In this week's blog I would like to tell you two stories dealing with managers who, as you may expect from the title, had too many things moving at once.
Story #1: I was working with a small organization that was trying to replace its VP of Finance and its Head Bookkeeper at the same time. This may have sounded like a good thing at the time, but it caused the organization major problems. The reason was that the CEO underestimated the complexity of the accounting processes that were being performed. To the credit of the old VP of Finance and Head Bookkeeper, many of the accounting processes were documented and/or automated. The problem was that there were also many manual month end processes that had been flawlessly performed by the bookkeeper months on end.
Because of the quick mid-month transition of both finance people, the old VP of Finance and Bookkeeper were not able to properly train their replacements on the month-end processes. At month end, the new team had great difficulty trying to close the books for the month, but after great stress and sleepless nights the new team was able bring normalcy to the organization's month end processing.
If the CEO had replaced the VP of Finance and the Head Bookkeeper at different times, then there would have been continuity within the finance group and the risk and stress related to change of finance employees could have been avoided. The moral of the story is that as a manager, be very careful to be sure that as staff move in and out of your group that you take great care to assure that the minimum amount of corporate knowledge is lost.
Story #2: I was asked by a friend to help a manager she had recently hired. The old manager was asked to leave because of an inability to properly coordinate activities within the department. As a result, productivity and quality were down and stress and aggravation were up. The new manager was very excited with his new job and wanted to put his mark on the new department and solve all the department issues at once. As a result, upon his arrival, he immediately started changing processes, implementing new procedures, and defining new department rules. It was too much too soon and his staff was furious. He had a mutiny on his hands.
I was asked to come in, assess the situation, and help the manager work through the issue he had accidently created with the best of intentions. After speaking with the manager and individually with each member of the staff, I sat down with the manager and gave him my suggestions and recommendations.
I told him that his staff felt that most of the changes he was requiring made good sense. In essence, it was not so much what he was doing that made them mad, it was how he was doing it. In particular, his staff had told me the following items about the new manager:
He didn't ask the staff what changes they thought would be of value.
A few of the changes he was suggesting seemed to make no sense.
Some of the suggested changes weren't better, they were just different.
He was moving so fast, that his staff could not keep up with the requested changes.
Department work and general productivity slowed to a standstill because his team was trying so hard to implement new processes that no real work could be performed.
Upon this analysis, I told the manager that in addition to many other issues, such as better communication with his staff, that by changing so many things at once, he had created too many moving parts. That is to say, so much was in flux that his team could not internalize what needed to be done.
I suggested the following to the manager:
Reinstate all the original processes so there could be some semblance of order within his department.
Assess, with the help of his staff, what processes needed to be changed.
Prioritize these needed changes.
Implement the changes one at a time, allowing each change to be solidified and in place before moving to the next required change.
Over the course of time, with this new approach, the new manager was able to make some real improvements within his department and regain the trust and respect of his staff.
The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
Be very careful to be sure that as staff move in and out of your group that you take great care to assure that the minimum amount of corporate knowledge is lost.
If too many things change at once it can very difficult to keep things within your department running smoothly.
This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.