Last week we listed the first 6 of the Top 12 fallacies in organizations that get in the way of organizational performance: those fads or ideas that are misconstrued or downright incorrect. Here is the second half of the Top 12 list, which sets the record straight regarding the most common misconceptions of managers and executives.
Fallacy 7: A command and control structure works.
This outdated approach undermines the valuable knowledge and experience of staff and does not work in today’s complicated, fast-paced businesses where the top of the organization simply cannot delegate work to employees on day-to-day basis. What is needed is a working accountability and authority framework that creates a system where each manager at each level of the organization ensures their team members understand what they’re accountable for and that they have the context to understand how their work fits into the overall strategy of the organization. Such a system is often confused with command-and-control, but it is in fact the opposite. It frees individuals to make decision within context. Equipped in this way, all employees are truly empowered and can take relevant initiatives consistent with the organization’s strategy.
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Fallacy 8: Managers should work out their differences.
The “we’re all adults and we need to work out disagreements” approach introduces conflict into the workplace and wastes countless hours negotiating and compromising. When managers are clear about their respective accountabilities and authorities, and the accountabilities and authorities of their colleagues with whom they work, they understand their working relationships and how to resolve differences without unnecessary conflict. And if they cannot agree, they will understand who is accountable for resolved the difference and how to initiate the process to do so.
Fallacy 9: Successful managers are the most effective managers.
Success is not highly correlated to effectiveness – in fact, research shows that success is more related to a person’s ability to network and build relationships with those higher in the organization. While these are important factors in most jobs, it’s crucial to differentiate between the two and also consider the effectiveness of an employee’s work, together with their problem solving capability, other necessary skills and knowledge, and their valuing of the work before promoting them.
Fallacy 10: Committees can be held accountable.
Committees as they are typically structured are ineffective because the committee is seen as being accountable for a result. Everyone’s accountability is no-one’s accountability. Think about how well the sign in the kitchen asking everyone to wash their own dishes works. A better approach is to establish an accountable individual, based on the accountabilities of a position and delegate specific tasks to that individual. The individual will figure out how to do the work, and if calling people together to discuss various approaches is part of that work, they will call the people together. Committees work for Boards and volunteer organizations. They have no place within the staff structure of an organization.
Fallacy 11: The Process Manager is Accountable for the Process.
A process manager role is important. This role monitors the process, helps trouble shoot issues, may coach and train, and recommends improvements. But the process manager does not have the authority to decide and direct, because the process manager does not have authority over everyone involved in the process. Only the manager who has the authority to decide and direct every individual position involved in the process can be accountable for the process. This is usually much higher in the organization than most people think.
Fallacy 12: Performance Management systems should be objective.
Performance management (aka performance appraisal) systems must be fair. That’s true. All employees should be treated fairly. And most systems drive compensation which must also be fair. Unfortunately, in pursuit of fairness, many organizations try to create completely objective systems: attend this meeting, fill out this form, complete this check list. As a result, the system itself gets in the way of fair and timely feedback between the manager and the subordinate. At the end of the day, managing performance, and assessing the success of an individual requires judgment – it is too complex to reduce to a checklist. Yes, having a system is important, but it must support the critically important managerial work of managers, so substitute for it.
One of my favourite sayings in life is from Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” It’s really a question of balance – too much of anything is not a good thing. Just as moderation is important in life, finding the right balance in organizations is important. It is not a choice between:
- “Command-and-control” or “flat” organization
- Empowerment vs. Impediment
- Objectivity vs. Judgment
- Leadership vs. Management
It is all about finding the right balance. For this organization, at this time, to accomplish what we must – what is the best way to achieve our goals? Too often the search for the holy grail of organizational success leads the organization on a tangent that wastes resources and engenders cynicism. Management is hard work, but it is also one of the most rewarding roles. Whenever you embark on a new approach, be sure it is research-based and has a proven track record. Certainly, let’s find the tools and processes that can help us do our managerial work better. But let’s remember that we will have to do our managerial work!