Thank you again for joining us on October 8 for our special Expert Webinar Series on Improving Your Business's Operations and Project Success - with Gordon Tredgold, Founder of Leadership Principles. Gordon shared with you the FAST method for improving business operations and project delivery. This educational event was recorded and may now be watched onDemand.
As promised, below are the questions asked that we were unable to get to during the live event. If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments.
Q: Should one always broadcast who is accountable for certain outcomes? (Some people are tempted to misuse or misinterpret that information as "blame target".
Gordon Tredgold: It depends on what you mean, "broadcast?"
Accountability is a 2-way street. We need to be clear about what out expectations are, and we need to be sure that we have ensured that they have the right skills, tools and authority levels to do the job. Then the person accountable can accept their accountability. It’s the acceptance of accountability that drives performance not the broadcasting of it. That does have more of a blame target feel to it. I would also advise asking people if there is any reason why they cannot accept accountability, because if there is, then we need to address this. So it's more of a conversation than a broadcast!
Q: Is/Should accountability always be accompanied by metrics?
GT: There needs to be some transparency into the performance so that we can see whether they are performing well or not, and if not then provide support and assistance.
So where possible I would always like to get metrics. In SMART goals the M is for measurable and we should look to make all our goals measurable. We need to know what success looks like, so that we know when we have achieved it. I can't just say I am going to go on a diet to become thinner, it's hard to know whether or not I achieved, it. I would say, I want to drop a dress size, or I want to lose x lbs. Remember the saying, "what we measure we improve." I am a very strong believer in that.
Q: Is there a difference (in your definition) between "simple" and "elegant?"
GT: Yes, I think that elegant solutions are generally simple, but I wouldn’t necessarily say all simple solutions are elegant. For example, in the NASA and the pen story during the webinar, would you call the pencil an elegant solution?
Q: What are the specific tools that you were talking about for holding one accountable?
GT: We need to have visibility into performance, and in my experience real live data from systems like Intuit QuickBase can be very helpful for achieving that. I am not a big fan of people giving Powerpoint presentations to show progress, I like to see data extracted from systems. Because then we are discussing performance rather than whether the data presented is correct or not. This data could be sales data from Sales systems, or cost centre data coming out of our Accounting systems. In IT operations, I like to get the data directly out of the trouble ticketing systems such as Remedy. We need to have systems of record, and use those. You can use tools like QuickBase to extract and consolidate the information from source systems, and I have also used Excel to achieve the same although that’s a bit old school now.
Q: I may have missed if Gordon recommended a Project Management software?
GT: I think QuickBase is an excellent tool, and can be used to store estimates, plans and be used to provide dashboards which show our actual performance compared to our planned performance. As I mentioned we need to try and create a GPS for our business or operations, so that we can react in a timely manner to achieve our goals, rather than getting into a situation where we are relying on hope and luck, because hope is not a strategy.
Q: What are challenges, if we hold people accountable for execution of process? Could you expand on that?
GT: OK – where I live in Germany there is a rule and a process that states plants need to be watered if the temperature is above 32C/90F.
So people are judged on whether they watered them when the temp is above 90F. Last summer we had 5 days of torrential rain, we had flood, then the 6th day the temp was 92F.
We had people watering plants standing in 6 inches of water. It was madness. If we held people accountable for the plants being healthy and watered, on this day they would have simply said, OK, it doesn’t make sense to water them. Also what happens when it's 88F for 20 days in a row, surely the temp is not above 90F, but those plants still need watering. If all the plants die, the gardener can always say, but I followed the process? We need to hold people accountable to results rather than process, because it's difficult to come up with processes which account for every single situation.
I know this is a simple example, but it's true and I wanted to show what can happen in such situations.