Ineffective management is one of the most common causes of low productivity and employee distress. From front-line employees to the CEO’s Executive Management team, worker effectiveness is directly related to an organization’s overall success. Even a modest increase in effectiveness can translate into huge productivity gains. On the other hand, the same amount of ineffectiveness means employees are spending time on work not related to company strategy, resulting in lost productivity. In many of the organizations I have visited, I have noted that two symptoms that indicate there is managerial ineffectiveness in the organization.
Symptom No. 1: Poor Interpersonal Communication
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Nearly every employee engagement survey identifies poor communication with managers either as the main cause (or near the top) of low employee engagement. Employees at every level of organizations frequently experience problems such as:
- Doing work that they later find out isn’t necessary
- Hearing about a decision made higher in the organization too late to impact the work they did
- Expecting work from a colleague that doesn’t arrive in time
- Finding out about work that needs to be done with insufficient lead time.
How do managers describe these symptoms: “We have poor communication in the organization. I never get the information I need when I need it.”
So while managers feel that the issue is communications, in an many respect it is, the root cause is a lack of an accountability and authority framework in the organization. Within this framework managers delegate work and provide context for it. Each manager is an important player in disseminating information through an organization, because only the manager can set it in the right context and in a timely way for their subordinates.
However, having this accountability means they must understand the implications of key decisions passed down from above. Managers need to distil meaning from corporate decisions, and effectively communicate the most important information to their teams. Where communication often fails is during itemization: each employee should be able to identify the information that is relevant to his or her task. When managers attempt to convey every aspect of a plan to everyone in every position, there’s a risk that what is important to each individual will get lost.
Symptom No. 2: Poor Cross-Functional Communication (The ‘Silo Effect’)
When organizational operations are fragmented, and individual work units are so focused on their own tasks that they can’t see what is happening in other parts of the organization, departmental silos form. This silo effect occurs in almost every sector, and can result in duplication of work, missed work, and many types of interpersonal and interdepartmental conflict. Typically, unclear cross-functional accountability and authority frameworks supports the formation of silos: the ”rules of the road” with respect to how work flows across the organization are not clearly communicated to the various departments.
Most managers rely on the support of their peers for the successful completion of their own work. This workflow process must be structured and thoughtful, all the way from the CEO to the front line manager.
The lack of an accountability and authority framework for how work is delegated down the organization, and how work flows across the organization will create the symptoms of poor communication and silos. In either case, it makes it difficult for managers to do their job. As long as an organization struggles with a lack of or poor accountability and authority frameworks, managers will be held back from performing at their effective best.