We cannot manage today like we did in the past and hope to be successful. Change is upon us in management just like in everything else.
The 1950s and 60s brought new insight into management techniques that we now call Traditional Management. The leading managing technique at the time was based on Plan, Organize, Direct, and Control. Management was taught to carefully plan what was to be accomplished, organize the structure and resources of the organization to achieve the plan, direct the people on what to do, and control their actions to conform to the plan. This placed a heavy burden on relatively few managers to be the brains to develop the right plan, organize correctly, oversee activity of the workers, and make sure they did not deviate from plan. This lent focus and structure to work and was successful in its time. However it did not make use of all of the brainpower of the organization and led to micro-management of the workers.
The initial work of W. Edwards Deming and other statisticians during World II to use statistical techniques to improve work processes and adopted by companies throughout Japan in the 50s and 60s was finally recognized in this country in the 80s. Thus began the era of Scientific Management. Frederick Winslow Taylor is credited with contributions to Scientific Management, but his work was more exhortation rather than supplying people with processes that would allow them to do better. Largely ignored in America during the 50s through 70s, Scientific Management was embraced by the Japanese under the tutelage of Dr. Deming and their business turnaround was miraculous. A notable exception to the void in usage of Scientific Management in America was at Ford Motor Company
Robert S. McNamara and the “Whiz Kids” created favorable publicity for Scientific Management with their contributions to the turnaround at Ford in the 60s and 70s. Universities started offering courses in business statistics to teach quantitative decision-making. Facts and figures were used for data-driven diagnosis and determination of action. A resultant complication was focus on the numbers to the detriment of understanding of human behavior and motivation, although both Deming and MacNamara warned against this. Management focused on rational solutions for problems in order to maximize financial returns for the companies and its owners. Over time, the need to balance rational decision making by data with social responsibility made its presence. The desire to bring positive change to the world is a force to be considered. All employees, customers, owners, and neighbors must be treated with mutual trust, respect, dignity, and consideration of their needs.
Popular methods today can be titled System Management with the intent to optimize the system for all shareholders. It recognizes that all employees have brains and should be utilized to make decisions and corrective actions. People have an inherent need to be a part of a team, feel needed and appreciated, but most important derive satisfaction of doing work that is worthwhile. It is a blend of the above management styles with some added features required by today’s complex operations.
Whereas Traditional Management focused on Plan, Organize, Direct, and Control, and Scientific Management used a similar simple guide, Plan, Do, Check (Study), and Act, System Management can be described with Plan, Develop, Communicate, and Monitor.
Plan in this case starts at the aim (Vision) of the total organization and all other plans should be judged on their contribution to the greater aim of the organization. It is the responsibility of top leadership to develop the Aim.
The next step by various levels of management is to develop the systems and processes that will achieve the plan. People do the best job they can within the processes supplied to them but usually only management has the authority to create or change processes.
The third step of Evolving Management is communication of “what”, “how”, and “why” of work activities to everyone involved. What and how are fairly straight forward but the why is probably most important. When people understand the why of activity, they are intrinsically motivated to accomplish results and intrinsic motivation of far more powerful than any attempts at extrinsic motivation. Remember there are two parts to communication-sending and receiving, so management needs to engage in discussion to not only explain the plan, systems, and processes but to spend an equal amount of time listening to feedback from others who are doing the work or otherwise involved. Then they need to be open to modify the plans, systems, and processes with the new information gained. The Japanese call this, “catch-ball” because they liken it to tossing a ball back and forth until there is understanding and agreement.
The fourth step is to monitor progress with data on achieving the plan. The purpose is to be able to take corrective action if the systems and processes do not achieve the intended purpose in the time frame needed. An important distinction here is that management is checking on the performance of the systems and processes and not the people. Of equal importance, this step provides opportunities for management to coach and develop employees. It is helpful to view the manager as a coach whose role is to develop the talent the people. In order to coach, the manager needs to know what is happening, therefore monitoring provides the data and information needed for coaching. Development of people is a key purpose of management.
We have progressed from Traditional Management to Scientific Management to System Management. Management, like technology, is constantly changing and improving. We cannot be content with our old styles but constantly evolving in order to be successful in today’s complex and changing world.