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Starting in Management

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


Beginning a career in management can throw the best of us.  You are probably excellent at the job you have just finished and, whilst you will still need some of your technical skills, they will play a far lesser role in determining your success.  You will naturally feel a draw towards the security and comfort of burying yourself in the technical aspects of your role, but almost certainly, this will be a mistake.  Your role is management and managing should now occupy the bulk of your time.

So, what are some of the things you will need to focus on now?

  • supporting and motivating your staff
  • setting expectations and assessing performance
  • giving recognition for achievement and corrections for errors
  • planning and preparing at increasingly strategic levels
  • maintaining an environment where your team can succeed
  • securing the resources your team needs – including new members
  • training and developing team members
  • reporting on progress and on setbacks
  • negotiating for opportunities, resources and funding
  • financial and personnel management

Exercise: Understand your Management Responsibilities

Using this checklist, speak with your boss and with your new peers to get a clear idea of what your roles are and also how you are likely to need to split your time among them.  Understand:

  • which are most important to your and your team’s success?
  • which are most time-consuming?
  • where are the pitfalls?
  • what are the annual cycles and how will the balance of priorities shift through the year?

What First?

As a manager, your role will be to manage resources: usually people, but sometimes materials or assets.

Step 1: Your first priority is to understand those resources: meet the people, inventory the stock and survey the assets.  As you do, make notes to help you remember what is important.

Step 2: When you have finished, write yourself a readiness memo, titled: ‘An analysis of the resources at my disposal and their fitness for the task at hand’.  You may want to conduct a SWOT analysis to help you with this.

Readiness Memo

Step 3: Next, use this as the basis for drawing up a two to three month plan of action.  At best, it will focus on stabilisation and incremental improvement.  At worst, it may need to be a turnaround plan.

Step 4: When you have done this, file your memo securely, where nobody else can access it or, better still, destroy it.  It will likely contain frank opinions about the people on your team that you will not want to become public.

Further Reading

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Being Organised

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


No matter how good you are at your job, you will never be as good as you can be until you organise your work effectively.  This means making time for things like filing and time management.  Here are ten top tips:

  1. Keep a To Do list, but never let it be your primary time management tool.  At the end of each day, look at the things on your to do list and decide which ones will be on tomorrow’s To Day list.  Put any things that are substantial in terms of complexity, duration or importance into your diary.
  2. Follow President Eisenhower’s advice and always distinguish what is important from what is merely urgent.
  3. Keep a day-book – a notebook that lives on your desk and in which you record any conversations in person or over the phone.  As soon as the phone rings, or as soon as you decide to make a call, open your day book, write the date and note the person that you are speaking with and their affiliation.  You are now ready to record any comments or agreements.
  4. Use a multi-part folder to plan your work a week ahead.
    Weekly Work Planning folder
  5. Periodically make time to clear the clutter and do your filing.  Better still, embrace the principles of the 5S Methodology:
    – Sorting – only what you need
    – Set in order – a place for everything
    – Shine-up – tidy and clean
    – Standardise – uniformity
    – Sustain – make tidying up a routine
  6. File papers in themed folders.  If your filing system isn’t working for you; start a new one.  But don’t waste time transferring all your old papers into the new system.  Instead, just transfer any papers you access in your day-to-day work.  Very soon, your old system will become an archive of the materials you don’t need.
  7. If you need to make a lot of calls, keep a call sheet, on which you record the person and purpose (and number if it isn’t in your organiser.  Fill gaps in your day with a call – or take the sheet with you when you travel.
  8. You probably keep a to do list.  Do you keep a list of things you have done?  Specifically, things you did that should result in something happening: a book you ordered should turn up, a message you left should be returned, a request you made should be fulfilled.  Keep a ‘waiting for…’ list so that you never drop the ball by forgetting something.
  9. Do one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking is not as effective nor as efficient as focus.
  10. Redundancy: if it’s important, have a back-up plan.  Have spares, have alternatives.  Stash a bit of spare cash in every bag you have – and spare pens.  Leave early and plan to have a coffee before a meeting.  Take reading or work wherever you go.

Further Reading

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Decision Making

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics This is part of an extended course in management.


In understanding decision-making, there are three key things to focus on:

  1. Using a structured process
  2. The role of intuition, gut instinct and hunches
  3. The effects of bias and automatic thinking

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Structured Decision Making Process

… like the example below.

Structured Decision Process

One of the most important choices in your decision process will be whether to go for an adversarial process of setting the options against one another – perhaps even having advocates for each, competing with one another to win the decision – or to go for a process of inquiry, learning as much as you can before assessing the options.

Intuition

Although Malcolm Gladwell received a lot of attention for his book Blink, his work leans heavily on the research by Gary Klein and his books, The Power of Intuition and the more technical Sources of Power are first rate.  Klein shows how, in domains that are very complex and in which you have extensive experience, your intuition can quickly get you to the right understanding, well ahead of your ability to explain why or how you reached the conclusion you did.  But, if you don’t have sufficient experience, then your hunches are likely to be wrong, due to the existence of…

Bias and Automatic Thinking

Two psychologists, Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky, were responsible for overthrowing the crude assumption that economics is based on rational decisions.  In fact, they showed that many decisions are a result of automatic thinking and biases.  The automatic thinking is a short cut that works well in the domains in which humans evolved, but leads frequently to wrong answers in a modern world context.  An example is the ‘horns and halo effect’ and another is our bias towards noticing examples that confirm what we believe to be true, whilst being blind to counter examples.  Daniel Kahnemann wrote the wonderful ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ to summarise a life’s research and it is, without a doubt, one of the most important and stimulating reads of the last few years.

Further Reading

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John Adair’s Four-D System

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


Time management is a vital part of your personal effectiveness.  As a manager, you will face greater time challenges than you did as a team member; but you will also have additional resources and greater flexibility in how you use your time.

One of the simplest and most powerful time management approaches is John Adair’s Four-D System.  This is documented in his (now out of print) Handbook of Management and Leadership.

Adair starts with a standard Eisenhower Matrix putting urgency against importance.

Urgent&Important

Adair then identifies starting time management strategy for each class of activities:

  1. Do it now
  2. Delay it until you have some good quality time
  3. Do it quickly
  4. Drop it or Delegate it

Critique

As always, John has identified a powerful model with real practical application.  Yet I can’t help feeling we must modify it a little.  Here are three ways you can make it even more effective still:

Priorities

Although the urgency suggests that box 1 is top priority, this creates a high stress, low sustainability work style.  Prioritise box 2 and you will find yourself planning and preparing ahead of urgency and so find less work falls into box 1.

Drop or delegate… Really?

If it is not worth your time to do it, why is it worth someone else’s time?  Yes it may be important enough for someone else to do it, but don’t just Dump it on someone to avoid an assertive NO.  Indeed, get in the habit of delegating Box 1, 2, and 3 tasks too, to develop the people who work for you.

More Ds…

We’ve already added Dump, but I don’t propose to honour it with emphasis.  But Diminish is a powerful strategy.  Look at the task and ask: ‘do I need to do all of it?’  If you can reduce the work required and still deliver all or most of the value, you will save valuable time.  And there is another D: Decide.  You need to decide which strategy to adopt.  Unless, that is, you Defer your decision.  If you do that as an example of purposive procrastination* it is a sound approach.

Exercise

Make an Eisenhower grid on a whiteboard or on the four panels of a door, or in your notebook.  Use post-it type notes to jot down all the tasks facing you (big for the whiteboard/door or small for your notebook).  Allocate the notes to one of the four quadrants.  If everything is at the top left, re-calibrate your mental scales for importance and urgency.

Further Reading


*Purposive Procrastination: putting something off because there will be a better time to tackle it.

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Type A and Type B

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog is going back to basics. This is part of an extended course in management skills.


Are you a ‘rush-rush-got-to-get-things-done’ sort of a manager, or are you a ‘take my time; want to get things right’ type?  Or are you nicely balanced.  Doctors Mike Friedman and Ray Rosenman identified these two styles as, respectively, Type A and Type B personalities.  When I tell you they were cardiac specialists, you might start to worry.  There is no need.  Take the test and then I’ll explain.

Exercise

For each of these nine statements, score yourself 0 to 10 according to how close you lie to the first statement (a low score) or to the second statement (a high score).

Type A-B Thermometer

.

Casual and relaxed 0 … 10 Often feel on edge

Slow and deliberate 0 … 10 Always rushing

Dislike deadlines 0 … 10 Love working to deadlines

Patient 0 … 10 Impatient

Express your feelings 0 … 10 Suppress your feelings

One thing at a time 0 … 10 Lots of things at once

Ready in advance 0 … 10 Just in time

Plan and prepare 0 … 10 Just do it

Enjoy relaxing 0 … 10 Feel guilty when relaxing

.

Interpretation

Friedman and Rosenman predicted that strong Type A personalities would be prone to heart disease and die young.  They were wrong.  Many of their patients did have a cluster of personality traits that they characterised as Type A, but only a few of them were truly predictive of illness – and not the ones relating to rushing about.

However, both Type A and Type B personalities each have their own challenges in operating in an organisation.  Let’s look at some.

Dealing with other People

Inevitably, we deal best with people who are like us.  We find them easy to understand and their habits agreeable.  Type As readily get impatient with Type Bs.  They want the B to hurry up and despair that the B has no sense of urgency about things.  Type Bs find Type As’ hurry annoying; they would rather the A would slow down and do things properly and are concerned about quality standards.

Dealing with Admin

Type Bs will take on the organising and admin tasks as another thing to do carefully and well.  Type As – unless they really value it – will rush through it, wanting to move quickly onto ‘proper work’.  They will then get angry when they can’t find what they need or get what they want.

Dealing with Interruptions

Type Bs may not welcome an interruption – especially when they are engrossed in something – but when they accept it has happened, they will turn their whole attention to you.  This is great for the interrupter and can lead to positive outcomes.  But when the interrupter has a non-critical issue, Type Bs can lose valuable time on the work they were doing.  Not so Type A’s.  The interruption may be unwelcome or a welcome distraction when they are starting to feel bored, but the Type A will soon be tapping their foot, keen to get on.

Managing Time

Type A personalities get masses done; often just in time and at breakneck pace.  Quality can suffer, especially when they try to multi-task, but it is Type As who are at the heart of the (perfectly true) cliché: ‘if you want it done; ask a busy person.’  Type Bs focus on one thing at a time and do it well.  They plan well and execute effectively, as long as they don’t get held up by an interruption or by finding a problem and working deliberately to solve it.

Exercise: Balance is Everything

The most successful people inevitably balance both personality types.  Look at your weak points and note them down.  What strategies can you use to neutralise them?

Further Reading

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Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Sunk Cost

‘You’ve bought it now. The money’s gone.’ That snarky comment made by thousands of parents (mine included) to their reckless child encapsulates the meaning of sunk cost. Once you met the cost, it’s gone: sunk. You’ve sunk it into the investment for good or for ill.

This, then, could be the shortest Big Ideas article yet. Sunk Cost is a familiar and easy concept.

Continue reading Sunk Cost and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

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Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Mnimum Viable Product - MVP

Mnimum Viable Product - MVPYou’re an Entrepreneur. Or you’re a Product Manager charged with launching a new product. But how can you know if your new product or service idea is a good one? How can you minimise the risk of an expensive flop? The answer is to build a Minimum Viable Product – an MVP.

Like some of the best of our Big Ideas, a Minimum Viable Product is exactly what its name suggests. It is the minimum product you could create that is viable in terms of serving its primary purpose. So, let’s put some detail on that minimum viable explanation.

Continue reading Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

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Technology Quotient (TQ): Measuring Digital Savvy

Technology Quotient (TQ)

Technology Quotient (TQ)It is a cliché to assert that technology is ubiquitous in the workplace. Yesterday’s innovations will eventually become today’s commonplace tools. So, we all live with and easily manage technology our great grandparents would have found strange and maybe alarming. But some of us are comfortable with the very latest creations – those that will only be deeply familiar to the coming generations. And we might describe these people as having a high TQ: a high Technology Quotient.

The Big Idea, ‘Technology Quotient’ takes its inspiration from IQ, Intelligence Quotient. But what does it measure and is it a useful concept?

Continue reading Technology Quotient (TQ): Measuring Digital Savvy

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Product Manager: Strategist, Advocate, Keystone

Product Manager - Product Management

Product Manager - Product ManagementMovie stars, celebrities, and sportspeople have managers to take care of their business affairs. So, why shouldn’t a superstar product? And if every product can aim to be a superstar, then they will all need their own Product Manager.

And that’s what we’ll look at in this article; the role of a Product Manager:

  • Why we need them
  • What they do
  • The breadth of their role

So, let’s dive into the world of Product Management.

Continue reading Product Manager: Strategist, Advocate, Keystone

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Robotic Process Automation: RPA

Robotic Process Automation: RPA

Robotic Process Automation: RPAImagine an army of tiny robots. Each one can do one thing. It does it precisely and tirelessly. And when it completes it, another robot takes over and does another thing. This chain of ‘bots’ can together do what people can do. But without error, rest-breaks, or complaint. Welcome to the world of Robotic Process Automation.

Although it’s often abbreviated to RPA, we’ll stick with Robotic Process Automation. Because, if you’re reading this, you are probably not familiar enough yet, for the acronym to register easily. Because this article purports to be only one thing: a basic primer for the uninformed.

For more depth, you’ll need to seek out an expert on Robotic Process Automation. Maybe, by the time you read this, that expert will look like a little bot in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. And, sitting behind it will be a series of other bots. Collectively, they may be a robotic process automation that answers questions about robotic process automation. How weird would that be?

Continue reading Robotic Process Automation: RPA

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