How to Create Strategies for Effectively Managing People
There are a number of conflicting currents that challenge and influence the way managers must go about doing their jobs. In order to effectively lead an organization and deliver results amid such currents, managers must routinely develop strategies for success. Success strategies are simply a carefully thought out set of plans that help managers navigate the conflicting currents to lead their teams to success. The following seven steps will teach you how to develop a strategy to meet your own management challenges.
1. Survey the Current Norms – Particularly if you are new to a management role, spend time understanding the current state of affairs. What are your people really doing? How do your employees interact with one another, or with other departments? Make note of both positive and negative trends. Some questions to consider:
- Are there morale problems?
- Is the team overloaded or overstaffed?
- Does the team have a clear scope, or do responsibilities bleed into other departments?
- How does the current state of affairs compare to your ideal state?
- Where is the team successful? Where is it struggling?
Understanding the state of affairs of your team and the business helps ground your perspective.
2. Understand Your Goals – Evaluate the metrics for which you are responsible. Are your required to deliver a certain amount of sales each year? Are you expected to manufacture a certain amount of products? Are you responsible for meeting a given budget? Even if such measures are informal in your company, in order to be effective as a manager you need to understand your goals and objectives. Further, be sure you are clear when the results are to be delivered, and where priorities lie. Understanding your goals is critical to your success as a manager.
3. Evaluate Strengths and Weaknesses – Having spent time understanding the current state of affairs, as well as identifying your goals and measures, next comes your evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. This should be done at both an individual level (employee evaluations) as well at the team and business levels. Questions to ask yourself:
- Where do the individuals and the team excel? Struggle?
- Are individual skill sets being used effectively?
- Does knowledge exist that is underutilized?
- Is an individual’s location, or the location of the team, a factor in success?
- What gaps do you have in terms of skills, experience or infrastructure?
Effective management requires that you are maximizing the skills, knowledge and resources at your disposal, while sheltering the weak points. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your team and the individuals will identify things you can do to bolster your overall capability. A SWOT analysis is a recommended method of conducting such an evaluation.
4. Understand The Bounds of Play – All businesses have constraints and limitations. For managers to ethically and professionally be successful, it is important to understand your bounds of play. The bounds of play are the limitations, processes, constraints and controls established by businesses to remain healthy and strong. Example bounds of play to consider:
- What are your budget limitations?
- What processes or procedures must be followed?
- What is protocol for dealing with certain issues? (Example: acquiring new equipment)
- Are there manpower limitations? Locally? Overseas?
- Who are key influences in the business?
By understanding the bounds of play of your organization, you put yourself in a position where you can ask the right questions.
5. Identify Unexplored Options – Many managers and business leaders struggle with the Bounds of Play and stop short of looking beyond at alternative options. The fifth step in developing a strategy for success is to identify unexplored options. These are typically ‘outside the box’ ideas that may be overlooked, yet incredibly effective and helpful to you as a manager. Some examples of questions you should ask yourself to help you identify unexplored options:
- Can your offset an unbudgeted expense through alternate sources revenue?
- Can you create a development opportunity for an employee by sending them on a business trip to a new client?
- Can you obtain much needed training through internal experts rather than outside suppliers?
Every business has limitations, but by looking into unexplored options, managers can often identify other ways of accomplishing a goal with minimal impact on the business.
6. Revisit Frequently – Business is fluid and constantly changing. For this reason, effective managers must remain vigilant to new opportunities for success. Revisit the above topics frequently (at least once a year) to keep your understanding of issues, problems and strengths up to date. Unplanned opportunities for employee development or strengthening business needs emerge frequently. Identify these opportunities and be prepared to act swiftly.
7. Creating Strategies – Using the various questions listed above, plan ahead to determine how you can best meet your goals and objectives. Creating strategies for effective management is not difficult. It simply requires that you invest in up front planning and remain observant for new opportunities as they appear. As reference, the following is a list of some real life examples of how managers created successful strategies and opportunities that benefited their organizations:
- A manager created a clear roadmap for meeting department metrics by assigning specific targets to each employee based on their projects. Tasking each employee with targets to hit not only drove individual accountability across the team, it ensured there was a plan for success for the entire team.
- An expense for a much needed training class (not in the budget) was offset through a small customer funded activity that provided extra cash to the business.
- A business unit was able to justify the purchase of a large piece of equipment as cost savings by reaching out to other branches of the company who could also benefit from the purchase. In doing so, the value of the cost saving increased dramatically when other business unit were considered, making the purchase a high priority to the firm.
- A talented young employee was given a development opportunity by being assigned to a specific project. Because of the project’s location, the employee gained some much needed experience working in the field at the customer’s location, an opportunity he would not have been given otherwise.
Sample SWOT Questions (Template)
How a SWOT Evaluation Can Help Your Business (Blog Post)