The Manager by Design blog has been created to help pioneer the field of Management Design. While there is plenty of information about how to be a great manager, much of which will be discussed here on this blog, too often we see managers making up how they go about being a manager. Managers mostly adopt their management practices in a freestyle manner—reacting to what’s in front of them—or through guesswork of what a manager ought to do. There’s generally no design in the way managers manage.
The way managers run their teams—and the design behind their approach–often reminds me of someone approaching MS-DOS. MS-DOS had no design, but you were expected to be able to do a lot with it. It was hard to get started, and it took a lot of expertise to become productive with it. To many, it was a black box and gave up. Others learned a few commands and stopped there. Those who could figure it out were unique and had specialized knowledge.
Now, compare MS-DOS to the highly designed user-interfaces of today, and you can see that good design can help you get up and running, be productive, work effectively, provides feedback on your progress and help you get deeper and deeper. (Imagine trying –in MS-DOS—trying to set up and manage your professional contacts like you do on LinkedIn). Good design encourages adoption, productivity, and even inspires greatness. Arguments about the impact and importance of good design are made convincingly by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.
The stakes are high. In 2005, the Society for HR Managers (SHRM) conducted its Workplace Productivity Survey and identified that 58% of Americans identified poor management as the biggest obstacle to productivity (cited here). I thought that management was supposed to improve productivity! Clearly, efforts to create good managers are failing, or efforts aren’t even being made in many organizations.
That’s why I’m pioneering a new field called “Management Design.” For an organization to sustain and improve performance and generate sustained productivity and profits, it must design in good management practices just as it designs improved products, processes and work environments. When I embarked on this blog, I was surprised that when you Google “Management Design”, you receive results mostly for Design Management, about which there are university courses, professional journals, and the like. So there’s a field for Design Management, but not Management Design? There are lots of people managing designers, but no one is designing good managers?
This tells me that Management Design is not happening–yet. There is not yet a broad-based movement to systemically make efforts to design in good management practices into organization ecosystems. I plan to support and highlight those efforts that do so, and please share with me efforts you see to systemically design in good management in organizations, and I will highlight these.
I have observed, instead, too many people dealing with bad managers, with bad habits and bad results. Managers who worked great as individual contributors too often fail as managers. When they were individual contributors, there was good job design—tools, expectations, specific targeting of skills and goals—for their individual work, but when it came to being a manager, it was for the most part a free-for-all, make-it-up-as-you-go-along. Congratulations, you’ve been promoted. You’re smart. Now you’re on your own.
With this blog, you now have some help.
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