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When Management Systems Fail: Why Employees Dont Do What You Want Them to Do

Five Critical Management Systems

Managers perennially ask why employees don’t do what they are supposed to do. While part of the responsibility falls on choices individual employees make, managers need to shoulder part of the blame, too. Employees want to succeed at work. I don’t know a single person who gets up in the morning and says, “I think I’ll go to work to fail today.” Many of the reasons employee responsibility fails are due to a failure in the employee management systems.

To ask the traditional Dr. W. Edwards Deming (the father of the U.S quality movement) question, “What about the work system is causing the employee to fail?” An examination of the work systems yields important answers.

Why Don’t Employees Do What You Want Them to Do?

Consultant and writer, Ferdinand Fournies, in his landmark book, Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do and What to Do About It, says that one reason is that employees don’t know what they are supposed to do. Managers play the essential role in helping employees know what they are supposed to do.

Managers do this by creating effective management systems.

They help employees by developing and using these five critical management systems.

Management Systems: Goal Setting and Employee Involvement

You’ll want to design your employee management system of goal setting and employee involvement to enable employees to succeed.

·         Help to establish overall goals for your department and work unit. Take ownership of the goals that the company requires you to meet and the goals that you can subjectively set, in addition.

·         Communicate the goals of the work unit or enable employees to participate in setting the goals, to develop more employee ownership of the goals.

·         Involve employees in determining how they will go about achieving the goals.

·         Help employees know what to measure and how to measure so that they can see that they are making progress in meeting the goals.

Management Systems: Delegation

Delegate projects and other activities to help employees meet department goals by using effective management system delegation methods.

·         Assist the employee to make an overall work plan with dates and a timeline for key deliverables for review.

·         Share any preconceived pictures you may have of what you want the outcome or deliverables to look like.

·         Establish the criteria for success.

·         Meet with the employee at designated due dates to assess progress and road blocks encountered.

Management Systems: Performance Development Planning and Feedback

Use a performance development planning process to enable employees to understand the goals.

·         Make an initial performance development plan with each employee.

·         Meet, minimally, quarterly to review progress and set new goals, if necessary.

·         Hold a weekly one-on-one meeting with each reporting staff person to stay in touch with progress and accomplishments.

Management Systems: Training, Education, and Development

Training plays a role in employees knowing what they are supposed to do. They need the skills and tools essential for them to succeed in their jobs.

·         Keep commitments about employee developmental opportunities written in the performnce development plan. (The ability to grow and develop their skills is crucial to employee motivation and success).

·         Coach employee skill development daily and in their one-on-one, weekly meetings with you.

Management Systems: Recognition and Reward

Recognition is the most powerful form of employee feedback. Timely, appropriate recognition to an employee is feedback that reinforces actions you want to see more of from the employee.

·         Provide recognition that is timely, and that reinforces employee learning and goal accomplishment.

·         Recognize employees for doing what you want them to do.

In a mid-sized company, semi-annual employee satisfaction surveys are conducted. The Culture and Communications team was not satisfied with the amount of specific information received in response to the question, "How does the company make you feel that it is genuinely interested in employee well-being?" The committee devised a second questionnaire and discovered that the number one factor that affected whether employees felt genuinely cared about by the company, was positive, personal interaction time with their supervisor. Pretty powerful.

Do you have these management systems in place? Are employees still acting as if they don’t know what you want them to do?

Signs that your employees don’t know what you want them to do include assignments that are not completed on time; procrastination on projects; errors and mistakes; a focus on non-essential, busy work; unsatisfactory output and outcomes; unwillingness to ask for help; and failure to provide you with timely feedback. If you see these signs, then reinforce the described five management systems in response.

These employees are not stupid; they are not uncaring; they are not unmotivated. They just don’t know what you want them to do.

From Susan M. Heathfield, Your Guide to Human Resources,


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