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Doing The Right Things, Doing Things Right, And Getting Results

November 26, 2009

The development of the nuclear “triad”, the ability to maintain effective offensive capability on land, on sea, and in the air, is a cornerstone of our country’s defense policy. Developing a strong “management triad” should be a cornerstone of your business policy.

The essence management can be elusive at times. It’s a word that’s used to describe a wide variety of tasks and it often means different things to different people. Understanding “management” as consisting of three distinct disciplines can make “management” a more manageable concept.

Strategic management, operational management, and supervisory management are the three cornerstones of the “management triad”. Each leg of the “triad” can be understood as a separate discipline. Each with its own importance and accumulated body of knowledge applicable to its practice.

Strategic management involves making the right decisions to insure that you are “doing the right things”. Operational management is concerned with the proper execution of management practices, “doing things right”. Supervisory management is concerned with the interpersonal aspects of management, “getting results through people.”

The importance of strategy is well accepted. General Robert E. Wood, an early Chief Executive of Sears, Roebuck and Company, is reported to have said, “Business is like a war in some respects, if its grand strategy is correct, any number of tactical errors can be made and the organization can still succeed.”

While the grand strategy is often thought to be the highest order of management, no one leg of the “triad” can stand alone. The military metaphor can be used to underscore the importance of operational management with the old saying, “an army travels on its stomach not its feet.” While a sound strategy maybe able to withstand a number of tactical errors, a business must eventually be able to execute the basics if it is to successfully implement its strategy.

And finally, supervisory management, “getting results through people,” is equally important because “wars are won by privates, not generals.” The ultimate test of a management group is its ability to generate results. Management is responsible for “getting results through people.”

Management is about people, operations are about things. If you want managers “getting results through people”, you must be prepared to invest in developing people skills.

Strategic management enables an organization to become successful by insuring that it is “doing the right things.” Strategic management is primarily involved with planning. Effective planning is primarily a thinking and communicating activity rather than a time consuming, paper-generating activity.

While planning is just an activity, strategic management is a continuing process that includes a planning activity. Strategic management is not concerned with future decisions but with the future impact of current decisions. It involves the determination of what products and services will be offered to what customers under what conditions. It is goal oriented. It creates an environment and an orderly process for mobilizing an entire organization to become engaged in successfully fulfilling the organization’s mission.

Operational management involves the logistical and administrative aspects of management. Operational management is concerned with doing things better. It addresses such matters as systems development, forecasting, budgeting, meetings, control, marketing, communication systems, purchasing, the establishment of policies and the implementation of procedures. Successful operations require “doing things right.”

Supervisory management deals with the interpersonal aspects of management – directing others. Supervision is commonly thought to be the work of first line managers involved in directing a non-management work force. Not true.

Every individual with managerial responsibilities has supervisory responsibilities. The president supervises the work of the vice-presidents, the sales manager supervises the work of the salesman, and the shop foreman supervises the production workers. Supervisory management provides an indispensable communication link throughout an organization. Successful supervisory management is responsible for “getting results through people.”

It is not uncommon to see the grand designs of a dynamic executive be frustrated by the executive’s inability to “get results through people”. Because it’s your business, developing a strong “management triad” is your best defense.

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