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Management Patterns

This page is about Management Patterns. I call management patterns the techniques that I commonly use in situations where you need to manage. Those patterns are linked to the different management models bu the purpose is to be more pragmatic in the daily world.

I need to continue to work on this page by moving the descriptions into the Abstract section of the PatternTemplate.

Management Patterns

Managemement Patterns are a transposition of Computers Design Patterns (see http://wiki.cs.uiuc.edu/PatternStories/DesignPatterns or http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?DesignPatterns or http://www.xmlpatterns.com/) to the Management World

It's all about Communication

My experience up to now is that management is strongly linked to communication. A lot of those patterns are linked to communication issues

Pattern Template

In order to describe a pattern the following template will be followed (still TBD) : PatternTemplate

Pattern : Ask Questions

We don't know what we don't know because we don't ask enough questions. Never leave the discussion table without having all answers to the 7W.

Pattern: Build Schools Not Prisons

See BuildSchools

Pattern: Divide And Conquer

If you want to manage something complex, the best approach would be to cut it into manageable pieces. Companies make departments, project teams, divisions which can be managed of further split in smaller pieces.

The same goes for everything : Large projects, large budgets, large buildings...

In order to Divide and Conquer you will need to be able to set up an Architecture. The architecture defines the rules on how the different parts interact in order to fill the high level goals.

So faced to a large problem, you might want to split it in different pieces : it's a Divide and Conquer strategy.

Be carefull, divide and conquer is easy to understand but can be a major obstacle to WorkAsaTeam and can lead to MicroManagement if you delegate at a too fine granularity.

Pattern: Fight Until The End

It ain't over until it's over.Even if you believe you are never going to make it, you need to fight until the end. I haave seen this very often in sales situations : you can actually win the deal even if another company has 'officially' won it already. Some companies like IBM or Microsoft are very strong in fighting until the end and reverse very unfavorable situations. So : keep fighting !

Pattern: Give Directions

Sometimes you expect people will behave like you think, but it's rareley the case. So it's very important not to leave colleagues in the dout about your 7W. At least Half of the people - including me - need clear directions in order to be happy in their job. See also SmartObjectives and WorkHappyState. Once again take care about MicroManagement.

Pattern: Give The Goal

Is about giving the Why of the 7W. Involving people give much better results than just asking them to do the job. It's simply a matter of motivation. Why sould I do it ? See also Tell me, and I'll forget.

Pattern: Give Yourself The Means To Succeed

We all have challenging goals (haven't we ?). In order to achieve them you need to clearly identify what is required to be able to make it. Imagine I ask you to cross the Ocean, it would be a good idea from you to request a boat. Too often we don't even ask for things we could obtain (if we can justify it allows to achieve the goal of course) and would make our life easier.

Pattern: Identify The Start

Sometimes we work to complete tasks and we are not always aware on why we are doing what we are doing. If your job is part of "a chain", you know you contribute to the value chain. But it's not always easy to determine it. So it's always important to ask yourself : why am I here and what/who started a process which has brought me here. Knowing what was the first intention from the start can avoid you a lot of useless work.

Pattern: Identify The Process

Similarly to IdentifyTheStart, understanding the process is very important. You are there to complete a step in some process. But why is this step necessary ? Is this step really necessary ? Could you avoid it ? Can you simplify it ? Is your step unavoidable ? Are there other alternatives for this step ? Thinking like that can lead you to innovative solutions which can reduce effort and costs. It simply allows to ThinkOutOfTheBox.

Understanding the process also allows you to find possible solutions for process bottelnecks. This is important for the process as a whole but also for you in particular if you are the bottleneck... Too much work ?

Pattern: Kill Your Darlings

I want to do it like that because I always did it like that and I like it. Everybody wants to impose what he knows or like, but is it really the best solution for eveybody ? Think about it and try to be neutral.

Pattern: Make Your Customer Work

Customers are more and more demanding these days. Therefore you have a risk : they ask a lot but they don't know exaclty what they want and they have no time to explain it (you are paid to be the expert, you should know what's good for them). You can go ahead with what you think they need but it contains a very high risk !Pattern:

The solution is to oblige your customer to face the design decisions that you don't want to take for him. This means asking him to work on his own problem... Combine it with ConstructiveCompetition.

Pattern: Nothing Is Perfect

Thats a management pattern for Engineers. In the Chemical Industry you can achieve a 99% productivity, but not with other kind of processes (IT, People, Manufacturing).

To manage something means to accept the other's and your own failures. As good as you can minimize them, they will never be reduced to 0.

Accept it and go on with enthousiasm !Pattern:

Pattern: Repeat Repeat Repeat

People hear but they don't always listen. The more clever you are,the more people don't get it on the fist time : What is obvious for you is probably not clear at all fo the others. So repeat, repeat, repeat.

"Repetition is the mother of Teaching"...

Pattern: Root Cause Analysis

If something is wrong, you can fix it, 1,2,3... times. Where does it end ? Why does it break ? Why does this problem bounces back all the time ? Because you didn't attacj the root cause. What is the root cause of the problem ? Can you solve the root cause ?

(If the root cause can't be solved and it really hurts, it's maybe better to change job...)

Pattern: Talking Works

Albert Jacqurds said on the radio something which is I believe is true: In order to solve the Huge Challenges that we will face in the future (Climate changes, energy, water, petrol, waste, food, population...) there is only one thing we can do : Talk.

As simple as that. It's true that if you are honnest, show goodwill and talk openly about problems, you can solve a lot of them.

Pattern: Tasks Distributions

Similar to DivideAndConquer but with a project plan. Distribute clearly tasks, roles and responsibilities. Problem : keep WorkAsaTeam...

Pattern: Time To Market

A good idea is a good idea only when it comes at the right time.

Pattern: Think Out Of The Box

The most powerfull tool you have when you face a problem is to be able to think differently to achieve the goal. Strange ideas have proven to work for me like for instance partner with a competitor to win a deal.

The concept is to say, how would I resolve this if I were not me, but someone else. It's about removing constraints (time, money, resources, technology) in order to find new ways to solve the problem.

The big problem with Thinking Out Of The Box is that it requires you a lot of energy because the majority of people don't like new solutions : They are not able to do the KillYourDarlings. So what you will need is YouHaveToGoThroughIt, GiveYourselfTheMeansToSucceed, RepeatRepeatRepeat and FightUntiltheEnd.

Pattern: Teach Back

How to make sure someone understood what you just said ? Ask him to explain you what you asked him just a second ago.

Pattern: What Vs How

When you a complex task, it's always important to be able to separate what you have to do from how you will achieve the tasks. It allows you to have more options for solving the problem by separating concerns.

When you know exactly what you need to do you are more likely to find out how you can make it and what the possible options are...

Pattern: When In Doubt Leave It Out

If you are not sure about something it's maybe better to exclude it from the debate andforce yourself to go back finding the relevant information before making any statement of decision...

Pattern: Work As A Team

No single battle was won by a General alone. Unless you are a genious you can't achieve much alone. You need to learn to team up, trust and respect people in order to achieve great results.

Pattern: You Have To Go Through It

(My favorite one) If you are very clever (and I'm sure you are), you will very easilly find the best good solution to a problem (good is ok because NothingIsPerfect). The problem is that others won't get it immediately (see RepeatRepeatRepeat).

You will need to be ready for a very long processs.

First the problem -not the solution - should be discussed such that everybody has the same understanding. Then options for a possible solution should be exposed and understood by everybody. Finally you can defend your solution. After a long process and many questions, your solution is finally chosen. (If not you are defintely frustrated but it can happen of course, at lease in 50% of the cases). Even if your solution is chosen, you will have to detail it completely because Quality Managers want to be sure that they are convinced.

Unless you manage a Tiger team or a elite troup, the lead time from your idea to its realization is always very long. You need to be prepared for RepeatRepeatRepeat and request a lot of KillYourDarlings.

Pattern: Constructive Competition

In order to be excellent there is noting better than competition. Learn to use competition in order to become better yourself. Congratulate your competitors when they win and learn from their victories. It's the path for your own future success.

I did the best Software designs when I was challenged by another architect. I plaid my best tennis matches against the strongest players... You can't always win, but you can always improve. (I will not write on why we should always improve because I'm not fully convinced myself...)

Pattern: Match Answers to Questions

(In french I call this "La réponse du Berger à la Bergère"...)

When someone asks you for information, you should always match the style of its question. It's a common mistake to answer too much or too little to the question. Here are some examples :

  • a 400 pages RFP --> a 400 Pages offer
  • a short question --> a short response
  • a long question --> a long response
  • a question about details --> a response about details

Often customer ask for the "methodology" and the "best practices". It's NOT enough to ask for it. As a supplier, you have to ask more details on his side such that you keep the balance in the information that the dialogue gets going.

Example : the customer asks you for a presentation on "Knowledge Management", it's not a good idea to come and explain all your expertise and references and products on knowledge management without knowing what the customer actually means by "Knowledge Management".

Don't show all your cards at the begining of the game... Communication has to be bi-directional. Ask the 7W before telling your story !

Pattern:List of Management Patterns


Last edited on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 12:00:04 pm.