Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The role of a good manager


The role of a good manager


What does a manager do? A short question requires a long answer.

Most people are promoted from employees to managers because they are good at what they do, they work hard, are highly responsible, committed to execution, willing to learn, and are well prepared.

We assume such high achievers will be good managers, but mostly that's wrong. Without proper training and preparation, high achievers as first-time managers fall into the following traps:

1. An inability to differentiate the role of manager and employee. Managers need to get others to do things. Employees need to get things done by themselves. If they aren't taught about these roles, managers will assume they were promoted because of their hard work and will continue to work hard, maybe even harder, by themselves.

2. Assuming everyone is an achiever like them. On any team, on average you have 10-20% high achievers or 'A' players, 60-70% 'B' players who are the average performers, and the rest are 'C' or poor performers. A first-time manager will express his frustration to 'B' and 'C' performers with statements like this: "When I was at the staff level, nobody taught me how to do things. Hence, you should be the same - learn by yourself. You don't need guidance or coaching." New managers often do not recognise this distribution of performance.

3. Fear of delegation. When first-time managers delegate, they assume that people should understand (as they do). When an employee does not perform as expected, they get frustrated. Eventually, they decide to do everything themselves. This way they get a high quality of work. But they are overwhelmed with tasks instead of managing tasks and people.

The manager is responsible for the results from all team members. To achieve results, you need to plan and check. Planning covers a lot of areas:

- Manpower planning: How many people do you need to deliver the results?

- What resources do you need to achieve your goals?

- What changes do you need to make?

An organisation is dynamic. A manager is responsible for initiating, implementing and modifying change to suit the environment. In order to manage change, a manager should be able to diagnose the situation. The 7-S Framework can assist in this appraisal.

The 7-S Framework developed by the McKinsey consulting group describes seven factors to organise a company in a holistic and effective way. Managers should take into account all seven factors to be sure of successful implementation of a strategy. They're all interdependent, so failure to pay attention to one could affect the others. Also, the relative importance of each factor may vary over time.

The 7-S Framework was first mentioned in The Art of Japanese Management by Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos in 1981, in a study of how Japanese industry had been so successful. Around the same time, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman were exploring what made a company excellent. The 7-S model was born at a meeting of these four authors in 1978. It also appeared in In Search of Excellence by Peters and Waterman, and became a basic tool for McKinsey.

These seven S factors are: Shared Values, Strategy, Structure, Systems, Staff, Style, and Skills. Let's look at them individually:

Shared Values: The interconnecting centre of the model. What the organisation stands for and believes in.

Strategy: Plans for the allocation of scarce resources, over time, to reach identified goals: environment, competition, and customers.

Structure: The way units relate to each other: centralised, functional divisions (top-down), decentralised, a matrix, a network, a holding, etc.

Systems: The procedures, processes and routines that characterise how the work should be done: financial systems, recruiting, promotion and performance appraisal systems, information systems.

Staff: Numbers and types of personnel.

Style: Cultural style of the organisation and how key managers behave in achieving its goals.

Skills: Distinctive capabilities of personnel or of the organisation as a whole.

This framework has several benefits, among them:

- it is a diagnostic tool for understanding an organisation that is ineffective;

- it guides organisational change;

- it combines rational and hard elements with emotional and soft elements.

Managers must act on all seven S factors. Don't assume that a high achiever will turn into a good manger overnight.

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at coachkriengsak@yahoo.com. Copies of previous columns are available at http://www.thaicoach.com

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