Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lesson #192: Combat Management by Committee and Analysis Paralysis

Posted By: George Deeb - 12/30/2014


& Comment

Back in Lesson #15, I talked about "hands-on vs. hands-off" management styles, and my preference for a "hands-off"style, empowering a smart team to do their jobs without getting in their way, and only jumping into the details when absolutely necessary.  This post is less about management style and more about management process.

I once had a client that brought me in as an interim executive, to fill in for a departing employee.  I was excited to join the company and knew I could have an immediate impact.  In my first week on the job, I noticed something very strange.  My calendar started to fill up with about three days a week worth of committed meetings.  And, it was eating into my time to actually do my job.

Some of these meetings were related to my department (micromanaging my team).  Some of these were related to the executive team (with a culture of managing every department's decisions by committee).  And, some of these were related to other departments, and I had no idea why I was even needed in the room.  All in all, I was losing over half of my week doing everyone else's job, except my own!  That wasn't going to last.

So, I quickly reorganized the meetings.  I got my department meetings down to one per week, plus the one-on-one meetings with my team members (in case they needed me for anything--not me need to micromanage them).  I got the CEO to reorganize the executive meetings, so that we were only meeting one time a week (more to keep us updated on what we were all doing in our department, not for group decision making).  And, I cancelled all the meetings with the other departments.  I was able to get these meetings into one day a week, giving me two days a week back to do my job.

Related to this, I was watching how the CEO was making decisions.  He wasn't trusting his team to make the right decisions on their own.  He needed to be involved in all decisions they were making.  And, because he did not understand their jobs as well as they did, he would force them to run through circles creating numerous iterations of business cases and financial models until he understood it and could approve the decision.

All that did was irritate his team, from the lack of trust and again from slowing them down from doing their jobs.  And, the pace of making progress in the business screeched to a near halt, with managers having to wait for the CEO's approval before progressing.  The business had a materially bottleneck in their process for making progress--and the CEO was that bottleneck.

I told him this process was broken, and if you don't trust the team to make their own decisions, he should hire a new team.  That message resonated, and he changed his focus from helping make decisions for everybody else in their jobs, to actually doing his own job!  And, the business's growth and rate of change improved as a result.

So, make sure you all fine tune your processes.  Only schedule meetings that are absolutely necessary, trusting your team members to make their own smart decisions.  In a perfect world, the key department managers should be telling senior management what to do, for their support, not vice versa.  And, don't over-think and mentally masturbate every decision, since "analysis paralysis" can suffocate the life out of the business and your team.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at:  @georgedeeb.

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