Guiding Rules for Managers

Just one “little” non-malicious fudge per person in the management information system yields an inaccurate report—a report mind you, on which managers base decisions. Managers must insist their people and they themselves are brutally honest in all communications and reports. Only then can they base decisions on reality.Harold Kurstedt and Cate Todd
THE MAIN POINT (273 words—55 seconds reading time)

Today we’ll talk about the guiding rules of management.  These rules are like the plow in this image…they do the work to allow you to control of your growth and get to the “swing” beyond (which is your life.)  The goal is gaining control of our work and life. Our desire is to put in a good, hard, smart workday and be able to leave at a reasonable time satisfied we did what we needed to do and looking forward to enjoying the other parts of our life. We want to gain joy in our work and in our workplace.

We’ve talked about the ABC model and focusing on administering the process to reduce crises and increase our availability to build the business. We’ve also talked about trust. The ABC model is about putting the important before the urgent. Trust is an outcome of workplace behavior. How do we implement this model to build the business and achieve the outcomes we desire of a joyful and trusting workplace? The answer may be in rules that guide our behavior.

To avoid doing those very human behaviors that make our lives and the lives of others more difficult, we need to follow a set of guiding rules. These rules are profound and apply to all of our lives. Harold learned them at Citicorp, Mercedes Benz, and Proctor and Gamble; and has implemented them in industry, government, and academia over the past 30 years.

We’ll talk about these rules during the next several weeks. The rules are:

  1. Focus on what you can do.
  2. Give physical evidence of your progress.
  3. Pay attention to detail.
  4. Practice inquisitiveness with everything you touch.
  5. Review progress regularly and frequently.
  6. Face up to commitments squarely.
  7. Conduct honest and open interactions.
  8. Communicate crisply.

These rules apply to the methods we’ve discussed earlier: setting expectations and surveying your work. I’ll expand later on when and how they apply.

THE FOLLOW UP (331 words—66 seconds reading time)

In addition to pervasive guiding rules, it is important to have the understanding that applying the methods and rules yields a few additional insights. Let’s talk about one insight now because of the work we’re doing with flowcharting at a particular company. The insight is that “non-malicious fudging” can undermine the whole system. Non-malicious fudging occurs most often when we falsely report status. In project management, this can lead to huge errors in data that can lead us to faulty decisions. Here is an example.

I need to complete a milestone on a task for a project by Friday, October 31. Because of some unexpected demand, I don’t finish on Friday, October 31. But I plan to work over the weekend to complete the milestone and after all, Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. is the same as 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before. So, I input the task as complete into the management information system as I head for home Friday. Unfortunately, I dislocate my kneecap on Saturday during my morning jog. I spend the weekend in the emergency room getting x-rays and being fitted for a brace. Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. rolls around and the milestone isn’t completed. My Friday input of complete is non-malicious fudging. I fully intended to finish over the weekend, but life happened and I didn’t finish. After all, at work Monday morning is the same thing as Friday evening isn’t it. If just 1% of the inputs into the system on Friday were “fudged,” the bottom line on the project could be greatly compromised. And so it goes.

The point of this story is people don’t want to admit the work is in trouble or late, so they do a little non-malicious fudging. They briefly comfort themselves—at the cost of potentially severe and lasting discomfort for the organization. Just one “little” non-malicious fudge per person in the management information system yields an inaccurate report—a report mind you, on which we base decisions. Managers must insist their people and they themselves are brutally honest in all communications and reports. Only then can they base decisions on reality.