Many small-business owners feel that they shouldn't have to “baby-sit” their employees. After all, the people that have been hired are all professionals. They know what has to be done. They don't need monitoring. Is this a realistic or an effective point of view?
Dave Bryan, president of Blackdog Builders, Salem, N.H., is about as hands-off a manager as you could get. “As people came on and began taking responsibility for their work, I backed off. I'm not a micromanager at all. They knew what they had to do to get the job done.”
Although he believes this to be true in theory, Bryan found that in practice more things fell through the cracks than he had anticipated. “There were critical elements that just didn't get done — not because anyone was lazy or blowing it off,” he comments. “In fact, it was just the opposite most of the time. They were so busy that certain tasks just dropped off the radar screen —they stopped being a priority, and that was causing problems throughout the company.”
So, to increase accountability across the board without having his managers forced into the uncomfortable role of policing individuals, Bryan and his key managers created the “weekly job jamboree.”
This whimsical name camouflages the critical importance of this company-wide meeting, during which all jobs in both the sales funnel and production are reviewed.
“Our goal is to make sure that the priority tasks are really being completed — to be really tight on our procedures. That makes a huge difference in our profitability,” Bryan says.
During the meeting, key information for each job is projected onto a screen for all employees to view. Each salesperson and each project manager reports on the jobs for which he or she is responsible. “While we try not to single out any one person,” Bryan says, “at the end of the day, if someone isn't getting the important tasks done, the person is singled out.”
This level of tough accountability isn't familiar to this company. “Because we didn't want to radically shift from our core culture of individual responsibility, I tried to make it pleasant and fun and began to soften up on what we were going to discuss,” he says. “But my managers held firm. They said, ‘If we're going to do it, let's ask the tough questions and do it right.' So we do!”
The Blackdog team is finding that their “weekly job jamboree,” while focusing on the positive and their efforts to do things right, is helping everyone on the team focus on the tasks that ensure project success. —Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Laurel, Md. 301.490.5620.