Book Review – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Standard

When first told about Delivering Happiness I thought it was going to be one of those business books which talks about what you need to do to make your customer’s think they’re happy.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Delivering Happiness is an autobiography about Tony Hsieh and his business ventures.  This book was very enjoyable, with Tony picking apart his triumphs and failures, and ultimately building Zappos and the internal struggles he faced with that company.

This book I would recommend if someone is in for some good light reading.  There are a few good business points in it, such as don’t outsource your business’ core competency and don’t neglect managing your company’s culture, but for the most part its a good story.

From a community style business perspective, I personally found his description of his investors and share holders at the company’s a good cautionary tail.  Having a directing class in a company may create misalignment with the company’s goals (the grand ones put forth as vision statements) and its workers goals.  In this book Tony has one business which he lets go of, through the sale of the business, and one business which he finds a solution to this problem (Zappos).  With Zappos, Tony finds Amazon, who is interested in what the company is doing without wanting to change the company or its culture and absorb it.

Advertisements

Book Review – The Lean Startup

Standard

This was a great book for anyone to read. Wether you’re part of a startup or not, this book will outline an approach which will focus you on gaining real ground on your area of expertise in the 21st century. The way I interpreted the book there were four main concepts: How to understand and adapt to your customer base, the validated learning model, small batch vs. large batch philosophies, and systematic issue management. The majority of the book focused on getting you to buy into the first two concepts, which tend to be the largest delta from how things tend to get done in business.

How to understand and adapt to your customer base

This concept is the initial point of emphasis, at least for me, where the book discusses how to understand customer feedback. It really boils down to the customer’s feedback, while valuable, is a fairly small datapoint in how decisions should be made. Customer feedback where there is no buy in, purchase for products or sign up for free services, is useless, as the customer sees it as a philosophical choice, not a real world decision for themselves.

Recommendations in this book discuss how to get real feedback, and how to do just enough work to validate a business direction before committing to it. During this process, this book also discusses how to identify when you should pivot your product or service.

The validated learning model

This part is blended with the previous, but I wanted to break it out specifically as it can be used independently from the previous, and at any level inside any business. This topic in the book focuses on how to break down an idea into theories which can be proven before committing time and effort in a fully flushed out production effort. It can be applied to your business concept, feature, product idea, management systems, etc.

Small batch vs. large batch philosophies

This section focuses on how to construct a product or service. It discusses how the large batch approach tends to seem more efficient, but actually decreases the effectiveness of the organization as a whole, especially when it comes to adapting to customer needs.

Systematic issue management

One of the most interesting things I found in this book was the issue management system they describe. It starts off with outlining a system to identify root causes to the problems in the organization as a machine, but it also dives into methods he had implemented to identify issues, reduce effort, and increase productivity.

I’ll admit, generally speaking, I do like to fix the fundamental issues, and live through the pain for the short term.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I’d recommend this book to anyone in any industry. It will geer you up to identify how to be more productive on those things that are actually important.

Check it out on amazon

Community Style Business – Rewarding Performance

Standard

The core problem with any reward system is the question as to how to ensure the reward is representative of the effectiveness. Wether it is a paycheck/compensation, a bonus or results based compensation, companies find ways to reward their employees. These rewards are not an exact science, see Corporate Scarcity – The manager’s mindset, and can contain quite a bit of disparity from effectiveness.

Community Style Business approaches the problem around rewards preferably through the use of non-loss obverse point systems, leveraging lead measure tasks and gates to ensure high quality services are performed. This blog post will cover various theories around CSB reward systems, along with references which I found useful.

Results Based Rewards

The core concept in community style business is that its members are rewarded proportionally to to what they contribute. This creates a problem when trying to define what and how much a contribution is. How do you identify what is or is not valuable?

There are various guidelines, and examples, on how this can be done. None of these guidelines are absolute, as it is up to the community, ultimately, to correct deficiencies when they occur.

Defining a measurement

The first step in creating a value based reward system is to define a way to measure both effort, risk & need/desirability. Typically the points should be based off of effort relative to a baseline which everyone can understand. One example of how to evaluate tasks for points is a practice known as planning poker, which will be discussed later. This point system is re-evaluated as needed every iteration by the community.

Planning Poker

Planning poker is a means by which all members have the ability to vote as to how many points a task is worth. Each time there is a large disparity in the voting the a representative from the high and low point group can voice their arguments to the group.

The site below provides a good overview and guidelines for planning poker.
http://agile.dzone.com/articles/introduction-planning-poker

Setting the bar

If planning happens on a team level or there is a disparity based on the type of knowledge someone has to have, it is often a good idea to set a bar for a baseline for each discipline. This is meant to normalize the disciplines, while still allowing for adjustments based on need/desirability. The one I’d recommend is, what could an average individual skilled in the craft get done in a set duration. This allows for both normalization across disciplines as well as eliminating a notion of inflation causing disparity.

As the organizations cash reserves build it is best practice to get a third, non-invested party to do these evaluations. This is to ensure that there are no biases toward a discipline or career lifecycle. It also helps reduce the potential for political infighting.

Need / Desirability

I’ve stated multiple times this notion of need / desirability, but I want to take a moment to really define what that means.

In a community system, we start off by assuming all normalized efforts are equivalent, no matter what the discipline. This creates a problem right off the bat. Some work requires specialization, is not something people tend to enjoy or require more end entices to get the right level of talent to do the job well. Alternatively, other jobs it’s easy to find people to work on, these are the “sexy” jobs.

The goal here is not to reduce the value of the “sexy” jobs, but to find an equilibrium with those tasks which are less so. An example of this might be someone working the night shift might get more points than someone working a day shift, if the night shift isn’t attracting enough high caliber people.

This isn’t really a new concept for business, as worker salary is a reflection of this calculation. When applied to a CSB it is expected to manifest differently. Since things like schedules and efforts are ultimately influenced by a community of individuals working, more variation is expected to occur over time, as individuals find the niche which best fits their life. Rather than a stick approach, CSB tends to be best with a carrot.

Defining results not method

While lead measures are useful, they shouldn’t be the only mechanism which is used. Often times when looking at an objectives there is the work done which directly contribute and those which correct deficiencies along the way. A good example of this is a software developer & a software tester. In these types of scenarios there are two approaches which can be used: distribution of existing value or value created for the corrective action.

Understanding the impact of imperfection

The example of a software developer is a good example of missed potential. The reason for this is that if the software developer wrote perfect code, the effort needed by the software tester is minimal. Their job is to just verify the expected results. The problem is that perfect code is very hard to write for many various reasons. As the flaws in the software are discovered, the amount of effort given by both the software developer and tester multiply.

Distribution of existing points

The above scenario lays out a real life scenario, of which happens every day. With a distribution of existing points philosophy, the completion of the goal is seen as the value. There for efficiency is rewarded, but higher efforts will not be recognized. Points are distributed after the work is done based on the amount of effort and lead measures completed.

If applied to the scenario above, the more the tester has to work the fewer points the developer receives. The danger here is that points can reduce in value for effort pretty easily, causing the goal to become less compelling. The positive aspect here is that it rewards quality with more points regardless of time spent. This allows an individual to spend more time to produce higher quality upfront and have that behavior re-enforced.

Value created for the corrective actions

This philosophy states that those efforts directly inline with the goal will be rewarded statically. The corrective efforts will be rewarded without the scarcity of the initial goal.

The example above would be handled by the developer getting a static set of points, while the tester would be rewarded more for anything extra beyond the initial verification effort.

This method plays more nicely when looking at objectives which run longer than expected. The problem is that this method increases the value a goal is worth artificially based on how much correction is needed. The positive aspect is that important goals don’t become meaningless. The developer in the example would have to spend longer to fix the issues before his points would be realized, which also balances out the effort to reward ratio for lower quality work.

Dividing up the spoils

As I stated in the overview, the gross profit is first used to pay for all materials and expenses the community is required to pay. Once that is done, any community initiatives are taken out, things such as a rainy day fund or saving for a consultant to normalize efforts across disciplines. After those two are completed, the points from all contributors are added up, and each member’s percentage of points are calculated. The remaining money is distributed accordingly.

The importance of peer leadership. Who’s in charge?

Standard

When looking at a team or business which operates efficiently, continually makes great decisions and has fun doing it on all levels there’s usually a large presence of peer level leadership.

Peer leadership is when individuals at all levels are empowered with the ability to change the standard operating procedures around them through influencing and evangelizing ideas, rather than through managerial direction. Just like with any learning process, this form of peer / self directed leadership has the potential to obtain more immediate buy in, but also has the ability to distract from the team.

Another advantage to the peer leadership model is that issues which contributors know about but won’t bring up to their managers are more likely to be addressed. Typically these types of issues contribute heavily to a company’s turnover rate. A few examples would be process optimization, as well as discipline standardization and safety measures / practices. In an organization with little peer or contributor leadership these examples could be seen as organizational or management issues, even if management was not fully aware of them.

The science behind peer leadership

There are several aspects which are involved with leadership in general. This section will go into a few, and talk about the science behind successful peer leadership.

Individual investment

Those who contribute the most buy in the most.  Its been show that the concept of ownership and collaboration lead towards lower turnover rates and higher employee moral as can be seen in this article by Scott Thompson on “The Most Effective Techniques to Encourage Team Members to Contribute to a Project”.

So why does individual investment matter?  There is a difference between the motivation to make other’s ideas successful and our own ideas successful.  The following article on the impact of motivation, written by Richard E. Clark, “Fostering the Work Motivation of Individuals and Teams” ,which helps define how motivation effects us and how it is destroyed.

As stated above, there is a difference between the motivation which comes from making other’s ideas successful and our own. Taylor and Francis Online has an article available, titled “Employee participation in decision making …” which helps explain the psychological impact of ownership in the workplace.

Cross discipline team building

One of the biggest benefits and issues with modern business is that more and more work can be done remotely without much collaboration.  The advantage here is that individuals can accomplish more without as much overhead.  The problem which arises is that a sense of tribalism can develop in the workplace, or the us vs. them mentality.  Although a peer leadership model can develop within the “Tribe”, expanding the impact to cross discipline agendas will help eliminate tribalism, and increase the team member’s cross domain knowledge.  This in turn helps with decision making, as it results in decisions being made from a “what’s best for my tribe and other tribes” mentality.  This mentality can eventually translate into a larger tribe identity.  NewWorkplace.com has an article “How about more tribes and less tribalism?” which dives into the psychology of tribes in the workplace.

Another article, by Ekaterina Walter, which I found very interesting on this topic dives into how siloed discipline environments can impact to the product(s) being delivered. titled “The Missing Ingredient of Modern Marketing”.  The reason I bring this up is that not only can a shared tribe bring about better cross discipline collaboration, but it can improve the quality and decision making around your products.

Engagement

An aspect of humanity which should never be dismissed is people’s desire to mean something.  By being a leader, and helping drive change to both culture and products, contributors become personally involved in something more than themselves.  This buy-in produces more engaged employees, as they start identifying what is produced as being a part of them, and more discipline throughout an organization.

Cultureuniversity.com published an article “The Four Roots of Engagement”, which discusses the four aspects, and reasons behind those aspects, as to how employee engagement is generated.

The organic/structured hybrid

There is no hard and fast rule which says a organization can either be structured or operate organically. Often times the companies that thrive have some type of hybrid which utilizes aspects of both. The ability to allow some structure with an organic component can most accessibly be seen with franchises such as McDonald’s and Burger King, in the relationship of the franchise and franchisee. These franchises have a structured approach to marketing, a majority of menu items and the overall look to the operation. What’s fascinating about these franchises is that they allow the individual franchisees to determine if and when to implement optional aspects of the franchise, such as what type of soda is to be offered, participation in promotions, and the tactical operation of the stores. From this aspect the franchise and franchisees become peers in some respects.

Conclusions

Peer leadership helps drive buy-in, engagement and team building, and can generate more meaningful innovation with those performing the tasks driving cost reducing measures.  Companies which exceed expectations continually tend to have some level of peer leadership built into their cultures.  Companies like Costco, Microsoft, Google and many others can be looked at to identify some different approaches to peer leadership.

Peer leadership is also becoming more applicable given our continual evolution of individual and group psychology. Matching up the psychology of the group and individual behavior around a peer leadership therefore could lead to keeping more qualified talent, as individuals are more bought into what they work on.

While this can be very useful, the pure organic form of peer leadership wont work for everyone.  Both structure and cultural factors must be built to support it.

To answer the initial question in the title “Who’s in charge”, the answer is simple.  In a peer oriented system, the individuals take ownership of leadership to the scope the structure allows them to.  Existing company, division and team leadership members start focusing on how to increase the ability for contributors to lead, and how to help educate and evangelize concepts, problems and general direction for the contributor leadership to pick up.

Community Style Business – Investment

Standard

One of the key staples for community style business is the notion of rewards that are equivalent to value created. A problem which quickly forms is that most companies need some form of up front capital either to get started or grow to their potential. This capital is given in exchange for a long term share of the profits. So with this disparity, how can investors invest in a system which turns around with profits and gives them to the employees? This post will go over some potential mechanisms which can be put in place to accomplish this without going outside the bounds of a CSB. A quick note, this post builds upon the point system initially laid out in Community Style Business – An Introduction

Capital creates value

The first type of investment I will go over is a capital investment to be used for purchases, whether it is equipment, marketing materials, or even a booth at a state fair. In this type of investment, the capital essentially creates value by itself. The points are therefore given based on the expected impact provided by the investment. In the case of marketing materials, this could last for longer than just the immediate time the money was spent. By doing this, the investor has a direct return on their investment, based on tangible forecasts. With this form of investment there is assumed a set duration and point amount.

Loans

Just like in any other business, sometimes it’s more preferable to take out a loan, rather giving away points. These are the cases where the community has a track record which can allow them to treat the loan as a community expense before revenue sharing. Since the loan doesn’t consume points, it doesn’t come with influence on the community, or other long term impacts.

Investing in individuals

Another form of capital investment is in people. This form of investment is very common in small businesses and startups, where revenues are not expected for a significant duration but people are needed full time for an initial effort. With this scenario it’s important to note that the realization of points is often a future event. The investor should be given the points in full with an iteration cap. These points can then be used at the time when revenue is being realized. The cap is a way to protect the team and system from having an iteration where an investor can devalue a a contributor’s points to where they become irrelevant. It is expected that the investors can become part of the community to help guide, but they hold no special status other than their ability to influence others.

Buying and selling points

A third form of investment is short term individual based investment. This is where a single individual requires a working wage to get off the ground and become self sufficient in a CSB. In the above scenario, the investment is for a specific individual, for a specific iteration or iterations. Due to the nature the points sold are for the specific iterations as well. When selling iteration points it is best to sell a specific number per iteration, based off of the teams baseline. This allows the point sale to be able to be forecast for the investor’s profit margins. It also allows the individual to exceed expectations and still be able to receive compensation proportional to the value they create.

The point commodity

Just like any shares system, points can ultimately be perceived as a commodity, with investors being able to buy, trade and realize them. Although similar to stocks, the point system has a more definitive value, as ultimately they are meant to be realized by profits in an iteration.

The selling of a CSB

While selling a CSB might sound a bit odd, given the nature, it’s actually expected for some to get purchased just like any other business.  This usually occurs when a business reaches a threshold where competition with other business require more than partnerships, or a larger corporation wants to add better integration into its own services without creating new costs.

The difference when it comes to a CSB is that since there are no real share holders, a new mechanism is required when divvying up the purchase revenue. First I want to point out a founding principle in business development. Businesses don’t start from scratch ready to be bought. It is the people who invest and contribute who make a business sell-able. With this in mind, the recommended approach for realizing sales revenue is to leverage the point system, but rather than just use a single iteration, the total points for the life of the business is used. This will allow all of the CSB members to benefit, including the investors.

Conclusion

Community Style Businesses doesn’t have to place all the financial burden on the contributors, and investment has a place. While there are various ways to invest and realize those investments, the form it takes differs greatly from the typical corporation. Even so, realizing profits and revenue off of business acquisition stays relevant to the investor.

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/5299199423/”>photosteve101</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Community Style Business – Leadership

Standard

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Martin Luther King Jr.

When looking at a CSB, it is important to grasp the concept of not only what leadership is, but why it occurs. Leadership comes in various aspects in a business. These include: product / organizational vision, practice area, cultural, team and quality. Depending on the organizational model, these leadership roles can be distributed countless ways.

Currently, organizational leadership is put on a pedestal. Leaders are those with both the information and the power, with long term success relying on a few chosen to make the right decisions. These individuals get rewarded for their efforts, which tend to be well beyond those typically performed by contributors.

The problem here, ultimately, is that people come with different talents, strengths and weaknesses. We all approach problems differently, and leverage different types of crutches to minimize our weaknesses. Given this, we create positions with fairly ridged ideas around roles and responsibilities, rather than creating a system which leverages people’s unique strengths, while not forcing them into make or break situations around their weaknesses.

The cultural change which needs to be made here is that CSB is run more like an organic ecosystem rather than a rigid structure. In essence, each skill set and partition in a CSB is responsible to self organize and adapt to their own unique environment independently. Through communication and sharing of success and failures, these independent pieces enable each other in the larger organization to improve independently, without changes being forced on the teams. This viewpoint changes what type of leadership is needed.

Leadership is a means to an end, and is not the sole objective for any one member. There is no ordained leadership position which is a given. Those who choose to lead can provide leadership across the board, or in a specific area they’re adept at. These leaders then help improve their part of the organizational ecosystem through influencing consensus, both on their team and by working with others.

An example on how this can apply is by taking a look at a hamburger restaurant, specifically the cooks team & their schedule. Staffing a restaurant cooks team includes ensuring enough members are on hand at any given point in time to fulfill the orders received in a timely manner. In this case providing leadership might be as easy as creating a draft board for hours having to be worked, and challenging working with others to make sure all the shifts are covered. Since everyone has a personal stake in the success of the business, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure the area is staffed. It is the leaders job to help the members achieve the schedule creation.

Rewarding leadership

So what is the reward for providing leadership? Why would anyone do it? This is the question I struggled with. In the ideal world the leaders would lead because that’s what they enjoy doing. In the real world leadership can be time consuming, and offers challenges of its own. So how do we reward leaders for their efforts?

In the above example the leader might get first draft choice, where the compensation is a better schedule. Alternatively the leader could be compensated based on the schedules timely completion, and more points are rewarded for each active participant who contributes to helping create the schedule.

The best initial solution available is to reward through lead measures (or tasks which when occurred lead to effective results. This makes it possible to ensure rewards can be obtained, but still ensure that those who gain more efficiency in these tasks to be compensated accordingly, sticking with the montra, you get out only what’s perporsional to what is put in.

A new type of leadership

The team or CSB will there for tend to have more micro focused areas of leadership. Rather than having formal structures which have specific roles and responsibilities, leadership is a set of goals, which the community identifies as being valueble. The team can then either elect their leaders, or approach it via lasefair, where people can pick up what they choose. In both cases those who want to lead can pick and choose what goals best match their unique talents and skillsets. Since there’s no strict position which is gained or lost, people are allowed to find those aspects and ways they can best lead, without taking on too much, or being put in a position where loss obversion can effect decision making and direction.

With this approach determoning leadership, or baring poor leaders, has to be left up to the community members. In this way the leader is a servent of the community, only serving as such if the community approves.

This differs from hierarchical leadership where a single decision can span across various loosely related groups, and peer leadership where through organic independent adoption change is brought about.

Corporate Scarcity – The manager’s mindset

Standard

In previous posts I talked about the history of corporations and the contributors mindset. In this post I will discuss the mindset and challenges of being a manager in a corporate environment.

The manager, whether that is project, product, program or resource manager, is continually faced with the prospect of knowing the directions the team or teams is to go, but must turn that vision into a strategic plan as to how to get there. This is primarily done with either too few or barely enough resources to get the job done. During this execution the manager must fend off the pushes and pulls of peers and higher ups, which always want more, if it’s going to have an adverse effect on the teams immediate goals.

When looking at the manager’s perspective it is important to also note that they still have most, if not all, the scarcity aspects of the contributors. On top of that they must also face the challenge of productivity management, resource allocation, aligning and prioritizing varying objectives, positioning and communicating their teams value and finally being a knowledgeable and effective leader.

Productivity Management

Productivity management is assembling, cultivating and maintaining a team to achieve a specific role in an organization. The more productive a team is, the better it, and its management, look. The limiting factor here is that the team size is limited to often being just enough to get the job done. This creates a scarcity environment where individuals are held to a standard mold of expectation of productivity. An individual’s value therefore is based primarily on how well they match the mold, with a secondary basis on their talent.

One place I worked at was a highly political environment, where perception of success was more highly regarded than actual success. In this environment those whom were adept at political maneuvers, even at the contributor level, were regarded as the most successful.  At another company, the definition of success was based on how well you worked with others. A third company I worked at based success on how much you produced as an individual. These are just examples of how varied the mold’s expectations can be.

Hiring

Having a team understaffed or improperly staffed leads to failure of projects and future assignments going elsewhere, or existing direct reports feeling overworked and leaving. As a manager you are expected to hire the right individuals for your team, which often means a specific skill set, a compatible mindset to your team and organization, the right amount of relevant experience and willing to work for the amount the company is willing to give. This makes finding the right people in a timely manner that much more important. This often limits the talent pool making the job that much harder. Add to this that the manager usually has to use an interview system which gives only a fraction of the information needed to make the “right” decision, and a vision as to the perfect fit can become a crapshoot. Many interviewing strategies have been developed, but there are still huge risk factors which can include: how well the candidate interviews, the type of stresses the candidate is under external to the interview, and what preconceived notions you and the other interviewers have. This tends to result in an interview system which results in a period of uncertainty for the company’s productivity, and the individual being hired. In the worst scenarios, the company sinks a lot of money into the individual, with very little productivity and fires the individual, resulting in financial troubles for the individual as well.

Cultivating

As a manager it is not enough to just hire and fire, you are expected to cultivate the team’s talent as well. Lack of talent growth by the team members tend to cause them to look elsewhere to gain those talents, and ultimately can cause them to leave the team. Another consequence a manager faces here is that they are only given a limited headcount, which is one of their largest scarcity aspects, which must be capable and talented enough to handle their role in the company. Growing talent is one way to fill in the skills needed without requiring more hiring. Managers challenge and grow the individuals on the team, aligning skills needed with people they already have.

The difficulty here is that the number of “challenging” projects are often seen as desirable by the entire team, but tend to be outside the team’s primary responsibilities. This creates an aspect of scarcity as you much choose how to grow individuals without creating discontentment with the rest of the team. In rare cases you may run across a scenario where the a team member feels entitled to one of these projects, but doesn’t have the skillsets required, or isn’t chosen. This results in the same discontentment even if they have other opportunities.

Another aspect of cultivation is performance reviews. Depending on the company you work for, performance reviews hold a lot of sway as to the employees’ compensation and future. The problem with reviews at most companies is that artificial limitations are placed on teams and organizations as to how many people can be evaluated as excelling or failing. These limitations once in the organization then get divvied out based off of team perception and politics. This ultimately can lead to a scenario where individuals don’t feel adequately compensated for their contributions, and if the philosophy is made public, an environment where someone’s success hurts others come review time.

One company I worked for had a review come around, and a limitation that worked out to only one individual being given an exceeds expectation grade. The past year I had saved a project, got a multi million dollar deal, and played the key point person for a large international customer, while not being paid for most of these responsibilities. Due to the project, which previously had been seen as a failure, with a customer super cautious about who it worked with, created a scenario where another’s achievement were seen as more desirable than my own. Ultimately the project I turned around became the primary project of the company, but by then it was too late for me. This scenario happens a lot, both from the reviewee and the reviewer side. As a reviewer you must make decisions as to whom you’re going to reward and who you’re not. Often times these decisions are made based off of fear of losing resources, rather than purely a review of the individual.

Over time discontentment turns into turnover, which a manager is expected to limit. A failure to limit higher than normal turnover can cause the manager’s manager to question their ability to lead a team.

Maintenance

Maintaining a team can be challenging. This is probably one of the few aspects which is not scarcity related. Working with people to get better cooperation, help with personal and interpersonal issues can be very rewarding. The difficult part comes in when its time for someone to move on. While this isn’t necessarily scarcity based, it does have aspects of loss aversion. This can create scenarios where someone is under performing or out of alignment is retained longer than they should be. If not let go, the team loses morale and respect for leadership, if let go then a contributing resource is lost or possibly other consequences based off of social circle fallout as well.

Resource allocation & prioritizing objectives

One aspect of a manager is to allocate people’s time according to new projects, initiatives and maintenance. Due to the nature of business there is never enough collective time to do everything. This creates a scarcity aspect around resource skillsets and time. New projects tend to gain more visibility and political points, but increase the required maintenance in order to stay afloat. Initiatives, either peer or directed, help with longer term organizational goals. Maintenance comes with little visibility and political points, but lack of it will lead to epic failure given enough time.

Managers must then balance all of these, communicating what is necessary, and understanding when it’s more prudent to use a pocket veto (not opposing, but taking no action to fulfill). As a manager this is where a lot of time is spent, navigating the various expectations and agendas.

Positioning & communicating team value

In business, perception is reality. While in an ideal world, there’s never enough time for directors and above to fully understand all the details. Rather they rely on the manager to communicate those aspects they need to know. If a team meets objectives, but is never heard about, then evaluation, promotions, bonuses and increases in salary will be distributed eslewhere. Part of being a manager is evangelizing the problem space your team is in, the value they produce and the individuals who excel.

Being a knowledgeable, effective leader

One of the biggest misnomers which contributors expect from a manager is that the manager is an expert in all aspects the contributor is expected to work in. While this may be true in some cases its often artificially created by the manager’s hiring choices, choosing people who aren’t beyond their own comprehension in aspects they’re less knowledgeable about themselves. The other way managers manage those more skilled than them is limiting the comments and involvement in those areas. By not commenting or interacting, the reports assume they’re in agreement and therefore don’t lose respect.

Another aspect which contributes to effectiveness is the ability to lead appropriately. This means understanding how to lead different people differently. Distance of power is used to describe how people expect to be managed, on a sliding scale with extremes being low distance of power and high distance of power.

People expecting a high distance of power want to be told what to do, and in some cases how to do it. They perceive that their manager is an expert in what they do, and any suggestion they have to make is a failure of their manager’s ability to lead. Often times these people respond better to being told their suggestion is wrong, even if the outcome is not as optimal.

People expecting low distance of power perceive their manager as an equal, with a different set of responsibilities. They tend to self manage more, and expect that their suggestions are a contribution to their environment, and not a failure of their manager. If a good suggestion is ignored then the individual starts questioning their ability to lead.