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The Fourth And Last Question For a Frontline Manager …

June 12, 2023
Where are we in this series? Our frontline leaders can easily and consistently identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING; they are applying a robust training system thus addressing ‘don’t know, can’t do’; they have habits and a skill to address ‘does know, can do, but isn’t doing’.

We are now at the point of making sure problems come to the surface. Mark Rosenthal says “Execution brings up organizational problems; this is just normal.” More shortly …

Eight weeks ago we proposed four questions a frontline manager can ask in order to drive strengthening the production or service system. They were:

With respect to our daily work, how easy is it for Leaders to identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING? (This one was discussed at length six weeks ago.)

How is our (potential) problem/risk of ‘don’t know, can’t do’ being considered and addressed? (This one was discussed in more detail four weeks ago.)

How is our problem/risk of ‘does know, can do, but isn’t doing’ being addressed? (This one was discussed in more detail two weeks ago.)

How is our daily work being planned, reflected on, misses noted with recurring issues being addressed?

We will now have a look at this last question in detail.

Firstly, just to be clear, a ‘miss’ is any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

Why is Mark’s statement “Execution brings up organisational problems; this is just normal” important? The point Mark is making is problems are opportunities and we often hide them. Rather, IT IS OK to let problems emerge. We want opportunities (problems) to become obvious quickly, because then we can start working on them, doing something about them.

Leadership (the essence of our 3rd question above) is important here – success in getting robust responses to our 4th question will be dependent on people feeling safe in having problems emerge – i.e. their management is trusted not to rebuke. If they don’t feel safe, let me assure you, problems will tend to get hidden, but they will be there! I’ve seen this firsthand.

Our system of daily work planning and reflection needs to be very good at bringing our organisational problems to the surface.

  • First make it clear what is planned to be done.
  • Then, equally as clear, what was actually done.
  • Differences will then be easy to see. Highlight them in some way. (Remember, as an opportunity, keep well away from blame, keep well away from pointing the finger.)

Closely alongside there needs to be a simple system showing status of actions to address recurring differences.

A simple visual system is most effective for planning, reporting actual, noting differences and tracking associated actions. With little introduction, anyone should be able to quite easily ‘see’ the answer to our 4th question.

Last of all, in the very first posting on this topic I said ‘deliberate practice’ would be further discussed in this last article.

Deliberate practice is practicing something we’re not already good at. It is necessary to develop new skills such as the ones we’ve noted in this series. Deliberate practice will feel uncomfortable which quite simply says you’re on the right path! (If it felt comfortable, likely your already good at it.) Because it will feel uncomfortable, we humans will have a natural tendency to try and avoid it.

Due to the need for very conscious effort to ‘deliberately practice’, first apply new skill developing patterns in a ‘pilot area’ (a small area of the total system). You’ll see the benefits derived from the resulting skill. You’ll then be more inclined to deepen and/or broaden your practice.

If you have questions re any aspect of that above, please email Oscar (oscar@vwaust.com).