Joe and Wanda on Management

Joe Kerr and Wanda B. Goode, two characters from Nick McCormick’s book, “Lead Well and Prosper,” dispense their management wisdom

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Month: December, 2006

Strategy Setting and Execution

28 December, 2006 (21:58) | Management, Strategy/Goals | By: Administrator

We’re nearing the end of another calendar year. It’s a good time to reflect on the prior year’s accomplishments and set the strategy and goals for the coming year. Let’s see how Joe and Wanda are handling this annual planning exercise.

Joe Kerr: Here we go again! I’ve been through over a dozen of these exercises. When the boss unveils the slogan of the year (developed with the help of some consulting company), I just nod my head and smile approvingly like it’s the most profound and life altering plan of all time. I go through the motions and in a few months it blows over. Occasionally the boss gets extra serious about it and actually requires reporting updates against the plan. If this is the case, I just make something up and retrofit it to the plan. If I happen to be late with something, I just tell the boss I was busy serving the client. That gets me off the hook.

This year it will be the same deal. My strategy to setting strategy is simple and effective – Keep the head low and wait it out.

Wanda B. Goode: I like to close out the year by reporting how the team did against the prior year’s objectives.  It’s usually not that big of a surprise since I’ve reviewed the plan throughout the year, but it does give the team a sense of accomplishment and it also gets them pumped for the new year.  Sometimes I use it as an opportunity for recognition as well.

This year, corporate came up with a strategy. We’ll meet as a team to develop some goals for our group that link to the larger strategy. We won’t get carried away. We’ll quickly come up with a handful of things that will really help us improve. Then we’ll execute one at a time. We’ll get commitment from all team members to complete the first one by the agreed upon due date no matter what. I’ve learned the hard way that if you try to do too much at once, you end up getting nothing done. This feeds the apathetic and freguently derisive attitude that often surrounds strategic plans.

Remember, the team works full time. Attempting to tackle multiple initiatives simultaneously is unrealistic.  Just pick off one at a time.  Show progress. Build momentum. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Before you know it, the team will have made valuable contributions to the business.

Vendor Gifts

16 December, 2006 (20:39) | Leadership, Workplace Dynamics | By: Administrator

Tis the season for gift giving. It’s the time of year when vendors are especially generous. Just last week, a guy dropped by the office to hand out MP3 players. Let’s see how Joe and Wanda handled it.

Joe Kerr: Hey, if a vendor is going to sell me something, he’s going to have to work for it! I spend a lot of money on vendor products and services. These friendly little gifts are a drop in the bucket for them. No MP3 player is going to influence my decision anyway. So, I say, bring it on! As a matter of fact, the sales guy said he had an extra one, so I took it for my daughter. Happy Holidays!

Wanda B. Goode: Accepting or not accepting a gift from a vendor can be awkward and problematic. Many companies have policies which is helpful. Some are very strict and specific about dollar limits. Quite a few companies don’t have set policies at all resulting in inconsistencies and abuse.

I make it a practice not to accept anything more than a trinket ($20.00 or so). I told the guy with the MP3 player that I couldn’t accept it. He seemed to understand.

My view is, even if it doesn’t influence my decision (which it probably does), it can give the perception of impropriety. It’s very common for employees to joke about how managers buy from vendors due to the wining and dining, trips to the Super Bowl, etc. Are the stories true? Does it matter? I find it’s best to take the high road.

Team Building in a Matrixed Organization

10 December, 2006 (11:28) | Communication, Leadership, Management, Team Building | By: Administrator

In this time of matrixed organizations and geographically dispersed teams, it can sometimes be difficult to get face time with your direct reports. Let’s see how Joe and Wanda develop a rapport with team members.

Joe Kerr: I talk to my guys constantly. I call them up or shoot them an e-mail every time I need them. I don’t have any regularly scheduled meetings. I don’t have time. Plus they are too formal. My guys can talk to me any time they want. They know how to reach me, and they are well aware of my open door policy. 

Wanda B. Goode: I like to get the team together at least once/month preferably face-to-face, but by phone when that is not practical. It gives them an opportunity to assist one another. It gives me a chance to share information with them as well.

I also meet individually with each direct report once/month. Again, I prefer in person, but by phone is OK too. This allows me to build relationships.  People need one-on-one time. It gives them an opportunity to bring up issues or to just plain vent. It’s also a time to talk about the associate’s development and occasionally mix in some teaching/training time.