Posted tagged ‘Peter Drucker’

Building a Team

November 7, 2008

Now that the election is behind us, the hard work for our new president truly begins. President-Elect Obama’s first responsibility is to put together capable of leading our nation. Today, he began announcing his staff with the selection of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff. This, therefore seems like a very appropriate time to discuss hiring and that is what the next few posts will address.

Executives spend more time managing people and making people-related decisions than anything else, and they should. No other decisions are as enduring in their consequences or as difficult. It is the people decisions that have the greatest impact on the cultural fabric and the performance of the entire organization.

Yet, according to Peter Drucker, the noted management guru, most executives bat no better than .333. At most, one third of these decisions turn out to be right, another third are minimally effective, and the remainders are outright failures.

Drucker goes on to say that this level of performance is unnecessary, and while we will never be perfect, there is no reason why we can’t bat closer to 1000 if the leadership and hiring executive adopt these basic principles.

  • If I put a person into a job and he or she does not perform, I have no business blaming the person, the Peter Principle, or complaining. Rather, I have made a mistake.
  • Employees have a right to competent leadership. It is the duty of management to make sure that the responsible people in their organizations perform.
  • Of all of the decisions that an executive makes, none is as important as decisions about people because they determine the performance capacity of the organization. Therefore, I’d better make these sorts of decisions well.
  • Don’t give new people mission critical assignments without very strong monitoring and guidance. Doing so compounds the risks we all face with a new employee. Giving this sort of assignment to someone whose behavior and habits you know and who has earned trust and credibility within your organization is always better. Putting a newcomer into an established position in which expectations are known and help is available is the ideal. Many small companies though don’t have this luxury. In those instances, you would be wise to monitor and guide.

Once these beliefs have been adopted, how does one become effective at making the right hiring decisions? Here are a few important steps that will enable you to select the right people for your company. The context and the most fundamental rule to apply is that we are here to “screen out” inappropriate candidates rather than “screening in” people.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the way one should go about hiring the team.


Putting It All Together: Initiatives, Priorities and an Approach

November 3, 2008

Today’s post is the culmination of the “trilogy” of posts (see the “Managing by Priority” and number of Business Initiatives” posts for the first two.) My intention is to provide a working model that allows you to decide which projects should be in the portfolio of projects that you would choose to address.

To accomplish this, I have found it best to apply the classical decision making process with a strategic twist. (To learn more about this approach, you may want to visit the American Management Association site and research their seminars on Strategies for Effective Problem Solving and Decision Making or look at some of Peter Drucker’s books and particularly The Practice of Management)

Here’s the model we will use:

  1. Prework: Understand and agree on the problem / opportunity. This is really one of the most critical steps. Often decisions are made incorrectly simply because the “wrong” problem or opportunity is defined. I consider it wise to add a strategic filter to any discussion. Put more simply, the problem or opportunity has to be supportive or related to one of our strategic goals.
  2. Define the Objectives: Establish the outcome of the process. This is a further refinement of the defined problem or opportunity. It speaks broadly to the attributes of a successful decision. Performing this step allows us to assess the decision that we make is in the context of a specific outcome. If it allows us to meet the outcome that we were aiming at, the decision is probably a good one. This can be quickly accomplished by merging perspectives into a brief written statement regarding the desired outcome.
  3. Establish Criteria: Establish boundaries within which the decision must fall. This is yet another level of refinement of the objectives. I like to execute this step before we discuss tactical options. This is because it is not uncommon for the people in the room to be biased toward a particular tactic(s). By establishing criteria first, the group tends to offer more objective factors or conditions by which the options will later be evaluated. Examples of criteria might be ROI, availability of resources, committed executive sponsorship or complexity.
  4. Generate Alternatives: At this stage we are ready to list all of the tactical options. An effective facilitator should be careful not to edit out options or pre-judge them. To enable buy-in, everyone must be heard and the process must have integrity.
  5. Evaluate / Analyze Alternatives: With our choices in front of us and criteria establish by which we may evaluate them, the group is well positioned to determine which projects are the most appropriate ones to be addressed. I do counsel the group to create a portfolio of short-, medium- and long-term projects as well as allowing some room to handle emergencies.
  6. Make the Decision: This is the final stage. At this point the group reaches alignment. (The choice of the word “alignment” is by design. It is a more apt word to me than “consensus.” In many situations the group does not fully agree but they can “get behind” the decision and agree to move forward with it as the plan for the organization.)

Once all of this has been accomplished, there is typically one of two steps that must take place. Either the group must obtain approval from someone else or it can begin implementation planning. Each of these processes has very defined steps to success and I hope to discuss them in a future post.

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