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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Team Tips - 23 {Protocol Check - on myself}

I've been thinking about my last post of Team Tips - Team Tips 22 {Ouch, that hurts - Part 2} - and that no one responded to my challenge.

And how that is actually a good thing. Weird, eh?

I know that 20+ folks looked at the blog page, and so it is reasonable that some even read it. But not one comment.

Now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (or more precisely, is not evidence - period.) Someone out there may be busy pondering my questions, researching articles, sharpening their cyber pencils, drafting an essay, getting copy editor revisions, and so on. Or not!

However, no response is perfectly reasonable, because I broke the rules.

The Perfection Game is one of the Core Protocols. I like the choice “Protocols” because it implies following a procedure, a set of steps. In other words, doing it - the Protocol - properly. After all, if you want to do things well, then once you have a successful method follow it! At least until a better procedure shows up.

So I shouldn't have hidden an Ask for Help inside a pretend Perfection Game. Sure, I presented it as “an example” to skirt the fact that you didn't actually ask me to Perfect your reading of the post. But a donkey having been through the car wash is still a donkey.

I should have just Asked for Help directly.

All of you who didn't comment - all 100% - congrats! You could have gleefully screamed “Protocol Check!!” and pointed out the error of my ways. You could have asked me for an intention check to clarify my purpose, and then with that clarification from me then gleefully screamed “Protocol Check!!”. Or you could have ignored my inappropriate behaviour and walked away, as the evidence might indicate you did.

The point of having these atoms of proven successful group behaviour - the Protocols - is that everyone in the group knows them, how to use them, what to do if they suspect improper use. All of which set up the best known initial conditions for successful teamwork. If you would rather use your own version of the Protocols, or not use them at all, be my guest. Let me know how that is working for you.

In the meantime, let me Ask for Help properly:
  • Will you use the Comments area to note some [employee] performance examples for which the Perfection Game doesn't seem to work; and
  • when using the Perfection Game as your performance management method, a simple scheme to allocate merit increase money if it must be based on job performance?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Management 11

A very special person is lining up his first management assignment. 

He's been poking at the idea for some time, even tried for an opening in his organization a while ago. Another opportunity has now come along and we've been talking about it: what the current situation is, is he interested, is he ready, what are the implications, etc., etc.

These conversations are wonderful for me because I love sharing what I've learned and the results. I'm a strong believer in the pilot's adage: Learn from the mistakes of others, because you won't live long enough to make them all yourself.

So after an ask for help from him to prepare for this new opening, I've been thinking about how best to be helpful. How do I usefully condense 20+ years of management learning and experience? It suddenly occurred to me that I had posted thoughts on management before, and they might be useful. So the list below is an index of management topics from which anyone can pick and choose items of interest.

And just in case you thought you would see more on "leadership" in these, there are lots of posts on Leadership starting with:
through to 
(If you want to scan through all the Leadership posts, just look in the Archive list (middle right), select an arrowhead beside a date to find the desired topic. (Google organizes by date instead of topic.))

Now the fun begins! What does he find most interesting? What did I leave out? Do these posts help him get results?
Stand by!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Team Tips - 22 {Ouch, that hurts - Part 2}

(For the folks just switching from a code window)

IF: you've read “Ouch, that hurts - Part 1”

THEN: jump to END

ELSE: read “Ouch, that hurts - Part 1”


So now you know how the Perfection Game works. It's one of the Core Protocols. It could be called the Perfection Protocol, but that could be problematic because we are only human and as much as I would like to improve I'm not counting on getting to complete perfection. I'm such a slacker.

Besides, it really is fun as a game: Do something, Perfect it (Caps meaning Perfection Game steps), do it again, Perfect it, etc. Kids love it. I'm glad I'm a kid.

When I wasn't a kid, I had this very serious corporate manager job being a very serious corporate manager and eventually became a very serious corporate manager of very serious corporate managers. One of the duties of being a very serious corporate manager was to evaluate employee performance, following a very serious corporate policy and filling in very serious corporate forms describing and scoring all manner of employee performance and behaviours.

I'm sure you know what I'm referring to:

  • describe the employee's performance over the previous period
  • highlight job responsibilities done well, or requiring improvement, for all 99 job duties
  • from the following exhaustive sets of descriptors, choose characteristics that best describe the employee's attributes, and those requiring more focus
  • etc., etc.
  • provide an overall summary score out of 5

All of this is, at best, a well intentioned effort to provide guidance to the manager and to standardize a process that ensures the employee gets some information on their performance in a scheduled, repetitive manner.

But, at worst, it becomes a way to find enough sugar to cover the medicine of enough negative concerns to keep the final score centered on a bell curve. If everyone is regularly at a 4 or 5 out of 5 then they are over performing in their job, ready for promotion, and candidates for salary increases (when there is merit increase money available.) And as a boss, you didn't do it right.

That becomes a mess.

It is stressful for the manager, stressful for the employee, each jockeying for position. Feedback becomes a negative experience even though it should include amplification information as well as dampening. The score keeping becomes a case of “1 aw-shit cancels out 10 attaboys”.

Alternatively, imagine how pleasant and useful the Perfection Game plays out:
"Continue doing this, stop doing that, add these things, and I'll be happy."
You: (Realizing the boss doesn't have his facts right, or missed some of your best moves)
"You didn't mention the amazing thing I did 6 months ago; do you still want more of that?
(Realizing the boss is asking for you to do something you are currently doing)
"I can certainly do that." 
(Realizing that you don't understand what is wanted) 
"Happy to give it my best shot; how would it look when I do it?" (Collecting requirements and a definition of “done”.)
As the boss, I don't have to wrestle my way through negative feedback, finding the right words, trying not to hurt feelings, struggling with cultural or maturity differences, etc., etc.
And if the employee follows all the Perfection Game steps and decides to ignore my suggestions, then I am already prepared for the next round - rinse and repeat - until one of you has had enough and you part company.

Now that you have read this far, here's some Perfection for You (provided as an example since you didn't actually ask for it):

  • 8/10
  • I like that you persisted, put up with my quirky humour, and got to this point
  • For a 10, use the Comments area to note some employee performance examples for which the Perfection Game doesn't seem to work; and/or, when using the Perfection Game as your performance management method, a simple scheme to allocate merit increase money if it must be based on job performance.
(Back to your code window - I hear the boss coming!)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Team Tips - 21 {Ouch, that hurts - Part 1}

You've been to the doctor, right?

There's always the moment when the doctor or nurse has to give you a needle, or draw blood, or otherwise inflict some unmentionable procedure on, or in (ew), some unmentionable part of your humanity.

That's when you hear the phrase:
This won't hurt a bit.

Just like when a “best friend”, or business associate, or the boss at performance evaluation time thinks you really need to hear some feedback, some constructive criticism. 
After all doesn't everyone want to improve? See their mistakes and learn from them? Make themselves a better person?

This won't hurt a bit. This is for your own good!

It's a wonderful idea if you are the “helper”: being a good friend, advising someone with your pearls of wisdom. But it's not so much fun being the “helpee”. Particularly when it is “inflicted help”. (I think every instance of feedback should be automatically matched in strength and duration with a return message; not as defensiveness or revenge. Just to return the favour.)

Ah, Reeves, you just don't want to hear criticism. You just don't want to be a better person. I'm, like, trying to help you here!
Hmmmm: right; wrong; wrong.

Right: I don't want to hear criticism. I may not respect the source; I may not like the intent; and I've already got my own imaginary critic whispering in my ear.
Wrong: I do want to be a better person. Returning as a dung beetle isn't at the top of my list (see previous post).
Wrong: You really aren't helping. If you really intended to help you would ask me how I would like to receive the “feedback” you have for me.

What I would like you to do, when I ask, for the topic of concern:

  1. Tell me how I'm doing numerically, roughly, on a scale of 1 to 10. 
  2. Tell me what you like and think I should keep doing 
  3. Tell me what I should do differently, or add, to make the score a perfect 10, from your point of view. 
  • I have a quick idea of how I'm doing: 10 out of 10 means I'm good for now; 1 out of 10 means you have lots of improvement ideas for me. 
  • And I know what things you think I should continue doing. 
  • And, best of all, I know what you think I should do more of, or do better, or add to my game. 
  • The final component is that I can decide to use, or not, any of your suggestions. Nothing inflicted. 
In fact, this can be seen as a game. We could even call it, say, the Perfection Game. Crazy! 

It could be part of the Core Protocols. 

Oooops; Jim & Michele McCarthy already thought of that.

10 /10 from me.