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Manage Systems. . . Not People

While working with a client on the clarification of a job description, the conversation turned to expectations of outcomes. “How much of what by when” type of outcomes along with the systems used to generate them. I observed that since we were actually in the midst of an all encompassing organization development project of which this task was just one element, now would be a good time to examine my client’s expectations of her management people.

As is generally true, discussions about managers and management are based on the assumption that managers are supposed to manage the people who report to them as described in the organization structure/chart. In my experience of over 35 years in this field of OD consulting, this has been the conventional wisdom. Let’s look more closely at how and why this is a norm that is fraught with landslides and potholes.

Individuals are just that, unique. Each of us is motivated by our own needs and desires. A manager is hard pressed to satisfy the needs of myriad individuals and “manage” them like a herd of cattle. The manager can, however, manage the systems that the people use to accomplish the goals of the organization. He/she can ensure the availability of required resources, provide training, education and development opportunities to help the people discover and develop their untapped potential. He or she can clearly communicate organizational requirements and expectations of performance, enabling the individuals to live up to their commitments in their domains of responsibility.

If the people in the organization have been effectively matched to their jobs, and the execution systems are designed appropriately, then the outcomes expected will be realized if the manager focuses on his or her obligation of managing the systems. 

My client got  it! The Job description now points to another document that clearly defines the organizational goals and the various systems and components that enable measurable criteria to be used in evaluating the effectiveness of the systems and the people who use them. 

Managing the complexity of organizational systems while developing people’s potential for improved performance is a daunting task. Let’s not add the burden of expecting one person to manage another. That unrealistic expectation is a predetermined resentment.

Achieve Organizational Transformation by Embracing Change and Complexity

transform your thinking for organizational transformation

Organizations are only as effective at delivering results as allowed by the people that constitute its dynamic existence. Organizations as entities, are nothing more than a container within which people of varying disciplines ply their trades. Organizations are only names on paper in a courthouse or law office. So, in order to achieve organizational transformation, you need only to focus on the people.

For an organization to deliver “better performance”, “enhanced results”, “more revenue and/or profits”, the people that are the organization must behave differently, perform differently, converse differently, expect differently. Without this change, the current state becomes the future state… everything remains the same.

The moment an organization leader becomes aware of his/her need for personal leadership development, that organization will begin evolving. The leader needs to evolve from her current state in order to lead her organization to the desired results. Only then will the organization begin its evolutionary journey. Even though the outcome may be complex, this journey will lead to a more effective organizational outcome.

Harvard’s John P. Kotter says that, “leadership is about coping with change; management is about coping with complexity.”

Evolutionary Transformation calls for a process that looks something like this:

1) Leader’s Personal acknowledgment that he/she must make some changes (prerequisite for success!). This leads to →

2) Vision building which then requires →

3) Strategy Formulation supported by →

4) Executable Goal Systems requiring →

5) Leader/Manager Development that produces →

6) Enhanced overall organizational effectiveness.

The outcomes of this process include organizational planning and leadership development at all levels which yield the desired results… evolving from what the organization is at the moment of the leader’s recognition of the organization’s current state, to the desired state at some predetermined time in the future.

See how an effective system of goals can transform an entire organization…

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