Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?
Every organization must adapt to change whether they like it or not. Customers, competition and technology compel organizations to adjust. The success and speed of change is dependent upon several key factors that are closely associated with leadership.
However, institutionalized management practices and structures can create formidable obstacles to internal change and can prevent organizations from taking advantage of short windows of opportunity. These obstacles present a challenge to all managers.
In most organizations individuals are taught to manage not by leading but by controlling and directing. Within these organizational cultures, this style of management is often equated with leadership. This key fallacy often prevents organizations from effecting change and taking advantage of afforded opportunities.
Management is a precise set of processes that keeps a complicated system of people, resources and technology running smoothly and, hopefully, without problems. These processes include functions such as planning, budgeting, organizing and controlling. Yet management as leadership goes well beyond these activities to include the set of processes that initially creates an organization and allows it to adapt to a variety of changing circumstances.
It is important for managers to understand the difference between the two processes. Leadership is what defines the future for the organization, aligns people with a vision and motivates them to carry on despite the obstacles. Transforming an organization in the face of change requires a majority of leadership skills and a minority of controlling and directing skills. While management in the traditional sense was required to build and staff the large corporate organizations of the past, leadership is what is required to transform them in the face of change for the future.
The key factors of change within any organization are all leadership-based. In the past, management was essential to internally build and maintain large organizations and bureaucracies. While such management is still important, organizations faced with rapidly changing technologies, markets and competition must focus their efforts externally to effectively handle change and take advantage of the subsequent opportunities. This external focus is part of leadership.
The reasons behind this strategy are self-evident. Internally-focused managers and employees tend to be myopic in their thinking, which makes it difficult for them to identify the external forces presenting both threats and opportunities to the organization. Insular thinking is designed to protect internal bureaucracies and political power bases; thus, it denies the existence of the forces of change that are buffeting the organization.
Since they disregard the forces of change, these managers are highly resistant to alterations and build walls within the organization. These barriers are difficult for managers as leaders to overcome. Before they can emerge to challenge these internal barriers, they must understand how the key factors of leadership compare with the traditional management structure, and how the two vary in style and approach to change. While controlling and directing management can support leadership in the accomplishment of goals and objectives, most organizational cultures have traditional managers dictating what managers as leaders should and can do; this is the opposite of what should be happening. The following comparisons are where many of the directing/leading conflicts occur with traditional management imposing its principles and constraints upon leadership.
Planning and Budgeting vs. Establishing Direction
The role of management in the traditional sense is to establish detailed steps and schedules that direct the organization toward the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. Individuals and organizational resources are allotted according to need and assigned to specific tasks.
The role of management as leadership is to develop and define an organizational vision for the future. Managers initiate strategies to produce the necessary changes required to achieve their vision.
The conflict in traditional manager-run organizations is that they wish to have managers who lead work within the constraints of the established plans and budgets, which limits their ability to act and effect overall change. Rather, planning and budgeting should be used to support the manager’s goals and vision to implement necessary organizational change. This presents a challenge for managers as leaders: they must effect internal change before they can achieve external change.
Organizing and Staffing vs. Aligning People
The conflict between organizing and staffing on the one hand, and aligning people on the other, is an argument of form over function. Many entrenched managers have institutionalized a number of management functions, which creates highly structured programs that help the organization to achieve its institutionalized goals and objectives. Employees and resources of the organization are controlled and directed through these goals related to policies, procedures, methods and systems.
While managers as leaders understand the validity of a management structure and a need for it to support a leader’s vision, goals and objectives, they are primarily guided by the principles of aligning people to their vision. Managers who lead accomplish their goals by communicating direction, via words and deeds, to everyone whose cooperation is needed for the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and accept its validity.
Once teams and coalitions are internally established, managers understand the need for the functions of organizing and staffing that support these efforts, but are not constrained by them.
Controlling and Problem Solving vs. Motivating and Inspiring
The use of control methods and techniques is management’s way to monitor results and identify deviations from the plan. Problem solving techniques are instituted to use the organizational resources that resolve the problem.
The manager who leads will use these methods and techniques only after motivating and inspiring people to overcome the major internal and external barriers to change. A key difference is that controllers and directors use methods to implement solutions while leaders motivate people to change.
Predictability and Order vs. Change and Opportunity
The fundamental difference between controlling and leading management is in the final results.
Controlling management focuses on the short-term results that are expected by various stakeholders in the organization, such as meeting budgets and quotas and producing an adequate return on investment. Their focus is on predictability and order, which inhibits organizational adaptation and transformation to meet the forces of change.
Management as leadership aims to drive the organization through change vis-à-vis their vision. While this focus may alter the organization’s short-term goals, it has the potential to produce extremely useful change by taking advantage of emerging opportunities and transforming the organization in a positive manner. The results of this endeavor can produce new products, services, approaches and methods that positively impact the organization in the long-term.
Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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