Monday, June 20, 2005

Managing Yourself So You Can Manage People

Having spent a good deal of my career as a professional manager in medium and high volume manufacturing environments, I have come to enjoy a few rough-cut management maxims that both amuse and assist people who are trying to kill themselves the way I did. I entertained students with these observations when I was a college instructor of graduates and undergraduates. That is, when there was time I could take from rattling on about the useless dogmas of management. Here are a few:

Aiming for a desirable position: Have you ever seen the important person who has all the keys on his belt? Well, you should not want to be that person. You should set your sights on being the person who points to a door and says, “Open that!”

On electronic gadgets: Pagers and telephones are nothing but leashes that your people annoyingly pull on to get your attention. You need to set up your organization and to delegate so well that you do not need those things. Also, from your viewpoint, they are forms of control. You need to let go, let people develop.

Controlling your time: A wonderful boss once told me, “Don’t try to do everything. Pick out one problem every few months and solve it. Your people will think you are omniscient.” His advice worked like a charm.

Feedback: Management gets what it inspects, not what it expects. Before you make an assignment, you should ask yourself, “How will I know when this job is done? What visible signals will be present?” Both the assignee and the assignor need to know the answers to these questions. If they do, the organization can run in a crisp, orderly fashion, provided that you openly go over the results with the assignee.

The competition: Good management is a scarce commodity. Chances are that competing companies you face have mediocre management skills. Watch these companies for problems, and capitalize when they do unbelievably stupid things.

The higher, the longer: The higher you go in an organization, the longer-term your projects should be. That is, measurement takes longer. A sweeper is low on the totem pole. You can measure his output of clean floors every hour. You can measure a maintenance person by how well his department runs in a week or month. But you may not be able to measure the output of a top manager for a year or two. His or her projects probably will take that long to come to fruition.

There are many more topics than these few, and for each topic there is a story to illustrate why it is important. That is why there are college courses to convey all this information. On this page you get just the essentials. On the other hand, you do not have to try to digest all the peripherals such as all that industrial psychology B.S. that college professors feel it important to discuss for hours on end. It isn’t of much use. A business is not a social laboratory.

No comments: