Ed Muzio is considered one of today’s clearest thinkers on management practices. His new book, Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible, Focused Management Team (An Inc. Original, 2018), lays out a process for managers to quickly and effectively problem-solve while keeping their teams focused on clearly defined goals. Iteration, Muzio explains, means taking the next logical step, learning from it, taking the next step, and so on. It’s a way to remain flexible in anticipation of unforeseen — and inevitable— challenges.
Using a metaphor, Muzio explains that much of the work of managers is to behave like a thermostat: Once the number is set, the management team continually checks the temperature and makes adjustments to keep it level despite fluctuations in the environment. The key, however, is quickly determining the most intelligent step to take to solve any problem.
Even though what seemed like the most logical step yesterday may seem like a mistake once new information arises today, and whatever step you take to fix that mistake today will probably seem like a mistake in light of information that surfaces tomorrow, this doesn’t mean you’re a poor manager. Rather, says Muzio, it means you’re iterating.
The foundation of the book is an explanation of five key management practices which, when employed together, integrate an organization both horizontally and vertically.
One key practice, for example, involves specifically structured Work PreView meetings between managers and their direct reports. Meetings follow a prescribed format that allows participants to quickly grasp the issue and take decisive action. Work PreView meetings’ core components emphasize their forward-looking orientation and have a focus on what, if any, changes are needed to resource allocation.
Muzio makes the point that organizations need to know more than simply how current operations are going. Through a progression of six graphics, he compares the traditional way information is shared with the way forward-looking information is presented. Readers are able to see for themselves the difference between a graph that captures only the current status versus a pragmatic dashboard that forecasts future outputs and envisions different versions of the future.
Work PreView meetings progress in a clearly defined manner: they present the planned measurable results, any likelihood of variance and its possible cause, and suggested actions. Managers then have the information they need to allocate resources based on a new understanding of what’s expected to take place in the future.
Following an explanation of each of the five key practices, the author provides a summary, a rehearsal-type assignment for putting the concept into practice, and even shares where to access more information through online videos.
Muzio’s formula for iteration is a synthesis of some 70 years of work in sociology, psychology, organizational design, organizational behavior and neuroscience. With his explanation of the five key management practices that enable organizations to iterate, he gives managers the tools to quickly solve problems, adapt and keep pace with today’s rapidly changing business environment.
Iterate targets every level of management, as each, Muzio emphasizes, is part of a larger, interconnected system. Iteration creates an environment that makes managing easier because “goals make sense, targets are aligned and people are held accountable to reasonable, appropriate expectations.”
Learn more at Iterate Now.