Managing to Mediocrity and Madness

The biggest obstacle to success in many organizations is management – too much, too little, too analytical, too by the seat of your pants.  Whatever the “too,” the willingness to look first at the leadership and management activities is one of the signs of an organization that will succeed.

Management and the leadership of an organization are always the deciding factor in whether or not a business will ultimately succeed.  This is true for the following reasons:

•    Managers pick the team.
•    Managers obtain and allocate resources.
•    Managers establish the goals.
•    Managers evaluate performance.
•    Managers determine who works on what tasks, projects, and deliverables.
•    Managers manage!

Managers also get in their own way when:

•    They set unachievable goals.
•    They don’t provide adequate resources.
•    They “mismatch” people to roles.
•    They promote based upon “likeability”.
•    They don’t address underperformers.
•    They don’t listen to the issues.
•    They play the blame game – it is always the subordinates’ fault.
•    They worry more about costs than generating revenues.
•    They. . .

Undoubtedly there are many more items which could be added to the list.  When organizations aren’t achieving desired results, look first to the leaders and managers to determine what is and isn’t happening.

Reward the right results, not “short-term games” (NOTE:   Is this supposed to be “gains”?  That makes more sense to me.  Have you ever experienced an organization where all the objectives are met and bonuses and raises are certain?  When you look at financial performance and true results, it seems financial losses and missed opportunities are equally rewarding for the managers.

Managers who aren’t willing to look first (objectively) at their own results and “how” they manage fall into a trap of their own creation.  All the “right things” may be being done.  All the “go the extra mile” speeches have been given.  If the desired results weren’t achieved, then they weren’t the “right things” for the situation and the people involved.

There are two points at which organizations are particularly vulnerable to management issues:

1.    In the early stages of business development – reaching the first milestone commercial sales levels.
2.    At a growth stage where the organization’s infrastructure – people, funding, systems, and processes – reach the boundaries of capability and capacity.

Early-stage companies experience the need for transition in management skill sets when the business demands shifts from an entrepreneurial (primarily promotional and technology) perspective to a more structured and controlled environment (often referred to as “professionally managed”).  The founding of an organization requires a passion for the “product” and the willingness for everyone to wear multiple hats, flexible roles, and less emphasis on “functional” titles.  As an organization grows and increases in size and complexity, it becomes necessary to establish priorities, controls, and disciplines within the organization which keep everyone moving toward the organization’s goals and objectives. When growth rates reach levels which require an organization to change its behaviors, expand its systems, and grow capacity and capability, managers are often challenged to the limits of their particular skills, talents, and abilities.

Managers who have the skills, talents, experience, and capabilities suited to starting an organization may not be the answer to continued growth and success.  On the other hand, the manager who is highly successful and capable within a more established organization may not be the answer for starting a new business.  Each “type” of manager plays an important role.  When the role the manager assumes doesn’t fit, then no one wins – not the manager, the organization, the employees, or the investors.

Another complicating factor in the management of the business is the owner as manager.  Whether you start the company, invest in the company, or are part of an employee buy-out, ownership does not mean you are suited to the manager or executive role.  You may fit a particular role at a particular stage of business, then again you may not.  Management isn’t about intelligence.  Management is about the ability to get others to execute the necessary tasks efficiently, effectively, and willingly (most of the time anyway).  Management skills aren’t skills we are born with. They are skills we acquire through observation, practice, success, and failure.  You cannot be a great manager if you are unwilling to accept the results you generate and hold yourself accountable for results.

The quickest road to failure is an unwillingness to analyze your own actions and inaction.  Understanding there is no single approach which works well with every member of your organization is also critical.  Management quickly becomes mismanagement leading to mediocrity of results and resistance to action (madness) when managers are not held accountable by themselves; their peers and subordinates; and the stakeholders of the organization.

Ask yourself:  Are you managing to mediocrity? Are you getting the results you desire? Are you spending a lot of time talking about “buying-in”, “going the extra mile”?  Is there growing resistance to “initiatives” and “programs”?  Are you managing to madness?

Copyright ©2005 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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