I'm just beginning a new lateral move to a design group consisting of 11 direct reports !  I've usually had anywhere from 7-8 directs.  How can I do one-on-ones with such a large # ?  Every two weeks? 


naraa's picture
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 You must do them weekly if you want to maximise effectivity.  If you do not have the time for all 11 it means you should not have 11 direct reports.  You have two options:

1 - do the one-one-ones weekly with each one of the 11 (you have less time for yourself or other commitments but you have 3 to 4 extra people working for you, and to actually have them working  for you the way you want, you need the weekly one-on-ones)

2 - reorganise the group so that you have less directs and some of your directs supervise others so that they do the one-on-ones with their directs (your skips now).  I would highly recommend this (I agree about 7 to 8 is the maximum number of directs one person can have), but I don´t know how rigid your organisation is for you to be able to do that.  I don´t know if an informal reorganisation, on which you delegate the supervision of a couple of people or so to others is recommended.  I have done that in the past, but it is not the ideal thing to do.


buhlerar's picture

Agree with everything Nara says.  If you can develop a manger to break up the volume, go for it.  Otherwise, eleven is high but doable.  A couple of additional ideas to help.

  • You may need to finesse the scheduling a little more -- Mark suggests allotting 1.5 times the number of available spots, but many directs don't care too much whether they meet at 10 or 10:30, etc. so you could probably help yourself negotiate a consolidated schedule.  Admittedly this could send a message that the O3 is about you, not the direct, so make sure you really aren't forcing them into an inconvenient time, and then focus on them in the meetings.
  • Focus on delegation -- how hard would it be to find 1/2 hour of weekly work to hand off to everyone?
  • One problem with every-other-week is that many questions can't wait 2 weeks, so you'll probably end up doing weekly sessions with many of them anyway.  But the off-week meetings will be more disruptive to your schedule, you'll be less prepared for them, and they'll probably be poorly documented so you won't have clean action items to address during even your scheduled meetings.  This is of course possible with weekly meetings as well, but the fact that you're always meeting with someone will probably reinforce their need to prep for the O3.

Eleven is probably a few higher than optimal, but you're still in the range where the payback is worth doing it weekly.

DesmondJ's picture

I have 12 directs and I try to schedule time with them every week.  In some cases, I need to move times around and sometimes I just cannot meet with everyone, but I sure try.

After doing o3s for the last 10 months, the time that it takes to hold the O3s pays for itself many times over.

- I can write down deliverables and follow up weekly.  Before O3s, I would assign tasks and forget about them.

- It improves delegation

- It improves coordination

- it improves communcation

- I feel that after several months, people have more faith in the meetings and while there was initial pushback, people appreciate the meetings.

- The notes I take show the evolution of projects

- I case of poor quality work, I can track my efforts to make improvements.

- The notes allow me to say, "No, i said this 3 weeks ago...It is in my notes"

I recommend that you check out Disc because it helps knowing how to talk to your staff.  High Ds want to get to the point and high Cs want to know exactly what the plan is..


Good luck.





alrom's picture

 Thanks!  yes I could do what you suggest, but I'm not crazy about re-organizing this large group.  It currently works that way, with 2 or 3 team leaders, but not very effectively.

alrom's picture

 Can you comment on whether or not this would be a good idea ?  (I think not, but would like some feedback on this if possible ...) .. The group is made up of 5 or 6 engineers, who are primarily responsible for the projects, and 5 or 6 technical associates, or drafters, who support the engineers.  Would it be ok to have the O3s with just the engineers ?  Or would you keep it all equal so as to not send the message that some in the group are more important than others ?


In regards to the large number of DRs  I suppose I need to try and minimize all the other meetings that I have to attend ! ! 

robin_s's picture
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If they all report to you, it doesn't, or shouldn't matter whether they are engineers or technicians.  You need them all to accomplish your goals.  I completely agree with Des that you should meet with them all and the payback will be worth it.  Remember as a manager you get your work done through people, so the time you invest in them IS your work.  Eleven 03's is only 5 1/2 hours out of a 40-50-60 hour workweek, and it's probably the most important thing you'll do to be successful, and to help them to succeed as well.

naraa's picture
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 You must make sure somebody (you or other) is looking after and having the O3`s with the drafters, and most importantly those O3´s cannot be project base only (need the 10 minutes for the future part).  

If you have an engineer or even one of the drafters that can have leadership over the group of drafters I believe it is doable for you to delegate that function to this person.  But you must have a good guy or girl there to delegate that to, or choose one that has potential to coach.  The guy or girl should be good technically but most importantly good with people, or at least be willing to learn and apply the tools - manager-tools to work with the people.  

I know doing O3´s with your direct reports plus project O3´s on the projects you maybe in charge of can be quite a challenge.  Perhaps you can consider having a leading drafter (so you would lead 5-6 engineers plus one leading drafter who would lead the other 4-5 drafters).   I work for an engineering company myself and haven´t been able to fully get that implemented though.  We have a leading drafter but he leads and coaches the other drafters on the process of improving the drafting design.  The other drafters hierarchically respond to the lead engineer (supervisor) of the discipline.   If you still lead one of the drafters, that would not send the message (not that you mean it, but people could perceive it as such)  that some are worth less just because they do not hold a specific degree. 

You have to analyse a bit how you are assigning work to your people and how the work of each person affects the work you need to report to your management.  If you are not assigning and reviewing any of the drafter´s work, then perhaps it makes sense for one of the engineers to assume that leading role, or each engineer to have one drafter he or she supervises (that is, if they can actually supervise the drafter).

When deciding which structure is the best I would:

1 - Look at the way tasks on projects are currently being assigned and supervised;

2 - Look at what you want and need to accomplish in terms of process improvement in the long run (not just on the specific project) and how the role of each person fits into this;

3 - Look at the people you have and what each one is skilled at or have potential to be skilled at.

Map people´s interactions and create a structure that best reflects those interactions, so that your functional structure will not "compete" with your project structure.  I had an architect friend who says that pathways on parks should be done after the parks were created and people were allowed to walk over them for a while.  This way, the paths would really be functional to the people.  Check were the marks in the fields are and if they really take you and your people where you and them need to go.

Buhlerar and Des, excellent points on the importance and accomplishments of the O3´s!  When pushing forward for managers and supervisors to perform the O3´s I always get the comment: "but I meet my people all the  time."  So far I have focus the explanation on the O3`s being a more efficient way of communication because both sides are prepared for it.   But some people are so centred on themselves that they do not really see the importance of the other person being prepared for the inquiry.  So your statements focus on how O3´s are better for the manager-supervisor himself/herself.  It provides more convincing arguments.  Thanks.




Scgoldie's picture
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I'm about to start O3s, and not before time.  Trouble is, I have 25 directs...
I'm a Deputy Restaurant Manager.  I report to my General Manager, and our management team have 18 full time directs and the rest are part time.   

The company expects me to be on the restaurant floor most of the time.  Not in the office doing "manager things" (I know, appoint me as a manager and them tell me not to spend majority of my time managing!).

It's 90% certain I'll be in a General Management post in the next 3 months, where I'll have full control over my own time and my directs' schedules. That's when I'll implement the O3s; the practicalities of doing that in when 25 directs plus my management peer and I all report to the same manager are such that I can't begin to fathom how I'd implement them.  I believe it would be more effective for me to get promoted, THEN implement the O3s.  It also eliminates the possibility of my manager feeling I'm subverting him, or walking over his (non-existence, but he thinks he has one) development plan.  To be clear, I spoke to him about O3s, he doesn't like the idea, doesn't think he has time, doesn't think they'd work....yeah, I'm sure you've heard it all before.

I ask myself: once I am in a position to use my role power to start the O3 process, how in the hell am I going to schedule 1/2 hour O3s with 20+ directs?   

I've got as far thinking weeklies for the full timers and bi-weeklies or even monthlies for the part timers, some of whom work 1 shift per week.  But that still means, in a month, I need 43 hours to cover the O3 with all my directs.

The solution I've come up with is to delegate more of the floor time to my Deputy and Assistant to focus on O3s.  The downside is that means I'm at risk of missing the opportunity to do the blocking and tackling of feedback, as a result of spending less time on the floor.

Any insight would be very much appreciated.

naraa's picture
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 It is vacation time here in Santiago now, half of the city is at the beach this month, the other half next month.  I go to the restaurants and i can tell which ones the manager is around and which ones they are not.  As nothing is too Busy anyway the drop in service doesnt Bother me That much. I do worry though about the drop in performance at the company i work as managers go on holiday too. I guess the key is delegation and structuring the work so that key people have some role power over more junior people.  At the restaurants i went it was pretty clear no one was left in charge. Based on my restaurant experience i also perceive a big difference in service when the Manager is on the floor from when he is not.  

I am not really answering your question as i know nothing about managing restaurants. I am just putting a question in your head to perhaps identify the processes in the restaurant you are responsible for and see whether you can asign leaders to these processes and some of the people asociated specifically to the process respond to them rather than to you.  

rdlybeck's picture
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I've posted before about this problem but as an ambulance supervisor I have 53 direct reports (Just gained 2). Meeting with them every week is not possible and I'm not sure necessary since they are not working on projects and such but just doing the work dispatch assigns each day (911 calls).

I am not able to add team leads or anything like that but we did just hire Field Supervisors who are going to be driving around responding to calls. I'm thinking about a way to divide up all 106 employees between the 4 field supervisors and 2 admin supervisors (my counterpart and I each have 53). Could they do O3s and we do all the reviews? Not sure what something like that might look like. Any other ideas out there for dividing up the staff more? My manager is not yet open to the idea of giving direct reports to the field supervisors as he doesn't want them doing any admin work yet.


Ryan D. Lybeck

Scgoldie's picture
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 In response to Naraa, it's an interesting thought.  There are some of my daily duties I could delegate out, stock counts, payroll processing etc.  This would probably free up some time for one on ones early in the day.  

The other option I considered is a O3 day, where I'm there but not actually there.  I use my role power to assign the daily admin to my assistant and two team leaders.  They run the restaurant while I conduct 10 hours of one on ones.  This would cover all my full timers, meaning I'd only need to make time for 2 hours twice that week to cover the 8 part timers.

Ryan, perhaps doing the O3s with your field supervisors and admin supersavers, and delegating the O3's to them might work?  You wouldn't be making them direct reports, only delegating some of your workload.  I think so long as they take good notes and you make time to read them, it might be an 80% workable solution.  Horstman's 2nd law, More Communication is Better definitely fits here.

I can't remember where it was said, but the phrase that stuck with me was "Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good"

Even if it's a less than perfect O3, or you can only do O3's bi-monthly, it's better than not doing at all.

And I think I might have answered my own question to boot!