Management Design: The Designs we have now: Part time strategist, part time manager
In my previous article, I discuss a management/leadership model I developed that shows how managers are resistant to changing strategies, and this is often by poor design. Here’s how it looks:
Even though this is a common path for people to become managers, there is a design flaw for those organizations that change their strategy. The managers are focused on and understand a single strategy, and, in this visualization, aren’t involved in, or aware of possible other strategies that follow.
Now lets look a slightly different path that is also common:
I call this the “do it all” scenario. It kind of makes sense, as you can see that when someone gets promoted from an individual producer role to a manager role, they are then required to show leadership, which involves developing strategy skills as well as people management skills.
Imagine a software developer who then becomes a development manager. In scenarios where the software development methodology changes, the tools change, and the product changes quickly, you often get this kind of scenario, as the development manager also still wants to produce code, too.
Now think about your managers from the past – does this seem to reflect what they went through?
If they were bad managers, which is highly likely, in looking at this scenario, we can see that there is a design flaw that might be behind this.
In looking at this graphically, we can see that the manager must now do multiple things part time:
- They probably need to do some individual producer work to stay credible with the team
- They need to do the people and team management stuff, because that’s their job title.
- They need to participate in strategic discussions and drive the development of the strategy
- They need to be a “leader” (strategy + management), and all of the intangibles that bring an organization forward.
So under this design, you take an individual performer and turn him or her into a multi-tasking, part-time person. The manager part is part time. The strategist part is part time, the leadership part is part time, and the individual production part is part time.
It’s hard enough to be new to a job (strategist and manager) but also being part time at them is very hard. Very likely, the new manager will engage in behaviors that avoid the manager and strategy parts or perform them in a piecemeal, haphazard fashion.
So the new manager in this scenario does the new job poorly, and never really has a chance to get good at it. (See my series on feedback to manager for an illustration of how a former individual producer doesn’t have a chance to get good at the new job).
What’s worse, the manager is stuck in a kind of in-between limbo of being bad at multiple jobs. Even worse, if that manager does this long enough, he may be convinced that the part-time, piecemeal, avoidance methods for managing and strategizing count as good leadership and management practices.
In the emerging field of management design, I advocate seeking paths to develop and reinforce management skills such that they do not get learned in a haphazard, non-reinforced fashion. The current designs for creating managers relies on managers develop their coping mechanisms that avoid mistakes and embarrassment instead of embrace a new set of job expectations. They learn these new skills through punishment rather than reward, and, in this scenario, only in a part-time fashion.
So leading becomes a series of negative masking behaviors instead of a series of positively reinforced affirmative behaviors. As the emerging field of Management Design develops, we can see opportunities for turning this dynamic around, and create great managers by design, rather than the current situation that inevitably creates bad managers by (lack of) design.