Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 44: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 5

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 4, 2017

This is my 44th 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 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.)

I have been discussing a set of eight to-address points in this series, since its Part 40 that all relate to:

• What a business would do, and consistently and by default if it were to assiduously follow its strategically mapped out business plans and its formally agreed to operational processes and practices in place,
• And how businesses and the people who work there can and at times do deviate from that default business plan-based approach and even consistently and systematically so.
• And I also at least briefly made note of at least some of the consequences risked, that can arise from that type of ad hoc hands-on and managerial practice. Ad hoc and spur of the moment can lead to capturing and developing unexpected sources of positive value and benefit and they can become necessary when faced with unexpected problems and challenges that are not addressed in more routine contingency planning. But businesses that come to embrace it as a more routine approach, or that do not effectively learn from its use when it is turned to in exception handling, risk becoming riddled with disconnects between their actual day-to-day business practices and their planned for overall strategy. They come to develop disconnects between what is expected and planned for, and what is actually done, day-to-day.

Then after delving into those issues in more general terms, I began focusing in on the specifics of how they arise and play out for specific business stakeholder types, beginning in Part 43 with managers, and with a specific focus on lower and mid-level ones who do not themselves directly contribute to the conversation that shapes and defines overall business strategy or its overall operational execution.

I pursued that line of discussion as framed by an at least seemingly simple single question:

• What makes a good manager?

Then at the end of Part 43, I stated that I would take this by now multi-installment discussion thread, more out of the abstract by considering other stakeholders as well. And at least starting that narrative, is the goal of this posting.

I simply said “good manager” in my Part 43 exposition, and without explicitly stating there, that I would focus on managers who do not carry executive authority or responsibility, in what would immediately follow. So I turn here to in effect complete my answer to that basic question as initially posed, at least to the level of a first draft response to it, by explicitly reframing the basic question itself:

• Think of Part 43 as addressing the question: what makes a good lower level or mid-level manager whose primary responsibility is to apply overall business strategy and its operational guidelines, into the specific circumstances of their more focused areas of work responsibility?
• Now, what makes a good senior or executive manager who contributes to creating and maintaining that business-wide overall organizational framework?

And I begin addressing that second question, by raising two fundamentally important points of consideration: authority and responsibility.

• Many, and even most people who work in businesses, and certainly in large and complexly structured ones with large headcounts, tend to see the senior managers and C level executives at the top of their lines on the table of organization, as having authority to make binding decisions. They see them do this, and in ways that have real impact throughout their lines of their table of organization, affecting many in the process. And they construe this to mean that these executives as being allowed to, and empowered to make even major decisions on their own, and as if at least largely independently of the dictates of others.
• But in a fundamental sense, the higher up you are on that table of organization, the more hemmed in you can become by the overall dictates of the business’ overall strategic planning and its approved operational systems of strategic execution. This is because most lower level managers make decisions that for the most part only involve or at least directly impact on specific aspects of their own functional area of professional activity. But to consider the opposite end of this spectrum, a senior manager or executive working towards the top of a line of functional activity on a table of organization, always has to think and decide and act with a full awareness of the impact of what they do, throughout the organization. They have to take into account the larger, and even the essentially complete picture, with all of its in-house competitions for shared but limited resources, where liquidity and direct fundability is often only one facet of a much larger competitive arena. And this can and at times does mean intentionally, knowingly agreeing to decisions that would at least in the short term, mitigate against their own area of direct business oversight and responsibility, deferring to the needs of other parts of the business and their priorities instead of focusing on their gaining what their own people would need and now, in order to function optimally and achieve their own goals as quickly as possible.
• Authority usually points down the table of organization and in the direction of those who a manager or leader directly or indirectly manages themselves. Responsibility points in all directions, and that means down the table of organization and it also means higher up on it. And for senior executives certainly, that also means laterally and across the business as a whole. And every point in the business that this points to, brings its own shaping constraints into any best decisions that might be made, and whether that means addressing short-term and more immediate needs or longer-term ones – or what is more likely the case: a combination of them.

And that does not even begin to consider the added complication of other stakeholders that a manager and their team might be doing essential work for, and either in-house and across the table of organization or outwardly facing (e.g. to the marketplace and its customers, or to business-to-business collaborative partners, as for example are found in supply chain systems.)

I began this posting’s narrative by explicitly focusing on the line of responsibility and command as it runs up and down branches of the table of organization. I will continue from there in a next series installment to include a wider range of stakeholder interactions, and how complexities and constraints can arise for managers throughout a business when dealing with them. Then I will move on to consider a wider range of stakeholders themselves as they view a business and their roles in it, and as their involvement, of necessity shapes their decision making and follow-through. And with that considered, I will reconsider, yet again, ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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