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Submitted by KTatley on


How often have you heard a manager say, “If I didn’t check and edit the work it would’ve gone to the client (internal or external) with some glaring mistakes?”

So my question is how to achieve high quality output from your staff and contractors. This is a common problem from small to large organizations in different countries and cultures and levels of staff from unskilled, inexperienced to seasoned professionals.

This is not something specifically addressed in Manager Tools but I will answer as I understand the application of the Manager Tools model. I’m not sure this is a complete answer – guidance is therefore requested if I’ve missed or got something wrong and on what else can be done.

 This is not for the scenario of output from a department or business unit because it’s easy to build a quality process in including review & approval stages and it’s not for production type environments where quality standards can be codified and easily tested.

Manager Tools model for quality (assume staff are hired already so omit recruiting advice):

Firstly, the trinity:

1.     Ensure you have a good relationship with the staff member with the One-On-Ones (in particular focus on what motivates them, challenges they may have in work standard & are they clear about standards)

2.     Provide proper 4 step feedback whenever the quality meets standard and whenever the quality does not meet standard

3.     Identify areas for improvement and coach the direct appropriately (in this instance it would be something quality related such as how to work accurately with figures or a course on written communication)

4.     Develop the staff member by delegating some review/quality control responsibilities to them (seeing the other side is always helpful)

Second, set goals: As mentioned this is for an environment where codification of quality standards is difficult so will have to work to define metrics – working out what it is that you really want and expressing this will be key to being able to communicate and monitor. Once you have a metric, this can be measured.

Brainstorming: Engage direct as part of the problem identification, definition & solving on how to achieve quality. Can assist with development of goals and metrics above.

Performance reviews: Not the best place for feedback as feedback should be more frequent than annually so rather use performance reviews to determine goals with the direct, set expectations, link to reward and ensure job description incorporates quality standards

Owning the inputs: Ensure directs understand that they own the inputs – incorporate into feedback and goals/job descriptions

Use verbal commitments: As a favoured alternative or a supplement to role power (especially if role power is not present)

That’s what I can get out of the Managers Tools model – does anyone think there is something that could be added/altered. Does anyone have a successful case study that they can share?

buhlerar's picture

You have obviously captured a very comprehensive list of concepts.  Of course, there's usually not just one thing that solves the problem completely and permanently, so you need to have good management practices all around to ensure consistent quality output.

But let me highlight one of your points.

This may not be the best approach for every work product, but I was in a situation early on as a manager where I had to review/approve a lot of transactions.  I wasn't allowed to delegate the approval.  However, I was wasting a lot of time sending things back to the originator because the transaction failed for one reason or another.  So I delegated to one of my staff the initial review and it was a lifesaver.  A lot of the obvious stuff was taken care of before I ever saw it.  Furthermore, if something slipped through I could use it as a good source of feedback to both the originator and the reviewer -- so over time the reviewer got better at finding issues and the process worked even better.

Ironically, this person generally didn't produce above-average work -- I probably chose the reviewer based on who had bandwidth -- but they really took this assignment to heart and benefited the team (and me, for sure).

To me, the best source of development is having someone actually do the thing.  It's great to read a book or go to training, etc. but you only get better through practice.  It doesn't have to be the manager who does this -- nothing better than having two of your directs improve with minimal time spent by the manager.


svibanez's picture

Thank you for posting your thoughts on this topic.  My situation has recently caused me to give this a lot of thought and I've been struggling to come up with meaningful steps.

Your post has given me a lot of good things to work with, and hopefully I'll be able to expand it a little more to fit my situation.

Thanks again!


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KTatley's picture
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 Hi - that's really useful feedback - good to see an example of where it worked - I like to think of this as a Judo style technique - being a pivot to leverage someone else's force