Managers at work are a busy lot
Planning, organizing, leading, controlling
Human and other scarce resources
Toward well-defined organizational ends
In effective and efficient ways.
Resources include in their range
People and their skills and knowledge,
Raw materials, machinery lying around
How can one forget nowadays computers
All acquired and maintained by finances.
Resources should be used productively
To achieve the goals set by planning
Using the critical skill of organizing,
Leading to ensure they stay on course,
Controlling any deviances along the way.
While you may get efficient at things
Take care that you are also effective
By not straying from the goals afar.
An organization is much like a ship
Sailing in the uncharted sea of market forces;
To know which shore you should head for
And how to steer in that direction
Then plan you must –
One of the four functions of a manager.
But do not get your hopes high
If among the low-level managers you are one
For planning involves long-term strategy
Which task is best pursued
By top level managers and board of directors
Who are the ones most conversant
With organizational strengths, weaknesses
And they alone have the authority
To steer the whole organization
In new and innovative directions,
Though even low-level managers do
Short-term non-strategic planning.
Long-term strategic planning
Tends to be a five-year outlook or greater
To set and fulfill the organization’s mission
By identifying, evaluating and implementing
The strategic alternatives lying open
To an organization harnessing its strengths
And attenuating its weaknesses
Facing as it surely does
Opportunities and threats.
To ask why one need bother
With long-range planning
Is almost a no-brainer
For studies show time and again
That who don’t engage in it fully
Fall behind in the competitive game
And face even extinction
By not adapting to changing environment.
Long-range planning aids in many ways
From imparting a theme to the organization
To anticipating strategic issues
From planning allocation of resources
To integrating the organizational activities.
To set the long-range planning in motion
First off the mission needs to be defined
For without it you are shooting in the dark.
Then do a SWOT analysis
To see how best to achieve the mission.
That done, you must operationalize it
And monitor and control its thrust.
Corporate-level plans fall in line
With long-range planning
Asking as they do
Such questions as those that concern
Scope of operations, resource allocation,
Strategic fit, performance of business units
And ideal organizational structure.
Spin-off trajectories of this could be
Corporate strategies of three kinds:
Expansion, status quo or scaling down.
Henri Fayol was the first to put
Organizing on the manager’s to-do list.
Once plans are drawn up
By the powers that be
In the higher echelons of the organization
It falls to the lot of the manager,
In differing degrees at all levels,
To carry them out as best as he can
Which means proper marshalling
Of the various tasks and resources
Into a cohesive unitary movement
That carries the organization forward
In the planned direction.
Organizing activity often revolves
Around the defining of tasks
That if carried out would deliver
The results that are in toe with
Organization’s mission and objectives
Adhering to well-articulated values.
Tasks require human and other resources
That need to be deployed
In a well-coordinated fashion
Concretized as jobs, departments
And reporting and authority relationships
In short, the organizational form
Suited to the strategy and other demands.
Organizational design involves decisions
On division of labour, departmentalization,
Chain of command and span of control
Not to forget degree of centralization
And formalization of rules and procedures.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach
When it comes to organizational design
Driven as it is by the strategy,
How big the organization is,
What sort of technology it has,
And what environment it is operating in.
Managers are up to their necks
In decision making all the time
On a myriad different things
Dealing in that process
With uncertainty and risk.
Rational and nonrational factors fix
The style of decision making
Among which are the following:
Analyses quantitative and qualitative,
What sort of a bloke the manager is,
What sort of pressures peers exert
And what in his mind he perceives
The organizational situation to be.
Though it might seem too obvious
It is worth repeating still
Consider you should all alternatives
Though before that be sure
The problem you have defined
By forming the right insights
On the situation that confronts you.
Gut feelings or instincts may well serve
The purposes of an entrepreneur
But others need to use caution
In relying on it to a major extent
When formal or systematic analysis
Tells you a different story
Though the reverse is also true
That you should trust your intuition
Paying attention to emotions and feelings
When something seems not quite right
And delay the decision if need be.
Try as you might
Uncertainty and risk you cannot avoid
So decide you should
In the light of their probabilities
Forming a decision tree of sorts.
That said, a case can always be made
For principled decision making
Whereby the principles can guide you
On this difficult terrain
Such as, “the customer is always right.”
Though in this modern day and age
Managers increasingly find their feet
In decision support systems softwares.
While doing all this micro-analysis
The ever-changing macro scenario
Bids you be smart and strategic
To stay ahead of the competition
Garnering competitive advantage.
If the competition you have to beat
Take refuge in forecasting and prediction.
When in doubt, turn to others.
Paralysis of decision-making you can avoid
If stick you will to a planned schedule
Of launching, maintaining and cutting off
The debate that surrounds the decision.
When you are thus on course
Defuse any politicking that you detect
By always bringing to the fore
Shared vision and common goals.
If you get the above drift
You will see the simple picture
That as you go merrily along this path
You would have weighed carefully
All possible alternatives and outcomes
To achieve the specified objectives
With tradeoffs, uncertainty, risk
Being the name of the game
Impact in their turn
The future decisions to come.
A problem is but a gap
Between where you are
And where you want to be.
Bridging such an annoying gap
Is what problem solving all about.
Akin to the scientific method
Deployed in the natural sciences
It seeks to minimize biases,
Maximize likelihood of a result,
And facilitate communication
Among all the affected parties.
Popularized by Deming in the 1980s
Christened by him as Shewhart cycle
Though it is now more well-known
As Deming wheel or PDCA cycle
The letters of the above acronym
Standing for Plan-Do-Check-Act,
Which is not a one-time procedure
But continuous improvement.
PDCA cycle is self-explanatory
Planning involves a working hypothesis
About a problem that dogs you
And proposing a possible solution,
Which then dovetails neatly
Into the stage of implementation
Of that very proposed remedy
Which if it reaches completion
The next step is to check to see
If the problem was indeed solved
And if not, why not?
If problem has been solved
Act by institutionalizing the solution
By establishing controls
And changing policy manuals;
Or if as luck would have it,
The problem is not solved
Then initiate a new PDCA cycle.
At the risk of paralysis of analysis
Here is a nine-step framework
That can rid you of most problems
In a wide variety of settings.
First, you cannot make headway
If you do not identify the problem
So get cracking in that direction
Making sure you heed warning signals
And assess properly their significance
By getting your priorities right
But do not exaggerate it into a crisis.
The techniques you may find useful
To get you chugging on this course
Are statistical process control,
Or plain ol’
Second comes problem verification
Especially if he who saw the problem
Is someone other than you.
The credo serving you on this mission
Should be, “trust, but verify”
Lest you waste time and resources
On solving a wrong problem.
You may find useful in this
McKinsey’s Forces at Work approach
Which would have you analyze
External pressures on a client’s firm.
The third step you have to take
Is to define the problem
That you have verified as existing
Breaking it piecemeal if need be
To reach an optimal solution.
Fourthly, once your gaze is fixed
On the nitty-gritty of the problem
Then search you should
For the root causes of the problem
Using if need be
a-k-a fishbone or Ishikawa diagram
Making sure to collect data
And examine it duly.
Okay, once you have zeroed-in
On the problem thus,
The fifth step is to think of alternatives
Which leads logically to the sixth step
Of evaluating those alternatives,
And implementing the one acceptable
As the seventh step,
Turning to CPM and PERT techniques.
Not everything goes according to plan
So be wise and do
A post-implementation review
As the eighth step you take
Towards solving the problem,
Which can also serve
As a learning opportunity.
Now that you think you have done
All that you feel needed to be done
It’s not time to hang up the boots
For you need to take one more step
To drive the final nail into the coffin,
The ninth and final step,
In this seemingly long journey,
To institutionalize lessons learned
By amending policy manuals,
Establishing new control metrics
And maybe even rewriting
The old job descriptions.
Then my dear chap
Give yourself a pat on the back
For a problem well solved.