Management’s Critical Functions

If a group of people want to achieve something special they require a boss who sets the pace, enforces standards, and demands focus. Let’s break this down a bit.

A company is a group of people gathered around an idea. I like this definition because it reminds me of the old saying, “We are having company over.” I realize the English language can have multiple meanings to the same word, and I’m stretching here, but I prefer “company” as a group of people. A business is a group of people. The machinery, software, brands and so forth serve the people. People are not an asset. They are something more valuable than that -perhaps, a gift.

The idea –around which people are gathered–is usually a fairly basic insight to a known problem from a given group of other people… the customer. There are prospective customers who have similar problems and are willing to pay something to have this problem resolved for them. The means to resolve that problem is usually a process that involves, or requires, multiple people. Thus, some insightful person sees the need and a pathway to solve it and they invite others to join them in solving the problem for compensation.

The process, which is owned by the owners of the company, must have particular standards. If one person is to make the widget, they must make a certain quality of widget. They must also make the widget in a given amount of time for the idea to be served profitable, and for the long term. If there is no profitability the insight is poor and the company will eventually change or disband as compensation cannot maintain pace with alternatives for the employees and the owners. Thus, the manager must enforce these standards –the unit/time minimum, and the quality standard that serves the customer’s expectations.

The manager is also the boss. People trend toward space-filling entropy. Typically, there are only a few key steps that create the super majority of the value. The bulk of the steps are actually just support functions. People tend to get bored with or dislike the key things, often because they are boring, or become boring. As a result, people tend to desire the support functions and avoid the basics. The boss has to bring people back to the core things. Here are the basics. Let’s get refocused. We need to knock out this many units/hour at the this quality to keep the customer. If we delight the customer with something above and beyond we can stand out from our competitors. This will result in more work, which will allow us to pay our people more money and help more people. It’s pretty simple stuff and people get bored easily. The boss keeps the main things the main thing. He or she eliminates waste and distraction.

The best solution for boredom in business is a boss that sets an aggressive pace. The pace needs to be stoked with pressure which helps people focus, which they ultimately enjoy. However, the pressure must be tempered to the individual and mindful of the team. The highest performers are often multiples better than the next best individual contributor. And, technical contributors are the backbone of the business. So, the manager helps facilitate pressure without overwhelming the individual. Usually, this is accomplished by celebrating the best on the team and privately coaching on (or eliminating) the standards. But, the pace is critical. Simple. But profound. By this method, a group of people can rise to insane marks of productivity. The cadence can often accelerate beyond what the individuals expects as new ideas form around how to clear the high water mark of units/hour above quality. And, these ideas often take burden off of people, which brings them joy. The systems spools up into a virtuous cycle because of the manager.

Little Engine Ventures provides me the autonomy to ponder natural systems like the above. However, I, as a manager, must also fulfill these functions for my teammates and other stakeholders. Our focus is on serving best-in-niche, local business owners with an alternative to a levered sale to a family member or key employee. We benefit our communities by disciplining ourselves to density and expanding our diversity. We attract resources by delivering better results than liquid alternatives available to our owners, and done in a manner they understand and like. Our community is elevated by the rate at which our employees compensations can climb