Modern Management And Common Sense: 8 Challenges for 2012

SummarySo called “modern management” has been studied seriously for about 100 years. Many of our management practices are rooted in 20th Century thinking. Has common sense been forgotten? • Why Aren’t Senior Managers More Interested In Marketing?CEOs, COOs and Managing Directors are ultimately responsible for the continued success of the business. Yet most of them take only a passing interest in marketing.They’re more interested in planning, financing, ROI, production: all those areas that produce statistics they can read and analyze to death.The reality is, if your marketing’s poor, sooner or later, those figures will be, as they say, “trending downwards”. Discussion will rage about “reversing the trend”, “product mix”, “expense reduction” and all that hard data stuff.The real problem could be poor marketing. Remember, everything isn’t marketing, but marketing is everything. • Why Don’t Masters Degrees In Business Administration Require Business Management Experience?Colleges and universities all over the world bestow MBAs. Few require any proof of business management competence or even extensive actual management experience. And few managers bother to check to see whether the content of an MBA program match the management needs in their business.Doctors, pilots, lawyers and many other professionals must undergo rigorous postgraduate practical training to prove their worthiness to practice. Tradespeople have to be able to prove practical competence before being allowed to “ply their trade”. In most Australian states new car drivers must have at least 2 years incident free driving experience before being granted an unencumbered licence.Why doesn’t the same apply to MBA graduates? And why don’t colleges and universities describe the skills that an employer can reasonably expect an MBA graduate to bring to a postgraduate job?I’ll probably be accused of being anti-intellectual, anti-academic and anti-MBA. But I believe that it’s perfectly reasonable and businesslike to expect MBA graduates to bring proven practical skills to the business that employs them. Shouldn’t managers insist on that? • Why Do Businesses Persist With Rigid Start And Finish Times?When we offer a new hire a job, we usually state start and finish times. Why? It’s 2011. Using modern technology, many people can work readily and easily from almost anywhere.There’s just no need for people at the same meeting to be in the same building to have a successful meeting. Using video conferencing and webinars, they don’t need to be in the same continent.Email means that there’s no need to circulate copious copies of written material. There’s no need for the bureaucratic rigidities we all grew up with.And there’s just no need for all employees to “start at 9 and finish at 5″. • Why Do Managers Confuse Employee Behaviour With Performance?”Behaviour is what you take with you”, Dr Tom Gilbert wrote some years ago. “Performance is what you leave behind”, he continued.Behaviour’s important only where it has a negative effect on performance. We can reasonably expect employees to be polite, civil and courteous with each other. But it’s unreasonable to expect them to be “pleasant” and “emotionally controlled” at all times.Emphasising behaviour has a negative effect on performance. It tells employees that being “nice”, wearing certain clothes, following certain social mores, eating particular food and other peripheral issues are far more important than the results they achieve at work. • Are “Pep Talks” Merely Ego Trips?Maybe we managers have delusions about being very successful sports coaches. What on earth is “a good talking to” or a “verbal rev up” supposed to achieve? The assumption that a manager can cause a definitive and lasting performance improvement merely by talking with employees, insults the employees’ intelligence.There is a place – a small place- for the pep talk. It may feed a manager’s ego. But far greater workplace success will result from role and goal clarity, effective incentive and rewards, system improvement and of course, sound listening skills. • Why Don’t Managers Demand Proof Of Competence Before Offering Jobs To Strangers?Staff selection is a hidebound affair. Business has been using the same basic process for at least 75 years. It starts with a job description. Then follows a job ad, resumes and written applications, shortlisting, interviews, reference checking and eventually a job offer and a new employee.Rarely, except in relatively low level jobs, do we require demonstrable proof of competence from a candidate. We use various tests including psychometric instruments. We have so called “in depth” interviews. We check references thoroughly. But we don’t get the applicant to actually do anything… except talk.Prior to the job ad being placed or the selection consultant being engaged, all candidates were complete strangers. The referees they nominate are usually strangers too. The candidate may even have taken “interview training”.The chances of error are high at any stage of the process. But we don’t seek demonstrable proof that the candidates can do what they claim to be able to do.Our initial decision about who to shortlist was made based on a resume or written application. There’s about 70% chance that it was prepared by a professional writer. Does any of this make sense? • Why Do Managers Spend So Much Time In The Office?Back in the 1970s we called it “management by walking around”. Be seen. Talk to employees. Ask questions. Be available.These days progressive companies don’t even give each manager a separate office. There’s really no need. There’s no need for “management spaces” in the car park or a special management area in the canteen. These things are merely the accoutrements of office. They don’t help anybody do better work. Yet we persist with such trappings. In the 21st Century they can’t be justified. • What About EPC?EPC – Expectation, Perception and Consequences – have a major effect on how we form our opinions.Quite rightly, managers are concerned with “facts”. But that’s easier said than done. In order to “get the facts”, you have to deal with opinions. The opinions that people hold are facts to them. And opinions drive actions.In 1973 Peter Drucker wrote, “Executives who make effective decisions know that one doesn’t start with facts. One starts with opinions.” Mark Twain put it more bluntly years earlier. “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for certain that just ain’t so.”What I’m saying may not fit comfortably with some theories of modern management. But employees and work colleagues are people. Expectation, Perception and Consequences are most important to those who hold them. Managers must work through them in order to reach “the facts”. ConclusionIt’s time to seriously question lots of the so-called “management theory” that’s prevailed for so long. It’s costly and inefficient in the 21st Century. The eight issues I’ve raised are just a start.

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