Your company’s performance … The right behaviours on a day-to-day basis make all the difference!
Having a good understanding of your company’s vision and strategic targets is a good starting point. Implementing and adhering to a formal communications structure and adopting management tools appropriate to the organizational context will pave the way to success. But embracing proactive day‑to‑day management behaviours and adopting better participatory management practices are what allow organizations to evolve and maintain sustainable performance results. While it is an ongoing struggle to ensure that front-line managers maintain the desired behaviours, a number of concrete steps can be taken to build the foundation for a management structure focused on achieving strategic objectives.
Good management practices at every level
First of all, who are these front-line managers? They are members of organizations who work very closely with operations. They are team leaders, supervisors and foremen who are in daily contact with close to 80% of an organization’s resources—people, equipment and information. Because they work closely with operations, a considerable number of these managers are typically promoted on the basis of their vast technical expertise, which sets them apart from their peers. But their management experience is more limited.
Yet these managers are the ones who end up with the critical task of communicating the corporate strategy to their teams and operationalizing it on a daily basis. So the trend has been that those with the least management skills are the ones who have the biggest impact on compliance in terms of costs, timelines, quality, and staff mobilization and retention. At the same time, they have to contend with the ups and downs and urgencies of day-to-day operations.
Fortunately, there are a number of proactive management techniques that offer these managers a better chance of achieving their performance targets.
Proactive management: taking control of the day to day
“If you wait for people to come to you, you’ll only get small problems.” – W. Edwards Deming
Have you ever heard corporate managers say that, for them, a good day of work is: not facing too many unexpected situations, getting a few minutes to themselves, avoiding overtime or even just managing to get through the day? These responses all reflect managers’ lack of control over performance targets and, more generally, over their day-to-day activities. Feeling at a loss of control makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate the desired management behaviours. These situations directly affect the performance of the company’s various operating units and, in turn, its overall financial performance.
Measures that can be quickly put in place include good supervisory practices between a manager and their employees, serving as the basis for proactive management. Interaction between the two hierarchical levels must be proactive, structured and provide added value.
Proactive communications mean looking beyond the urgencies of the moment to address—as a team—the aspects that will most greatly impact performance. Talking about health and safety every day, assigning work with instructions, evaluating operational performance and involving people in changes are all ways to get out in front of day-to-day issues to ensure better control over the various processes in place.
To achieve the expected results, proactive communications should be formalized based on a structure that all participants are familiar with and share. With front-line management, these communications typically take the form of follow-up sessions. To ensure efficient and effective discussions, a formal agreement is required, outlining meeting times and locations, the management tools to have on hand, the topics to be discussed and the behaviours to adopt.
It is essential to fully leverage any time that managers and employees set aside in their day to engage in proactive discussions. To provide added value, any improvement opportunities or action plans identified during the discussions should be recorded using a tracking tool, which could be as simple as an action-plan log. Without recording any notes, it is difficult to seize all of the improvement opportunities that emerge.
The topics often addressed in these discussions entail work assignments, activity progress reports, action implementation and the sharing of performance results. The two tools recommended to assist managers in these discussions and ensure that meetings are effectual are:
- A management schedule formalizing the management routine to adopt based on the company’s needs;
- Standardized agendas that structure the meeting format, content and desired behaviours.
Here’s to continuous improvement
With a formalized management routine and agendas that provide a framework for discussion, the foundations are in place for managers to assume the proactive dimension of their role. By arming themselves with the right management tools, including notes that have been taken, an action plan log and other documents to help manage discrepancies or gaps, managers have every chance to achieve greater control over their day-to-day operations and thus participate actively in their company’s strategic vision.