Management Futures: January round-up

31 January 2014

Sales jobs are among the most stressful and least enviable. And selling door-to-door is probably most stressful and least enviable sales role. So it was fascinating to hear at January’s evidence session for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management from a young manager recalling his line manager at such an operation, who went to great lengths to keep up morale.

The manager realised that it was a difficult job, with people often verbally abused by residents on the door-step. So he rallied everyone with a personal call at the end of each working day, to make sure people didn’t go home miserable. It was hugely appreciated: ‘People worked not just for the commission, but for the line manager.’

This anecdote, as well as indicating that you can get enlightened management in the most testing of circumstances, provides a timely reminder to all managers: do you make sure that all your team get a ‘thank-you’ or other boost at the end of each working day?

If you do then perhaps you’re a “People Power Ranger” – one of the four “Hidden Heroes” in CMI’s new online quiz app, which focuses on the future skills that managers need. Over 2,000 managers have already completed it.

“Hidden Heroes” is based on CMI’s research into the future of management and leadership as CMI’s Patrick Woodman explained to the CMI LinkedIn group. That research includes CMI’s most recent data, released during January, on future skills needs. The data showed that managers see building partnerships, creating agile teams and using new technology as 3 key priorities and highlighted that a “management makeover” may be in order to ensure success in 2020.

Of course, managers are rarely seen in the same bracket as caped crusaders – and indeed, the Parliamentary session also revealed some negative views about management; how it looks safe, bureaucratic and boring.

Cause for concern? It was only the view of a few young people but coincidentally, a recent blog by Henry Stewart of Happy Computers also notes successful companies ‘that don’t have managers!’ – with a celebratory air.

But they do, surely, need to ‘do’ management? An examination of how ‘flatter’, more democratic organisational structures operate shows that they require very high levels of team discipline and coordination. It goes by the rather ugly name of ‘holacracy’. But while it may be a very different type of management compared with the top-down hierarchy, it’s still management, as this article in HR Review illustrates.

In politics, management is not viewed in such a pejorative way. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t seem to be viewed at all. Economic debates in the past month have featured campaigns by Labour leader Ed Miliband to restructure the banks and reintroduce the 50p top tax rate – prompting accusations of being ‘anti-business’. Labour has also campaigned on living standards and for a living wage.

But in all such debates, management is absent. A living wage can only be sustainable if it is profitable; and it can only be profitable with highly effective management. Archie Norman, a businessman and former Conservative MP, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on 19thJanuary under the headline Britain does not need an incomes policy’. He argued that a significant hike would lead inexorably to higher unemployment and people being replaced by automated processes. But this common view makes two questionable assumptions: a) that the wage cost is the employment cost, and b) that management is un-improvable.

The evidence suggests that better management can lead to higher wages and lower employment costs – it’s not a zero-sum game – at the same time as delivering better service to the customer, and higher profits. Good management makes a massive economic contribution but too often, politicians seem to miss that fact.

Rather than rebranding management, just doing away with the job title, we need to have a better understanding of enlightened management. That the role is about leadership, as well as tasks; it is about morale as well as deadlines. A changing world means new challenges lie ahead, but whatever the skills needed to handle future challenges, good management and leadership will be at the heart of economic success.

Next month we look at: “Management Gold” – and ask how managers can take advantage of the best management and leadership thinking to raise their game!

Submitted by Philip Wood

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