A New View Restated
At some point we need to stop running from one management fad to the next, from one management philosophy to another, and move forward by going back to the fundamentals of managing people so that they feel valued and significant. At the risk of sounding too idealistic, we believe that it is possible to change what's going on inside of our heads by listening more carefully to our souls and leading a little more from the heart than from some set of unnatural prescriptions for management success. If we don't change, we'll continue to have more days like this humorous sign describes:
There are days when as soon as you open your eyes, you know you are in over your head.
From Me Mum Sez
We had to chuckle a little bit when one of our manager friends replied to an inquiry about how his work was going. His voice rose about an octave, actually just short of a scream, and he said something to the effect that "it's an H-E-double-hockey-sticks-week at work. Stress doesn't begin to cover what I'm experiencing. I'm lucky if I can squeeze in lunch and a call to my wife. When I finally get home, it's well after dark, and I'm so incredibly cranked up that I can't get to sleep."
Hell-week-at-work accompanied by new responsibilities and a plethora of new management techniques is not uncommon in today's organizations. New buzzwords pop up almost every day: diversity, time-to-market, collaborative individualism, 360-degree appraisals, de-jobbing, right-sizing, flexible compensation, internal strategies, and so forth.
Place all of this in the middle of a decade of downsizing, mergers, plant closings, leaner-meaner managerial organizations, restructuring and reorganizing, and it's no wonder that managers begin to question their own sanity about whether they should continue on as managers, or why they even became managers in the first place.
Deep down inside of each manager is a desire to feel more joy and serenity while at work. At the same time, managers realize that a multitude of personalities, talents, and skills must properly mesh if their business enterprise is going to succeed. At the end of a particularly frustrating day, many ask themselves, "Isn't there a better way? Is this really what management is all about? Am I truly enjoying what I am doing?" At the present time, managers seem more confused and befuddled than they have ever been. Although their knowledge of management processes and techniques is greater than ever, this knowledge is, in a way, less satisfactory, for in every direction they are faced with contradictions, clouded issues, and immense ambiguity.
We are reminded of the debate about the difference between management and leadership and whether you can have one without the other. The cry on one side is to build brilliant competitive strategies, while on the other side people are urging, "Don't compete with anyone, focus on your customers." At a time when some companies are touting TQM, others are writing articles about why TQM doesn't work. To top it all off, we just read a document about how identifying and building upon "core competencies" can hinder a company's progress! What is the world of management coming to?
Managers find themselves in a position where the world has become so complex that they know very little outside their own areas. Explosions in technology, new forms of analysis, and sophisticated systems of doing business are usually only known by the people directly engaged in those activities.
Managers frequently hold meetings with other managers and administrators and try to make decisions about how employees should do their work and how problems should be solved. To make matters worse, they often spend hours encouraging each other to believe things that they don't know a lot about and to develop policies and directions that won't work.
We call this phenomenon synergistic ignorance: the development of enthusiasm for plans from people who simply don't know, who have pooled their ignorance behind closed doors and developed a set of directions, rules, and guidelines that are supposed to help guide a group of frustrated employees who know more about the operations and their areas of expertise than do the managers.
This state of affairs should not be discouraging. On the contrary, it can be extraordinarily stimulating. Unrest provides the fuel for change and revolution. Our difficulties can be resolved by letting our imaginations and common sense construct and identify a few certain things that every manager can do to tap into the unused power of organizations. Managers and workers together have the power to turn organizations upside down and bring harmony and direction out of chaos. As you proceed forward in your quest, please keep in mind that failing to use the immense and unlimited potential of individual workers is extremely wasteful and is a travesty to society, to the organization in which the individual works, and to the individual.
As a tentative first step, we suggest that everybodyemployees and managers aliketry "softer" rather than "harder." Ponder this oriental fable for a clue:
A young man traveled across Japan to the school of a famous martial artist. When he arrived at the dojo, he was given an audience by the sensei.
"What do you wish from me?" the master asked.
"I wish to be your student and become the finest karateka in the land," the young man replied. "How long must I study?" "Ten years at least," the master answered.
"Ten years is a long time," said the young man. "What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?" "Twenty years," replied the master.
"Twenty years! What if I practiced day and night with all my effort?" "Thirty years," was the master's reply.
"How is it that each time I say I will work harder, you tell me that it will take longer?" the young man asked.
"The answer is clear. When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way."
So it is with many things! The harder we try, the poorer the result and the more frustrated we become. This seems to be particularly true when working with people. The day-to-day effort of trying to keep everyone and everything moving forward while at the same time trying to meet your special commitments as managers, supervisors, and administrators often leaves you breathless and fatigued.