The Achilles heel of every management system

Observation #4

carpedia-observation-4Management systems are tools created to help managers plan work, execute the plan, and then measure and report on the results. Most management systems we have looked at in the past two decades, in many different industries and functions, suffer from the same fundamental break down: the execution tools are the weakest part of the system (and are often missing entirely).

There is usually no shortage of tools to help managers plan what should happen, and even more tools to report on what actually did happen, but there often isn’t much right at the point when things are actually happening. Execution tools are things such as time-based schedules, visual feedback monitors or boards, and controls to help a manager follow up on schedule attainment and performance through the day.

This is a problem for a few key reasons. First, it means problems and lost productivity can be occurring without management knowing which obviously creates waste and rework and can frustrate employees. Second, it causes employees to create “work-arounds” which can frequently end up adopted as the actual process which hides problems within future planning standards. Third, it can effectively turn a manager into either an administrator or a reactive fire-fighter (rather than a proactive manager).

The root cause of this gap in the management system is usually ineffective time-based scheduling. Without a meaningful schedule, managers can fire-fight larger obvious problems but they can’t follow up on work with a purpose and they can’t identify or remove smaller day-to-day obstacles that create waste. In high performance organizations, this is where critical incremental gains are made.