Art and Science
Management requires both art and science. It is the art of making people more effective than they would have been without you and the science is in how you do that. A simple process to effectively manage people is to break activities into the following 4 basic steps: Plan, Organise, Direct, and Monitor.
Make Them More Effective
To make your team more effective, you must add value to the process of their work. For example: Six workers can make 8 units in an eight-hour shift without a manager. If the company hires an additional person to manage them, and they still make 8 units a day, what is the benefit to the business of having hired the extra person? On the other hand, if they now make 10 or 12 units per day, the manager has added value and this justifies the extra employment cost.
The same analogy applies to retail, construction, maintenance services, or any other kind of work where adding a layer above workers helps achieve greater productivity. Can your team handle more customer calls with you than without? Sell higher values in merchandise? Work as safely or effectively? Impart knowledge more effectively? etc. That is the value of management – making a group of individuals more effective. Teaming people up has an exponential impact on their effectiveness, but only when managed properly.
So now we know why we have managers, let’s now look at the ‘How’ of management by looking at the 4 basic pillars.
Management starts with planning and good management starts with good planning. As the adage of 7 P’s go, prior preparation and planning prevents p… poor performance.
Without a plan, you will never succeed and if you happen to make it to the goal, it will have been by luck or chance and probably not repeatable. You may make it as a flash-in-the-pan, an overnight sensation, but you will never have the track record of accomplishments on which a successful reputation is made.
Figure out what your goal is, then figure out the best way to get there. What resources do you have? What can you get? Compare strengths and weaknesses of individuals and the team. Will putting four workers on a task that takes 14 hours cost less than renting a machine that can do the same task with one worker in 6 hours? If you change the first shift from an 8 AM start to a 10 AM start, can they handle the early evening rush, so you don’t have to hire an extra person for the second shift?
Look at all the probable scenarios, plan for them, identify the worst possible scenario and plan for that too. Evaluate your different plans and develop what, in your best judgment, will work the best and what you will do if it doesn’t.
TIP: One of the most often overlooked management planning tools is also the most effective. Ask the people doing the work for their input.
Now that you have a plan, you must make sure everything is in place for it to be able to happen. Is everything ready ahead of your team so the right stuff will get to them at the time it is needed? Is your team prepared to do its part of the plan and is the downstream part of the organisation ready for what your team will deliver and when it will arrive?
Is everyone in the team appropriately trained and are they clear on their roles and importantly are they motivated? Do they understand the impact their role plays on the work? Do they have the equipment, resources and information they need to undertake their role effectively? Are there spare parts available for the equipment? Has purchasing ordered the material? Is it the right materials at the right quality? Will it arrive on in time for when it’s needed and who is checking the delivery schedule?
Do the legwork during the organise stage to make sure everything needed to execute the plan is ready to go or will be when it is needed. Check back to make sure that everyone understands their role and the importance of their role in the overall success.
Now is the time to get things moving by directing people while they are doing their work. Think of this part like conducting an orchestra, and you are the conductor. Everyone in the orchestra has the music in front of them. They know which section is playing which piece and when. They know when to come in, what to play, and when to pause. The conductor cues each section to make the music happen. That’s your job here as manager. You’ve given all your musicians (workers) the sheet music (the plan). You have the right number of musicians (workers) in each section (department), and you’ve arranged the sections on stage, so the music will sound best (you have organised the work).
Now you need only to tap the podium lightly with your baton to get their attention and give the downbeat, and like magic the music begins!
Now that you have everything moving, you must keep an eye on things to make sure everything is going according to the plan. When it isn’t going according to plan, you need to step in and either bring the work back onto plan or adjust the plan, like how the orchestra conductor will adjust the tempo.
Problems will come up. A key team member will be sick at a crucial time they are needed, part of the work will be delayer, a key customer will go bankrupt. Don’t panic, that is why you developed a contingency plan in the first place. You as the manager, have to always be aware of what’s going on, so you can direct the work and adjust as required.
The 4 step process is iterative in nature. When something is out of sync with the original plan, you need to Plan a fix, Organise the resources to make it work, Direct the people who will make it happen, and continue to Monitor the effect of the change.
Managing People Can Be a Very Rewarding Experience
Managing people is not easy, however if done well it can be a very rewarding experience. Remember that management, like any other skill, is something that can be improve with study and practice.
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