Tag Archives: management

Never do what you are told!

I tell everyone who works with, or for, me that they are never to do something because I told them to do it.  I do not want or expect anyone to do what I ask just because I told them to do it. Instead, I insist they do what they do because:

  • They understand what they are doing.
  • They know why it makes sense to do it.
  • They believe it is wise and right to do.
  • They want to do it.

The objective is to make them (as opposed to me!) accountable for what they do and to help them grow through the experience. Soon I will not have to ask them anymore because what I want done will be internalized and we can move on to the next stage of growth.

If I ever ask them to do something that they do not understand, agree with, or want to do then I beg them to tell me about it so that we can talk it through.

An approach that demands people to do something, but that does not take time to be sure those being told understand and agree with doing it, may seem more like what a CEO should do. It is not and this explains why:

  • When things do not go quite right it is too easy for the person to let themselves “off the hook” as they say, either out loud or to themselves, that: I only did it because the boss told me to. 
  • It is a human tendency to do what you are told to do by persons in positions of authority.  However, when you follow an order, you do not necessarily have to:
      1. Understand what is going on.
      2. Consider the goal and come up with alternative actions that move towards achieving it better, more efficiently, or faster.
      3. Decide on an action to take.

That is, following an order removes the obligation to know, think, or decide. You just do what you are told and assume, hope, or trust that someone smarter, or someone in a position of higher authority, has made a good decision.

The limit of this is that people do what you tell them to do and little or nothing else! A growing organization requires people to think for themselves, to generalize, and to apply broadly lessons learned.

  • The leader in a growing organization can be (and often is) the constraint to growth. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix: rather than telling subordinates what to do, the leader should spend the bulk of their time helping the next generation of leaders develop to the point where they operate independently; thereby freeing up the leader for strategic initiatives and actions that only they can perform.

CEOs who thrive on the heady sense of power that comes from knowing that their staff will do their bidding are consistently out-performed by those who do just the opposite and expect employees to think and act for themselves in pursuit of company performance and personal development.

See Also

Management Time: Whose got the monkey?

How to reduce risks on important projects.

Background on Managing Risk on Important Projects

Reduce Risk on Important ProjectsIn the context of any strategic initiative involving a significant evolution in systems, process, or organization, risk is the chance that the effort will be less than a complete success … that it will be late, over budget, perform unacceptably when completed, fail to realize the expected business benefits, or even never be completed.

There are so many factors that can contribute to a less-than-successful project.  How is a project manager to decide which to focus on and how to address them?


Milt Hess, in his paper Reducing Risk on Projects, presents a strategy for deciding which risk factors deserve attention and for integrating risk reduction into the project holistically instead of treating it as a separate activity.  This strategy turns the traditional approach to risk management on its head.  Instead of thinking about all the things that can wrong, it focuses on what has to go right.

The strategy requires that a project first establish a clear definition of success – its success targets.  The paper describes concrete steps that the project can take to increase the likelihood of meeting the targets and the questions that senior management and sponsors should ask to ensure that the project stays on track.

Here are a few of the key elements of the approach:

  • Periodically develop a forecast of the expected outcomes for the success targets. If the forecast for a target is ‘I don’t know’, the project is at risk.  Include resources in the project plan to reduce uncertainty about the outcome.
  • Dependency on external events and agents introduces risk. Explicitly identify dependencies during the planning process, document assumptions, and monitor them regularly.  Include resources in the project plan to reduce uncertainty about the dependencies.

Continue reading How to reduce risks on important projects.

Why every organization needs its leader to try not to do anything.

Every organization has, or needs, a leader. And it is true that the power of one committed, clever person can make all the difference in the world. But no one individual, even the greatest leader, does anything of much significance alone.

The simple truth is that it takes a team to lead an organization. The action motivated by this truth is for the leader to decide what kind of leader to be and then to attract, collect, and align his/her top team and collect followers.

The best leaders figure out that it is not all about them. It is about their organizations and the decision to either manage or lead is a false dichotomy. The one in charge needs to manage in order to lead and, indeed, can and should Manage to Lead his/her organization to achieve the stated vision. The top person’s job starts with managing his/her own self to lead. Continue reading Why every organization needs its leader to try not to do anything.

How to get back on track when a project goes awry.

Storyboard blocks_v5_finalWhen a project goes awry  and no longer performing according to plan:

  • Assign a single capable person to serve as Project Manager (PM) responsible for the entire project through to completion if one is not already assigned or if the one assigned has proven ineffective.  The PM should be someone who has previously been successful in similar circumstances in terms of project scope, scale, and complexity.  If someone with requisite experience is not available to serve as PM then arrange for the experienced person to serve as a close adviser to the PM until a new plan is in place and performance relative to the new plan is on track.
  • Have the PM work with the client, the project team, management, and advisers to pull together a revised plan. Review the plan thoroughly with the PM, the project team, and with outside stakeholders, including the client, to be sure the path to completion, all the way through to client acceptance, is well formulated, understood, agreed to, and sensible.

Continue reading How to get back on track when a project goes awry.

“Extra Revenue” vs. “More Revenue” … Read all about it!

When a sale comes in ahead of expectation or when revenue and profit exceed plan, a leader may refer to extra revenue or extra profit which runs the risk of sending the wrong signal to employees. Continue reading “Extra Revenue” vs. “More Revenue” … Read all about it!