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When first taking a management position in an organization, it can be difficult to fully grasp exactly what your role is and how to fulfill it. The sad truth is that many of us have seen mostly negative examples of management and management styles, and few positive ones. Without proper role models it is difficult to step into those shoes.
Discover What is Important
The most important thing to understand when leading a team or a department is to figure out exactly what needs to be done in order to be considered “successful.” This information, unfortunately, often isn’t made clear to department managers (see reference to negative management examples above). You may have to figure it out for yourself.
Once you understand your organization’s stated and unstatedgoals, then you can start creating plans to fulfill them. Rarely do good things just happen by chance, and lack of a plan usually results in wasted efforts and poor results.
Involve your team members. Communicate and clarify the goals of the department with them, and even be honest about what is stated and unstated in the organization. Most team members who are critical thinkers already know this, but you can gain respect with an honest approach. Even the best of plans fall short and need updating and revising, but a plan based on a consensus as a starting point gives the department direction.
Plan to Fulfill Important Elements
Planning should include aspects like what documentation is needed (policies, procedures, forms, and records), necessary meetings as well as who should attend and the typical agenda. Plus, considerations of timing and responsibilities are all key elements of planning. Most importantly, what aspects of performance should be measured and reviewed regularly.
With a plan in place, the next step is to develop action models. Flesh out the plan with more specific details. Highly specific elements of processes and tasks should be documented in procedures, work instructions, and training materials. They should include key elements for success and accepted best practices.
Part of this phase is to regularly audit and review documentation so that it reflects the actual practices and preferred methods. Developing procedures and other documents that that only reflect blue sky thinking means, in the end, there is a good chance they will be ignored and soon grow outdated and useless. Avoid this pitfall by being realistic to start, but plan to continually improve. Then follow up the creating of documentation with training and auditing. Ensure that team members are aware of what documents and forms/records apply to them, and they know where to find them and how to use them.
Another key element in this phase is to ensure the team members have the resources they need. Do they have the needed skills and training? A plan that ensures everyone receives periodic training encourages a learning environment. This is especially true with technology and software applications. People become complacent and comfortable with the way they are doing things, when some simple changes could allow a more automated approach that would actually make their job easier. Training and education can foster innovation.
Regularly Review Performance
Finally, regularly review what is going on. Is the plan working and does it align with overall organization goals? Are your activities fulfilling the plan? Do audits show that procedures are being followed and that they are kept up to date? Do your performance measurements really give insight into how your department is doing?
This type of review puts you right back at the discovery phase (do you really understand what is going on?) and the cycle starts all over again. And each time you move though the cycle you should be able make at least small improvements.
Now you are managing by objectives, measuring what is important, reflecting on it, and then trying to find ways to be better (while understanding that no one will ever be perfect). That sounds like the formula for success.