Perhaps the least understood facet of managerial effectiveness has to do with executing personal goals. Managers often harm themselves by letting their job manage them rather than managing their job. True, there are a variety of distractions throughout the day that make attaining personal goals a challenge. From subordinate questions to meetings to communications, there are always matters that require attention, but it’s critical for managers to realize, despite distractions, that they are accountable for delivering output that only they as a manager, at their level, can successfully carry out.
Aligning Complexity with Capability
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Elliott Jacques, in writing on the complexity of work, reminds us of the importance of aligning individuals with the right difficulty of work to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, if employees do not possess the capabilities to perform work at a certain level, that work will not get done. This point is critical;let’s walk through an example.
Let’s start with a front line worker, a mechanic who is accountable for repairing trucks. The nature of the problems to be solved by this worker has to do with maintenance. How can I repair this vehicle as quickly as possible, to the best of my ability, to minimize downtime? The front line worker should be good at resolving issues at this level: by following procedures that have been laid out to do the work.
The Front Line Manager, on the other hand, would look at the problem from a different perspective. She or he would be concerned with how the procedures can be improved:
- What could be done differently to reduce down time?
- Is the balance between preventative maintenance and repairs appropriate?
- Are the workers properly trained?
- How can they be coached to do better?
At the Director level, the complexity of work increases as does the capability for doing work and therefore, the focus could move from truck maintenance to fleet management:
- Are we buying the right kinds of trucks?
- Are the life cycles appropriate?
- Are the numbers and alignment of crews correct for the kind of maintenance we require?
Further up in the organization as capability and complexity increase, a Vice President may be concerned with looking for more cost effective alternatives to using trucks in the first place.
Time Must Be Made For Value Added Work
Every manager in the organization is accountable for work that only they at their level can do. Part of the planning process is identifying what is value added work and creating enough time to complete it. If this does not happen, there are negative consequences, and failing to execute personal goals can have negative implications for organizational success. If the Vice President doesn’t have enough time to think about how to maximize efficiencies with trucking or explore other alternatives, then no one else in the organization will be thinking about it, because the Director beneath him and the front line worker beneath him do not have the capability to solve problems at that level.
Finding time to successfully execute personal goals is a challenge for managers at every level. Nevertheless, value added work, and the higher level work of reaching organizational goals and objectives can only be completed when capabilities are aligned with complexity. Managers must ensure they set aside the time to do this work.
This is Part 4 of a 5-part series which delves deeper into “The 5 Requirements of Effective Managers“.