First Line Manager: Over Thinking stuff

What is over thinking?

I am working on a project for my college fraternity. A “Reflection Workshop” designed to help our young members recognize the culture in their chapter. What are the traits the members desire to emulate for our chapter to be successful? It is a complicated workshop. The workshop is designed to keep chapter cultures in tune with the culture of the General Fraternity. I was told I was over-thinking the workshop twice this week.

Our chapter advisor team met to discuss the workshop. I presented the team with two pages of questions I wanted to discuss about the workshop. One of the advisors said, “Jim you are over thinking this; we just need to do this and get it over with and satisfy our General Fraternity.” I agree with him that I did over think most processes.

The next day, I contacted our General Fraternity sponsor of the workshop. In the workshop the fraternity had allocated the makeup of chapters into three types of members: great members, good members and Belfort members. I asked the sponsor to describe what a great member is; to me this is jargon. The response was why you think the term great member is jargon. I said, “Because how you define great member and how the chapter defines great member can be different. I do not understand what you mean by the term; to me that is jargon.” I expressed my concerned that if the members asked me what the term great member meant I could give them the General Fraternity meaning. The sponsor said, “Do not give them an answer; let them define it themselves.” She said I was over thinking the workshop.

What does this have to do with first line management thinking? To me, jargon is any word or concept that is not clearly understood by members of a team. So what is over thinking?
This over-thinking is what I have done as a first line manager for my career. My main concerns were for our customer care, employee understanding, and department effectiveness. I saw it as my responsibility to over think all the processes that impact on each of these concerns. It was my duty.

Customer care is about the details of service. These details were in the processes we used to provide service. Change a detail and we could greatly impact service for the better or the worse. When any change came from employees, me, or outside input, I would over think the impact of these changes. Most times I made a decision tree on the white board in my office. I would think over this for a day of two. Then, I would determine the benefit of the change. If it was beneficial, I would write the process. Next, I asked the employees to give me input into the process. This was critical to the change process; they were the ones that implement the process. The employees are the ones that help our customers. We were trying to find any unintended consequences before we changed any process. We knew it is harder to un-change a bad change; than to never make it. . Maybe this was over thinking the process but this to me is critical to successful change.
Employee work performance understanding cannot be defined by them. Details count with them. They have to understand their roles, the mission of our department, and the mission of our company. I gave many progress reports over the years. Performance measures were given to my department. These measures were full of words and concepts that I defined for the employee. Employee understanding of these concepts were critical to their success. It would be extremely unfair for me to measure their performance unless we both understood what these words and concepts meant at our company. They understand what we meant by great employee. How they could advance in detail of performance measures, attitudes, and results. It was not left to chance. Maybe this is over-thinking, if so, I plead guilty.

Department effectiveness is critical to our company, details count. What is the role of our department in the support of our company mission? We define this through detailed descriptions of our interface relationships with other departments. We must know the wants and desires of these departments. We must understand their mission. We must support them for our company to be successful. These departments are our internal customers. Our mission is to create goodwill for our department. That concept must be defined in detail. It cannot be left to the determination of each employee. We write out detailed interface procedures for each department. Maybe this is over thinking, if so, I plead guilty.

Over thinking, I am guilty as charged.

But know this, to be successful your organization cannot leave the understanding of information to chance. The interpretation of information is critical. Information is the details of success we all enjoy and experience when we receive good service or enjoy a great product.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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