The Cube of Good Management is an Operational Excellence Framework developed by me with the objective of integrating the most relevant methodologies1 into a single practical model that is simple for you to use.
I define Operational Excellence as the continuous search for the best way of operating an organization. It is, together with market strategy and product/service development, one of the main pillars for the success of any organization. Its importance is based on the fact that, despite of what strategy consultants try to make us believe, the vast majority of organizations fail because of their operations and not because of their strategic design2. It is therefore critical that in order to survive in the long term organizations devote more attention to managing their operations, with the Cube of good management being the ideal tool for this.
The Cube of Good Management is a practical and simple to use framework for improving operations management which integrates the most relevant methodologies.
The Cube of Good Management is based on the following principles:
- People are the most important part of an organization, so we must make everything we can to keep them committed and motivated.
- Fact-based innovation and continuous improvement are the only practical means that organizations can go about improving their rate of value creation.
- All value in an organization is produced by the coordinated work of people, therefore, aside from product/service development, improvement and innovation actions must be focused on the management system as a whole, end-to-end processes and true teamwork.
- Organizations behave as complex adaptive systems hence managing them requires equipping the organization with self-management mechanisms: self-organisation, self-control and self-adaptation.
- Organizational culture is the main barrier for transformative long-lasting effects, therefore cultural change should be at the top of the agenda when addressing any such transformation program.
- The main responsibility of managers and senior leaders in an organization is to act as coaches in the philosophy and methodology derived from these principles.
I include below a detailed breakdown of the Cube of good management where you can see how each of its six facets is composed by four elements. I call it the Cube of good management because, working on each of the elements that constitute it, we can ensure that management will be appropriate for the organization to meet and exceed objectives in a sustainable way (and also because I want to avoid adding yet another fancy name to the long list of existing methodologies and frameworks). You can assemble your own cube by cutting and pasting the following image:
Click on the image to download the original PDF file
The cube is composed by 24 elements distributed at a rate of four elements on each of its six facets.
Regardless of the facet they belong to, all the elements of all the facets are related to each other, that’s why my preference is to visualize the Cube of good management as a 2×2 Rubik’s cube3 as shown at the top of this article, since this allows me to play with these interrelationships. The facets and elements are listed below:
- Purpose: This facet covers everything related to the “why” and “what for” of the organization, questions whose answer must be shared by everyone in the organization. The purpose is given by the mission-vision that constitute the whole reason of being of the organization, the values that define the principles of ideal behavior, the orientation to the client as the ultimate objective of value creation and the objectives that define the direction to be followed by the organization as a whole.
- Structure: To create the value defined in the “Purpose” facet, it is necessary to materialize its principles in a work structure. This structure consists of the process architecture, which are the large blocks of activity that make up the value chain, the roles needed to execute the processes, the teams, which constitute a fundamental element of synergy creation for the people that compose them, and governance, understood as everything related to the assignment of responsibility in decision making as well as the capacity to delegate it.
- Codes: Defining norms on the way of working is very important for processes to flow, teams to work together and people to feel protected. It is a question here of finding a balance between dictatorship and anarchy (through self-organisation in most of the cases) using rules, the most basic and strictest compliance codes in the organisation, workflows, which model how some roles are to be coordinated with others within the value chain, standards, which help to optimise work by defining a common way of doing the activities that constitute the workflows, and operational definitions, which refer to clear, unambiguous, observable and measurable criteria for rules, workflows, standards and in general for all inputs, outputs and elements in the cube.
- People: Without people there is no organization possible and therefore it is essential to model the activities that a good manager should perform in care for the people in his team. The manager must select the most qualified people for each role, using a good recruiting and firing method if necessary. It is essential to compensate people fairly for their work, as well as to recognize their participation in the success of the organization, always from the knowledge of the limitations of salary as a motivation factor. The organisation must also develop people both through technical training and coaching (the latter must be carried out by the team leader and management in general). Finally, it is critical to energize people, an activity for which the manager must use specific communication, empowerment and motivation mechanisms.
- Rituals: Rituals are periodic organizational behaviors that serve to facilitate and put into practice many of the elements of the other facets in the cube as well as its life cycle. These rituals are huddles, quick periodic team meetings that are fundamental for both daily team planning as well as for strengthening the foundations of team collaboration, retrospectives, meetings in which the team reflects together on what has happened and has been achieved in the last period with the aim of learning from it and continuing to improve, one-on-one meetings which articulate a large part of the development and energization of people and Gemba walks, which enable managers to accomplish a more realistic management based on what is really happening in the organization instead of what they perceive from their office.
- Tools: Tools play an indispensable role in the competitive development of quality work. On one hand we have money as a fundamental meta-tool, which must be managed efficiently by all teams due to its importance accessing to other resources. Management of equipment and materials will allow access to supplies, raw materials, basic equipment and physical spaces necessary to carry out the organization’s activities. It is also very important to manage the information that is critical for the performance of the activity, being necessary to use information which “radiates” in the right amount at the right time. Finally, it should not be neglected the incredible optimising power of technology, which must be properly managed since it should only be implemented once all the other elements of the cube have been put in place.
As part of the implementation of the Cube of Good Management framework, each organization has to develop its own enablers4 and metrics5 for each of the 24 cube elements. Having enablers and metrics is critical for the successful implementation of the framework. However, what is important is not the choice of one enabler or metric over another, but complying with the principles of the framework. I provide my clients with a methodology toolbox to create the enablers and metrics that serve as a starting point, but each organization should fine-tune them and develop the ones that work best for them, always in compliance with the objectives and principles behind each element. You can obtain more information about enablers and metrics on this complementary article.
You must develop specific enablers and metrics for each element, but you must also take it for what it is, as a means to implementing the underlying management philosophy.
The Cube of good management framework also includes a life cycle that determines the evolutionary phases of the cube.
In a first phase, it is necessary to deploy and execute the enablers through good change management in order to ensure that everyone knows about them and is committed to their execution. It is important to note that such change management begins before deployment by involving team members in the design of the enablers and metrics (see the article “Playing with the Cube of Good Management” where I explore this topic in detail). Next, and in parallel to the enablers based execution, the organization must monitor and analyze the results through the metrics defined for each element. These results, together with the ideas of the whole team, will be fed into a third phase where the purpose is to improve and innovate the design of the enablers and metrics for each element of the cube, using two different but complementary mechanisms: continuous improvement and disruptive innovation. Once this last phase is completed, we shall start again with a new deployment and execution in a cycle that never ends, because in our search for Operational Excellence, enablers and metrics may always be further improved.
Jorge Díaz – jdiaz.eu
The Cube of Good Management framework is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution – Non-Commercial – No Derivatives 4.0 International license as explained here
- I rely mainly on Lean, Agile and Business Process Management, but I also include references to Systems Thinking, Quality Leadership, Kaizen, Management 3.0 and Six Sigma. This framework wouldn’t be possible without the ideas taken from great thinkers such as W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker, Taiichi Ohno, Mike Rother, Peter Scholtes, David Mann, Jon Miller, Lawrence M. Miller, Masaaki Imai, Jurgen Appelo, Atul Gawande, Roger Burlton, Peter Senge, and many others to whom goes all my credit.
- See for example Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard where the percentage of organizations failing at strategic execution is rated at 90%.
- You can purchase a Rubik’s Cube of good management like the one I use through the Rubik’s Photo Cube store at this link.
- An enabler is any type of material, document or information that shapes and facilitates the execution of each element in the cube. It can be a diagram, a checklist, a user guide, a template, etc.
- Metrics are generally quantitative measures that allow monitoring and analyzing the performance of each element in the cube