The three-act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not. – Edoardo Nolfo
Saturdays are when I take the opportunity to duck into old book stores, hoping to chance upon something interesting.
Today I came across one of the books in the One Minute Manager series, the one where you meet the monkey – which led me to revisit the original text.
The One Minute Manager, in case you aren’t already aware, is short book that tells you a story about a very effective manager.
It’s been variously criticised for being plagiarised, being a simple variant on business planning and general all around faddishness.
But, it gets an observation right in the first few pages where it says, “It seems most managers in the world were primarily interested either in results or in people.”
After that it does go rather downhill – but there are still some things we can learn from that.
First, it talks about goals.
A good manager makes sure that it’s clear what your responsibility is and what you are accountable for. OA That must seem obvious, really. It’s just like being at the starting line and hearing the official shout, “Ready.”
Although I disagree with the words “responsibility” and “accountability”. And, while we’re on the subject, the word “goal”.
If you want someone else to do something for you then the responsibility for getting it done sits with you, not with the other person.
Accountability is, in my experience, simply a stick that people like to have in case they have to beat someone else with it.
Nothing else in nature requires accountability – trees don’t need KPIs to grow.
Only people need them – but they’re rarely used for anything useful.
We might come back to that later…
Then there are goals – what you want.
But actually, what we should be starting with is a shared purpose.
Purpose is defined as, “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”
If you explain to your employee why they are doing something, then they are more likely to come up with a good way for how to do it.
For example, if your goal is to respond to emails within two days, then you will find that most emails responses will be done in a timeframe that meets those goals.
But, what is the purpose of that goal?
Is it because your employees just don’t respond to you fast enough so you think this rule will fix it?
Is it because if a customer doesn’t get a response to a query they often take their business elsewhere?
So it’s important that you respond to customer emails as soon as possible.
Once an employee gets that they’ll respond as soon as they can, which will probably be in less than two days.
Getting clear on purpose is actually the first step – what you should do when you hear “Ready.”
Then there’s “Set.” In the One Minute Manager this is pretty much put down as “praise”.
Find things that are being done right and praise people for them.
That’s a sensible way to be – everyone gets a boost out of being praised and will often do a lot more to get a chance at being praised.
Warren Buffett’s managers, for example, are often delighted if they’re praised publicly in his shareholder letters.
People who get praised are happier at work and do more without being asked.
I don’t know that for certain – but it seems like something that should be true.
Which then takes us to “Go.”
Which the One Minute Manager actually seems to think of as a “reprimand”,
Basically, how to tell people off when they’ve done something wrong.
I think that step is probably the wrong one.
First, if they make a mistake remember that the responsibility is yours – you need to get clearer on purpose and know what’s going on – so you can praise them when they get it right.
If things go wrong, however, the right step is probably “feedback”.
Feedback is where you point out what’s gone wrong and why and how to avoid it in the future.
It’s about revisiting purpose and seeing if it’s clear or not to everyone involved.
Now, when it comes to implementing these in your own business the One Minute Manager also makes the mistake of creating a checklist – a bunch of things you should do.
Which is all very positivist and scientific and cookie cutter and formulaic.
Now, a checklist is a good thing if it reminds you what you should do.
It works less well when it’s a prescriptive list of what you must do.
The second approach works well if you’re doing aircraft pre-flight checks.
It works less well when you’re working with people.
With them, it’s about spending time talking – about sharing what’s in your head and what you’re trying to achieve.
And then you can work together to make something happen.
That can sound very simplistic but actually, this is where the One Minute Manager comes up with two insights you should really remember.
First, a company spends three quarters of everything it spends on salaries for people.
The same company often spends almost nothing on training the same people.
And second, you have three options as a manager.
You can hire winners and let them get on and deliver results.
You can hire regular people and put in the time to teach and coach them to be winners.
Or you can hire people and rely on prayer to get results.
Which one are you doing at the moment?