This question is often asked by employees, mostly because good management practices are not prevalent in American society, and most are not taught in business schools either. (That’s the reason I write these blog articles – Tim.) Managers who were not properly trained or who simply haven’t the right personality, principles, and understandings for the job will not understand the importance of trust, or when it is most effective to give an employee the authority and autonomy needed to carry out necessary work. Micromanagement – overly close supervision of employees – makes them think they are not trusted to do the work they were hired for, and results in diminished respect for the manager and reduced loyalty to the company. It also wastes both the manager’s and employee’s time in needless communications often including unnecessarily effort-consuming details. It’s is intuitively clear that lack of trust has a negative impact on company profits, but how does it happen and what can we do about it? Read the rest of this entry »
In the defense contracting world budgeting is typically done under a rigorous “earned value management system” (EVMS) that usually includes keeping aside 10% of the budget for use as a “management reserve”. This can then be doled out in bits and pieces as needed to fund changes in what needs to be done (“scope” in the project-organized world) and solutions for problems that arise during the course of business. It also allows people within the organization to cope with unexpected changes without feeling like they are endangering the project or organization when they have to ask for more funding. They all still have to do what they can to stay within budget, but it gives the appearance that upper management accepts that unexpected changes happen and are going to be reasonable in helping people dealing with them. That’s not how budgets are typically presented in the rest of the business world, however. Read the rest of this entry »
Hypocrisy can be real or apparent. Hypocrisy occurs when a member of management contradicts or ignores management direction without consequence. It can be appearance rather than reality when communications between management and employees are lacking, though this is just as damaging as if it was really occurring. Poor communications leave employees to speculate about what management is thinking, planning, and doing, and why they are being given the directions they’re receiving. If these things (who, what, when, how, and especially why) are not communicated clearly and routinely, workers will start guessing and passing around perceptions and ideas as to what management is planning or doing, and it is easy for the speculations to become pessimistic and negative. The fact that a management team allows an information gap to exist between itself and employees will be the first strike against it, and one or more managers ignoring or flaunting the directions the management team is giving employees will sour the company culture in potentially disastrous ways that can undermine change initiatives as well as ongoing operations. Read the rest of this entry »
The value produced by managers is difficult to quantify and varies greatly. For the most part, the value a manager produces depends a lot on their personality, which is a product of their attitudes about people, the work at hand, and their general background and experience. Since the essence of the job is the coordination of the efforts of others, communicating effectively and maintaining the commitment of others who will get the work done are of critical importance. In corporations it is rare for a manager to produce much product-related value by themselves. The real value of management is in uniting people who know what to do in coördinated efforts that multiply the value of individual results. Other ways a manager can contribute are in development of strategy, bringing in outside knowledge including customer and business environment-related information, removing inhibitors to productivity, and generally enabling people to contribute to the satisfaction of customers and the success of the business, however they might be able to do this. It is important to recognize that approach is an individual thing, and different managers will have different ways of dealing with people and issues that may be equally effective but strikingly different to the observer. Read the rest of this entry »
Do you want to get all the value your people can generate while still having time for your own responsibilities? Or would you rather micromanage your people by day and work late nights to get your own work done? Sadly, the latter scenario is where many managers find themselves. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. Why do we tend to micromanage, what’s wrong with it, and what might work better? Read the rest of this entry »
This is a rewrite of an unpublished article I wrote in 1994, when many businesses had recognized the importance of their internal culture and its impact on their business. I believe the principles still hold, though the understanding of culture and how to create lasting business success seems to have slipped in the intervening years, at least in the United States.
Where were we going in the TQM era?
The intent of the Total Quality Management (TQM) cultural change effort of the late 20th century was to achieve maximum organizational effectiveness, meaning maximally effective people. To be highly effective, people must be deeply committed. This requires that people care about their work, employer, coworkers, etc., for they will only be committed if they care about what they are doing and whom they are doing it for. Fortunately, people have a natural tendency to care about their work. The sense of accomplishment available through work gives people reason to feel better about themselves, and makes caring and contributing possible and even pleasurable. The positive self-image that arises in this kind of environment is a far more powerful motivator than any externally applied influence and results in far higher quality of work. By comparison, fear is also a powerful motivator, but its effects are detrimental to the quality of work produced in many ways, and they all increase cost without a matching increase in value. But how are business systems involved? Read the rest of this entry »
A colleague shared the following instructive story with me. It has apparently been circulating around the internet via email so I can’t identify an author, and while it may be completely fictional or simply exaggerated, the story suggests some key reasons why Total Quality Management (TQM), prevalent in the 1980’s but mostly forgotten today, actually worked. First, the story, taken verbatim (with spelling errors) from my email: A Short Story for The Engineers Read the rest of this entry »