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Why Have Job Descriptions Anyway? – A Case of Three Frigates

Why have Job Descriptions Anyway?

Developing Better Job Information

 

 Developing Better Job Information

 Introduction

 This paper is based on John Machin’s early research in the 1970’s when his team developed the concept of aligning expectations into a useful communications improvement process. It has been validated by our development of sophisticated, easy to use Technology – AlEx™

Both Machin’s work and our AlEx™ projects show that most organizations have found that the AlEx™ expectations data-base demonstrates that:

  • Individuals with identical job descriptions actually carry out their jobs in different ways
  • Detailed information about each job in the expectations database is significantly greater than that in most job descriptions
  • Detailed information about each job in the expectations data-base is more up-to-date than most, if not all, job descriptions
  • Easy access to the data-base, using AlEx™ enables people to keep job information up-to-date much more quickly, easily, and usefully than is the case with traditional job descriptions.

 

Different job’s interpretation and implementation raises a number of questions, ranging from;

 ‘Why have job descriptions anyway?’ to ‘If there’s actually more individual freedom to “tailor” jobs than job descriptions appear to indicate. How can we use AlEx™ to extend that freedom in a planned and controllable manner?’

When individuals have identical job descriptions, there is an expectation that each person will performed in the same way. In jobs where all the tasks are programmable this is realistic. Fortunately, technology created an era where many people are no longer expected to perform such jobs. Now, invariably, it’s the user who determines which purpose will be followed within their team. The following case study illustrates that range.

The Royal Navy – A Case of Three Frigates

(Abridged and excerpted from the original John Machin case study)

 The Royal Navy has many units which are ostensibly identical. Like a squadron with several frigates performing identical tasks, each of them with exactly the same chain of command and complement on board. The frigates were all constructed to the same design, and their captains were accountable to the same shore-based commanding officer.  Other constants were:

  • All individuals employed within the Navy at a particular level share the same training and basic experiences
  • Each job on board a frigate has a series of officially drawn-up statements about:
    • The role to be performed
    • The responsibilities expected
    • The authority and accountability that would be used to monitor progress

The Royal Navy anticipated that exactly the same communication content and pattern would be found on board the three frigates. The Navy was aware that it is always possible to improve, and it therefore undertook a communication audit, using the Expectations Approach (AlEx), on board three frigates in the same squadron.

 The Communication Audit Results

On each frigate, 10 crew members were chosen to take part in a single stage communication audit. These 10 held exactly the same positions.

Each person received a communication audit report. The Matrix summary of the results follows showings the expectations volumes by the Frigates L, M, and S captains.

In the center two columns under each ship’s letter are the Captains’ Expectations:

OEM – What I think others expect of me

MEO – My expectations of others

The outside two columns show the expectations of the Captain by the other nine participants listed on the left hand side.

 Royal Navy Comparative Ship-Board Expectations Matrix

Royal Navy Comparative Ship-Board Expectations Matrix

While the communication audit was being carried out on board the three Frigates, shore-based personnel were also auditing their own communication. The general view, both ashore and on the frigates, was that while there might be considerable mismatch of communication on shore, the communication content and patterns on board ship would be common in all three ships. Clearly this not the case!

 The first indication of this lack of commonality is the different volumes of expectations: Frigate L – 93, Frigate M – 142, Frigate S – 184

 Next, looking at the different distraction indices between Captains and Officers then Captains and Senior Ratings (Distraction Index – the extent to which expectations are not matched or reciprocated.)

 

The Second indication was that the Captains and their Officers had markedly different distraction indices. Third, see the 30% diference in Frigate S.

Junior Officers

 The Captains of frigates L and M expressed no expectations of any kind in respect of their junior officers. They neither held actual expectations of them, nor did they think the junior officers to expect anything of them. With minor exceptions that was the view that the junior officers themselves held in respect of the Captain. On frigate L the Chief Bosun’s Mate and the Leading Radio Operator both expected two-way communication of expectations with the Captain but in frigate M only the Leading Radio Operator expected any form of communication with their captain.

The Captain of frigate S held a number of actual and perceived expectations of all his junior officers. This was reciprocated by the junior ratings, with only one exception.

Conclusions

 The communication Audit endorsed why Frigate M was rated best based in Operational Performance Reviews. Overall, M had a 0% distraction index rating while L and S were 14% and 18% respectively. Subsequently, another audit showed Frigate M was best aligned with Shore Based People and deepened the understanding of how alignment played a material role in a ships operational readiness.

 The Senior Officer felt the analysis showed two main conclusions:

Each participant in each frigate was presented with his own report and the reports of his two opposite numbers in the other two ships. He was then asked to select the most accurate and appropriate expectations for his job from all three reports with a view to achieving a common outcome.

It rapidly became apparent that while the three job holders of the ten jobs could reach agreement, on some the communication associated with the job, agreement still ranged from 7.5%-88% .

Our conclusion is that even in tightly controlled environments like these three frigates can show such misalignment, what does this imply for other organizations? It clearly demonstrates that relational alignment of expectations is needed for effective performance to flourish.

Great, but how can this help me?

This is probably the first thing on your mind after reading this Blog.
How about asking us?  The first call is free!  Just email me to set it up.
Don’t wait, get The Crispian Advantage working for you!. If our conversation leaves you needing more, we offer at a reasonable fee telephone and video coaching improve bottom line results.
If that still doesn’t do it, we’ll work with you on a solution.

_________________________________________________________________________
For Help in Getting Your People on the Same Page 
Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage

E-mail I Web I Linkedin

© Copyright All Rights Reserved, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds, [2010-2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Managing Alignment Challenges (Part 2 of 3) – Managing Complexity

Now that's Managing Complexity

Managing

Complexity

Introduction

During many consulting engagements we identified that organizational misalignment as a major factor in organizations and individuals were not achieving goals

This changed our focus to ground other work by aligning people’s expectations first before designing learning, coaching etc. Over the last 10years, the PDS team developed their expertise and alignment practice with AlEx™ by serving companies in Canada and the US.

(Listen to the Radio show)

Over the years we have learnt that anticipating and managing misalignment goes to the root of building successful change whether it’s a family business transitioning between generations, construction projects with many different companies involved or implementing electronic patient records.

Today I want to cover the second in a three part series on Managing Alignment Challenges to improve the odds of bringing successful change to the listeners’ organizations.

Last month we covered, Managing Conflict and Relationship Tension. This month I will cover…

2. Managing Complexity and then next month

3. Improving Performance

The Strongest Shape in Construction and in Managing Change

I chose the second as the need for change can seem deceptively clear yet being comfortable with  complexity is something people want to avoid. Somehow “complexity” has become associated with ineffectiveness, something to be avoided.

Why is this so important as we climb out of this recession?

It’s a good question. Over the last 15 years the odds of making a successful change in North America haven’t changed appreciably. Two thirds of change initiatives fail, including family businesses trying to pass on their company to the next generation. Just consider this, in a KPMG (2002) survey of 134 public companies.

  • 56% per cent of Companies wrote off at least one IT project in the last year,
  • Average cost of US$12.5M, while the highest loss was placed at US$210 million.
  • US$1.7 billion for this group alone.
  • 67% said their Program management was “in need of improvement or immature“
  • 44% rated project performance against any established measures.

In other words unless we must become better students of not only what to change but how to change the climb out your referred to will be longer and more painful.

In an earlier program on to hire or rehire people as companies recover prompts me to ask: How are the employees affected by such failures?

Jaundiced….Post recession employees reveal they expect far more than the status quo, which could have significant implications on company bottom lines, employee morale and turnover. In Q3 2009 Glassdoor.com conducted their Employment Confidence Survey of 1,195 employees conducted by Harris Interactive®.

  • 57% expect a raise, bonus and/or promotion
  • 35% expect hiring freeze to be lifted and/or more employees to be hired in
  • their department
  • 24% expect health benefits and perks that were previously reduced to be restored
  • 19% expect to look for a new job

These factors don’t sound like change isn’t getting any simpler. How do you see it affecting leaders managing change and this increasing complexity?

Martha Maznevski and her colleagues at IMD put it like this.

“Complexity” is today often considered the latest business buzzword – it reflects a current common reality but not a lasting one. Executives say, “Yes, complexity is the real leadership challenge that I face. How can I focus on my area when everything else is connected? How can I be held accountable when everything is interdependent? How can I sort this out?

It’s overwhelming.” Good questions with few answers. We think “complexity” is much more than a buzzword, but a reality that is here to stay.”

How leaders react to this inevitability is curious. Many see their world as complex so their organization should be complex. But, the key is to focus on what to simplify. Central to this is your purpose and values; core processes and decentralization; early awareness systems; and leadership. Once these are clear and consistent, managers in different areas of the company can respond to complexity according to their own needs and realities. Here are some examples of complexity issues leaders face..

“Our management structure and style gets in the way when dealing with complex and changing business environments.”

This is often not so much one of structure but style. The key lies in effective delegation. Delegating task and responsibility, i.e. enabling others to do a job for you while ensuring that:

  • They know what you want
  • They have the authority to achieve it
  • They know how to do it.

By communicating clearly:

  • The nature of the task
  • The extent of their discretion
  • The sources of relevant information and knowledge.

Each task delegated should have enough complexity to stretch – but only a little by including:

  • Agreeing criteria and standards by which the outcome will be judged.
  • Agreeing first how often and when information is needed to monitor progress
  • Avoiding making decisions for the delegate when they are capable
  • Not making a decision unless provided with clear alternatives, their pros and cons, and the individual’s recommendation.
  • Not judging the outcome by what you would do, but rather by its fitness for purpose.

Delegating the task and its ownership so that it can be changed or upgraded, if needed.

So, you are managing complexity at the coal face rather trying to do everything back in the office on the surface.

How do you then get an organization’s purpose across to people?

Second point is Creating Momentum for change by leaders modeling what it means to be, say, the Customer’s Choice. Including:

  • Defining what value you want to give customers
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Probing and testing teams’ understanding of the change in hand
  • Aligning people’s expectations and actions with corporate goals and “The Vision”
  • Persevering when “the going gets tough”
  • Making decisive, courageous and consistent decisions
  • Motivating others to reach higher goals
  • Encouraging others to effectively manage risk
  • Communicating verbally up, down and across the organization – not just e-mail or presentations
  • Most importantly soliciting feedback on actions taken

What other ways should leaders be mindful of in getting decisions taken earlier and at lower levels in their companies?

After delegation and momentum it has to be teamwork where the weight of complexity can be shared. Specifically, building and growing teams that delivers customer and stakeholder value by:

  • Identifying key stakeholders to lead partnering activities, e.g. suppliers, subcontractors, branch offices
  • Sharing common strategies and building solutions with customers and other functions within the spirit of “we are all in this together”
  • Focusing team effort on delivering value for both customers and other stakeholders
  • Making and delivering on commitments
  • Supporting and implementing team decisions
  • Resolving conflicting positions inside the team
  • Engaging others to improve solutions and decisions.
  • Developing external alliances to develop new and innovative solutions

It sounds like you are encouraging leaders to develop trust in their people to do the right thing, but to many that is going to seem risky especially if they have tried before and they have had to take back control

It’s an astute point. It’s down to leaders actively cultivating a climate to anticipate mistakes through praise for prompt action in dealing with the errors and avoiding risk. The last thing to do is to “reward the inactive and hang the innocents” – The Blame Game.

It’s crucial that Risk Managing and Planning are yoked together, back to an earlier program when I mentioned Clauswitz and Contingency Theory. This includes:

  • Scheduling, anticipating and alerting to avoid risk situations.
  • Reviewing plans from a risk perspective
  • Praising people for coming up with solutions
  • Ensuring every plan is reviewed from both the risks to subcontractors, suppliers (“respected friends”) as well as Customer’s perspective.
  • Developing options and contingencies with costed options at each project milestone
  • Engaging all appropriate stakeholders in a timely manner to get multiple perspectives on how the schedule is developed
  • Creating rapid feedback to alert when a task is delayed or accelerated

How would you sum up managing complexity?

Effective Delegation, Building Momentum, Developing Teams and linking Planning to Risk Management lie at the heart of navigating complex situations, but above all Leadership cannot be repetitive, but should be predictable. Permanent communication is therefore the leadership survival tool in complex organizations, but much more in terms of “storytelling”, interpreting context and meaning, and investing in relationships than in transferring dry facts or ultimatums.

Tip of the month

If you want to follow these three programs you will find an article “Eternal Triangle” in the resources section at pdsgrp.net/resources where you will see a summary of what I have covered today.

Here’s my tip.

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T. S. Eliot

Great, but how can this help me?

This is probably the first thing on your mind after reading this Blog.
How about asking us?  The first call is free!  Just email me to set it up.
Don’t wait, get The Crispian Advantage working for you!. If our conversation leaves you needing more,
we offer at a reasonable fee telephone and video coaching improve bottom line results.
If that still doesn’t do it, we’ll work with you on a solution.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For Help in Getting Your People on the Same Page 
Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage

E-mail I Web I Linkedin

© Copyright All Rights Reserved, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds, [2010-2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nick Anderson, The Crispian Advantage and Walk the Talk – A Blog for Agile Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.