Help!!! Despite all the value of O3, I stopped doing them because I couldn't handle specific situations.

The main difficulty was that I was asked good , useful, questions about what they are doing and what the company is doing. The main problem was that there wasn't a clear corporate strategy or long term strategy. I kept making rational short term decisions - based on what was available to me. I couldn't make long term decisions on how to spend resources build products etc because long term strategy didn't exist, and also there is a lot of uncertainty around budgets 6+ months out. I don't have access to budget data either.

The O3'second generally went very long 2 hours plus as I tried to explain as best I could why we weren't committing to doing A or B. I sometimes got I to arguments as to what we're doing and in some cases it hurt the relationships with the directs.

I felt I was in over my head on how to handle these types of questions, and pulled out of most O3s.

Manager tools please help!

JonathanGiglio's picture
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Sounds like you need to reset expectations a bit. These are not strategy sessions or corporate direction sessions. These are designed to build relationships. Two simple principles: how are things with the direct, and how are things with you. 30 minutes, that's it.

You should also be having a staff meeting for more team based strategy sessions.

Remind them as well, that you can only control the things in your space, even if corporate strategy changes.

Personally, I get frustrated when people complain about changes in direction. We need to be adaptable - market conditions change, new management takes over, and new information comes to light. This is a natural process and to fight it is to stagnate. The only way to get ahead of change is to embrace it.

Might I also suggest "Welcome to They" - A lot of guidance on how you represent your company to your direct.

Good luck!

Ajoban's picture

Hi Jonathan,

Firstly thanks for your answer and response.  Its actually helpful.  It made me realize that there was one particular direct that started a chain reaction.  

What happened is one of the oldest members on my team, my lead developer (who is essential to us supporting our largest (80% of our revenue)), fell on his sword repeatedly during one-on-ones.  His basic position was: "I don't want to work for a company that just maintains existing products, I want to apply my skills to new challenges.  I want to understand the company's 5 year vision and I can help develop a product/technology that supports that."  Its a reasonable stance for a talented engineer to maintain and grow his skils.  The product he's maintaining was first developed 9 years ago, that's about 5 generations in internet time and there are a lot of newer ways of doing things.

My problem is that I 'as management' don't have an answer to the question.  There is no 5 year vision, there is day-to-day firefighting for revenue; the longest predictable time horizon is 6 months.  I've tried to make long term plans and statements and they just fall through and it seems like i start things and don't finish them.  There's a continuous barage of short-term related decision making.  He's not commisserating with me, he's frustrated with the short-term decision making and he's directly asking management about our long-term product plan/vision/direction - what do you do if you don't have an answer?

This situation created multiple problems, any guidance on knowing which aspect to tackle first would be helpful.  My challenges were: (a: keep doing O3s?) I couldn't keep having one on ones every week, where he falls on his sword every week while protesting the long term work product, (b: retention) I can't let him fall on his sword and jeopardize 80% of our revenue, (c: relationship with direct) not having one-on-ones, I need to maintain a relationship with him, he's a talented person who can help us build new products, (d: management response)  I went back to rest of management to develop a long term plan and I got several different answers every couple months when I asked.  I've had previous directs get frustrated and quit, i'm thankful he's stayed this long.

In the end, I told him a 5 year vision/product plan aren't dreamed up overnight, they are worked on and refined overtime.  I asked him to read a book on lean startup principles to get more comfortable with 'violent' product changes and cancelled O3s.

What do we do when 'we' as managers don't have a solid answer on a corporate plans?  How do we mitigate the situation and make the best of the situation?  Which aspect do we tackle first?

SuzanneB's picture

It sounds like you were doing way too much in these meetings.  2 hours is far too long.  And if you have scheduled 30 min and run 2 hours you are likely messing up their schedule and yours. 

Go back to basics and set the agenda (their time/your time/future career) and stick to it.  If a direct brings up something that is something you can't answer, let them know you'll follow-up on it.