The Uncomfortable Truth About Management

You can’t solve a problem without eliminating its cause. Unfortunately, most organizations either struggle to find the real cause or they skip that step and just try “solutions” at random.

Pieces of paper for lottery in vase on wooden table on blue background

Those solutions range from seemingly small changes such as:

• New forms

• New rules

• New meetings

• New forms and rules for meetings

To enormous initiatives such as:

• New employee engagement programs

• New performance management systems

• New organizational charts, titles, and office assignments

You get the idea. (Contribute your favorite “futile fixes” in the comment section of this article!)

What do these ”solutions” have in common? They miss the root cause and create huge distractions. They direct time and energy inward, away from the creation of value for which customers are willing to pay. And they don’t make any real difference. Just ask your employees.

Four Success Criteria

Let’s be clear here. Problems are solved and improvements occur when the people who must actually change what they are doing:

1. Want better results

2. Know what needs to be done

3. Know how to do it and with whom they must work

4. Have the ability, resources, and authority they need to succeed

Rules and giant programs rarely touch these four factors. Worse, they suck up the time and brain cells that could be used to ensure employees know what needs to be done and with whom they must work.

If your results aren’t improving, these are the only four success criteria to consider. Look for the gaps, starting at the top. Do you want better results? Do you know what needs to be done? Do you know how to do it and with whom you must work? Do you have the ability, resources, and authority to succeed?

Now about those people with whom you must work, how would they fare relative to these four success criteria?

Your organization undoubtedly has a chain of command and the requisite one-on-one relationships capable of addressing any gaps. What are your managers doing if not ensuring all employees are positioned for success?

Perhaps they are attending nearly worthless meetings, filling out forms, stressing accountability, reporting up, documenting failures, managing email, learning new rules, and implementing “solutions.” And maybe they are also busy protecting themselves and firefighting because things aren’t going as well as they should.

It’s time you and your managers quit searching for myriad problems and general solutions and start embracing your real jobs: ensuring employees want better results, know what needs to be done, know how to do it and with whom to work, and have the ability, resources and authority to succeed.


This article originally appeared on on February 21st, 2016.

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