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Questions A Successful Manager Can Answer About Work

Do you have a thorough understanding of the work taking place in the department you’re managing? Often managers we meet don’t have a firm grasp of how work actually gets done through their department. Here are twelve questions a successful manager can answer about work within their responsibility. Knowing answers to these questions will provide the foundation for successful department management and prepare you for increased responsibility within your organization.


What A Successful Manager Knows About Work


1. What is the primary mission of your department?

Every department must have a reason to exist. The mission defines the purpose of that department’s existence and why it is important to the overall enterprise mission.   In general terms, the mission of any department is to provide products and/or services that delight its customer while fulfilling other important needs, such as profitability.


2. Who are the main customers and suppliers of your department?

We find that about 20% of all improvement opportunities come from organizational silos. Successful department managers know both customers and suppliers to their departments and put in place service level agreements that assure alignment on both sides of department boundaries.


3. What business processes exist in your department and why?

Identifying a business process is the beginning of understanding the composition of work within your department.  Ultimately moving products and services through the department in a series of business processes accomplishes a department’s mission.


4. How does workflow through each business process?

Very few leaders actually know how work gets done within their organization. The business processes identified above are performed through a series of tasks accessing knowledge. This is where real performance takes place. Every business process should have a Process Owner who is responsible and accountable for the successful delivery of that process.


5. What is the primary deliverable of each process?

At its most basic element, all work can be summarized as the production of specific deliverables that, when formed together, create an organization’s value proposition. Rarely do we find deliverables that are well defined with clear specifications driving their creation.


6. How do your business processes connect and align?

A Business System Diagram provides a succinct view of the workflow and connectivity within a department. The BSD allows the manager to understand how his or her area of responsibility works and what processes contribute most to the business system’s value proposition. A Business System Diagram that defines a department’s business processes and high-level workflows should be on the wall of every department manager’s office.


7. What do you measure and why?

Every performance measure should have a specific role in furthering the department purpose. Many organizations measure what’s easy versus what’s important. By carefully integrating performance measurements with goals, the manager can be confident that improved performance positively contributes to desired outcomes.


8. What skills, resources, and knowledge are needed to deliver your mission?

A well thought out RACI matrix can serve as a basis for understanding the skills, resources, and knowledge necessary to deliver a department’s mission. In addition, decentralizing information to the source of its use can be a very powerful way to increase transparency, improve employee capability and streamline work.


9. How do you empower your staff?

Those who do the work should define and improve their work. Successful managers regularly engage employees in improving department workflows and empowering them to make a difference.


10. What are your top 10 improvement opportunities?

Looking at individual business processes, a department manager can easily have a portfolio of 200 to 300 improvement opportunities. These opportunities can typically be summarized into the top 10 to 15 opportunities that should be attacked at the department level.


11. What is your plan to improve?

While most departments are working on some level of improvement, rarely are they formalized and communicated to department staff. We recommend a GMOST (Goals, Metrics, Opportunities, Strategies, and Tactics) template for department planning. By creating and implementing a GMOST plan, the manager creates an improvement engine that delivers sustainable improvement.


12. How does your department contribute to strategy?

Strategy without process is like a head without the body. A lack of organization alignment is an underlying cause of many problems and opportunities in organizations. Every department must have its goals aligned with the overall goals of the enterprise along with its mission, vision, and values.


Becoming a successful manager means having a clear understanding of the business processes you’re managing that deliver work. Strong business processes provide the engine that powers department performance. By defining, improving and aligning work, department managers gain the ability to deliver superior value to customers, improve performance and substantially mitigate risks.


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