We didn’t know it was “Process Based Management” but we knew it worked

Posted on: May 19th, 2016 by Steve Martin No Comments

It happened so long ago, it seems like another life. In our offices on Franklin Street in Richmond, my brother David gathered together for a big announcement the dozen or so employees of Martin & Woltz who would remain with us. George WoItz had left the agency and by mutual agreement had taken some business and employees with him. From that day forward the firm would be known as The Martin Agency. It was an optimistic meeting. We had a few good accounts, a positive attitude, and some very talented people on staff. We also a management system that was working for us. We almost never missed a deadline, and the work was done well and on budget.

Twenty years later, when I was helping a management consulting firm with a book, I learned our management system was known as “Process Based Management” [PBM], and it was an unusual methodology for its time. Perhaps it’s no wonder The Martin Agency grew steadily at the beginning and eventually took off like a rocket. At one point we won six new business pitches in a row for large accounts, and for a while we had to work 60 hour weeks to keep up. A testimony to the effectiveness of the management system, however, is that everything soon fell into line, settled down, and steady growth continued. The Martin Agency now boasts more than 500 employees and has offices in New York and London as well as Richmond.

Today, at Hawley Martin, we use what we learned back then to do more than create marketing communications. We help clients plot growth courses and develop action plans to reach higher levels in the industries they serve. We help them identity visions and install our version of PBM to manage the growth that comes about as a result. We call our version of PBM “The Martin Management Method” [M3]. Jim Maxwell and I – Jim worked hand in glove with brother David for more than ten years – have written a book about it. If you’d like a copy, send me an email and I will send you an electronic copy. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview.Layout 1

Without structure and guidance, the efforts and actions of leaders and workers within an organization can be chaotic, much as might be the case for a team without a playbook––whose players do not know the rules of the game. Its members might work hard, may try their best, but their efforts may do very little to advance the team toward the goal because they haven’t been coordinated, choreographed or channeled in a way that gets everyone doing his part to move the ball forward. That is what M3 is designed to do.

M3 is a system comprised of a few simple rules and actions involving scorecards, action registers, and interlocking teams. Once instituted, individuals will know what they need to do to succeed personally, as well as what they should do to help the organization succeed as an enterprise. Like a playbook, M3 consists of activities and rules intended to result in predictable outcomes, i.e., to move a company toward the accomplishment of its mission and the realization of a shared vision. Like a team that has studied its playbook and knows each play by heart, everyone in the organization works within clearly defined and commonly understood parameters. This gets the whole group working together like a championship team on a drive to the end zone.

Managing by personality, which is often what charismatic leaders do, creates an inconsistent workplace. People never know what to expect. Managing by process, on the other hand, drives consistency. Influential and effective leaders are often characterized as being consistent. They have a strategy, they stay the course, they know how to get there. They stay constant, stable and unwavering. Consistency starts with clearly communicating expectations and the consequences for failing to meet them. We call these non-negotiables.

Non-negotiables (rules) represent minimum requirements all leaders and teams throughout the company must adhere to in order to stay focused and consistent. For example, members of an organization using our method must attend certain meetings at regular intervals, they must be on time, and they must follow certain rules such as Roberts Rules of Order. Leaders should know and adhere to what team members expect of them and vice versa. Team members should know and adhere to what they expect of one another.

If you have ever been on a successful sports team, you know that everyone comes to understand what’s expected of one another over time, and that no one wants to let down his teammates. Rather than wait for this to happen, each team in an organization should define behavioral expectations at the outset, i.e., what the leader expects of the team and what the team expects from the leader. Team members should also define what they expect from each other. Team members and the leader define and document their expectations, then discuss them. Teams reach agreement on the visible behaviors defined by each expectation and commit to do their best to demonstrate them in daily operations. These are documented in a team handbook developed and written by the team.

Non-negotiables are combined with specific tools such as scorecards and action registers, which we are about to explain, to create a sense of urgency and accountability. They are part of a process that gives a team and its leader to ability to identify the actions needed to move the organization toward specific goals. Some clients we have helped use our system to run a large company or organization. But it can also be used to run a single department or a small business of less than a dozen employees. Communication will not be a big issue for the latter, but it’s an ever-present challenge in an organization made up of hundreds or even thousands of people. Our method provides a way for the leadership of a large organization to communicate quickly and effectively and to coordinate efforts and activities of teams up, down and throughout the business. This is possible because the organization’s teams interlock so that communication can flow freely from one team to another.

Many individuals will be on a team they lead, and these same leaders will be a member of a team on the next level up. For example, the head of manufacturing at an industrial plant might be the leader of a team made up of the leaders of each production line team. But he or she will also be a member of the primary team headed by the plant manager––along with peer team leaders from engineering, marketing, material supply, and other disciplines that operate from the plant. In this way, what happens or is decided in a primary team meeting can flow quickly to the manufacturing group and to the other areas of the business through the team leaders of each.

Any number of teams can exist within an organization, starting with the primary team, which is headed by the top leader in the business and his or her direct reports. The team structure then cascades throughout the organization at all levels and functions. Business scorecards are a key component of the system. They represent a simple and concise tracking mechanism that allows a team to monitor and respond to business metrics. The purpose of scorecards is to provide a clear and concise business focus for each team and to drive the direct lines of accountability for each team’s contribution to the overall effort. The primary team should take on the task of developing a global scorecard to measure the overall performance of the organization. The global scorecard should address each important area of the business. Objectives should be high-level and supported by objectives incorporated on scorecards at other levels of the organization. This is how the leadership team is able to get everyone and everything moving toward accomplishing the organization’s performance goals.

Once the global scorecard is complete, teams down the line should begin developing scorecards specifically defining how they support the global scorecard. Each team should have a minimum of one objective for each key business-focus area. Scorecard development cascades throughout all organizational levels until every team in the organization has its own set. The primary team should review the global scorecard weekly during its team meeting. Teams in the rest of the organization should review their scorecards weekly as well, and they should review the global scorecard at least monthly. Discussing scorecards gives meetings a sense of urgency. A scorecard also reinforces accountability. First, it does so by listing performance targets for each objective. As objectives are tracked, results are compared against these targets to gauge team performance. A scorecard also drives accountability because it identifies the owners of specific objectives.

Owners track and update the metrics related to their objectives but are not necessarily the ones assigned to take corrective action when corrective action is required. Any member of the team may volunteer or be assigned to perform such a task when needed. Teams are required to send scorecards monthly to senior management for review along with corrective action plans for any objectives not being met. Knowing senior management is going to review what you have or have not accomplished is highly motivational. Action registers form another important component of M3 because they make accountability on the part of employees visible and measurable. It’s one thing to tell someone he is accountable for an action. It’s another for someone to know his action, or lack of action, will be seen and noted by his peers as well as upper management.

Action registers document action items that result from team meetings. An action register, for example, details corrective action plans the team and its members need to take to improve performance metrics that are not meeting targeted levels. Meetings begin with an action register review of items that should have been completed for that meeting and conclude with an action register review of new items identified during the meeting. This includes verbal and written verification of the persons responsible and the agreed upon completion dates.

In summary, our system is a combination of non-negotiables, scorecards, action registers, and interlocking teams. These form a powerful process that constitutes a system that will enable you to fully harness the collective power of the people who make up your organization. The Martin Management Method enables you to mold them into an all-star team that’s pushing in unison toward goals you have set. Send me an email and I’ll send you the entire book in electronic form.

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