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The Manager’s role in Result Assurance

Management in dramatic Change 

The fast development of information and communication technology has changed the world and also the managers role. Going from analog to digital communication, development of the Internet and not the least the use of social media have forever changed the premises for the manager role.

In traditional management managers had most knowledge and competence. Today the situation is quite different – with a few touches on the keyboard everybody can easily obtain the knowledge they seek. As knowledge and information are available to everybody, the role of the manager is dramatically changed. Competitive advantages will belong to the managers who are able to transform the organization’s knowledge and information into practical action1. Today emphasis is increasingly put on the human factor – the capabilities of managers and their employees and their ability to be accessible, creative and value adding
when they meet customers, users, clients, patients, etc.

The Manager’s Role is about creating Results
What makes the manager role so special, is its complicated and relative dependency and relationship to other people, to personal initiative, and to the results they achieve together. The content of the manager role is not clearly defined, and the responsibility for developing the role lies with the manager alone. The role develops through interaction between manager and employees, other colleagues, customers, suppliers and superiors. Managers and employees create results together! It is this interaction that makes the manager role a practical role primarily learned through a trial and error process, and results in this role are
obtained through practice and reflection.

Result Assurance as a Tool
The manager role involves creating results by effectively using available resources. Resources can be capital, technology, machines, equipment etc., but people will always control the use of resources! In Considium we have developed Result Assurance as a tool for managers and employees who want to use goals to prioritize resources and steer the business towards wanted results.

Result Assurance2 builds on a simple and practical concept everyone can understand and use in their daily work. Important means to assure results are goals and values; goals to describe wanted results and values to describe the framework to work within. Result Assurance means to change from traditional activity steering to result steering and manage based on firmness on goals and freedom on activities. Firmness on goals means to have a steady aim – a goal – to work towards. This is the easy part, the passive part! The difficult part, the active part, is the freedom on activities requiring that the individual must take responsibility and
make decisions – something that will demand both will and courage to take action. Action must of course, be taken within the frames of values agreed upon.

Going forward, managers must give their employees freedom to take action and at the same time help them build management competence and self-confidence to handle the consequences of what they do. Action will always demand flexibility – and action will involve taking risks, giving priority, overcoming obstacles and taking advantage of possibilities. Actions will always have consequences. When employees commit themselves and take necessary actions, they must be cheered upon and supported by their manager. With goals as targets to aim at, Result Assurance means a continuous priority process of how to use resources and implementing actions. To prioritize means giving preference, not especially difficult in theory but in practice it is often one of management’s greater
challenges. And it is their own experience in setting priorities they learn from, not the priorities others make for them to reach their goals!

The Manager Role is improved through good Result Assurance

Clear Result Expectations
The manager role is a lifelong learning process! Managers need continuous training and development to realize their potential. Our experience is that managers and management teams only utilize 50-60% of their potential. One of the challenges of the manager role is therefore to define the actual potential of management groups and individual managers and express this potential in specific goals.

The tendency today is that the managers have clear contracts about wages, pension, company car, management bonuses etc. but what is expected of them as far as results are concerned seems often less important. Traditionally managers have not been committed to results, but to an action plan. However, an action plan is not a contract about results – it is a contract about activities!

As managers are evaluated based on results achieved, a specific contract of result expectations is an absolute prerequisite. Therefore a clarification of result expectations should be carried out regularly with everybody having a result responsibility.

Team Work creates Results!
It is important that managers invite to teamwork where mutual goals, budgets and strategies are agreed upon for the team. Each member’s contribution to the overall goals are made clear and visible through personal result contracts approved by the team and the team manager. At the same time they also agree on mutual values and practical rules for the team work.

A good team process strengthens the self confidence and trust among the participants, and the team becomes an effective arena for learning and decision making through exchange of knowledge, points of view and constructive discussions. In a binding team cooperation with clear goals it is easy to identify the individual team member’s contribution to mutual results. Do we take the right decisions and actions to be on track towards results wanted?

The Manager Role requires Power of Implementation
The individual manager is expected to take initiative and implement required actions to achieve both individual and common goals. A prerequisite for implementing difficult and often conflicting actions is that the manager has developed enough implementation skills and clearly understands the goals and sees the meaning of the actions taken. By participating in good management processes, managers will have a better understanding of the actions taken and they will see the need for good cooperation internally and externally.

In result assurance the manager’s role is developed through active involvement in management processes based on a solid value platform. The challenge is to strengthen the manager’s ability to make decisions and implement whatever actions are necessary to obtain the wanted results. Setting goals should be the least difficult element in result assurance. However, managers often create problems for themselves by being mainly preoccupied with what has already happened and obviously cannot be changed. Another problem is the practice of calculating or analysing the way to relevant goals. To set good goals managers must be creative, think forward and envision a desired goal for the business and describe this as a specific target to aim at.

Cooperation between different Manager Roles
With the introduction of a so-called goal council3 Considium has created a breakthrough by involving managers in a process that will strengthen their power of implementation. In the goal council the top management team invites management teams on the next two levels into a process to harmonize their goals with the strategic goals of the business and to make necessary decisions in a mutually binding process. By participation in the goal council managers may improve their understanding of goals and meaning in their management work. Managers are often dependent on other managers on various levels to implement important decisions, and this dependency will be discussed and clarified in the goal council.

The procedure in the goal council meeting is in principle the following: The participants present their goal proposals (result sheet) and these are further developed based on ideas and feedback. Dependencies between departments are then clarified and agreement on goals are coordinated across department lines. The goals of the managers in the management teams are agreed upon specifically and agendas are decided for further result assurance meetings on all levels.

The Manager Role in the Result Assurance Meeting
The result assurance meeting is established as a decision making forum for a management team to secure involvement and meaning. The meeting is primarily a steering arena with a clear purpose: To show deviations from goals and make decisions to get back on track. Showing deviations from goals and values are premises for good steering and should be seen as something positive – even if some managers try to avoid showing their goal deviations.

In the meeting the management group can agree on reordering priorities and decide if something should be stopped or replaced by new measures. The meeting will demand honesty, openness and emphasis on keeping agreements. Relevant ethical and moral topics will naturally be set on the agenda.

Here is a summary of essential elements of a result assurance meeting:

  • The meeting starts with the proposed goals – as documented in a simple one page result contract (result sheet) 4. The result sheet is primarily to assist in steering towards the few goals given priority for the period. The sheet shall not compete with accounting systems and information systems summing up what has been achieved or already happened.
  • Our experience is that the concept of one question and two answers is sufficient to show deviations in an open process. Based on the result sheet, the correct question to ask is: Are you on track? To which there are two answers: Yes or No! If the answer is No, it is important to think forward and quickly go on to the next question: What does it take to get back on track? Now the solidarity of the team will be tested: Will the team be able to join forces (resources) and help each other to obtain the wanted results?
  • The importance of a well planned and executed meeting properly managed cannot be overrated. Our experience is that too many management meetings lacks a clear purpose and agenda without a clearly defined purpose as well as meetings starting with a random and miscellaneous agenda item.

Two special Management Roles
The roles as Chairman of the Board and CEO both have some special challenges we shall look closer into.

For the Chairman of the Board two conditions stand out as specially important: Clear and realistic strategic goals for the business solidly embedded and accepted throughout the ranks and a CEO who fills the role and delivers results as agreed.

An American board chairman became famous for an interview where he described his role as follows: When I enter the board room I have only two questions: Are business results satisfactory? Is the CEO filling the role in a satisfactory way and delivering results as expected? If I get positive answers to these questions, I have only one thing to do – I cheer on the CEO!

The CEO role is also responsible for securing a well functioning top management team. Generally this also applies to team managers responsible to the CEO for strategically important teams on all lower levels. The challenge for all team managers is to make sure that their team is composed of competent managers as well as having the difficult responsibility of removing or replacing persons unable to fill their role or deliver results. In such cases result assurance will clearly contribute to identify who delivers as agreed and who does not.

The Manager Role and Feedback
Managers cannot decide how they are perceived by others, so they need to find out how other people see them to be able to further improve their performance. The easiest way, unfortunately not much practiced, is to ask for feedback from colleagues and employees about the effect of their manager role. Managers must learn to ask questions about how they are seen as managers. The questions may be: What do I do right – and what do I do wrong? Most positive? Most negative? What happens to people being supervised by me? Are there any suggestions for improvement? These are simple questions, but often hard to get much response to unless the manager openly asks for feedback.

A team can also ask for feedback, primarily from members of other team but also from other relevant persons who are dependent on functioning of the team and who may have suggestions for improvement.

The Manager Role is strengthened in a Result Assurance Culture
In a result assurance culture the correlation between result planning, use of resources and results obtained will be easier to understand. The potential of learning in the manager role increases dramatically in this kind of culture – in contrast to just working harder and doing the job as best you can. The manager role will be more focused on helping employees and obtain results in cooperation with them. The manager is there for the employees – not the opposite!

The most important values in a result assurance culture are:

– Will to accept responsibility and commit to goals and values agreed upon
– Openly show deviations – not conceal or explain away etc.
– Be honest and open – not lie or present wrong information, ”fix” accounting reports, blaming others etc.
– Show concern and respect for each other by participation and involvement

Sustainable result assurance demands that goal steering and value steering are integrated5 and that result assurance is firmly based on a value concept emphasizing the following: Everyone concerned must agree on the results (goals) they want and the framework of values to work within. They must also accept a personal commitment to show the initiative and action necessary to reach the goals they have mutually agreed upon.

To make the concept “firmness on goals” and “freedom of action” work well the manager role must be based on a mutual value foundation defining the framework for action. At the same time freedom of action must not be prevented or hampered by unnecessary rules, routines or other limitations.

The Manager Role and Competitive Advantages
In today’s management world with rapid changes and a high level of insecurity, the two concepts ”manager role” and ”competitive advantage” are dramatically changed. Both these concepts were seen as something relatively permanent in the past, but the situation is now completely different.

The manager role was traditionally a role which generated power and influence to the manager by merely holding the position. Today the manager’s power and influence will more and more depend on the results achieved. The manager role represents what you do – not what you are!

Competitive advantage6 now must be built on more short-term premises than we are used to, and we must look for competitive advantage in new arenas. Experience shows that it is possible to replace permanent competitive advantages by continually creating short-term temporary competitive advantages adjusted to today’s needs for change. Right here result assurance combined with proper execution of the manager role, can in a natural way create new competitive advantages.

Managers can meet the challenges of rapid changes by utilizing the strong sides of result assurance in creating valuable, temporary competitive advantages. We have earlier described the simple concept behind result assurance where a stable work procedure is combined with the dynamics of the result assurance meeting. With relevant goals to aim at, change and learning will become continuous processes and fast implementation is made possible by shorter decision processes.

Every result assurance meeting is mainly a decision meeting! With firmness on goals and freedom on activities human resources are stimulated and good cooperation created, which will make it easier to deliver good results under quite changing conditions.

Results shall in principle, always be achieved in an uncertain future! No one knows for sure what the result will be before it is achieved. The challenge for managers is to learn from own actions in their role and year by year utilize the skills achieved as best they can. Good results one year does not mean that results the next year will be equally good.

In the manager role it is easy to recognize the result requirements from other action and team disciplines like football, baseball, basketball etc where each game or each season must be won on its own premises. Managers must learn their management skills in the same way – through management actions in a continuous learning process. This can be difficult to accept for managers with a rational academic background and who believes that management can be taught in a classroom.

Another challenge is that managers cannot expect the same results as obtained in previous management roles when they change jobs. As pointed out earlier, management is a discipline of action, and success in a new management role with new relations, new cultures, new resources and competence will most likely demand actions on new and different premises.

 

  1. Pfeffer, J & Sutton, R. The Knowing-Doing Gap. Harvard B. S. Press. Boston 2000
  2. Stenberg, John-Erik: Managing – A never-ending Learning Process. Considium Consulting Group AS 2013
  3. Lae, Sigurd: From Words to Action – when results matter! Considium Consulting Group AS 2013
  4. Folge, Terje: Result Assurance – from strategic goals and ambitions to obtaining results. Considium Consulting Group AS 2009.
  5. Lorsch, Jay W. & McTague, Emily. Culture is Not the Culprit. Harvard Business Review, April 2016
  6. McGrath, Rita G. The End of Competitive Advantage. Harvard Business Press, Boston 2013

 

 

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Booklets

From Words to Action – when results matter!

The purpose of developing good management processes in both private and public enterprises will always be to secure results in accordance with the overall goals and strategic ambitions of the enterprise (owners). In this context development of Result Management will serve as an important management philosophy.

The intention behind introducing Result Management is to secure personal commitment from all key persons in the organization – and make this commitment more specific by preparing individual “Scorecards” showing individual contributions to the overall results of the enterprise.

Result Management implies developing an overall steering model in which economic results are supplemented with relevant information on other factors driving future results. In this connection we want to focus on five areas in addition to the financial results (figure 1):

Financial results will always be central in management. It is here we find the commitment to the owners, and it is here we find the capability of the enterprise to finance its own growth and development. But even if economic and financial results are central, several other areas must also be given attention to obtain the results we aim at. In these areas it is important to set clear goals/ milestones and KPIs to assure a balanced steering of the resources of the enterprise.

Figure 1
These areas can be compared to the petals of a flower – it is the petals that determine the appearance and appeal of the flower.

 

Introducing Result Management means ”translating” strategy and result ambitions of the enterprise to individual KPIs and goals for managers and co-workers. The purpose is to create individual engagement and commitment throughout the organization, and – not the least – implement a management process developing the capability of the enterprise to take decisions and carry out necessary action steps.

Developing KPIs and goals (milestones)
Developing relevant KPIs and goals in an organization is based on the following process:

 

The starting point for developing specific goals will always be the overall strategy and result ambitions of the enterprise. In this context we should consider the following questions:

  • What are our main challenges based on overall strategy?
    – From a business point of view?
    – From an organizational point of view?
  • What are our result ambitions regarding
    our main challenges?
  • What are main market (customers) demands and expectations?
  • What improvement areas should be given short term priority?

The next step is to document the individual result responsibility within the enterprise in a “Scorecard” (figure 3) containing KPIs and goals agreed upon for managers and co-workers. In this way all key persons in the organization will have their result responsibilities defined describing their individual contribution to overall enterprise results. Here it is important to limit the number of KPIs and goals to a minimum (the vital few) and in this way ensure that everybody focuses on what matters most at any time!

Approach and working process
Our approach is based on using simple and practical methods to develop KPIs and goals. Often we see too much time and energy being used in working out strategies and setting goals using advanced analytical models. A typical effect here is producing a document which may be of academic interest, but usually having little practical use.

When defining challenges and setting goals it is important that a management group work together as a team helping each other to understand overall coherence and seeing the big picture. At the same time this way of working will create a common commitment and understanding of the challenges the managers are facing.

To develop steering ability and manage necessary changes in the organization, we need specific and agreed-upon goals. We need these goals both with regard to business results as well as the other focus areas needed to assure results (ref. “flower”, page 1):

  • developing work processes
  • developing customer relations
  • product development
  • competence development
  • management development

It is important that the steering platform is developed by the line managers as it is line managers and their co-workers who must be involved to secure goal commitment and relevance.

Top management should not dictate the same goals and KPIs to divisions and result units in an organization. Result units are often quite different when it comes to goals, strategies and critical result factors. Development of working goals should consequently be a bottom-up process where the result unit itself should propose the specific goals and KPIs should be followed up by.

By developing a steering platform as a basis for following up results through the line organization as a bottom-up process, we want to achieve the following (figure 4):

  • To assure a strategy solidly embedded within the operational units
  • To develop a steering model with both long- term and short-term focus – as goals reflect both the overall enterprise strategy and the priorities of the operational units
  • To obtain a dynamic portfolio of KPIs and goals – based on goals being developed in parallel with changes in the framework of operating units

 

Result Assurance
The strongest signal managers can send to their co-workers about their importance for the result of the enterprise is good and continuous result follow-up. Lack of (result) follow-up meetings/activities? (result steering) gives co-workers a message that they are not taken seriously and that their efforts do not make a great deal of difference.

Developing responsibility and commitment within an organization will mainly be achieved by making management processes visible, and in the context of result follow-up this is of utmost importance. No reporting tool or reporting routine can ever replace a result assurance meeting where result management is made visible to everyone involved.

The Result Assurance Meeting
The purpose of result assurance is to make better decisions faster! To achieve this we have to improve our ability to use all steering information available. It is not the quality of the result reports that matters most, but how the result assurance process is carried through in each specific management team.

A particular point in result follow-up is to avoid that managers take responsibility and initiative away from their co-workers. Traditionally, result follow-up meetings have been dominated by what the boss decides should be done – while co-workers who should be followed up are forced into the role of observers, and their responsibility for own goals and results are thus taken away from them. The individual person being followed up should always act as chair person during his or her own presentation and make sure that the necessary decisions are taken.

At the result assurance meeting we want – in principle – only one specific question answered by the person responsible for the results:

Will you achieve the results as agreed – and on time?
To this question there are only two acceptable answers: YES or NO
– and these answers demand the following clarifications:

YES – the result will be achieved as agreed and on time
– Are there certain risks you can foresee and which actions do these require?

NO – the result will not be achieved as agreed or on time
– What do you intend to do about it and which decisions need to be taken?

During the result follow-up it is important that the person being followed up all along keeps the responsibility for own results and the initiative to take necessary action.

Focus on Action and Decisions:
Being off course (result deviations) is a natural element in steering. The challenge is to find relevant action steps to get back on course! To explain why we are out of course is of little help. Our ability to make excuses and explain away things is without limits. It is far too easy to explain away all the rational and irrational forces that prevent us from reaching goals.

Asking how on the other hand is the best way to succeed with effective result assurance. The question how helps us to be action oriented rather than problem oriented, and makes us focus on the future instead of the past. In this manner the result assurance meeting can be changed from being a reporting meeting (looking backwards) to a decision making meeting (looking forward).

The purpose of a successful result assurance meeting is as follows:

• Ensure steering ability
– by implementing corrective actions as early as possible to achieve the agreed goals. The follow-up meeting should change its focus from reporting result status       to securing necessary decisions – making sure everybody is updated on necessary decisions and knows what has to be done.

• Create motivation
– by changing the follow-up meetings into a creative forum which helps each individual to fulfill his/her goals and obligations. The follow-up shall not hunt for        scapegoats, but look for possible solutions.

• Develop the team
– by making the group’s common result responsibilities visible. Everybody has to develop knowledge about each other’s responsibility and contribute to each            other’s success. The total result of the group is always most important.

• Build confidence and self-respect
– by developing open and honest feed- back about contributions and results.
To be critical is allowed, but also to show pride in the results which have been achieved.

Summary

• Aim at the goals of the enterprise.
Look forward!
– It is too much measuring and too little steering relative to the vital few goals.

• Be predictable. Be realistic about result deviations.
– Try to anticipate what can happen. Result deviation is only natural.
– Take action immediately, instead of putting out fires later.

• Balance available resources against possibilities for creating results.
– Commitment to goals. Freedom on activities.
– If something doesn’t work. Make changes.

To assure that results develop according to the overall goals and result ambitions of the enterprise introducing Result Assurance will, as mentioned above, constitute the most important management tool.

A big challenge when working with result assurance is to avoid making the score cards a static steering tool where KPIs and goals are set once and for all. It is through a continuous result follow-up that the steering platform is kept alive. Every result assurance meeting is in reality a new decision making meeting where KPIs and goals are regularly revised. In this manner the enterprise will always be managed (steered) according to what should be prioritized on a daily basis to obtain the goals of tomorrow.

Uncomplicated introduction of Result Assurance:
Result Assurance does not mean use of software, long days away at seminars or complicated methods. Result Assurance means development at work, with colleagues who have the same common commitment to achieve results.

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Booklets

Result Assurance – from strategic goals and ambitions to obtaining results!

How important are results?
Both private and public managers put considerable work and energy into establishing strategic goals and plans for their organizations, including budgets for various activities. The purpose of this work is to plan for obtaining future results. It is a paradox then that managers after all this planning often are dramatically dissatisfied with the results obtained! What causes these unwanted deviations between planned results and obtained results?

Let us change perspective and see the question from an “obtained results” point of view. Let us put on ”result glasses” and look at what is actually performed under the heading ”management”. Now we will probably identify far too many activities that have little or nothing to do with results. These are activities that even if performed to perfection have no influence on results at all. If the purpose of management is to assure results, why do we use so much energy and resources on activities obviously not giving results? This is a difficult question to answer, but here we come up with some proposals:

  • Talking about results seems more important than delivering results
  • Collecting knowledge is given priority over using knowledge to create results
  • Measuring what has happened till now seems more interesting than taking action to achieve results

In many cases it seems that producing results is of minor importance. Maybe results are not what we really want? Maybe we want something entirely different!

Minimal interest for results
From a management point of view we are rapidly moving towards catastrophe when we take focus away from results. A sarcastic management writer has pointed out that people may not necessarily be especially interested in their work and the results they produce there. Some are definitely more preoccupied with their bank account, he says – or their hobbies, political preferences etc. For managers, however, the main point must always be to get the focus back on results; that is what we have managers for.

Strong forces contribute to take managers’ focus away from results. One challenge is that results may seem distant and somewhere far ahead – in a future full of risk and insecurity. Another challenge is that to obtain results it is necessary to make priorities – often with consequences we may not necessarily like. Managers who focus too hard on results may even be perceived as rather simpleminded, heartless and primitive.

It is much safer to look to the past than to the future and less risky to take action. The dynamics of change is now gone. What has already happened is much better suited for analysis, and there seems to be no limits to the energy managers use here – with complicated methods, extensive surveys and measuring everything measurable.

In this way managers take the interest away from results and instead become experts on accumulating knowledge about other matters! Professional expertise is now often given the highest status and prestige. If professional expertise and management competence are set up against each other here, the professional experts will always end up as ”winners”. Good management is something only talked about – as this seems easier to discuss than to perform. In a management climate like this, results will appear as something vague and inaccurate. Little effort is made to see results as something important and specific!

Result Assurance is a natural element in Result Management
It is possible to deal with the problems described above by using simple and effective management tools. With Result Management we can easily shift focus from activity steering to result steering. Our experience with Result Management from consulting work in Considium is well documented, and we will here concentrate on the important element “Result Assurance” and describe this in detail.

More focus on Result Assurance
Traditionally result planning (goals, budgets and activity plans) has been given much attention in management and has developed into the most important management arena. However, the use of this planning work in result steering as such has received much less attention. A simple method to focus better on result steering is just to upgrade the result assurance meeting to the most important management arena. One effect from this will be that the critical question: ”Is the quality of the goals, budgets and plans we make good enough?” is shifted to the result assurance meeting. To answer this question, ”obtained results” will now be the most important evaluation criteria. In this context it is natural that “obtained results” will also be given greater importance in the evaluation of managers and employees.

Result Assurance Meeting
A good result assurance meeting demands thorough preparation and explicit direction. Many would say that this sounds very authoritarian – however, managers agree that this is a very effective way of doing it. And the meeting rules are the same for everybody!

We will now go through the various elements in the result assurance meeting and look in detail on some vital challenges that must be met:

1 Premises for the Result Assurance Meeting
Here is a summary of the main premises for result assurance:

Goals are personal
Even if departments and groups have goals, these goals must be achieved by individual managers or employees! Goals are not “binding” until a person takes a personal responsibility for them. We want to empower individual managers and employees by making them responsible and accountable and giving them freedom and authority to take appropriate actions to achieve goals.

Commitment to Results, Freedom to take Action
For managers and employees to take responsibility and be accountable for results, they have to be invited into the goal setting process, be given the opportunity to discuss ambitions and take part in decisions on budgets and goals. At the same time they must have freedom to take the necessary personal initiatives and actions to achieve their goals – within the company’s values and resources.

The Vital Few
We can only steer on a limited number of goals at a time! The individual’s most important contributions to company goals and strategies are formulated in 3-5 frequency goals and 1-3 work goals (milestone goals). Time range 3-9 months.

Result Card (Score Card)
The score card is used to document personal responsibility and commitment as agreed upon.
In fig. 1 is shown an example of a score card. The card shows individual result contributions related to the overall company goals. The further result steering will be based on the goals documented in the score card.

2 Openly show deviations from goals and values agreed upon
Here are some important elements:

Know your own Results
It is a prerequisite that all managers who take part in the result assurance meeting are fully up to date on the status of their own result. As far as their few most vital goals are concerned, it is absolutely important that managers must have a detailed knowledge of the status. Excuses like “formal result reports not available, delayed or containing errors” are not acceptable as they signal lack of awareness of how own results develop.

Update the Score Card
The individual manager must take personal responsibility for having the Score Card properly updated to current date. The point is that the process of updating also implies a commitment to future results – and this commitment can only be made by the individual manager in person!
One question and two answers: Openly show deviations!

The real challenge of the result assurance meeting is to give a crystal clear answer to the question:
“Are you on schedule?” In principle there are only two answers – “yes” or “no” – and the challenge is to give a clear answer to this before continuing the meeting.
(See also figure 2)

In case of deviations, have ready proposals for action
In order to be taken seriously and be given constructive help from the team colleagues it is vital to demonstrate that the seriousness of the situation is understood. The best way to achieve this is to come well prepared to the meeting and in addition to the score card have made up an action sheet to deal with deviations. The heading of this sheet could be: ”Action proposals for achieving own goals.”

 

3 Take action to get back on course
It is the actual “taking action” that always creates the big challenges in management. To get back on track and assure results always means making changes, and changes in turn create opposing forces. To change something in an organization means destabilizing the present status, and various forces will soon try to reestablish the earlier balance. Deviations from wanted results will generally occur because we are reluctant to change the way we work. We want results but continue on the same old track – mostly because actions to reduce deviations mean changes that often lead to unforeseen reactions. To many managers it also comes as a surprise that the actions they take often make the deviation even larger or create new and different deviations. When it comes to change we are often our own biggest enemy – it is more difficult than we think to change the way we work when we are in the middle of it! Many managers are also surprised to find that the short term effects of the actions taken differ largely from the long term effects they expected them to have.

A Management Model based on Cooperation and Teamwork
If we want results, we must learn to steer towards results and as mentioned earlier, we recommend Result Management as a good tool for this. Result Management is focused on steering towards goals and values agreed upon and based on cooperation and teamwork aimed at achieving better results. It is a bridge builder between organizational levels and between conflicting views and interests. Managers responsible for carrying out difficult change programs will find that participation in this type of cooperation and teamwork will greatly boost their energy and strength. It will also contribute to their understanding of coherence and context when it comes to producing consistently good results. When managers are empowered in this way they will be more realistic and better equipped to finish difficult change activities. Result Assurance is built on simple processes, and managers can build the necessary determination and competence by using these measures in their team.

Membership in a strong team makes a better manager
Everybody who works in an organization, including managers, live in a balance between two conflicting tendencies: Each individual needs to see oneself as a unique and independent person. At the same time an individual wants to be regarded as a dependent member of a larger social group, for instance a management team. In other words: We live in a balance between a self-assertive tendency (a dynamic manifestation of own individuality) and an integrative tendency (expressing the need of being part of a larger social context).

Managers have a special challenge here: We have long ago left the belief that one strong manager will all by himself provide sustainable results. Today the success of a company is not dependent on only one strong manager but on many strong managers working together as a team! And with strong co-workers on all levels! Results are something we create together! Based on each individual´s self-assertive tendency, management should be performed in a way enabling everybody to perform at their best. The possibilities of performing at your best are dramatically improved when you are integrated into a strong management team!

Teamwork creates Companionship
As mentioned before, managers often need to show a self-assertive tendency to qualify for management jobs, and a manager’s salary, status and privileges strongly support this. The integrating tendency can, however, only be fulfilled through cooperation and organization – for example in a team. By belonging to a management team, managers will get a better perspective of the interests of the company as a whole instead of just being self-assertive and preoccupied with own unit. One advantage of working in a team or project is that each member will experience coherence and more direct influence. Other advantages are more local responsibility and initiative, greater independence and motivation, better possibilities for learning and development etc. A flat organization structure will have fewer organization levels and a shorter distance from top to bottom.

From Central Steering to Self Steering
Central steering has a tendency to give both managers and co-workers on lower levels a feeling of powerlessness (nothing I can do), isolation (nobody cares about me) and lack of meaning and coherence (nobody here understands what is going on). Central steering has a tendency to lead to unnecessary bureaucracy, indifference and cumbersome work processes.

Result Assurance and Change Management will thrive best in small, independent work units where everybody knows what their result responsibilities are and is empowered to take action when necessary. In a small group people are familiar with the environment and the people, and it is possible for both managers and coworkers to see a direct connection between their daily work performance and the total strategy of the organization.

Summary
As mentioned above, we see strong forces taking the focus of managers away from results. We talk endlessly about results, and lots of work and energy are spent in result planning (setting goals, making budgets, writing plans etc). However, when it comes to using all this planning work in active steering, much is left to circumstances. Result steering often seems to be left to chance – with minimal preparation and sloppy direction.

We hereby propose a simple method to assure better result steering. It consists in short of moving the focus from result planning to result steering by upgrading the Result Assurance Meeting to the most important management arena. We have further described in detail the proper running of the Result Assurance Meeting. By performing Result Assurance in the team, cooperation and team spirit are remarkably improved – and everybody learns that results are something we create together. Experienced team members know that a well run result assurance meeting demands:

  • Good planning and strong direction
  • Use deviations as a process tool (openly show deviations)
  • In focus: Assure that the necessary action steps to obtain results are carried out!

 

 

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Booklets

Managing – a never-ending learning process!

The Manager Role is a unique Role
What makes the manager role so special is that its contents are generally undefined and must be given substance by each individual manager. Or in other words: It is a relative role that can best be understood in relation to the results obtained through managing! Based on commitment and interaction the manager role is developed in a relationship between the manager and the individuals the manager is set to manage, with management colleagues, customers and suppliers in addition to the people the manager is reporting to. The ability to develop good personal relations is an important prerequisite for cooperation, and every manager’s challenge is to successfully engage and inspire the people involved to cooperate closely and fully develop their potential.

Another characteristic of the manager role is that it generally involves very little routine work, but it puts great demand on personal initiative and energy. The individual manager must decide own work priorities, choose the most important tasks to give attention to and also determine content and tempo in performing the work. Typical is also that the manager’s work is characterized by great variation, and most managers will experience their working day as fragmented and “chopped up” in short, brief work sequences.1

Learning in a Manager Role
”A manager who considers his or her management development finished, is not fully developed, just finished” it is rightfully asserted! It is the complicated and relative dependence of personal initiative, relations to other people and results obtained that makes learning in the manager role such a special challenge! And it is this relative dependency that makes a manager role a practical role primarily learned through the manager’s own actions and experiences. Learning in the manager role means learning management skills, and these skills are gradually learned by trying alternative steps of action in a trial and failing process.

The Purpose of Managing is to assure Results
Managing means steering, and it is the steering responsibility a manager is expected to exercise. Steering is a natural and central part of the job. Like in a sailboat, “somebody” in the organization should have a firm grip of the tiller and know where the boat or company is headed. “Somebody” in the organization must take responsibility for navigating and steering – making sure that decisions regarding forward thrust is taken and that the course is corrected whenever necessary. For regardless of efforts, ambitions and goals, nobody knows the exact result – until it is obtained! Steering means learning how resources are used to influence results and how steering measures are used to move in the right direction.

The means – or “tools” – used in steering are goals and values agreed upon; goals to describe desired results, and values to describe the agreed framework within which to take action. With goals astargets to aim at, steering means constantly giving priority to use the relevant resources and see to it that the proper action steps are taken! The purpose of this is at all times to assure necessary action steps to keep the business on the planned course and within the company’s values.

It is easy to understand in theory that steering is based on giving priority – but for the practicing manager it becomes one of the greatest challenges in management. And it is the manager’s personal experience with giving priorities to actions in own management work that gives learning; not copying the prioritizing other managers do to meet their goals!

The Professional or Specialist Role is confused with the Manager Role
Many managers have qualified for a manager role through a professional role or a specialist role, but high competence and experience from this kind of work is not automatically giving management competence as such. Unfortunately, nobody becomes a good manager solely by being a competent professional with good results in the role of for instant a medical doctor, lawyer, economist, engineer or scientist.2 On the other hand, a professional career can be a valuable stepping stone or a good starting point for developing a future successful manager role!

Prospective managers with background and competence from professional or specialist roles must accept the fact that management competence primarily is learned by practical experience, and they should therefore concentrate more on learning management by doing management work. Introducing result assurance within one’s own area of responsibility3 can be a simple step in the right direction for managers who want to obtain the planned results and at the same time improving management skills.

Managers fail to utilize their own Learning Potential
Unfortunately many managers miss the learning opportunities in their jobs by not realizing what their role is all about and directing their attention to other things than result assurance, personal initiative and good personal relations. The following describe situations where managers make it difficult to learn sufficiently and fast enough from their management work:

A Culture creating Obstructions to Managers’ Learning and Development
It is a paradox when managers insist that results are their top priority – but consistently develop a culture where results are not given a central position. Instead of focusing on result assurance they primarily spend time and energy trying to explain away results not obtained. As an effect of this we see a culture where managers choose to disregard important management tools like steering, goals end results. Here are some explanations for such a choice: “It is difficult to manage somebody who don’t want to be managed”, “nobody likes to be controlled/steered” or “too much steering is dangerous or unwanted”. Other excuses may be: ”We think differently”, “we have another ideology” or “we dislike putting too much emphasis on goals and results.” This kind of thinking fosters a culture
where everybody in the company may be working hard, but where nobody has a solid grasp of the tiller – nobody is responsible for steering!

It is unfortunate that the concept of ”steering” has a negative meaning for many managers and something they are set against. These people may in the past have seen managers misusing their power or have experienced negative ”steering” by authoritarian and destructive managers. Such negative experiences may in many companies create a basis for a culture not practicing result steering, thereby denying management potential learning from their own results!

Another strange effect we often see in a culture where result steering is not taken seriously is the tendency to copy other managers and their actions. Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer from Stanford University describes4 how American companies reduce their personnel both in good and bad times. Even though the effect on results is unclear, this downsizing is primarily practiced because other leaders are doing it. ”This is an example of how contagious management behaviour can be and how it spreads like “the flu” across companies” writes Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Wrong Steering Questions prevent Learning
With the question:”Why do we have deviations from goals?” managers set an unintended trap for themselves. “Why” unfortunately only takes us back in time5 and is only helpful to find explanations to what we know has already happened. However, it is not very useful when it comes to improving results and finding new steering actions – what the company must do to move forward!

The “correct” steering question when we have deviations from our goals is: ”How do we get back on course?” What do we do in order to move ahead and achieve our goals”? ”Why” we are off course is less important than ”How” (by which means or actions) we can get back on course. It is from here and forward in time managers must have their focus – not from here and back to the past.

When it comes to steering, looking back is “history”. But there are strong forces trying to press managers and management teams to dwell into the past – on things that have already happened! Both private and public companies put strong demands on formal and informal result reporting, and great resources are spent looking back. ”What happened – and why?” are typical issues. Unfortunately, however, comprehensive analyses and reports on what happened will most likely tell management very little about what to do to get better results for their company!

An even “worse” question dwells right around the corner: “Who is to blame”? Somebody must take the blame? This is obviously a relevant question when it comes to violations of law or in a court of law – but should not be asked in a normal management or steering situation. To avoid the question of blame it is common to dig even deeper into what has already happened and look for even better reasons, explanations and excuses. In this way managers rapidly put themselves on the defensive, and very little energy is spent on the most important issue – what to do to move the company forward!

How can Managers learn more from their Management Work?
In a busy workday full of practical problems, the idea of learning more from own daily management work may seem very theoretical and irrelevant. Is learning from performing the manager role really that important? Yes, it certainly is! Learning from own management work is a lifelong affair, and nobody but the manager him- /herself can take the initiative to this learning. Here are some tools which can be applied to secure both better results and better learning.

• Prepare for a Manager Role
”Experience is the best school master – but it is rather costly”, says a proverb. And for managers, learning from own experience and own actions is the only passable way to really master the manager role. To make this learning process less costly, there is all reason to be well prepared for it.

Today universities, colleges and other institutions offer management courses on all levels, and as preparation or supplement to a manager career such competence may facilitate learning in a real manager role. Obviously, managers well prepared with such a background should have an advantage when putting this theoretical competence into practice.

• Clarify Result Expectations
When managers involuntarily lose their job it often appears that they have had only vague understanding of the company’s result expectations to them. It turns out that they have clear contracts on their salary, pension, company car, possible bonuses, etc. but little effort is made to agree on and clarify the specific results the company expects these managers to obtain.

Most companies today have regular strategy and management processes, but here goals, budgets and strategies are to a very little extent used to clarify expectations by establishing personal result contracts for managers. The only “document” the managers are expected to be committed to is the action plan. This is, however, not a contract or agreement about obtaining results – but an agreement about doing activities!

Therefore, a good advice to all managers is to make sure they have an updated contract about result expectations. Take the initiative yourself to have regular result clarification meetings – both with the people you work for and with those who work for you!

• Ask for Feedback
Managers cannot by themselves decide how others judge their work, but they are quite dependent on knowing this to improve their work in the manager role. The simplest – but rarely used – method of finding out is to ask for feedback about the effect of own management work. Managers must learn to ask questions about own performance!

The questions may be: What do I do right? What do I do wrong? Most positive? Most negative? What happens to those who work for me? Any ideas for improvement? These are simple and straightforward questions but not easy to get answered unless the manager openly asks for feedback and views on his/her role.

• Invite to Team Work
Managers can create an effective learning arena in the company by developing good team work The advantage with team work is that it is a continuous learning process – both when it comes to increased competence in the team and the individual participant’s personal growth and development. When a team works with clear goals it is easy to see how each individual’s contribution influences the results. Do we achieve the results we want? Are we doing the right things – or not?

• Develop a Result Steering Culture
Result steering means to create a culture to ensure the company’s results and at the same time developing better managers. The most important values in a result steering culture are:

  • Willingness to take responsibility and be committed to the company’s goals and values
  • Be open about deviations from goals – not hiding or explaining things away etc.
  • Be honest and frank – not lying, presenting incorrect or incomplete information, manipulating accounts/reports, blaming others, etc.
  • Show compassion and respect for each other through participation and engagement

In a result steering culture there is an apparent connection between result planning, use of resources and the results achieved! The management’s learning potential is dramatically increased in a result steering process – in contrast to only working harder and doing ones best. The manager role will also be special as it involves helping and cooperating with others to achieve the wanted results. Management means supporting and “being there” for the employees – not the opposite, as is common in other cultures.

 

  1. Mintzberg, Henry: The Nature of Managerial Work. Harper Collins 1972
  2. Boyatzis, Richard E.: The Competent Manager. John Wiley & Sons 1982
  3. Folge, Terje: Result Assurance. Theses nr.5 Considium Consulting Group AS 2008
  4. Pfeffer, Jeffrey: Lay off the layoffs. Newsweek, February 15, 2010
  5. Watzlawick et al: Change: Principles of Problem Resolution. W.W.Norton & Co New York 1980