- Project, Programme and Portfolio Management
- No comments
Do you remember a fun game in amusement arcades (which you may have visited on holidays as a child) called Splat the Rat? It was great fun and a version is now available as a mobile app. The objective of the game is to hit as many rats as possible with a mallet when they pop up from their holes and before they drop back down again, within the allotted time.
A fun game; yes, but not a good way to operate a business! So why do many organisations do so?
Does the following scenario sound familiar? You’re in a management meeting discussing operational matters. Most of the discussions are about employees not doing what the management team expect them to do. The noted action (for each item) is to remind everybody of what they are supposed to be doing by sending out a blanket email. Easily done. Action completed. Rat splatted….
…but very likely to pop up again after the memory of the email fades.
Take the simple example of holiday requests. Suppose the employees are expected to check with both their line managers and their project managers before putting in a holiday request form. The project community are experiencing difficulties delivering their projects because their team members have, in fact, booked holidays without checking the dates with them beforehand. The issue is raised at an operational meeting and an email is actioned. This, at least temporarily, fixes that specific issue – team members are now discussing their holiday requests with project managers.
Within a few weeks though, the team members might become familiar with this protocol, but forget to check their holiday requests with their line managers, so now this is raised as an issue at the operational meeting and another email goes out. Two issues in relation to holiday bookings have now been resolved, at least temporarily (until the emails have been forgotten), but what other holiday request related issues might yet appear?
If, however, the holiday request process was defined, perhaps as a simple flow diagram, as part of a suite of operational processes, easily accessible and centrally controlled, then whenever an operational issue is raised it can trigger a review of the relevant process to clarify it. Producing the flowchart in the first place is always a good test of how workable a process is, and having something tangible in place makes it very easy to scrutinise when there are issues.
The importance of clarity is greatly under-estimated. As a one-time manager of upwards of 50 people (including direct and indirect reports), I would estimate that greater than 50% of my time was spent on enhancing clarity for my team. It is worth considering that, if you achieve total clarity then, operationally, you become redundant. Take the example of a football manager shouting instructions from the sidelines – if the players on the pitch were operating like a well-oiled machine, there would be little need for ongoing direction. The best football teams require the least input from the manager during matches.
Employees rarely intentionally do a bad job. Both pride and a desire to please their employer will generally drive their behaviour in a positive way. To rectify any operational issues, therefore, managers should first check the levels of clarity they have created for employees within operational flowcharts.
How do you rate your organisation’s operational clarity?