A silent management crisis

Management is in crisis, as a discipline and practice in most organisations and it is costing them in more ways than one.

Organisations are in crisis and many are unaware. Crisis in the sense that organisations are facing developments that will lead them to an unstable and dangerous situation which they all recognise, but few know why and even fewer know what to do.  The crisis is silent driven by its absence rather than the presence of a threat.  The crisis is management.

With more than 70 per cent of employees feeling disengaged from work and young people seeing management as a career path to avoid, the crisis is clear.

Organisations are not building management talent so much as they are enlisting people to fill slots assigned the term ‘manager’.  Think about the common use of the term manager.  If you have people reporting to you, then you are considered a manager.  If you achieve a certain level of compensation, then you frequently assigned the term manager.  Legally in the US if you work a fixed workweek and are not eligible for overtime, then you are a manager.  The term manager has become a payroll classification rather than an avocation.

A lack of good managers creates a gap in good people

Management is in crisis, as a discipline and practice in most organisations and it is costing them in ways that are silently killing them.  Consider the issue of talent, one of management’s fundamental responsibilities.  The paradox of there been too many people (high unemployment) and not enough of the right people (chronic short staffing) exists in part because of a crisis in management.

Managers used to build people, teams, and groups as part of their responsibility.  In fact, managers used to be measured more on the quality of the people who worked for them, how they grew, where they went, than by the quantity of their performance data.

I can name the managers who were instrumental in building my skills, experience and confidence:  Marge, Keith, Dennis, Ron, Jim, and Dale.  Can you?

I can also think of the people under that auspices of ‘management’ have crushed creativity, drained energy, dislodged engaged teams and otherwise lived down to the common description of management. I will not name those people for obvious reasons.

As a manager can you think of the people that you have helped develop and grow – the people who are better off because of you?  If you cannot, then I would suggest that you are not a manager but and administrator in manager clothes which is something I will talk about in the next post.

Ending the quantum definition of management

How do you define management is both a symptom and cause of the silent crisis.  Get three people in a room and ask them to define the term management and you will get at least six different definitions, most loaded with situational context and normative judgment.  “Leaders change the norm, managers improve it” is one refrain I have heard recently. “We need more leaders and less managers” is another.  Sorry but that is part of the problem and not helpful in a solution.

Management has a quantum like definition, one where defining it changes the definition.

Re-imagining management is almost impossible in this situation as new definitions are either dismissed as just another view, or presumed by another definition.  Addressing the crisis in management requires adhering to a clear, comprehensive and actionable definition.  Simply put, if we are to address the problem we need to define the terms of the problem.  Gary Hamel’s definition of management, shown below, represents a definition that reflects the breadth, depth, and diversity of management in a clear and unambiguous set of terms.

Management is the discipline of human accomplishment. 

Human accomplishment is a broad terms, but then again so is management.  It entails everything we do as individuals and teams.  It’s time to begin to appreciate and recognise good management, separate it from administration and position it in a context that reflects the realities we all face.

It’s time to stop the artificial, value laden, pejorative descriptions of managers and recognise the real complexity of the world we face and the need for a diverse workforce/skillsets/roles/abilities to handle this.

Mark McDonald is a group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs

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