Tenets of Management Design: Managing is a functional skill
In this post, I begin to explore the tenets of the new field I advocate called Management Design. Management Design is a response to the bad, or lazy, existing design (cataloged here) that currently describes how managers are developed or found. These existing designs demonstrate how people managers are often created by accident, rather than by design. To improve this, I’m proposing design tenets and here’s the first tenet of management design: Treat people and team management as a functional skill.
Most of us learn functional skills in different fields. Here are a few: Marketing, Finance, Software Development, Teaching, Art Curating, Blacksmithing, etc. We learn these skills initially either through education or through on-the-job training. Over the years, we hone these skills by taking mentors, attending industry conferences, doing increasingly challenging projects, and the like. If we do well in our functional skill, we often get promoted! That’s how we develop our skills.
But what about people and team management? This is a skill that is entirely different from our “core” skills, but when we get promoted to manage a team, managing is treated, for the most part, as something that we can just figure out on our own. We don’t typically attend conferences on “how to be a better manager.” We don’t frequently arrange sage mentors that focus on helping us “manage a team better.” We typically don’t learn in school, “Here’s how you manage a team better” (although teamwork is often emphasized). We’re instead focused on “principles of accounting” or “statistics” or “art history” when we attend classes. Sure, we may learn some principles of “project management,” and how to work with each other, but we don’t learn, “people management.”
People aren’t often promoted for their excellent team management. We will be promoted if the excellent team management results in great marketing, business intelligence, software development, or art curating, but we will be recognized for the functional skills of marketing, software development, business intelligence, and art curating, not people management. When your team marketing succeeds, it is interpreted that you have excellent marketing acumen, not excellent people and team management.
There are efforts to train managers in organizations—management development programs do exists, and they are the closest things we have to “management design.” However, these efforts pale in comparison to the infrastructures that have been created to create functional experts.
Nonetheless, people and team management is pervasive and needed in every organization. There are key individual capabilities required that make some people better at it than others (like any other functional skill). There are key skills and methods in managing people and teams that work better than others. There is research that exists on how managing is best performed.
As a result, we need to elevate people and team management as a functional skill. It should be emphasized in the same way other functional skills are emphasized. It should have university classes and conferences; it should be understood across organizations that being a “great manager” is as important as being “great at marketing” or an “expert in Java development.” People should brag on their resumes about what great people managers they are, and want to share their expertise in this skill.
This is the first tenet of Management Design: Treat People and Team Management as a Core Functional Skill, and this will result in starting to build a more robust infrastructure that encourages quality people and team management.
Please share in the comments section your thoughts about where and how People and Team Management is being treated as a unique and valuable functional skill. How would you compare People and Team Management development to other disciplinary areas?