Far too many managers misunderstand what managing is all about. So, how do you teach managers the essence of managing? Well, you could start with their job description written in a results-oriented manner that distinguishes between accomplishing something, and doing something.
The first principle of managing is to achieve a purpose, call it a goal, objective, outcome, mission, vision, deliverable. We call it a “result.” Results are accomplished by doing something—duties, tasks, steps, protocols, procedures, processes.
To distinguish between accomplishing something and doing something, a results-oriented job description describes work this way:
RESULT TO BE ACCOMPLISHED
actions taken to accomplish the result.
The RESULT leads the way, sets the direction, captures the attention stylistically. CAPITAL letters and boldface make sure the point is made. Actions are then specified.
For example, the vice president of human resources tells the director of human resources that her job is to:
GUIDE MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEE ACTIONS
researching, developing, writing, and updating human resource policies, procedures, methods, and guidelines; communicating and enforcing organization values.
The vice president makes sure that first (and fundamentally important), the director knows what result she must accomplish for the organization to be successful, and second, knows what actions she must take to accomplish the desired result.
The distinction between results and tasks, offers managers a mental model--think this way!—for constantly understanding whether their attention is on the result, or on the task. This distinction is crucial for managers to understand whether they are properly focused on what they must achieve versus being lost in the morass of the potentially endless processing of tasks. As we all know, it’s easy to lose sight of the desired result when drowning in details.
The result stated is the accomplishment, the event that occurs, the occasion that can be measured—in this case, that management and employee actions are guided. Without achieving this end, little has been accomplished.
For example, the director of human resources might say, “But I researched all of the requirements. I developed and wrote the policies, procedures, methods, and guidelines, and made sure they were updated when new requirements were identified.” Maybe so, but if the director’s researching, writing, and updating didn’t achieve the desired results to guide management and employees properly, then the production of policies, procedures, methods, and guidelines was inadequate.
When you examine a typical job description, you find that it merely describes what actions are to be taken—“researches, develops, writes, updates human resource policies, procedures, methods, and guidelines.” To be sure, describing action is necessary, but it is an incomplete description of work. What’s missing is what must happen as a result of the action. The director of human resources may well do all of the things required, but the actions are for naught if they do not accomplish the result required.
There is also (definitely not to be overlooked) an inherent process involved in managing, which is: Communication! Managers fully communicating job expectations.
Incomplete communication is the classic mistake managers make. Faulty managerial communication passes on only the actions to be taken. What is not passed on is the reasonWHY the actions are to be taken, that is, the result to be accomplished.
Doing the work is essential, but understanding WHY the work must be done is even more important, more fundamental. Understanding the result to be accomplished gives the worker the focal point of the work.
Understanding WHY work is important gives the worker command of the situation, including the knowledge of required results so that actions can be adjusted when unexpected circumstances arise, in other words, not always needing to check with the manager when something new comes up.
By passing on the crucial purpose of work, managers need not spend so much time controlling events, and can spend more time implementing strategies to evaluate and plan—both the desired results, and actions to accomplish them.
In summary, there are two ways to think about managing: What work must be accomplished, or, what work must be performed. Each requires attention. However, far too many managers feel more comfortable immersing themselves in the process—which is how they came up through the ranks. The true distinction of managing comes in seeing the purpose of work clearly—what results are to be achieved—and always keeping the results in sight as processes are developed and tasks are performed.
About Roger Plachy and Sandy Plachy
Roger Plachy and Sandy Plachy are principals of the Job Results Management Institute, a human resources management consulting firm specializing in defining and managing work, especially by bringing employees’ attention to the results that need to be produced so that the organization is successful.
Roger and Sandy have been course developers and leaders for the American Management Association in the US and internationally. Sandy focuses on operations management, while Roger’s interests are management and leadership practices.
They have co-authored four books on jobs, pay, and performance.