Management calendar

There are two parts to what I have been calling a management system.  The first part is the management calendar and the second part is the scorecard.  This blog is about the management calendar.

A management calendar is a timetable of management meetings and events laid out over a year or a quarter or a month depending on the rhythm of the management cycle.  For most organizations it is a year.  But if you were doing a management calendar for an agile process, the rhythm is typically 6 week sprints, so the calendar would be six weeks.

A management calendar can be displayed like a clock or like a table.  You have both examples in this article.

So the big question is what should be included in the management calendar?  The answer is all the meetings and processes that the leadership use to run, motivate and control the organization.  Typically this includes:

  • board meetings or governing body meetings
  • planning or strategy process and meetings
  • budgeting and target setting process and meetings
  • performance monitoring and review process and meetings
  • risk management process and meetings if different from the board process above
  • people review, talent assessment and career planning process and meetings
  • incentive definition and allocation process and meetings
  • management conferences

Please suggest other items.   The difficulty in choosing what is part of the management calendar is also partly about deciding what is part of the role of support functions (HR, Finance, IT, etc) versus what is the domain of the leaders.   If something is clearly the remit of a support function, such as accounting rules, audit process, IT security,  and talent development process, then I think it should be excluded from the management calendar and included in the calendar of the relevant function.  So only those processes and meetings that are driven by and led by the top team should be part of the management calendar.  This split between functionally driven and top team driven is rather arbitrary, and may be difficult to make in some situations, but it is a way of limiting what is included in the “management system” bucket.   The functionally driven items are then considered part of the “organization” bucket in the operating model canvas.

So let me give a couple of examples.  I include one from GE, which is a company that, particularly under Jack Welch, had a very carefully thought out management system.   The whole system started early in the year with a management conference in Boca Raton and continued throughout the year with the aim of delivering exceptional performance by the end of the year.

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The second example is a made up one based on many similar examples that I have seen.  It illustrates the importance of thinking through the sequence of events and how they link to the ultimate governance body: the board.

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The last example I want to mention concerns a British company where the CEO’s main contribution was to drive performance improvement.  The whole system started the year before when the CEO would spend time in the trenches traveling with sales people or sitting with engineers.  These experiences would give the CEO insights about what improvements might be possible.  I remember him telling me that on one of these visits he discovered that on average it took two visits to repair machines that had stopped working.  So he calculated how much money could be saved by repairing in one visit, and then included this in his target for that business.  He would then set, at the July strategic planning sessions, what were described as “unreasonable targets” for each business for the following year.   This gave him 6 months in which to interact with the businesses during the planning and budgeting processes.  The 6 months gave time for the management teams to go through denial, anger, and so on, but usually arrive at commitment: a set of numbers they had proposed to the CEO which would typically be close to the “unreasonable targets”.   The process then continued throughout the next year with a relentless monitoring of performance within a culture of no excuses: the targets would be met.   I don’t have a visual for this process, but it produced remarkable performance for about 10 years and, if I did create a calendar it would need to be based on a two year process initiated every year.

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About andrew campbell

Ashridge Strategic Management Centre Focus on strategy and organisation Currently working on group-level functions and group-level strategy
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2 Responses to Management calendar

  1. Richard Rawling says:

    Andrew – I can think of at least one other – response to real time crises. Typically these require a tailored response, not th least of which is a ‘special meeting’. It is always interesting to reflect how ‘captured’ some organisations can appear in terms of their set piece processes. What they really need is a culture that enables to respond in the moment. I think also that the informal collaborations between managers in many ways transcend the formal processes you note, and in many ways are the ‘real’ way business gets done. Food for thought?

  2. andrew campbell says:

    Good thoughts Richard. As you will recall from the Advanced Organisation Design course (www.ashridge.org.uk/aod), one of the messages is “the informal is the real organisation”. The problem is that we can only design the formal, in the hope that it will influence the informal. The informal is more emergent. Of course we can influence the informal through leadership and organisation development. But we are limited to “designing” only the formal.

    I am sure some will disagree with this – so please do.

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