What Managers Do

Outcomes aren’t “managed”, processes and behaviors are.  Outcomes are consequences, which we analyze for the purpose of informing system design and driving behavior.  Thus, if management is to drive processes and behaviors, its stand to reason that knowledge about how they’re performing would be critical. Yet, we often don’t collect these data, and if we do, we struggle to understand what they’re telling us.

Furthermore, managers would be masters at systems design and improvement, and skilled at influencing behavior. Yet, managers are best at creating schedules, tracking budgets, coordinating resources, and analyzing outcomes.  And we’re great at getting performance evaluations done by the deadline (notice I didn’t say how great we are at performance evaluations).

So, do we have this all wrong? What are the barriers to getting it right?  Lack of time? If so, why do we lack time?  –  We all know the answer to that one: we spend so much time on the other stuff.

Senior managers often ask: “What are your results?” and “What are you doing to improve them?”  Therefore, that’s where we focus.  Instead they might want to ask: “What are your critical processes and vital behaviors?” and “What are you doing to improve them, and how are you doing with that?”

I’ve talked about care experience survey results before, which are sampled outcomes, lag by about a month, and are reported monthly, which further adds to the lagging.  In other words, they’re outcomes – and it’s behaviors and processes on which we ought to focus day-to-day.

To manage these two things, we first identify, define, measure and analyze them.  Then can we manage and improve them. And in doing this we perform cause analysis, solve problems (breakdown barriers) and execute change.   – And the big one: influence behavior.

I’ve found that getting people to see things differently, and think about things differently as well as creatively, is often an important step. Human biases are multiple and strong. In my opinion changing paradigms is critical for changing behavior.  When one is creative they are essentially building new paradigms.

Deming was correct when he made the psychology of people a pillar of quality improvement, along with systems thinking, knowledge processing (learning), and variation analysis.  Good managers know the psychology of people and use it to influence behaviors.