Set Standards and Stick to Them
John, IT Manager for a diesel truck dealership, told session 8 of the Leadership Development Lab,
"I have been dealing with an unacceptable performance issue. I have worked with this same issue at least three times, and each time an acceptable level of performance was achieved. Just last week, though, the performance hit rock bottom, becoming completely unacceptable.
"The situation as it is now is that unfortunately the time has come to pull the plug and terminate service and get a replacement ASAP.
"The lesson I learned is that no matter what I do and how hard I try, I just cannot fix every problem and there comes a point in time when I have the end the relationship.
"The action I call all of you to take is to set limits when dealing with problems and stick to those limits. It will not do your team or you any good to prolong a bad situation and is counterproductive to achieving your goals.
"The benefit you will gain is peace of mind that you did everything you could to resolve the problem and to stay on track to meet departmental and company goals.
"And now, the details: This problem is in the Kelso Shop. The name is 'Dell,' more specifically DSUP-KEL-WS14, a refurbished Dell technician terminal.
"Something to think about is that some managers don't manage people but often are required to manage equipment. Some manage both. When a piece of equipment falls below acceptable performance standards, it must be brought back up to standards or replaced, much in the same manner as an underperforming employee. In my case there are about 350 pieces of technology that have to be managed. All of these devices have to be team players because if one fails in that task, it will affect all of them.
"The point is that many of the things learned in the class can be applied to managing equipment, whether it is an air jack, laptop computer, or anything else that has performance standards. If you want your technical resources fully engaged, you have to manage them well."
You could have heard a pin drop when John told the first half of his story. Everyone wondered who was getting fired! When he revealed that he was talking about a computer instead of a person, we laughed and the tension was dispelled. Yet John's story is a good reminder of how interconnected various aspects of our business are. Our human resource can't optimally function if team members are stuck with poorly functioning equipment. Have you developed perfor- mance standards for the tools your team uses? Do you have a system in place for reporting malfunctions and replacing substandard equipment and software? Are you providing adequate training for team members who use the equipment? Adequate time for team members to become familiar with new software?
Although making sure your team is well-equipped is not a guarantee of optimal performance, it is an absolutely necessary component. Empower your team with well-functioning tools to ensure continuous improvement.