To be a successful manger, you need to execute. Whatever task is at hand, one’s ability to execute the assignment will demonstrate you and your teams are performing at a high level. The four phases of execution are to create a plan, attempt to execute that plan, check to see if you are on track to that plan, and to make adjustments to the plan when needed. To achieve “Best in Class” a manager has to execute well in all four phases. Creating a robust plan normally takes attributes of logic, organization, experience, and the ability to think more long term than short term.
One of the first mistakes a manager might make is to assume they have all the attributes to create best plan. By doing so, they insure they get the plan they want, and in their minds, the plan that offers the lowest risk. Although a manager does have the final decision rights to approve a plan, not gathering the knowledge and experience of others is a miss opportunity for a stronger more robust plan. To create a robust plan, a manager should gather of team of individuals who they consider have the attributes of logic, organization, experience, and the ability to think more long term than short term.
A second mistake a manager might make is to assume the more the merrier to create a plan. Doesn’t it make sense that the larger the team, the more opportunity there is to vet out potential pitfalls in the plan. Bringing in non-logical, non-organized, non-experienced or individuals who like to make decision from the gut can dilute a plan. In many instances, non-logical, gut driven people might be the most vocal, or have a strong personality. This type of person can do more harm to the planning process by suppressing communication and idea.
Another mistake a manager might make is to assume his team has all the attributes to create a robust plan. Not going out and seek knowledge, experience, or attributes outside ones department can be another miss opportunity. Of course this might not be necessary if a manager has the “Dream Team” under his supervision. This is rarely the case, and a good manager will always look to see if there are outside people that can add value to the planning process.
You now have your plan which consists of a series of tasks, who are assigned those tasks, and the established timeline. It is time to execute. At this point you need to assess your execution team. On the projects you might have individuals that are highly driven, experienced, and good decision makers. For these people, the best thing you can do is stay out of their way. For any individual that are highly driven, but very inexperienced your best bet is to direct them. Tell them exactly what to do and how to do it.
The key for success is managing the not highly driven or the semi-experienced individual. The semi-experience requires coaching along the way. This does not mean hovering or micro-managing, but this means checking in to see “How’s it going” and infusing knowledge and experience. Most of the time this coaching is well received since they want to be successful as much as you want them to be.
The lowly or non-driven individual are the most difficult to manage. They might be a good employee but just a “B” type personality. They might a negative attitude, or have a miss guided focus. They might be people you would replace if you could, but for now, they are all you have. A common mistake is to let them off the hook for their behavior. These people still have to know the responsibility they bring for the success of the project. Both directing and coaching are needed depending the individual. A manager’s involvement is critical to success. A manager who is not involved or present to offer direction and coaching may become frustrated because the team is taking an inefficient path to completion.
Now that the team is making progress towards their goal, it is crucial you take the time to evaluate if you are ahead or behind your plan. Each plan should have around six to ten milestones in which progress can be monitored. As expected, the highly driven, experienced, good decision makers are exceeding expectations, and the lowly or non-driven individuals might be struggling to meet expectations. It might have nothing to do with the team but there might be some special circumstances that derailed progress. Whatever it is, progress must be measured, or erosion to the timeline may be occurring without you knowing how much time has been lost.
The final phase is actually making adjustments to the plan. Do bring in new people or you can change people’s roles more in line to where they might bring value. If the plan itself appears to be flawed, it sometimes better to change the plan, or abandon the plan altogether and rewrite a new plan. A strong manager will make adjustment at each milestone to maximize efficiency.
Managing is like sailing a boat from San Francisco to Hawaii. The course will not be straight. The crew might not be all experienced sailors. The weather and winds might be against you. But the captain keeps his eyes on the destination and adjusts along the way.
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