This article has been updated, and now appears within my company portfolio.
You can read it here:
Thank you for your visit,
This article has been updated, and now appears within my company portfolio.
You can read it here:
Thank you for your visit,
Simple question, yet so many different answers are possible!
Let’s be sure that the answer we’d admit to ourselves doesn’t stop at “the team at company XYZ” or isn’t “I’m not really sure.”
I don’t intend to be rude; we managers can get caught up in a lot of fire-dousing as opposed to significant work of our own. Are you catching yourself, and refocusing on your own Ho‘ohana whenever that happens?
Let’s look at this from two perspectives, first to answer the “simple question” and second, from the standpoint of managing as a verb (a hot-button theme with me for any who might be newly joining us).
Hopefully, your first reaction is, “Don’t you mean ‘who’ am I managing?”
Alaka‘i Managers (those who manage with Aloha) focus on people over the process. Is the process important? Sure it is, however you-as-manager aren’t the one actually engaging with the process, or at least not as much as your people are. You want to work with them, not for them, and you want to be their coach and champion — so is that the process you are managing?
Use the 5 Whys to dig deeper, and get to your answer. For example:
What are you managing, and why?
— I’m managing the process by which we ___________.
Why that particular process?
— Because it’s the one which is currently our most costly and time-consuming (a possible, fairly common answer, but certainly not the only one).
Why is it costly, and how can you coach your people in improving it?
Why is it time-consuming, and how can you coach your people to be more efficient? (And by the way” how would you better utilize the time you’d free up?)
I stopped at a third why, but you get the idea. According to Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet, who created a blog inspired by five why questioning:
“Five Whys is the Japanese philosophy of repeatedly asking why to find not only the direct sources of your problems, but also the root of those sources. It’s about thinking long-term and looking both ahead and behind, not just in the present.”
Verbs rock and roll: They keep stuff moving. As a verb like no other, managing keeps work moving in the best possible way. So is that what you’re doing?
Here’s an excerpt from Business Thinking with Aloha:
“Work rocks!” because verbs are doing the rockin’ and rollin’. Verbs get work done because they grab our attention, and pack action into intention. They can’t sit still, and they take us with them as they make things happen. Nouns can be pretty attractive, I’ll grant you that, but they just sit there. Verbs add dynamic movement and vitality. They add verve and vigor and they zoom. When stuff starts moving you better be paying attention, and when Ho‘ohana intention enters the picture you’d best hold on.
Now as great as verbs are already sounding here, there are certain verbs which are a cut above the rest, and two in particular which are absolutely extraordinary. Together they form a partnership which is very focused on working with human energy as its engine. Those two verbs are managing and leading.
To be a manager like no other, an Alaka‘i Manager Rock Star, “What am I managing?” is probably a question you want to revisit often.
— “What am I managing TODAY?” is a great question to sit with as you have your morning coffee or make your early commute: Turn your car radio off and talk to yourself (seriously.) Then ask yourself those 5 Whys again, from the standpoint of Why the first answer you came up with?, for there’s likely some reason your first answer is front of mind for you; get to the gist of it. Challenge Your Most Brilliant Self: Burn Your Boats.
— “What am I managing IN THE NEXT HOUR?” is a great question to grab your focus back when you’ve been super-helpful to everyone else, but realize you need to stop and take stock of your day before it gets away from you completely. Ask the question midday or right after lunch: Big bummer when we do this at the end of the day and start scrambling, or worse, we don’t get to it at all and slink home for the day feeling we didn’t really get much accomplished.
— “What CAN I be managing in the coming WEEK?” is a great question to sit with as you do your Weekly Review, for it will help you be proactive and not reactive: Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review, and Make it your Habit. When you have a burning desire to get something done, and you have planned for it and scheduled it, it is SO much easier to just say “No.” to those little fires that come up. You delegate better, using all your resources and you curb any impulse you have to micromanage:
So let’s try this again: What are you managing?
1. One more link which may help you with this:
“we managers can get caught up in a lot of fire-dousing as opposed to significant work of our own.”
Stay out of that trap of acceptable versus accomplished:
Feeling Good Isn’t the Same as Feeling Strong
2. Are you currently within a 9 Key Study? Learning Managing with Aloha: 9 Key Concepts. I am adding this posting to our Key 4 category, the Role of the Manager Reconstructed: What other connections fall within your personal value alignment?
In today’s workplaces, managers must own workplace engagement. The “reconstruction” we require in Managing with Aloha is so this expectation is reasonable, and so it is valued as critically important: Managers can then have the desire and ‘personal bandwidth’ for assuming a newly reinvented role, one which delivers better results both personally and professionally.
~ ~ ~
My mahalo to Fred H. Schlegel for inspiring this post today. These thoughts came to me after I had read one of his recent Frog Blog posts, What are you selling? and found that the managing question naturally popped into my head: It’s a great post ~ do take a look. Thanks Fred!
I do too. Really!
Had a terrific conversation with a manager working his way through Managing with Aloha for the first time, using my new ebook, Become an Alaka‘i Manager in 5 Weeks. At one point he asked me,
“Can we talk story more about processes? I’ve always thought of myself as a big systems and processes guy up to now, and honestly Rosa? I’ve invested so much into them that I want to keep feeling good about that.”
He helped me understand how I might be giving you the wrong impression of my feelings with systems and processes, or a mixed message, for on the one hand I’ll promote them, like this: Hō‘imi your Trusted System, and this: Learn a 5-Step Weekly Review, and Make it your Habit.
On the other, I’ll write a message like this one within the Role of the Manager Reconstructed:
- People can fix broken processes.
- Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.
- Break the spirit of your managers, and you fall even farther behind.
First of all, yes, DO feel good about being a systems thinker, and someone who understands that processes are important, for they make business move. There is no such thing as a good business without great processes!
This is the way my friend Timothy Johnson, certified PMP (project management professional) and author of SWAT, Seize the Accomplishment, describes your passion (SWAT stands for “systems working all together”) in his Ho‘ohana:
“At heart, I am, have always been, and shall always be, a “process guy.” I like to dissect EVERYTHING in terms of a process. What comes before what? What actions create what consequences? When can certain inputs be introduced into the system? How many inputs can be transformed into outputs? What are the hand-offs? Are they happening effectively and efficiently? These are the questions that haunt and taunt me. They are the lens through which I see my world. And they are the reason for my success” as a consultant, as a professor, as a parent” you name it. But the question that permeates everything, the one that really triggers every fiber in my mind and soul: “What accomplishments need to be created and how do we get there?”
Those are great questions to be invested in, for they drive so much, exploring how work actually will happen (or not happen.)
Timothy had helped us understand this better here on Talking Story a while back in the context of decision-making:
Like with most things in life, I view decision-making like another system (there is no wing at the Betty Ford clinic for systems thinking addicts, by the way).
The inputs are the decision variables, including the need for making a decision in the first place and the data available.
The throughput (or transformation process) is our decision-making process, or how we convert those variables into”
The output (the decision itself), the outcome of our thought process.
The feedback loop of our decision-management (follow-through on this decision as well as other related decisions) helps lead to other decisions’ inputs.
~ Timothy Johnson
Read more at his blog: Decision Incision
Great stuff. I truly value and appreciate systems thinking; it’s the drool-over-it detail stuff of the stellar projects that dynamic workplace teams prosper within. And as you can probably tell, Timothy has a knack for making this fun; if you’re a self-proclaimed systems thinker or process person in the way you describe your Ho‘ohana Timothy will be your hero: Subscribe to his blog.
My Ho‘ohana as a workplace culture coach with Managing with Aloha on the brain simply zeroes in on a specific, connected question: How do these systems and processes affect the people involved with them?
People are the ‘input’ and the ‘transformed output’ I get most interested in, and I believe that has to be a heightened interest of all who wish to be Alaka‘i Managers. Especially today, as struggling businesses seek to move the “people cost” out of the equation as we spoke of last week: An Erosion of Trust.
My challenge to you who are “systems thinkers and process people” is this: Embrace our grey in your black and white. Admittedly it can seem stormy, however it’s quite beautiful too. We can be helping each other.
Here is the bit which appears in the ebook, with a bounty of added links to related writings I have done. Hover your mouse or curser over the links to see their titles.
Lessen your work with systems and processes
You’ll be amazed at just how much you can accomplish when you have more workplace conversations (not meetings, conversations). One of the things Aloha does is help make talking to each other more enjoyable so we don’t avoid things and sweep them under the rug. We appreciate learning from each other.
Generally speaking, we managers work with three things: Systems, processes, and people. The goal of MWA is shifting your work away from task-related systems and processes in favor of your more rewarding work with people as much as possible. The finishing well conversation for mutual agreements which we just covered is but one example.
Your best work is to be done in cultivating the relationships in which you’ll teach or train, and then coach others toward their stress-free high performance: This is the way that Alaka‘i Managers serve others, by helping them grow into their greater potential. Great managers create more leaders, not work drones, and not more followers. They facilitate partnerships, treating employees as business partners. You can’t do those things when swallowed up in task work.
I am not asking this question as the preface to a definitive how-to blog posting, but to you individually and directly:
Are you aware of the process you go through when you make your most important decisions, the ones which leave you with absolutely no regrets, no looking back?
For instance, is it a very solitary process for you, concentrating most deliberately on what you think, and what you then realize you believe, or is it important to you to bounce your gut instincts off others too? Do you write yourself through it (I do… my morning pages is a BIG part of my process) or do you talk your way through it? Do you bother documenting it at all, or visually mind-mapping it?
Photo Credit: “How’d we get here, again?”
by Margolove on Flickr
I have been focused on starting my 2009 by making a series of key decisions for me, for I believe that despite how painful this is for many of us, the current recession we are in has a significantly important silver lining, that of an open-mindedness to reinvention that is unprecedented in my lifetime (or my truly conscious of it lifetime).
And if you know me at all, you know that I love the prospects of creative reinvention. Most of the thought leaders I know, are open-minded contrarians.
Thus I have been systematically looking at all my systems and processes (because I am also organizationally obsessive), and challenging myself with pulling the rug out from under any automatic pilot I might be on. In my case I started with a time audit (a practice that Dwayne has coached me well in over the years I have known him), one synced with a comprehensive monthly review (just longer in scope than a Weekly Review) and then I listed all the tools I use (primarily with my productivity practices and digital software to start) so I could go down the list, and ask myself these questions in regard to every single thing listed:
As you read them, get a for-instance in your mind, such as the email program you use, the blogging platform or RSS reader you use, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, whatever… just choose something.)
You will recall our learning that the intention and attention match-up is very, very powerful! Ho‘ohana: Redefine the word “work” and make it yours.
For me, the key in this process is coming to clarity – working “wide awake” and conscious of how I work and making sure my why? is still valid, versus sleep-walking or going through the motions.
There is also the simple realization that our purposes do change as time goes by, and that’s okay – in fact, it probably is good: we’re learning and progressing. So… we should be sure we are not stuck in the automatic pilot of an old process that does not give us optimal results.
So as I do this, fully realizing why my current decision-making process is filling me with such new energy, I want to stop for a moment and encourage you to do the same thing: Understand when you soar with making your key decisions.
It is a knowing about yourself, and how you do what you do, that is very valuable. It is valuable to you, to be fully aware of how you make your best decisions, because then you can always be sure to repeat your process. It fills you with confidence, and it is highly likely that it boosts your energy levels – it certainly does for me.
It is very valuable to the rest of us too, our knowing that you make sound decisions. This is a way that you can very easily serve us as your community of fellow human beings.
If you talk about this at work, with your team, or with your boss or peers, you can help them identify their best decision-making process too. I am sure you can imagine the win-win that could be.
Look for the gut-level results to know if your decision making process is working for you, or if you have to tweak it. You want the bold stuff in this list of bullets, not the italics:
I would wager that 2009 will in some way present you with a major decision of some kind. I am no psychic, and I have no idea what that decision may turn out to be about for you, but 2009 has just shaped up to be that kind of crucible-for-many year (remember this Jim Collins quote from the other day?).
When you embark on that kind of crucible decision-making, pay attention to what your process is, realizing that there are three different parts to it: Your thinking/choosing process of decision making (which this talk-story is about), the decision itself, the execution of that decision which is more accurately called decision management.
If you have a decision making process you feel works very well for you, share more about it with us in the comments would you? Let’s learn from each other, so we all get better at it.
Postscript A bit more about this:
I believe that despite how painful this is for many of us, the current
recession we are in has a significantly important silver lining, that
of an open-mindedness to reinvention that is unprecedented in my lifetime (or my truly conscious of it lifetime).