In any high-functioning organization, all jobs will have well-defined responsibilities and duties. In addition to clarifying what each job holder is supposed to do, this clarifies what each job holder is not supposed to do.
As I have discussed previously
, when everyone knows and understands their individual role and the roles of others, people are much less likely to interfere with one another out of confusion, territorialism, or any number of other productivity killers.
That said, there is an important difference between "what people do" and "what they get done." People do various tasks that fulfill their responsibilities and duties. What they get done, if anything, is create change in the business or organization.
For example, a plant manager may be responsible for hiring and firing workers, purchasing raw materials, having a preventative maintenance program, scheduling production and so forth. That is what the person does. What that plant manager might get done, is reduce defects and employee accidents, while increasing throughput, factory uptime, etc.
Rowing In The Same Direction
When it comes to getting things done, it’s imperative that the objectives are thought out across the entire business.
Done well, the direction is set from the top
and understood by all. After all, the world is constantly changing; the direction of your business must keep pace as well.
In order to get people moving as one, focus on ensuring that everyone understands the change in the business for which they are responsible. A few tips on how to do this…
Empower Your People
This involves a number of elements
, including a mutual understanding of what people need to get done; providing those people with the time and resources necessary; making sure the organization as a whole understands that the charged person is empowered to implement those specific changes; and ensuring that the person in question knows what they can’t
do without proper permission or approvals.
Communicate the vision
A vision that is kept on an office bookshelf will accomplish little.
I came into a company as interim COO to close its sale. Management had been secretive and told the employees nothing. Not surprisingly, the recently ousted CEO was telling employees selected snippets. One of the first things I did was let all the employees know that the company had committed to selling to a particular buyer and that we all needed to continue to run the company and maintain service levels until the sale closed. Everybody, save a few troublemakers, worked together to close the transaction.
Clarify the Vision
Make sure your businesses vision regarding where you want to go is a sound one. Gut feel is certainly better than nothing, but sound, fact-based analysis is what carries the day, minimizing the likelihood of heading off in the wrong direction.
My interim COO example above was a simple situation. Most situations are not so straightforward. Use the simple, five-step process I have discussed in the past
to come up with a sound vision:
#1. Complete a thorough situation analysis
#2. Set an objective that is concrete, measurable and feasible
#3. Develop strategies based on the situation analysis
#4. Develop detailed plans for what needs to be done
#5. Develop plans for tracking progress, ensuring that what is supposed to get done, does
Taking these plans or action steps down to the employee level is what’s most critical — it’s also the most arduous and the reason it is so often not done. In larger organizations, the key here is to review with subordinates what needs to be done and who, specifically, among their own people, will carry the ball.
Track and Follow-Up
Meet with your people regularly (at least quarterly) and make sure they have set change goals for their people down the line.
Check to make sure they are empowered: Are organizational dynamics (AKA, internal politics) getting in their way? Do they have the necessary resources? Have you given them so many other things to get done that they don’t have the time to achieve this particular goal? Do you still think they have the right skillset to get the job done (i.e., is the right person in the right seat?)?
When tracking, make sure to track against things that are concrete and measurable. With a bit of effort, more things than not can be measured. For example, something as nebulous as “employee engagement” can be measured, provided well-defined and carefully thought out questions are asked by the right people.
Put Proper Controls in Place
A key to all this is that people understand what they CANNOT do — without first getting proper approvals.
These so-called "limits of authority
” refer to written authorization to individuals within an organization which allows them to commit the company to doing certain things up to certain limits. Examples include entering into a sales contract, extending credit, making purchase commitments, making payments, and so forth. This authorization is formal, documented, comprehensive and understood throughout the company. Controls are in place to make sure people don’t exceed their limits.
Prepare for Pleasant Surprises
Done well, you may achieve your goals! Along the way, your employees may become more engaged, productive and happy with what they are doing.
When I was in the rent-a-car business some time ago, I decided to put in place what I have outlined here. My boss, who ran the East Coast, had a set of objectives. I, in turn, had mine. I took the time to drill down to my direct reports what they had to get done for the year, and they did the same. I reviewed progress quarterly.
There were lots of surprises — all pleasant, at least for me. When the details of what needed to get done were shared down the ranks, there was a voluntary internal turnover of 20%. People said, “I don’t want to do that, but I really want to do this.” By allowing people to trade jobs, I now had the right people in the right seats. Later on, when corporate surveyed all employees worldwide on all sorts of measures, my office scored best in the world! The employees understood what needed to get done, they wanted to do it, and because it was all connected to the “grand vision,” they knew why what they did mattered to the company’s success.
The world keeps changing, so your business must keep changing just to stand still! Get everyone rowing together by having them understand what they personally need to get done for the company to achieve its objectives.
Making all this happen — mapping out goals, strategies, plans, roles, tracking, etc. — across an entire organization, takes work. But believe me, it is well worth the effort.