Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 1: mapping management systems by default and through simple repetition of a basic oversight model

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 2, 2014

I write on a fairly frequent basis on business operations and strategy:

• On what managers work on and manage from a business processes perspective,
• And on what they implement when they are actualizing the planning of others who are higher up on their tables of organization
• Or who they work with as their in-house clients and as involved task or project participants.
• (See Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.)

I have also been writing about management practices per se and from the jobs and careers perspective of the individual manager as they work their way up the table of organization to progressively more senior positions (see particularly my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its page 2 continuation.)

My goal for this series is to explore and discuss management per se and how management systems are developed within an organization, taking an operational and strategic approach to understanding managers’ hands-on roles and responsibilities and how they are arrived at. So in a fundamental sense, my goal for this series is to in effect bridge a gap between the two approaches to management that I have been discussing and presenting on up to here. And I begin this with what for most businesses and most business model implementations, is the default management model – and one that I tend to start with as a default approach too.

The historical default management model: The default model is one of organizational simplicity in which individual managers directly and comprehensively oversee a specific group of direct reports, holding overall responsibility for their activities and their work performance on the job, and for carrying out manager-level personnel related activities on their behalf. This is an approach that in its simplest form represents the one real management option for small businesses such as startups and early stage companies as they begin hiring, where tables of organization and patterns of management oversight have to be kept simple and lean, and individual employees report to one supervising manager for essentially all of their work activities and on essentially all work-related matters for which they would have to report at all. Then as the business grows this modular, one team and one designated manager system expands out as the table of organization does and as overall employee head count and supervisory management head counts rise too.

Under this system, the number of direct reports is usually at least, kept relatively constrained as the same manager has to be able to oversee and supervise the technical hands-on work performed by the members of their team and they have to be able to keep up with what everyone on their team is doing as they address assigned and mutually agreed to work goals and priorities. This way these managers can be informed enough and up to date enough on what their team as a whole and their individual team members are doing, to know overall work performance levels and where and when problems may be developing. And this way they can be day to day connected enough with their teams to be able to step in when needed and help resolve resource access and other problems, and to know when that is needed. And this knowledgeability is also essential if they are to effectively manage work and goal priorities as business needs and opportunities change and assess work performance and as they work with and report to their own supervising manager, that next level up on their table of organization.

HR and Personnel-connecting activities enter in here too, with work performance evaluations and reporting, and with managing from the team side, team member participation in skills and due diligence required employee training and other activities that are managed business-wide through Human Resources. So at the same time that a manager who works according to this management model oversees, directs and evaluates technical hands on work performance and goals and priorities completion, they also work with and liaison with Human Resources so as to manage their teams in ways that align with overall business policy and practice, and to keep HR as a central Personnel information repository up to date on individual employee work performance. This is essential if these employees are to receive business-provided support and it is essential in verifying that employees are in fact meeting employment requirements. This also, I add is needed if and when advancement and promotion would make sense and for documenting and validating that.

And this series, up to here at least, probably sounds so obvious and routine to most readers as to raise the question of why I even write it. Managers manage, period. They have direct reports who they oversee and as part of that, this means managing their day to day and longer term, goals directed work activity. And they serve as the management point of contact between the people who report to them, who collectively form their teams, with Human Resources and with the business as a whole and certainly for routine processes and business contexts. And if some of their direct reports are themselves managers, those direct reports perform these activities with regard to their own direct reports, and they as more senior managers advise and guide them in that, as well as supervising the more junior manager employee’s own direct hands-on work where they have both management and non-management responsibilities.

My goal for the balance of this series is to note and discuss management systems and approaches that break away from this basic default pattern, and to outline at least something as to why businesses would take alternative paths here. And my overall goal for this series is to discuss how and why it is necessary to think through management and management processes followed at this level, rather than simply following a path that is familiar and probably unconsidered, and entirely on momentum. Put slightly differently, my overall goal here is to discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned, intentional process – hence the title of this series: intentional management.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, there focusing as a starting point on a management model approach that is followed by Google.com. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

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