A short list of the best and worst management practices

Wise people learn from others. In your experience, what are two of the best management practices in widespread use today? What are two of the worst?

And what is the one management practice that you believe the best companies follow religiously?

Image provided by Getty Images

Management practices that leverage time wisely and that build in consistent communication are indicators of the best organizations.

Two good management practices

My two good management practices both focus on using time wisely.

The first is a trend rather than a widely-implemented practice, at this point. Top companies have changed tradition to eliminate detailed employee timekeeping. They realize that the pretense of accuracy and control that wasteful activity creates is no more than that. Pretense.

The best don’t ask for such silliness because they know it doesn’t improve value provided to the customer, and it does irritate hard-working employees. Happily, I can report more and more are seeing the truth in that.

Another great management process is the daily start-up huddle for work teams. Regardless of the nature of your business, teams agreeing on priorities, status, and roles for the day improves productivity.

The work of an absent employee doesn’t get ignored, someone who is overloaded that day gets help, and problems are identified early for quick resolution. While it may seem pointless, my best clients find it a minor behavioral change that quickly reaps significant benefits.

Now for the bad

Both of these management practices produce inconsistent communication. The most common negative conduct I see is values, vision and mission documented on walls, but contradicted by behavior.

Check out the Wells Fargo or Volkswagen value statements for current examples of inconsistency between promise and practice. No wonder customers, suppliers, and employees are unhappy.

People believe what they see. If you don’t plan to stick with core values, don’t pretend you will. If your vision and mission are muddled, don’t announce them. Defining values, vision and mission is not a team assignment to select nice phrases. It is a commitment by leadership of why and how. All too often it is cause for cognitive dissonance throughout an organization. Check out Toyota, Ventana Medical or Industrial Scientific for examples of how to ensure behavior matches promise and builds strong companies.

Years ago, Ed Deming recommended elimination of the annual performance review. I couldn’t agree with him more. This common annual event, often tied to policy-driven pay adjustments, contributes little or nothing to employee development, and confuses more than it helps. Every great coach educates during the game, not just at the end.

Certainly subordinates and management need a common understanding of expectations and performance, and that is needed continuously — not once a year. And please don’t make reviews all due at once! It’s hard enough for a manager to give valuable feedback in a way that helps the employee without telling her to fill out numerous forms for numerous employees by a single deadline.

Instead of annual “what have you done for me lately” discussions, talk regularly with each employee to ensure common understanding of progress and priorities. Start by sitting with each employee monthly, then weekly. Discuss recent actions, not prior.

When an important employee performance event occurs, whether good or bad, discuss it as soon as you can without emotion, not 11 months later. Employee development is a process, not an event. And isn’t that the purpose of a review?

And the beautiful?

Commitment to the success of all stakeholders — customers, suppliers, employees, investors, and the community — that is demonstrated consistently by visionary leadership is rare, but a beautiful business model when it exists. In my observation, the companies that consistently comport with vision, mission and values tend to be the same companies with these priorities. Keep working towards that goal. It’s worth the effort.

I have found that management practices that leverage time wisely and that build in consistent communication are indicators of the best organizations.

As published on American City Business Journals