Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 11: looking beyond simply managing personnel 7

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2014

This is my 11th installment in a series in which I 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 (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I developed a more abstractly presented business model approach to operational connectivity and value creation in Part 9 of this series. Then I began fleshing it out with a specific case-in-point example in Part 10, there focusing on Information Technology and its role in inventory and supplies management in a supply chain systems context. I stated that I would follow that with a non-IT example and I will do that here. But before I do so, I want to finish what I started in Part 10 by more explicitly reframing its example in management terms. And I begin that by noting a very specific, very bad-practices management approach that I have seen way too often, and even as standard operating practice. And this goes by a variety of names, only some of which are polite but one name I hear a lot for it is micromanagement.

• Micromanagement occurs when a manager steps in and takes fine detail decision making out of the hands of the people who are actually hands-on doing a set of tasks, or who are responsible for lower level managing that work.
• And it is a hallmark of this practice that the people who are denied a voice or oversight authority here usually continue to be held responsible for completion of those tasks at hand and for their outcome.

Intentional management, in the context that I write of here is all about putting the right levels and types of management and oversight authority and responsibility in the right hands. And it is all about fully aligning responsibility for outcomes reached, with responsibility and authority for making management and oversight decisions and for actually doing the work that is being performance evaluated.

• A manager at whatever level on the table of organization should hold overall authority to manage the people who work under their supervision and should be held accountable for how effectively their team as a whole performs in meeting the goals and priorities, and the scheduled deadlines assigned to them.
• Their manager is responsible in turn to any still-higher level manager who they might report to.
• Hands-on workers are responsible for the tasks assigned to them, and according to whatever schedules they come to agreement to, when coordinating their work with that of their colleagues, and with their direct manager.
• Ultimately, everyone there is responsible to the business and to their colleagues and to their markets and customers.
• Micromanagement occurs when there are breaks and disconnects between authority and management oversight and control on the one hand, and responsibility for results achieved on the other and with the wrong people stepping in with a disconnecting focus on and prioritization on the wrong details.
• And this as stated can still leave people in the role of managers in name only with no real authority and holding no responsibility either. If you hire someone as a manager or advance them into that role by title, you should give them work responsibilities and professional opportunity to match. If they cannot effectively perform at that, they are probably in the wrong job. If they can but are not being given a chance to perform, you only erode morale, and for everyone involved and for everyone at this business who is witness to this.

Let me bring this back to the Information Technology example that I began developing in Part 10, and with coordinating inventory flow and purchase and sales levels with supply chain partners.

This calls for a steady and complex flow of repeatedly updated information, and from and to multiple functional areas within each of the businesses involved, and between those businesses too. This works best when the people who have the direct experience and knowledge needed to do this work and to manage and oversee it, are given authority to do so. And here, I focus by way of example on one step in the task process-flows that go into supply chain collaborations: the ongoing flow of tasks involved in coordinating supply levels requested, provided and received between warehouse facilities in two supply chain partner businesses, with one shipping out and the other receiving some specific type of subassembly part needed by that second company for its final assembly of its marketable products.

And this brings to the front, a point that I have been making but not explicitly stating. I have been giving an Information Technology example and stating that I would expand my example base to include other business functional areas and the management of their processes. But I have, of necessity, been doing that all along. And this brings me to a core point that others have arrived at, and have used to build out alternative management paradigms such as matrix management (see Part 3: the matrix management model and its variations.)

• Standard tables or organization organize according to functional specialization area worked in, with management oriented and management responsibilities partitioned accordingly.
• But complex, higher level business processes and operations essentially always cut across and include several or even many functional areas and require participation that cuts across the functionally organized table of organization.
• And management processes and line of oversight authority have to follow. I will argue as a business case study testable hypothesis if nothing else that when otherwise experienced and capable managers fall into a micromanagement trap, one reason that probably at least enters in as a contributing factor is a breakdown in capacity for the organization to manage multi-functional operations without falling into gaps, misunderstandings duplications of effort and other challenges. So according to this, micromanagement can and does arise at least in part and perhaps in significant part as an attempt to keep systems working in spite of structural problems in place.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider some approaches for addressing management gaps and discontinuities, and in ways that would limit the perceived need to micromanagement. And in anticipation of that, I will discuss adjudication by more senior management as a referee approach to clarifying and resolving management impasses, and I will also discuss same-level collaborative and other approaches. And this will bring me squarely into a discussion of corporate culture as it shapes and addresses the issues of organizational and management structures and systems. 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. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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