Managers Q & A

A Quiet Place

Being a manager is demanding.  Sometimes it’s confusing.  It can also be exciting and energising.  Sometimes you just need to check out your thinking.

We have created a quiet place that creates the desire to know more, to go further in exploring some of the concepts in the Leadership Framework.

It also offers a taste of the guidance you can expect from us.


Getting started with Requisite Organization

Task assignment


Working across the organisation

The manager-employee relationship

Role balance



Managing talent


Managerial accountability

Accountability and authority

Do you have any questions you would like to see answered on this page?

If so, send us your question by clicking here.

1. How does a manager get started with Requisite Organization?

PeopleFit’s Leadership Framework provides a set of concepts, principles and tools to guide managers through understanding and application.  We work with you to understand your business issues and the problems that you are currently facing and then provide you with an overview or induction of the principles in a way that helps you understand them from your business’s perspective.  We help you diagnose and analyse your key organisation issues and with your team, develop an action plan to address these issues.  The action plan will prioritise your improvement work and could include a review of your structure and your processes of work, a commitment to review all improvement work and assign clear tasks and a clear structure for team meetings and team-working.  Each of these actions has a set of tools to build your confidence in its value and practical application.  Just to give an example, within your own team, when assigning a non-routine task, the task assignment model and checklist will remind you to consider the importance of matching the complexity of the task to the capability of the assignee, as well as personally discussing with the assignee all elements of the model to get true understanding and engagement.  The task assignment and team-working process together will help you consider whether you need a project team to address a problem, and who should lead it.  It will help you to build commitment for the work to be done, and be clear about the roles and authorities of the leader and the team members.

We provide you with a checklist for your managerial effectiveness and we regularly help you to understand your progress against these elements through a leadership evaluation scan.  Like any skill, practising these behaviours at every opportunity will help you to consolidate your experience while at the same time enhancing your own leadership until the practice is a part of your day-to-day management.   Enlist the support of your manager and your team of direct reports to work with you.

PeopleFit Workshop Materials

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2. We have recently introduced a form to properly document task assignment around the task assignment (CPQQRT) model.  However I don’t always receive these at work.  Are there some basic golden rules around its use?

Good task assignment follows the same principle as good communication:  the task assigner needs to be able transfer understanding and meaning to the task receiver.  It is obvious therefore that tasks that are part of normal routine and documented as such, do not need a task assignment every time the work needs to be done.  Key principles are:

  • Tasks are assigned by the employee’s manager to the employee as the manager is accountable for the whole unit’s flow of work, its output, who does the work and the priorities of work.  Unless this is a normal part of the service provided by the individual, tasks must be referred to the manager for assignment.
    The manager needs to have the task clearly in mind.  Writing it down will help to clarify exactly what is required by when.
  • The manager must engage with the assignee to more fully explain the task, and to draw on any observations or insights from the assignee that may shape the task better or improve the outcome.
    It is often an iterative process where the assignee may go away to think through or carry out some basic analysis on the elements of the task assignment before confirming such things as quality, quantity, resources required or the date of completion.  It is therefore incomplete until an agreement is made between the manager and employee.
  • In addition to the CPQQRT, boundaries or constraints need to be identified as well as identification of issues impacting the individual’s ability to deliver.
  • If the task assigner has not articulated the task clearly the receiver has an accountability to clarify.  It is the receiver who confirms understanding.
  • Where others are involved across the team or organisation and the task is complex, it is valuable to teamwork the task assignment prior to assigning to the assignee.  This way, all parties involved can provide input early on and develop good understanding of the context for the work.  In this circumstance task assignment should always be confirmed in writing.
  • You will have done a good job of task assigning and receiving when you both share the same understanding of the work to be done, how it will be monitored and what success looks like.
    Tasks do not have to be written down, so even verbal requests for information will benefit from the use of the mental model to ensure all key elements are covered.  The key elements are designed to ensure you have every chance of getting the task right first time!

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3. What are the critical issues for effective delivery of specialist skills by an internal specialist unit or advisor?

  • A clear business and organisational context for the role
  • A clear role description, eg purpose, objectives, key process, accountabilities, authorities, identification of cross organisational counterpart roles,
  • Alignment of the role purpose with the business purpose and processes
  • Your manager’s practices in ensuring alignment of their team roles with other team roles
  • The cross-over manager ensuring alignment of roles to the cross organisation processes
  • A productive approach to cross organisational conflict and its speedy resolution
streetsigns Aligning business direction and the roles that deliver core business with those that support the core business is critical for effective cross organisation working and the effective utilisation of specialist staff.Back to top

4. I have difficulty in getting what I need from other people in the organisation.  How should I approach this?

There are a number of factors that enable productive working across the organisation.  If your role requires you to get work from others, then you and your counterpart are part of a process of work.  This means that:

  1. You need to first discuss this with your counterpart to ensure you both understand the problem.  As part of this step it is useful to check whether this process is mapped.  Documented processes help you to examine the flow of work and related accountabilities.  If they are not documented, you should map the process as you understand it and who is accountable for their steps in the process.  It is advisable to whiteboard this with your counterpart so that you both have a clear view of the process and how you think it should work.  Note any issues, gaps, overlaps or differences that may exist.  Most times this will be sufficient to get things back on track and you and your counterpart will be able to clear up any misunderstanding s and agree a follow up date to check that the process is working as intended.
  2. If there are issues that you cannot resolve between you, it is important then to discuss the map of accountabilities, issues, gaps, overlaps etc, including your experience and observations with your manager.  This enables you to get more context around the purpose of your function and the importance of the processes to your function and other functions, to clarify his or her expectations of your role and the work and to ensure all the issues are identified.  If required, your manager can then take the issues to his or her peer and clarify what your respective role accountabilities and authorities are.  If there is agreement, managers of both functions can confirm this and agree a follow up date to check it is working as intended.
  3. If agreement is unable to be reached, this means that there may be conflicting or confused purposes or goals of the functions or roles involved, or the processes may not be properly established, or the context for this work may have changed.  In effect, your own manager has reached the limits of his or her boundary of work and cannot actually agree to change the process or accountabilities without approval.  This then requires referral or escalation to the next cross-over manager to help identify and clarify the issues, ensure appropriate team-working and where necessary, make decisions to ensure the clear flow of work.  Once again, a follow up date should be set to ensure agreements are being kept according to the documented processes.
  4. When there are significant changes to key processes, it is important for the cross-over manager to include a step where each party articulates their needs of the other in order to be able to deliver on their own accountabilities, and each party makes a commitment to the person making the request to deliver as requested, or to resolve the issues.  This process is called alignmentand is invaluable in recalibrating relationships and enhancing understanding of each other’s functions.  Any issues raised during this process that impact the commitments made to each other will require the cross-over manager to decide next steps.

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5. I don’t have an effective working relationship with my manager.  He can be autocratic and almost always doesn’t listen to what I say, even when he is clearly wrong.  He regularly throws a temper tantrum, not just at me but many in our team.  What should I do?

The principles of sound relationship management suggest that you:

  • Firstly, check your own behaviour at work.  Have you tried to understand your manager’s issues, pressures, concerns?  Are you genuinely working to do your best for your manager and the team?  Have you asked for feedback about your performance and behaviour at work?  Have you criticised your manager to your team members or others in the organisation?  Have you had an open and honest discussion with your manager about your needs and concerns and have you explained how this behaviour impacts your work?  Have you asked what you can do to further support him or her, and have you acted on this?  You need to be certain that you are not part of the problem here, so that you can comfortably consider your next steps.
  • Your manager is held accountable by his or her manager for your output and for creating a work environment such that you are able to do your best work.  If there is no improvement in your manager’s behaviour and your work continues to be negatively impacted then discuss this again until you feel you have exhausted it.
  • Consider your options.  Do you think there is likely to be a change in your manager’s behaviour towards you? (You are only accountable for what happens to you in this case).  Can you ask to speak to your Manager-once-Removed (MoR) for a transfer to another department?  If you feel you cannot do this or there are no other suitable areas for you to work in, then it is likely that you will continue to be unhappy in this company and a likely consequence is you may decide to find another job elsewhere.   However, if you believe your manager is demonstrating consistent unfair treatment you may advise your manager that you will be discussing your situation with your MoR.  If the situation is serious and you cannot discuss this with your manager directly then you may decide to go confidentially to your MoR about the circumstance.  You are then invoking the Fair Treatment System and in cases of unfair treatment you will be asked to document your issues to enable your MoR to investigate your claims appropriately.  While difficult for all parties involved, it is a transparent and accepted way of managing an untenable situation.  It is not appropriate to use this system if you simply think your manager is ineffective or you don’t like the style of working.  Documenting your situation will help you to think through the issues so that you are comfortable with your action.  Your MoR is accountable to consider your concerns and decide if it is a fair treatment issue, and then to sensitively conduct an investigation.  Your MoR will decide the outcome and advise your manager of the situation.

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6. As a manager, I am finding that I spend too much time working on technical matters and I feel as if I am not attending to the needs of my team.  Am I doing the right things?

The Technical work of a role is the reason the role exists.  It delivers the core purpose of the role and usually has specific KPIs or measures associated with it.  For example if a manager heads up a production unit then the purpose of the role is to deliver x units within specified time and cost.  The technical work will involve working with the team to ensure, for example, that the systems and processes are appropriate and a plan to deliver the targets.  However, in order to deliver reliably as promised, the manager must ensure that the whole team is enabled.  This means appropriate attention to the People work, which involves selecting the right people for the roles, task assigning, training, coaching, feedback, monitoring the work, and ensuring effective cross functional working.

The Programming element of the role enables the work to flow smoothly with proper planning and monitoring systems in place, and allocation of resources.  The relative proportion of these elements depends on the nature of the work and the current circumstances; however as a minimum the manager needs to determine what is necessary to ensure each of her team is equipped and capable of delivering the outputs for which she is accountable.  To ignore the enablers of People and Programming work will impact negatively on productivity and necessary governance and represent a risk to execution.  In fact, if a manager’s People work is absent then their leadership is absent.

PeopleFit’s Organisation and Leadership Scan will help you to diagnose your leadership and organisational issues, which together with a discussion with your manager, should help you to understand the key areas for your attention.  You and your manager can work through PeopleFit’s Leadership Framework to help you to review other key issues such as the structure of your role and your unit, the capability of your team, systems that support you, and the cross-functional working.

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7. I have two managers.  If I am only supposed to have one, which is the real one?  Is it the person who assigns me the work?

You cannot have two managers without it impacting your personal effectiveness and your ability to deliver.  Your manager is the person who holds full managerial authorities with respect to your role.  It is through these authorities that your immediate manager accepts you onto his or her team, sets your tasks, monitors your work and assesses your effectiveness in your role, coaches you, decides adjustments to your pay and if necessary initiates your removal from his or her team.  Your manager is held accountable by his or her manager for your outputs.  These authorities or accountabilities cannot sensibly be shared with another manager.

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8. Our department has used a number of very advanced home-grown spreadsheets to perform modelling of data that we use for product forecasts.  We have been told to discontinue these as we are to move to a new modelling tool which theoretically encompasses all we were doing ourselves, but I don’t agree that it will, not at least initially.  I don’t want my productivity to suffer.  What should I do?

The design and implementation of organisation systems is the accountability of senior managers and forms part of senior leadership team plans.  The Leadership Framework can help you to understand the issues relating to this situation and the consequence of continuing to use your spreadsheets:

  • Your manager is held accountable for your team’s output, for deciding the systems that must be used and for delivering the business plan as a unit.  Your role is a part of this accountability.
  • Your manager is also accountable to use the systems and processes the organisation decides is appropriate for the business and to provide input, with advice from his team, to their design and feedback on their effectiveness.  To work outside the agreed system or plan will break the mutual trust that needs to exist between the organisation and its managers, and therefore its managers and their direct reports.
  • To continue as normal is to ‘workaround’ the system without authorisation.  You don’t have the authority to make this decision.  It may help you do your job today, but as it is part of a wider system you are unlikely to be able to anticipate the impact of your action on others.  What if your spreadsheet has a calculation error, or doesn’t capture all the data necessary for input to other systems?  Most importantly, how can your manager be accountable for your work if you don’t advise your issues or if you actively work against a decision that he has agreed to?
  • If you are unable to do your work effectively it is most important that you raise this with your manager.  Together you can teamwork the issues relating to this system, the desired outcomes and the options for moving forward.  Your accountability is to describe the problem and help with the analysis and then support your manager’s decision; your manager’s accountability is to develop understanding of the problem and issues and to decide what to do next.  You need to be part of the plan to transition to the new system so that you can continue to provide your input and advice to shape a solution that meets your needs and the business.

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9. A technician approached me recently complaining about his manager who he recognises has very strong technical knowledge and skills.  However the employee feels as if he cannot do anything without the manager breathing down his neck and second-guessing every decision.  The manager pushes the employee hard, and he consequently works long hours.  The employee can’t even raise the fact that he has no home life.  What is going wrong here?

It appears a number of issues are affecting the employee:

  • The manager-employee relationship is not trusting or 2-way, so the employee has felt pressured at work and yet unable to raise his concerns
  • He feels he has little or no discretion to make decisions without his manager’s involvement and consequently he is likely to feel undervalued and underutilised
  • It appears the context for the current work demands are unclear and so he feels the long hours are excessive and unreasonable
  • His manager is a competent technician but seems unable to ‘let go’ of the technical work

PeopleFit’s Leadership Framework has a useful tool to help managers diagnose factors that impact a person’s effectiveness.  It helps us to focus on three key areas:

  1. the organisational issues that impact effectiveness of the individual, the manager and the team,
  2. the manager’s capability to lead the team
  3. the individual’s capability for the current role.

For example, if the organisation has set up conflicting work goals and measures the manager may be facing unreasonable demands himself, which is being passed on to his own staff.  If the structure is inadequate such that the managerial role is designed to be ‘too close’ in complexity to the employee’s role, then authorities and accountabilities are likely to become confused.

If the structure is correct but the manager is unable to work at the level of complexity of the role, then he is likely to ‘dip down’ into the employee’s technical work where he feels naturally capable, and consequently will not add new insights or anticipate significant obstacles, nor will he be respected by his own peers in delivering the service.  On the other hand it may be that he does have the mental capability but is newly appointed to a managerial role and has had little coaching or development in the basic managerial skills for the role.

If the employee’s capability has developed beyond the current role requirements, then he will feel naturally underutilised and will feel the manager cannot add value.  He will perceive he is just as capable at making decisions his manager makes, but will suffer frustration with no authority to make these decisions.  There may also be a possibility that the employee himself is not delivering to the manager’s expectations and the manager is tightening the supervision or bringing in the boundaries of the role while trying to correct performance.

As you can see, this is issue may have a number of causes and will benefit with sound diagnosis by the manager and the Manager-once-Removed.  So often we jump to a quick conclusion because of past experience, or because we haven’t yet fully analysed the whole situation.  PeopleFit’s diagnostic tool will guide both manager and Manager-once-Removed through this process to help reveal the underlying causes and to help Manager-once-Removed and Manager with an appropriate action plan to address the issues.

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10. I feel bored in my current role, but my manager won’t give me any special projects or work that will extend me, saying that I am too critical to the team and additional work will affect my work output.  I have good performance ratings and am thinking about leaving the company.  What should I do?

It is likely that you have developed past the demands of the current role and you may be ready to either move to another role at the same level that develops new knowledge, skills and experience, or possibly move to another role at a higher level.  If this is so, and you cannot change your role, over time you will start to become frustrated, your performance in your current role may be affected and your relationship with your manager may deteriorate.

For your current role, ensure that you have fully extended yourself.  This means that you are not only delivering what is required, but within your role authority you have initiated all possible improvements to the work and related work processes.  In short, be recognised as an exemplar in your field.

For other work, discuss your aspirations with your manager and suggest how you can deliver current work outputs and take on additional accountabilities without affecting performance.  Ultimately your manager decides what work you are allocated, but an open and honest discussion about your needs will inform your manager about you, and provide an opportunity to respond.

In addition to this, advise your manager that you wish to explore the company’s career development system so that you can prepare to take on another role.  If it has not already been scheduled, ask your Manager-once-Removed (MoR) for a meeting to discuss your career aspirations for other roles and what action you need to take to develop this capability.   Your MoR is accountable to listen to your aspirations for your career, make a judgement about your ability to work in different roles at the same level and higher levels, and to identify key areas for your development plan for future roles.  The MoR will do this in partnership with your manager, who will execute the development plan.

You are accountable for your own career and ultimately will need to make a decision about whether the company can support your career development intentions.  In the meantime, a sound approach is to build a business case for a new role by continuing to add value in your current role, by raising your career needs with your MoR and by seeking every opportunity to take on new initiatives to extend yourself.

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11. What is really meant by a trust inducing workplace?

“Can I trust him to do a thorough job of fixing my car?”  “Can she be trusted with my problem?”

When we talk about trust, it is often in relation to a personal relationship; to how another person might behave towards us and our feelings associated with that behaviour.  It is also commonplace for some of us to use the idea of trust as part of making or breaking our personal relationships (e.g. “I trust you to take care of me” or “I don’t trust you any more”).

While this may be how people think about trust in an everyday way, it is how they experience trust in an organisational context that is central to questions of organisation design and to the role of managers in making it work.

In human societies, trust develops in response to the social system rather than in how individuals might decide how they will ‘differentially’ treat each other.  The Australian highway system for example ‘induces’ this trusting response.  In the system, we feel mutual trust, not because we are neighbours or friends and know each other personally, but because we understand our respective roles, we have been authorised and trained to use the road, the rules that we are bounded by, the consequences for not following them, and the consistency around their application.

The highway system is partly an engineered, technical system.  Its hazards and variations have been reduced by road curves design, intersection design, traffic light sequence design, pavement design etc.  It is also partly a social system; there are people in the system.  Some are users of the system.  Some oversee the use of the system (e.g. police, traffic courts, engineers).  In order to reduce the hazards and variations of the peoples’ behaviour in the system, a whole range of rules and regulations are applied.  In order to use the system, we must behave a particular way.

Trust and Fairness on the road

We can therefore trust that when we drive on the highway we will get to our destination without expecting to have an accident.

We also know that if accidents occur, they are usually the result of people behaving outside the system.

What does this have to do with our workplaces?  Well, workplaces are intended to be groupings of people who have been brought together to get things done; to achieve a common purpose.  Workplaces are not intended to be gatherings of individuals who might be allowed to focus only in their individual needs and goals.

So, how to organise our people (e.g. team, unit and divisional structures, work processes, policies, systems)? How to manage them (e.g. select to a role, set tasks, assure performance, reward, initiate removal)?
Just as in the highway system, we need to reduce the hazards and variations – the ‘ad hockery’ – of the workplace by properly designing the workplace and by putting in place uniform managerial practices which are consistent with that design.

Australia’s airline system is similar, and we can use this to look more closely at the more general lessons for the workplace.

The illustration below shows a work scenario where pilots are working with air traffic controllers.  They don’t need to know each other to get their work done.  However, they do need to trust the company’s system of selection, the definition of the roles and authorities of each person, the training, the policies, standards and procedures, and the monitoring and control mechanisms.  They also need to trust that managerial practices in the system are sensibly based and uniform; that decisions are made pretty much the same way for identical circumstances.

The systemic reliability arising out of good organisational ‘design’ coupled with sound managerial practices bring feelings of mutual trust.  Mutual trust enables pilots and controllers (in this case) to make decisions confidently and determines the extent to which they can deliver their own work as well as collaborating to achieve common goals.

Trust and Fairness air traffic control

If mutual trust diminishes, it is replaced by anxiety, fear and mistrust.  Reliability of outcomes falls away. Employees go into a self-protection mode.  Innovation and exercise of discretion fall away, sick leave increases, people resign, and productivity drops.  Feelings of mutual trust in the workplace are essential to the full release of every individual’s capability, to their psychological well being and, ultimately, to their contribution to the success of the business.

We cannot create mutual trust by urging people to get on with each other or by attempting to fix their style or behaviour.  We do it by paying attention to the organisational (i.e. system) conditions.

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12. Our managers see themselves less as line managers and more as project managers. How can we get them to accept and deliver on other accountabilities associated with the longer-term development and sustainability of the organisation and their direct reporting teams?

The question implies that a change of behaviour and output is required; that the wrong behaviour may be ‘culturally’ embedded. Culturally embedded behaviour will not yield easily to training and will require a ‘reforming’ effort. This effort should be focused on an ‘intact team’ (i.e. a selected manager with his/her direct reporting team members) or teams. To change the behaviour and outputs of the ‘project managers’, the ‘intact team’ would include the project managers together with their own team’s immediate manager.

Using the Leadership Framework as a reference point, the project managers’ immediate manager would:

  1. Review, and analyse current managerial practices of direct reports, noting the gaps between actual and desirable behaviours and outputs
  2. Introduce and explain Framework-based definitions, principles and practices for project manager roles. Explain the project manager role requirements in the context of the wider business e.g. their membership of the organisation’s senior team, requiring their input into such matters as strategy development, systems development, business practices etc.
  3. In the team setting, articulate the ‘desirable’ behaviours as the now being ‘required’ and why. Explore this in team work to check understanding.  With the team, identify the possible obstacles to successful change (e.g. “What do I need in order to meet these new expectations of what I am to do?”) and then identify actions to fix.  Agree a team plan to achieve this change.
  4. Drawn from the team plan, adjust each team member’s role description to include the ‘additional’ work. Set clear tasks for each team member, monitor the work and ensure performance and outcomes.

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13. We are developing a new and different service unit within an existing, larger service organisation. How can we effectively establish and maintain our distinctly different unit culture while maintaining effective alignment with the larger organisation?

‘Culture’ in a workplace setting can usefully be seen as ‘the way we do things around here’.

In the presence of well designed organisational conditions (e.g. structure, role relationships, processes, policies, systems) and clear and consistent managerial leadership practices, culture is a result of the leader’s intent and effort.  The way we do things around here is then strongly aligned with the designed purpose and objectives of the unit. The Framework provides those clear and consistent practices.

In the absence of such conditions, the resulting culture may embody distorted ideas about how things get done or should be done and will be laced with uncertainty.  Such a cultural outcome is likely to be poorly aligned with the unit’s purpose and objectives.

So, the unit manager must establish the desired culture; it is first and foremost a team culture.  The Leadership Framework sets out what managers must BE, KNOW and DO in order to organise and lead effectively.  A productive team culture will emerge as a result of effective team leadership.

As to the relationship of the unit to the larger organisation and what this might mean for the unit culture, it remains for the unit manager to:

  1. Assess the culture of the larger organisation (e.g. organisation effectiveness)
  2. Do a ‘gap’ and issues analysis by comparing the desired versus as-is
  3. Decide corrective actions that must be taken to close the gaps both for the unit and for the wider organisation
  4. Develop a unit team plan of action
  5. Escalate appropriate issues to the leader of the larger organisation for action (i.e. cross-organisational alignment
  6. Initiate action (i.e. team plans, individual tasks) and agree to/collaborate in cross-organisational actions
  7. Monitor and adjust and escalate for the cross-organisational performance of others

Work to be done in steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 are assisted by the Leadership Framework.

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14. How do RO-based ideas about accountability and authority relate to conventional control mechanisms such as ‘segregation of duties’ (e.g. balancing admin and accounting, governance, control, alignment)?

The Leadership Framework provides clear codification of role and role relationship types that occur in all organisations.

Firstly, there are two – and only two – broad classes of roles.  For simplicity they can be divided into managerial roles and non-managerial roles.  Their formal names are Task Assigning Role Relationships (TARRs) and Task Initiating Role Relationships (TIRRs).

Secondly, each class is further subdivided.  There are 5 different types of managerial role (TARRs) and 7 types of non-managerial role (TIRRs) to be found in all organisations.  These role classes and the role types within them account for all possible work to be done.

The TARRs and TIRRs are clearly defined by specific and different (i.e. one role compared to another) accountabilities and authorities.

Examples of the different managerial roles include the full line manager, the project manager, a team leader, a manager-once-removed.

Examples of the different non-managerial roles include service provider, auditor, monitor, scheduler.

These differently specified roles/role relationship are then used in building the different ‘core’, ‘service’ and ‘support’ functions of the larger organisation structure.

The structure and contained role relationships remain ‘static’ until brought to action through the authority of the organisation’s line managers.  This means for example, that appropriately positioned managers assure the role relationship collaboration necessary to achieve cross-organisational alignment.

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15. What proportion of a senior manager’s energy should be spent on whole of organisation issues versus the manager’s own team, to create the best work environment and to get the best business outcomes?

The answer to this question depends very much on the current state of effectiveness of the organisation and its leadership. There are many causes of ineffectiveness e.g:

  • Too many levels in the structure
  • ‘Silo’ behaviour (i.e. misalignment of functions and/or processes)
  • Poor ‘fit-to-role’
  • Poorly designed/poorly used systems
  • Poor or incomplete or absent processes (i.e. work flows)
  • Poor or inconsistent managerial leadership practices

The extent to which the organisation and/or its leadership is ineffective, will determine the extent to which the senior manager will need to spend more time working to correct the deficits.  However, in ineffective organisations, it is more likely that the senior manager will quickly become swamped with the symptoms of ineffectiveness and find his/her time being consumed by contingencies; by unplanned demands to resolve disputes and to make various ‘trade off’ decisions escalated from below.

‘Fire fighting’ characterises this all too common experience.If you are busy fighting fires, chances are there are systemic issues in your organisation.

That there seems to be no end to this kind of situation can bring senior managers to the view that this is a normal state of affairs.  To some, it may become a way of feeling valuable as they rescue yet another situation from near disaster.

We should aim to do business and to run our organisations, for the most part, under stable conditions in a calm manner.  We should aspire to do this even (or perhaps, especially) in times of turmoil. This means taking the time to systematise the work of the organisation.

True whole of organisation issues are addressed with a continuous effort to systematise; to make routine out of chaos, to reduce variation and eliminate out-of-plan events.  This means monitoring the organisation’s effectiveness and then initiating improvements – and then monitoring again, etc. This ‘monitoring-and-adjustment’ effort can itself, be systematised and need only require intermittent senior manager attention (e.g. 3-monthly monitoring and an annual ‘organisation effectiveness review’).

Good and effective monitoring is critical, as is good and effective diagnosis of the causes of poor effectiveness. The Leadership Framework provides the basis for both effective monitoring as well as effective diagnosis.

The Framework also sets out how senior manager roles differ from less senior manager roles (e.g. front-line manager roles).  The ‘organisational leadership’ practices outlined in the Framework describe the additional work that all managers must do (with some different emphasis depending on the level of the role) in managerial roles one up or more from the front-line manager.

We cannot expect that senior managers suddenly have more hours in their working days in order to do the ‘additional’ work of organisational leadership.  Rather, the senior manager roles require a significant change of emphasis. This is an emphasis basically towards systematisation.

At this level, managers now need to take charge of the larger execution ‘system’, understand how this should work and know where and when to make adjustments to it.  First and foremost, this requires strong leadership of the manager’s immediate team (i.e. as a team of people who are, in turn, leaders of teams).  So, for the senior manager to fulfil his/her organisation leadership accountabilities still requires the exercise of strong managerial leadership.

The degree to which the senior manager can effectively mobilise his/her direct report team and get them to be effective leaders in turn; to this degree, the senior leader will minimise unnecessary personal time spent on broader organisational issues and fire fighting.

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16. How do we get managers to understand and accept their managerial accountabilities?

Begin by getting their immediate manager to clearly establish the managerial requirements of their roles, to check understanding, to set related tasks and then to assure performance.  However, this answer requires that, for example:

  • The structure provides the correct manager’s-manager relationship (i.e. each manager has one and only one immediate manager)
  • The role of the manager to be clearly and uniformly defined in terms of accountabilities and authorities e.g:

A manager is a person in a role in which he/she is held accountable not only for his/her personal effectiveness but also for the work outcomes of his/her direct reports and team.

The manager is required to build a team of direct reports, set direction for the team and to take (i.e. to lead) the team in the direction set, with commitment.  In order to fulfil these accountabilities, the manager’s manager must assign to the manager four minimum VARI authorities i.e.

  1. To be able to Veto appointment to his/her team
  2. To be the only person to Assign work to his/her direct reports
  3. To provide be the only person to Review, Recognition and Reward the work of direct reports
  4. To Initiate removal from his/her team, with due process
  • The manager’s manager must understand and apply these same principles and must have the same minimum authorities

It is often the case in organisations that the definition of managerial roles has become obscured.  Roles in organisations often suffer a lack of clarity, or they may be adjusted (for better or worse) over time by different incumbents.  Does this really matter?

Many roles (e.g. individual contributor, specialist roles or service providing roles) can change over time without apparent effect on the organisation (e.g. people in other roles may compensate for the deficits); changes in managerial roles immediately compromise the organisation.

The manager cohort in an organisation contains the organisations’ authority i.e. legitimate power, which should be passed down seamlessly from the CEO to the front line.  Inadequate definition and design of managerial roles, or inconsistent role definition and practice across the organisation causes an immediate leakage of that authority.

The first effect of this is that all of the role relationships in the organisation begin to escape the moderating effect of accountable, authorised managers e.g. ‘silo’ behaviour begins and cannot be fixed, employee satisfaction differs from one manager to another, employees’ experiences of inconsistent managerial behaviour promotes wariness, suspicion and mistrust.

PeopleFit’s Framework-based Organisation and Leadership Effectiveness Scan provides an objective assessment of leadership effectiveness and provides clear targets for improvement.

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17. How can we make safety performance a more effective and sustainable outcome in our organisation?

Safety, quality, workplace communications, environmental compliance are all pieces of work which have received special attention during the last decade or more.  Usually, they have received special attention as the result of events like dramatic failure, rising community concerns, or, in the case of quality, a significant rise in foreign competition (e.g. cheaper, better Japanese, Korean, Chinese products).A culture of safety in the organisation

Business leaders have then moved to make equally special arrangements to ensure performance to the new requirements.  They have set up new, specialised roles with titles such as Safety Manager or Quality Manager etc (i.e. non-line roles), sometimes reporting directly to the CEO. Often, by accident or design, the new arrangements have become authoritarian and compliance-based in nature.

Unfortunately, these roles have not and cannot be established as true managerial roles (other than the case where these roles are supported by a small team) lying within the core functions (e.g. making, selling, delivering) of the organisation.  This means that they cannot use managerial authority with respect to the people whose work involves issues of safety, quality, etc.

On the other hand, when people in those roles exert the authority that they often, incorrectly, assume that they have, the line managers in the core functions will become confused and intimidated. Significantly, they may come to assume that they are now no longer accountable to ensure that safety; quality, communications and environmental requirements need to be met by them; that someone else is now accountable for this.

The effect can be to reduce the requirements of the core work, in the eyes of the line manager and his/her team. The trick is to re-integrate these essential requirements.

The starting point for this is to clarify the manager’s role to include these requirements and to assure performance to those requirements. Specialist roles must also be clarified to make these effective for such things as standard-setting, advice-giving, monitoring and reporting and, possibly, auditing. The specialist and manager roles must then be carefully aligned.

The Leadership Framework provides the basis for clarifying roles, assigning authority and accountability to where it most effectively should be and in aligning the work of the specialist and manager roles.

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18. How can we improve cross-organisational (e.g. global) collaboration?

Poor cross-organisational collaboration or ‘silo’ behaviour can have a number of causes, and no single cause. All of the causes are likely to arise from deficits in either organisational design or leadership practices or a combination of both.

Unravelling the causes and effects can be achieved through structured data collection and analysis. The Leadership Framework provides the structure to support such an approach.

However, a low-risk short-cut can be taken by simply carrying out a Framework-based alignment of the target functions or processes. Framework-based alignment focuses directly on the roles and processes and their related work and objectives. It involves a short, sharp campaign to:

  1. Identify the target process (including purpose and objectives)
  2. Identify the participants in the process (including the authorising roles)
  3. Map, clarify and agree the process with the participants
  4. Identify each participant’s work in the process
  5. Review the process and participant map to check for overlap, gaps, accountabilities and authorities, identifying any disabling issues
  6. Resolve disabling issues or develop management remedies
  7. Facilitate agreement of process participants
  8. Develop and action plan for managers to monitor and assure the process (i.e. ensure process capability) and to review and improve the process (i.e. drive for process efficiency)

While bringing about immediate improvement in cross-organisational collaboration, alignment will also, amongst other things, surface the causes of the silo behaviour, thus providing useful targets for further improvement initiatives.

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19. Is talent management the best way to drive organisational change?

No. The argument usually put forward for talent management to be the driver for organisational change is often connected with ideas about identifying and deploying people deemed to have high level capability. The basic incorrect thinking is that:

If we can identify and appoint leaders who are capable of the high levels of work that we think we need to be competitive – at the same time, getting rid of incapable people – then that will improve business and organisational performance.

This idea is most often associated with an external assessment of the company’s ‘capable/not-so-capable’ people as part of a talent management process.

A talent management system can be seen as a brick in the organisational ‘wall’. That is to say that although talent management is important and can be highly valuable, it is an element of the organisation which must have a solid wall below it; it is critically dependent on pre-cursor elements. Some of those elements are:

  • Effective managerial leadership practices, for example:
    • Selection to role
    • Task assignment
    • Performance management
  • Effective organisational leadership practices, for example:
    • Manager-once-removed relationship (especially with respect to career and potential assessment of the subordinate-once-removed)
    • Assuring effective managerial leadership by direct reporting managers
    • Effective ‘levels-of-work-based’ structure

Without such organisational and leadership pre-requisites, attempts to identify capability (especially using external assessment) tend to quickly establish a counter-productive ‘system of differentiation’ or discrimination. The identification of the individual’s estimated low ‘potential’ provides a too-easy, much reduced and dubious explanation for under-performers. On the other hand, the identification of those judged to be high performers, may inappropriately encourage counter-productive elitism – and may be inaccurate.

These are serious risks which can be avoided.

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20. In the face of salary competition and the low attractiveness of the retail industry, what can we do to better retain employees?

Human beings are naturally and fundamentally motivated to do the best work that they can do and seek out opportunities to do that.

The research shows that when they are working to their full potential ‘level of work’, they seek fair pay for that level of work. Moreover, they will regard it as fair that another person may get paid significantly more if that other person is working at (and capable of working at) a higher level of work.

The difference between how human beings might naturally behave and how they end up behaving is overwhelmingly the result of the workplace conditions that they find themselves in. In other words, the workplace ‘system’ gives rise to behaviour.

The implications of this for the above question are:

  • There is intrinsic and strong satisfaction to be found in the work – if it is correctly provided – in the correct organisational conditions (e.g. clear roles, clear tasks) and if the work and the individual are correctly matched
  • People do not need to be motivated or enticed by money, once the pay is around the ‘felt fair’ threshold. Relativity is predominantly driven by the complexity of work being done
  • Managers must deal quickly with under-performance as part of ensuring feelings of fairness
  • Providing high pay in the absence of meaningful work will be ineffective and wasteful
  • Seeking to induce people to ‘work harder’ (or even smarter) by paying bonuses has no evidence-based support

Establishing felt fair pay is informed by the Leadership Framework and is a relatively straightforward matter.

Establishing meaningful work is less easy and may involve a thorough Framework-based examination of the organisation design (e.g. structure, role design) and managerial practices (e.g. ensuring that each role is ‘fully loaded’ in terms of problem-solving content).

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21. How can we ensure that employees are held accountable (i.e. they face the consequences) for their actions?

Accountability is at the heart of organisation effectiveness. Although, from an organisation view point accountability must be established in every individual employee/employer relationship. The Leadership Framework defines accountability as:

A situation in which an individual can be called to account for his or her actions by another individual authorised both to do so and to give recognition or to apply sanction to the individual for those actions.

Since the immediate manager represents the company to the employee, this means that it is the employee’s immediate manager who must establish and assure accountability with each of their direct reports.

Establishing what the employee is to be held accountable for starts with their appointment to their role; and their agreement to the conditions attached to that appointment.

The employee’s role sets out the role accountabilities which will deal with the purpose and key objectives, ‘typical tasks’ and some selected ‘key tasks’. In addition the immediate manager will be expected to set additional tasks from time to time.

It is for the immediate manager only to judge how effectively the employee has addressed their accountabilities (which, by the way, includes but is not limited to meeting the stated objective). The manager must review work in progress and provide feedback to the employee in order to make adjustments or corrections and ensure the final outcome.

Consequences of the manager’s observations and judgements can be many and varied and may include coaching to improve the application of knowledge and skill, varying the task assigned, assigning different, less challenging work as part of a corrective program, skills training, specific tasks to improve the individual’s skills etc. For serious issues of under-performance, the manager may apply reward sanctions or initiate removal from the team.

If the manager does not apply sanctions and assure performance, then this becomes an issue of the manager’s performance and must, in turn, be sanctioned by his/her manager.

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