I am pleased to share with your the results of the first Best Management Ideas contest! But before I begin, a few important thank yous:
First, a big thank you to everyone who offered an entry. I found the ideas interesting and diverse! Thanks for sharing!
Also, I want to thank the wonderful judges. Reading, considering, and ranking the ideas took time and I appreciate the care and energy they put into the task. Just so you know, the judges received the ideas without any names or identifying characteristics. The judges were:
And a big thank you to my fabulous sponsors. The winners are getting several amazing prizes! Here are the prizes:
Grand Prize Winner:
Free copy of my favorite writing/editing software, StyleWriter
Free copy of a great stretching program, Stretch Break
A $25 Gift Certificate to a very cool online store, Hip and Zen
A Signed Copy of Re-imagine, by Tom Peters
A free spot in my next 2 Weeks to a Breakthrough Program
Advance (get the book before ANYONE else!) copy of David Lorenzo's book, Career Intensity
A copy of the fun and cool book, More Space: Nine Antidotes to Complacency in Business
A signed copy of my book, High Impact Middle Management
Three Runners Up:
Free copy of my favorite writing/editing software, StyleWriter
Advance copy of David Lorenzo's book, Career Intensity
A copy of the fun and cool book, More Space: Nine Antidotes to Complacency in Business
A signed copy of my book, High Impact Middle Management
And the winners are:
Grand Prize Winner - Rob May!
Here is Rob's Entry:
One thing I do that isn’t very common is that I write down the decisions I make and the projected outcomes. Each week, I take a few minutes at the end of the week and I make a list of decisions I made. I try to focus on decisions that have important consequences, have ambiguous input parameters, or are otherwise difficult to evaluate. I don’t waste time on simple things, although at some point I probably should take a few weeks and just focus on those.
When I write down a decision, I make some basic notes as to why I picked the final choice. I don’t write so much that I rehash the whole process, but I do write enough to jar my memory. Then I write down what I think will happen as a result of the decision. Each week when I make these notes, I also review my previous decision notes to see whether or not the success of previous decisions can be evaluated. If it can, I note how whether or not the decision came out as I expected. Once a month I gather these decision notes together and analyze them to see where I made mistakes.
The point is that management is all about making decisions, and I believe this process of decision analysis is helping me become a better decision maker.
For example, if I am doing some business development and I decide write a phone or email script, I make notes about the anticipated response to the script. Later I can evaluate the responses and determine whether or not they were in line with my expectations. If they were not, I can try to analyze the reasons so that I will do better next time.
Another example is sales. If we missed our targets for a month, I can go back to my notes and look at the reasons I set those targets. Were my assumptions wrong? Was my analysis wrong? Did some economic force or event change the industry? This way I can tell if I need to improve on my assumptions, my analysis, my execution, or if I made good projections but unforseeable events affected the outcome.
This process can be used for any major decisions. Are you taking a new management approach with a certain employee? Have you instituted a new policy of some sort? Have you decided to allocate your time differently? Have you decided to be more/less diligent about responding to email? Have you decided to take on a new type of client? Have you decided to change your advertising strategy?
I don’t complicate the process by overanalyzing or spending a large amount of time on this process. Some things are just random and beyond my control. However, it really helps me out when repeated bad decisions prove to me that some assumption I have isn’t true, or that something I thought was useful really wasn’t.
And the Runners Up Are (In no particular order)
Brent's idea: I have implemented a wiki at my research center and have experienced tremendous value with it. Employees use it to document their projects and ideas, others have added collaborative ideas, people keep track of their work status which we use use during our weekly status meeting, and some use it to keep track of interesting social events happening in the Bay Area. Implementing a wiki at work adds capabilities that can enhance collaboration and employee interaction in any office, work group or department
Phil's idea: I have a weekly/bi-weekly meeting with each member of my team, where they have 10 questions they need to answer, including the last action completed and the next action needed to get them to complete their goals. Many members of my team are achieving much greater success than before because of this constant attention.
Brain's idea: My service company is probably like many in that we have had a tougher year in 2005 than in the last 10 years. One of the ways we've been able to turn that around is by getting staff EXCITED about our company and it's services again. Getting customers excited is the easy part. Keeping your workers excited in another all together and it's just as important! The reality is that memos are usually boring. Newsletters don't get read as much as they should. The company picnic and Christmas parties are social, not business. The way we reached our people and got our results was so simple, yet rarely done...
We simply booked a local hotel conference room for a Saturday morning seminar-style presentation (not expensive, just a conference room and some lunch) and brought all of our sales staff in to watch a demonstration of all our services and participate in a panel discussion with all of our managers and executives where we took questions, gave advice and, basically, fired everyone back up again about working here. Some of our services have been updated and improved dramatically since these guys last saw them. Some of the people had NEVER seen real live examples of that which they sell all day, only the references in their training materials.
I am certain that we are not alone in having found ourselves in such a spot. We are tightly run ship and have been growing year to year for nearly a decade. It was time to catch our breath, reconnect all the dots and get everyone back on the same page. To call it a resounding success would be to understate the effect it has had on our staff. Everyone was ENERGIZED with a renewed sense of confidence, commitment and enthusiasm about working here. Sales have skyrocketed since then and it was, in many ways, instrumental in keeping some of them from falling off.
Now, naturally, this is not a new idea, merely one overlooked time and time again. The costs were very minimal but the rewards will be reaped for a long time to come. If your company hasn't shaken the dust off its message with its sales staff, this is a truly fantastic way to do so without spending a fortune or creating a mountain of preparation work.
Congratulations to all!! There were many great ideas that did not win a prize. Here now, are the other ideas in no particular order:
I have listed these ideas without the names because I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable in the event they would prefer to be anonymous. I would like to call attention to one entry, however:
This idea was sent in from a 17 year old blogger named Matt. You can check out his blog here. Hey Matt - I just wanted you to know that I am impressed. When I was 17, I did not have my act nearly as together as you appear to have achieved. I certainly was not looking for a "good time management tool." I bet you will go far. Thanks for the great idea and for reading Management Craft!
Matt's idea: I've been stressed for time lately and I was looking for a good time management solution when I found David Seah's Task Progress Tracker. It has changed the way I work and live and I absolutely love it. It has helped me become a better self-starter and it is also a great tool to help track how much time you have spent on a project. David Seah's website - www.davidseah.com Link to the Task Progress Tracker.
Here are the remaining great ideas without names:
Great Idea: I sidelined my hotmail account and got me a gmail account. I use hotmail for signing up to newsletters, ebay transactions and anything that doesn't involve 'real' people. Gmail is my exclusive email account, which I don't use except to talk to real people. Filters out all the unnecessary email guff. And of course you can tag conversations in Gmail, so I can further 'filter' out personal and MBA related stuff.
Great Idea: At work for email, I use Mail Manager, software from oasys, which manages outgoing and incoming emails, so they're all saved onto the common server. Important in our line of work to let everyone have access to the emails - and not have it sitting in someone's inbox where no one else knows it exists.
Great Idea: Bloglines is how I manage all my incoming feeds. My categories are split between 'personal' and 'business' and then again between 'full' and 'partial' feeds. At work, I can track the business, at home, the personal.
Great Idea: The most useful thing I've come across all year is Librarything.com. It's suffering from expansion teething problems currently, but I love it. If a blog directs you to an amazon page, you can tag the book directly from your browser and it will add to your library list. If I spot a book I might want to read, I tag it 'wishlist' and whatever category it falls under (fiction, business, science, etc). No more scribbling down book titles or trying to switch between .com and .co.uk when on amazon (librarything recognizes both).
Great Idea: After reading Managing with Aloha, I realized I need to spend my daily 5 minutes with a different member of each team, and having done so for the last year, my team has become much more effective about bringing me small problems before the manifest into a big one. (By the way, you can check out Rosa's post about this great technique here.)
Great Idea: We all respond to other people based on what we believe about ourselves and about them. To change what is not working for us, we have to change what we believe. Then everything we do and everything we say changes automatically. Some of the beliefs that can open conversations and promote good working relationships are: everyone has a good reason for what they say and do, everyone is doing the best they can, we don't know what other people are thinking and feeling. By believing the best about people and knowing that the only way we can find out what's going with them is to ask, we make ourselves open to what they say and do, without worrying about judging or condemning them. We can treat everyone the same and treat them well, not because of who they are, but because of who we are. By using this perspective, I have contributed to creating a positive environment for myself and my coworkers, which helps to bring out the brilliance in all of us. I have written a book from my experiences called Doing the Right Thing and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time. It is available from on-line booksellers and is also published in its entirety on my website: www.mariannepowers.com.
Great Idea: I've taken Tom Peters' "managing by walking around" to a new level: I spend at least an hour walking around the floor, making sure everyone is good to go, sharing a coffee and an ear with some, and with some, just a friendly smile and a Happy Monday (or whatever day it happens to be).
Great Idea: Starting last year, my team evaluated themselves before I got a chance to self-evaluate their performances, and identify areas of strength they'd like to leverage for greater success in the coming years. We implemented a plan to use those strengths this year. I found this quite helpful, and based it loosely off of Now Discover Your Strengths.
I get hungry several times throughout the day. This is what I hunger for:
When I take a break from writing, researching or crunching numbers - I do it at Panera Bread. Here's why it's my best management tool.I bring a business book (nothing with sales or marketing in the title), go to Panera, read while holding the book upright so everyone can read the title and I can read their smile as they walk by. I have a business card turned upside down with the image (on the blog) facing up. In 30 minutes, I've usually made a new contact, said howdy to familiar faces, got my fill of food for both my brain and tummy - then back to work. My first break is at 6 AM, so this happens several times in a day that ends at 9 PM or later.. It's the most balanced and productive thing I do each day. I manage my time, my contacts, and my balance with one shot (of espresso).
Great Idea: This is my 4 step plan to get your employees happy to do the work you ask them to do and more.. By far, the easiest way to get employees to do the work you need them to do is to make them happy to do it. Here are the 4 steps I use when directing people so they feel happy about the work they are doing.
1. Show empathy for an employee as a person and the work they are doing. This is where making an effort before, during and after work makes all the difference. What are your employees kids names? What do they do for hobbies? Getting to know them as people gives you the soft-sell position of being the manager who cares. A good statement to use when asking for a task to be completed is "I know you're swamped, so help me figure out the best way to get ______ done.
2. Giving specific reasons for your requests. The word "because" can be so helpful here. "What can we do to get this done by 5pm? -- Because if we don't this client is going to send us home and tell us not to come back."
3. Using common courtesy like saying "please" and "thank you" go a long way, to making you the thoughtful manager who cares about them. A simple statement like "Hey Mary, could you please do me a favor.." or "Hey Bill, could I get you to help me out here..." are almost always welcomed.
4. Using who, what, when, where and how questions. "What can we do to ensure this gets done in time?" is much more persuasive than "You better have that done in time." "How can we resolve this issue so everyone is happy and we can get back to work? Is much better than "You two need to just get over it." Once you combine a couple of them into one, it makes your requests irresistible to the employee. "Mary, I know you must be tired having all that family in from out of town. But we still have to have the report in by five, otherwise Sue is going to report us and you know as well as I do, we don't want that to happen. What can we do to make sure it gets done?"
The simplest way to implement this is to actually take the time and energy needed to see your employees as special people. Each one has different strengths, different weaknesses and different attitudes. But all can be working for the same goal if you listen every once in awhile and ask the right questions.
How this has benefited me: I once managed a team of computer installers and we often worked very early in the morning to late at night (3am some nights). It was difficult to motivate people, but I'll never forget one day one of my employees announced during a break "You know the thing about Brad? He could tell you to go straight to hell and you'd do it! And not only that you'd be happy about it!" There was a sudden blast of knowing laughter from the rest of the team, and a comment from another: "yeah you got that right...scary isn't it?"
Great Idea: We live in an era of collective intelligence, connectedness, information abundance, constant change and uncertainty. Trying to manage things through control in such an environment is simply impossible and counterproductive because it does not maximize resources. I believe today managers should abandon the old-fashioned control mode. They should replace it by a work environment where the people they manage feel ownership of their actions and take responsibility. I call this the "Open Management Environment" where "losing control" is filled by "governance" where everybody uses his/her motivation and capabilities to its maximum. It's like Open Source Software Development where developers focus on the problems they want to solve and contribute to a powerful big picture.
Lose Control: Open Business Model Design
Today's business environment is characterized by rapid change and uncertainty. Those who tap into collective intelligence by using the strengths of Information & Communication Technology to its best will master this challenging environment and succeed (see also buzzword Web2.0). Open Source Software such as Linux or Apache have become so powerful because they have done this. Open Software Software development relies on thousands of skilled developers that work on small problems which they are passionate about and want to solve. These developers own the problems they work on and as a consequence give their best. A governance body then puts the pieces together to a impressive whole. Nothing hinders us to use similar "open techniques" in management.
In my daily work I have tried to start applying this to the tasks that have to be done inside and outside our global nonprofit organization that works with international organizations, governments and other nonprofits. For example, we have several mailing lists in our internal and external networks where we push out ideas and drafts to be formed and completed by the best suited (non-designated) person in. We are also working on putting in place several wikis that will openly allow our global network and interested people to jointly edit key reference documents used in our services. In general the work we do in the field of HIV/AIDS relies on "losing control" by a) catalyzing local ownership of responses (i.e. solutions) to AIDS and b) fostering collective intelligence rather than applying so-called specialist knowledge.
Great Idea: My tip is very simple. I learned it from a friend who I think saw it in a book. It enables me to dispel endless list paralysis. When confronted with a long, stale to-do list, use the four D’s to get me going...
DO – get on with it already!
DROP – don’t need to do this anyway!
DELEGATE – give someone else the opportunity to get the task done
DEFER – wait and see, it’s not necessary to do this just yet
Great Idea: I’m a lead instructor in a tutoring center where I act as the liaison between the teachers and the director. I also act as support staff for the teachers, and frequently end up teaching students.
Wearing three hats at once gets a little crazy, but I’ve learned that while I’m on my way to handle one task, I can generally handle two to three smaller tasks along the way which keeps things running smoothly throughout the center.
I’ve also applied this mindset to working on getting my jewelry business up and running, and it’s helped keep me from feeling overwhelmed by everything I need to accomplish.
I’m nominating this because I find that taking care of small things en route to taking care of a bigger task does a couple of things. It helps reduce my stress because I have fewer things to worry about. It causes those smaller tasks to get done without dropping off the face of the earth. It can also help keep me focused on that larger task by not letting my mind wander.
I often find myself more relaxed and able to handle crises on days when I do this than I do on days when I don’t because when I feel stressed, I typically start reacting by worrying over tiny things.
Great Idea: In order to improve the execution of critical business processes our company has re-focused resources to manage these business processes from end to end.
For example, instead of the New Product Introduction (NPI) process being managed and divided along functional lines and adopting an 'over the garden wall' mentality, we have appointed NPI managers who manage the process 'end to end'. They are the fulcrum around which all the activities of the NPI process revolve.
The first action is to draw together a project team from the various functions involved in NPI. These resources are appointed to the project on a part-time basis but within their functions it is their responsibility to drive the NPI actions and task that are the responsibility of their function. The NPI manager develops the project plan, co-ordinates activities, hold review meetings and manage conflict resolution.
These managers are supported by an NPI process manager (program manager) who's responsibility is to remove barriers, co-ordinate the wider NPI program, to liaise predominantly with other functional managers and directors, to facilitate the process. Amongst their most important roles is process improvement, looking for ways to reduce time to market, to review project performance, and ensuring lessons learned are captured and incorporated in the NPI process going forward.
This arrangement has also been adopted, as yet in a looser form, for re-engineering project.
I found it interesting that ideas clustered into two broad categories - technology tools and connecting with people. Makes sense, really. I have learned a few things:
- I need to learn more about using wikis - I feel utterly clueless!
- The basics are often still the best ideas and techniques.
I hope you will continue to share your great management ideas with me and those around you. I pledge to do the same. Our everyday practices might be just what another manager needs to improve his or her results and satisfaction. Let's not take what we have learned for granted. Pass it along - pay it forward