Everywhere I look I see bad managers these days. Which is surprising considering that there are articles being published every day with headlines like “People don’t quit companies they quit bad managers” or “Bad Managers are the no 1 reason why people leave their job.” This is a problem specific to one company or one industry, but rather it’s across industries and sectors. I’ve worked in Semiconductor manufacturing, semiconductor design, and now health insurance all of them have had their share of bad managers. It’s not even just home grown managers that make poor decisions, it’s managers that are specifically hired to come in to effect change that don’t have the right skills to do the job that needs to be done.
It is whenever managers are put into a position where they do not have the information they need or the right skills to do the job that they become assholes. This is especially problematic in complex environments and this complexity isn’t linear from person to person, which is to say that a given person might find one level of complexity manageable, while another person may be unable to handle it. So for one manager that could be managing the line at a fast food restaurant, while another it might be managing a project that has 5 internal stakeholders and 5 government regulatory agencies as stakeholders.
In large organizations complexity is only going to increase. In this way complexity is like entropy, it only increases. We implement new policies and likely never eliminate historic policies. This is especially true with government regulations. We rarely sunset those provisions. The only way to manage this complexity is to plan. Like all plans, they are pretty much worthless after you build the plan, but going through the process is invaluable.
For instance, my preferred strategic planning approach is to pull in three types of data, Voice of the Customer, Voice of the Business, and Voice of the Team. Voice of the customer is what your customers are telling you about your existing services and offerings. They can tell you how much you’ve screwed up and where you’ve screwed up. They might not be able to help you identify the next iPhone, but they can tell you not to build the next Blackberry device. Voice of the business is typically the loudest voice at any organization. This is what the C-Suite is telling everyone to do, this is the competitive landscape and the regulatory environment that you operate within. Together these voices are powerful and loud. Finally, the voice of the team is almost always ignored, mostly because the team won’t speak up. This needs to be a true analysis of the capability of the team using Capability Analysis of Business Architects or doing a SWOT. Using these three voices to have a frank conversation, you can build a three to five year road map. Then you can build out your strategy to enable your team to meet your customer needs as well as your business requirements.
Managers become less of an asshole whenever they have clear management processes in place. Clear reasons why they are doing what they are doing. Employees aren’t the only ones that need processes. Managers and leaders need them too. They prevent churn and waste if they stick to them.