Dr. Brian Monger
What should good managers do?
How do I manage better?
These are standard questions that most of us in the management profession have been asked more than once. Here, then, is my take, on what it takes to be a better manager.
Art and science
Management is both art and science. It is the art of making people more effective than they would have been without you. The science is in how you do that. There are four basic pillars: plan, organize, direct, and monitor.
Management starts with planning. Good management starts with good planning. And proper prior planning prevents… well, you know the rest of that one.
Without a plan you will never succeed. If you happen to make it to the goal, it will have been by luck or chance and is not repeatable. You may make it as a flash-in-the-pan, an overnight sensation, but you will never have the track record of accomplishments of which success is made.
Figure out what your goal is (or listen when your boss tells you). Then figure out the best way to get there. What resources do you have? What can you get? Compare strengths and weaknesses of individuals and other resources. Will putting four workers on a task that takes 14 hours cost less than renting a machine that can do the same task with one worker in 6 hours? If you change the first shift from an 8 AM start to a 10 AM start, can they handle the early evening rush so you don’t have to hire an extra person for the second shift?
Look at all the probable scenarios. Plan for them. Figure out the worst possible scenario and plan for that too. Evaluate your different plans and develop what, in your best judgement, will work the best and what you will do if it doesn’t.
Now that you have a plan, you have to make it happen. Is everything ready ahead of your group so the right stuff will get to your group at the right time? Is your group prepared to do its part of the plan? Is the downstream organization ready for what your group will deliver and when it will arrive?
Are the workers trained? Are they motivated? Do they have the equipment they need? Are there spare parts available for the equipment? Has purchasing ordered the material? Is it the right stuff? Will it get here on the appropriate schedule?
Do the legwork to make sure everything needed to execute the plan is ready to go, or will be when it is needed. Check back to make sure that everyone understands their role and the importance of their role to the overall success.
Now flip the “ON” switch. Tell people what they need to do. I like to think of this part like conducting an orchestra. Everyone in the orchestra has the music in front of them. They know which section is playing which piece and when. They know when to come in, what to play, and when to stop again. The conductor cues each section to make the music happen. That’s your job here. You’ve given all your musicians (workers) the sheet music (the plan). You have the right number of musicians (workers) in each section (department), and you’ve arranged the sections on stage so the music will sound best (you have organized the work). Now you need only to tap the podium lightly with your baton to get their attention and give the downbeat.
Now that you have everything moving, you have to keep an eye on things. Make sure everything is going according to the plan. When it isn’t going according to plan, you need to step in and adjust the plan, just as the orchestra conductor will adjust the tempo.
Problems will come up.
Someone will get sick. A part won’t be delivered on time. A key customer will go bankrupt. That is why you developed a contingency plan in the first place. You, as the manager, have to be always aware of what’s going on so you can make the adjustments required.
This is an iterative process. When something is out of sync, you need to Plan a fix, Organise the resources to make it work, Direct the people who will make it happen, and continue to monitor the effect of the change.
Is It Worth It?
Managing people is not easy. However, it can be done successfully. And it can be a very rewarding experience. Remember that management, like any other skill, is something that you can improve at with study and practice
Managers today walk a thin line…the job is not easy. The responsibilities and demands are more difficult. People expect more; some are plain difficult to work with. It should go without saying that those businesses that do a good job selecting, training and developing their managers will enjoy higher productivity and lower turnover. The two go hand in hand.
Soft skills reign supreme and are critical for success. Most businesses do a miserable job selecting and training their managers. Many management development programs focus entirely on technical aspects of the job and not people skills. Some managers are tyrants and make life miserable for those they are supposed to lead. Duh! It is people skills that make the difference.
Let’s be sympathetic to the plight of people who get selected to become new managers. These are good people. Many are great technicians, but unfortunately are clueless on the art and science of managing people. Some are thrown mercilessly to the wolf pack and of no fault of their own succeed or fail, usually the latter.
What are the Key Management Skills?
As the Information Age turns the nature and type of work we do on its head, our traditional views of work, professions and specialist skills are continually challenged and reshaped. Here’s one consultant’s take on what a modern manager needs to know in a world of change and competition.
New and different forms of work practice are continuing to develop. Manual work has already been largely displaced by technology. Decision making work is increasingly being displaced by technology.
The effects of globalisation are already apparent. A sneeze by a trading partner on the other side of the world can see us catch a cold. A global view of any market is an absolute necessity. The speed of information transfer reduces business advantage from innovation to weeks or months rather than years.
In this environment, the speed of change is probably the only constant. How do we develop strategies, not simply to cope, but to take advantage of this world in which we live?
Always looking for better ways
Willingness and ability to learn new ideas and information
People and Politics Skills
Politics – getting others involved to support ideas
People handling skills
Managing and resolving conflict
Motivation and inspiration
Ability to give effective (positive) criticism.
Setting goals and articulating a vision
Ability to fit into roles – team player (when appropriate)
Can communicate a Vision
Motivating and influencing others
Willingness and ability to train others
Has a vision of the (improved) future
A Focus on Results
Willingness to Accept (Complete) Responsibility
Creative and innovative thinking
Problem Solving and Decision making
Ability to make good and timely decisions
Recognising, defining, and solving problems
Willingness to take managed risks
Empowering and delegating
Resource (human, informational and physical management)
Operations and HR
Personal Management Skills and Focus
Negotiation – looking for a better outcome
Initiative – Self starter
Tolerance for ambiguity
Tolerance for confrontation
Getting things done
Willingness to do the right thing
Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects. He is a specialist in negotiation and behaviour He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator
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