Manager as a Prototype Builder

Dec 27 / Metron
For many new managers, the allure of the "final product" can be a trap, hindering the iterative process that leads to truly great ideas. 

More crucially, when you become a manager and leader, you have to shed this old desire for fast results, in favour for getting to the "right" results. Senior managers think in phases and stages, are agile and develop their thinking over time. 

In order to be successful as a manager you will need be good at something called "iteration" which is effectively building drafts of prototypes of your solution. This doesn't mean products, but seeing your work, whether that's a proposal or an idea to change a customer policy. 

Why do we fall into this "final product" trap? 

It's often a mix of pressure, pride, the fear of seeming indecisive, and prior to becoming a manager the focus of non-managers is on outputs and speed of processing.

We want to prove our worth, show results quickly, and avoid appearing unsure. But rushing to the finish line often leads to subpar outcomes and missed opportunities.
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2 tips to master iteration

So, how do we, as new managers, embrace the messy magic of iteration? Here are two practical tips:

1. Borrow from the Design Sprint: Designers understand the power of prototypes – rough drafts that spark feedback and guide improvement. Apply this to your own brainstorming sessions. Instead of presenting a fully-formed plan, share a "prototype idea" and encourage open feedback. This fosters collaboration, identifies flaws early, and paves the way for a stronger final product.

2. View Ideas as "Living Documents": Imagine your ideas as flexible documents, not static presentations. Embrace the "rinse and repeat" cycle. Test a small part of your plan, gather feedback, refine, and repeat. This iterative approach allows you to adapt to new information, improve effectiveness, and build buy-in along the way.


Take Ayeesha, a bright new manager for home furniture retailer Home Warehouse. She was initially prone to jumping to conclusions and wanting to present a final solution to her line manager.

She introduced a new scheduling system that would streamline appointments with customers which is currently slow and leading to customer complaints. She crafted a detailed plan and presented it as the final solution. She identified a system plus the cost. The result? A lukewarm reception and employee frustration.

With some coaching, Sarah adopted the prototyping mindset. She presented a rough outline purely on the idea, facilitated open discussions with her team and line manager. She did not select a scheduling system nor identified the cost. She asked generally what people thought about the "high level idea". This led more people to engage in the idea. She adjusted the plan based on feedback.


Remember, iteration isn't a sign of weakness; it's a mark of agility and leadership. By viewing ideas as prototypes and embracing the cycle of refinement, you'll not only achieve better results but also build a team that thrives on collaboration and continuous improvement. So, new managers, don't chase the final product – embrace the power of the "rinse and repeat"!

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