Stellar Management Teams
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Stellar Management Teams

Vesa Ristikangas, Tapani Rinne

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eBook - ePub

Stellar Management Teams

Vesa Ristikangas, Tapani Rinne

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About This Book

Management teams at all levels, and individual team members in particular, are often disengaged and disconnected from the management function itself. Statements such as, "we lack common goals or they are unclear", "I have no influence", "I am not listened to nor taken into account", and "I do not feel valued – actually, nobody does", are commonplace. The authors argue this is because we have been entrenched in an era of guru leadership but thatit must come to an end if our management teams are to rise to the top. An individual is not capable of controlling the complicated system of an organization, with its countless variables, especially in conjunction with the rapid change in boththe economy and market forces, which are unpredictable and uncontrollable. No matter how talented the individual, no one person is in a position to manage this complex system alone – not even a guru leader.

The authorscontend that what is needed now are resilient trendsetters who will bring about a new era of top-performing teams that together form a "collective guru", which they refer to as a Stellar Management Team.

In this book, the reader undertakes a metaphorical journey to the stars, which symbolizes top-level interaction and collaboration. The journey is the development from an ordinary management team into a Stellar Management Team, which elevates its operation up to a new level of performance and success.

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Part I
Do you want to fly?

Figure PI.1 Star
Figure PI.1 Star

Not thinking is heavy

On this planet there are countless management teams, and at many organizational levels. They remain with their feet firmly on the ground, focusing strictly on the playing field, their backpacks filled with the realities of everyday life. Still, many management teams produce incredibly hollow speeches, and if you look at the results of their words and deeds, they do not get much air under their wings. You might even wonder to what extent you would hold up your management team as an example to your own organization. A critical thinker might respond: not least regarding the quality of thinking. Thinking is like the old law of gravity in physics that we learn at schools on our planet, and that's what we can't surmount.

Provoke thinking with gravity factors

The journey to the stars starts with a new way of thinking. Many management teams act without deeper thinking. Conventional practices rule and things are handled in meetings in a routine manner. After all, they are representatives of management; they should be acting in an adult manner, playing on the same playground and cooperating well. Many members of management teams are at the top of their careers. They are compelling, they are leading experts and top influencers in their own field. They hold regular meetings and aim at wise decisions trying to act as flag-bearers of the organization and showing the way for all. Business as usual.
Success requires that the management team begins to grow as a team. Thinking that will lead to actual results is generated through three clear questions:
  • How does this team cooperate and use its common time?
  • How does this team take advantage of experience and know-how that is available in the team?
  • How does this team direct its time, cooperation and know-how towards a common goal?
Top talents do not automatically form a united, functional team that progresses towards a common goal through mutual support. The common benefit is easily forgotten, and individuals easily start to fiercely protect their own territories. Productivity objectives charge activities with a permanent background tension.
A representative of middle management told us: My supervisor is really busy all the time. The best way to catch him is to send him messages during the management team meeting. I've noticed that he's then available for me and responds actively to his emails.
Management team members can have a very quick way of functioning. Despite the speed, the force of gravity has a firm hold on them and the level of results does not display any real signs of taking off. The phenomenon described as "flying low" is not real flying. The following is a list of ordinary gravitational factors, which prevent the speed of management team from becoming a real take off.

Gravity Factor No. 1: Emphasizing individual responsibility

It is quite natural in a management team that for each issue on the meeting agenda there will be a person responsible. So far so good; this simplifies meeting practices significantly. However, individual responsibilities get in the way of strengthening collective responsibility. A true culture of cooperation cannot emerge in a management team unless the main task is shared.

Gravity Factor No. 2: Multitude of bilateral discussions

It is typical for a management team meeting that the discussion goes between the chair and the person responsible for the issue. If these bilateral discussions start to dominate the meeting, collective responsibility vanishes. At worst, the management team will be a place where everyone knows that they are only responsible for their individual, dedicated topics. Then everyone is allocated a certain amount of time and has a well-prepared monologue in his or her laptop. As the listeners are just thinking about their own responsibilities, they will hardly ask any questions. Their attention is perhaps on fine-tuning their own monologues. The manager acting as chairman of the meeting is the only one commenting on the presentations.

Gravity Factor No. 3: Dominance of numeric indicators

Management teams have profit and loss responsibility, so controlling figures is an important part of meetings. However, if the aspired outcomes are defined only through increased revenue or reduced cost structure, there is no space for collective responsibility. Why not? Management by Numbers emphasizes the outcome and consequences of the operations. The management team misses the opportunity to flexibly determine where its members want to bring their collective responsibility to bear. Mere figures do not generate commitment. The attention is directed too much into the rear view mirror and not on activities that will ensure better figures for tomorrow. In addition, the numeric management team misses out on indicators that are based on qualitative criteria.

Gravity Factor No. 4: Tight schedules and overloaded agendas

Management team meetings are an important forum for collective decision-making. However, the meetings are run through rapidly, item by item, keeping to the agreed schedule. In that haste, the essential is forgotten: open conversation and exchange of views, as well as solving problems together. Unfortunately, no strengthening of solidarity can be accommodated within those long agendas and tight schedules.

Gravity Factor No. 5: Fixed roles

Management team members typically have quite specific job descriptions. There are roles like HR Director, Financial Director, Sales Director, IT Director etc. The responsibilities are defined, and, so far so good life is much more clarified. At the same time, however, individuals who adhere too strictly to their roles, prevent the development of collective responsibility. Typically, members of the management team do not dare, or do not want to step on the toes of a colleague by taking a position on mutual issues. And if mutual issues do not even exist, it is appropriate to restrict the unique skills and personality of each member so that these are utilised only in their own private boxes. Long live titles and let's conceal knowledge in silos!

Gravity Factor No. 6: Director-centricity prevents taking responsibility

The key task of a management team is decision-making. On the other hand, management teams operate very much in a culture, in which only the CEO is responsible for the decisions taken. This is in most cases also a legal fact. Consequently, you can hear often that management teams are just pawns to be used for the CEO's purposes. The pawns shun responsibility, they fear opportunities and cower behind the back of the CEO. In particular, concealing liability can be very attractive in situations where you must make hard decisions. When they move into non-decision-maker mode, the team limits its learning opportunities:
  • to expand and optimize their available leadership skills
  • to develop the personal decision-making skills of each individual
  • to experience bearing the responsibility for the decision.

Gravity Factor No. 7: The loud ones override the quiet

A management team is a group of personalities and the differences become visible in daily operations. There are always two or three members who take the centre stage and dominate the collective discussion. As these "loud ones" take more space the "quiet ones" retreat even more. If no action is taken, the natural styles of individuals take over, and at the same time the possibilities for a broader responsibility are reduced. It would take a fair amount of new thinking, to make some people exercise interest in other people's ideas, and for some others respectively to exercise being more courageous in putting forward their own ideas.
Observations in a management team meeting in a technology company:
  • Everyone had a laptop computer on the table, everyone was bustling about with their own activities .
  • The meeting was almost entirely a monologue by the CEO.
  • There were hardly any questions, management team members were mainly silent or hummed quietly.
  • A common objective was impossible to detect, because the issues were so specific, independent of each other, and seemed to be very trivial.
  • Several members left in the middle of the meeting, of course politely apologizing, but without any justification something else was in any case more important than the management team meeting.

Slow thinking combined with fast decisions

It is said that mistakes are made in thoughtlessness. On the other hand people are certainly thinking in management teams, all brain activity is rarely completely absent. However, activities will continue endlessly on the same track, unless the team wakes up to think about how it thinks.
Here we get great support from Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist and researcher. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his work on behavioural economics. Kahneman has examined, in particular, the process of evaluation and decision-making models. As a basis for the improvement of thinking we borrow Daniel Kahneman's simplified idea, according to which thinking happens in our brains in two alternative systems.
System 1: fast, instinctive and emotional
Illustrative expressions: automatic and autonomous, effortless and fast, no need for working memory, connected to stimuli, originates from early human evolution. An important caution: ease of thought generation gives an illusion of truth. In this book, we call this way of thinking simply Hasty Intuition .
System 2: slow, more careful and more logical
Descriptive terms: conscious, slow, voluntary, requires working memory, analytical, abstraction, what-if imagination, evaluation, options, reflective, originates from later evolution, specific for human species. In this book, we term this way of thinking Deep Analysis.
The management team is, even in its wisdom, still very lazy when it comes to using brains. In addition the modern world demands quick solutions. Therefore we mostly use System 1, i.e. Hasty Intuition is in charge and we let the analytical Deep Analysis take a rest.

Hasty Intuition takes us fast – even astray

Rational decision-making requires the skill to stop and to question the answer produced by Hasty Intuition. On the other hand, daily life would be really difficult if every choice had to be analysed. Intuitive decision-making has overcome in human evolution, because it has provided the correct answer enough times and that answer has come immediately. In other words, Hasty Intuition, as well as Deep Analysis, are both important for smooth-running daily life.
Intuition, which is "the information that we are not a ware of", seems to appear today, more and more often, even from management as a major justification for decisions. Hasty Intuition (System 1) has its advantages but also its defects and biases. Its intuitive impressions guide our thinking and behaviour very broadly —and all too often wrongly. The following are some examples of thinking biases, which may in management team situations even affect strategies within major businesses.
  • The team displays excessive confidence and tolerates excessive risk taking (Hasty Intuition produces the conclusion: this idea must be correct, because even other people think so)
  • Cognitive ease, i.e. the solution comes easily (Hasty Intuition produces the conclusion: the idea must be correct, because it feels familiar, real, good or kind of natural)
  • Replacing difficult questions with easy ones, that is, if we do not know how to answer the question of how currency X will develop, we say that X has been strong against the Euro for a quite long time (Hasty Intuition produces an easier but logical question, and then we start happily nodding to our answer)
  • The bias of the end result, i.e. because the result is good, the product must be good and vice versa, (Hasty Intuition says: this idea must be correct, as it is so logical and, using Deep Analysis to analyse the causal relationship would be too laborious).
As we understand how these two thinking systems especially Hasty Intuition affect our evaluations and decisions, we can justify creating better dis...

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