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How are the functional parameters managed?

Managing the functional parameters within the SSI eco system
starts with understanding SSI Managers are, first and foremost, SSI staff
members. They meet all of the above criteria and operate with the same degree
of autonomy and flexibility extended to other staff members. As they interact
with other staff members, they model those criteria and consistently treat
other staff members as they themselves expect to be treated.

SSI managers are held to a higher standard, however. Proehl
(2001), in a useful discussion and literature review related to change and
leadership (p. 102-115), distinguishes between heroic and instrumental
leadership. The former’s expertise is with envisioning the future, motivating
others to fulfill the vision, and enabling others to perform their work (also
see Mosley, Megginson, & Pietri, 2007, p. 231).  The latter’s
expertise is with implementing the processes and procedures needed to
accomplish the work and assuring people get the work done. Proehl (2001) points
out, “…it is important that heroic leaders and managers or instrumental
leaders work in tandem to insure the change is not only initiated but
implemented as well.” (p. 107) She cites a set of criteria defining such leaders:
articulating one’s vision, managing complexity, having industry (human
services) insight, a manager perspective, a drive for success, personal
integrity, being flexible, being an active learner, influencing without
authority, able to develop talent, fostering team work, being open to change,
and respecting followers (p. 107-108). 
SSI managers are expected to reflect these leadership qualities and
talents as they function within the SSI environment. They have both heroic and
instrumental leadership responsibilities as part of their day to day management
opportunities. Given these expectations, the following behavior and approaches
are seen in all SSI Managers as they work with staff members to fulfill SSI’s
mission and manage related functional parameters.

  1. SSI
    Managers make sure a job can be done before holding anyone responsible for
    SSI staff members are certainly expected to try, to give it their
    best. However, they are not held responsible for an assignment not working
    out unless the SSI Manager can objectively confirm the assignment was
  2. SSI
    Managers are clear with people about what they expect.
    This starts
    with being clear about whether they actually expect the job to be done.
    They may only expect the staff member to give it a try, work on it if there
    is time, or to do as much as interest and resources allow. Alternatively,
    they may expect the job to be done and done on time. SSI Managers know
    being clear about expectations is a touchstone of SSI management. They are
    clear about what they expect. Staff members do not wonder or have doubts
    about what is expected.
  3. SSI
    Managers take time to be sure staff members understand how their
    responsibilities fit in with other people’s duties and activities.
    always understand how what they do fits into the plan for the agency
    to achieve its mission. They know why they do what they do. Although they
    may not see every connection, knowing why their job is important is
    essential to their success and to the success of SSI. Staff members do not
    doubt the value of their contribution to SSI’s success.
  4. SSI
    Managers give people clear reasons and explanations whenever they ask for
    Why? is a question for which people want an answer that
    makes sense to them. If they do not get it, they fill in their own
    answers. Having filled in the blank, they have a do-it-yourself
    explanation for everything. People make sense of their environments,
    whether it has any relationship to reality or not. What is the result?
    There are many and usually conflicting explanations for anything happening
    and nearly as many for things not happening and that are not going to
    happen. This is unlikely to occur within the SSI internal eco system,
    though. If SSI staff members bring their questions to an SSI Manager, they
    get the honesty and respect they deserve. Not to give them reasons and
    explanations when they ask for them is unacceptable.
  5. SSI
    Managers delegate often and well.
    Delegation is, for them, a critical
    key to their success.  They follow
    three rules when delegating. First, they appropriately delegate tasks and
    duties. Delegation is not a whoever happens to be around process.
    SSI Managers are careful to only delegate to people who have the skills
    and know-how to get the job done. Second, they do not delegate a job to
    someone and then try to manage it themselves. They give staff members the
    freedom they need to do what they need to do. Third, SSI Managers always
    delegate enough authority so the staff member can get the job done. This
    does not mean they give staff members unlimited, free rein. What each
    staff member does must fit with everyone else’s activities. At the same
    time, each staff member has the freedom and authority to do what needs to
    be done.
  6. SSI
    Managers access the resources needed to get the job done.
    A Manager’s
    responsibility is to facilitate other staff members’ success. Being sure
    available resources are sufficient for success is, in turn, the Manager’s
    responsibility. There may be other staff members who have tasks and
    assignments related to resource development; but if the resources are not
    there when they are needed, the Manager has not gotten the job done. SSI
    Managers know not having enough of the right resources when they are
    needed is a certain route to failure.
  7. SSI
    Managers are skilled at using informal strategies to get things done.

    There are formal policies, procedures, and ways things are to be done. It
    is also true they sometimes do not work and situations come up where there
    is no formalized approach to get from here to there in the time available
    to get there. Now and then people take this to mean they can ignore the
    rules, not pay attention to the formal processes. This is not SSI
    Managers’ perspective. The informal approach supplements formal procedures
    and is not a substitute for them. For SSI Managers, the informal approach
    is simply one more strategy available to them within the formal context.
    They want SSI staff members to use informal strategies, to talk with each
    other, to informally innovate when they need to, to avoid being too rigid
    about the rules when something unusual comes up not quite fitting into the
    established procedures. Staff members are responsible people who can and
    are expected to use their good judgments and common sense.

Being skilled at using
informal strategies includes knowing when
to use them
and when formal is better.
If informal strategies are used too much or inappropriately, things become
disorganized, chaotic, and quality suffers. If they are used too little, SSI’s
internal eco system becomes rigid and inflexible, creativity and innovation
disappear, and the agency loses its cutting edge. The real skill in using
informal strategies is in finding and maintaining the balance.

  1. SSI
    Managers understand and tap the knowledge, skills, and resources of
    They are successful with identifying the specific know-how,
    particular skill, or best resource for the immediate purpose, whatever the
    need happens to be.
  2. SSI
    Managers distribute work and responsibilities fairly.
    They do not take
    advantage of anyone. There are obvious and not so obvious ways people are
    taken advantage of, e.g., when a
    staff member has more and more work piled on top of work piled on
    yesterday. Another version of the same kind of abuse happens when work is
    given to someone just because the Manager is not going to get any hassle
    or flack. Some people have especially positive attitudes and just do not
    say No when asked to do

Two other areas of
unfairness and abuse warrant a special note here. First, tolerating anyone’s
not doing what is expected or doing less than is expected is unfair to others.
Letting shirkers get away with it does nothing but shift the burden unfairly
onto other staff members. Second, assuming everyone is equally efficient is
wrong. This is particularly unfair to those who are unusually efficient. The
exceptional few can routinely do a two-hour job in an hour and a half. Do we
then expect them to do more work in the extra half hour? I do not think so. We
discuss options with these staff members but the choice is theirs. We do not
increase the load just because someone is especially efficient and hard

  1. SSI
    Managers defer to others when they are more knowledgeable, skilled, or
    They do not ignore or overlook expertise in others and
    especially not in people whose knowledge, skills, and resources may
    increase SSI’s chances for success. Their reason for deferring to the
    expertise of others goes a little farther, though. They truly value
    differing styles and opinions. Each staff member has know-how, skills, and
    resources unlike those of anyone else. Each has his (or her) special area
    of expertise. He also has his individual approaches, ways of thinking, and
    perspectives. Not to fully access these talents and knowledge is
  2. SSI
    Managers deal with problems before they become emergencies.
    They take
    care of all issues as soon as they become aware of them. It is part of
    their Do today’s work today,
    approach to everything.
  3. SSI
    Managers do not react to people or problems impulsively.
    They resist
    the temptation to just do something, do anything to make the person or
    problem go away. An important benefit of their more considered approach is
    they have an opportunity to fit their reactions to the situation or
  4. SSI
    Managers are hard on problems and soft on people.
    They know people
    deserve consideration; problems do not. They want good people to stay,
    annoying problems to go away. Problems need solutions; people need
    support. People are not the problem, problems are the problem. For these
    reasons, SSI Managers are ordinarily flexible and willing to compromise. A
    few things are not negotiable, but most are.
  5. SSI
    Managers remember and own what they say, agree to, and do.
    They know
    people think they said what they think they said, agreed to what they
    think they agreed to, and did what they think they did. Therein lies SSI
    Managers’ opportunity. On the one hand, Managers could automatically say I never said that. Or I certainly did not agree to that. Or I did not do it. As option one,
    these responses have the advantage of simplicity. On the other hand, the
    Manager could capitulate. Although I
    do not remember saying that, you are undoubtedly right.
    Or If you think I agreed to it, then we
    have a deal.
    Or If you say I did
    it, then I did it.
    As option two, this has the advantage of avoiding conflict.
    For SSI Managers, if they said it, agreed to it, or did it, they
    acknowledge the fact. If they believe they did not, then they say That surprises me. I must be blocking
    on that one. Will you help me get focus? If you will, take me back to when
    you are talking about. You were there so help me into the picture.
    often, the response is Well, I wasn’t there but so-and-so told me…. Other times, the
    Manager is reminded the person really is right. Whatever the outcome, the
    Manager has an opportunity to reprocess and reinterpret the event. The
    outcome is not necessarily better but their commitment to Management
    Excellence is intact. – Let me note the any reasonable interpretation standard
    is used here as with other issues and misunderstandings. The question for
    the Manager is how a reasonable person with similar training and
    experience might have interpreted the
    situation, instruction, or event, not the Manager’s recollection of his
    meaning or intent at the time.
  6. SSI
    Managers work with people instead of merely relying on their power and
    They know relying on power and control stifles innovation,
    creativity, and cooperation. Further, it increases tension and
    apprehension while causing staff members to become anxious and fearful.
    Even if they are not the focus of the power and control, the effect is
    about the same. Just being in a power-oriented environment is unsettling
    and stressful. SSI Managers recognize these unacceptable outcomes, but
    their favoring working with people rests more specifically on the less
    obvious downside of routinely using power and control. Regularly using
    power and control is ineffective and counterproductive. In the long run,
    it does not work. Specifically, the more skilled the employee, the less
    effective it is; the more important the person’s participation is to the
    agency, the more using power and control jeopardizes the agency’s success.
  7. SSI
    Managers make the tough or unpopular decision when necessary.
    dilemma is at the heart of adaptive management. When should a Manager
    defer to the collective wisdom of others and when should he go with his
    personal best judgment, given what he knows at the time? An SSI Manager’s
    solution is fairly simple. He always goes with the collective wisdom of
    others unless he believes very strongly the other people are wrong. It is
    not enough to believe he is right. He has to also clearly believe they are
    wrong. Having made this decision, he may still go with the collective
    wisdom if he believes the consequences will not be excessively problematic
    or can be reversed, if necessary. They might be right; and even if they
    are not, their empowerment entitles them to their turn at bat, so to
    speak. On those few occasions when he clearly believes he is right and
    others are wrong and the consequences of going with their recommendations
    would be very negative and not reversible, the Manager does what he has to
    do. He has only one responsible choice. He can handle people’s being
    unhappy or upset with him at times. He cannot accept his failing to do
    what he knows needs done. Even more to the point, he cannot accept his
    failing to manage.
  8. SSI
    Managers give staff members clear, frequent, and accurate feedback.

    They are as quick to tell them what they have done right as they are to
    tell them what they have done wrong. Importantly, though, SSI Managers are
    also as quick to tell staff members what they have done wrong as they are
    to tell them what they have done right. Equal attention is given to both.
    This requires a very sensitive balance. Finding and keeping the balance is
    based on taking it for granted people are trying to do a good job. They do
    not intentionally make mistakes or perform below their abilities. SSI
    staff members consciously and intentionally give the little extra to move
    good work into the excellent category. Their commitment to excellence is a
    major reason why they are SSI staff members.

The real issue here is criticism. SSI
Managers praise publicly and only criticize in private. They also are very
careful to assure their criticism is an exact fit with the problem or issue,
not overdoing it or under doing it. Criticism, no matter how well it is
managed, introduces a negative element into a fast-moving, stressful
environment. The effect is the staff member who is criticized – as well as anyone
who is coincidentally in the immediate environment – becomes apprehensive and
less productive, at least for the moment. Criticism is always temporarily
counterproductive. For this reason, SSI Managers are quick to praise but very
cautious when criticizing anyone, for any reason. They know providing
constructive and effective criticism is a delicate management area. If the
feedback is inappropriate or excessive, the staff member may overreact or
withdraw, and the outcome is often worse than the original problem. If
criticism is not forthcoming when it is appropriate or is not focused enough,
the problem or issue persists and likely will get worse. Getting criticism
right is critical for SSI Managers.

There is an additional dimension further
complicating the matter. The SSI performance standards increase over time.
Yesterday’s acceptable performance levels are under continuous review and may
not be acceptable today. Staff members who have performed adequately in the
past may have the same quality of work criticized and judged unacceptable
today. They find they have shifted from valued staff members to marginal
performers. At a minimum, the bar is constantly being raised and higher levels
of performance are expected. The possible result is a staff member has to leave
SSI. If this happens, other members then become anxious about whether they
might be next. Because of this anxiety, any criticism must be managed very
carefully and judiciously.

The major requirement here is an SSI
Manager must be a good teacher. Further, all incidents or situations
potentially leading to criticism are redefined as teaching opportunities. SSI
Managers seldom criticize. It is just too dangerous. Instead, they know how and
when to teach and are careful to never miss a teaching opportunity.

The key here is in understanding the nature
of the teaching opportunities. The most common prompt for these types of
teaching opportunities stems from an inadequacy in work or work performance.
The staff member’s performance is not up to the expected level in one or more
areas. Dealing with this is fairly easy. Simply sit with the staff member to
discuss the inadequacies and to develop a mutually agreed on plan for
correcting them. This may mean more training, more attention to detail,
connecting with a mentor, or anything else to reasonably get the valued staff
member from here to there. Set specific dates for activities, for evaluation of
progress, as well as for having the deficiency corrected.

The more serious challenge is when the
staff member either cannot or will not do what is expected or continues
unacceptable behavior after having been warned. There must not be any delay. It
is unfair to the staff member to put off confronting the issue. Further,
avoiding doing what needs done gives the staff member the impression there is
no problem. Do today’s work today, even if it is uncomfortable or potentially
unpleasant. The task only becomes more uncomfortable and unpleasant if it is
postponed until tomorrow.

When SSI Managers do confront the issue, they
say My problem is…. – They are quite
specific. – You either will not or cannot do what SSI expects. If you cannot,
we will talk about it. If you will not, there is nothing to discuss further.
You cannot remain on the SSI staff. If the staff member feels capable and the
SSI Manager agrees, the Manager and the staff member develop a plan to correct
the problem. If the staff member feels incapable, the SSI Manager reassigns him
to other responsibilities, if possible. If the conclusion is the staff member has
to leave SSI, the SSI Manager makes the arrangements, giving as much
consideration to the individual’s needs and circumstances as possible. The
staff member is still a valued person, even though staff membership is
terminated. People in this situation are entitled to the same level of humanity
and respectful treatment as they received while they were being recruited for
the SSI staff. The adaptive Management Excellence basics still apply every day,
every time, with everyone, no exceptions, no excuses.

People leaving the agency – for
whatever reason – do so in the way that works best for them. As they disengage,
some people behave and relate as they always have. There is no change. For
others, their behavior and pattern of relating noticeably change. They have
their own way of separating. So long as they do their work, contain their
behavior within acceptable limits, and do not disrupt the functioning of other
staff members or clients, it is important to support their style of leaving.
Tolerance, flexibility, and understanding are still important as people leave.
They continue to be valued and deserve our respect and consideration, always.

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