Triangle Performance
AUGUST 2008
In this issue
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FROM THE TOP
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STRATEGY & LEADERSHIP
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Span of Control
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MUSINGS
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Strategic Discernment
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CONSULTANT'S WATCH
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Printable Version
PRINTABLE VERSION
Click here to download an easily printable, PDF version of this newsletter.
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From the Top

It's Labor Day. Summer's over... school has started... traffic is back... and... what's this? You're on the verge of missing some key 2008 objectives? And just a few months left...

How can this be??

Not to worry, you know what to do; this "ain't your first rodeo." We'll just work harder, right? Yeah, that should do it. After all, we aren't working hard now, are we?

How about some crazy thinking...? Let's try to work smarter instead. Does your leadership team (all levels) "play well together?" If not, there's potentially a lot of energy going to something other than productive efforts. Do they have the necessary skills to do what we need them to, and do they know how to apply those skills effectively?

If not (to any of those above), do something about it. Today.

Last year, I conducted a survey of senior executives. Overwhelmingly, this study revealed that Talent Management, Performance Management, and Leadership Development are some of the most significant issues we face today.

You can download that survey here, or if you would prefer a fancy-printed hard copy, simply drop me a note, an email, a phone call, or smoke signal and I'll get one out to you immediately.

We'll be updating that survey soon, so stay tuned...

As always, I welcome your perusal and gratis downloads of the new and relevant material (articles, papers, etc.) on the website, including Executive Teamwork -- Why senior staffs must play well together.

...and don't forget to check out my blog; feel free to comment, complain, or scream at me if you agree, disagree, or just want your opinion read, seen, and heard.

Berchelmann's Blog

A Sampling of Current Projects:
** Leadership development, in construction and manufacturing environments,
** Succession planning, for multiple levels of management,
** Leading several workshops in "Strategic Thinking" and "Effective Coaching,
** Search and recruitment for multiple management positions in technology, manufacturing, and construction industries, and
** Executive-level compensation plan design.

As always, I hope this finds you well, personally and professionally; please give me a call if I can ever help in any way.

Warm Regards,

D. Kevin Berchelmann

D. Kevin Berchelmann
President
Triangle Performance, LLC
www.triangleperformance.com
kevinb@triangleperformance.com
281.257.4442

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Strategy & Leadership
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Span of Control
-- So, what's wrong with having 35 direct reports??

What's the perfect number of direct reports? People who report directly to you? How many employees should any one manager have working for them; does it matter what "kinds" of employees?

I get these questions a lot, so thought I'd help shed some light.

This challenge, of course, refers to what's called Span of Control, and though there are always "unique" circumstances that defeat any rule, there are some decent historical guidelines.

Span of Control isn't simply dependent on each individual; it's a basic limitation of all managers as it describes only their direct reports. Though a manager can effectively "control" any number of people if there are enough levels in between, not so when it comes to direct reports. That capacity is finite.

Research -- mostly military-based -- has shown that a leader can most effectively personally direct up to six employees effectively. That's right... six.

No wonder you're so tired.

Additionally, the relationships among those being managed are as important as the total number. Managing four people who interact constantly may be harder than supervising six or eight who work mostly independently.

Generally, an executive (someone leading other leaders and managers) should personally supervise a maximum of four or five people. That's right (fill in name of several people I know), four or five. Not 12 to 13, and certainly not 15 or 16. You don't have to be an expert to know if you're in trouble with Span of Control; if you have many more than a half-dozen people reporting directly to you, it's likely too many.

And you know it. You can feel it in what doesn't get done. The conversations that don't take place. The motivation and follow-up that you guiltily seem to overlook.

Even that half-dozen could be too many if those six have consistent, frequent dealings with each other. The reason, of course, is that in addition to managing relationships with each subordinate, managers invariably get involved -- to some extent -- with those employees' relationships with each other.

Some of that may be of the "He's touching me!" variety. Others may just involve conflict resolution, prioritizations, and maybe some joint problem-solving.

And the problem compounds exponentially. In simple terms, going from four to five direct reports, each who have four or five direct reports of their own, functionally doubles your effective workload while increasing your productivity (output) only 20%.

What's up with that??

Of course, if the people you manage have little or no direct interaction, you can likely handle more of them. Remember too, that I'm discussing true Span of Control -- managers managing managers. The numbers can increase significantly when leading a staff of individual contributors (non-management), particularly if highly skilled.

So, what's your org chart look like?? Count the boxes, sigh deeply, and let me know...

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Musings
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Strategic Discernment
-- It's all about choices...

During a recent strategy session, the organization's chief executive said he didn't really care too much for the phrase "Strategic Planning." He stated that it really isn't about planning, per se, as much as it is about making choices.

He preferred the phrase Strategic Discernment.

Now, those of you who know me can attest that I'm not much of a buzzword kind of guy; fads don't impress me, and most new consulting tomes on the market simply say old things with new words. I sort of default to "There ain't much new under the sun," (when it comes to leadership & management) so I look at everything with a healthy degree of skepticism.

At least I think it's a healthy degree.

But this guy has it right. Strategic Planning - as opposed to simple forecasting - isn't so much about planning as it is deciding the correct path among many choices.

In fact, I could argue that it's really anything but "planning."

Think about it. Effective strategy should define our organization's future; that future could take myriad paths.

For example: A car dealership could be a profitable investment, and produce a satisfactory return on capital investment. However... if we're a manufacturer of stamped metal frames, or a medical device refurbisher, it may not be the best direction for us to take.

Using intelligent, well-thought discernment, we would choose something "better" for our strategy.

Strategy, then, is deciding where we want to go... what we want our future to be. And those decisions are more about discerning among the possible paths -- including car dealerships and the dreaded "do nothing" -- than they are about crafting a detailed plan.

What have you done lately in your quest for "Strategic Discernment??"

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Consultant's Watch
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© 2008 Triangle Performance, LLC
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