Megan Gilhooly, Invidi Technologies Corporation
Many organizations do strategic planning to determine corporate objectives. Those objectives are paramount to the decisions employees and managers make daily. In corporate strategy, the Mission Statement drives corporate objectives. Corporate objectives drive functional, team, and individual objectives. So what do you do if your organization doesn’t clearly communicate corporate objectives?
Ask Denny Strigl, former CEO and President of Verizon Wireless. In his book entitledManagers, Can You Hear Me Now?, Strigl shares his opinions about what makes an effective manager. One of his most poignant arguments is that all managers in all organizations should only be concerned with four objectives:
- Grow revenue
- Get new customers
- Keep the customers you already have
- Eliminate costs
“Everything a manager does should address, in some way, shape, or form, one or more of these fundamentals,” Strigl writes. “If a manager is doing something that does not relate to one or more of these fundamentals, he or she should stop doing it.” (page 43)
This page of Strigl’s book helped me make simple changes in my daily schedule that had drastic effects. When I took over the position of Manager of Technical Communication, I also inherited invitations to meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I sat in on meetings to plan meetings. And, because we have several remote offices, my daily schedule meant hopping from one conference call to the next, usually with all the same people. When I did have a half-hour break, I spent that time catching up with my team to address any needs they had before joining my next call.
Thanks to all these meetings, I didn’t have time for tasks such as working on a style guide, following up with my team on action items, or planning for the next big release, let alone investigating new tools that would be necessary to move the team into the 21st century. Because I didn’t have time to focus on key tasks that had to get done, I was multi-tasking during the conference calls, which meant I wasn’t giving any task my full attention.
After reading about Strigl’s four fundamentals, I went to my white board and made four quadrants, one for each fundamental. I paraphrased a bit, as you can see in the graphic. I tried to fit the topics of all these meetings I attended into one or more of the quadrants. I managed to find a place for four meetings.
We have a weekly release review that helps me stay on top of the latest releases so we can hit the proper schedules. Keep customers happy. We have a weekly bug review meeting in which I discover necessary documentation changes. Keep customers happy. We have a process team that meets to create new processes. Increase efficiency and, therefore, eliminate costs and keep customers happy. And we have a weekly Technical Communication team meeting in which I share schedules with the team and they provide me updates. Keep customers happy.
Every other weekly meeting I had on my calendar fit into Strigl’s category of “stop doing it,” so that’s what I did. I declined those other weekly meetings, leaving me with only four weekly meetings. As new meetings were scheduled each week, I used my new objectives as a filter to determine which ones I accepted and which ones I declined. With my new rules in place, I averaged 10-12 meetings per week, as opposed to the 35 meetings per week my predecessor had passed to me.
I also instructed my team to drop any meetings from their calendars that were not essential to their projects. This was tough for the writers who measure the value of their employment by the number of meetings they are invited to, so I had to write to some meeting organizers and ask them to remove people from specific meetings. But, in the end, my new team transitioned from a team that was chronically weeks late on deliverables to a team that never misses a deadline. Now, if only the rest of the company would read Strigl’s book …!
Denny F. Strigl and Frank Swiatek
Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?
2011, New York, NY
The McGraw-Hill Companies