Tag Archives: management skills

Operational excellence can give you the competitive edge!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th September 2017

According to Sadun, Bloom and Van Reenen, writing in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, a disproportionate amount of emphasis is put on the competitive advantage of strategic planning, to the detriment of operational excellence.

Competitive advantage of operational excellence_HBR Sept-Oct 2017

From: Why do we undervalue competent management? Neither great leadership nor brilliant strategy matters without operational excellence. Raffael Sadun, Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen. HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 120 – 127

What is operational excellence?

Their definition of operational excellence, or good management practice, goes beyond a more traditional focus on Lean and Six Sigma process improvement techniques.  It covers four broad dimensions, and 18 specific aspects.  The four dimensions are:

  1. Operational management – which includes Lean process management
  2. Performance monitoring – which includes the use of key performance indicators (KPIs)
  3. Target setting – which includes a clear link between organisational strategy, and individual goals (aka. a clear top-to-bottom cascade of objectives)
  4. Talent management – which includes setting stretch goals, employee development and retention

What is the evidence for the competitive advantage of operational excellence?

As Sadun et al say, MBAs and management experts such as Michael Porter distinguish between strategy and operational effectiveness, and put greater emphasis on CEOs’ priority being on strategy for competitive advantage.

The authors of this HBR article have been carrying out in-depth research since 2002 on more than 12,000 organisations in 34 countries, in conjunction with the London School of Economics.

They have found that operational excellence is a massive challenge for organisations and that the large persistent gaps in these practices are associated with large persistent differences in organisational performance.

The better managed organisations are more profitable, grow faster, are less likely to die, focus on innovation as well as efficiency, attract talent and foster employee well-being.  All in all they demonstrate sustained competitive advantage.

Achieving operational excellence boils down to three things

Erroneous self-assessment, a blame culture, overestimating the costs involved and underestimating the potential benefits can all get in the way of adopting good management practices.

Managers, especially in family businesses, can worry about potential loss of control if they bring in others with greater expertise in operational management.

The workforce may not have the numeric, analytical and other skills to implement operational excellence.

And it requires a shift from working in silos, to collaborating across teams; reassurance that greater process efficiency won’t lead to redundancies; and “walking-the-talk” by management (CEOs included).

So achieving operational excellence boils down to three things:

  1. Commitment from the top: with a clear vision, visibility and role modelling by senior leaders (i.e. all key approaches for managing change)
  2. Understanding and ensuring availability of the required skills i.e. those associated with all four broad dimensions of operational excellence, as described above
  3. A shift in mentality at all levels to adopt these management practices as a way of working

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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Developing your coaching skills as a manager


By Elisabeth Goodman, 18th January 2017

There are so many resources available to help managers perform at their best.

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and just one of several frameworks available for that.  We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches. The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

I’m always looking out for new resources to develop my own performance as well to pass these on to the scientists and managers that we work with.

I recently wrote about Appreciative Inquiry and how this could be applied to the GROW model of coaching.

I’ve been re-visiting Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work”, and it seemed a very good fit with the Discover phase in the 5-step model that I learnt about in Appreciative Inquiry. (This phase equates to the Options step in GROW.)  I tried some of this out with someone I was coaching and really liked the result.  This is how a couple of Stanier’s tools could be used in the Discover or Options steps.

Make sure you have helped the person you’re coaching articulate what it is they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciate Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.  In particular, help them to articulate this in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and their values

They might dwell on the things that are going OK, or the things they are not happy about.  (This by the way equates to the Reality step in GROW).  What you’re after are the instances of great things that are happening, even if only once!

Getting them to jot down their thoughts can be a good aid to their reflection.

illustration-for-doing-more-great-work

Illustration of the tools in Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do More Great Work” for exploring great work.

Exploring why the individual has selected that or those examples of great work will reveal what they value most about their work, what motivates them, what their particular strengths are that they would like more of.

What to do once you’ve discovered what makes your work great!

I also like Stanier’s 4-box grid which compares and contrasts things the individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation do or don’t care about and thought it could be usefully super-imposed with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s book “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has in relation to their aspiration for doing more great work.

taking-action-on-great-work

Michael Bungay Stanier’s ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

The ideal is of course the dream scenario, but the reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and we may need to decide what we want to do about that.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.

…as always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches…

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

 

 

Calibrating the mind to lead teams. Five tips for being an effective team leader.


Guest blog by John Hicks, 26th July 2016

Five tips for being an effective team leader

Editorial note from Elisabeth Goodman:

Many of the managers that we work with are transitioning from a scientist to a manager role.  John Hicks has joined our RiverRhee team to support us with our training, and also to provide coaching for scientists making this transition.  So I’m pleased to share some of his perspectives on how to be an effective team leader.

Introduction

Having been a scientist and a senior manager, I have come to learn some important lessons about managing people.

Use the following five tips to help you to be a more effective team leader.

Tip 1 – Be motivated to be a manager more than a scientist

To make the transition into management effectively, we must understand what being a manager is.

A popular definition of being a manager is someone who is responsible for administering or controlling an organisation or group of staff.

As a manager you create a larger positive (or negative) impact on an organisation because you are empowering a group of individuals within a team to work more effectively rather than simply empowering yourself.

If you want to be a manager, I challenge you to explore your motives for that move.  If you want to make a positive impact through orchestrating a team of people then you will have a positive management career moving forward.

If you recognise this then you are well on the way to exploring Tip 2.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Tip 2 – Get to know yourself more

Working with people often causes us to react in certain ways that are positive and negative emotionally.

Someone can easily say something that will trigger a memory of one of your previous experiences. This in turn might ‘colour’ the way you view, hear or feel about their comment and lead to an inappropriate reaction.

Allow yourself to create a distance between how you feel in the moment and what you need to do next to move the team forward.  Are there triggers that make you feel strongly enough to warp your thinking about what is important?  Then you need to understand what they are before you make the wrong decision based on strong emotions.

Being prepared in this way is important because you HAVE to listen to your team, otherwise you will fail at being a manager.

Tip 3 – listen to your team

There are three levels of listening to your team that will help you to make sound decisions on your way forward.

1) Listen to what your team members are telling you.

What words are you physically hearing and how useful are they to you for the decisions you need to make?  Don’t dismiss them out of hand as your team are your eyes and ears on processes currently taking place in the laboratory or the office.

2) Listen to and think about what is behind what your team members are telling you.

So you have been given some good information but something doesn’t feel right.  You need to dig deeper and understand what is behind what is being said to you.  Is someone struggling in their role and is their information to you compromised by a stressed perspective? What’s that stress about?

3) Listen to and observe what your team is feeling.

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt the excitement in the room?  No one is particularly doing anything ‘excitable’ but all the same, you can feel it.  Have you ever walked into a work place and felt that there is a grey cloud looming above it?  You can’t put your finger on what is wrong but you know that something is off?

This is an important skill for leading your team.  Being aware of those around you and how they feel enables you to come alongside your team and nurture them with what they need to be more successful. 

Tip 4 – Don’t get sabotaged by self-defeating beliefs

This is related to Tip 2, but deserves a mention on its own.

Have you ever given a presentation where you have felt nervous? Perhaps you are focusing on what could go wrong more than how positive your impact could be?

This is normal and is what is called a self-defeating belief or what I like to refer to as a saboteur thought.

They tend to happen when dealing with change or opportunity.

As a manager you need to spot these self-defeating beliefs and determine what is rational or not rational because you might be holding back your team.

Tip 5 – Be kind to yourself

This tip is easy to remember. 

Your next mistake might well be your next greatest discovery.  Don’t berate yourself for mistakes, this will mess up your thinking ability. Give yourself the chance to seize the next opportunity from your learning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Hicks is an Associate of RiverRhee Consulting.  He spent the first ten years of his career in science within academic, contract research and environmental laboratories specialising in Chemistry. John then worked with two of the leading scientific instrumentation companies providing technical sales support to large Pharmaceuticals and Biotech companies across the UK before moving into a senior leadership position within a Cambridge based technology company.  John now runs his own training and coaching company delivering performance coaching to scientists that are new to or working towards a career in management.

about the editor

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

The power of quiet questioning


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2016

2016-04-23 12.50.10.jpg

Taking time for some quiet reflection on Brighton beach, April 2016

Why quiet questioning?

Two of the most powerful resources available to us as managers, and as members of a team are questions and silence.

The ideal dynamic, when we are working with others, is to have a natural back and forth of conversation: each person comfortably expressing their views, their feelings, their ideas and listening, responding to, and building on the other’s.

That ideal to and fro of conversation occurs when each person is taking ownership for their part in whatever is being discussed, is fully motivated, and has no trouble being assertive; when there is good rapport.

But we know that this ideal scenario is just that, that there are times when it does not happen, when it is hard to know what to say, when emotions get in the way, when the other person cannot or will not play their part.

This is when asking questions, asking the right questions, and being comfortable with silence can really make a difference.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's management training course

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Asking the right question

We already know that open questions (those starting with Why, What, How, When, Where) are much more effective in engaging others in conversation than closed ones (that elicit only a Yes or No answer).  It’s so easy to slip up and ask a closed question such as:

“Are you feeling sad?” as opposed to, for example: “What are you feeling sad about?”

I’ve been learning about ‘clean’ questions: those that contain as little of the questioner’s bias as possible.  So for example the question:

“What are you feeling sad about?” includes our interpretation that the other person is sad.  It may be that they have told us this, in which case it may be an appropriate follow-up question.

But if they have not told us they are sad, we may be making a big assumption based on their facial expression or body language – but we don’t really know and we are not mind-readers.

So a clean question would be: “How are you feeling”?

And if they do say “I’m feeling sad”, then another suitable ‘clean’ follow-up question might be “What kind of sadness is that?”,  or “In what way are you feeling sad?”, or even just “Sad?”  So you are reflecting back on what the other person has said, rather than inserting your interpretation.

Caitlin Walker’s “From Contempt to Curiosity” has some terrific structures to help any manager or individual use questions to foster open dialogue and build rapport between individuals and within teams.

Rachel Alexander’s and Julia Russel’s “And the Next Question is – Powerful Questions for Sticky Moments” has a rich selection of different questions to use in different situations.

And we can learn so much from NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) too about spotting the assumptions that we and others make in our language, and how to ask questions to get past those.  For example if someone is saying to you: “This kind of situation always makes me sad”, we can ask “Always?”, or “What kind of situation is that?” or even “In what way?”

Using quietness, or silence

Even when we’ve developed the skill to ask the right questions, we can destroy the effect we’ve tried to create by jumping in with our own suggested answer!

Silence is so powerful: it gives the other person time to reflect and come up with their own answer.  It tells them that we care and want to listen to what they have to say.  It encourages them if they are feeling hesitant.

Silence can be companionable too.  Sometimes just working alongside the other person on something in which you are both involved, or going for a walk together, will create the conditions for the other person to open up and say what they have to say.  You may not even have to frame a question!

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Developing skills in quiet questioning

I’m still learning and practising the art of quiet questioning.  It’s something that we can not only apply at work, but in our interactions with people at home too.

I will continue to reflect upon and share my experiences in my work with managers and teams.  It would be great to hear about your experiences too.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.