The Hardest Job EVER….
Why do people make things so complicated? Why are most jobs anything but simple?
Usually, they want to make themselves indispensable. When they become indispensable, then they think that they can guarantee their place in the organization. If their work systems are complicated, then few people can take over their job. They believe their value to the organization increases. They think that they can get the promotions and the salary increases they want. It becomes a point in their negotiations about what they are worth.
Getting Rid of Deadwood
One of my ‘teachers’, as general manager and chief executive officer, spent a goodly part of his work week searching the organization for indispensable people. If the targets were unable to make themselves “dispensable” in a set period (which could be as little as a week, but usually three months), they were fired! His view was that, if someone irreplaceable, then they were doing their job incorrectly.They were unproductive. He was willing to pay a premium for those who made sure their was enough back-up for their roles in the business. Naturally, he was unpopular among the bureaucrats in the organization, but everyone admitted he was the best CEO ever. And, even when there were economic downturns, Leo never made anyone redundant. Oh, he made JOBS redundant, but always found new places to employ the people who had been doing those jobs – unless they were indispensable.
Leo… my first major mentor.
There’s very little I can say about Leo. He was not exactly secretive about his life, but the topic always seemed to very quickly dissipate into ‘more important things’ as he called them. I do know that he was born on a farm and had very little formal education. He left school at 12 years old, able to read and do arithmetic to work full time on his father’s farm. When he was fifteen, his father lost the farm, and the family moved to the city.His father worked mostly as a labourer, and Leo got a job as a stock boy. After a year or so, Leo moved up to sales clerk, and a couple of years later to assistant manager. He married at 21, and children followed – he had three sons and two daughters over the next seven years. Then the shop closed. Leo found an opening as a manager in a store, proved to be good at estimating what the customers would buy, persuaded the owners to expand the two stores into a chain (eventually of 40 stores) and was the first buyer for all the stores in the chain. Eventually, he became the general manager, a shareholder, the CEO, and chairman of the board. When he retired from the upper echelons, he just could not stay away from the coal face, so, the chain hired him as a store manager, with the further job of training new managers. I was lucky enough to be one of the people he picked to train, and spent some six months working with him, picking up his methods. It wasn’t easy, but Boy! Did I learn about how to manage people, how to build teams that worked! And, of course, the basics of reading financial statements, watching inventory and all the other managerial tasks. Then I went back to university, studied Maths and got into computers and systems analysis and design. But the rules – Leo’s Rules – were never forgotten. They made a difference in how I did the work and resulted in me having a reputation for finishing projects on time (and within budget), first time, every time.
Rule # 1: The role of a manager is to make sure the job is done.
It sounds simple, and it really is. But it is something that many managers forget. They fall into the “Swamp Trap”. What’s the Swamp Trap?
In short: “When you’re up to your neck in voracious alligators, venomous snakes and snapping turtles, it’s hard to remember that your job was just to drain the swamp”.
Of course, the swamp also has it marauding hippos, hungry lions, sneaky spiders, biting mosquitoes, raging malaria, blood-sucking leeches, and a thousand or so other perils, all of which will affect you (as manager) and your staff team.
These will often seem like major problems that you have to overcome:
Staff with their personal problems; Staff with drinking problems; Stock running out at the most inconvenient time; New items for sale; Sales; New opportunities; New competition; Old competition; Toilets getting stuck; Fuses blowing; Shop lifting; Satff cheats; Holidays; Lunch breaks; Staff rivalry; Staff appreciation; …
The list can go on and on, until the simple idea of satisfying buyer needs becomes a very small part of the whole. In fact, most managers spend up to 90% of their on-job time dealing with these side issues, not including dealing with buyers and sellers, owners and shareholders, accountants and bookkeepers, and a hundred others who benefit from the result s of selling. It does not mater than your job might not be involved with a shop or store. Whether you are in primary industry, secondary industry or tertiary industry, you will have your share of these kinds of things that drag you away from the real tasks you need to do. The simple solution is to always remember what result you want to achieve, and to keep focused on this result: What does the job look like when it is finished? It does not matter how complex or complicated the result will be. You always must keep what it looks like in your mind and in your actions. Yes, it sounds simple, but it always works.
Rule #2: The manager’s first task is to make sure the staff know what the result will look like.
Just as the manager has to know what the result of the job must look like, staff need similar information. It may not be as much as the manager needs to know, but they do need to know what they are supposed to accomplish. Thus, each member of the staff may have a different piece of the overall “picture”, depending on what they are supposed to get done, and the time frame in which they need to accomplish their part of the whole job.
Rule # 3: The manager’s main task is to ensure that the staff have the right tools to do the job.
Often, managers feel they have to personally do the job. After all, they might not be able to follow rule #2. But it is not the manager’s job to do the actual work (even if they can). That is the whole point of having a team or staff. Tools, in this rule, are not just the physical ones. Yes, the physical tools are needed, but the team members may need specific training, or a specific level of language to understand what the managers tell them about their tasks. Tools include manuals, safety precautions, skills, knowledge, ability to cooperate with other team members, and much, much more. Managers need to know the strengths and weaknesses of their staff, and take those into account when assigning the many smaller tasks that make up the whole job. They need to know which members will need some help, and what that help will consist of.
Rule #4: Management is about making decisions at the right time.
Managing a project, or an organization, is something like a jigsaw puzzle, often with pieces missing from it, or with pieces that change shape. The pieces can fit into different places, and they can move individually or in groups when you least expect them to. More, the pieces (and groups) are not always available when one wants them. It makes management something that lends itself to complications, and often there is no single “right” answer, and sometimes there is only the “least bad: answer. It is a fact that decisions are made from available information. But, most importantly, managers have to make decisions based on far less than complete information. They have to learn how to put together the information in ways that support the desired result as early as possible. Sometimes, they will be wrong. But the earlier a decision is made, the more likely it is that it can be made into the right decision.
Rule #5: All managers are right 70% of the time.
While it is more comfortable to assume that managers are right 50% of the time, the fact is that managers, because of their experience, knowledge and skills, are right far more often than half the time. Some are right 90% of the time, but, on average, managers tend to be right as per the rule, 70% of the time (the actual range is between 2/3 and 3/4 of the time – 66% and 75%). Mangers who are consistently wrong seldom last in any organization or team. So, it is meaningful to assume that their “guesses” will follow as per Leo’s expectations. But being right 70% of the time does not guarantee that a manager is good.
First Corollary to Rule #5: Bad managers know they are right 70% of the time and act accordingly.
In fact, ‘bad’ managers expect their decisions to be right all the time, and they make few allowances for when they are wrong. As such, their projects and work tend to finish up with problems that become more expensive to fix by the time they decide to correct the ‘mistakes’. Here’s another anecdotal figure: a correction towards the end of a process costs at least double the current costs, and often more than double the current costs. So, the assumption of being right often leads to far greater costs than expected.
Second Corollary to Rule #5: Good managers know they are wrong 30% of the time, and act accordingly.
Because they are looking for what can go wrong, good managers catch the ‘mistakes’ as early as possible in the whole process. SO, the extra costs are still double the current costs, but the current costs are far lower, and hence not as expensive to correct. Often, catching the mistake early enough might have very little cost, or may indicate a way to save on costs in the continuation of the project through finding meaningful shortcuts that do not compromise the end result. And so, there’ are Leo’s five rules and corollaries that can make a difference to any project or organization. Yes, they are simple. But they are among the hardest rule to apply to any business organization or business project. It’s just another proof that “Keep It SImple and Simplify” is the hardest job you will ever undertake.
This is the first of a series of blogs done by Peter Budvietas dealing with Leo’s Rules Further Blogs can be found in Solution Finder Down Under under Tech Comments. The reason it is there is to help managers ensure that they simplify their online visibility.