Thursday, May 12, 2005

Managing at the Right Level

You may have to register to link to the article. I recently let a position where I found myself managing down the chain and getting myself involved in managing scenarios that should have been handled by my team. Jonathan Byrnes relates that this is a fairly common scene.

The problem is that promoted managers rarely get trained how to manage at higher levels. I would agree that the problem perpetuates itself. In my situation, I was so insanely micro-managed that I simply HAD to jump down one and two levels to ensure that everything was done according to the specifics of MY manager. Which is really just no way to go through life.

The author goes on to give some good definitions of the various levels of management (manager, director, and vp):

Managers oversee and operate functional areas within departments. They are responsible for efficient execution and process improvements and the generally operate in a short time frame.

Directors run departments. They are responsible for the development and efficiency of their staff. They are also responsible for restructuring their deparments for "quantum improvements" and working with the directors of other departments to jointly improve the company's performance. The time frame is usually medium-term.

Vice Presidents are responsible for the FUTURE. They should spend their time working with their counterparts to develop and oversee programs of renewing change. This involves gauging and understanding profitability patterns, market opportunities and company effectiveness, as well as evaluating, adapting and adopting best practices from other companies. VPs should NOT be focused on managing the company as it is TODAY, but rather focusing on creating a fundamentally new and better company.

There is a danger to managing too low. You run the risk of missing management-process problems. The solution is to drain the swamp so that the stumps appear. To drain the swamp, managers must refocus their attention to the correct level. Once this happens, lasting improvements should follow.

Great. How do you do this, you ask. Measure. Measure. Measure. First, have your managers list the components of their jobs and estimate the time they spend on each. THEN, have them keep time logs (which everyone hates and are a huge pain but they DO generate trending data...usable trending data) for about a week. This creates a snapshot and usually presents a very clear picture of how someone is spending their time. It works. I've used it.

Next, conduct an assessment. A compare and contrast. What portion of the job components are the managers actually performing? What can be assigned to subordinates? What is NOT getting done but should be?

Do jobs need to be redefined? Redesign the standard, bland job descriptions that no one is obviously paying any attention. When you redesign, make sure you create and allow for a balance between managing stasis and creating change and innovating.

Once you have done all this, make sure you TRAIN your new managers for their new roles. At the very least, make sure your new hires understand the critical change in focus. More importantly, have you changed your OWN perspective? As a manager moves up, she has to shift focus from managing the current company to creating the future company. And, as always, don't make this a one time thing where you bring in a consultant and then never implement. Or you do all the assessments, redesign jobs and then revert back to the status-quo. You have to perform periodic checkups to make sure you remain on track.

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