Management – A Manager’s Profession!
What is management all about? I know it could be a huge topic and open up fresh debates for the reader as well as other commentators, if not practitioners. However, being married to management and not daring to define management would be like buying a powerful car only to rev it up in your garage.
Management is the Boss!
Most organisational denizens do believe in the above statement. For them ‘management’ is a bunch of top managers in an organisation who have the power to take the big decisions and are responsible for the organisational objectives including people getting hired or fired. The management drives in bigger cars, has bigger offices, draw bigger salaries, has bigger responsibilities and reserved parking space. They find other managers to parcel out their responsibilities and hold them accountable for what they have been made responsible for. Well, it does appear that Management is the boss. But, the managers who are recipients of these parcels of responsibility and accountability do exactly the same. They too find others to parcel out their burden and are looked upon by their delegates as their management. As every manager has more responsibility than his delegates and can hold them accountable for their handed down parcel, the senior manager has the power over the one below their level. This flow of responsibility and the accompanying power to hold a delegate accountable is what a classical organisation structure depicts through an organogram. The more powerful and costly manager sits in a box placed ‘higher’ in the organogram. That is why ‘management’ is first looked upon as the boss and as a result, this blurs further insight or investment into this much celebrated and maligned word.
But, this paradigm of a manager or an organisation has changed a lot over the years with managers losing the power to threaten the basic needs of their delegates. Most managerial tasks today are less supervisorial as the delegates are no longer semi-skilled or skilled workmen but knowledge workers. Exceptions do prevail in the unorganised labour sector or some old fashioned industrial ghettoes. In most of the organised world, knowledge working, automation and computers sounded the death knell for McGregor’s Theory X sympathisers. Theory Y, although contrary to a man’s natural habits of command and control, continues to threaten the classical interpretation of management while knowledge working keeps multiplying at the pace of probiotic bacterial colonies. In reality, Responsibility and Accountability flows down and across, while it is Results and Problems that flow up in an organisation. Cross functional working is no longer the necessity of top managers but is constantly slipping into the lower hierarchical levels of most organisations. Corporations spread across geographies and large distances, ascendancy of non-manufacturing functions like Marketing, R&D, SCM, HR, Controlling and IT have made cross functional decisions the need of the day across any organisation’s hierarchy. The ever increasing span of management influence has yanked away management control from the top management and left them panting, either with the power of bureaucracy or struggling for time and breath to meet the overflowing demands for decisions and mediation.
Managers today are rather like nodes in an organisation where a cocktail of responsibility, accountability and problem solving is processed (and savoured by some), to hopefully flow out in different directions as per the designed workflow.
What these Managers (nodes) process and churn out is Management!
The process and competence required to perform as a manager is quintessential professional knowledge that every manager needs. And this is not taught in business schools. This is what managers learn on the job based upon their Habits of Thinking and Action (HaBoTaCs), organisational culture, leadership and work pressure.
What do Managers manage?
To have a deeper understanding of what these processors or managers handle or manage, we should get a taste of what goes on in the deep recesses of their minds. Let us ask a few questions to us managers:
Ask yourselves, ‘what are you? ‘…and you may answer, ‘I am an Engineer, a Chartered Accountant, a Sales or Marketing person, an HR professional or a Molecular Biologist’.
Yes, you are or were depending upon how much time has elapsed since you were minted as a manager.
Ask yourself, ‘how much time I spend in working on or in – production engineering, R&D, bioprocess, finance or marketing?’
…and you may hear a pretty different music from within.
Ask yourself, if you get the salary that you do because of your knowledge in the above domains?
…and you may say an emphatic ‘Yes!’
…Ask yourself, if there are no delegates of yours who may have similar knowledge in the domain?
…and you may admit with a tinge of guilt that there are guys who report to you, but have either similar knowledge or even more.
Now, If I were to ask you; why does the company then pay you a higher salary than your knowledgeable delegates?… you may get a bit annoyed with me…but may be saying to yourself, ‘…because I am a Manager!’.
Ask yourself, what are you supposed to do as a Manager – engineering, accounting, cell culture, HR, IT, systems, production, quality, etc.???
…and you would say, ‘No, I used to do all that stuff for years before I became a Manager. Today, I manage people, workflows, processes, technology, systems… I am responsible for the final outcomes, the results that my team or organisation is responsible for…that is why I deserve and get a much higher salary!!!’
Ask yourself, what you actually do on a daily basis to manage these results when all the dirty or daily work is done by your delegates???
…Your answer could start with, ’I….mmmm…we have to lay down the processes, systems, tools, KPIs’
…Daily???…how many times a day or a week or a month or in a year do you have to change or lay down such things? What else do you do on a day to day basis?
…and you could be quite justified to assert, ‘I analyse my resources and our plans. I plan, review and revise plans as and when needed…all due to some goof-up happening in some other part of the organisation or the world!…I decide upon changes in workflow, people deployment, I monitor, I motivate my team.’
Surely! A manager does all these things and that is what gets the planned results month after month and year after year.
But, does the above still fill up every day of your week, sitting alone in your nicer office… reviewing plans, analysing resources, strategies, making change decisions???
…and you wish to scream!!!
‘…Hey come on, I am a manager. Do you know how many mails I have to go through every day? Do you have any idea how much time it takes to respond to corporate emails before one presses the ‘send’ button; the time one needs to prepare proposals and presentations that gets trashed one after another just because somebody has a completely different point of view about one bullet point??
…I picked up this crazy book of yours only to get my mind off the 398 mails sitting in my mailbox… And then I get invited to meetings, conf-calls (some are con calls), VCs, TCs, , LyncTCs, SkypeCalls… from all across the organisation / globe…
… Half of the time you spend talking about how to manage somebody’s emotions instead of going ahead with the change proposal. You debate heatedly for hours over different viewpoints while the figures / proposal on the screen wait patiently to be acknowledged… all because someone has not done his or her homework better and few details are missing for the proposal to be decided upon…
…Do you have any idea about how much time a manager spends in resolving conflicts between team members or peers while your spouse is relentlessly pinging you about the homework you have to help with for your daughter in middle school?
…All the above gets shelved the moment the boss’ assistant buzzes you that you are wanted; only to be informed that all the priorities you were working on have to be turned on their heads as something changed that he cannot explain yet. Not only your brain badly needs a reboot every other week, your laptop crashes, your smartphone’s memory or battery does not pack enough and the new model launched is way too expensive!
…Don’t you know what these smartphones do???
…WhatsApp, texts, mails, calendar alerts for EMIs, Insurance premiums, mortgage payments, repairs, birthdays, anniversaries, dinners, business trips…
It is enough to drive a saint crazy…I am just a bloody manager!!!’
That should sum up all that a Manager has to manage! The art, craft or science required to manage all that a manager has to manage is what constitutes the professional knowledge of a manager. And his profession is management, the practice that managers have to deal with throughout their managerial trajectory. Period!
Do managers have the professional knowledge to handle their management profession?
Yes and No!
We always have some…
(WIP for my forthcoming book, ‘Married to Management’)