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Manage Well: The 3 Questions

October 13, 2013

Bring a team into high productivity and positive morale with “The 3 Questions”.  Managers must master these.  Imbed them into your psyche.  Repeat them in your sleep.  Make them your meditational mantra.  Get it.

What is the down-line impact of this action?  How often do you have problems in production or sales or finance because of an inadequate exploration of this question?  What will happen in accounting if we promote this new product line at 5% markdown?  What will happen to other product lines?  Can marketing adjust in time for the sales season?  Will production be ready to handle sales volumes?

Put off this question at maximum risk of failure.  Even the simplest action in a sequence of workflow has to pursue an expanded understanding before change.  If we print this at a new size, will the finishing team be able to handle it?  If we promote a new advantage to our product will it meet compliance guidelines?  When we implement this change to our computer program for billing will it cause extra workload at 3am that affects another unrelated cycle?  There is no end to implications of one actions on other team action.  No one can know them all.  But you need to ask.

Who else needs to know?  How familiar is your team with the interaction of what they do with others?  Do you have workers living in a vacuum?  Have you taken time to educate them about interplay with other departments, people, teams, divisions, customers, and vendors?  When you change the usage of a machine, it might be wise to include the manufacturer in the discussion.  Ask often, “Who else needs to know?”

What is your information plan to include them?  When do they need to know?  Do they have access to enhanced information that might help you make a better decision before advancing?

Work with a production team with large dependency on delivery cycles proved out value here.  The delivery team was constantly a day behind.  They were only being informed at the time of pickup.  By moving the information to them at time of beginning of production, a day was cut out of delivery cycle to the customer and orders increased with increased customer satisfaction.  The sales team also needed to know at the same time instead of being informed only after delivery.  This enabled them to engage the customer along the path with pertinent and reliable information.  Who else needs to know?

What is the best use of my time right now?  After you ask the first two questions, answer this one.  Too often we ask this one and answer it only considering what we know and what we are doing.  We need to consider what others know and what they are doing.  A project launch could falter due to conflicting priorities in the organization.  A customer order may not be deliverable as requested due to a supply shortage and should be renegotiated.  After considering the plans and availabilities of others and related resources, we may want to work on an entirely different project or action and time this one in front of us into another day or week.

Summary Simplicity:   These 3 questions are priceless practice for any manager for self decisions and for training team members in their decisions.  After working with a team for a season on these, you will find they become masters of the top manager rule.  What is the top manager rule?  NO SURPRISES.  These questions eliminate the element of surprise and provide a foundation for a self managed team.

Ask them often.

What is the down-line impact of my action?

Who else needs to know?

What is the best use of my time right now?

Be Busy Building Better Business,

Phil

Phil@shepherdok.com

405.388.8037

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