Scroll To Top

Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #87
(August 11, 2020)

Using '1-10-Mid-90' to Achieve Your Managerial Ne Plus Ultra (The Highest Degree of Accomplishment)

While our job descriptions might contain a very broad range of duties and activities that we—as managers—are responsible for, I'd like to cull that down to three simple words: We Manage Work. While it's easy to think that we manage people, what we're really managing are the activities people DO to accomplish the WORK that's been determined as important/necessary/critical to moving the organization forward.

But the more work there is to manage, the easier it is for stuff to slip through the cracks—especially now when many people are remote and/or not immediately accessible to stopping-by and checking-in. This 'slippage' frequently results in quality declines and delays in deliverables (which can have a cascading effect downstream).

In a humorous aphorism created to explain this slippage, Tom Cargill (Bell Labs), stated what has come to be known as the Ninety-Ninety Rule: "The first 90% of the [project] accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the [project] accounts for the other 90% of the development time." While we can chuckle at this mathematical aberration (180%), his wry allusion accurately epitomizes the extent to which many tasks, assignments, and projects end up being over-time and/or over-budget and/or under-quality.

Because most organizations are built on an interdependent philosophy where the work completed in one area is the pre-work needed in another, we can understand why there is such a strong emphasis on timely delivery of expected work. This is why, after many years observing managers in action, I believe effective management is the demonstrable ability to develop a fluid and dynamic work structure within a complex world, where the independent variables of time, cost, resources, and human behavior intersect.

To help you in this pursuit, this week's CORE Bites will cover in detail how to use our '1-10-Mid-90' (pronounced exactly the way it looks) system to achieve your managerial Ne Plus Ultra (the highest degree of accomplishment). If you don't want to be seen as a micro-manager BUT you do want your team to be habitually excellent in their deliverables, I think you'll find this system works extremely well and is adaptable enough to work for teams of all sizes, all configurations (physical and virtual), and all industries.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

The 1-10-Mid-90 system enables you to get a lot more out of the time you spend with your team because the expectation-setting conversations ultimately deliver better outcomes. But now you need to work this method into the language of your organization. This week (starting today), look for projects and assignments where you can apply the following HVA cut-points:

  • The 1% in 1-10-Mid-90: This step represents the very beginning of any project or assignment—precisely at the 1% mark when there's still 99% of the work left to be done (and when everything seems calm and everyone feels in-control). This is an extremely important phase because it's where you set the direction and where you clearly communicate what a successful assignment/project completion will look like—how we will know we are done; who will derive benefit and how will that benefit be realized. This is where you will set your Objectives and Key Results (OKR) metrics. The assignment that will take your team to the 10% milestone comes next. This assignment should not be taken lightly because the due diligence done during this phase will result in a better action plan. Your assignment for them is a single question: "What steps are required to achieve [DESIRED RESULT] and what are the systems, abilities, and resources necessary to achieve this by [END DATE of PROJECT]?"
  • The 10% in 1-10-Mid-90: The 10% point is where you will now assess and adjust what the team has come up with as their action steps. For those of you who golf, this phase is almost like hitting a golf ball; any adjustments you make to your swing early on will change where you hit the ball—even by a few degrees (or a few millimetres)—and your golf ball will end up in a very different place as a result. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, states, "You don't actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it 'done.'" What you should see from your team are all of the elements that will influence the successful completion of this project. This is where you should challenge any and all assumptions to ensure that all elements have been considered. This is also where you get to figure out deliverables, timelines, and milestones for the project. You'll also want to start defining the team and roles.
  • The Mid in 1-10-Mid-90: The mid-point of any project is a perfect spot to provide feedback and to look for possible Course Corrections. At this point, your team should have gone through some design iterations. Remember, those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even if they find the need to adjust the plan along the way. Your role is to look for things that don't feel right—things that don't seem necessarily aligned with the ultimate goal or with the vision and objectives. Ask the team for their key insights and their key learnings on the activities they've done so far and any adjustments they need to make for the home stretch. At this point, there's probably still quite a bit of work to be done so don't let the team get too comfortable with how much time remains. It's amazing how fast the clock ticks in the last half of the project.
  • The 90% in 1-10-Mid-90: This step represents the 90% point in any project or assignment. Projects have a tendency to progress quickly until they become 90% complete; then the tendency is to remain at 90% complete until something nudges the team over the hump. Many times YOU will be that "nudge." Remember, we are judged by results not attributes, so it's important to look at all aspects to ensure the project is completed successfully on time. At this point, you will want to examine the tiny details closely—the only things that should be coming up at this stage are critical blockers to completion. Anything else should be taken off-line until the project is complete.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things."

— Peter Drucker —