Service Mode

Take 5 minutes to fill up everyone on your team’s coffee (or water) cup. Buy them an ice cream on a hot day.  Serving is a great way to show your team that you care. Especially if you know who drinks coffee and who drinks water before you get started.

Serving people is a great way to strengthen the relationship.

Thank You

Write as many thank you notes as you can to your team in 5 minutes. Be specific, and let them know just how much you appreciate them and their work.  You can send choose to send a quick e-mail,  but a hand written Thank You note works much better.

Most of these things work well if you do them just once.  Most work far better when they are repeated – perhaps daily, weekly or monthly.  We are great at spotting patterns and making meaning.

Set up patterns that show that you care.

Then people will begin to believe that they really are your ‘greatest asset’.

Social Entrepreneurship and how to miss the point!

Thanks to Rob Greenland for bringing to my attention the development of the Leeds Sports Trust.


Leeds Sports Trust – Fit for the future
Leeds City Council has decided to transfer its sport and active recreation service into a Trust. The Trust will be a ‘not for profit’ charitable business with a strong social purpose agreed with the council and approved by the Charities Commissioners.

The prime motivator behind this re-structuring appears to be some VAT regulation that means as a Trust the whole empire can save some VAT.

However, the real prize of developing a Trust of this kind is the possibility of developing  an inspired, engaged group of employees who are able to take real ownership of the development of the Trust and the role it can play in the City.

The opportunity to develop a culture of ambitious social enterprise is the high value prize here – not the exploitation of an accounting loophole to re-coup some VAT.

Recruit, Develop, Improve, Retain and Release

5 simple processes. Do them well – or even just do them all adequately – and within a year you will have a high performing team that will be on its way to being one of the best.

Recruit – find people with passion, curiosity and a hunger to learn about your business. Find people who will add strengths and personality to the existing team. Do not employ clones. Have a reputation such that there is a queue of talent waiting to join your team – because this is where the action is. This is where people do great work and where people develop reputations and careers.

Develop – Take every opportunity to actively develop your people – knowledge, skill and commitment. Provide weekly one to ones. Provide feedback (both affirming and adjusting) by the bucketful. Delegate to them opportunities that will lead to their growth – and free up your time. Help each team member to improve their skills and their commitment and inspiration in a way that leads to improved performance. Provide coaching to all team members every week that will help them to improve their performance.

Improve – make sure that every team member is clear about their role and how to manage the tensions within it. Make sure that they have a few clear objectives some of them smart – but all of them wow! (A wow objective is one where when you achieve it you will just want to say ‘Wow!’) Review objectives regularly in the 121s and shape them according to the dynamics of the business. Keep score. Use targets.  Make it clear that improvement is an expectation of everyone.  Use feedback, coaching and 121s to help people to improve.  If they fail to improve then consider whether you are playing to their strengths.  Ultimately a team member who consistently fails to perform better has to be let go.

Retain – hold on to your best people long enough – but not too long! If you are doing a great job as a manager then your staff will perform while they are with you – but may over the course of a few years outgrow your team. Celebrate their successes. Celebrate your success. Help them move onwards and upwards – knowing that you have a succession plan in place. Carry out monthly litmus tests on all of your team to gauge how likely they are to leave in the near future and the risk that this carries. Have a clear understanding of who you need to retain and who you would like to see being successful somewhere else. Provide your team with the very best place in which to do their best work – in which to achieve their objectives (and yours).

Release – Release good people who have outgrown your team. If you can no longer provide them development opportunities then encourage them to move on. Help them. Work equally hard with the high performers and the under-achievers. Use the same management processes applied with equal diligence. Agree objectives, provide feedback, coach and use 121s. Document the process! If people fail to improve – after you have given them all the support that you can – talk to an HR specialist. Show them your documentation – 121s, feedback, coaching. Seek their advice about moving the under performing staff into ‘special measures’. Invite the under performing staff member to a meeting to discuss their performance and their failure to improve. Remind them of the investment that you have made in their success. Let them know that if their performance does not improve – you will terminate their employment. Coach them some more. Give them another 3 months (minimum) of your full commitment to help them to make it. If they don’t – then fire them. Acknowledge your failure as a manager. Sleep soundly knowing that you did everything you could to help them to succeed and that the process that resulted in their dismissal was fair, ethical and professional.

Reflect on these 5 processes.

How well are you doing as a manager in each of them. Give yourself a percentage score on how well you think you are doing in each. 100% would mean that you really can’t see any opportunity for improvement. 0% would indicate that you really could not think of any way in which things could be worse.

Sketch out a simple graph like the one shown below. What one thing can you do in the next week that will make things better?

Repeat the exercise often. Discuss your conclusions with your peers, your team and with HR. Start to do the hard work of pursuing excellence.