I have recently been reading journal articles and books on the history of organizational development and I was struck by the fact that as much as things change, they stay the same. The readings span from Socrates, who discussed the importance of collaborative environments, to the current century discussing culture, millennials and again, collaborative environments. I always enjoy reading history because as unique and advanced as we think we are, often, the concepts and ideas have been discussed for a long time. For example, issues of achieving positive outcomes through others. This topic has survived for centuries – so what is the secret?
It seems we have books, studies and journal articles, which could possibly span the globe, assessing the attributes, characteristics, strategies and elements necessary to be a good manager. Even with all this information, why is it most employees would forgo a raise to get a better manager? (According to the Gallup survey conducted over a year ago). I even see it in the work we perform. We facilitate employee interviews as part of our business diagnostic, and time and time again, we discover issues with the management of the firm as being a contributing factor for poor morale and performance. There is even a whole cottage industry which provides knowledge and skills training to managers to help them improve and perform at the level the organization expects. Yet, managers are still failing. So, what gives? Is it that knowledge and education don’t equate to consistent implementation of what has been learned? Maybe understanding and applying new concepts isn’t always valued or appreciated in all corporate cultures? Or even supported by the same leaders sending the managers to programs to get “fixed?”
Maybe the secret of good management isn’t hard to figure out and the focus should be on implementation and application, not just understanding. Do we try to make it more complex than it needs to be? I realize people are complex individuals, but building a solid working team doesn’t have to be complex if managers consistently apply basic concepts. There is an article by Henri Fayol discussing 14 General Principles of Management. The articles addresses many of the issues you hear in today’s workplace. If everybody applied these principles, maybe our work places would be more productive and our employees more satisfied. The funny thing is, this article was first published in 1916. Yes, 1916. These concepts were written almost a hundred years ago and it seems we are still searching for the “golden egg” solution today. Instead of constantly looking for the great next trend or idea, maybe we should get back to the basic principles of great management and spend our time applying and assessing our success in implementing these principles. Is it that simple?
Identify the aspects of being a solid manager that you want to work on. Then, create the initial actions you want to take to begin improving your skills and abilities. Don’t be afraid to have your team assess you along the way. With some hard work, self-reflection and commitment to change, we can begin reversing the trend of poor management, and actually applying the knowledge that already exist, to become an amazing manager.
Fayol’s principles are listed below:
- Division of Work – When employees are specialized, output can increase because they become increasingly skilled and efficient.
- Authority – Managers must have the authority to give orders, but they must also keep in mind that with authority comes responsibility.
- Discipline – Discipline must be upheld in organizations, but methods for doing so can vary.
- Unity of Command – Employees should have only one direct supervisor.
- Unity of Direction – Teams with the same objective should be working under the direction of one manager, using one plan. This will ensure that action is properly coordinated.
- Subordination of Individual Interests to the General Interest – The interests of one employee should not be allowed to become more important than those of the group. This includes managers.
- Remuneration – Employee satisfaction depends on fair remuneration for everyone. This includes financial and non-financial compensation.
- Centralization – This principle refers to how close employees are to the decision-making process. It is important to aim for an appropriate balance.
- Scalar Chain – Employees should be aware of where they stand in the organization’s hierarchy, or chain of command.
- Order – The workplace facilities must be clean, tidy and safe for employees. Everything should have its place.
- Equity – Managers should be fair to staff at all times, both maintaining discipline as necessary and acting with kindness where appropriate.
- Stability of Tenure of Personnel – Managers should strive to minimize employee turnover. Personnel planning should be a priority.
- Initiative – Employees should be given the necessary level of freedom to create and carry out plans.
- Esprit de Corps – Organizations should strive to promote team spirit and unity.