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  • #2273230

    temporary replacement a non productive manager


    by netpro2551 ·

    I am about to take a temporary assignment (about a month) to see if I can resolve productivity problems with a small field support team (7 techs)in a very large company. I was offered the team lead’s position, but am not interested in relocating. The current team lead is reportedly a major part of the problem. I imagine that I will be seen as the hated “Pro from Dover”.

    I have been very effective in the past at motivating small teams although not in this short a period and usually from a position as a peer rather than a consultant. I expect that I will be empowered to retain the current team lead or replace him at my discretion and yet I know that the reality may be a somewhat more lengthy process.

    Does anyone have any experience in a similar situation?

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    • #2725632

      Assess the problem

      by brp ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      Realisticly it is very difficult to increase perfomance in a month, depending on what the issues are.

      Assess the problem. It might not be as bad as you think. Fix the problem, not the person.

      You must also commit your self to the project. if you are not committed it will make the situation worse, and that means your name will be effected. What the team thinks of you is irrelevant. You have a job to do, so do it.

      • #2701203

        The problem might not be the person…

        by aaron ·

        In reply to Assess the problem

        Sometimes managers are not affective because their bosses undercut them.

        I took over for a “non-productive” manager who was blocked at every turn from helping her people to succeed.

        Whatever problems this person may or may not have had, that certainly didn’t help.

    • #2725620

      Frame your assignment clearly before agreeing

      by curtis_n94521 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      This is a tough assignment. You need to clearly define what can be achieved in the time frame you specified. Improving productivity in a month is not realistic, especially from a non power position, however, your assessment and insight of key issues would be a more realistic expectation. You need to approach this from a focus on process improvement, standards and procedures, and communication within the group. In this way you may be able to avoid being seen as a spy or some one not to be trusted, even though you probably won’t be trusted by at least the existing manager.

      And if it is already known that the manager is the problem, you need to ask, “…then why do you need me for this assignment?” They already know the problem and they just need to act on it.

      • #2720501

        Sounds like an HR Issue.

        by robertmi ·

        In reply to Frame your assignment clearly before agreeing

        Poor performance is something for HR to address, with some technical input. If going in, you know that the current manager is the problem, then he/she needs to be turned around. If you are expected to do a slash and burn exercise (and the time frame suggests that is the case) then you need a clear mandate to be able to put the skids under the present manager and any of his team if they don’t shape up. It always helps of course to get their perspective before making any decisions. In my experience there are more bad bosses than bad employees. You might just uncover a rats’ nest in which case HR skills will be to the fore. Spend some time thinking about the wider organisational issues and be satisfied that you are not being used as a patsy to satisfy someone else’s agenda.

      • #2701002

        Assume staff want to succeed

        by knudsenmj ·

        In reply to Frame your assignment clearly before agreeing

        I’ve never been in a situation like this. 30 days seems a bit unrealistic to turn a team around but this is what I would do.

        The staff are going to know something is up obviously, lay it on the table for them. Tell them you’ve been sent in to address moral and performance issues.

        Tell them what your performance goals for the team are and ask if these are reasonable. Regardless of their answer, ask them what barriers are stopping them from getting their job done. You only have a short time so work quickly to show them you are there to remove barriers.

        Keep a close eye on productivity, keep in constant communication with them to see what you can do to aid their workflow. After two weeks, have one one ones with everyone. For people who are turning around, thank them sincerely, for people who are not, make sure they understand you are holding everyone accountible to change.

        For the remaining weeks do what you can with the non-performers. Most people will rise to the level of oversight you give them hoping that things will return to normal once you’re gone.

        If you have someone that is spreading negativity, take them aside and ask them specifically what they would like changed. If they won’t tell you, make it clear that you won’t allow negativity to stand in the way of the team’s objectives and you need it to stop. You can’t manage emotions but you can manage behavior.

        Be sincere and praise (often) in public, counsel in private.

    • #2718989

      It will take 30 days to build the trust

      by skipperusn ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      It will take you those 30 days to build a trust with the crew – they could see you as the Headhunter coming in for the kill..

      • #2718912

        Don’t I know it

        by netpro2551 ·

        In reply to It will take 30 days to build the trust

        Yeah, I figure there is even a title for guys like me and it is something like THAT NO GOOD #$!#@$ THAT THINKS HE CAN COME UP HERE AND TELL US HOW TO DO OUR JOB. That said, I figure it will be fun to take the challenge and build the trust anyway.

        • #2701749

          Cut, Copy & Paste

          by fgi57 ·

          In reply to Don’t I know it

          I came into the same kind of situation, only my assignment was permanent. I used the cut, copy and paste attitude. I designed a plan of action and presented the strategy to the team with a serious, firm approach. I explained my passion for the job that I expect to achieve, if not exceed, any expectations.(“PASTE”) I stated that we could discuss their concerns and I would consider their input on how to make things better, but if anyone was not onboard with the program they could be reassigned or even “CUT” from the team. I “COPIED” anything that the former administrator had in place that was working well. I admit that I have not made many friends with this approach, but they know I mean business and that is what will make the whole team shine, not just me.

        • #2699512

          Not entirely true …

          by colinwee ·

          In reply to Don’t I know it

          If you’re working with techies, they might be much more amenable to you seperating ‘people from proble’, as one of the previous posters has suggested.

          I previously had to deal with a difficult conflict between two IS personnel, and coming straight out with candid observations about their difficult solution plus my very reasonable expectations established a fairly decent playing field for which to get them to work closely without erupting into physical violence.

          I think in this situation it pays to be sincere, ethical, aboveboard, honorable, and trustworthy. They will be able *feel* it!!!

          Aim high.

          Good luck.


    • #2718688

      fall guy

      by jjhauto ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      seen this before, sounds like the company wants a fall guy. If the current lead is what they think the issue is great. You don’t need to show up, just ask for more dough; with no fan fare at all just have the company re-assign the current team lead to some other function, away from the team, appoint any other member of the existing team as the temp. lead and have that person make a list of what the team, as a team and individually, does for the each week. as this goes to the third week of your tour stop the lists, check how the performance is then report your job as finished. If the company has seen no improvement from this team then the problem must not be the lead and you could have another job to actually find out what the company expects and where the problem is. Certainly more than a month will be required for this type of effort.

      • #2701737


        by sue’s comment ·

        In reply to fall guy

        If the manager is the problem then the staff will know what to do. If not then the problem rests higher up.

        Can’t the existing lead be sent on some useful courses like Communication Skills, Time Management and Project Management? If he is the problem then these skills might help him to cope. If not, then these skills will still come in useful, he might appreciate the break in routine and his nose will not be put out of joint!

        If the staff do well then he might appreciate the tip to leave well alone and take the credit!

    • #2701790

      Assess the conditions

      by jason.ungerer ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      I was in a situation like what you have described. I did the exact opposite, I got a transfer to another office. But What I can suggest is the following. If you know the the team well enough, and you know the business process and policies. Try findout why obscure decisions were made against the norm. Or why certain descisons were taken, against the norm. You will probably find that the team is under performing because the manager has not kept to a descison of soem sort, and they were made to pay a heavy price. Communication is a big part of leading a team and communicating with the client\s. I would also suggest a look and learn process. When you get there, just take some time to observe and see what the guys are getting up to. Almost be like a detective undercover.

      Best of luck.

    • #2701789

      Pins and needles

      by jameshoy ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      It’s a tough job to walk into. If there is a buddy buddy build in the old team, you would most likely be looked at as the bad guy trying to get a friends job. If it is a productive minded crew with out a good lead and they feel that way, you could be the answer to their prayers. Just walk in with a clear head and worry about fixing the problem, not what they might think. Take your time befor letting someone go, unless that someone interfears with your main goal and works his buddies aginst you behind your back. Then you will know what to do! Don’t wait too long to size up the big picture, time could cost you sucess.

    • #2701781

      5 dysfunctions of a team

      by jm22 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      wonderful book — read it but if you dont have time:

      TRUST is the bedrock of a successful team. your task is to build trust in you and trust in their teammates.

      and you could fire all 7 of them and hire competent temps instead!

    • #2701774

      Be a Mentor

      by dfritzke ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      If the current team lead is still there, you need to bond with him and mentor. Even if you can him th eteam that is left will mot have a leader and still continue in the path set before them. Unless you can find a star to rise up and take over, I would turn my attention to the current team lead and show him the light, assist him to a better management path. Most Large Companies think that staff management comes easy to all but some need alittle push, others need a kick in the A**. Good Luck

    • #2701735

      Ask Questions

      by rgun2515 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      The best way to find out about a department is to sit all the employees down together in a non threatening environment and ask. Bring them out to the local bar for a drink or a dinner even. I have had the same task in the past, and aside from spending time with the exiting manager, this is how you get the most feedback. It’s your job to listen and read between the lines…

    • #2701719

      Focus, be sincere

      by kmajor ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      I have been in this situation and know that this will be a very tough assignment. I would 1) focus on the task at hand which is improving productivity. This is your guiding light. 2) Be sincere, respectful yet persistent with the team, keeping communication as open as possible. Get the team involved in solving the problem – let them make a decision to participate or not. You may be surprised by the # who will help you.

      Other techniques: Find the floor leader (the person who influences the group the most but perhaps doesn’t have the title) and engage them in the goal, stay honest and business focused yet approachable. Bave regular checkpoint sessions with the leader who assign this task to you. On a 30 day task I would ask for twice weekly phone calls – 15 minutes – just to keep everyone informed. Always discuss status based on progress toward the goal and issues that need senior management attention (such as a possible reassignment or hiring of the team lead).

      If the team lead will not cooperate, remember that is his/her decision, not yours, so proceed as needed for the business in a professional and considerate manner.

      Some folks make a terrific living out of turnaround situations and proving that you can handle tough situations will be great for your career.

    • #2701716

      30 days

      by prefbid ii ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      Unless you already know more about the situation, I doubt that 30 days is enough time to fix anything. However, having been the “fix it” guy for several projects and teams, I suggest looking for the solution in the following order:

      1. Team communication issues.
      2. Team scheduling issues.
      3. Personality disconnects.
      4. Training or skill shortfalls.
      5. Management.

      If you get down to #5 and don’t have good turn-around points, fire the manager. Given your time constraint, I would suspect you’ll have to whip through the list in about 2 weeks. That will give you 2 weeks to start the rebuilding process. I would normally suggest 3 to 6 months for each, but slash and burn can work if you put some effort into it, can talk like a diplomat, and be as hard nosed as Patton.

      • #2701664

        Stick to the facts

        by gavin ·

        In reply to 30 days

        The facts are that a problem has been identified, and you are there to help. Communication is always a must; subordinates generally will react badly by default, and you need to nip this in the bud. Your goals need to be very clear, and you need to be diplomatic in telling everyone on the team, in regular status meetings, what findings you have. If they don’t know what you’re doing, and you aren’t giving them clear facts about things, they will most definitely think you’re up to no good. Remember you’re the outsider, but you need to win the trust of the people to make them believe that you’re not there to just replace things.

    • #2701658

      From the other side of the fence.

      by virtualgardener ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      Having been the subordinate in this same situation I can tell you one thing you cannot do. Leave without making major permanent changes. This will push morale and performance even lower. Management sets the mood and if the techs aren’t performing up to par, then you know where the problem lies. I have noticed that the larger the corporation, the more hesitant they are to terminate a management level employee. Why? My last employer (notice I don’t work there anymore) was very much like this one I would guess. The local Admin was pretty technically knowledgeable, but a lousy people person. Knew how to piss everyone off in less time than it takes to type this sentence. When things got really heated and he tried to terminate me with manufactured evidence, HR got involved. They fought tooth and nail to keep the manager and in the end told the team that it was our fault the situation had gotten where it was. (Gave me a raise and a company car so I could work out of a different office 90 miles away from the jerk. They knew I had done nothing wrong.) Then they did the usual stuff: had the manager go to Anger Management classes and Communication training. Waste of time. He is who he is. A week in class doesn’t change someones personality. Get rid of the guy immediately. If he was even a remotely decent manager, then you would never have had to be called in. Things must be bad for it to have gotten this far. Even if the real problem is unruly team members, a decent manager should have been able to handle it or ask for help from HR on his own long ago. Let him resign and get someone new in the position. That more than anything else will improve the teams performance and morale. My guess is that they know what the resolution should be: termination. Any other response from you will be seen as management defending another manager just because he is a manager. They will see it as a form of class discrimination. Management versus employees. My old company is losing all the techs one by one. Major brain drain. With only 30 days to find a resolution, I don’t see you have any other choice.

    • #2701654

      been there and done this in the past

      by techpro34yrs. ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      First, find the exact point of the problem with the lead, also ask every Techs that’s on this job his own opinion on what the problem is. Then hold a meeting with all techs and the lead together. Be extremely honest and up front. Tell them that you are not the head hunter they’ve been waiting for, but you are there to help change the productivity level. Tell them they have one week to work as a TEAM to change the level of productivity and that after that one week you will be re-evaluating the situation. If any one on the team shows signs of being left behind or comes up short of the goals, you want to know why they came up short. Offer to help that person resolve the short fall and absolutely give it your best shot and make sure the whole team knows this and only after that if the person doesn’t change the way he was doing things then that person will be let go. Make sure again that the whole team knows this. It shows them you are not hiding anything from them and that you made every effort to help with the situation and that you didn’t want to come in and chop heads as soon as you got there and it also shows that you really do what to help with the difficulties. With some people, they just won’t change or get it. Then you have no choice but to do what you have to do for the betterment of all. Good Luck and let me know how it went.

    • #2701619

      Past Future Present

      by shannyhanm ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      There may be some simple answers to the morale question.

      It could be misperceptions, management interaction style, distribution of work, additional staffing needs, or any of the things that tend to bring down staff morale.

      It is a good bet that each staff member will have their opinions as to the cause.

      Don’t get caught in the past, it is good to gain a frame of reference. Practice the art of future conversation. Past – Future – Present

      Past – lessons learned
      Future – identify goals and objectives for success
      Present – action plan to get there

      my 2 cents…

      • #2701267

        This is their past, not yours.

        by virtualgardener ·

        In reply to Past Future Present

        Its all well and good to say don’t get caught in the past when you are an outsider coming into this situation with no knowledge of the past. For these people, this is their life. The past is important to them. They want resolution, not cute catch phrases. Asking them to forget the past will just devalue their feelings. In essence you are saying their feelings don’t matter. HR always wants to “Forget the Past” and “Move into the Future” because that is the easiest way for HR. Reality is that people don’t forget and they don’t want to forget. Their complaints are probably valid and saying we just want to concentrate on the future is just another way of saying to them “You aren’t important”. This person was hired to manage. If he/she can’t do that effectively, get rid of him/her and hire someone who can. Problem solved. Why so much effort to save this person his/her job? Would the company put this much effort into a low level tech who couldn’t perform up to his/her job duties/expectations? I don’t believe this is a one time or first time occurance or it wouldn’t have been escalated to this level. Finish it, don’t prolong the problem.

        • #2701233

          forget the past?

          by shannyhanm ·

          In reply to This is their past, not yours.

          Who said forget the past? It has value, just don’t get lost in it. Thirty days is not a lot of time to rejuvenate a broken team. Obviously, someone feels this lead is worth saving or else they wouldn’t go through the process of having an expert come in.

        • #2701204

          I am so excited

          by netpro2551 ·

          In reply to forget the past?

          As if it isn’t enough to get great and continuing feedback on this question, now I am officially an expert. Don’t argue-I read it on the internet. ;>)

          Can i show your comment to my boss?

    • #2701257

      Performance can be self correcting!

      by pmo1 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      I recently took over a project that was out of control .PM had been let go. I had to make further changes (one team lead replaced, new resources brought in, change of direction and upper management expectations). However by coming in and doing an assessment with the team of what was right/wrong, their productivity jumped straight away even prior to the making further decisions and changes. It seems that mismanagement and sense of their own efforts being wasted and project goals getting nowhere fast had caused most of the drop off in productivity. They were pointedly unhappy with the present situation and it was affecting the teams? performance. Just being seen to do something about it was enough to get things started again. Sometime it?s just as simple as removing the foot from the brakes to let it fly. Good Luck.

    • #2701097

      The time limit is not on you, it’s on HIM.

      by strat72 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      The Lead is not worth saving if he is adversely affecting the performance of his entire department (of 7 techs) because he is the direct cause of their poor performance and morale. The Lead is responsible for his team?s/dept?s performance, even more so if he is CAUSING their collectively poor performance. You?re being hired to take the ?hit? for getting this ?lead? being terminated, if in fact he is the cause of the problem. As a prior poster indicated, a ?politically correct? seminar is not going to change the way a person is, especially if the person is just plain ?bad- with people. He?s probably been that way for a long time, if not most or all his life. After talking frankly, but encouragingly to everyone privately, letting them know you are there to help them all do better, and help them KEEP their jobs, take the time required to get All their input one on one, including their duties, and any issues they have which they see as preventing them from performing their jobs. See what everyone thinks of the problem and what he or she thinks the solutions would be. Check the information you received from the team, with the information obtained from meeting with the lead in question. Work with each and every individual as they do their jobs to confirm what is going on and the ?facts? of the problem(s) as detailed by everyone in your private meetings. Up to here, this would take 2 weeks max, probably a week and a half. If there are logistical, procedural, or other technical issues, they should be easy to find. If indeed all ?evidence- indicates the lead IS the problem, you don?t have 30 days to fix their problems, HE has 2 weeks MAX to fix HIS problems regardless of where they originated, at home, no hugs from mommy, or whatever. At this point, a very direct ?chat? with the team lead would be required to inform him how much time he has to fix HIS problem, and show him how the information you obtained from HIM turned out to be ?faulty?. Suggest he take a week off to sort things out, get those hugs from Mommy, stop beating the cat, and get his attitude adjusted on his own. If the prospect of losing his job doesn?t straighten him out, then he doesn?t deserve to keep it, especially since as team leader, he has been the direct cause of his company?s problems with his team because HE has adversely affected HIS team. After (and IF) he returns (your time constraints are now on HIM), it should be easy to determine from working with the team members and having private, and friendly closing interviews with everyone (but the lead) to determine whether he has turned into an ?seething? introvert with attitude problems he?s choosing to HIDE (until you?re gone), or whether he has taken his last shot at saving his job, fixing his attitude, and succeeded at it. Most people can tell when someone is ?nice?, and sincere; because the sincere and ?nice? person makes the people they work with feel good about working with them. Frankly, you?re being hired to take the ?hit? for getting this person fired, so that everyone else at the company can live peaceably afterwards, and prevent anyone from being subject to ?reprisals? and bad feelings when this person gets fired, which frankly, is probably LONG overdue. It?s up to you to pull the trigger, because no one else wants to. Doing the above, should give you the information and the ammo you need to justify whether you need to pull the trigger or not. This is HIS last chance, and you don?t have the time limit, he does. Hey, maybe you?ll luck out, and it will turn out he is really just incompetent at being a tech, and thus quite unqualified to LEAD his tech team and you can get rid of that ?lead? on that basis alone. I doubt it though.

    • #2701018

      no way jose

      by ansonrah ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      i realize i’m writing two weeks after your post, and so probably too late, but i have been in those shoes. unless they’re paying huge and u intend to not use them as a reference, i’d pass. 30 days is risky to show results, the “pro from dover” is an obstacle to overcome in those 30 days, and so is firing the doofus.
      write back and let me know what happened- and good luck!

    • #2699095

      Get rid of the existing problem.

      by itmanager175 ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      First thing I would do is remove the problem manager. If the company is calling you in and specifically telling you the manager is the problem then he/she has to go.

      This action will empower yo to take control of the current work force.
      They might not like it at first but if you are as good as you say then it should not be a problem.

      Good Luck!

    • #2699010

      What did you decide to do? Are you there yet?

      by virtualgardener ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      I see the original posting was 7-12-04. Since it is now 7-29, I can only assume you are already in the new location. How is it going?

      • #2698925

        Not there yet

        by netpro2551 ·

        In reply to What did you decide to do? Are you there yet?

        There is a fly in the works. I am being held locally by my current management. Suddenly there are critical projects on the horizon that I need to attend to before they will loan me out to the other region. Who know when and how they will work that out.

        I will keep you up to date.

    • #2713079

      Focus on the Work

      by rlauver ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      In my humble opinion, nothing perpetuates an organizational problem like talking about it (a la org development, HR intervention and the like). Try to eliminate any discussion that doesn’t focus on customers, products/services, or markets. In a reverse of the Human Resources axiom, it turns out that “productive people are happy people” — not the opposite.

      Also, most people want three things: competent leadership, meaningful work, fair treatment. Most any intervention can be distilled to one of these three and its amazing how effective these basics are in turning around a situation.

    • #2710604

      Morale boost

      by pulte ·

      In reply to temporary replacement a non productive manager

      I have lived your experience and it was not pleasant. Ask yourself or better yet ask senior management has he been properly trained to lead or to even managed. Companies today save cost in many ways and a battlefield promotion is one of them. Promote within, but lets not trained them! All because a person shows a lot of promise does not mean he/she does not need training. A company not willing to training its people are really not interested in its people (retention). What about you, do you expect to be successful turning things around. It could be the culture of the company as to why these people are not happy. Unless you are properly trained you are not a very effective person and that goes for almost anything one does today!

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