Progression of Responsibility



While reading Lean Enterprise, I’m coming up with a lot of great ideas and improvements for my organization. Much of the book so far has been about how to properly execute portfolio management within an enterprise to make sure that (1) you maximize ROI, and (2) you don’t manage your existing proven products with an investment horizon of this year or this quarter the same way that you would manage innovation products that have a longer investment horizon. It’s a fascinating read.

Something occurred to me though. In order to gain entry into the higher level strategic decisions, one must first master the lower level ones. Here’s a progression I can see, that I wish I knew about ten years ago:

  1. Personal Effectiveness: do you take on work in an efficient, organized way? Do you have a system for getting things done, a system for communicating with others, for follow-up, for what to do when things get difficult? Do you know when you’re overcommitting?
  2. Planning Effectiveness: do you understand why we are doing what we are doing on this project? Do you measure things in terms of how they will profit your company or on some other, less meaningful way? Do you have a way to create value for your stakeholders quickly by strategically prioritizing certain things over others? Do you know what the short-term and long-term risks to the product and what can be done about them?
  3. Management Effectiveness: do you know how to measure success? Have you linked the measurement to profitability of the company? Are you able to iteratively create improvements to measurements in a fluid, changing situation? Are people motivated by your leadership and understand the parameters that you’ve set out that measures your team’s success?
  4. Executive Effectiveness: are you able to create profitability for the various products in your portfolio in a way that respects their lifecycle? Are your established, older products increasing in quality and customer satisfaction? Have your newer innovative products succeeded in creating new markets, as measured by appropriate metrics? Has your team leadership received the appropriate amount of direction (not too detailed to constrain innovation and not too broad to create chaos)? Have you had innovation experiments that have failed in the past three months, that had minimal investment yet provided a valuable lesson for the leadership team?

Right now I’m at #3. It’s fun reading about #4 in the book, but I do realize the trap of trying to live in a place that is beyond your current capability: If you live in a later stage than you’re at right now, you end up ignoring the key elements that are needed to progress to the next stage. So I can start thinking a lot about portfolio management or how we would manage innovative products differently than our established products. But if I get too caught up in that, I avoid the reality for me right now: I need to find a measurement of success that leads to profitability of my company for every project that I’m doing, be able to communicate that to others, and manage its improvement with a team. That will be my focus over the next year or so.

If someone comes to me about how we need to do a better job planning yet don’t have an established workflow for how they manage their own work, I quickly get them focused on that.

If someone wants to be a manager of a group but can’t see what that group is doing strategically and the trade-offs that exist in the group, I get them focused on that.

You have to master your current responsibilities before you can progress to others.

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