If you want to manage better and lead well, you have to take deliberate action. One tool that is critical for effective managers is the management control book. Whether this resides on your computer or smartphone, is a physical binder you lug around, or a hybrid of the two doesn’t matter too much. What matters is having one. In this series, I’ll go over the pieces so you can build one from scratch or make adjustments to your current system.
Those who have experience with project management will have a leg up. So will anyone who has planned a wedding, a cross-country move, or organized a sizable event. A management control book is essentially the repository for all the information you need to have a successful outcome to the project you are working on. If you are leading a company or are a manager inside of a company, that counts as a big project. You are faced with unexpected challenges and opportunities every day.
Some estimate between 60% – 80% of current managers fail because they are disengaged, overwhelmed, or lack the proper support to do their job effectively. A management control book does not eliminate all those concerns, but it does help to alleviate them. Plus, having one makes you look and act like a pulled together professional.
There are countless ways to organize your control book, but fundamentally it needs to function in a way that suits you. You need to be able to find information quickly, communicate accurately, and update data easily and regularly. If your chosen system is too complicated you will not use it, either because the learning curve is too steep or you don’t achieve immediate value. If the system is too simple, you will find it not dramatically different from carrying around a stack of dog-eared pages, which does not exude professionalism and confidence, save a few established writers, perhaps.
I’ll share my system and later go in depth for each section. My management control book is a hybrid. Nearly every piece is stored digitally; however, I print out what I am likely to need over the week or month and carry it with me. I am a tactile person and a proponent of physically writing things down and letting my eyes scan over multiple pages spread out before me so I can make quick notes in the margins. I carry my management control book with me most places. Not everywhere, not always, but I often find I miss it when it is not near me. Use any planning system you’d like. I’ve stuck with simple 3-hole pages. When I travel, I transfer the relevant sections to a thinner, flexible binder. In my office, I keep everything in something higher end. It’s practical and has a little bit of class, which scratches my prestige itch. Bottomline, use what works for you.
Elements of the Management Control Book
Whether you are a solopreneur, new manager, or established executive, doesn’t matter, your management control book should contain five core sections. Don’t quibble. If you want eight instead, go for it. If you want to categorize the contents of some sections differently, there’s no rule against it. It’s your control book; it has to work for you. The only requirement is that you use the one you create.
Compass – This section contains your personal and organizational mission, vision, and values. Also, your master plan, dashboard, and leadership philosophy. In short, the things that keep you focused on your primary goal and objectives.
Financial – This area holds any financial management reports that you need at your fingertips. Items might include your P&L, cash flow, important financial ratios, targets, your revenue plan and sales plan.
Customer – You have two sets of customers, internal and external. Have their names, contact information and relationship plan handy. Include your ideal client profile, customer satisfaction survey results and trends, marketing plan and success metrics, and any worksheets, questionnaires or prompts you need to remind yourself to use. If you have employees, you are directly responsible for I would put them in the next section.
Productivity – This section includes everything that enhances the productivity of the organization. Your 30/60/90 day plan, key process ‘P’ and results ‘R’ measures, employee role descriptions, reward and recognition plans, performance improvement goals, and any quality improvement and management models you use or want to keep top of mind.
Learning – Management and leadership are learning occupations. You should be regularly making a note of successes, failures, and key takeaways. Include personal development plans, after action reviews, a list of articles or books you want to read, information on seminars or other relevant training opportunities, personal reflections, and journal notes.
What about you? Do you currently use a management control book? How do you organize it? If you do not currently use one, can you see the immediate value in assembling one?