12 Principles Behind The Management Advantage

As we continue this series about building out your organization for sustained growth by creating a Management Advantage, it makes sense to share with you our perspective on core, if unspoken, principles on getting an organization to perform. We share our lens on the subject so you can calibrate your own on areas where we agree and disagree, to help you adapt and adopt. 

  1. Management is the body of knowledge and practice that makes organizations perform. It needs to address both the hard stuff (The System) and the soft stuff (The Practice). You can get incremental benefit from either, but breakthrough results when you, per Jim Collins’ genius of the AND, do both.
  2. The System must be generative, inclusive, and easy. We often think of systems as intending to optimize current operations, but a systematic approach is just as relevant to innovation as optimization. People throughout an organization have a lot to contribute, having insight at every level that is not available only at the top of the pecking order. And if the management system, including the work system, isn’t easy to use, no one will sustain it.
  3. The Practice: It’s all about the people. A quote from Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the American Nuclear Navy: “Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done.” As much as we believe in The System, it’s just a tool for people to make things happen.
  4. Average players in a great system will outperform great players in an average system. There are any number of easily recognized examples from sports, but remember that work is a team sport too.
  5. We tend to over-manage. Think of salt: without it, a dish never achieves its full potential. But adding too much completely ruins the dish.
  6. If you want people to do a great job, give them a great job to do. Work design, including asking those who are to do the work for their input, has a major impact on performance.
  7. Focus on two aspects: enrollment and deployment. Enroll everyone (yeah, everyone) to play the same game via alignment to the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then focus on action: even a little wasted action (that results in learning) is better than analyzing something to death. Per Tom Peters: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.
  8. Facts inform opinions, and you need both. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”. Facts describe the current reality, but opinions are often the emotion that fuels action.
  9. Be on the field (that includes being on the sidelines as a coach), not in the stands. We say to those who join us on the field: ‘great, we’ll take all the help we can get.’ To those who heckle and criticize from the stands, we usually say ‘go to hell’.
  10. Be a committed listener. Listening takes more focus and energy than we usually give it, but the impact when your counterpart is understood and not merely interpreted is magic.
  11. “Make ‘em work, and let ‘em play”, the approach of legendary NFL coach Don Shula. Make ‘em work insists that everyone prepares. Everybody wants to be on a championship team… nobody wants to come to practice. Let ‘em play recognizes that performance is the result of everyone fulfilling their role, not you controlling every movement.
  12. It all starts with Leadership… and leadership starts with courage.

That’s the segue to the next post.