Mr/Ms Management! Perhaps this is one person(s) who remains “invisible” to all, yet is present in every single organisation. In everyday parlance and usage the term ‘management’ is used to denote someone else, other than ownself – at least this is done invariably.
The dictionary meaning too is non-inclusive; if anything it is exclusive to most cadres in the organisation. The meaning mentioned in the dictionary is that “it is a noun” and the meaning given is: management is administration, running, managing, charge, care, direction, leadership, control, governing, governance, supervisor, conduct, etc. The example stated is even more interesting and it reads “the workers are in dispute with management; managers, employers, directors, board of directors, executives, administrators, proprietors, etc; essentially no where we find meaning of management to include all staff from BOD to CEO; from CEO to the janitors and cleaners. A selective band of people, driven with common purpose, form the management - Ali Baba and his forty thieves or even Robin Hood and his merry men of the Sherwood Forest, are a case in point and within the same realm of thought of “what management is? ”or“ Who is this management?
Has any of my readers ever met this genderless, colourless, faceless, person(s) who has been christened and baptised and named centuries ago as “management”? He/she has remained nameless but is pursued and found in all entities. He may have remained obscure and unnoticed. Apparently: “management” if seen as a person, is very powerful, in fact it is the fountainhead, from where flows authority to the various hierarchical positions in an organisation.
To a worker, his supervisor is the management; to the manager the senior manager represents management and so on …. and at the apex of the pyramid of the hierarchy sits the CEO --- So is he the ultimate management? But I have come across CEO’s referring to the imaginary person called the “management” - brings me to the fundamental, is the board then the management, because the CEO - reports to it? Also what then is the need for segregating ownership and board and management - especially if all roads lead to Rome! And where does the role of the college of regulators come to fit into this equation of management. Are they management too?
Management is a skilfully designed Frankenstein by the different levels of the organisation. It is used (abused) for taking the blame of everything that goes awry and wrong in the institution. All of us in our professional lives throw all the dirt and muck upon the face of the person, called, “the management”.
The management hasn’t approved your bonuses, is a bad news to break to a colleague; (although the supervisor may have never pushed or even recommended!) or “is not permitting travels (COVID-19, taken into account); etc; are everyday comments made by the “supervisor” who loves to bash, basically his failure upon “management”.
In a management meeting I asked a zonal chief, why a particular line of business was not being pursued; he to my shock and amusement said, “the management doesn’t permit”? Aghast, I remarked, who is this management - isn’t the entire management sitting right here in the board room? I reacted a little impatiently and angrily, “is it the board or any member thereof, who has called and stopped you? He had no answer, because to him, the business development executive, whose direct report he was, represented the term “management”.
In most organisations “management” is a bad person, because all unpleasant news and decisions are made at its behest. Every level of the organisation blames its higher level in the hierarchy for all the ills and inadequacies, because the upper level is considered “management”.
The process of dealing with or controlling things or people, is essentially management. The coordination and administration of effort to achieve a common goal is management. In Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad writes, “some men owe most of the greatness to the ability of detecting in those they destine for their tools the exact quality of strength that matters for their work”. Availing for a common purpose, faculties of all men, is the art of management.
Management is not ‘them’, neither it is ‘you’, but it is ‘me’, is the train of thought that all must recognise and embrace across the organisation, regardless of where ‘I’ is perched up on the corporate ladder. Every single commitment, large or small, important or insignificant, made by the lowest of the low and the highest of the high in the organisation, is the commitment of all; hence part and parcel of management, so therefore is every single individual worker of the entity.
No two segments of an organisation can remain in isolation; each is conjoined by cords of inter-dependence; where “each of us is responsible for everything to everyone” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky). All humans are in perpetual meeting. All our inner roads must lead to touch others.
“Nothing is impossible for the man, who doesn’t have to do it himself” (AH Weller). The Earl of Rochester in some verse on Charles-II had written, “who never said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one”. To which Charles-II replied, “True for my words are my own, but deeds are my ministers”. Every individual wishes to be seen as part and parcel of “management”, whatever that does mean, because it generally bestows a perception that it is the class that rules. Wherever the CEO sits that constitutes the head of the table. We all love to call ourselves as part of management, but if it is to take the onslaught of verbal attack from the inferno of layoffs; the management then is someone else!
There is a tendency on the part of workers to addresses especially in private limited companies, the “owner” of the company as “manager”. No wonder though the term “management” reeks with vulgar authority and remains totally insulated from any human feelings and emotions of empathy, sympathy, care and affection.
Whilst overseas, in an organisation I noticed with an extremely keen amusement that whenever the agenda was not inclined towards discussion of business specific challenges or rotation and promotion of human resources, but only generalised aspects, the management committee would be called to discuss and would expand to about 50 persons, And when a critical business matter was to be discussed, the extended management committee, would shrink itself to a maximum of two or three people, no more.
All elements of the corporate ladder are doing some form of management; if the CEO manages the team; the board manages him/her and in turn the regulator manages the board of directors. So, what and who is management? In my view, who the management is depends upon, who is the chair of command and control, that person is perceived to be a ‘manager’.
Bad management can destroy the best of policies, but no good administration can ever save a bad policy. Brings home the point that management is all about ‘people’ working in the institution, regardless of the status on the corporate ladder. And finally, while it is good to have only good managers, all immortal managers are deceased!
The writer is a banker and freelance contributor