There are plenty of theories out there about the most effective ways to run a business, but many of these are misconstrued or downright incorrect, often causing a pendulum effect. It is very easy to run from one fad to the next, chasing the latest great idea, but never achieving sustainable improvements.
Here are the first 6 of the Top 12 List that sets the record straight regarding the most common misconceptions of managers and executives.
Fallacy 1: There is only one right answer.
Most managers are accountable for decisions that go beyond the basic and the procedural. If a procedure can be written to arrive at a solution, then the decision-making can be automated. Most decision-making is more complex than that. In fact, the manager was probably hired in part because of his or her diagnostic capabilities (the skill required to diagnose complex issues which could have infinite possible solutions) to make the best decision. In these circumstances, a search to find the one best solution only delays and impairs the manager’s ability to make a decision. Searching for the ultimate “best” answer undermines the constructive use of a manager’s judgment to examine the information that is available and make the best decision possible.
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Fallacy 2: When there is a vacancy at the managerial level, promote the best performer on the team.
When a manager leaves a team, executives often seek to fill the gap by promoting the top performer from that team. This mistake moves an employee out of a role for which they are clearly ideally suited, and robs the team of its star player. Even worse, if the top performer is ideally suited for the current role, they may not have the problem-solving capability for the complexity of work at the next level of the organization. Finally, it needs to be determined if they have the knowledge and skills for, and will value the work at that level.
Fallacy 3: Senior executives can manage themselves.
CEOs and senior VPs tend to assume that their senior executives are experienced enough to manage themselves and prefer to focus less on managing these employees and more on the strategy, board work and other outward-looking work. But management is about the clear delegation of accountability and authority, setting context and adding value to the work of the team; this must cascade through the organization, from the CEO to the front-line managers. A break in this chain of management, at any point in the organization, will result in organizational drift below that break.
Fallacy 4: Employees should be empowered to make decisions.
This is actually a good concept but it is almost always misapplied and used as an excuse for a manager to abdicate accountability. Effective managers delegate accountability and authority, get feedback from the team, monitor and coach employees; they do not use empowerment as a means of excusing themselves from the accountability of being a manager. Every employee with an accountability for a team must, in fact, manage that team.
Fallacy 5: Teams can manage themselves.
When teams are made up of senior people, they are often left to their own devices, without one individual being accountable for the team. Though self-managed teams might produce output or even self-identify a leader, they lack that clear link to the organization. Without a manager, there is no one to set context, to be clear about the accountability of the team, its authority and perhaps most importantly, ensuring alignment with the company’s overarching goals. Self-managed teams might work for a while but over time they will fail to produce results.
Fallacy 6: Flat organizations are more efficient.
This trendy approach is disguised in many ways: the flat organization, holocracy, empowerment, self-managed teams. The idea is that by removing layers of management people can get on with the work without being encumbered by unnecessary bureaucracy. The sad truth is that many organizations do have too many layers, at least in parts of the organization. But the solution is not to do away with management. Layers exist in organizations because larger organizations have more complex work. The higher a position is in the organization, the more complex that work. Part of the value-added work at each level is to delegate right-sized objectives and set context for the work below. If the integrity of this delegation of right-sized work is broken, employees will not have the context the need to make decisions and take initiatives that are consistent with the organization’s strategy.
Next week we will publish the second half of our Top 12 list of fallacies that get in the way of organizational performance.