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Jo Owen: How to manage; the definitive guide to effective management

How to manage

Real managers for real world

Management used to be much simpler; bosses bossed and workers worked.

Traditionally, managers (who had the brains) were meant to be smarter than the workers (who had the hands). A good intelligence quotient (IQ), helped. Being a brain on sticks is not enough; managing is about making things happen through other people. Most companies also look for good interpersonal skills or good emotional quotient (EQ). It helps to have good IQ an EQ, but it is not enough. The new hurdle is about political savvy or political quotient (PQ). PQ is partly about knowing how to acquire power. Even more, it involves knowing how to use power to make things happen.

Successful managers are three-dimensional: they have IQ, EQ and PQ.

Scientific Management was an early attempt to bottle success. Its priest was Frederick Taylor. And it was Henry Ford who used it in his business.

Rational management is alive and kicking, even in the twenty-first century. It still exists in gig economy for delivery people.

Workers have discovered that, when your boss it an algorithm, your boss is a tyrant who does not care about your personal situation.

Over time, people became harder to handle. Workers became better educated and better skilled: they could now contribute more, but they also expected more. Employers lost their coercive power. They could no longer demand loyalty; they had to earn it.

The concepts of high IQ and EQ are good, but they are not sufficient to explain the success or otherwise of different sorts of managers. The first clue to finding the missing piece of the puzzle is to recognize that organizations are set up for conflict. The second clue to the missing piece of the puzzle is to look at who wins and losses in these corporate contests for budgets, time, pay and promotion.

PQ is the art of making the organizations work with you and for you. The importance of politics is growing and will keep on growing because the nature of management itself is changing.

Because managers no longer control all the resources, they need in order to make things happen, that changes everything. traditional command and control do not work. You have to learn a whole new set of skills around influencing, persuading, building networks of trust, securing resources and teams and making things happen without formal power: that is the real world of PQ.


MQ is your management quotient. To increase your MQ, you need to build up IQ, EQ and PQ.

  • IQ – are tasks and functions.
  • EQ – are individuals and groups.
  • PQ – are control and power and change.

Rational management skills: dealing with problems, tasks and money

Being a smart manager is different from being a smart intellectual.

Activity is not a substitute for achievement.

Some of the managers tasks are:

  • Starting at the end: focusing on outcomes.
  • Achieving results: performance and perceptions.
  • Making decisions: acquiring intuition fast.
  • Solving problems: prisons and frameworks – and tools.
  • Strategic thinking: floors, romantics and the classic.
  • Setting budgets: the politics of performance.
  • Managing budgets: the annual dance routine.
  • Managing costs: minimizing pains.
  • Surviving spreadsheets: assumptions, not maths.
  • Using time effectively: activity versus achievement.

Presentations and reports are like diamonds, they benefit greatly from good cutting.

The management mindset:

  • Start at the end.
  • Work through others.
  • Drive the action.
  • Take responsibility.
  • Be (selectively) unreasonable.
  • Make a difference.
  • Be proactive.
  • Adapt.
  • Work hard, work smart.
  • Act the part.

Management is a team sport. You have to make the crucial leap from ‘how’ to ‘who’.

Decisive managers typically show four specific behaviors:

  • Bias for action over analytics.
  • Prefer practical to perfect solutions.
  • Solve the problem with other people.
  • Take responsibility.

It is far better to be wrong collectively than it is to be wrong individually. In some organizations, it is better to be wrong collectively than right individually. The search for collective responsibility is natural risk avoidance.

Patter recognition is what managers often refer to as intuition or experience.

Decisions making is as much about politics as it is about reason. Decisions lead to action only if people support them.

In Japan, a consensus-based decision making is called nemawashi. The idea is to build agreement to the decision before the decision-making meeting.

How to influence decisions:

  • Anchor the debate on your terms.
  • Build your coalition.
  • Build incremental agreement.
  • Size the prize.
  • Framed the decision favorably.
  • Restrict choice.
  • Work risk and loss aversion to your favor.
  • Put idleness to work.
  • Be persistent.
  • Adjust to each individual.

Three simple questions help identify which problems are worth addressing:

  • Is it important?
  • Is it urgent?
  • Is it actionable?

Five classic problem-solving aids:

  • Cost-benefit analysis.
  • SWOT analysis.
  • Filed force analysis.
  • Multifactor/trade-off/grid analysis.
  • Creative problem solving.

There are three elements to making the proposal credible:

  • Strong, logical reasoning.
  • Validation of the numbers by the financial department.
  • Operational credibility.

Sensitivity analysis allows us to test different assumptions. In the most sophisticated world, different outcomes can be assigned different probabilities and a weighted NPV can be derived.

The highly simplified SWOT analysis shows:

  • The value of structuring a difficult challenge.
  • The value of exploring alternative perspectives.
  • The need to frame the issue before embarking on a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

Field force analysis is a very fancy way of writing down the pros and cons, or the benefits and concerns of a specific decision. The “Against” column becomes a risk and issue register.

Multifactor analysis is used to compare a lot of very different options. First list the criteria for making decisions, score them for importance. Then estimate options based on criteria and weighted them based on importance.

Problem solving for managers:

  • Find the right problem.
  • Find the problem owner.
  • Use your experience.
  • Ask.
  • Avoid the perfect solution.
  • Stay future-focused.
  • Focus on benefit before concerns.
  • Build a coalition in support of your solution.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Drive to action.

Because most businesses do not change strategy fundamentally the demand for deep strategic thinking from managers is not high.

Managers do not need to be great strategists to think and act strategically; they need to understand the real needs of the organizations and to support those needs in their areas.

An effective strategy discussion will look at the issue from a series of different angles:

  • What capabilities do we have?
  • What are the market prospects? Is it growing? Is it profitable? What are pricing trends?
  • What does the competition look like?
  • What are the economics of the market from a customer perspective?
  • What are the economics from the manufacturer’s (service provider) perspective?

Classical strategy is a world of cause and effect. It is a search for the business equivalent of Newton’s laws. It is a strategy in the true tradition of the Enlightenment: finding universal rules to apply to all situations. The godfathers of this world are Michael Porter (Five Forces analysis) and the Boston Consulting Group (matrix mania).

Postmodern strategy is the language of a group of professors who all learned their trade from C.K. Prahalad (core competences, strategic intent). His acolytes include Gary Hamel, Chan Kim (value innovation) and Venkat Ramaswamy (co-creation). For them strategy is a process of discovery in which you create the future, rather than react to the present by analyzing the past.

Managers use numbers the same way lawyers use facts: selectively to support their case, not to illuminate the truth.

A budget is a contract between two levels of management. Most budget negotiations have two major elements: anchoring and adjustments.

Manage your budget:

  • Negotiate your budget.
  • Always deliver.
  • Front load performance.
  • Spend discretionary budget early.
  • Watch the accruals.
  • Sandbag.
  • Squeeze.
  • Protect your budget.
  • Act early.
  • Over-deliver (but not by too much).

If management cannot trust your data, they cannot trust you.

Soft squeeze goes through four levels of pain: squeeze discretionary external staff and costs, squeeze internal discretionary work, put in a headcount freeze and put in a hiring freeze.

The real changes come from two different angles: steady operational improvement and strategic change.

Red dollars, they look great but have no value compared to green dollars. There are two basic ways of delivering red dollars: squeezing the balloon (transferring money to other department, transfer costs to another year) and score boarding (count all the potential gains as real gains, changing the baseline). Game playing like this is a sure sign of a fat and bloated organizations.

Understanding spreadsheets is about good thinking, not good maths. It pays to understand how the spreadsheet was created.

As managers make sure your goals fit your resources.

Activity and achievements are very different concepts.

There are three reasons why goal clarity is hard:

  • Ambiguous work.
  • Teamwork.
  • Noise.

Goal clarity allows you to focus your efforts. Before starting ask yourself:

Who needs this?

  • Why do they need it and what will they use it for?
  • What does acceptable/good/great look like as an outcome?
  • Where does this sit in my priorities?
  • Are there other ways we can achieve this?
  • How much resource do we need for this and who will authorize it?
  • What are the (real) deadlines and checkpoints?
  • What approvals will be needed and from whom?

Emotional management skills: dealing with people

EQ is not about being nice for the sake of being nice. EQ is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. EQ is about knowing how to get other people to do things; this places it at the heart of management.

Ten EQ-based skills that are at the heart of management:

  • Motivating people.
  • Building high-performance team – the RAMP model.
  • Managing professionals, managing people who do not want to be managed.
  • Persuading people: how to sell anything.
  • Coaching.
  • Delegating: doing better by doing less.
  • Handling conflict: from FEAR to EAR.
  • Minding your mind.
  • Learning the right behaviors.

Different people need to be managed in different ways.

Maslow’s fundamental insight is that we are all needs junkies. The management hierarchy of needs starts from security, pay and conditions, belonging and respect, recognition and reward and on top are achievement and legacy.

The four pillars of high motivation and performance can be summarized in an acronym – RAMP:

  • R: supportive relationships.
  • A: autonomy and accountability.
  • M: mastery and growth.
  • P: purpose.

In this new world of professional and hybrid work, you have to move from micro-managing to supporting your team.

The two hallmarks of good listening are: open questions and paraphrasing.

MBWA is called management by walking away. And is modern approach. Autonomy does not mean your team is free to do anything or to do nothing. It means that they are free to achieve their goals in the way that they see best, consistent with firm-wide policies and ethics.

You have to take responsibility for your own professional development:

  • Tacit versus explicit knowledge.
  • Formal training versus pattern recognition.
  • Right experience with the right team.

Management was easier in the past. Bosses had the brains and workers had the hands. Thinking and doing were separate activities.

How to manage professionals:

  • Stretch them.
  • Set a direction,
  • Shield your team.
  • Support your team.
  • Show you care.
  • No surprises.
  • Recognize them.
  • Delegate.
  • Set expectations.
  • Manage less.

A good way to establish the new rules of engagement is to hold a “Method Adoption Workshop”. This is what IBM use when they start a new global team. The end product is a team charter that helps the team understand how it can work well.

You can run your daily YTH meetings – yesterday, today, help.

People want to escape fear, strive for something (greed and hope) but face the two barriers of risk and idleness. A persuasive person knows how to play on all four of these dimensions.

Risk comes in three main flavors:

  • Rational risk: how will this affect the business?
  • Political risk: how will this idea affect my department?
  • Emotional risk: how will this idea affect me?

Influencing people:

  • Build rapport.
  • Align your agendas.
  • Listen.
  • Flatter.
  • Build commitment incrementally.
  • Build your trust and credibility.
  • Manage risk.
  • Put scarcity to work.
  • Something for something: reciprocity works.
  • Act the part: the partnership principle.

The process used by Procter & Gamble and modified by authors called PASSION:

  • Preparation
  • Alignment
  • Situation
  • Size the prize
  • Idea
  • Overcome objections
  • Next steps

The fatal mistake is to fall in love with your own idea.

You cannot get to the right solution if you don’t know what the question is. To make the problem compelling, you have to show that it is important, urgent and that the other person has a role to play in sorting it out.

You need to identify not just the problem, but who owns the problem.

In business, the most compelling business case is financial.

There are four simple ways of asking for the next steps that make it quite difficult for the other person to refuse:

  • The direct close.
  • The alternative close.
  • The assumed close.
  • The action close.

PowerPoint slides are the badge of shame that junior staff and sales people have to wear. Colleagues do not to each other over a stack of slides; they talk to each other over a cup of coffee.

The hardest lesson to learn for the newly promoted manager is to move from playing to coaching

Coaching models boils down to roughly five-step process:

  • Objectives
  • Overview
  • Options
  • Obstacles
  • Outcome

Trainers tell, coaches ask.

In practice, there is very little you cannot delegate: evaluations, promotions, disciplinary procedures, resource allocation and team formation are all the preserve of the manager. Assume that everything else you can delegate.

When briefing a team member, you need to give clarity and certainty to four things:

  • The expected outcome.
  • When the outcome must be achieved.
  • The reasons behind the goals you have set.
  • Intermediate objectives that let both of you know if things are on track.

You can be clear about the goals but you need to be flexible over the means.

Managers delegate, never abdicate, responsibility. You are still responsible for the final outcome.

How to delegate: who, what, how, when and why:

  • Be very clear about the desired outcome (what).
  • Try to delegate everything (what).
  • Delegate interesting and challenging work (what).
  • Never delegate responsibility or the blame (what).
  • Delegate to the right people (who).
  • Watch for overload and for shrinking (who).
  • Be clear about deadlines, milestones and reporting (when).
  • Be flexible about the means (how).
  • Empower and support your team (how).
  • Be clear about why the goal is relevant (why).

Conflict is the natural state for most organizations. When you fight, fight hard.

It is better to win a friend than win an argument. Listening is a far better way of gaining agreement than talking and persuading. EAR stands for: empathize, agree the problem and resolve the way forward.

Many conflicts are about different agendas and priorities.

Here are the seven mindsets of management:

  • High aspirations.
  • Courage.
  • Resilience.
  • Responsible.
  • Positive.
  • Collaborative.
  • Learn.

To be a manager is to make the vital transition from how to who.

Collaboration is not about telling people what to do: it is about using influence to persuade people who you do not control to work with you and help you.

Understanding is not about agreeing with others: it is about laying the groundwork for effective influence and collaboration.

A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Your job security comes from your skills, track record and strong network, which can guide you to your next opportunity.

The simple way to keep on learning is to keep on asking two questions: WWW and EBI. WWW means what went well. EBI stands for even better if …

Care is about building trust, not popularity. Being honest requires to have difficult conversations and make difficult decisions.

Political management skills: acquiring power to make things happen

Political skills are the skills you need to make things happen in an organization.

In the last 20 years, there have been two revolutions in management. The obvious one is about technology. The real revolution has been the way your job as a manager has changed. Now you are unlikely to control all resources you need to succeed.

The ten laws of power: achieving PQ

  • Take control.
  • Create loyal followers.
  • Act the part.
  • Strike early.
  • Pick your battles.
  • Be selectively unreasonable.
  • Build trust.
  • Embrace ambiguity.
  • Focus on outcomes.
  • Use it or lose it.

A vision is no more than a simple story that has three parts:

  • This is where we are going.
  • This is how we are going to get there.
  • This is how you can help.

Some managers combine a goal and a theme. The theme is the method by which they will achieve the goal.

Change is the land of FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Change equation: N x V x C is bigger or the same as R

N is the need of change, V is the vision of what the change will achieve, C is the capacity to change and R are the risks and costs of change.

You can overcome risk aversion by showing that the risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of doing something.

The need for change creates pressure while your vision of change creates hope, clarity and focus. You need both pressure and hope.

Five of the most common ways to affect people in the organization:

  • Changing what they do: roles.
  • Changing how they do things: skills.
  • Changing how they and their tasks are organized: processes and procedures.
  • Changing how they are measured, rewarded and recognized: information, measurement, appraisal and incentive systems.
  • Changing how people behave: cultural change in its widest sense.

Most of us trust experience, not training. The problem is that learning from experience is a random walk.

The re-engineering equivalent of “Just a Minute” is to redesign a core business process so that it works without:

  • Hesitation – avoid any delays in the process.
  • Deviation – avoid any unnecessary activities that add no value.
  • Repetition – avoid rework as a result of poor quality.

You are likely to succeed if you: work on the right problem, find the right sponsor, hire the right team and have the right process.

Career management is not a substitute for good performance, but it is a way of ensuring you are recognized for good performance.

Manage your career:

  • Find your calling.
  • Find the right organizations.
  • Find the right role.
  • Find the right boss.
  • Find the right assignments.
  • Build your network.
  • Build your skills.
  • Build your claim to fame.
  • Act the part.
  • Control your destiny.

Hope is not a method and luck is not a strategy.

The best way to destroy trust is to go around saying, “Trust me … “. You cannot claim trust, you have to build trust.

Influence and trust are invisible advantages.

Management quotient skills: managing your journey

Management is an art: it always has been, always will be.

Success requires reinventing your-self repeatedly, what worked in your last role will not work in your next.

Fist-time managers are often accidental managers. They are appointed because there is a gap that needs to be filled in a hurry and you look like a promising individual. Fist-time managers often veer between craving popularity with each group and becoming Attila the Hun, ruling by command and fear. The true currency of leadership is neither love nor fear; it is trust and respect.

Middle management is the toughest role in management.

As a top manager, you become lonely because there is no one you can trust completely. The problem does not appear to be loneliness; the problem appears to be lack of personal time to think.

Lack of time never means lack of time; it means lack of priority.

For weak managers, frameworks are prisons; they mindlessly apply the same formula, regardless of the circumstances. For strong managers, frameworks let you climb the experience curve faster. Good frameworks are aids to thinking, not substitutes for thinking.

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