The Future Manager

Understanding the aim of management

Achieve a flatter organisation structure

When achieving the goal(s) of an organisation, the manager of the 21st century should take on a long-term view on everything that he/she does and not just the short-term view of what to do right now.

This long-term approach to management is crucial to flattening the levels in the management hierarchy. In fact, the number of levels in the management hierarchy and the number of dedicated managers running an organisation will be kept to an absolute minimum by having a "long-term" thinking approach.

The advantage of the long-term approach is clear: there is not only a reduction in the long-term organisational costs when paying the salaries of a large number of managers, but also it allows greater transparency and accountability, as well as giving employees greater empowerment to become part of the management team.

And what about the better communication between all levels of management? Not convinced? Click here to see what could happen when we have too many management levels.

In these times of financial constraints and rapid change, stick to what is really important

The manager will also need to consider things like downsizing and outsourcing, communication and technology advances, and understanding the uncertainty of our local, national and international environment as a way of managing change and financial constraints in these difficult times.

But when doing so, the manager should always keep in mind what is really important in life in order to reduce the uncertainty, change and insecurity we are experiencing in today's troubled climate. So start showing an emphasis on interpersonal skills and making sure everyone has what they need in a quality product and/or service. And show less emphasis on technical, functional, specialist knowledge.

Furthermore, to ensure the manager is doing his/her job, he/she must be flexible in his/her approach to managing. So listen to everyone. Ask what it is they need to survive and do the things required in the work place and to make this world a better place to live for the good of all.

As Grant Sexton, the managing director of Leadership Management Australia, has found in a survey conducted by his company in October 2001, about 50 per cent of respondents felt unsatisfied with their work compared to 40 per cent in a similar survey conducted in 2000. And 25 per cent of respondents would choose not to work if they had the chance compared to 22 per cent the previous year.

But this is where things get interesting. The survey also revealed that as high as 40 per cent of employees believed their managers did not understand their issues, and 33 per cent felt their managers never listened to them.

The moral of the story is quite simple: keep our lives and what we do as simple as possible, emphasise the important things in life, listen to what people have to contribute or need to solve, and concentrate on satisfying the needs of the people in the best way possible and not so much on the profit side of things.

It is alright to dream, but always temper it with reality

In the late 1990s, many businesses felt confident in what they could achieve, including getting exorbitant funding from gullible people to help sell any reasonable-looking dream online or to fool customers into thinking buying any mediocre product using the traditional brick-and-mortar business will do.

However, after the crash of March 2000 for technology stocks, the events of 11 September 2001 in the United States, numerous corporate collapses, complaints of poor quality products and services, and how many employees and even customers are now becoming increasingly more despondent with the changes and insecurity of modern life, managers have to come back to reality a little bit.

There is nothing wrong with a little dreaming from time-to-time, so long as that dream is one that is achievable and includes the rest of society and the environment in the big picture. But it has to be tempered with some reality.

So whatever great idea a manager may have for a product or service, remember what resources are available and what customers need. And don't expect everyone to supply you with what you want to make your great idea work (e.g. lots of money and a fancy business location on the top floor of some prestigious skyscraper!).

Do it on your own as much as possible. Be your own customer and manager of your great new product and/or service. If your idea is good and becomes a reality, then you will attract customers and employees who will be looking for security, stability and quality in their lives through your work.

When flattening an organisation structure, help everyone to become their own managers

In these times of financial constraints, it is tempting for higher management to sack people in middle management. This will certainly help to reduce the financial burden on organisations and make for a more flatter structure with a few top managers having to manage a large number of staff.

The problem with this approach is that some top managers will become extremely stressed because of the wide span of management skills required if the types of jobs performed by many staff are varied.

To make an organisation structure flatter, you should provide the skills of management to all the staff first so they can self-manage their own work before reducing the size of your management team. And that requires knowing how to be a sensitive manager before making such important decisions.

Be a sensitive manager

A good manager is also about listening to people and learning from its employees on how to do things better. It is also about letting employees learn from their mistakes and not to go about firing employees simply because they make mistakes. Employees learn from their mistakes and then they quickly move on. And so should a manager. An organisation must be a 'learning organisation'.

The manager should also try to create 'vision' and 'culture'. But this can be seen as a form of imposing management styles on employees. So get employees to contribute to the vision and culture.

A good manager will always listen to an employee because he/she has direct experience of the problems firsthand. Or instead a good manager should see the individual as just another manager in the organisation having something worthwhile to contribute.

'Open-book management' is the other important part of a good management structure. Keep doors open at most times. Be approachable!

Talk of behavioural economics being applied to decision-making and projects

Treasury Secretary Dr Ken Henry said in a speech at a conference of international project managers at the Australian Defence Force Academy that nowadays project managers working as public servants for a government should not be concerned about whether a decision or program is successful or not, but rather how it was reported by the media.

He says managers and public servants should present decisions and projects in a positive light by doing things like having closer relationships with commentators and reporters, and showing the benefits of what has been learnt or achieved.

As Dr Henry said:

"If you have managed half a dozen projects, meeting all criteria relating to timeliness, scope and cost, and then have one, even relatively small, project that fails against one of those criteria [and is reported badly in the media], you will find that in the public consciousness that failure will — for some time at least — represent your entire biography." (Martin, Peter. Behavioural economics hard lesson, says Henry: The Canberra Times. 10 February 2007, p.6.)

He believes:

"What you think of as "project management", your political masters may well think of as "issues management". You may well have formed the view that all media stories are wrong.

'Well, believe it or not, that is beside the point. In the political environment in which you operate, what matters is not whether the story is true or false, accurate or misleading.

'What matters is whether the story is positive or negative, complentary or critical, supportive or hostile." (Martin, Peter. Behavioural economics hard lesson, says Henry: The Canberra Times. 10 February 2007, p.6.)

In essence, time and money shouldn't be wasted on dealing with inaccurate or wrong media stories. The aim is to show the stories are positive.

The only problem with this idea is that decisions are made to fit the positive image for a Government or higher authority rather than face the reality of exactly how much something will cost. Serious consequences could get masked by presenting only the positives of something.

Somehow every decision made by a manager must involve a careful balance between showing the positives of every decision and being realistic and truthful at the same time.