Planning Can Improve the Health of Your Management Team
February 28, 2020
By: Mark A. Mangano
Strategic planning by the board of directors is a fundamental practice of good corporate governance. But, management team planning is equally important. If board strategic planning takes a view from 30,000 feet, management planning takes a view from 10,000 feet.
Managers regularly meet to work on specific projects, brainstorm ideas or gather information. In most cases meetings focus on narrow or short-term goals. It is rare for management meetings to focus on a high-level view of the organization.
Engaging your management team in high-level planning activities can bring a host of benefits. But most importantly, it contributes to the development of the four C’s of a healthy and effective management team.
The Four C’s of Healthy and Effective Management Teams
Healthy and effective management teams display strengths in four elements: Culture, Communication, Coordination and Continuity. Due to constantly changing circumstances, all organizations struggle to maintain strength in these interrelated elements.
Culture is unique to each organization, sometimes to each department. It can be a force for good, rallying management and staff around a shared set of positive values. Or, it can create road blocks to achieving desired results.
Management teams struggling with culture often express that they want a different culture that is more responsive to customers, more sales oriented, more comfortable with change, or more in line with the stated values of the organization.
Healthy management teams create and sustain cultural values that are consistent with the stated values of the organization, help to redefine the culture as conditions change, and inspire others to join the culture.
Effective communication is critical to team success. Communication channels develop formally and informally. As the organization changes, the communication channels need to change as well.
Management teams struggling with communication issues will express that: we do not communicate with one another, we are not achieving consistent performance across the organization, we are not delivering a consistent message, we need more solutions from our middle managers.
Healthy management teams have open lines of communication across departments and disciplines. In addition, attention is constantly paid to ensuring that managers are kept in the loop.
Coordination is marshaling the efforts of individuals and groups to create value that those individuals and groups could not achieve separately. Maintaining optimal coordination in a rapidly changing environment is a constant challenge.
Management teams struggling with coordination will comment that: we seem to have frequent conflicts, we are struggling to increase efficiency, our teams operate in silos, we need to pursue a common goal.
Healthy management teams coordinate their efforts to most efficiently achieve the organization’s overall objectives. Often managers are competing for scarce resources that put them in conflict with one another. Healthy teams have strong processes to resolve conflicts in ways that benefit the organization and the individual managers as well.
Continuity is perpetuation of the management team. Continuity requires retention, recruitment and development of managers.
Management teams struggling with continuity often struggle with succession planning. They also find it difficult to get younger managers to take initiative or engage in professional development.
Healthy management teams recognize the challenges for managers to develop new skills while accomplishing their routine responsibilities. They recognize that professional development is a team effort.
How Planning Meetings Can Help.
Management teams negotiate hundreds if not thousands of interactions every day. Their perspective becomes focused on overcoming near-term challenges. Established ways of doing things become less effective over time. It is often beyond the ability of one or two managers to devise a solution. Culture, communication, coordination and continuity suffer.
Bringing teams together for planning gives managers the opportunity to consider issues from a different perspective. Managers can see patterns that limit the effectiveness of the team, while, senior management can communicate priorities and receive feedback. Management team health improves.
Meeting Facilitation is Important.
The key to an effective planning meeting is encouraging the participants to engage in an open discussion of the important issues. Everyone must feel free to advocate for his or her position. It is difficult for a participating manager to encourage discussion while at the same time offering opinions that may be contrary to those of other participants.
A good outside facilitator can encourage participation, keep discussion on track and suggest alternative points of view that are not obvious to those close to the issues. Good meeting facilitation is much more than encouraging participation. It begins long before the managers meet. It begins by understanding the issues and the managers’ concerns.
Managers should leave a well facilitated planning meeting with a renewed sense of purpose, a better understanding of management challenges, ideas for more effective communication and coordination, and clear understanding of the organization’s mission and priorities. A very healthy situation.
Mark Mangano is counsel with Jackson Kelly PLLC. Mark is an attorney focusing on strategic planning, corporate governance, and bank regulatory issues. He has 26 years of experience as the CEO and owner of a community bank.