— written by Klaus-Christoph Mueller, Director Global Business Solutions, itelligence —
May I ask you, what are you doing the whole day long? Don´t worry, I am not interested in the details, but my good guess is that most of you are, regardless of your actual position and what may be printed on your business card, to some degree acting as a manager today:
You have to plan and organize your job, you receive and give feedback and you have to react to it and try to make ends meet wherever possible. And this does not end at the borders of the job as bringing together family and business life is a special challenge for many of us these days. So step back for a moment and think about what you are doing day in day out. The usual tasks e.g. in managing projects can be described as Planning, Execution and Controlling from a higher aggregation level. Sounds fairly reasonable?
Yes, and of course it should be done in the right sequence, e.g. making up your mind before you start and having a look on the results afterwards. And you can do this cycle forever and ever: Based on results and rising experience, the next planning will be much better than before. Only if the results were not as good as expected, simply your planning was not good enough. As example, PMI methodology is also following that basic phased pattern, in addition putting however great emphasis on the importance of communication. So planning is king, don´t forget to talk about it and everything is fine. Simply and straightforward, brilliant theory, bullet proof…
But in practice?
What about all these ever changing conditions where you have to react always and ASAP? Of course early alert systems are a good idea, but they do not cure the basic problem that you have to do corrective action and forget about your well defined phase plans here. And if you have a closer look, it is even less than that: You can´t even separate the tasks that clearly when you ask yourself at the end of a day what you have done. And by the way, in the heat of the moment you should better not ask a manager under pressure, whether he is now rather in a controlling mode or already starting planning again…
So let´s face reality, management could in practice not be divided in clearly separated tasks which are following phase by phase on each other. And management process is only circular in terms of that you sometimes have to start all over again all of a sudden and that usually everything happens at the same time!
Seems like a no-brainer?
Yes! I can really not claim any credits for this finding at all. The empiric research of Henry Mintzberg in the late sixties showed clearly that even back then the activities of managers could not be aligned with that circular management theory and divided by clear phase. And hence I learned it back at university (also already some years ago….) that daily work of a manager is characterized by open cycles, a fragmented work day, and lots of ambiguity.
All fair, but what´s my point is that although these facts are known since quite a long time, they are in general very poorly reflected in IT systems!
So much regarding the status quo – but for what reason? So watch out for part 2
If you are interested more in the details of management theory, I could recommend at least some starting point for further readings:
- Steinmann / Schreyögg, Management — Grundlagen der Unternehmensführung, 6. Auflage, Wiesbaden 2005, in particular chapter 4 (although only in German to my knowledge)
And of course as the first and most prominent examples on empirical studies Mr. Mintzberg himself, e.g.:
But there is much more to find!