Note from Art—this is part of an ongoing series focused on helping you rethink and reinvent your management practices for a changing world.
In talking with top executives, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges they are facing is transferring their well-established operating routines into an online/virtual format. Many managers are learning their well-honed cadence and schedule of activities to review, plan, and communicate no longer works in a virtual world.
Instead of shoe-horning your old routine into the virtual world, take time now to reframe your approaches. You’ll find some great opportunities to engage your team members and innovate together along the way.
Here are three areas to tackle immediately:
1. End Large Group Kabuki Theater Meetings
It’s a great time to let go of the large-group format review or planning sessions where a few people suck the oxygen out of the room, and everyone else watches the dramatic performances in front of top executives. (Personal note: few activities are more miserable and wasteful for everyone involved than the typical larger company Quarterly Review. What a great time to make a change to this format.)
Shift your planning and review sessions to small-group, interactive meet-ups with the accountable few. Instead of the focus on justifying the numbers—past results and future forecasts—make these sessions more about describing and discussing what the group is learning and sensing and what it needs to do next.
Create clear, simple plans, and then make sure the participants share the insights and actions across their working teams at a level of detail that enables them to prioritize and direct their efforts.
2. Extinguish Micro-Managing Forever
People don’t need more meetings or more managing. They need quality, actionable information faster, and feedback on actions and outcomes. And, they need managers who are coaches, enablers, and servants.
Managers accustomed to observing people in action or running regular meetings to focus on “what they’re doing” need to rethink their roles. Instead, they should focus on using the technology tools to keep people informed, and continuously work to ensure everyone has clarity on priorities and outcomes from actions.
If you are managing managers, give them room to make these adjustments. Don’t make your demands for information drive their need to occupy their teams with information-gathering sessions.
While micro-managing has stubbornly survived in our world, this hopefully is the extinction event. No firm and no team can afford to invest disproportionate amounts of time satisfying a manager’s need to know what ‘s going on so they can justify their existence.
3. Once and For All, Push Decision-Making Out and Down as Far as Possible
If you’ve done your work communicating priorities and parameters (Commander’s Intent), you still need to take the leap of trust and take the complexity out of decision-making.
Decisions are how we turn ideas into verbs and bring them to life. In too many organizations, the operating routine is a means of centralizing decision-making and enabling a few to control the majority of actions. If you’re going to survive, you need to deliberately teach your teams how to make decisions and how to keep improving their decision-making processes over time.
If you can’t trust your teams and team members to make decisions as close to the front-lines as possible, you’re the problem, not them.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
I’ve got a lot of tough love for managers in this environment and no tolerance for the poor practices that persisted in better times. Now, our actions and decisions might mean life or death, not to mention economic survival. Lean out your meetings, dramatically increase the speed and transparency of information, and coach (not micro-manage0 your team members to find a way to do their best. It’s a great time to reframe almost everything about how you manage.