I had an interesting dream this morning; I woke up thinking that my mother, my brother and I should go to Louisiana and walk our land, just to make sure that everything is as it should be. As I told my mother of this dream, she laughed. She enjoyed the obvious influence her recent story of how my grandfather would walk his property everyday. His purpose was to make sure the fence was okay and that no animals were wondering around where they should not be. Animals were money for my grandfather and he was not the type to let money go wandering around unattended.
I also laugh at the modern day version of this management approach: “You have to inspect what you expect”. As a sales manger, I can’t begin to tell you how many times, I have heard this expression, and when you are selling food products through this nations 30,000 plus grocery and convenience stores, there is no substitute for getting out into the marketplace and seeing what the consumer sees first hand. It is the reality of managing a collection of people, separated by distance, time, and awareness of facts, who all have separate decisions to make about how to get the product on the shelf. In this environment evidence of performance, becomes critical to avoid paying for nothing.
Yet managers who utilize the inspect what you expect approach, can quickly destroy ingenuity, creativity, and the performance level of the organization. I am convinced that individuals just do not like being watched and observed by those who sit in judgment. Peers, well that’s okay, the boss, no way. The Harvard Business Review published an article in the Feb 2007 issue that touched on this subject. The article, How Managers’ Everyday Decisions Create – or Destroy – Your Company’s Strategy, does a nice job of reminding managers that it is the sum of many individually small decisions that define and shape the company’s strategy. In the hands of the inexperienced, this reflection becomes reinforcement to inspect further and to define with clarity what must be done.
However, when a manager tries to get results with a “just do what I tell you” mentality and seeks compliance by promising “I’ll check back myself to see how you did”, disaster usually results. You see, my grandfather was checking on mindless cattle that merely sought to eat the next piece of grass they saw. The manager on the other hand to have success with a group of people, has to provide individual freedom and at the same time provide appropriate support in the manner most conducive to reinforcing self-esteem for the supported and encouraging productivity for the payer of employment. People, unlike cattle, seek more than the next piece of grass.
This is no small task. I wish I could say I have had this management talent through out my career, but alas, I have not. Lessons learned with the benefit of hindsight have taught me well that the critical requirement for good management is a healthy dose of respect that the individuals under your management care are positive contributors to society.
With this respect, efforts are focused on handling surprises, learning from evidence, and growing competence of the group. When we as individuals lose this respect for those around us, all sorts of bad behaviors and habits start to show their nasty hand. Not the least of which is the ability to rationalize perfectly that our personal desires, and existence have a priority and correctness with our God and that we are or have been just in our behavior toward others, no matter the affect of our behavior as felt by others.
We see win lose, and tell ourselves that win-win is a higher order goal. Could this be just another rationalization, after all we still seek to win and never lose in every situation. Maybe just maybe it is neither. The circle of life sees every death as benefiting the continuation of life. Just maybe losing has a purpose that we do not see. If we understood such a purpose it would profoundly change our interactions with other humans. Hum, I have to think more about this.