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The Seven Attributes of Excellent Management May 21, 2009

Posted by Craig A. Stevens in Change and Continuous Improvement, Customer Focus, Leadership, Management, Organizational Culture, Performance Measures, Problem Solving, Teams.
Mobile of Excellent Management
Mobile of Excellent Management

What does it take to achieve Excellent Management?

By Craig A. Stevens

Excellent Management requires a systemic, repeatable, and balanced approach to mastering seven essential attributes.  These seven attributes are more than just words.  The attributes represent entire concepts embodied in the titles of (1) Leadership, (2) Culture, (3) Customer Focus, (4) Teams, (5) Problem Solving, (6) Continuous Improvement, and (7) Performance Measures.  As a mobile requires perfect balance, so too does Excellent Management within an organization or project.  On a mobile, remove any one piece and the system is out of balance.  Likewise, remove any one of these seven attributes within an organization and the management of the organization or project is out of balance.  Also, as on a mobile, in an organization or project, no one attribute will never work alone. 

Understanding this mobile will help any organization to implement excellent management.  Each of the seven attributes represents major concepts in management theory and process improvement.  Chronological order is important.  Therefore, address the seven attributes of the mobile from the top down, and then left to right.  Remember, balance is important and without any one of these attributes, excellence will be impossible. 

Step 1:  Leadership Build excellent leadership is the first step to excellent management. 

Excellent leadership is everyone’s job.  To paraphrase one of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “To grow, lead excellent followers.  To have explosive growth, lead excellent leaders.”  Victor Dingus a past Quality Manager at Tennessee Eastman said it this way, “We use to have 14,000 employees, but only 400 were paid to think.  Our goal is to have 14,000 employees paid to think.” 

Step 2:  Culture Build an effective culture; it is the limiting factor to an organization’s initiatives.   

Culture is the string or cable holds the mobile together.  If one cuts the cable, the mobile falls apart.  Likewise, cut the string of organizational culture and the organization falls apart.  No initiative will work effectively without a willing culture.  In addition, as many strands or cables make up a single string or cable, the same is true of an organization’s culture.  The organizational strands may include:

  • Values and ethics.
  • Common or diverse languages (including native toughs and learned jargon),
  • Subcultures like those found within races, professions, clubs, clicks, gangs, and groups of all kinds.
  • Underlining assumptions and mental images or those judgments that relate to who we are and where we have traveled. 
  • Group patterns of behavior and habits.
  • Company artifacts and symbols (like time cards, personalize parking places, and corner offices or cubicles).
  • World View (how one views the world and on what that view is focused or based).

 Step 3:   Customer Focus Reinforce the fact that everyone’s purpose is to serve customers.

Label the bar of the mobile on which the other elements hang, “Customer Focus.”  With the mobile, the bar is important, without it, there is nothing on which to hang the other elements.  Likewise, in an organization without customer focus there is no clear goal on which to hang the organization’s work.  If you do not have a customer or do not know who your customers are, then you should not have a job.  Customers are the reason behind every job.  Nevertheless, for customers to be number one, they have to come third.  First, leaders have to acknowledge the importance of the customers and then the organization’s culture has to value the customers. 

Step 4:  Teams Understand people, build them up, and capitalize on teams working together to create the forces required for success. 

A big object that balances three other smaller objects represents the word “Teams” on the mobile.  Teams represent people working together (and individually) to make things happen.  Value, motivate, and reward people and build teams.

Step 5:  Problem Solving Developing Skills, Core Competencies, and Problem Solving Tools (Six-Sigma, Project Management, Business Analysis, etc.) is what makes people and teams effective.

Your company may have the best leadership, culture, people, and teams in the world but that is not enough.  Without a professionally skilled workforce with the correct core competencies, your company will never be competitive.  In addition, without the correct tools, even the most skilled professionals are ineffective.  An unskilled team gets little done.  To understand this, envision a highly skilled plumber without his toolbox trying to work on your house or a highly skilled football team in a musical.

Step 6:  Continuous Improvement Master the three phases of change and continuous improvement to stay completive. 

Soon others will make what you do obsolete.  Best case, every product, technology, technique, skill, process, or system is, was, or will be efficient and effective for only a season (some never).  To thrive, it is everyone’s job at your company to be the first at making your own processes, products, services, and systems obsolete.  However, even when you know what and how to change, it is important to know how to manage and implement the change during the three phases of change (before, during, and after). 

 Step 7:  Performance Measures Master the Seven Steps of Measuring Performance.

You cannot manage what you cannot measure.  This Westbrook Stevens Seven-Step Performance Measure process is a consolidation of the work of over sixty different papers, documents, and books on the subject.

  1. Understand the science behind performance measures.  There are many rules related to good metrics.  Understand the rules before you start the process of developing a set for an organization.  For example, processes require a chain of activities. As with any chain, making only one link stronger has little effect on the overall strength of the chain.  Likewise, to make your organization stronger, use a whole systems approach to measuring performance.
  2. Understand the goals of the organization.  One should never develop performance measures that do not track back to specific organizational goals (e.g., lower cost, better quality, faster service) that reflect the goals you are trying to achieve.
  3. Create a set of criteria (e.g., lower cost, better quality, faster service) that reflect the goals you are trying to achieve.
  4. Create the performance indicators (hours worked, number of complaints about a specific subject) related to the criteria that will give a picture of company performance.
  5. Collect the data related to the indicators.
  6. Analyze the data to determine the performance.
  7. Use the data to make a difference.

 As with the Mobile, miss any one performance measuring step and there is no reason to measure.  If you do not know the rules, chances are you will break them and make things worse.  If you measure something not related to a goal, then you are wasting time and money.  If you are never going to use the information, you again are wasting time, money and causing cultural problems.

How Might One Use the Mobile of Excellent Management? 

I use many great writings and theories to paint a picture of excellent management.  Then I facilitate an oral picture of the organization’s current status based on the theories.  We look for gaps, patterns, problems, and root causes.  Then we design an action plan for improvement. 

If an organization disregards any one of these attributes, management effectiveness is incomplete.  For example, to improve continuously requires a team approach to using problem solving tools and techniques.  Without the proper problem solving tools, the teams are ineffective and continuous improvement is not going to happen.  Without performance measures one never knows if things are improving or getting worse.  We might as well go home and work on our house, if our efforts are centered on things other than the customer.  Excellence customer service will never happen in any organization unless the organizational culture allows it and the leaders (everyone) have to understand fully the process so that we all can paint the vision and lead the effort.

 Where did the Westbrook Stevens Mobile of Excellent Management Come From? (explained by Craig A. Stevens)

When I studied for a PhD at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, one of my mentors was Dr. Jerry Westbrook, Director of the Engineering Management, Industrial, and Systems Engineering Department.  The professors at UAH taught me many things about management principles, quality, Business Process Improvement, strategy, and PM.  One of Dr. Westbrook’s concepts fired my lifelong interest in implementing organizational change.  He researched the subject of Total Quality Management (TQM) and developed a systematic and repeatable definition for TQM.  Before that time, TQM was very vague and a single definition was elusive.  He suggested that everything ever written on TQM had one or more of six and only six attributes. 

During my first dissertation “attempt,” I worked to validate Dr. Westbrook’s findings.  Using a meta-analysis in a Design of Experiment type study, I reviewed hundreds of articles and books on TQM, management, and quality, and collaborated with several colleagues.  I found that by adding one attribute and the metaphor of a mobile to Dr. Westbrook’s work, we could explain “Excellent Management” in a way that would be systematic and repeatable. 

We asked the question, if “Excellent Management” requires the ability to influence others to achieve “excellent results,” then what would it take to achieve excellent management.  During a workshop for the Department of Energy (1992) we started graphically representing these seven attributes using a mobile, which made them easier to understand and remember.  This is the subject of the first Geronimo Stone book www.geronimostone.com.

Over the years, I’ve taught these concepts to many different organizations including governmental (DOD, DOE, NASA, DCS,…), Universities (Vanderbilt, Belmont, Trevecca, University of Phoenix…) and commercial organizations, a bunch of conferences, and published it in an adventure business book (download a free eBook from www.geronimostone.com).  


A Story of Love and Core Competencies February 12, 2011

Posted by Craig A. Stevens in Management.
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The best example of core competencies I have personally witnessed was that of Weed Eater. As a young pre-teen and teenager, I worked as the grounds keeper at the Holiday Inn where my parents were the General Managers. I spent my summers in the hot sun cutting grass and trimming trees and bushes. We had the best equipment of the day. All of which used harden metals and steel for cutting, clipping, slicing, and sawing.

I would start at one end of the hotel and divide the acreage into manageable sections. Every day, I would start by selecting a section. First, I would use brooms and a stick with a nail hammered into one end and sharpened to pickup large trash. Then, sometimes I would use a large gas powered Billy Goat Lawn Vacuum. Next, I would use the riding equipment, then the pushing mowers and gas powered edgers. After that, I would toughen my hands with the trimming shears and pruning tools. Lastly, I would use the brooms and again the large gas powered Billy Goat Lawn Vacuum. Sometimes, by the time I finished the last sections of the greens and looked up – the first sections were ready for another round. Growth was my summer job security.

It was after one of these hot days that I met my first love. She was beautiful. I was still sweaty and dirty from a long day working in the sun. She didn’t care, as I was young so was she. When my eyes found her, everything seemed to be in slow motion when the pretty young woman tossed her hair, as she trimmed grass around trees, shrubs, and fences. The lady slowly swung her around building walls and into tall weeds. She was my dream tool. A gas powered Weed Eater Lawn Trimmer. I fell in love.

Then my adoration turned to horror, as the commercial showed someone trimming tall grass around his or her bare feet. How could that happen? This mysterious enchanting thing – I knew how to cut grass the right way, by slinging sharp metal. I could not watch! But did anyway, through my fingers. That commercial became etched in my mind forever. How could string replace steel for cutting grass? Thus started my whirlwind relationship with Weed Eater.

But it wasn’t to last forever. I out grew her. I’m a man now! Shindaiwa is now my love. Oh, I occasionally fool around with Stihl for her chainsaws. But Shindaiwa has always been loyal and like all good women, easy on the eyes, extremely useful, and low maintenance.

So the question is, how could this have happened? How could my love for Weed Eater have changed? How could she have let herself slide from the pretties, shiniest, most useful and popular brand to just one of many?

The story of Weed Eater starts with a unique idea, a patent, and lots of interest. Nevertheless, the problem is, no matter where you start it is only a start. You have to develop your core competencies continuously or those who already possess them will soon out design, develop, and deliver anything you might create. Focus on your
core competencies!