Monday, December 15, 2003

Five Minds of a Manager, Part 2

This intriguing article from the November issue of Harvard Business Review by Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg (click for a free summary or to download for $7, if you don't have the article) suggests five ways a manager unpacks the chaos around him/her.

The first is by managing self, via "The Reflective Mindset". The authors maintain that "what managers need is to stop and think, to step back and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences."

Why mention this? Is it obvious? Perhaps. Yet, I see it seldom practiced. In the "action oriented" business world we swim in daily, many regard quiet consideration as a "wimpy" type of practice.

The authors tell us that the root of the word "reflection" is in the Latin word "refold". I like that...a great mental image of the active mind opening and refolding the situation. Looking at it from different angles. Flipping it back and forth in the hand. Considering the full feel of the fabric of the situation.

Yet, for those involved in a quest to eliminate waste, this is "refolding" is vital. Why? Because waste seldom jumps up with a large label on itself. It is often buried in machines, processes, procedures. Because we seldom really reflect on what the customer is really telling us about value. Because we get so enamored with measuring activity, we seldom stop to see what these measurements are telling us.

In the alternative, though, reflection allows for thoughtful discussion about what the customer is saying. It allows for further discussions with the customer. It allows for discussion about the metrics. It allows for asking the second, third, fourth, fifth "why" in getting to root cause. It allows for careful listening to the complaint (dare I say "whining"?) of a co-worker.

Reflection allows for respect for others, both inside and outside the company. It listens to what people and events have to say. Reflection is the opposite of multi-tasking. Reflection tells me to not check my email while someone is talking to me on the phone.

Reflection allows for assessments of the situation. Remember an assessment is an opinion stated with a particular goal in mind. Without reflection, assessments can be merely shot from the hip, inaccurate, insipid weak. With reflection, which allows one to consider the goal, we can make well-grounded assessments, which then will lead to effective action.

So try something today. Take a task you need to get done and, before you launch into it, sit quietly for five minutes and think about it. Why are you doing it? What is the basis for it? What do you want to accomplish with it? Who will be affected? Sit. Think. Consider.

And time yourself. Yes, I really mean five minutes.

Then start in. But, not until you've sat there for five minutes, focusing on the task.

Do the task. Then, later in the day, assess how it went. Were you more effective? Did you have better insight? Did the reflective mindset help you move through this better?

I'd enjoy hearing from you, if you tried this exercise. Leave a comment if you'd like to make it public; email me if you'd rather not. I do ask you to write about it, though, as it will help cement what you've learned.

I hope this is helpful and you can reflect further on it.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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