“So we divided this month’s workload and you can see your part on the sheet in front of you.” said David my colleague (name changed for sake of privacy). I stared sheepishly at the sheet in front of me and simply blabbered: “Well….
He did not know but at that moment, my mind was catapulted into a complex calculation and graphical illustration of probability and long-term sustainability of work-load. Charts rose up and functions intersect splattering out semi-correct percentages of probability only to shift out of focus as my fickle attention was drawn toward, that one point. At the height of the chart, that point was shining ever so bright, beautifully golden, juxtaposed against the dimly lit light blue hue of the rising function as it intersected the trendline. The trendline which illustrated the rate of diminishing returns over time.
Time, effort, marginal return on investment and a possible Bottleneck effect illustrating chart flew by, all in an ecstatic flash of a makeshift warp. In less then a second my mind drafted up a possible schematic of a management system,which it found reassuring, safe and effective to the highest percentage of probability it could come up with in that remainder of a split second.
It turned out to be pretty good. And here is the result of that realization.
Probability in Management
Probability in management, or life for that matter, means that you can’t be sure about anything more than 99,999…% unless infinity or zero exist and we still don’t know that (There is some shady business with black holes but let’s not go there).
- For you as a manager you have to know that even if your trusted employee of many years and flawless performance says: “I will do it boss, you can count on me!” will only mean, that to a high (trust warranting) degree of probability he will do it. That’s the best you can get.
- It also means, that if said employee could not fulfil the quota that month he is not necessarily a slacker. You have to analyze performance over a longer period of time and come to a conclusion based on that.
- You need a control group (a group with adequate performance) and compare performance to them and also compare it to your expectations. Then you can begin the process of identifying the problem and finding a solution or if all else fails, then the process of “Come in to my office and let’s talk about this.”
Same holds true for bonuses and raises.
This makes the ability to handle many complex processes flawlessly at the same time; the most important quality of a manager.
An equally flawless long-term memory also doesn’t hurt. Not to mention being hard-working, creative and innovative. To be honest at an ideal workplace the last three are a trait all employees possess.
Sustainability in Performance
If you are the visual type you already see the interconnected Excel charts where the top performance each month is averaged to give someone’s yearly performance average. Well a lot of companies do that but in reality it is much more complicated.
A simple average of say, last year’s performance, bears no resemblance on the expected sustainable optimal performance next year.
Adaptive management is the only kind of good management. A manager has to be able to fully comprehend what has changed within and outside of the company. What is really happening. Also a manager has to navigate and when necessary transcend social conventions to really be able to tell what is going on with you and what he can expect from you.
Optimal is The New Maximum
This brings us to the holy grail of management, to “optimal performance”.
Optimal performance transcends the many fallacies of maximal performance. For once maximal performance is only short term and unreliable. Optimal performance is an always reliable, ever increasing performance. This kind of performance increases as the company itself grows and becomes more efficient.
Sadly this kind of performance is still subject to the rate of diminishing return. Such is the world of a manager. You have to be able to look beyond people when necessary and look purely at the numbers and then still be able to come back and look at them the same as before.
The Necessary Simplicity
The necessary simplicity results from time. As a manager your time is governed by performance, efficiency, opportunity cost (the cost of your time invested in one project instead of working on others).
You will have to make the necessary distinction (and it comes as the hardest for me) to whom you are explaining yourself fully as opposed to whom you are only giving simple answers, or in case of a manager, orders. You can’t explain yourself to everyone as there is simply not enough time. If there is, then you are not doing a good job as a manager.
It’s harsh and it’s not glamorous and it works. You can still, however, explain yourself to other managers and high-status individuals within the company if time permits.
“Wwweeeelll. Sure! Yeah I will manage it.” – I blabbered just as sheepishly as I began. David nodded without looking at me.
I hope you liked this somewhat unusual blog post and what’s even more important I hope you learned from it.
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