Have you ever worked with a manager in another department who just didn’t quite get it? He was great at what he did and could direct a team, but when it came to working with his management peers, not so much. You probably had better luck getting a TPS report to sprout legs and walk across the room than getting that guy to budge. Frustrating right?
In the Fun stage (see Part 1 of this series for more info), Les McKeown says managers’ responsibilities are primarily vertical – down to their direct reports, and up to their boss. Only limited contact with fellow managers is necessary for decision-making purposes. However, if your company is in Whitewater, your managers will increasingly need to interact with each other in order to get decisions made.
In other words, lateral management.
The second step to building your decision making machine and lauching your business into the Predictable Success stage is the introduction of lateral management. This simply means all managers now have a dual role – along the vertical axis (direct reports and boss) but also along the horizontal axis, by managing their fellow managers.
Some managers will see this step as unnecessary bureacracy and a distraction from getting the real work done. “Why do I need to talk to this manager over here about a customer’s concerns? Why do I need to lobby that manager over there for resources?” they’ll say. The reason is because without it, your company will not be able to make fast, flexible decisions.
Getting Your Managers to Work Together
Making this transition requires a lot of determination, hard work and perseverance on the part of senior management, but it must be done. Here’s how to do it:
- Make the addition of lateral management explicit. Unless they are told otherwise, most managers will rely on the “vertical-only” model of management. It must be explained to everyone that those days are gone, and being a manager in this organization now permanently includes both vertical and lateral roles.
- Have managers meet proactively, in a non-issue-based context. When it does occur in Whitewater, manager interaction tends to focus on problems and issues: Why can’t you guys deliver the product on time? Why are the fulfillment forms never completed properly? Senior management needs to encourage managers to meet ahead of issues, rather than about issues. For example, sales and operations managers should meet at the beginning of the month to plan customer delivery schedules rather than at the end of the month to discuss why deliveries were late again.
- Model the benefits of lateral management. If they see it modeled, they’ll do it. The company’s founder/owner, CEO or preducent can become an excellent role model by collaborating effectively with the senior management team. This will start a cascade effect down through the organization. Managers will see that you are serious.
- Hire new managers who can mentor others in lateral management. When hiring new managers, keep this factor in mind and look to hire those who have worked successfully in a lateral management role before. They can be a role model and mentor others in the company.
This is part two of a six-part series on how to build your organizational decision-making machine and launch your organization into Predictable Success. Next up, How to Get Everyone Moving the Same Direction.
Did you miss part one? Click here: The One Problem More Urgent Than What You’re Dealing With Right Now.