letter to a new manager

The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

In career, design on September 20, 2014 at 12:00 pm


This is a review of a book with a bland title has a really interesting premise – know how and sophistication have increased remarkably in almost all realms of endeavour and as a result so has our struggle to deliver on them.

One of the examples that Gawande examines in detail is how large buildings now get constructed. Determining if a large building is to code is more knowledge than one person can have.

Response to complexity is to push decision-making to the centre but we should be pushing it to the periphery and giving each person room to adapt based on experience.  For instance, in New Orleans, after the hurricane, the command and control method of getting through the crisis didn’t work well.  Walmart took another tack and gave district managers the permission to make decisions above their level and make the best decision on the information available.  In the end they could distribute diapers and ice and break into pharmacies to distribute emergency medication.  As a result they got out food and water before the government.

The mechanism that worked was a mixture of freedom and expectations that work would be coordinated.

How does the checklist come in?

We need freedom and coordination but we also need a way to reign in the simple problems that besiege us.  For lawyers (and bureaucrats) this might be deadlines.   As Gawande says, checklists can defend even the most experienced against failure with a cognitive net.

The elements of the checklist in combination with the act of running through it orally as a team, are a way to increase communication.  This creates good conditions to problem solve and avoid errors and lead to an increase in job satisfaction.

Here is the bottom line: we don’t like checklists – they are painstaking and seem beneath us and they demand a discipline.  They also help us avoid errors.

I’ll be doing some more thinking about how I might work up checklists for my work environment going forward.  I think one easy steal from this book is that I’ll move to ensuring that delegation of bigger items includes a sit down Q and A session with some standard elements to make sure that big assumptions are clarified from the start and that a dialogue gets started early.

Pinning Waves Upon the Sand

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm

letter to a new manager:

I love following this blog and I am a huge fan of using competencies to help bolster our performance reviews.

Originally posted on Canadian Government Executive Blog:

I have written previously about how metrics are crucial in the world of performance management. Used well, they create a yardstick by which all employees are evaluated. The very act of measuring the right things can lead to better results.

Though we are reluctant to admit it, most managers do a poor job of objectively measuring performance. Observing and recording employee behaviour is hard work. We can’t watch every member of our team at all times. Our observations and memories drift toward the big wins and the big screwups. We focus on what’s easily measured rather than what’s most important. Keeping track of performance can feel like a herculean task!

The goal is to help every employee improve and grow. Employees can’t do that without good feedback from their manager. Managers, in turn, can’t provide good feedback without solid, objective metrics. Creating these measures doesn’t need to be complex…

View original 696 more words

8 Qualities That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable | Jeff H. | LinkedIn

In Communication, crisis leadership, humility and leadership on September 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm

8 Qualities That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable | Jeff H. | LinkedIn.

Lots to like in this article:

Bosses are unforgettable for believing the unbelievable, taking us along for the ride and seeing opportunity in change.

They embrace the larger purpose and they take real risks (the ones that make you uncomfortable).  They don’t feel entitled and they still roll up their sleeves.

And my favourites:

- They protect others from getting run over by the bus (and get run over themselves as necessary).

-  They lead by permission not authority – because people want to be led by them and lastly,

- They wear their emotions on their sleeves -

“Memorable bosses are highly professional and yet also openly human. They show sincere excitement when things go well. They show sincere appreciation for hard work and extra effort. They show sincere disappointment — not in others, but in themselves. They celebrate, they empathize, they worry. Sometimes they even get frustrated or angry.

In short, they’re human. And, unlike many bosses, they act as if they know it.

Professionalism is admirable. Professionalism — with a healthy blend of humanity — is inspiring.”


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