Management(s) cannot afford to be nay-sayers, they have to be necessarily forward-looking, motivating and inspirational. This is the rule enshrined in all management textbooks and is espoused by every shade of Management Guru or Scientist. Yet, in the world of business, both private and public sector (inclusive of the government machinery) the exceptions to the rule are rampant. The existence of exception is not the malady alone, it is the propagation, acceptance and promotion of it, that creates a major dilemma in giving the right construct to the management structure of any unit or entity.
People, who work together in a institution, are clubbed as management. In this of course are the varying levels of hierarchy, with distinct and different set of responsibilities, obligations and duty of care. Regardless of placement on the rung of the corporate ladder, each individual with his / her unique presence constitutes part of management. Since decision-making is splintered between senior management, middle management and junior management - often on the floor, we get to hear the “management” being criticised, for any ills prevalent in the organisation. In doing so, it is the other set of management that is under scrutiny - which could be from any of the three tiered structure of managerial hierarchy.
The junior management in the organisation are essentially those who are doers - they carry out assigned tasks, as per laid down criteria of their respective JD’s (job descriptions). In the efficient and effective discharge of this responsibility, the lowest tier of the management is subjected most to the advantage or perils of the organisations, systems and processes. If the IT platform is not friendly, but faulty, the buck has to stop at the senior management level, and ultimately the CEO / board. In this type of criticism what is generally ignored by the critics is that at the time of the development of the programme or the architecture, it could have been their failure to assess precisely the completeness of the process - hence the gap to efficiently undertake any given task. This is a small reflection of the ‘let down’ by the ‘doer management’ of any entity.
By the same token, many of the high-level decisions that senior management or the board takes can back-fire, if they are not done in accordance with the set principles of clarity of the vision of the organisation.
Some management(s) subscribe to the promotion of fear in the corporate environment. It is believed by them that an atmosphere of terror, unease, distress and anxiety helps in keeping the staff on their toes. Such management style glees in being blood sucking of its constituents. Fear instils to some degree a sense of responsibility, it however, is not effective in the long run, because, whatever management action is initiated under this type of climate is not wholesomely embraced by the rank and file and hence meets with failure. Fear can never be the key to success.
An environment of distrust in any organisation would lead to having a staff that feels ‘insecure’. And insecurity is a major inhibition in taking proper and timely decisions. Most managers who are the insecure type would refrain to take decisions; and if they ever do, it would be on either the crutches of others or will be based on the availability of scapegoats, should things go awry.
There are also those managers who exhibit in their temperament an acidic personality that puts on wonton display of their mercurial character. They are restless, not for results, but to ensure that the mask of their apparent skilfulness would not wear off; lest the team should discover their inherent in-capacities and inadequacies. Such throw up a lot of dust in the air, especially when beset with a serious problem or issue. They offer no solution due to their own lack of understanding and instead pretend to be specialist fire-fighters - mostly, a case of much ado about nothing.
Another category of supervisors are those who cherish to create crisis or even mundane work, to ensure that they are seen to be extremely busy. They will have their meeting calendar clogged to the minutest minute - where actually nothing ever is achieved. Such initiatives are deliberate and well calibrated- sheep that pretend to have the bull’s horns! Offering no alternatives or solutions to colleagues who are faced with an issue is a grievous management flaw.
Against an oppressive environment is a culture where positive thoughts reign. But this stance is good only if it is built upon a truthful edifice of facilitating all in meeting their targets and other similar goals. Positivity in the environment should be for real. Many institutions fake positivity this is done through construction of policies, systems and procedures that essentially belie the positive verbosity the management indulges in as a camouflage to the detrimental initiatives taken.
In the view of this scribe the most damaging let down by any management is where positive environment is a put on; a complete fake. Criticism in such organisation is not tolerated. No new ideas are given any attention or applause. The termites of such thought gnaw at the very roots of the organisation - Oak trees too fall, at the hands of the tiny white ants and so do organisations.
Open-minded management listen with keen attention to dissent. The objective being to induce a corporate culture of mutual respect, where growth, both in business numbers and the horizon of thought is valued. This is undertaken with caution so as not to allow the opening of an unnecessary can of worms. In handling contentious issues enlightened managers put a lid through corrective action or they nip it in the bud. “Fools ignore complexity, Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it” (Alan Persil, a US Computer Scientist).
Management that walks its talk, reflects in its everyday a dignified discipline and sense of responsibility. In providing direction and influencing the workforce, it is not essential to follow any populist moves. A hard-line approach based on strong foundations of equity and ethics is never opposed; in fact most staff appreciates equity and justice, even when it may cost them personally. The desire to please everybody is a key to management failure.
Every single individual in an entity is part of a management so when you (or any) blame the unknown management, it is best to remind, that you are the management! Those who let themselves down, make for management let down.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist