- By Tony Hanly
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Fundamentally, Managers differ from the rest of the workforce to the extent that they: manage ideas, things or people. Of course, each of these three requires a different set of skills from a Manager.
- Managing ideas involves development of strategy, concepts and plans.
- Managing things involves for example, administration, projects, tasks, equipment, budgets.
- Managing people is about harnessing and developing the capabilities of individuals and teams who may be part of the permanent or casual workforce, or a flexible workforce of contractors. Managing people can also be seen in the context of managing relationships with suppliers or clients.
The Manager’s basic task has not changed however. As Peter Drucker expressed it so well, “It is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results”.
So being effective as a Manager is about getting results. While much has been written and debated about knowledge economies, the truly effective Manager shows the capacity for bridging the gap between Knowing and Doing, the latter being a prerequisite to achievement of objectives.
Sustainable achievement of objectives requires that an organisation has organisational capability (systems, processes, strategy, services/products) and workforce capability applied in providing services of value to the market.
Unless Managers have their personal antenna picking up signals from the market, they risk the chance of becoming ineffective as Managers quite quickly.
By definition, Managers with subordinates are Managers of people (with varying degrees of effectiveness). So the goal of the Manager is to develop effective individuals and teams.
Another way to look at the Drucker quote is to say that being an effective manager is about “directing the resources and efforts of the business”. In other words it is about process.
Through his extraordinary understanding of processes and his talents in prescribing ways of making them visible through measurement, W Edwards Deming made a huge impact on management thinking in the later part of the last century. This impact was largely directed at processes, which led directly to the production of goods and services.
The notion of management itself being a process was not really developed to any great extent. Perhaps managers felt that they were more interested in concepts that would enable them to bring about change in others rather than consciously review their own behaviour.
In a world where change is so fast and ideas transferred and transformed so readily, one must ask what is the real value of Management. Perhaps a keel to balance the organisation boat, perhaps a rudder to steer through choppy waters, perhaps the one who calls the speed of the rowers, perhaps the weatherman to forecast the weather ahead.
Managers increasingly are going to have to be more adaptable, take on diversity of ideas, partner with others in bringing about value, adopt different distribution systems, harness technology and be open to new ways of thinking. But it still amounts to doing simple things well, like communicating with people, planning the organisation, finding the right people, managing their performance, developing organisational capability and understanding the customer.
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