Managers often get the feeling their organization’s performance just isn’t what it should be, and can’t put a finger on why not. It’s a frustrating feeling for everyone involved – the manager, the employees, and the end customer.
Business performance is a measurable thing. Typically, managers measure key metrics in one or more of four categories – cost, time (schedule), quality, and scope (determined by size of a project or production run). Performance in one category influences the others in one way or the other – if you want something done quickly, the quality and/or scope may suffer; and if you want something done well, the cost will generally rise. Metrics are the indicators of performance, but not the critical driver or cause. These measurements only indicate the degree of success relative to set goals.
A general organizational framework addresses the four basic components of any organization – infrastructure, processes, technology, and people. In the world of management improvement, organizations may employ proven methods to become more efficient by taking a hard look at many of these areas. Notably, an organization may use the “Lean” and “Six Sigma” processes (among others) to minimize waste and improve the quality of a product. These methods may treat the symptoms of the problem rather than the most critical issue.
It’s worth noting that the people component of the framework influences the other three organizational components. In other words, it’s the people who decide what technology, infrastructure and processes are best for what you are doing. So, a key to success is to have the right people in the right places within the organization (see Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”). The most important key is knowing how to treat them.
For example, I witnessed this comment told to a seasoned leader by the leader’s boss: “You need to change your management style so your employees fear for their jobs – you’ll get more out of them”.
In a different organization I overheard an employee respond to his supervisor when asked to get something accomplished: “I’ll give it my best”. The supervisor’s response was: “I don’t want your best, I want it done”.
Both of these examples indicate the type of leadership culture in those organizations – neither of which instills a positive work environment. Leadership as a practice means how the bosses influence the attitudes of the employees to achieve goals. The more positive the leadership, the better performance you get. Although there are circumstances where a “command and control” style is useful (the Marines who need to charge an objective, or fire fighters during an emergency), a business setting usually is not one of them.
The Bottom Line - Leadership is Critical
Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management, separated business practice into the components of “management” and “leadership”. With that in mind, he considered himself in the people business as opposed to the metrics business – indicating people make the business work, and effective leadership is critical. Considering that 70% of people who leave their company leave because of their immediate supervisor (supported by multiple polls by the Gallup and others), learning effective leadership skills should be on the top of any supervisor’s list. Many books and theories are out there to learn ways to achieve success (for a good start, see the book called “Primal Leadership” by Daniel Goleman and others). The point is to create a positive working environment where the employees feel part of the team. Think of your employees like volunteers - because they are.
Tim Parker is a Business Consultant focusing on Executives and Leadership. He is President of Parker Resource Management, LLC in Raleigh, NC.
"What do you want to be remembered for" - Peter Drucker