Leadership and Staffing

Organizing People

As a consultant and professor, I see it all of the time. Organizations are structured to fail. We make it almost impossible for some people to succeed. One simple example (which we can detail in another article) is mixing short term and long term oriented groups under one manager.

Steve Epner

Consider sales and marketing. Marketing is all about brands and getting someone to call for information down the road. Sales departments are all about closing new business today. As the end of a quarter approaches do you think the manager is thinking about next year? No way. S/He is focused on making the current sales quota.

More importantly, most lab operations need to understand the difference between leaders, managers, and doers. This lack of understanding is the reason so many labs are structured around people based on their longevity and personalities instead of their performance.

At the most simple level, leaders set direction. They want to be “loved” or followed because people buy into their ideas. They have vision and the conviction to lead a company into the future.

Managers like to get things done through others. They do not care what anyone thinks of them. They plan, assemble teams, and execute in a way that will move the organization in the direction set by leadership.

Good leaders love strong managers—even if most could not work for one. Strong managers appreciate strong leaders who give them clear direction and then get out of the way.

Doers like to get things done. They want to be given a task and then allowed to do it. The best doers often are the “go to” people everyone else relies on to solve the most difficult issues.

Doers love strong managers who can give them a clearly defined task, target, and resources, then clears the way for them to be successful. Good managers want to keep their best doers to the point they will pay them above their “standard grade” to keep them happy and the company productive.

The most successful organizations start with a clean sheet of paper and design the best possible organizational structure. No names, just an understanding of where you need leaders, managers, and doers. There are some times when you need a strong leader who is also a doer.

Perfect. Put a capital “L” and a lower case “d” in the box. Do this for the whole organization.

When you are done—and only then—step back and look at the people you have. Evaluate each as to their leadership, management, and doer capabilities. Now you can start to put names in the boxes. If you are like most, you will run out of appropriate names before you run out of places to use them.

Consider training, coaching, and other support to keep good people. BUT, do not strangle the operation with too many of the wrong people. If I can paraphrase Jim Collins (Good to Great): get the right people in the right seats on the right bus. It will be much easier to succeed.

LABCAST: Be sure to attend Steve Epner’s Lab Manager Academy webinar, “Why Are Some Labs More Productive Than Others? Understanding lMD Is the Answer,” on Wednesday, June 4 (or afterward at www.labmanager.com/LMD, to watch the archived video).