Training Badge
Submitted by donm on


Bottom Line Up Front: Building a heirarchy while rolling out O3's

I have 21 directs, and should be hiring 40 more over the next year or so. Obviously, I cannot keep this many directs. My problem is that our structure, such as I have started to add structure, is four supervisors with job or project responsibility, and a pool of 12 work force that is shifted around to the different supervisors to do the tasks. Other than those, I have admin support of three people.

So, how should I structure my O3's to account for meetings for all of my directs? Should I "ignore" the pool and concentrate on the supervisors and administrators?

If I start O3's with the present group - 21 is a large group, but O3's are feasible - when I add 40 more pool workers, I'll not be able to continue. No one would suggest using 30+ hours per week on O3's, no matter how important they might be.

None of the supervisors have any actual direct-reports. I was thinking of making one person a "dispatcher" responsible for assigning manpower, but the only true manager-potential I have is my admin supervisor who does not have the technical skills that are probably required to be a good "dispatcher" in our group.

I've been giving this a lot of thought - even before coming to M-T, this was probably one of the reasons I did the net search the brought me here. The O3 roll out only complicates the problem; it is not the source of the problem. Suggestions?

PS. I have located a likely manager-potential that I feel I'll be able to hire. If I get him or another like him, it will make this task easier. When I started this job 16 months ago, I had no supervisors and everyone was the pool. Admin was a fiasco. I've been putting out fires to get to this point.




jrb3's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Best means to avoid burning yourself out is O3s for your directs, have them O3 their directs.  This means many of the new additions into the mix will be handling some managerial duties:  in the software-development industry, we call them "team leads".  Quite often in a matrixed environment like yours is trying to be, a small team of developers will shift as a unit between projects, with one acting as the team lead.  The team lead gives O3s to the other team members, and takes O3s from a manager who oversees several team leads.

You don't say why the staff is tripling.  I'm going to presume it's simply to triple how many of the same types of jobs can be done.  That's 12 "job supervisors", which means two new managers for the job supervisors.  If you go with small teams moving around among the jobs, you're at 10-12 team leads, which means another 2-3 managers focused on the team leads.  If the admins also scale to match the tripled load, your admin lead would have 6-8 reporting to him.  You'd then have a more manageable 5-6 managers to give O3s to, in a group of 65-70 people.  If the team leads aren't tasked with developing their team members, add more managers to handle that, and then throw in another manager-of-managers since you'd otherwise be at 10-12 directs yourself.

I counted nineteen people not 21 in your original list -- who are they, and how do they fit in right now?  Does their work expand as the organization and its throughput triples?  If so, whatever role they are will also gain a manager.  Ah, the joys of coordinating so many people .... :-)

You could consider whether your "job supervisors" could handle being people managers too, and assign them a team to report to them directly.  But I presume there's a good reason for using a pool of people here -- perhaps, making it easy to ramp project staff up and down as the projects come and go on their own rhythms.

Helping people restructure like this is why managerial consultants exist, by the way.  You should be able to find a few near you ....

donm's picture
Training Badge

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to pen such a comprehensive set of suggestions. I appreciate the effort you put forth.

JRB3 said, "I'm going to presume it's simply to triple how many of the same types of jobs can be done."

Happily, that is not so. I was brought in to expand the capabilities of the company. I have taken one department and I am expanding its role into 4 additional areas. Two of these areas were existing but under performing and two are brand new. I've rolled out one of the new departments to great initial success, and I've expanded one of the existing areas to great effect. Another of the new areas has been teased, but is not yet truly functional. Lastly, one of the two existing areas was nearly non-functional and I've been putting a lot of my time into bringing that area into some semblance of functionality.

JRB3 said, "I counted nineteen people not 21 in your original list -- who are they, and how do they fit in right now?"

The three "missing" team members are my senior engineers. They are my designers and one runs our drafting group. I have the draftsmen report to him. The "extra" man is a new hire pool worker I had neglected to add to my "total" in my head. As you can see, that gives me 22 directs. I plan to have my administration supervisor handle my administration directs once she learns the ropes of her position. She started yesterday.

JRB3 said, "I presume there's a good reason for using a pool of people here -- perhaps, making it easy to ramp project staff up and down as the projects come and go on their own rhythms."

You presume correctly. They all have their own strengths, but most have common skills that can be interchanged on different projects.

JRB3 said, "Best means to avoid burning yourself out is O3s for your directs, have them O3 their directs. (snip) Helping people restructure like this is why managerial consultants exist, by the way.  You should be able to find a few near you."

Assuredly so, but you seem to believe there is a structure to "re". This company has been run by a very charismatic individual who performs by magic, from what I can tell. The company has a job side that is repeatable, predictable, and profitable. My side is the project side and my project managers know nothing about projects. I have been brought in to do the division building. The (not re)structuring is my idea.

I've done the org chart, but it ended up looking like a grain barge with a box on top of it. That's what led me to this post. My directs are not currently manager material. I inherited the senior engineers, and putting drafting under one of them is my first attempt with them to help them become managers.

So, JRB3, from your comments and my own desires, it appears I should do what I was leaning toward: Roll out the O3s with my planned hierarchy and delegate team O3s down to my managers as I identify them.  I plan to send the O3 introductory emails next week. It appears I'm going to be forced to develop a management team within my department.

As I'm new to O3s myself, do you think it is wise to have my identified-directs start O3s before they've done O3s with me? At this point, I think it will be too much for them. We still have not even defined roles for the directs. To have that much change that quickly would cause undue stress in my opinion. No matter how important O3s are, I think goal definition and job duty assignment have to come first. Otherwise, I feel like I'd be saying, "Here you go: you now have five people to lead; you are responsible for three projects; your perceived workload has tripled; oh, yeah, I want you to use this new management tool that I haven't even learned how to use myself."

What a great way to have my entire team mutiny, have panic attacks, and go into a catatonic depression simultaneously! I think I'm going to have to go slowly with this. I have a new manager in the wings who will be going from contract to direct report within a month, I believe. When he arrives, I'll have an inaugural meeting with my core team to start the organization process in reality.

jrb3's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

 I slept on this overnight, and came out with some thoughts to offer for consideration.

An organization of that size, since it's not been disbanded, is producing value to the company, likely to the tune of several million US dollars annually now, and at least tens of millions once you complete building it out.  There is structure there, though you might be blind to it now -- otherwise it would have collapsed and evaporated by now.

And that leads me to my provocative statement:  to go further, you get to grow more of three things you already have:  attitude, skill-set, and spine.

Attitude:  You are an executive now, even if you do not have profit-and-loss responsibility.  You are the keeper of your part of the organization.  To grow its capabilities for the company, you need to grow the people involved and structure the organization effectively.  To grow the people, you cannot lose track of them, and you need their trust.  Three months of O3s will get you started -- with whom, see below.

Skill-set:  You perceive a lack of structure in major parts of your group, and talk as if it were so.  I would argue there is structure there which you are not seeing, and changes without considering that "hidden" structure will lose you and your folks many opportunities.  You already know of, and have created, much effective structure.  You need to see what is actually there, for arguing with reality is a losing bet.  (You might find yourself drafting a particularly effective but inconspicuous individual contributor into a team-lead or manager role for a six-month trial run....)  Read and use copy of Peter Drucker's "The Effective Executive", and spend a bit of training budget on yourself for coaching through this startup phase.

Spine:  I pun intentionally here.  You set the structure;  you also set the tone for the organization.  You've been fighting fires for 18 months yet not making inroads into the "unstructured" portions?  Stop the "hero" behaviors floating around and fix whatever's causing all the fires -- or make them not-fires.  Set aside the time to work out what the rest of the structure needs to be, defining the roles and general responsibilities -- maybe the "pool" needs to remain a "pool", but with a manager and a senior engineer to help folks develop further.  Your ideal structure might have the four department heads reporting to you, along with the admin lead, and designer lead if not under one of the departments.  Focus your O3s on these folks only, and let them roll the Trinity down to their directs.  You will have plenty to do even with six O3s, and much will be done through those six directs.

Wrapping up:  make time to improve yourself to be what the organization needs:  a highly effective executive with a well-functioning organization contributing greatly to why the company exists.

donm's picture
Training Badge

I may have been slightly too hasty to call the organization a "blob." It may be more organized than that, but it barely makes it above paramecium level of organization. The areas I manage did not exist when I arrived. The tasks were being haphazardly completed, at best. I found dozens of unanswered sales and service inquiries. The pool was extracted from the existing group of workers on the "jobs side" of the company. This is the side that was doing the field work before I arrived.

I will be rolling out the O3's upon my return from the US after the June conference in Houston. I have instituted several training programs for my people already. I am a great believer in effective training. Today I completed the organizational chart for my group. I have managed to change it from the "grain barge with a box on top" to something resembling a flow chart, but it is missing very many managers.

My plans are to:

  • Continue trying to follow the feedback model. As a note, I was already doing mostly positive feedback, but I was not following the MT method.
  • Start the O3's upon my return from the US
  • Continue delegating duties. I have been doing this, as well, but it is difficult to find enough qualified individuals in my environment.
  • Try to do all of the above slowly

I need to develop some patience, and I need to do it now.

donm's picture
Training Badge

Re: Drucker's Effective Executive

 Do you know if the Kindle edition is faithful to the printed version? Sometimes the Kindle doesn't have all (or any) of the illustrations. Does the print version have copious necessary illustrations to understanding the book, or will the words only suffice?

jrb3's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

My copy of Effective Executive is text-only.  I expect the original is also text-only.  It's very meaty stuff where illustration seems counter-productive.

donm's picture
Training Badge

Thanks for you input, JRB3. I'll get the Kindle version in time for my flight back to the US.