📚️ Book Notes: High Output Management
Training is the manager's job. Along with motivation. Your management style should change with the task-relevant maturity, going from hands-on to high-level supervision.
Here are my notes from High Output Management:
1. A manager’s skills and knowledge are only valuable if she uses them to get more leverage from her people. So, Ms. Manager, you know more about our product’s viral loop than anyone in the company? That’s worth exactly nothing unless you can effectively transfer that knowledge to the rest of the organization. That’s what being a manager is about. It’s not about how smart you are or how well you know your business; it’s about how that translates to the team’s performance and output.
As a means to obtain this leverage, a manager must understand, as Andy writes: “When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated.” This insight enables a manager to dramatically focus her efforts. All you can do to improve the output of an employee is motivate and train. There is nothing else.
As he describes the planning process, Andy sums up his essential point with this eloquent nugget of wisdom: “I have seen far too many people who upon recognizing today’s gap try very hard to determine what decision has to be made to close it. But today’s gap represents a failure of planning sometime in the past.” Hopefully, the value of this short insight is not lost on the young reader. If you only understand one thing about building products, you must understand that energy put in early in the process pays off tenfold and energy put in at the end of the program pays off negative tenfold.
2. Many years after reading High Output Management, I met Andy for the first time. Upon seeing him, I was so excited that I immediately blurted out how much I loved the book. In classic Andy Grove style, he shot back: “Why?” I did not expect that. I thought that he would say, “Thank you” or “I appreciate that,” but not “Why?” But that was Andy. He was always teaching and always expecting more from every student.
3. Another sound way to anticipate the future is through the use of the stagger chart, which forecasts an output over the next several months. The chart is updated monthly, so that each month you will have an updated version of the then-current forecast information as compared to several prior forecasts. You can readily see the variation of one forecast from the next, which can help you anticipate future trends better than if you used a simple trend chart.
In my experience, nowhere has the stagger chart been more productive than in forecasting economic trends. The way it works is shown in the figure below, which gives us forecasted rates of incoming orders for an Intel division. The stagger chart then provides the same forecast prepared in the following month, in the month after that, and so on. Such a chart shows not only your outlook for business month by month but also how your outlook varied from one month to the next. This way of looking at incoming business, of course, makes whoever does the forecasting take his task very seriously, because he knows that his forecast for any given month will be routinely compared with future forecasts and eventually with the actual result. But even more important, the improvement or deterioration of the forecasted outlook from one month to the next provides the most valuable indicator of business trends that I have ever seen. I would go as far as to say that it’s too bad that all economists and investment advisers aren’t obliged to display their forecasts in a stagger chart form. Then we could really have a way to evaluate whatever any one of them chooses to say.
4. Manufacturing’s charter is to deliver product at a quality level acceptable to the customer at minimum cost. To assure that the quality of our product will in fact be acceptable, all production flows, whether they “make” breakfasts, college graduates, or software modules, must possess inspection points. To get acceptable quality at the lowest cost, it is vitally important to reject defective material at a stage where its accumulated value is at the lowest possible level. Thus, as noted, we are better off catching a bad raw egg than a cooked one, and screening out our college applicant before he visits Intel. In short, reject before investing further value.
In the language of production, the lowest-value-point inspection where we inspect raw material is called incoming material inspection or receiving inspection. If we again use a black box to represent our production process, inspections that occur at intervening points within it are called, logically enough, in-process inspections. Finally, the last possible point of inspection, when the product is ready to be shipped to the customer, is called final inspection or outgoing quality inspection.
5. If our government wants British tourists to visit the United States, our government should not irritate these would-be visitors. And if the embassy can’t get the money to increase its staff, a simple solution can be borrowed from basic production techniques. We need, in short, to replace their present scheme with a quality assurance test.
For that, the bureaucratic minds at the embassy would need to accept that a 100 percent check of the visa applicants is unnecessary. Some 98 percent of those applying are approved without any question. So if the embassy were to institute a sampling test of visas (a quality assurance test), and a thorough one at that, the logjam of applications could be broken without materially increasing the chance that the undesirable will enter our country. Moreover, the embassy could select the sample to be checked according to predetermined criteria. The visa processing could then work rather like the Internal Revenue Service. Through the checks and audits that the IRS performs, that government agency induces compliance among most taxpayers without having an agent look at every single return.
Later, when we examine managerial productivity, we’ll see that when a manager digs deeply into a specific activity under his jurisdiction, he’s applying the principle of variable inspection. If the manager examined everything his various subordinates did, he would be meddling, which for the most part would be a waste of his time. Even worse, his subordinates would become accustomed to not being responsible for their own work, knowing full well that their supervisor will check everything out closely. The principle of variable inspection applied to managerial work nicely skirts both problems, and, as we shall see, gives us an important tool for improving managerial productivity.
6. I’d like to introduce the concept of leverage, which is the output generated by a specific type of work activity. An activity with high leverage will generate a high level of output; an activity with low leverage, a low level of output. For example, a waiter able to boil two eggs and operate two toasters can deliver two breakfasts for almost the same amount of work as one. His output per activity, and therefore his leverage, is high. A waiter who can handle only one egg and one toaster at a time possesses lower output and leverage. The software engineer using a programming language rather like English, later to be translated by a compiler, can solve many problems per hour of programming. His output and leverage are high. A software engineer using a more cumbersome programming method of ones and zeros will require many more hours to solve the same number of problems. His output and leverage are low. Thus, a very important way to increase productivity is to arrange the work flow inside our black box so that it will be characterized by high output per activity, which is to say high-leverage activities.
7. To improve and maintain your capacity to get information, you have to understand the way it comes to you. There’s a hierarchy involved. Verbal sources are the most valuable, but what they provide is also sketchy, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, like a newspaper headline that can give you only the general idea of a story. A headline can’t give any of the details and might even give you a distorted idea of what the real story is. So you then read the newspaper article itself to find out who, what, where, why, and how. After this, you should have some reiteration and perspective, which can be compared to reading a news magazine or even a book. Each level in your information hierarchy is important, and you can rely on none alone. Though the most thorough information might come from the news magazine, you do not, of course, want to wait a full week after an event to find out about it. Your information sources should complement one another, and also be redundant because that gives you a way to verify what you’ve learned.
There is an especially efficient way to get information, much neglected by most managers. That is to visit a particular place in the company and observe what’s going on there. Why should you do this? Think of what happens when somebody comes to see a manager in his office. A certain stop-and-start dynamics occurs when the visitor sits down, something socially dictated. While a two-minute kernel of information is exchanged, the meeting often takes a half hour. But if a manager walks through an area and sees a person with whom he has a two-minute concern, he can simply stop, cover it, and be on his way. Ditto for the subordinate when he initiates conversation. Accordingly, such visits are an extremely effective and efficient way to transact managerial business.
Then why are they underutilized? Because of the awkwardness that managers feel about walking through an area without a specific task in mind. At Intel we combat this problem by using programmed visits meant to accomplish formal tasks, but which also set the stage for ad hoc mini-transactions. For example, we ask our managers to participate in “Mr. Clean” inspections, in which they go to a part of the company that they normally wouldn’t visit. The managers examine the housekeeping, the arrangement of things, the labs, and the safety equipment, and in so doing spend an hour or so browsing around and getting acquainted with things firsthand.
8. Consider Robin, an Intel finance manager, responsible for setting up the annual financial planning process for the company. When Robin defines in advance exactly what information needs to be gathered and presented at each stage of the planning process and lays out who is responsible for what, she directly affects the subsequent work of perhaps two hundred people who participate in the planning process. By spending a certain amount of time in advance of the planning activities, Robin will help to eliminate confusion and ambiguity for a large population of managers over an extended period of time. Consequently, her work contributes to the productivity of the entire organization and clearly has great leverage, leverage that depends, however, on when it is performed. Work done in advance of the planning meeting obviously has great leverage. If Robin has to scramble later to help a manager define guidelines and milestones, her work will clearly have much less leverage.
Another example of leverage that depends on timely action is what you do when you learn that a valued subordinate has decided to quit. In such a case, you must direct yourself to the situation immediately if you want to change the person’s mind. If you put it off, all your chances are lost. Thus to maximize the leverage of his activities, a manager must keep timeliness, which is often critical, firmly in mind.
Leverage can also be negative. Some managerial activities can reduce the output of an organization. I mean something very simple. Suppose I am a key participant at a meeting and I arrive unprepared. Not only do I waste the time of the people attending the meeting because of my lack of preparation—a direct cost of my carelessness—but I deprive the other participants of the opportunity to use that time to do something else.
9. The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them. For me, paying close attention to customer complaints constitutes a high-leverage activity. Aside from making a customer happy, the pursuit tends to produce important insights into the workings of my own operation. Such complaints may be numerous, and though all of them need to be followed up by someone, they don’t all require or wouldn’t all benefit from my personal attention. Which one out of ten or twenty complaints to dig into, analyze, and follow up is where art comes into the work of a manager. The basis of that art is an intuition that behind this complaint and not the other lurk many deeper problems.
10. How often should you have one-on-ones? Or put another way, how do you decide how often somebody needs such a meeting? The answer is the job- or task-relevant maturity of each of your subordinates. In other words, how much experience does a given subordinate have with the specific task at hand? This is not the same as the experience he has in general or how old he is. As we will see later, the most effective management style in a specific instance varies from very close to very loose supervision as a subordinate’s task maturity increases. Accordingly, you should have one-on-ones frequently (for example, once a week) with a subordinate who is inexperienced in a specific situation and less frequently (perhaps once every few weeks) with an experienced veteran.
11. What is the role of the supervisor in a one-on-one? He should facilitate the subordinate’s expression of what’s going on and what’s bothering him. The supervisor is there to learn and to coach. Peter Drucker sums up the supervisor’s job here very nicely: “The good time users among managers do not talk to their subordinates about their problems but they know how to make the subordinates talk about theirs.”
How is this done? By applying Grove’s Principle of Didactic Management, “Ask one more question!” When the supervisor thinks the subordinate has said all he wants to about a subject, he should ask another question. He should try to keep the flow of thoughts coming by prompting the subordinate with queries until both feel satisfied that they have gotten to the bottom of a problem.
12. What is the leverage of the one-on-one? Let’s say you have a one-on-one with your subordinate every two weeks, and it lasts one and a half hours. Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours, and also upgrade your understanding of what he’s doing. Clearly, one-on-ones can exert enormous leverage. This happens through the development of a common base of information and similar ways of doing and handling things between the supervisor and the subordinate. And this, as noted, is the only way in which efficient and effective delegation can take place.
At the same time, the subordinate teaches the supervisor, and what is learned is absolutely essential if the supervisor is to make good decisions. During a recent one-on-one meeting, my subordinate, who is responsible for Intel’s sales organization, reviewed trend indicators of incoming orders. While I was vaguely familiar with them, he laid out a lot of specific information and convinced me that our business had stopped growing. Even though the summer is typically slow, he proved to me that what was going on was not just seasonal. After we pondered the data for a while and considered their relationship to other indicators of business activity in our industry, we came to the reluctant conclusion that business was in fact slowing down. This meant we should take a conservative approach to near-term investment—no small matter.
By sharing his base of information with me, the two of us developed a congruent attitude, approach, and conclusion: conservatism in our expansion plans. He left the meeting having decided to scale back growth in his own area of responsibility. I left having decided to share what we had concluded with the business groups I supervised. Thus, this one-on-one produced substantial leverage: the Intel sales manager affected all the other managers who reported to me.
To digress a bit, I also think that one-on-ones at home can help family life. As the father of two teenage daughters, I have found that the conversation in such a time together is very different in tone and kind from what we say to each other in other circumstances. The one-on-one makes each of us take the other seriously and allows subtle and complicated matters to come up for discussion. Obviously, no notes are taken, as father and daughter usually go out for dinner at a restaurant, but a family one-on-one very much resembles a business one-on-one. I strongly recommend both practices.
13. An estimate of the dollar cost of a manager’s time, including overhead, is about $100 per hour. So a meeting involving ten managers for two hours costs the company $2,000. Most expenditures of $2,000 have to be approved in advance by senior people—like buying a copying machine or making a transatlantic trip—yet a manager can call a meeting and commit $2,000 worth of managerial resources at a whim. So even if you’re just an invited participant, you should ask yourself if the meeting—and your attendance—is desirable and justified. Tell the chairman—the person who invited you—if you do not feel it is. Determine the purpose of a meeting before committing your time and your company’s resources. Get it called off early, at a low-value-added stage, if a meeting makes no sense, and find a less costly way (a one-on-one meeting, a telephone call, a note) to pursue the matter.
14. The most common problem is something we call the peer-group syndrome. A number of years ago, at Intel’s very first management training session, we tried some role-playing to show people what can occur when a group of peers meets to solve a problem or make a decision. We sat the people around a table to tackle what was then a live issue for them in their real jobs. Everyone was an organizational equal. The chairman of the meeting was one level higher, but was purposely sent out of the room so he couldn’t hear what was to happen. Observers in the audience couldn’t believe their eyes and ears as the mock meeting proceeded. The managers working on the problem did nothing but go around in circles for some fifteen minutes, and none of them noticed they weren’t getting anywhere. When the chairman was brought back in, he sat down and listened for a while and couldn’t believe things either. We watched him lean forward as if he were trying to glean more from the conversation. We then saw a black cloud form over his head; finally he slapped the table and exclaimed, “What’s going on here? You people are talking in circles and getting nowhere.” After the chairman intervened, the problem was resolved in very short order. We named this the peer-plus-one approach, and have used it since then to aid decision-making where we must. Peers tend to look for a more senior manager, even if he is not the most competent or knowledgeable person involved, to take over and shape a meeting.
15. The key to both Bruce’s and Cindy’s efforts is that their planning produced tasks that had to be performed now in order to affect future events. I have seen far too many people who upon recognizing today’s gap try very hard to determine what decision has to be made to close it. But today’s gap represents a failure of planning sometime in the past. By analogy, forcing ourselves to concentrate on the decisions needed to fix today’s problem is like scurrying after our car has already run out of gas. Clearly we should have filled up earlier. To avoid such a fate, remember that as you plan you must answer the question: What do I have to do today to solve—or better, avoid—tomorrow’s problem?
Thus, the true output of the planning process is the set of tasks it causes to be implemented. The output of Intel’s annual plan, for instance, is the actions taken and changes prompted as a result of the thinking process that took place throughout the organization. I, for one, hardly ever look at the bound volume finally called the Annual Plan. In other words, the output of the planning process is the decisions made and the actions taken as a result of the process.
How far ahead should the planners look? At Intel, we put ourselves through an annual strategic long-range planning effort in which we examine our future five years off. But what is really being influenced here? It is the next year—and only the next year. We will have another chance to replan the second of the five years in the next year’s long-range planning meeting, when that year will become the first year of the five. So, keep in mind that you implement only that portion of a plan that lies within the time window between now and the next time you go through the exercise. Everything else you can look at again. We should also be careful not to plan too frequently, allowing ourselves time to judge the impact of the decisions we made and to determine whether our decisions were on the right track or not. In other words, we need the feedback that will be indispensable to our planning the next time around.
16. When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated. To determine which, we can employ a simple mental test: if the person’s life depended on doing the work, could he do it? If the answer is yes, that person is not motivated; if the answer is no, he is not capable. If my life depended on playing the violin on command, I could not do it. But if I had to run a mile in six minutes, I probably could. Not that I would want to, but if my life depended on it, I probably could.
17. The social needs stem from the inherent desire of human beings to belong to some group or other. But people don’t want to belong to just any group; they need to belong to one whose members possess something in common with themselves. For example, when people are excited, confident, or happy, they want to be around people who are also excited, confident, or happy. Conversely, misery loves not just any company, but the company of other miserable people. Nobody who is miserable wants to be around someone happy.
Social needs are quite powerful. A friend of mine decided to go back to work after many years of minding her home. She took a low-paying job, which did little for her family’s standard of living. For a long time, I didn’t understand why she did what she did, but finally it dawned on me: she needed the companionship her work offered. Going to work meant being around a group of people she liked.
18. The need for esteem or recognition is readily apparent in the cliché “keeping up with the Joneses.” Such striving is commonly frowned upon, but if an athlete’s “Jones” is last year’s Olympic gold medalist, or if an actor’s “Jones” is Laurence Olivier, the need to keep up with or emulate someone is a powerful source of positive motivation. The person or group whose recognition you desire may mean nothing to someone else—esteem exists in the eyes of the beholder. If you are an aspiring high school athlete and one of the top players passes you in the hall and says hello, you’ll feel terrific. Yet if you try to tell your family or friends how pleased you were about the encounter, you are likely to be met with blank stares, because the “hello” means nothing to people who are not aspiring athletes in your high school.
All of the sources of motivation we’ve talked about so far are self-limiting. That is, when a need is gratified, it can no longer motivate a person. Once a predetermined goal or level of achievement is reached, the need to go any further loses urgency. A friend of mine was thrust into a premature “mid-life crisis” when, in recognition of the excellent work he had been doing, he was named a vice president of the corporation. Such a position had been a life-long goal. When he had suddenly attained it, he found himself looking for some other way to motivate himself.
19. That makes the cliché apply: if you can’t beat them, join them—endow work with the characteristics of competitive sports. And the best way to get that spirit into the workplace is to establish some rules of the game and ways for employees to measure themselves. Eliciting peak performance means going up against something or somebody. Let me give you a simple example. For years the performance of the Intel facilities maintenance group, which is responsible for keeping our buildings clean and neat, was mediocre, and no amount of pressure or inducement seemed to do any good. We then initiated a program in which each building’s upkeep was periodically scored by a resident senior manager, dubbed a “building czar.” The score was then compared with those given the other buildings. The condition of all of them dramatically improved almost immediately. Nothing else was done; people did not get more money or other rewards. What they did get was a racetrack, an arena of competition. If your work is facilities maintenance, having your building receive the top score is a powerful source of motivation. This is key to the manager’s approach and involvement: he has to see the work as it is seen by the people who do that work every day and then create indicators so that his subordinates can watch their “racetrack” take shape.
Conversely, of course, when the competition is removed, motivation associated with it vanishes. Consider the example of a newspaper columnist reflecting on his past. This journalist “thrived on beating the competition in the column, and his pleasure in his work began to wane after [his paper and the competitive paper] merged. ‘I’ll never forget that day of the merger,’ the columnist said. ‘I walked out to get the train, and I just thought: There isn’t anyone else to beat.’ ”
20. At Intel we frequently rotate middle managers from one group to another in order to broaden their experience. These groups tend to be similar in background and in the type of work that they do, although their output tends to vary greatly. Some managers and their groups demonstrate themselves to be higher producers; others do not. The result of moving the managers about is often surprising. Neither the managers nor the groups maintain the characteristic of being either high-producing or low-producing as the managers are switched around. The inevitable conclusion is that high output is associated with particular combinations of certain managers and certain groups of workers. This also suggests that a given managerial approach is not equally effective under all conditions.
Some researchers in this field argue that there is a fundamental variable that tells you what the best management style is in a particular situation. That variable is the task-relevant maturity (TRM) of the subordinates, which is a combination of the degree of their achievement orientation and readiness to take responsibility, as well as their education, training, and experience. Moreover, all this is very specific to the task at hand, and it is entirely possible for a person or a group of people to have a TRM that is high in one job but low in another.
21. The conclusion is that varying management styles are needed as task-relevant maturity varies. Specifically, when the TRM is low, the most effective approach is one that offers very precise and detailed instructions, wherein the supervisor tells the subordinate what needs to be done, when, and how: in other words, a highly structured approach. As the TRM of the subordinate grows, the most effective style moves from the structured to one more given to communication, emotional support, and encouragement, in which the manager pays more attention to the subordinate as an individual than to the task at hand. As the TRM becomes even greater, the effective management style changes again. Here the manager’s involvement should be kept to a minimum, and should primarily consist of making sure that the objectives toward which the subordinate is working are mutually agreed upon. But regardless of what the TRM may be, the manager should always monitor a subordinate’s work closely enough to avoid surprises. The presence or absence of monitoring, as we’ve said before, is the difference between a supervisor’s delegating a task and abdicating it.
22. A manager once told me that his supervisor definitely practiced an effective communicating style with him because they skied and drank together. He was wrong. There is a huge distinction between a social relationship and a communicating management style, which is a caring involvement in the work of the subordinate. Close relationships off the job may help to create an equivalent relationship on the job, but they should not be confused. Two people I knew had a supervisor-subordinate relationship. They spent one week each year by themselves, fishing in a remote area. When fishing, they never talked about work—it being tacitly understood that work was off conversational limits. Oddly enough, their work relationship remained distant, their personal friendship having no effect on it.
This brings us to the age-old question of whether friendship between supervisor and subordinate is a good thing. Some managers unhesitatingly assert that they never permit social relationships to develop with people they work with. In fact, there are pluses and minuses here. If the subordinate is a personal friend, the supervisor can move into a communicating management style quite easily, but the what-when-how mode becomes harder to revert to when necessary. It’s unpleasant to give orders to a friend. I’ve seen several instances where a supervisor had to make a subordinate-friend toe a disciplinary line. In one case, a friendship was destroyed; in another, the supervisor’s action worked out because the subordinate felt, thanks to the strength of the social relationship, that the supervisor was looking out for his (the subordinate’s) professional interests.
Everyone must decide for himself what is professional and appropriate here. A test might be to imagine yourself delivering a tough performance review to your friend. Do you cringe at the thought? If so, don’t make friends at work. If your stomach remains unaffected, you are likely to be someone whose personal relationships will strengthen work relationships.
23. One big pitfall to be avoided is the “potential trap.” At all times you should force yourself to assess performance, not potential. By “potential” I mean form rather than substance. I was once asked to approve the performance review of a general manager whose supervisor rated him highly for the year. The manager was responsible for a business unit that lost money, missed its revenue forecast month after month, slipped engineering schedules, and in general showed poor output and internal measures over the year. Accordingly, I could not approve the review. Whereupon his supervisor said, “But he is an outstanding general manager. He is knowledgeable and handles himself well. It’s his organization that did not do well, not the manager himself!” This cut no ice with me because the performance rating of a manager cannot be higher than the one we would accord to his organization! It is very important to assess actual performance, not appearances; real output, not good form. Had the manager been given a high rating, Intel would have signaled to all at the company that to do well, you must “act” like a good manager, talk like one, and emulate one—but you don’t need to perform like one.
24. A poor performer has a strong tendency to ignore his problem. Here a manager needs facts and examples so that he can demonstrate its reality. Progress of some sort is made when the subordinate actively denies the existence of a problem rather than ignoring it passively, as before. Evidence can overcome resistance here as well, and we enter the third stage, when the subordinate admits that there is a problem, but maintains it is not his problem. Instead he will blame others, a standard defense mechanism. Using this defense, he can continue to avoid the responsibility and burden of remedying the situation. These three steps usually follow one another in fairly rapid succession. But things tend to get stuck at the blame-others stage. If your subordinate does have a problem, there’s no way of resolving it if he continues to blame it on others. He has to take the biggest step: namely assuming responsibility. He has to say not only that there is a problem but that it is his problem. This is fateful, because it means work: “If it is my problem, I have to do something about it. If I have to do something, it is likely to be unpleasant and will definitely mean a lot of work on my part.” Once responsibility has been assumed, however, finding the solution is relatively easy. This is because the move from blaming others to assuming responsibility constitutes an emotional step, while the move from assuming responsibility to finding the solution is an intellectual one, and the latter is easier.
25. This is what I most dread as a manager: a subordinate, highly valued and esteemed, decides to quit. I am talking not about someone whose motives are more money and better perks at another company, but about an employee who is dedicated and loyal yet feels his work is not appreciated. You and the company don’t want to lose him, and his decision to leave reflects on you. If he feels his efforts have gone unrecognized, you have not done your job and have failed as his manager.
The opening shot usually occurs when you are on the run. On your way to what you consider an important meeting, your subordinate timidly stops you and mutters under his breath, “Do you have a minute?” He then mutters further that he has decided to leave the company. You look at him wide-eyed. Your initial reaction to his announcement is absolutely crucial. If you’re human, you’ll probably want to escape to your meeting, and you mumble something back about talking things over later. But in almost all such cases, the employee is quitting because he feels he is not important to you. If you do not deal with the situation right at the first mention, you’ll confirm his feelings and the outcome is inevitable.
Drop what you are doing. Sit him down and ask him why he is quitting. Let him talk—don’t argue about anything with him. Believe me, he’s rehearsed his speech countless times during more than one sleepless night. After he’s finished going through all his reasons for wanting to leave (they won’t be good ones), ask him more questions. Make him talk, because after the prepared points are delivered, the real issues may come out. Don’t argue, don’t lecture, and don’t panic. Remember, this is only the opening skirmish, not the war. And you cannot win the war here—but you can lose it! You have to convey to him by what you do that he is important to you, and you have to find out what is really troubling him. Don’t try to change his mind at this point, but buy time. After he’s said all he has to say, ask for whatever time you feel is necessary to prepare yourself for the next round. But know that you must follow through on whatever you’ve committed yourself to do.
26. If you haven’t done this sort of thing before, start very unambitiously—like developing one short course (three to four lectures) on the most urgent subject. You will find that skills that you have had for years—things that you could do in your sleep, as it were—are much harder to explain than to practice. You may find that in your attempt to explain things, you’ll be tempted to go into more and more background until this begins to obscure the original objective of your course.
To avoid letting yourself bog down in the difficult task of course preparation, set a schedule for your course, with deadlines, and commit yourself to it. Create an outline for the whole course, develop just the first lecture, and go.
Develop the second lecture after you have given the first. Regard the first time you teach the course as a throwaway—it won’t be great, because no matter how hard you try, you’ll have to go through one version that won’t be. Rather than agonize over it, accept the inevitability of the first time being unsatisfactory and consider it the path to a more satisfactory second round. To make sure that your first attempt causes no damage, teach this course to the more knowledgeable of your subordinates, who won’t be confused by it but who will help you perfect the course through interaction and critique.
With your second attempt in the offing, ask yourself one final question: Will you be able to teach all members of your organization yourself? Will you be able to cover everybody in one or two courses, or will it require ten or twenty? If your organization is large enough to require many repetitions of your course before different audiences, then set yourself up to train a few instructors with your first set of lectures.
After you’ve given the course, ask for anonymous critiques from the employees in your class. Prompt them with a form that asks for numerical ratings but that also poses some open-ended questions. Study and consider the responses, but understand that you will never be able to please all members of your class: typical feedback will be that the course was too detailed, too superficial, and just right, in about equal balance. Your ultimate aim should be to satisfy yourself that you are accomplishing what you set out to do.
If you liked the above content, I'd definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯
Until We Meet Again...