First-Time Manager Tips: Gaining a Management Perspective, Part 2

By Marla Rosner, Principal

“Gaining a Management Perspective, Part 1” addressed the need for the new manager to take a high-level view; a perspective about what your company does from the vantage point of a hilltop instead of from the forest floor. This article addresses another key element to understanding the big picture: the measurable objectives that the business has established to gauge its success.

So what are company objectives? Think of them as goals that can be measured. For example:

  • Increase repeat customer orders by 25% by end of second quarter ’09
  • Reduce client complaints by 90% by end of first quarter ’09
  • Increase net profit by 10% by end of 2010
  • Reduce waste by 12% by end of second quarter ’09

Note that each objective is highly specific and includes a target date. Both of these elements add clarity and discipline to the analysis of the business’ performance. You may have already heard one of many management mantras, “What gets measured gets done.” If the business you work for has its act together, leadership has established a handful of critical objectives that are targeted to be achieved over a specified period of time. As a new manager, knowing these helps you figure out what your team should be doing to support attaining those objectives.

This information is not typically posted on the corporate website. It may be known by your manager or that person’s manager depending on the size of the company. If you can learn what the corporate objectives are, you can figure out how your group contributes to those goals and shape measurable goals for your team that align and contribute to the larger objectives. The best path to obtaining this info is directly from your manager. If you find a look of surprise on his or her face, you’re likely in a company that either hasn’t set clear objectives or keeps them hidden in the board room. Not productive but welcome to the real world.

If you’re lucky enough to have learned what the corporate objectives are, take the initiative to extrapolate what your team’s objectives should be. For example, if you’re in a product manufacturing company and you manage the plant floor, once you understand the nature of the client complaints, your role in reducing them may be to reduce assembly errors or increase speed of assembly or improve part quality to achieve enhanced longevity. If you manage a service, you may need to reduce wait times. Ask yourself: “What contributes to customer complaints that my team handles?” The answers may dictate the measurable objectives you set for your team. Once you’ve got agreement from your boss that these are the right measurements, you’ll be far more directed in how to guide your team to achieve the group goals. An added benefit: both you and your manager will be able to gauge your success in an objective manner.

Tip: Keep Your Team in the Loop

Once you’ve established goals for your group, don’t keep them a secret. Explaining the big picture to your team gets their buy-in and cooperation, and establishes your respect for their intelligence. It will also encourage them to think outside of their individual roles in the company and contribute from a “hilltop” mentality. They too can climb above the forest floor for perspective, and in the end bring that perspective to the team.

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