Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Team Building and Matrix Management

There are four phases in team building: Forming (team is created), Storming (team debates and argues about what it needs to do), Norming (team agrees how it will work), and Performing (team starts to deliver). The first three phases are time consuming and during this period the team is rarely performing.

So intelligent managers try to ensure that they minimize the amount of team creation they have to undertake. Establishing permanent teams is the most effective from a performance point of view. Replacements or additions to the team are easily incorporated.

Compare this with the situation in a matrix management system. Here the teams are loosely integrated, they are temporary, and they go through the Forming, Storming, and Norming phases on a regular basis - with the resultant negative impact on efficiency and effectiveness.

A clear indicator of project performance is the amount of matrix management involved, the more the matrix the less effectiveness, at least during the all-important starting phase of the project. Matrix management helps to invoke Briers law, which states: that it's never to soon to start failing. The time lost in perpetually re-creating teams greatly affects the ability of teams to deliver projects on time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prioritization confusion: A fractal sign

One of the first sign that management has lost the plot is when they are incapable of prioritizing projects.

Once when working as a consultant I had an engagement with a manufacturing company in Bolton, UK. During a tour of the factory I was shown the production controller's office. In there I saw the production schedule board, on that board where displayed all the current work orders with their individual priorities. I noticed that the majority of the orders had a red tag against them, and a large number had two red tags.
I asked the obvious question, "What do the red tags mean?" And I was told that it meant they had the highest priority.
"And the double tags?"
"That's because we had so many red tagged orders that we had to introduce a higher priority, an ultra priority, as it were."
So as a consultant I could see where I could make an easy win. Further as I continued my investigations I discovered that the inability to prioritize the work schedule was systematic of the management team's chaotic style. It wasn't an aberration it was a standard practice. It was a classic example of management fractals: Chaos at the top resulting in chaos at the bottom.

Now in case you think this is a problem confined to manufacturing let me tell you about an episode just before the holidays. I'm in a software management meeting when two department heads said that their different projects were the company's number one priority and that they had first call on key resources. Both were shocked to discover that the other project had a same priority, me, not so much. The senior management has a record of defining multiple number ones in all its activities. Their indecision flows down through the organization. They exhibit fractal management symptoms and, like all such managements, they don't realize it. Prioritization for them is a word, not a practice.