I’m not sure when it happened, I’m sure it was over a period of years. Over the last few decades probably, leadership seems to have become the “answer” and management has become a bad word.
I like leadership; I do think there is a difference, as do many others. But why has management become such a bad thing? I go into many businesses that are very focused on developing their management to become better leaders. This is a good thing. But we seem to have forgotten that organisations also need managers, and good management.
Sure, they can (and should in most cases) be the same people. Being a leader does not mean you aren’t a manager as well. Somebody has to enforce the standards, hand out the consequences when people choose to disregard or otherwise ignore the rules.
I see too many organisations chasing that elusive quality of leadership while failing to realize that management is still very much required to maintain the day-to-day basics. The front line are being ignored while the leaders are developing their skills at setting visions, creating change, motivating the troops, etc…
In doing so, the organisation has often stopped focusing on today, on the here & now. The future is important, organisations need to have something to work towards & direction provided by leaders as well as just having good leadership. But they also need management to maintain the standards; the basics can easily get forgotten, ignored or circumvented as we try to operate under ever changing conditions.
Improvement comes from changing the standard, finding new ways to work. But until the new way is tested & proven, the current standard must be maintained. We’re so busy improving that we forget to ensure the improvements that were put in last week are still in place. I get to tour a lot of organisations & one of the things that stands out in many is the list of new systems, processes & improvements that the leaders are so proud of. When I ask the front line folks about these things, in many cases they are unaware, have problems with the systems or just ignore them, because the leadership has moved on to the next improvement, without embedding the last. Without managing the transition until it is bedded in.
Standards are the foundation for improvement, and somebody has to ensure they are maintained, whether it’s the new process, workplace organisation (5S), a new reporting system or whatever changes are put in place, somebody has to ensure not only that they provide an improvement, but that they are maintained as the new standard until a better way to do it is discovered. It may not be as rewarding or as respected as leadership, but it is the management of these standards that actually ensures success.
Maybe one day, a culture of standards will exist in your organization, it is possible you might already have one. If you don’t, it is management that ensures standards are maintained until it becomes second nature across the organisation; until you get that culture where people naturally, automatically & almost religiously follow standards. Change is great, leadership is great, but somebody has to look after the basics and maintain the standards until better ways are found.